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The Basics of Real Estate Investing

Updated on May 24, 2020
Stella Kaye profile image

Stella is a full-time professional landlord and property developer with seventeen years' experience. She is based in the UK

Could You Be A Buy To Let Landlord?


A Job For Life

Why invest in real estate? Now is the time to buy while houses are so reasonably priced but that aside I would thoroughly recommend it as one of the most rewarding jobs anyone can have.

In 2003, I decided to become an investor in real estate as I hoped it would fill my days with something I already had a keen interest in. Being a real estate investor would not only give me a job I enjoyed but it would give me some purpose in life as well as providing my family with long-term financial security. And I must emphasise the phrase 'long-term' because being a property investor is no easy way to a fast buck.

Becoming an investor in property is an excellent idea if you want to be your own boss and not be tied to routine, but it is not for the faint-hearted who do not cope well with unexpected problems, or those who may not take kindly to the many responsibilities that go along with owning a number of properties.

If you want a quiet life then forget it and get an ordinary job where you can go home at the end of the day and put work related worries behind you. There have been times when I've dreaded the phone ringing, because as luck would have it, things usually go pear-shaped all at once. You have to be contactable at all times because if things aren't addressed swiftly they will invariably get worse.

Becoming an investor in real estate is a huge commitment and not one to be taken lightly; you will be giving yourself a job for life and you will need to be available evenings and weekends too - not just within normal office hours. If you choose to manage your own properties (which is advisable if they are located within reasonable travelling distance) be prepared to deal with any situation that arises - from real emergencies to the purely trivial.

Ridiculously illogical requests and comments from tenants will amuse you no end such as the inevitable phone call in the depths of winter to complain that the rental property soon becomes cold once the heating is switched off. You'll get into disputes with the neighbours when your tenants do silly things such as placing a garden shed directly in front of their kitchen window.

Be Prepared For Stupid People Doing Stupid Things!

A room without a view? What do you do when  your idiotic tenant erects a  garden shed directly in front of his neighbour's window?
A room without a view? What do you do when your idiotic tenant erects a garden shed directly in front of his neighbour's window? | Source

Buy To Let Advice

A Recommended Book For Landlords

Starting Out

I started my own business, working from home by becoming an investor in real estate quite simply because no one else would give me a job. Having brought up four children I decided to return to the workplace at the grand old age of forty five but no employer was prepared to employ me. I was apparently too high a risk. 'You haven't worked since 1986,' they would point out, peering disdainfully at my hardly impressive CV.

'I've stayed at home for the past twenty years bringing up the next generation - doesn't that count for anything?' I asked.

A succession of negative nods told me the answer was no. 'You'll be out of touch with modern methods.'

I retreated, dispirited, to my cave and tried to think of a contingency plan. I was already an established writer but having sold just one solitary article to a local magazine for the princely sum of forty five GB pounds I knew this was never going to put bread on the table.

I was even refused jobs as a shelf stacker - the type of mundane task I'd managed to hold down perfectly well as a teenager in Devon, UK. In those long-forgotten days before bar codes, I was arguably the fastest gun in the west and easily managed to label two dozen boxes of instant mash in no time at all. I was now horrified to find that I was deemed quite incapable of holding down any type of job at all after all those years as housewife. But if it wasn't for the humble housewife every nation on earth would crumble and I wish I'd thought of saying that to all those prospective employers at the time. It was no use even bothering to fill in their application forms when there was this widespread assumption among them that marriage, motherhood and remaining at home for a number of years can turn a woman's brain to mush.

'Why don't you invest in property?'A close friend suggested. Now this was not just any friend but a friend who was married to a builder and they had both been successful landlords and property developers for many years.

Why not? I thought. I have savings which I can use for deposits and my own house has increased in value several times over the years, I could easily re mortgage to raise further funds. And I had plenty of time - the ultimate commodity, if no one would give me a job.

Having the time and having the money is always a good way to start where any business venture is concerned and I also had my friend on hand to advise me. 'I'll gladly show you the ropes,' I remember her saying, but her welcome advice came with a warning; 'It's not all plain sailing, you know and you'll have to be prepared to deal with a lot of problems.' She already had a few horror stories to relate from her own experiences. The time when her tenants decided to rip all the interior doors off and use them for firewood; the time when all the fixtures and fittings were stolen from one of her properties - even the boiler; and those inevitable events when her tenants avoided paying the rent and were reluctant to leave.

So with my husband's agreement I embarked on a self-inflicted career as a landlord. We now own twenty rental properties. It was not my intention to buy quite as many so quickly but after the first few I found that my strategies - which were all based on my experience of being a housewife running one household, were clearly working and I thought: well, why not just carry on? If something is a success then you are daft not to continue.

I had always been interested in property and was the sort of person who continually looked in the local papers, comparing house prices but had never quite got around to taking the first step in becoming an investor. It can all be too daunting a thought to begin with without someone knowledgeable and experienced to guide you.

Several people, including my husband had tried to put me off in the past when I had thought of the idea saying it would all be 'too much hassle,' and it was far better to just leave my savings sitting in the bank. I ignored them and soon discovered that being an investor is a challenge and a continual learning experience. Rarely can you know immediately how to deal with certain situations as they arise as every circumstance poses its own individual problems.

I would say that investing in real estate is something anyone can do if they already own a house which has built up sufficient equity to be re mortgaged so a deposit can be put down on another. I take a pride in my properties and when I see one that I have renovated which now boasts a new roof, a fresh coat of paint and double glazed windows, I feel enormous satisfaction that it is no longer the dilapidated wreck I first bought and has now been transformed into a desirable place for someone to live.

Investing in property can be lucrative in the long term but tread carefully if you are only bothered about short term financial gain. It's also extremely rewarding to be working for yourself, not having to answer to anyone else. It has given me a sense of self worth and now, in retrospect, I'm pleased that all those prospective employers refused me a job!

As long as your houses go up in value and not in flames... you must be doing something right!

— Stella Kaye

Your Rental Properties Will Often Be Decorated In Very Poor Taste

Be prepared to magnolia over some of the worst colour schemes imaginable!
Be prepared to magnolia over some of the worst colour schemes imaginable! | Source

A Few Landlord Tips

© 2015 Stella Kaye


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