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Tips for Buying an Investment Property

In general, the best investment property for beginners is a residential, single-family dwelling or a condominium. Condos are low maintenance because the condo association is there to help with many of the external repairs, leaving you to worry about the interior. Because condos are not truly independent living units, however, they tend to garner lower rents and appreciate more slowly than single-family homes.

Single-family homes tend to attract longer-term renters in the form of families and couples. The reason families, or two adults in a relationship, are generally better tenants than one person is because they are more likely to be financially stable and pay the rent regularly. This owes to the simple fact that two can live almost as cheaply as one (as far as food, rent and utilities go) while still enjoying dual income. As a landlord, you want to find a property and a neighborhood that is going to attract that type of demographic. 

When you have the neighborhood narrowed down, look for a property that has appreciation potential and a good projected cash flow. Check out properties that are more expensive than you can afford as well as those within your reach - real estate can often sell below its listing price. Watch the listing prices of other properties and ask buyers about the final selling price to get an idea of what the market value really is in the neighborhood. For appreciation potential, you are looking for a property that, with a few cosmetic changes and some renovations, will attract tenants who are willing to pay out higher rents. This will also serve you well by raising the value of the house if you choose to sell it after a few years. 

As far as cash flow, you are going to have to make an informed guess. Take the average rent for the neighborhood and subtract your expected monthly mortgage payment, property taxes (divided by 12 months), insurance costs (also divided by 12) and a generous allowance for maintenance and repairs. Don't lie to yourself and underestimate the cost of maintenance and repairs or you will pay for it once the deal is done. If all these figures come out even or, better yet, with a little left over, you can now get your real estate agent to submit an offer.

The Bottom Line

Every state has good cities, every city has good neighborhoods and every neighborhood has good properties, but it takes a lot of footwork and research to line up all three. When you do find your ideal rental property, keep your expectations realistic and make sure that your own finances are in a healthy enough state that you can wait for the property to start producing cash flow rather than needing it desperately. Real estate investing doesn't start with buying a rental property - it begins with creating the financial situation where you can buy a rental property. 
 
Source: Investopedia
Original Author: Andrew Beattie
Edited By: Melissa Winter