Semantics are alive and well with real estate. You either buy, or you invest. Right? Well, let’s admit there is a slight nuance here. You plan to live in what you “buy,” but the idea of investing carries the connotation of renovating and making a quick buck. Today’s consumers are much more interested than ever to try their hand at flipping. The problem is, many of them have not done their homework, making the path ahead fraught with potentially costly roadblocks.
These days of frantic buying have caused many a consumer to muster up a quick education about real estate, but it may not always be a complete one. In a galaxy not that far away, raising capital for a simple distressed single-family house fix-and-flip used to be met with negative reactions. As a result, the world of real estate investing was at a standstill, and golden opportunities were missed.
HGTV and its reality shows about flips put new steam into the idea of buying the worst property on the best street. Suddenly everyone had a dangerous knowledge about buying distressed real estate, distilled into 50 minutes of airtime. Even Wall Street has recognized the residential rehab craze, sustaining the longest bull market ever, since real estate is a great hedge against a Wall Street correction.
What we are left with is a market full of people doing flips, driving property values up, and fueling the demand for inventory. But someone is bound to get burned. So, how do you start playing the real estate investment game and NOT be the guy who got there too late for those $100 bills being handed out on that proverbial corner somewhere?
Forbes New York Business Council’s Melissa Shea, a 15-year RE investor, and educator, offers some tips, the first of which is to take to heart in the saying that goes, “If you think the price of education is expensive, try ignorance.”
A quality education is key here, but we’re not talking about buying a course from some TV real estate guru standing in front of his yacht while leaning on his Bentley. What he’ll tell you won’t come close to the true reality of a fix-and-flip. Shea’s advice is to “take the money you would pay a guru, buy a house, and flip it by yourself. You’ll lose less money and learn more. The best place to start is local real estate investment clubs and associations. You need local knowledge, not national programs.” She recommends finding local investment clubs and associations by going to CRE Online or to the National Real Estate Investors Association. Don’t let your education stop there, however, she recommends. There is a podcast, among others, called Bigger Pockets that offers real content, excellent education and follows the trends, according to Shea.
And then there is the emotional component. Shea warns you not to get attached to properties, causing you to overlook costly potential errors. “People rationalize, ‘It’s only $3,000 more,’ but you said that three times ago, so now it’s $9,000 more, and you aren’t going to make much of a profit. Don’t lie to yourself. Stick to the numbers; they don’t lie,” she says. She warns against allowing yourself to increase your purchase price and not deluding yourself that the rehab is going to cost less than the quote your contractors gave you. “It’s always more,” she says. “Don’t fool yourself into thinking the property will sell for a higher price than the last house in the area because yours will be ‘so much nicer.’ That’s a recipe for financial disaster.”
Shea also advises you not to be alone on that investment island. “Going it alone is one of the worst mistakes you can make. Personally, I love joint ventures.” Time was when you could be a complete rookie, purchase a property, wait a few months and, without touching the property except for mowing the lawn and emptying the house, make a tidy sum. Even then, it was more likely that you would have lost money or broken even. The real estate market crash, however, served as an expert professor, teaching investors to use reputable attorneys, seasoned Realtors, long-established title companies and reliable lenders, and to network with other investors, she says.
Real estate investing is still not an exact science, according to Shea. “There are plenty of dangers, but if you’re educated, keep a level head, don’t get emotionally involved, and work with an award-winning team, you can enjoy the pleasures real estate investing can bring.”