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How to Get Started in Real Estate Investing


Real estate investing can be a lucrative venture. As a potential investor, you should begin by researching market trends, setting clear investment goals and securing initial funding. This will become the core of your investment strategy. Here is what you need to know to get started. A financial advisor can also guide you in picking real estate investments for your portfolio and help you determine how much to invest for each of them.

Ways to Invest in Real Estate

There are many ways to invest in real estate, each option with specific benefits and drawbacks. Here are four common real estate investments to consider:

  • Purchase rental properties: This involves buying residential or commercial properties and leasing them out to tenants. Managing rental properties can require a hands-on approach, so consider hiring a property manager if you prefer a more passive investment.
  • Investing in REITs: For those who prefer a more hands-off approach, real estate investment trusts (REITs) offer an accessible entry point. REITs are companies that own, operate, or finance income-producing real estate across various sectors.
  • Flip houses: House flipping involves buying undervalued properties, renovating them and selling them at a profit. This strategy can yield significant returns but requires a good understanding of the real estate market and renovation costs.
  • Vacation rentals: With the rise of platforms like Airbnb and VRBO, short-term rentals have become a popular investment strategy. Investors purchase properties in desirable locations and rent them out to travelers on a short-term basis.

Pros and Cons of Investing in Real Estate

An investor researching real estate investments.

Real estate investment is often touted as a reliable way to build wealth and diversify an investment portfolio. However, like any investment, it comes with its own set of advantages and disadvantages. Understanding these can help potential investors make smart decisions.


  • Potential for high returns: Real estate can offer substantial returns, especially if you invest in high-demand areas or properties with the potential for significant appreciation.
  • Steady income stream: Rental properties can provide a consistent monthly income, which can be especially appealing for retirees or those seeking passive income.
  • Tax benefits: Investors can benefit from various tax deductions, including mortgage interest, property depreciation and operating expenses, which can reduce taxable income.
  • Tangible asset: Unlike stocks or bonds, real estate is a physical asset that you can see and touch, which can provide a sense of security and stability.
  • Hedge against inflation: Real estate values and rental incomes typically increase with inflation, helping to preserve the purchasing power of your investment over time.


  • High entry costs: Purchasing property requires a significant upfront investment, including down payments, closing costs and renovation expenses.
  • Management hassles: Owning rental properties can involve dealing with tenants, maintenance issues and vacancies, which can be time-consuming and stressful.
  • Market fluctuations: Real estate markets can be unpredictable, with property values and rental incomes subject to economic downturns and local market conditions.
  • Illiquidity: Real estate is not as easily converted to cash as stocks or bonds, making it harder to access your investment quickly if needed.
  • Ongoing expenses: Property ownership comes with ongoing costs such as property taxes, insurance, maintenance and repairs, which can eat into profits.

How Much You Need to Start Investing in Real Estate

The amount needed to start investing in real estate varies widely depending on the type of investment and location. Generally, real estate investments require substantial capital, but the exact figure depends on whether you are purchasing residential rental properties, commercial real estate or exploring other investment avenues like REITs.

For residential rental properties, the initial cost includes a down payment, closing costs, and funds for any necessary renovations. A typical down payment is estimated to be around 20% of the property’s purchase price. This is similar for any real estate where you’re buying exclusive ownership of the entire property, which includes short-term or long-term rentals as well as houses you want to flip.

For those seeking a lower barrier to entry, investing in REITs can be an attractive option. You can buy shares of a REIT through a brokerage account, often with a minimum investment of just a few hundred dollars. This method provides exposure to real estate markets with significantly lower upfront costs and greater liquidity when compared with owning physical property.

Bottom Line

A financial advisor explaining the benefits and drawbacks of real estate investments.

Getting started in real estate investing requires a solid understanding of the market, a clear financial plan and a well-thought-out investment strategy. Whether you choose to invest in rental properties, REITs or other options, you should do the research and seek professional advice when necessary. Consulting with a financial advisor can further enhance your investment strategy and help you achieve your financial goals.

Tips for Portfolio Management

  • A financial advisor can help you manage portfolio investments and create or adjust a long-term financial plan. Finding a financial advisor doesn’t have to be hard. SmartAsset’s free tool matches you with up to three vetted financial advisors who serve your area, and you can have a free introductory call with your advisor matches to decide which one you feel is right for you. If you’re ready to find an advisor who can help you achieve your financial goals, get started now.
  • Consider using a mortgage calculator to estimate payments for your budget if you plan on financing your real estate property purchase.

Photo credit: © AungTun, © Sae Yang, © AungTun