This is an activity that has already proven very successful as there are plenty of testimonials and examples of people who started from nothing and ended up building a financial empire (some even became president of the United States). So, how did they do it, and more importantly, how can you emulate them? Let’s look at it together.
- Here's the program
- Where to start?
- How to find a property to buy?
- What type of property to buy?
- Should you “renovate”?
- Buying together?
- What to look for during the visit?
- What are the right questions to ask during your visit?
- What are the main points to check?
- The Bank Loan
- How to start when you have no money?
- Okay, but how do I get rich in all this?
- What is the best strategy?
- A Few Tips
This idea is certainly not new, but I must confess that I have always had a certain hesitation to publish it. Why? Because I think it contributes to the increase of real estate prices in general but also to the increase of rents, which puts more and more precarious families in difficult situations. But as it is an idea that has already proven itself and as the main goal of Sweekr is to offer you as many ways as possible to earn money, there is no reason why it should not be in our database.
You can give your opinion about this in the comments if you wish, but I wanted to share this with you before starting. That’s done, so let’s close this parenthesis and get to the heart of the topic.
Where to start?
First of all, if you are young and have a limited budget, don’t think too big from the start. Avoid aiming straight for the skyscraper or the 1200m² villa in Beverly Hills. Don’t rush into the first property you find either. Be patient, look for the right deal through all the means at your disposal, and be reactive as soon as you have identified something that seems interesting.
Since you are just starting out, chances are your knowledge on the subject is rather limited. It is, therefore, very important to call on someone you trust and who will have the necessary experience to estimate whether the property you have identified is really worth it or not. And, even if you don’t know anyone who fits this profile, it’s even better to pay an independent expert who will give you an objective and detailed opinion. In any case, never (totally) trust an expert paid by the other side. Some of them could convince you that a ruin is a palace. It is better not to fail with your first purchase because it will make you lose time, money, and maybe a lot of energy and motivation.
How to find a property to buy?
Let’s take a quick look at the different ways to find a property for sale. There are probably others, but these are the main ones in my opinion.
- Specialized websites: This is undoubtedly the most used means today. There is certainly one or more sites that exclusively publish ads for properties located in your area. If you don’t know of any, simply do a local search via Google, using the keywords “buy house South Dakota” or “apartment for sale Birmingham”, for example.
- Via an application: The specialized sites I just mentioned often offer an iOS and Android mobile version of their services. The big advantage is that you can create alerts and be notified immediately each time a property matching your criteria is published.
- Local newspapers: This method has become a bit outdated but is still a very good way to find a property to buy. Notably because some people who are technophobic (not only old people) will prefer to keep their good old habits by publishing in printed newspapers.
- Contact an agency: Of course, agencies take a commission on the properties they sell, but they also can have exclusivity on some of them. It is, therefore, always worthwhile to take an interest, especially when you are a beginner.
- House auctions: I suppose this exists in most countries. There can be many reasons for a property to end up for sale in this way (foreclosure for non-payment, death without an heir, etc.), but there are sometimes (not always) good deals to be made.
- Word of mouth: This is a great way to get in on the action before others do. It requires to be always on the lookout for the slightest information that is out there and to regularly inform as many people as possible (especially via social networks) that you are looking for a property to buy.
- Keep your eyes open: Practice spotting “For Sale” signs from a distance and pay attention every time you go somewhere. You might even spend some time browsing the places where you are looking for a house or apartment to buy.
What type of property to buy?
They are numerous, from the simple parking space to the multi-dwelling building, including commercial space, etc., you will be spoilt for choice. And, each option will have its advantages and disadvantages. The garage/parking space will not be expensive to buy, but the return on investment will not be huge either; the purchase of an apartment will be more interesting, but you will sometimes have to fight against the co-ownership with whom you will not always agree; and conversely, the multi-dwelling building is easier to manage but requires a much larger investment… The best compromise would be to find a single-family home where the size varies according to your budget.
In fact, it all depends on your motivation but also on your budget and the opportunities that come your way. For example, if your aunt is selling a small garage at an exceptionally low price compared to the market, and she tells you about it first, you would be foolish to refuse because it is not exactly what you are looking for. Remember that you are starting small, but you have big ambitions.
Should you “renovate”?
You will sometimes come across properties where the selling price is very low but the state of disrepair will be more or less advanced, sometimes even catastrophic. If you are a do-it-yourselfer, or even a professional in building work, you might be tempted to do the necessary work yourself to save money on labor. This is not a bad idea, especially if you are young, motivated, and have a very limited starting budget. But, be aware that, depending on the case, you may be in for several months (or even years if you are alone) of costly work in terms of time, money, and energy.
And, above all, if you make this decision, do things properly without rushing and respecting the mandatory standards applicable in your region. If you do things the wrong way, you will not only be counterproductive, but you may even lower the price of the property you have bought (if you have to redo all the plumbing because you did it like an ass, it could be expensive).
Yes, there is strength in numbers after all, right? That’s true, but it depends on who you’re joining with. Finding one (or even several) person(s) you trust to share the purchase costs, the loan repayment, and possibly even help you with the necessary work can be a very good idea to start with. This can double the purchase budget and therefore allow you to think bigger from the start.
If you find one or more potential partners, first see if you share the same vision of things, establish clear rules of the game from the beginning, and write them on a document that you will both sign (yes, even if your partner is your best friend). This will save you a lot of trouble, believe me.
What to look for during the visit?
So, you’ve found something interesting and made an appointment for a first visit. Now is the time to pay attention because it often goes very fast (and even too fast). However, it is during these few dozen minutes that you will have to make up your mind.
First of all, try to arrive well before the scheduled time and take a walk in the neighborhood. This way, you will be able to stroll around and discover what the inhabitants are like, see what businesses are nearby, check the condition of the streets and sidewalks, etc.
During the visit, take as many good quality photos as possible. They will be useful later to verify any missing information, but you can also show them to other people and ask their opinion.
And above all, this is the time to ask questions.
What are the right questions to ask during your visit?
- How long has the property been for sale?
- Has the price already been reduced?
- How many visits have there already been?
- Have there been any offers, and if so, what was the last one?
- What is the condition of the roof, the walls (insulation, infiltrations…), and the gas and electricity installations? Is there a certificate of conformity or any other verification report?
- Is there a tenant living in the property, and if so, what is the duration of the lease?
- Why has the owner decided to sell now?
- Has any renovation work been done, and is there any other major work to be done?
- How old is the boiler, and when was it last inspected?
- If it is an apartment, what are the fees, and is there any work planned for the building?
- What exactly is included in the sale?
- Is there a parking space or a garage? Is it easy to find parking around here?
Taking pictures and asking questions is not everything. You should also check a maximum of points that will allow you to see if the value of the property corresponds to the asking price but also estimate the cost of any work that you might have to do.
What are the main points to check?
- Examine the walls and ceilings for signs of moisture or mould, as well as cracks, odors, and other abnormalities.
- Open and close doors, windows, cabinets, drawers, and any other mechanical items such as electrical switches and faucets. Test the locks on all doors, especially the front door.
- Check the proper functioning of all kitchen elements if equipped (hood, oven, refrigerator, etc.)
- Inspect the plumbing, check the condition of the pipes, water pressure, joints, flush, drains, boiler (if there is one), etc.
- Inspect the electricity, check the condition of the wires and plugs, see if there are enough of them, examine the electrical panel, and see if everything seems okay (no burnt out circuit breaker, stripped wires, presence of a diagram, etc.)
- Turn on the heater; check if the radiators are heating on all their surfaces and if they do not have any leaks or traces of rust.
- Inspect all woodwork for pests (fungus, worms, etc.)
- Be on the lookout for elements that could be used to hide certain problems (paneling, drywall, carpet, etc.)
- Pay particular attention to the condition of the roof (missing or loose shingles) and gutters. Come back on a rainy day if possible.
- Check that all rooms are sufficiently insulated.
The Bank Loan
You like the property. It’s perfect. It’s time to go see your new best friend: your banker.
I explained in this article that the bank loan was for me one of the worst ways to find money, but in this case and for such important amounts, there are not many alternatives. The advantage here is that you are buying something that should theoretically increase in value, and in the worst case scenario, if you fail to pay, you can simply resell the property.
I would even advise you to go and see your banker before you start looking. First because he will probably give you important information as well as some wise advice, but mostly to know if he is willing to lend you money and how much.
And, don’t forget that there are other banks. If you are turned down or the interest rate is too high, you can always look elsewhere. Banks are more willing to lend for the purchase of a property because the guarantees of recovering the initial investment are much safer but also because the return on investment is much greater than on any other type of loan.
So, if you bring the guarantees proving your ability to repay, as well as a sufficiently high starting amount (which is variable depending on the case), everything should go well.
How to start when you have no money?
The personal funds I have just mentioned will be used mainly to make a down payment and to pay the notary fees (opening of the file, registration, other fees…). If you don’t have any, here are a few things to do.
Find one or more investors: If you are looking for a partner, as I explained above, try to find one with a solid investment capital and who would agree to pay all the start-up costs (deposit, notary, works…). This will not be easy, but you might find one if you search well. Of course, you must bring something to the table on your side (experience, competence, motivation…). If the investor doesn’t see how you could be useful, or if he has difficulty in trusting you, he won’t help you. Be credible and convincing.
To find him, you could do a Google search using some keywords such as “how to find a real estate investor” followed by the name of your country, region, or city. I did this to check it out and found some interesting results.
Ask for a 120% loan: Once again, this is a solution that is not available on every corner, but it does exist. Here you will ask your banker to include all the costs in the mortgage loan you will apply for. Let’s imagine that the property is sold at $100,000, that the miscellaneous expenses amount to $15,000, and that the work to be done is estimated at $5,000; you will, therefore, ask for a loan of $120,000. It won’t be easy, but it will be possible if you arrive with a solid case. Don’t forget that your banker wants to be sure that you will be able to fully repay the loan.
Real estate crowdfunding: If you don’t see what crowdfunding is and want to know everything about it, I refer you to my article here. But basically, this is how it works. You go to a crowdfunding platform, explain your project, and collect the funds from the micro-investors you convince. This type of financing is mostly used for projects of a certain size, but nothing prevents you from trying your luck. It is in any case worth a try.
Look abroad: If the price of real estate is really too high in your region, and especially if you like to travel, why not buy abroad where prices could be more accessible? Or why not just in your country but far from home? It will be difficult for those living in Monaco, Singapore, or Luxembourg, it’s true, but if you live in Tokyo, Paris, London, or New York for example, you could find much cheaper anywhere else.
Work hard and save a lot: I know this is not a solution you want to consider because you are so excited about starting this business that you don’t want to wait. But, this solution can help you quickly earn enough money for your first investment. As I said before, you could start with a small property (e.g. a studio) and earn the amount you need in just a few months. You won’t have much choice anyway if none of the other solutions worked for you.
Otherwise, you can always read this article which lists some other ways to find money to finance your project.
Okay, but how do I get rich in all this?
Once you have bought and renovated your first house or apartment, you can make money from it in three different ways: either by renting it out, by living in it yourself, or by selling it quickly with a capital gain. So, it is going to be difficult for me to make a complete comparison between these 3 options as their advantages and disadvantages can vary from one country to another (especially in terms of the different types of taxes, laws, etc.). However, here are some notable points:
1Renting the property
In this first case, you collect the money from one or more monthly rents that should cover the amount of the real estate loan repayment. In this way, the property will belong to you completely at the end of 15 or 20 years, and each rent that you receive will be an income that will feed your bank account.
On the other hand, you will have the responsibility to intervene in case of problems (roof leakage, defective heating system, electricity to be redone…), which can, of course, generate costs, sometimes quite significant ones.
2Live there yourself
No tenant here and therefore no rent falling every month, but it is perhaps a solution to consider if you rent the place where you currently live yourself. Unless, of course, renting out your new place could earn you much more. So, it’s up to you to see which way the scales fall.
This option is only available if you are the only buyer or if you bought it with your partner. Or, you will have to find common ground with your investment partner, but that may be more complicated.
3Resell the property
If you have managed to find a good deal or if the work you have done has increased the value of the property in a short period of time, you could also decide to resell it immediately. I don’t think this is the most profitable solution, but again, it depends on the case. Be careful though because this is real estate speculation and you could, depending on where you live, be heavily taxed on the transaction.
So, it’s up to you to see which of these 3 possibilities would suit you best, but first, I would advise you to find out the real cost of each of them (what it will cost you to rent, to resell directly, etc.).
What is the best strategy?
The best solution, especially if it’s your first purchase, would be to first live in the apartment or house yourself while you finish the work and make some cosmetic changes for example, then rent it for 5, 10, or even 15 years, and then sell it when it has increased in value enough—, in any case, to be able to pay back the loan in full and make a good profit in the process (that’s the goal after all, isn’t it?).
But whatever strategy you choose to adopt (after all, each of them will normally end up being profitable), the most important thing is to keep going. As soon as your first property is rented or resold, buy another one right after and repeat the process multiple times.
If you systematically adopt the rental strategy, you will end up with several loans on your hands, which is not dramatic since the rents you receive should ensure all the repayments. If this is not the case, and therefore it costs you money, it will be more difficult for you (it is better to avoid this situation as much as possible). Especially since for each new loan, your banker will certainly require a new contribution of equity. In this case, you will have to work hard on your side to earn all this money, at least at the beginning.
A Few Tips
Just before closing this article, let me give you some valuable advice.
- Don’t forget to take out a good insurance policy that covers as many risks as possible: fire, flood, earthquake, invasion by an army of Godzillas, etc. If you lose your property because the coverage is too low, you’ll have to keep paying it back until the end (of the loan, not of your life)!
- Even though there is no age to start (except for the age to qualify for a bank loan), I advise you to start as young as possible. If you start at 20, you could be an annuitant by the time you are 40 or maybe even earlier.
- When you buy a property, and even if it is in perfect condition, try to see if it would be relevant to add some elements that would increase its value and maybe even make it more attractive to potential buyers. For example, an armored door, air conditioning, an automatic gate, or even solar panels. You have to put the cost/benefit ratio in perspective, of course, but it is a point that I invite you to systematically think about during each of your acquisitions.
- Take a good look at the surrounding area and see what could be beneficial or detrimental to the location of the property (train station and school nearby, surrounding nature, various shops, or on the contrary risk of flooding, polluting factories not far away, heavy traffic, delinquency, noisy neighbors…). Come back several times at different times (morning, afternoon, and evening) to see if there are noticeable differences (except for the daylight intensity, of course). And then, also ask about urbanization projects. Some of them could raise or lower the price of real estate locally.
- Go and ring the doorbells of your neighbors and ask their opinion about the building or the apartment next door. Go alone, or they may not dare to talk. This will also allow you to meet them and see who they are (the big jerk next door is not always a legend).
- Don’t be afraid to give up. If you have doubts about the property you want, move on. There are plenty of other fish in the sea, rest assured. And, above all, don’t regret your decisions. Once it’s done (or not), it’s too late anyway, so avoid poisoning your mind with these kinds of considerations.
- Finally, later on, when you have already made several successful investments and have quite a bit of capital yourself, you may want to look at foreign markets and more specifically at “hot spots” where the real estate market is booming. This will be an effective way to boost your business even more.
This is an activity that can be very lucrative as long as you know what you are doing, or surround yourself with the right people until you do. Learn as much as you can about the subject as quickly as possible because knowledge and experience are the two keys that will guarantee your success. They will allow you to correctly estimate the profit you can potentially make before buying each property you want but also to choose the best strategies to reach your goal.
Again, don’t be afraid to ask for advice from someone who knows better than you, even if it costs you some money. Once you sign the agreement to buy, it will be too late.
Environmental and climate change issues are more than ever at the heart of the concerns of this 21st century, which is why I am proposing a few ideas that will enable you to limit the negative impact that the implementation of this idea could have.
These solutions that I suggest are sometimes largely insufficient to compensate for these negative impacts, such as carbon offsetting. Unfortunately, there is not always an ideal and 100% efficient solution, far from it. And if you have others, please do not hesitate to share them in the comments below.
The residential sector has a large share of responsibility in climate change. In the US, for example, it is responsible for 20% of GHG emissions. The fault lies in the lack of insulation in most buildings dating from before the new regulations in force.
The first thing to do would be to ask for an audit (it is not very expensive and there is sometimes subsidy for this) which would allow you first of all to know the general situation of the purchased property and to be able to identify precisely the places presenting weaknesses in order to start the necessary works (insulation of the walls, the roof, the doors, installation of double-glazing…).
This is for (currently) temperate countries, but there are also ways to act on the energy optimization of buildings located closer to the equator and therefore to reduce the intensive use of air conditioning systems (vegetation on the outside walls and roof, white paint on the roof, reversible heat pumps, Canadian wells, etc.).
Regarding water consumption, if you have to redo the bathroom, why not opt for a shower instead of a bathtub? For example, Italian showers are often very nice and allow you to save water, especially if you install a shower head that limits the amount of water sprayed.
There are also systems that allow you to collect rainwater, filter it, and then reinject it into the flush system, for example.
Other ideas: Provide a place for the different waste recycling garbage cans, choose low-energy appliances for the kitchen, use wood with a sustainable certification (PEFC or FSC), install LEDs instead of traditional incandescent bulbs (already banned from sale in several countries), etc.
All these elements will contribute to make the property more ecological but will also bring a real financial added value, do not forget it.
- You can become an annuitant at age 40 or even earlier.
- Requires quite a bit of investment (sometimes money, time and/or energy).
- The return on investment can take time, depending on the strategy adopted.
- Location: Anywhere, even abroad.
- Investment: More or less high, depending on the type of property targeted and the amount of equity required.
- Earnings perspective: Very high, depending on the strategy adopted and your ability to detect good deals.
- Required: A fairly sharp knowledge of the various aspects of real estate.
- Risk level: Medium. There is a real risk of making a bad deal on your first purchases.
- Implementation time: You can start looking now, but you can only buy when you have the funds for your first purchase.
- Material needed: A smartphone and a working brain.