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Types of Real Estate Investment Strategies


Two of the most popular real estate investment strategies include owning rental properties, which provide investors with steady income, and flipping houses, which involves renovating underpriced properties and selling for a one-time profit. However, there are other real estate investment strategies to consider. For example, real estate investment trusts (REITs) provide an option for those preferring to invest without managing physical properties, offering exposure to real estate markets through shares. Each strategy comes with its own set of risks and rewards, so you’ll want to understand them thoroughly.

Do you need help selecting and managing your investments? Speak with a financial advisor today.

Direct vs. Indirect Real Estate Investing

When investing in real estate, two primary avenues emerge: direct and indirect investing. Both methods offer unique benefits and challenges.

Direct real estate investing involves purchasing physical properties, including commercial buildings and residential rentals. Investors directly own the real estate and manage all aspects, from maintenance to determining how much to charge for rent. This hands-on approach allows for significant control over the investment, enabling investors to make decisions that can directly impact their returns.

One of the main advantages of direct investing is the potential for substantial returns. Real estate often appreciates over time, providing capital gains when sold. Additionally, rental income can offer a steady cash flow, helping investors achieve financial stability.

However, direct investing requires considerable capital upfront and can involve ongoing expenses such as property taxes, maintenance and insurance. The time commitment for managing properties can also be substantial, which may not suit all investors.

Indirect real estate investing, on the other hand, involves investing in real estate-related assets without owning physical properties. Common forms of indirect investing include REITs, real estate mutual funds and real estate crowdfunding platforms. These investments allow individuals to gain exposure to the real estate market without the responsibilities of property management.

REITs are particularly popular, as they pool capital from multiple investors to purchase and manage income-generating properties. Investors receive dividends based on the performance of the REIT’s portfolio, offering a relatively passive income stream. The liquidity of REITs, which can be bought and sold on stock exchanges, adds another layer of convenience compared to the illiquid nature of direct property ownership.

When making a choice between these methods, there are a handful of items to focus on for each. Direct investing offers tangible assets and potential tax benefits, such as depreciation deductions. However, market fluctuations, property damage and tenant issues can impact returns. In contrast, indirect investing spreads risk across various properties and is managed by professionals, but it also means investors have less control over individual asset decisions.

Commercial vs. Residential Real Estate Investing

A real estate agent and real estate investor tour a residential complex that he would like to invest in.

When investing in real estate, you may choose to focus on commercial or residential properties – or both. 

Commercial real estate includes properties designed for business use, such as office buildings, retail spaces, warehouses, and multifamily apartment complexes. These types of investments generally demand a significant initial financial investment but have the potential to generate substantial returns. Moreover, commercial properties usually have longer lease durations, which contribute to a steady income flow and lower tenant turnover.

Residential real estate instead includes single-family homes, duplexes, and smaller apartment buildings intended for living spaces. These investments are generally more accessible to new investors due to lower entry costs. Residential properties often appreciate over time, offering significant long-term gains. However, managing these investments can be more hands-on, with frequent tenant turnover and more maintenance responsibilities falling on the landlord.

Commercial properties can offer higher income potential due to larger rental spaces and higher rent per square foot. However, they are also more sensitive to economic cycles, with vacancies posing a significant risk during downturns. Residential properties, while typically generating lower rental income, benefit from a constant demand for housing, providing a more stable investment.

Securing financing for commercial real estate can also be more complex, often requiring substantial down payments and demonstrating robust business plans. In contrast, residential real estate financing is more straightforward, with numerous loan options available for individuals.

Types of Real Estate Investing Strategies

A financial advisor helps a couple evaluate several rental properties they are considering investing in.

There is a diverse array of real estate investing strategies, each catering to different levels of capital, expertise and involvement. From rent-to-own agreements that allow potential homeowners to gradually transition from tenants to owners, to the hands-off approach of REITs, there are a myriad of ways to add real estate exposure to your portfolio.


Rent-to-own is a compelling real estate investment strategy for both buyers and sellers. This approach allows potential homeowners to rent a property with the option to purchase it at a later date. A portion of the rent that’s paid is typically credited toward the down payment. This method benefits those who may not currently qualify for a mortgage, giving them time to improve their financial situation while locking in a future purchase price.

House Flipping

House flipping is a real estate investment strategy that involves purchasing properties at a low price, often in need of repair, and quickly renovating them to sell at a higher price. This approach demands a thorough understanding of the real estate market, renovation costs, and timely execution to maximize profits.

Successful flippers often rely on a network of skilled contractors and have the ability to make cost-effective renovations that significantly boost property values. While house-flipping can offer substantial returns in a short period, it also carries risks such as unexpected renovation challenges and market fluctuations that can impact the profitability of the investment.

Buy and Hold

The buy-and-hold strategy in real estate investing involves purchasing property and holding onto it for a long period to benefit from steady rental income and capital appreciation. Investors typically choose this approach for its potential to generate a continuous passive income stream, as well as for the long-term growth in property value.

By maintaining ownership, investors can also capitalize on tax benefits such as depreciation and mortgage interest deductions, enhancing the overall profitability of the investment. Over time, as the market appreciates and mortgage balances decrease, the equity in the property increases, creating a robust financial asset.


Wholesaling in real estate involves finding properties at below-market prices, contracting them and then selling the contracts to other investors at a higher price. The wholesaler makes a profit from the difference between the contract price and the selling price. This strategy requires a deep understanding of the market and excellent negotiation skills. Wholesaling can be a low-capital way to enter the real estate market, but it demands significant effort in identifying and securing profitable deals.

Seller Financing

Seller financing is a creative financing option where the seller acts as the lender. Instead of securing a traditional mortgage from a bank, the buyer makes payments directly to the seller. This arrangement can be advantageous for buyers who might not qualify for conventional loans and for sellers looking to expedite the sale process. Seller financing often involves negotiating terms that benefit both parties, including interest rates and repayment schedules.

House Hacking

House hacking is an innovative way for individuals to invest in real estate while reducing their living expenses. An investor acquires a property with multiple units, occupies one, and rents out the others. The income from these additional rentals can offset the costs of the mortgage and other expenses, potentially allowing the investor to live with minimal or no housing costs. This method serves as an excellent gateway for those new to real estate investing, providing a practical entry point.

Buy, Rehab, Rent, Refinance, Repeat (BRRRR)

The BRRRR method is a comprehensive approach to real estate investing that focuses on maximizing the investor’s return on investment. Initially, an investor purchases a property needing rehabilitation at a low price, then renovates it to boost its value. Once rehabbed, the property is rented out, generating steady rental income. After establishing a record of consistent rental earnings, the property is refinanced to extract equity, which can then be used to fund the next property purchase, repeating the process.


REITs offer a way to invest in real estate without directly owning properties. These trusts purchase and manage income-generating properties, such as commercial buildings, apartments and shopping centers. REITs provide a passive investment option with liquidity, as they can be bought and sold on major stock exchanges. They are ideal for those seeking exposure to real estate markets without the responsibilities of property management.


Crowdfunding is a relatively new real estate investment strategy that leverages online platforms to pool funds from a large number of investors to finance real estate projects. This method allows individuals to invest in properties with lower capital requirements. Crowdfunding offers access to a diverse range of real estate opportunities, from residential to commercial projects. It democratizes real estate investing, enabling small investors to participate in deals that were once only available to wealthy individuals and institutions.

Bottom Line

By understanding various real estate investment strategies, such as rental properties, REITs and flipping houses, investors can tailor their approach to meet personal financial goals. While the market’s inherent volatility requires a measured and informed approach, the potential for substantial returns remains high. It’s important to continually educate oneself and perhaps seek the guidance of a financial advisor to navigate the complexities of the real estate market.

Real Estate Investing Tips

  • If you’re looking to purchase a property with a mortgage, it’s important to shop around for the best rate and terms. SmartAsset’s mortgage rate comparison tool tracks mortgage rates from top lenders. Meanwhile, our mortgage calculator can help you estimate how much your payments will be while you run your numbers of a potential investment.
  • A financial advisor can help you evaluate potential investment opportunities and integrate those investments into a comprehensive 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.

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