If you’re just getting into real estate investing, chances are you are looking at two basic options for mid-range residential property. You can either own the property indefinitely and rent it out at a profit or you can own the property for a short period of time, fix it up, and sell it for a profit. While both can be great approaches to real estate, some properties are not equally suitable for both.
Renting It Out: Renting out your property can be a huge moneymaker, but not for every property. For instance, if you have just bought a property that is in serious disrepair, you may not want to rent it out. It might be better to fix it up and sell it, because nobody wants to rent a property that is in serious disrepair. Furthermore, if you fix it up and then try to rent it, you now have to recover the initial payment on the property as well as the cost of renovation. That can take awhile, and can be recovered faster by selling the property.
Likewise, if you have just bought an expensive property which is in great shape, you may be better served to make some market-specific improvements and sell the property. People who can afford to rent expensive residential property are probably not looking to rent; they’re looking to buy.
Finally, consider the area the property is in. Is it in a transitional area, where people tend to stay for five years or less and move on? If so, renting it out can be extremely profitable. Do something with the property to set it apart from the average property in the market and then list it at 120% of the market value, trumpeting the aspect of the property that sets it apart. In a market where everyone is stuck renting basically the same property, a little bit of color or flair can add a lot of value to a property.
Fixing and Flipping: The key to the fix it and flip it philosophy is to renovate the property to the extent that it is now marketable to a wealthier buyer without spending so much in the renovation process that the increase in value is negligible. This can be more difficult than it seems. First, major renovations can sometimes snowball out of control. What started as a $30,000 project can turn into a $60,000 project before you even know what hit you. Second, you need to know your market very well. You need to know that by investing $30,000 in the renovation of a property you can turn around and sell that property for (significantly) more than $30,000 more than you paid for it. This can be risky.
However, if you are confident that you know your market and can keep the renovation project under control, fixing and flipping a property can involve much less risk. Because you can make your money back in a shorter period of time than renting the property, unforeseen changes in the market are less likely to cause you problems. A faster turnaround should make for higher profits in the long run.