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Commercial Real Estate Investment

Aug 17, 2007
Investing in commercial real estate is riskier and more costly than investing in residential property - but ultimately it can be far more profitable. Whereas the stocks of major housing manufacturers have decreased over the last few months, retail and institutional investors have been investing heavily in commercial real estate, through both operating companies and investment trusts.

The profits from commercial real estate are linked to a large degree to the state of the overall economy - today, commercial property is a $4 trillion market, having increased in volume around 20% over the last five years. Most smaller investors are able to profit from commercial real estate.

The potential profits to be made from investing in commercial real estates are affected by several factors. Apart from the overall economy, the local economy and market can have a huge impact, as can the terms and length of any lease, the reliability of tenants and the overheads involved with your property.

Generally speaking, when investing in commercial real estate, to make a profit you should ideally have a long term lease from a major tenant. Finding the right tenant isn't always easy - most commercial real estate has relatively few potential tenants unlike residential property.

During a recession, commercial foreclosures and vacancies tend to increase significantly more than residential properties. And if commercial properties remain vacant for a long period of time, owners may lose a lot of income and be forced to resell for less than the property is worth.

One method of generating a profit from commercial real estate is to look at REITs (Real Estate Investment Trusts). These are traded securities which allow an investor to take part in large scale commercial projects. REITs were created in 1960 by Congress and can be a practical alternative to bonds.

Most REITs specialize in certain types of property such as office buildings, hospitals or shopping centers. There are several benefits of REITs: they trade in the same way as stocks, so you can buy and sell them. The share price can increase in value as the property appreciates in value and shareholders also get income from rents.

Not surprisingly, REITS have become extremely popular over the last few years. Another big advantage of them is the tax benefits - by law, REITs must distribute 90% of their income as dividends.

There are several ways to invest in commercial real estate without actually having any capital. Subordination is the term for the situation in which the current owner actually takes out a second mortgage on the property to cover the difference of the amount that the purchaser has available in the form of a loan.

Another method is to persuade the owner of the property to release some acreage. That section of land can then be used to borrow money to cover a down payment on the rest of the property. Many property owners don't even know this option exists and it can be an effective strategy when dealing with raw land.

Another method is to purchase commercial property by means of a partnership. If you are able and willing to do the work, you may be able to find a partnership that is willing to finance your deal - in exchange for a percentage of the profits, of course.

Investing in commercial real estate isn't for everyone. But the profits can certainly be made for those who are prepared to take a calculated risk, have the expertise - and perhaps a little bit of luck.
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