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Signing a Contract



Getting into the real estate game and buying your first investment property is exciting, and a little scary, but it is the first crucial step in taking control of your financial future.

It will create the first stream of passive income, which will cover part of your living expenses so that you don't have to actively work for that money anymore.

As you continue investing in real estate and building your portfolio, the amount of passive income increases until all of your living expenses are covered and you are "financially free."

That is the point in which you no longer have to actively "work" for income to cover your living expenses, support your family, put your kids through college or secure your retirement. 

Investing in real estate puts your financial future in your hands and under your control.


STEP 1. Determine Your Investable Cash

Identify the amount of investable cash you can allocate to purchase your first rental property. You need to start developing your buying criteria, and that includes identifying the price-range of the property you want to buy.

STEP 2. Decide Whether to Finance or Pay Cash

This is an important decision to make early on so you know what you can buy with your investable cash. If you qualify for financing, you may be able to purchase 2, 3, or even 4 properties instead of just one for cash. If you choose to finance, be sure to work with a lender who specializes in serving real estate investors (ask them if this is the majority of their business). Then, pre-qualify with the lender so that you understand exactly what rates and terms are available to you.

STEP 3. Identify the Best Market for You

Removing geographic restrictions and understanding how to identify the best real estate markets regardless of where you live is a crucial step. It is important to select an "investor-advantaged" market with positive economic indicators like job growth and population growth as well as favorable price-to-rent ratios so you can optimize your cash-flow margin. But be sure to buy into a micro-market with strong rental demand to minimize vacancy. Also, look for communities with strong demand by primary homeowners who want to live there so you can have the best chance of selling for retail price to an owner-occupant down the road when you are ready to exit.

STEP 4. Select and Reserve Your Property

The best way to mitigate your up-front risk when buying investment property is to purchase a 'performing rental property' that is either new or fully-renovated and already has a tenant and local property management in place. These are usually privatem off-market buying opportunities.
When you select the performing property that is the best fit for you, submit a reservation to the seller.

STEP 5. Sign Contract and Send Earnest Money

Upon receiving your reservation form, the seller will issue a contract to you as well as wiring instructions on how to send your refundable earnest money deposit to escrow.
Earnest money is a good faith deposit to show that you are serious so the seller is comfortable taking the property off the market while you do your due diligence and decide if you want to move forward with the transaction or not.
Always read the contract carefully, make sure you understand everything, ask questions if you don't, and feel free to have your financial or legal advisors review it as well.
Always ensure you send your earnest money to a 3rd party escrow account, not to the seller. Your earnest money should be 100% refundable to you in accordance with the terms of the contract, in the event that you choose to exercise one of the contingencies and not move forward with the transaction.

STEP 6. Conduct Your Due Diligence

Now that you have the property under contract, it is time for you to conduct your due diligence. Always remember that you are 100% responsible for doing your own due diligence.
A.) Consult your tax, legal or financial advisors to ensure the property is a good fit to your personal investing criteria.
B) Review closed sales and rental comparables to ensure you are buying below fair market value and that you are getting fair market rent. If you are using conventional financing, the lender will also require an appraisal.
C) After construction or renovations are complete, order a professional home inspection. It is important that you (not the seller or anyone else) hire the home inspector so they work for you and have your interest at heart.
D) Many people (especially experienced investors) buy sight-unseen as long as they execute a solid 3rd party due diligence regiment. But plenty of people (especially first time investors) like to go visit the market, shake hands with the seller, walk the property, and get a feel for the market before they close.
If a trip to see the property would make you more comfortable with the purchase, you should consider adding it to your due diligence checklist.

STEP 7. Sign A Property Management Agreement

Since you want to be a real estate investor and not a landlord (even if the property is down the street from you), you will want to hire a professional property manager (and factor that expense into your monthly cash flow analysis).
You are allowed to use any property management company you want but if you are buying a "turnkey" property some sellers will have a vertically integrated property management solution available to you, and you can use their in-house property management.
As with the purchase contract, you should read the property management agreement thoroughly, ensure you understand it all or ask about anything you don't understand, and feel free to have your legal or other advisors review that agreement as well.

STEP 8. Sign Closing Docs with a Mobile Notary

Once you have completed all your due diligence and have decided to move forward, the Title Company (Or the closing attorney) will send you all the closing documents (including the lending documents if you are financing the purchase). You can sign these documents in front of a mobile notary who can even come to your house or your office or your local coffee shop, as you like.
You will wire the remaining money due on the property when you signed the closing documents, then the  deal will close and fund and you will be the proud owner of your first investment property. Congratulations!

STEP 9. Sit Back and Collect Your Passive Income

Most property management companies will have an online portal so you can monitor your properties online 24/7. You can contact the property manager if you need something or have a question, but otherwise you can just relax and have your monthly rent deposited directly into your account. 

STEP 10. Tell Your Friends and Family!

Now you can tell everyone you know that you are a real estate investor! Your co-workers, friends and family will likely have mixed responses to your new endeavor. Some will surely be nay-sayers, but many will be super-interested and want your advice on how they can get started. So, pay it forward and share what you have learned along the way. To them, you look like a real-estate rockstar!

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