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Opportunities for First Time Real Estate Investors

Jul 21, 2008
For some home owners, the downturn in the real estate market presents an opportunity they may not have enjoyed during the boom time. Home owners with some equity in their homes and adequate income may want to invest in a rental home. With so many foreclosures on the market this may be an open window for future returns from real estate investment. But, like most windows, this one too will close. So, it's good for potential investors to do the research and act in a timely manner.

Numbers in the first quarter of 2008 were pretty grim. More than 9 households out of every 1,000 fell into default. But, as the year progressed there were signs the rate of defaults is slowing - an alert that acting sooner, rather than later, might be advised.

In some urban areas there is a veritable glut of foreclosed homes. First time buyers and investors are looking at these low-priced listings and many are playing in the real estate market for the first time. However, a home owner and an investor are likely looking for different features in a property purchase. As an investor, you'll not be seeing yourself and family living in the house. You'll be looking for a rental that, somewhere down the road, you can turn into well invested cash.

For the individual investor who is not in the business of buying, renting and selling properties, there are some things to consider. The first advice from some real estate professionals is to look for the least attractive home on an otherwise attractive block. Have your real estate agent search for comps - homes recently sold in the neighborhood to give you an idea of what homes that are not in a distress sale, are worth on the market. Also have your agent look at the same comp values before the economic downturn. There is, of course, no guarantee that home values will again rise to those often inflated highs, but such comparisons give you a compass reading.

Look for homes that require mostly cosmetic improvements. Don't consider houses that need new roofs or foundations. Check to see that heating and cooling systems haven't been raided and stripped of copper and aluminum as they sat on the market. When you find such defects, consider the cost of repairs compared to the asking price of the home. It may, or may not, make sense to put out money for a major repair. Remember that in a competitive market where buyers are bidding up the price, foreclosure owners probably won't lower the price to accommodate for the needed repairs.

Know that your rental home will require repairs and your continued attention - financial and personal. Calculate all that before you commit to making your real estate investment. Obviously, make sure you and your real estate agent do the math - will the rental price cover all monthly costs? Insurance, repairs, whatever utilities or fees you'll have to pay and, naturally, the mortgage. To be as accurate as possible, you'll have to work with a lender to ascertain what fixed percentage rate you'll be paying. Even as a first time investor, you know the dangers of the adjustable mortgage because you are likely buying a property whose home owner did not.

Real estate is often a very sound investment with bountiful financial returns. If you do your homework, footwork and get the math right, the market may be your key to a more profitable future.
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