Don't Fall In Love
The first rule of thumb when you are investing in real estate is that you cannot fall in love with any one property. When you are looking at real estate to buy for investment purposes you can't think like a homeowner, you must think like a business owner. Don't think about what you like about a home or a piece of real estate, think about how well it will sell or rent in the current market.
Not Exercising Due Diligence
When you invest in real estate you can't simply invest if the property looks good at face value. A very thorough inspection of the structure needs to be done as well as research on the local market. One must also look into the vacancy rates and average rents for homes or structures that are comparable. A diligent business owner will also look into how the neighborhood is zoned as well as any regulations that will apply to the rental property. You will also want to check into how many other rental properties are in the area and if they are comparable to the property you are looking at.
Forgetting the Rule about Time and Money
Many new investors forget that all home improvements are not as cheap and as straightforward and they hoped that they would be. The rule that most investor's use is that it will take twice as long and three times the money than you would think to ready a unit for rent or sale. Real estate isn't transformed over night, so one must plan accordingly. Failing to plan ahead for this can leave you in a real bind where you lose money because you don't have the resources to complete a project.
Believing You'll Secure the Lowest Mortgage Rates
Television can be very deceiving for those that are in the real estate investment business. The low mortgage rates are not offered for just anyone, they are for owner occupied homes, which are considered much less of a risk than a unit that is rented out. Homes that will not be owner occupied will experience mortgage rates that are 1.5 to 2% higher, which can make for a huge difference in monthly payments for the investor and his or her tenants. You also need to be aware of your credit, if you have terrible credit you won't have much luck getting a loan, but the better your credit is the better your rate will be.
Failing to Pre-Screen Tenants
Many new landlords are so anxious to get their new tenants moved in that they forget all about screening them to be sure that they have a relatively clean credit history, they are gainfully employed, and that they have a good rental history. While screening tenants can take a bit longer than you might like to wait, it's easier to get this done than to try to evict a tenant. It's always better to pre-screen than deal with the headaches later.
Breaking Your Own Rules
New investors often set business rules for themselves, and then occasionally they get a bit soft. If you have established rules about what day the rent is due, pet policies, waterbeds, or lawn care, stick with those rules. The minute you stop obeying your own rules you set your self up for disaster. If you stick to your rules and you refuse to break them no matter the situation, you will find that you are much more successful in a business sense.
Investing in Obscure Areas
Generally, it is not a good idea to invest in properties that you cannot visit regularly. Long distance real estate investments leave you out in the cold and you may have no idea what is going on in or around your property. It is a good rule of thumb to only invest in areas that you live.
Paying More than the Property Is Worth
New investors often do not do the proper research and end up paying more for a property than it is worth. When you are investing you have to think about yourself, even if that means that you have to low-ball the seller at first. Investing in real estate is all about getting the right price for you. You need to know that you can cover your mortgage and your expenses from a rental payment, so really consider what the local market will allow.
Failing to Look into the Competition
It's a good idea to look at the competition, especially if they are successful. Lower payments, exciting features, and more will often help fill rental units. Pay attention to what works in your area and duplicate it if possible.
Not Acquiring Enough Insurance
Being under insured is a common mistake of new real estate investors. You need to know that your insurance company will cover accidents on the property as well as damage due to fires or natural disasters.
As you can see, there are a lot of mistakes that you can make. Luckily, if you plan ahead and do not rush into real estate investment you can avoid a lot of these pitfalls, saving you a lot of time and money. Avoiding mistakes will help you become a much more successful real estate investor.