Residential Real Estate Investing "Explained in Plain English!"

Residential real estate investing has so many great angles and opportunities to create wealth, it really gets our juices flowing with excitement.

For a beginner or even experienced residential real estate investor, there is a lot to learn, and we're going to break out some things to think about right here.

Everyone, and I mean everyone... your neighbour, friends, family, even in-laws have their opinions on what is right and what isn't when it comes to real estate.

And that's what makes this such an entertaining and if done right, profitable, topic.

Ready to rock? Let's go...

Residential Real Estate Investing vs. Commercial Real Estate Investing

One of the first things you should know about real estate investing is that in general any building that has four or more units in it is referred to as a commercial property.

Even if those units are used for residential purposes. So an apartment building is a commercial property.

There are exceptions to this, but in general, that's the case.

Commercial investment properties are also things like strip malls, office buildings, industrial units, warehouses etc..

This is important to know because lenders (the banks) treat these properties very differently when it comes to getting financing.

For commercial properties, it's much more likely you'll have to put 25% or more as a down payment.

Yet you can put as little as 5% down on residential properties (insured mortgages and generally available on your first residential residence).

The difference with commercial transactions is that it's much more typical to see 'vendor takebacks'.

This is where the seller carries back a portion of the value of the property (let's say 25%), and you pay a fixed amount every month to them just as you would the bank.

So, the ability to get commercial investment properties at 0% down exists, and there's definitely more creative vendor/seller take-back financing that goes on in this arena compared to residential real estate investing.

If you use a mortgage broker for the transaction, you will also likely pay a 'broker fee'. For residential real estate investing transactions, the broker's fee is paid by the bank that takes the mortgage.

"What else is different with commercial versus residential real estate investing?"

The way residential properties are valued is very different than commercial properties.

To value commercial investment properties it requires a more detailed understanding of things like cash flow, cash on cash return, net operating income and return on equity.

Residential real estate investing is a different animal altogether.

People who focus on commercial investment properties may not focus as strongly on the factors that are important to residential real estate investing.

Things like the importance and appreciation of the neighbourhood, comparable property prices, and financing options. Plus, the residential real estate investing purchase and sale process and finding residential tenants.

In summary, commercial properties are typically valued based on some form of income calculation while residential real estate investing uses comparable properties to come up with a dollar value.

The concepts are similar but the expertise required is different.

-- Residential Real Estate Investing -- Pick an Area

There are a few key ingredients when choosing an area to invest.

You'll first want to decide if you prefer to have your properties close to you or not.

Are you going to buy resale or a new build?

If you'd prefer to have easy access to your properties, you will want to choose a strategy or type of investment (outlined below) suited for your particular area.

If you're willing to drive a little bit, you likely have to ability to choose different residential real estate investing strategies because different locations are best suited for different investment types.

Maybe you're looking to invest close to home. Converting your own home into an income property is another investment strategy.

Once you build some confidence in your residential real estate investing abilities, you can form your team of experts (mortgage brokers, lawyers, real estate agents, home inspectors, handyman, property managers) in far-off cities and achieve success.

What to look for when choosing an area for residential real estate investing

  1. We're always looking for transportation routes. Existing ones like commuter train lines, highways, bus and/or subway transit systems.Even better than existing transportation routes are new transportation routes. New highways especially. They bring more people; more people increase the demand in an area and the economic activity. A new highway will often be a major leading indicator that an area is going to go appreciate strongly.If the area we're doing any residential real estate investing in is easily accessible to people, it makes it more attractive. Sounds simple, but it's true and often overlooked.
  2. Demographic trends. Is the population of the area increasing or decreasing? More people. More demand.
  3. Economic activity. Is there an increase in jobs in the area? More businesses? More business parks planned? More jobs = more people.

If you look at any of the growing suburbs around Canadian cities, you'll see a very common trend that you can use to your advantage.

Watch For New Highways

New highways will go into an area, and then the very first new residential subdivisions will follow.

The first new big-box retailers will then begin setting up shop. And then an influx of additional residential builders build some more homes around these big box outlets.

So watching out for new highways is an easy way to spot areas that will appreciate well.

Here in Ontario, this happened between Toronto and Hamilton along Hwy 407. Milton, Oakville, Burlington and Hamilton all experienced new growth because of this. More recently, it happened East of Toronto with the expansion of the 407 in that direction. It brought new growth through the Durham region all the way to Peterborough.

If a new highway is cutting through an established neighbourhood, you will still see infill development projects by smaller builders and big box stores muscle their way in.

Population trends can be tracked at a provincial level from Statistics Canada, click here to check out the Census Trends website.

And a quick search on Google for any city will turn up some great detailed population, immigration and employment trends that are key when determining if you are in an area that is appreciating or will appreciate shortly.

You can see an example of what I'm talking about by clicking here to view a summary of Toronto's population and immigration numbers.

If you keep looking it's easy enough to find immigration and population data and trends for the individual communities in your city/town.

Toronto has made a nice little map that divides up all the different communities. It gives a full report on each. Click here to check it out.

A Little Tip For You...

You can easily analyze demographic data until your head swells.

There's another way to get similar information.

Use the information that we discussed above to your advantage.

When you see a bunch of new retail shopping being built in an area that's a great sign that there are great opportunities for your residential real estate investing.

If you see a Home Depot, Walmart, Cineplex, Loblaws, Best Buy, Home Outfitters etc. being built, it's a great sign that the area is appreciating or will soon.

These companies have teams of people analyzing demographic data. Why not piggyback on their research for your residential real estate investing?

If they are plunking down big bucks to put up these retail properties, you can bet they have spent the time to analyze the decision.

Better yet, call up your city planner and get public information regarding the development. You can find this information even before the first shovel hits the dirt.

Knowing where the next Walmart is going in before the masses puts you in a great negotiating position.

Perhaps the residential investment property you are putting an offer in on is about to be worth much much more than the sellers believe.

Doing a bit of homework can really make your returns jump nicely.

Most people will just blindly purchase properties based on some sort of tip. Or because they see everyone else lining up in front of a new condo sales office.

Look, when you see lineups outside condo developments with prices increasing every hour on the hour, you won't find experienced investors anywhere in sight.

They're the ones selling the condos at that time, not buying.

Always watch what the masses are doing and do the'll be in good shape.

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