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Investing in Real Estate & REITs

Real estate investing runs the gamut in terms of risk and investment success. The first rule of real estate investing, even before location, location, location, is be very careful with whom you are dealing. For some reason, real estate is fraught with unscrupulous characters, many of whom you'll see on late night television commercials with their "no-money" down methods of becoming millionaires. Only a very small percent of these so-called real estate gurus are legitimate.

If you are seriously considering investing in real estate property, it means essentially that you will need:

Investment capital, or a legitimate means of attaining some without putting yourself in debt.

A good knowledge of the real estate market and the neighborhood in which you are looking to buy property.

Good management, people and negotiating skills

The ability to do repair work or access to people who can do it for you. The name and number of a property inspector or engineer.

Unless you are able to find, evaluate and buy houses that are either in foreclosure or fixer-uppers, which can be turned around quickly, you will most likely serve as a landlord for the property while it increases in value. Be careful to whom you rent because your property must be well-maintained.

Since legitimate real estate investing means having some money to make money, you need available capital. For this reason, many people go into real estate after coming into a sizable amount of money. For example, empty nesters who sell a large home for $500,000 and buy a smaller condo for $250,000 have money to purchase another property or two. Make sure to research your location. Go to local town board meetings, do research in libraries and go on the Internet to find out as much as possible not only about the location today, but about plans for the area over the coming years.

And then there are REITs - Real Estate Investment Trusts. This is a way of investing in real estate for a lot less money and without having to worry about fixing a tenant's leaking bathroom pipes in the middle of the night. REITS invest in various corporations involved in real estate, ranging from industrial parks to shopping centers to construction companies. They are listed on the NASDAQ and the stock exchange.

Essentially REITS work in the same way as mutual funds, except they set up a diversified portfolio that deals only in real estate. They primarily pay the bulk of their earnings in investor dividends. Before investing in a REIT, consider:

The economic conditions where the key holdings are located

Past performance of the REIT and future projections

The manager of the REIT, who operates like a mutual fund manager

The overall state of the real estate market

REITS, like stocks, bonds and mutual funds, have high and low periods. Like other income-producing vehicles, they can be strong investments over time and pay dividends. They are fairly liquid and are a much safer way of investing in real estate than buying property.

Neda Dabestani-Ryba is a licensed Realtor in Maryland. She is a member of the President's Circle of Top Real Estate Professionals. She can be reached at (800) 536-3806 or visit her website for more information: Prudential Carruthers REALTORS is an independently owned and operated member of Prudential Real Estate Affiliates, Inc., a Prudential Financial company. Equal Housing Opportunity.

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