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The Most Important Factors for Real Estate Investing – Investopedia

What’s the most important thing to look for in real estate? While location is always a key consideration, there are numerous other factors that help determine if an investment is right for you. Here’s a look at some of the most important things to consider if you plan to invest in the real estate market
Investopedia / Alex Dos Diaz
The adage “location, location, location” is still king and continues to be the most important factor for profitability in real estate investing. Proximity to amenities, green space, scenic views, and the neighborhood’s status factor prominently into residential property valuations. Closeness to markets, warehouses, transport hubs, freeways, and tax-exempt areas play an important role in commercial property valuations.
A key when considering property location is the mid-to-long-term view regarding how the area is expected to evolve over the investment period. For example, today’s peaceful open land at the back of a residential building could someday become a noisy manufacturing facility, diminishing its value. Thoroughly review the ownership and intended usage of the immediate areas where you plan to invest.
One way to collect information about what are the prospects of the vicinity of the property you are considering is to contact town hall or other public agencies in charge of zoning and urban planning. This will give you access to the long-term area planning and make a determination how favorable or unfavorable to your own plan for the property.
Property valuation is important for financing during the purchase, listing price, investment analysis, insurance, and taxation—they all depend on real estate valuation.
Commonly used real estate valuation methods include:
Given the low liquidity and high-value investment in real estate, a lack of clarity on purpose may lead to unexpected results, including financial distress—especially if the investment is mortgaged.
Identify which of the following broad categories suits your purpose, and then plan accordingly:
Cash flow refers to how much money is left after expenses. Positive cash flow is key to a good rate of return on an investment property.
Develop projections for the following modes of profit and expenses:
Loans are convenient, but they may come at a big cost. You commit your future income to get utility today at the cost of interest spread across many years. Be sure you understand how to handle loans of this nature and avoid high levels of debt or what they call over-leverage. Even experts in real estate are challenged by over-leverage in times of adverse market conditions and the liquidity shortages with high debt obligations can break real estate projects.
Depending upon your current and expected future earnings, consider the following:
New construction usually offers attractive pricing, the option to customize, and modern amenities. Risks include delays, increased costs, and the unknowns of a newly-developed neighborhood.
Existing properties offer convenience, faster access, established improvements (utilities, landscaping, etc.), and in many cases, lower costs.
Here are some key things to look for when deciding between a new construction or an existing property:
Managing physical properties over a long-term horizon is not for everyone. Alternatives exist that allow you to invest in the real estate sector indirectly.
Consider other ways to invest in real estate:
Your credit score affects your ability to qualify for a mortgage, and it impacts the terms your lender offers. If you have a higher credit score, you may get better terms—which can add up to substantial savings over time.
Mortgage lending discrimination is illegal. If you think you’ve been discriminated against based on race, religion, sex, marital status, use of public assistance, national origin, disability, or age, there are steps you can take. One such step is to file a report to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau or with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
Scores greater than 800 are considered excellent and will help you qualify for the best mortgage. If necessary, work on improving your credit score:
As with other types of investments, it's good to buy low and sell high. Real estate markets fluctuate, and it pays to be aware of trends. It's also important to pay attention to mortgage rates so you can lower your financing costs, if possible.
Stay up-to-date with trends and statistics for:
Real estate can help diversify your portfolio. In general, real estate has a low correlation with other major asset classes—so when stocks are down, real estate is often up. A real estate investment can also provide steady cash flow, substantial appreciation, tax advantages, and competitive risk-adjusted returns, making it a sound investment.
Of course, just like any investment, it's important to consider certain factors, like the ones listed here, before you invest in real estate—whether you opt for physical property, REITs, or something else.
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