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Scared of Real Estate Investing

Real Estate Investing for the chickenFear is probably the biggest obstacle to getting started. We’ve heard that from so many friends, family members, readers and colleagues. We know people who’ve built extremely successful businesses that are afraid to put a penny into real estate outside of their own home. We know real estate lawyers who are scared to invest in real estate, yet they know the business better than most investors. We know people who’ve built large six figure stock portfolios that think real estate is too risky, yet think nothing of speculating on a new mining stock. What we’re trying to say is that fear is normal. But the easiest way to conquer fear is to educate yourself, make a plan and then take action!

If you are surrounded by people who are afraid for you then it might be better to not to speak with them about your goals. Find like-minded people who are doing what you want to do. Talk to them about your goals instead. Find a way to put aside whatever is holding you back…do not worry about what anyone will say when you tell them you are going to buy your first property.  You can do this – real estate investing is simple! It takes work – do not confuse simple with easy – but it’s something anyone can do!  And we’re going to help you!!

Be confident that all you have to do is take it step by step, make a plan, learn the basics and take action! And before you know it you will be putting your first rent  cheque in the bank and looking for your next property to purchase.

THE SIMPLE REV N YOU WITH REAL ESTATE
INVESTING PROCESS:

1. Set your goals: Where are you today? Where do you want to be in the future? Once you know that you can make a plan to move from today to tomorrow. Everyone has different goals and levels of risk tolerance. That’s o.k. As long as part of your goals is to make money and built your wealth with real estate (however large or small), and you’re new to real estate investing, then you are in the right place!

2.Research the markets: Look for places where you can find properties that meet your investment goals. This takes a bit of leg work but it’s critical to making good buying decisions. Sometimes you will be lucky enough to have great investments in your backyard, but if you are like us and live in one of the most expensive places in North America, you may find yourself looking outside of your own City.

3.Find a property: The trick with finding a property is to know what you’re looking for and what you are comparing it against. Then, you have to evaluate the property. This is where you have to get a calculator and a spreadsheet working…but simply stated you are looking for a property that will not cost you money each month. So when you add up all the expenses including the mortgage, taxes, insurance, maintenance and property management and you subtract that amount from the total rent you get each month, if that number is positive you have a green light to keep moving through the process. If it’s negative, you’ll want to look at it closely to see if you can make it positive. If not, look for a different property.

4.Buy it:You need financing, an inspection, a lawyer, and some final research to ensure this property really does meet your objectives. And, of course, knowing a few negotiation tactics won’t hurt either! But, basically you want to get control of the property, finalize your research and make sure the property is in the condition you expect! Then, buy it!

5.Make Money:If you’ve hired a property manager, there are things you’ll need to do to ensure that the property manager is working well for you. If you’ve decided to manage the property yourself, there is a lot to know about advertising your units, tenant selection and management, and general repairs. At this stage it’s all about maximizing your revenue while minimizing your expenses, the amount of time you spend and your stress!

Sounds simple enough doesn’t it? Remember the Seven Habits of Highly Effective Real Estate Investors that Julie wrote about a few months ago?

Knowing your goals is the first habit of an effective real estate investor, and it’s the first step in our process.

What better time to look at your goals then as a New Year rolls around!! So, please take a few moments before the New Year begins and plan your goals. Need some help… check out our older articles on goal setting for real estate…

And remember:

“If what you are doing is not moving you toward your goals, then it’s moving you away from your goals.”

– Brian Tracy


Published December 29th, 2008

The Three Most Destructive Emotions In Real Estate

And, the only thing you need to do to avoid letting them rule your investments

Emotions in Real Estate Investing

I confess that when I am standing around at Starbucks waiting for my Americano I always take a look at the headlines in the paper. And lately, I find myself feeling jolts of fear and hope as I read the headlines about the Canadian housing market. Last week alone Canada’s housing market was recovering, set to plunge dramatically, and ready for a soft landing. Check it out:

  • UBC Expert Says Urban Home Values Set To Plunge” – cbc.ca September 9, 2008

  • Resale Listings Surge While Sales Slump” – Globe and Mail, September 3, 2008

  • Ontario Leads Rebound in Home Construction” – Financial Post, September 9, 2008

  • Toronto’s Luxury Condos a Bargain Compared to Other World Cities” – Toronto Star, September 8, 2008

  • Housing Starts Dive 60%” – Calgary Herald, September 10, 2008

  • August Housing Starts Better than Expected” – cbc.ca, September 11, 2008

  • Central Okanagan Sees Big Dip in Housing Sales” – Globe and Mail, September 11, 2008

  • Soft Landing Predicted for Real Estate” – Montreal Gazette, September 10, 2008.

Each of those headlines instill either a sense of fear that the market is crashing and it’s going to be ugly, or hope that the market is going to be o.k. and we won’t suffer at all. But my emotional reactions to those headlines last less time that it takes for the Starbucks Barista to ask me if I want the extra shot in my coffee… you see, I know the objective of each paper is to sell more papers. And, the bigger the feelings of hope, fear or greed they can inspire the more papers they will sell.

FEAR:

The feeling of Fear may cause an investor to panic and sell everything or, it can cause them to freeze in fear of taking any action at all terrified it will be the wrong thing to do. Either way, you’re not doing the right thing. If you do nothing then you aren’t moving towards your goals, and if you panic then you will be following the herd of people using the headlines to make their decisions. And you want to buy when THOSE PEOPLE are selling, and sell when they are buying!

HOPE:

Hope often leads to making decisions without all the details. Your friend buys a stock and says the price is going to rocket to the sky, and you buy it with the hope that they are right. You read an article in the paper that says that King West in Toronto is going to be THE Hot Spot to live in next year, so you buy a condo there hoping that the article’s prediction comes true. Ever heard the saying “hope is not a strategy”?

GREED:

When the market is going up, investors will overextend themselves only seeing the money they will make not the risk they are taking. They will make hasty decisions for fear of missing out on the next big gold rush of an investment. The market’s been going up and up, and they think they have to get in at any cost and want to make the money that everyone else seems to be making. The next thing you know, the market cycle starts heading downwards and everything flies apart.

So, you can now recognize the three destructive emotions for a real estate investor. But what can you do to help keep them from controlling your decisions? It’s simple… you only need to do one little thing!!

Set your real estate investing goals and evaluate everything you do against those goals.

I know we say this in almost every article and newsletter, but it’s because when we didn’t have a plan, we made some bad decisions. We don’t want that to happen to a single one of our readers, so we will constantly remind you to make a plan, put it in writing and review every decision you make with your plan!

One of my favourite quotes comes from Alice in Wonderland:

“Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?”
“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,” said the Cat
“I don’t much care where…” said Alice
“Then it doesn’t matter which way you go” said the Cat

-Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

You will avoid making decisions based on fear, greed and hope if you know where you want to go. You will look at the potential real estate purchase or sale, check it against your goals and your plan, and make your decision based on whether it moves you closer or further away from your goals.

And if you do that, you can ignore the media! It doesn’t matter if everyone else is terrified, hopeful or filled with greed. You have a plan and are working towards that plan. You will look for specific deals with criteria from your plan, and if something meets your criteria you will buy or sell, no matter what the headline says is happening.

 Published on September 20, 2008

7 Habits of Highly Effective Real Estate Investors

Recently my friend Mike wrote me and said “I reread the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People over the weekend. It won’t be the last time I read that book this year”. It’s pretty rare he comments on a book so I pulled it out and gave it another viewing. My 1989 copy is so old the pages are yellowing and the text is faded. I guess you could say it was like buried treasure in my book shelf.

As I flipped through it and soaked in some of the long forgotten golden nuggets the book contains, I pondered what the seven habits of a highly effective real estate investor would be. It occurs to me that none of the habits of a real estate investor are particularly extraordinary. In other words – anyone could be a highly effective real estate investor if they wanted to be. Of course, this is only my opinion, and without scientific study. But check out my thoughts and feel free to send me yours.

Habit One: Know Your Goals
If you do not change direction, you may end up where you are heading.” – Lao Tzu

Most of the real estate investors I know set out with a goal. One of my MBA alumni started off simply by selling his home to buy two lots side by side and built an 8 unit townhouse complex. He has turned that project into a company that sells and builds hundreds of homes in Toronto every year. Some goals are simple, but lead to big things. Other goals are big and have to be broken down into simpler shorter term goals.

Your goal does not have to be big (although I like to start with my five year goal and make smaller goals for each year to help me get to my five year goal). But I think that if you do not have any idea of what you want to achieve then your first step is going to be difficult to determine. And, you can’t just say I want to be rich. A goal by my definition has to be as specific as possible, measurable and with a time frame.

Habit Two: Make Your Money when you Buy
Price is what you pay. Value is what you get.” – Warren Buffett

It’s very risky to pay over market value for a property in the hopes that the rent will go up, the area will improve, and/or the property’s value will increase. This is an entire article unto itself, but essentially you want to buy a desirable property below market value, in an area with a lot of potential for future growth. Really, it’s not unlike beginning with the end in mind. Envision yourself trying to sell that property and what, if any, problems you may encounter when you try to sell (e.g., is it such a unique property you’ll have a limited buyer pool or is it in a “challenged” location that may never improve, which will severely impact your ability to sell). If there is something that concerns you when you’re buying it, then unless you can easily fix that problem, it’s something that will likely concern the next purchaser.

Habit Three: Hire Help
Unless you want to buy yourself a job when you buy a property, hire a property manager. Unless you are an accountant, hire one to help you with taxes and bookkeeping for your properties. And, in most cases, we also recommend you hire a real estate agent. Just take some time to find one that will work with you to achieve your goals.

I always tell Dave that we should only be doing the things that are the highest and best use of our time or the things we really enjoy. We should hire someone else to do everything else. Of course, when I say this I am also advocating we hire someone to paint or clean our own house. These are both things that I loathe doing and feel someone else can do better and for less cost than my time is worth. Dave takes a different stance on things – why pay someone else to do what we can do for free. But, as we find ourselves with less and less time he is starting to realize he can’t do everything and there are professionals out there that can do the job better and faster than he can. So, even “do-it-myself” Dave is finally paying the experts to do what they do best so he can focus on what he does best!

Habit Four: Use Just the Right Amount of Leverage
A bank is a place that will lend you money if you can prove that you don’t need it.” – Bob Hope

Every single money-making real estate investor that I have met has made money in real estate, in a big part, due to the ability to use leverage. Even the richest people will eventually run out of cash if they keep buying property. Leverage allows you to use a small portion of your own money to buy a property. The less money you put in the higher your potential return on investment. In really simple terms, if you put in $10,000 on a $100,000 property and earn $5,000 in a year your return on investment is 50%. If you had paid cash for that $100,000 property your return would only be 5%. Too much leverage equates to too much risk though, so find a balance. If you buy a $100,000 property and only put in $2,000 of your own money and the market value of that property drops to $90,000 you now owe more on that property than it’s worth.

Habit Five: Find Good Partners
Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you feel that you, too, can become great.” – Mark Twain

I love the success stories where someone with nothing but big dreams and a lot of initiative ties up one or more properties with contracts. They had little to no money, so while they had the properties under contract, they went out and found people who did. I am not going to name names here, but maybe one day I will introduce our readers to at least one of the three guys I personally know of with a story like this. But the bottom line is that it’s tough to make your millions in real estate if you aren’t willing to partner with others. Your partner might be a family member, a friend, a colleague, a company or someone you haven’t met yet. Dave has partnered with friends, family, and myself to help us build a nice real estate portfolio in only a few short years.

Habit Six: Be persistent
Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration.” -Thomas Edison

The other characteristic of the three guys I’ve mentioned above, and every other investor I have ever met is being persistent. You will hear “no” a lot. Get ready to face the objections and find creative solutions. In our experience we’ve been turned down by:

  • Potential partners not wanting to get involved in a deal we’ve invited them into,
  • The banks – on just about every deal we had trouble getting financing and had to deal with multiple lending issues,
  • Family – sometimes we try the bank of parents and we almost always get rejected but we still try because the interest rates are so favourable,
  • Insurance companies – so few companies want to deal with out of province landlords and it seems like we’ve been turned down by nearly every company in Ontario where some of our properties are located (we’re in B.C.),
  • Property Managers – sometimes the company you want to work for you doesn’t want to manage the property you own.

And even though we have been turned down by all of the above at one time or another, we keep pushing ahead to reach our goals. Don’t let the “naysayers” stop you.

Habit Seven: Research – Always be learning
I am always ready to learn although I do not always like being taught.” -Winston Churchill

The best investors are the ones that ask a lot of questions, keep their eyes open for new opportunities and do a lot of research. Many get right into the details of a city. They go to the municipal offices and pull the official plan. They get zoning details and applications. They talk to the city councilors about plans, they attend city council meetings and know everything that is happening in an area. Besides the above, many of the really successful investors will always be learning about:

  • Local transportation plans,
  • New economic forces that will impact their investment area,
  • Changes to political leaders that will impact the real estate values (if you don’t believe this is a critical one ask just about any investor in Toronto that owned land around the legislated Greenbelt),
  • House values,
  • Land values,
  • Listings to sales ratios for an area (shows sales pace and amount of supply in a market),
  • Latest demographic and economic trends for an area, and more.

Not every good investor I know possesses every one of these habits. And I know there are habits that many good investors have that I haven’t covered. But as I thought about the most effective and successful investors that I have met or read about, I realized that almost all of them did possess each of the above habits. And, that anyone could really do what they did if they set out to establish these habits and practices in their real estate investing.


 

If you’re like me, now you’re trying to remember Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits. Just in case you can’t remember Covey’s seven habits, here is a very brief summary to refresh your memory:

  1. Be Proactive: There are things we can control and things we cannot. Focus positively on the things you can control and worry less about the things you can’t.
  2. Begin with the End in Mind: Envision your funeral – what do you want people to say about you. Now, think about what you have to do to be that person. From there, develop a personal mission statement that encompasses your values and your vision of yourself.
  3. Put First Things First: Focus on the important tasks. Don’t spend time on not important and not urgent tasks; try to delegate urgent but not important tasks.
  4. Think win/win: It’s not your way or my way, it’s a better way. There is plenty out there for everybody – the abundance mentality versus the scarcity mentality.
  5. Seek first to understand, then to be understood: Seeking to understand takes consideration but seeking to be understood takes courage.
  6. Synergize : Finding that solution that is likely different than any other solution pursued because you’ve understood and been understood and you’ve sought out win/win scenarios. It’s the old saying of one plus one equals three.
  7. Sharpen the Saw: Practice in a balanced way. Covey talks about the four dimensions of renewal which are essentially physical well being, mental well being, emotional health, and spiritual strength. Maintaining balance in these areas keeps your saw sharp and ready to act and work on the other habits.

Published on June 18, 2008

The Truth About Goal Setting

 

I’ve never been one for New Year’s resolutions. To me, they are like a fad. Something that is all the rage for a short period of time, and then gone so fast it’s like they never existed at all. How many times have you heard or even given the half hearted declaration to lose weight, quit smoking or change jobs? That’s not goal setting, that’s wishing.

I believe the best time to make changes is today, no matter what day of the year that is. I don’t wait for tomorrow to start if I have decided to do something. And I certainly wouldn’t wait for a new year to begin goal setting. Once I set my goals, I review the goals on a regular basis, adjust them, adjust the plan and then keep moving forward. Things don’t always work out according to plan (one of my goals for 2007 was to buy one more property – which didn’t happen for many reasons), but I don’t stop making goals; I just adjust and move forward.

I have been reading a great blog by an individual who sets his goals in writing on his blog and checks in regularly with his readers to talk about how he is doing. He’s made some great comments in the last few months on how to set goals, celebrate success and re-evaluate the goals you aren’t achieving. Check it out at How to be an original.

Maybe you’re convinced and you want to get started on your goals, but you just don’t know how to start. To get your goal setting rolling:

  • Start with a fresh page, and write “Life Time Goals” at the top of the page. 
  • Under “Life Time Goals” I write the most important one or two health goals, wealth goals and “ME” goals. For the “ME” goals, I have things like “Become fluent in Spanish”.
  • Underneath the lifetime goals, write “Five Year Goals: Achieve by the end of 2012”. I look at where I am going overall in my life, and figure out what I have to do in the next five years to get there.
  • Finally, on the back of that sheet of paper or on page 2 in my document, I write “Goals for 2008”, and I write in fine detail with dates and measurements, what I am going to do in 2008 that will move me towards achieving my five year goals.

To give you an example, let me expand on my personal development goal of becoming fluent in Spanish. Under my 5 Year Goals, I want to spend at least one month in a Spanish speaking country studying Spanish. To move towards that in 2008, you might think that I plan to take a Spanish class, but I have found that I don’t learn languages well in a class. The best way for me to learn is immerse myself in it. I remember it better and enjoy it more. So, in 2008, I am working on building passive streams of income so that in a few years I can take time off from work and focus on my Spanish language skills. My exact goal is actually split up into the areas that I will earn passive “revenue” from, and how much. As I prefer to keep the exact details private, I will just make up an example. In 2008, I will be earning a minimum of $100/month after tax and expenses from my real estate investments, $100/month off of my cookbook website and cookbook sales, and $100/month off of interest from my bank account. Under each of the above, I have the things I am going to try or I am going to do to achieve those results. It’s only a page long but it gives me direction and I know what I need to do next.

Get the picture? So, if you haven’t already, take a few minutes, sit down and figure out what you want from your life. Then figure out what you will need to do in the next five years to get there. And most importantly,write down what you are going to do in 2008. Be sure to make your goal(s) specific and measurable so you can track your progress!

Here’s some quotes to get you in the mind set for your goal setting:

  • “If what you are doing is not moving you toward your goals, then it’s moving you away from your goals.” Anonymous
  • “If you do not change direction, you may end up where you are heading.” Lao Tzu
  • “Have you noticed that even the busiest people are never too busy to take time to tell you how busy they are?” Bob Talbert
  • “Many a false step was made by standing still.” Fortune Cookie
  • “Have a bias toward action — let’s see something happen now. You can break that big plan into small steps and take the first step right away.” Indira Gandhi.

Here’s to a wonderful and prosperous 2008.

 Published on February 21, 2008

 

The Book That Got Us Started

rich dad poor dad

Rich Dad Poor Dad

BUY THE BOOK NOWRich Dad Poor Dad

You might roll your eyes when I tell you that the book that motivated us to set some goals, and actually start real estate investing five years ago was Rich Dad Poor Dad by Robert T. Kiyosaki. I admit that it’s a bit ridiculous how many different versions of the same concept have sold since then. I think they’ve diluted the power of their concept by over-selling it. Six years ago though, the messages in the original book really hit home for us.

Specifically, the two concepts that I carry with me today are:

  • The Rich don’t work for their money, their money works for them, and
  • Why your house is NOT an asset.

The Rich have their Money Work for Them

My parents have worked incredibly hard all their lives. Most recently they’ve been successful B&B owner/operators on Salt Spring Island, BC. They have set themselves up very well for retirement, have some money to spend now and have enjoyed being self-employed for over 30 years. What they haven’t had is freedom. Tied to their businesses 24 hours a day 7 days a week, until recently they had only taken a handful of vacations in their lives.

After reading Rich Dad Poor Dad my dad said to me, “We have been buying ourselves jobs instead of buying businesses”. At the time, I had been working for less than two years, and already realized it was going to be a long life of “punching my time card”, if I didn’t make a plan to get my money working for me. That is when Dave and I set out to figure out some ways to create income streams that didn’t require our attention every day. Neither of us was prepared to start a business, so we decided to build wealth while working for “the man” as Dave calls being employed. The objective, is and always was, to become financially free. We are working to be at a point where our assets make us enough money that we only work because we want to.

Your house is NOT an asset

This concept has been the subject of many debates in the media and amongst our friends and family, but it really made sense to both of us. The essential concept is that assets generate income, liabilities generate expenses. “The rich buy assets. The poor only have expenses. The middle class buys liabilities they think are assets. (p.81)”

The enlightening concept here is that as a homeowner that works, you are making everyone else rich (the owner of the company you work for, the government, and the banks that loan you money to buy your “assets”). If instead of becoming a homeowner, you bought an income producing asset (stocks, bonds, real estate, intellectual property), you would increase your income, decrease the amount you pay the governement (in some cases), and your financial “cycle” would be generating cash instead of generating expenses.

Most of us get a raise, then think about buying a bigger house. A raise means more money for the government. A bigger house means a bigger mortgage, which means bigger payments to the bank (liabilities). A home, we’ve noticed, also means many trips to Home Depot, Home Outfitters, Sears and other stores to make your home nice. If you have recently changed from renting to owning you will likely have noticed how many things you suddenly “need” to do to your house or buy for your house. It’s a never ending cycle of expenses.

So, does this mean you shouldn’t own a home? No. What it’s about is awareness – don’t fool yourself into thinking that your home is an asset just because the rules of accounting say it is. Your home does not create income for you and your family, it creates expenses.

For us, Rich Dad Poor Dad got us into real estate early in order to begin getting our money working for us. We bought an investment property before we bought a home. But, the second place we bought was a small condo for us. We would rather pay down our own mortgage than someone elses. We have since lived in three places we have bought, and they have always been homes below our means. We put the rest of our money to work for us. We do this knowing that our home is a liability, but one that we have chosen both for lifestyle and financial reasons.

Published March 22, 2007

**April 3rd, 2009 Update: Check out the article celebrating Rev N You’s 3 Year Anniversary by Julie Broad called: The Day We Became Real Estate Investors. It’s a tribute to the lessons this book taught us**

 

Archives: Evaluating a Real Estate Investment

Evaluating a Real Estate Investment Articles

Considerations & Questions to Ask Before You Buy a Condo

Knowing When to Walk Away From a Deal 

Find, Screen and Select Joint Venture Partners

What’s Your Return on Time?

Where the heck is easy street for my investments?

The Challenge with Investing in Condos

Home Inspections 101

Real Estate Market Research

Are Rent to Own Real Estate Deals a Cash Cow?

How to Analyze Risk in Real Estate Deals

Multifamily vs Single Family Real Estate Investing

Tax Advantages of Real Estate (for U.S. residents)

Four Ways to Check Reality Before Buying a Rental Property

Rental Property Location Research: Where to Buy

How to Evaluate a Property in 60 Seconds

Is Now a Good Time to Buy Real Estate?

5 Ways to Know You’ve Found a Great Investment Property

5 Questions to Ask Before you Buy a House

How to Value Commercial Real Estate

Why it’s Ok to Sell your Property at a Loss

The Truth about goal setting

Sweating the small stuff

It’s Not All in the Numbers When Investing in Real Estate

Evaluating your Property Purchase

The Starbucks Area

Real Estate Investing Goals

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Real Estate Investing Goals

Last edition we talked about whether investing in real estate is right for you. Assuming you’ve decided it is, then the next consideration is what are your real estate investing goals. When we bought our first two properties we were quitting our jobs to move to Toronto from BC. I was going to do my MBA and Dave was going to find a new job. My goal was to make my money work for me while I was in school.

Why is it so important to know what your real estate investing goals are? In order to figure out what type of property you are looking for you will need to know what exactly you want to get from real estate investing. Are you looking for monthly positive cashflow, longterm appreciation and equity building, or a combination? Are you interested in investing for the long term or the short term? How much time do you have and what is your risk tolerance?

Before you can determine your property type, it’s necessary to assess your current financial state and understand what you are trying to achieve and what is possible.

Your Five Year Plan – Goal Setting

This is a technique we use over and over. Sit down right now and write down:

  1. Where you want to be financially in five years (be specific, for example do you want to be earning $100,000/year in your job, own two properties that are giving you $500/month in positive income, and have $20,000 in RRSPs)?
  2. What can you do in the next 12 months to achieve each of the above items (once again, be specific and try and make the items measurable)?
  3. What can you do in the next six months to move towards your 12 month goals?
  4. What must you achieve this month to move towards your 6 and 12 month goals?
  5. Review these goals regularly. We used to do it monthly, but now we just do it quarterly. Find what works for you, and stick with it.

We will leave how to achieve your goals aside for now, and just focus on finding a property type to help you move forward in your real estate goals. Some initial considerations before you begin a property search:

  • Will you live in one of the rental units or will you be an absentee landlord?
  • Do you have any savings to use for the purchase (or can you use your RRSP’s as part of the first time Home Buyer’s Plan)?
  • What size of mortgage can you qualify for?
  • What is your risk tolerance?
  • How much spare time do you have to devote to the property?
  • Do you have any construction/renovation knowledge (or know somebody that does)?
  • Will you manage the property yourself, or will you hire a property manager?
  • Can you afford to supplement the property monthly if necessary?

Think carefully about your answers, as each one has an impact on your choice of property. For now, let’s focus on the very first decision: Living in the building with your rental unit or being an absentee landlord.

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