The Top Nine Ways to Make Money Investing in Real Estate

There are many other many ways to make money investing in real estate; fix and flips, long-term rentals, vacation rentals, REITs, short-term rentals, long-range investing, non performing loans, wholesaling and your personal residence, can all be considered ways to invest in real estate.

I invest in real estate with long-term rentals, fix and flips and REITs. I love long-term rentals because they offer great returns, which continue to pay you as long as you own the property. I also love to flip homes because of the money you can make, and it is a lot of fun to transform old houses into something new. To see details on my rental properties, check out my complete guide to investing in long-term rental properties.

A great real estate investment, provides a great return on your money without much effort. Each way to invest in real estate has a different level of risk, return and time commitment. Some investments in real estate are more of a full-time job than an investment like fix and flipping, while some investments like REITs take almost no work. Lets take a look at the best ways to invest in real estate in no particular order.

1. How to make money investing in real estate with long-term rental properties

Long-rental properties are my favorite way to invest in real estate. It can take a lot of upfront cash, but the returns are incredible if you buy right and are patient. I make over 15 percent cash on cash returns on my long-term rental properties, and that does not include appreciation, equity pay down or tax benefits. The return on investment is higher than 15 percent on my long-term rental properties if you consider the tax benefits and equity pay down.

When you invest in real estate with long-term rentals, you must focus on cash flow. The best way to get a lot of cash flow is to buy properties at below market value, make repairs to increase value and choose homes that will give high rent to purchase price ratios. It is not easy to find properties like this; it can take me months to find the right deal for a long-term rental.

I choose to invest in single family rentals because they give me better returns than multifamily. However, in different areas of the country, multifamily properties may offer better returns. Part of the reasons I can get better returns on single family homes is there are more of them. With more volume there is a better chance I can find that great deal.

There is another way to invest in real estate with long-term rentals; commercial properties. To be honest I have never invested in commercial, and I am not an expert on investing in commercial. Rent terms are usually much longer with commercial, and it can take a very long time to find a tenant. There are many types of leases: some leases have the tenant paying everything including repairs and maintenance. Other leases have the owner paying almost everything, including converting/remodeling the property to the tenants needs. With commercial properties, loan terms are much different with shorter terms and higher interest rates. In my area, the rate of return is just not good enough for me to venture into commercial, again that may be different in different areas of the country. It is a good idea to talk to a commercial expert before you invest in real estate with commercial properties.

2. How to make money investing in real estate with fix and flips

I started to invest in real estate by investing in fix and flips. My father has been a Realtor since 1978 and he has done fix and flips since I was in high school. When I started in real estate in 2001, I loved fix and flips, but selling houses to strangers I did not love so much. I am naturally an introvert and fix and flips were perfect for me because I could focus on the house. I could find great deals, decide how to repair them and sell for a profit.

On one fix and flip, I repaired the home myself. I installed new cabinets, counters, appliances, windows, doors, hardwood floors and painted everything. This was one if the biggest mistakes I ever made in my real estate career! It took me 6 months to complete the repairs because I was not a contractor and I learned on the job. The biggest error in my judgment was the time it took to repair the home. My other business suffered greatly because I spent all my time working on the house. We barely made a profit on that deal because it took me so long to complete the job. I learned never to repair houses myself! I think many first time fix and flippers try to save money by making repairs themselves, and they don’t realize they are actually costing themselves money. It can cost $50 to $100 a day to hold a property that is vacant after interest, utilities and insurance costs. It is usually much more beneficial to have a contractor do the work who will do it quickly and correctly.

Fix and flipping is a great way to invest in real estate, but it takes a lot of work. You have to find deals, manage contractors, keep track of accounting and get homes sold. It also takes a lot of money for down payments and repairs, although hard money can be an option to reduce the cash needed.

3. How to make money investing in real estate by wholesaling properties

Wholesaling real estate is when an investor buys a home or gets a home under contract. They immediately sell the home to another investor buyer without making any repairs and in some cases without buying the home. An investor can wholesale a house without buying it by getting the under contract and then assigning that contract to another investor. Some real estate investors wholesale full-time and make hundreds of thousands of dollars a month. The advantage to wholesaling is you don’t have to make repairs on a home and it is sold very quickly. Most properties that are wholesaled are bought through direct marketing.

4. How to make money investing in real estate with your personal residence

Your personal residence is another way to invest in real estate. Some may not consider a personal residence a way to invest in real estate because you aren’t bringing in any rent or income. I think there are definitely ways to make your personal residence a great investment.

I bought the house I owned before my current house, at the foreclosure sale in 2009. I recently sold it for $150,000 more than I bought it for because I bought it at below market value. The nice thing when you invest in real estate with your personal residence is you can make a tax-free profit if you live there for two years or more! Check out this article to see the details on tax-free profits with a personal residence. 

It is also possible to buy a personal residence that you can turn into a rental property. This is a great way to buy a rental property with little money down. You can buy more than one property this way and build up a portfolio of rentals with small down payments.

5. How to make money investing in real estate with REITS

REITs are Real Estate Investment Trusts and are purchased like stocks or mutual funds. I have purchased a few of them in my IRA with good results. REITs are large funds that invest in real estate and then pass on dividends and profits to the share holders. REITs will invest in large commercial projects, land, industrial buildings or even government buildings.

REITs are the easiest way to invest in real estate since the trust decides what to invest in and handles all the management. The returns may be great, but can also go up and down like the stock market. I prefer to invest in real estate with a more hands on approach because I can make more money. You can’t buy a REIT below market value like you can a house.

 6. How to make money investing in real estate with long-distance properties

Many people would love to invest in real estate, but find home prices extremely high in their market. New York, San Francisco and many other areas have incredibly high prices for real estate. If the price for a starter home is $500,000, that makes it very hard to invest in real estate. It will take a lot of upfront cash with high prices and be very difficult to cash flow.

Investors are starting to invest in real estate by investing hundreds or thousands of miles away. There is a lot of work needed to make long-range investing work. You need to pick a market, find a great realtor, find a great property manager and the find the right property or properties. I have not tried to invest in real estate long distance, but I have talked to and learned from many people who have. Here is a great article on how to invest in turn-key rental properties that are already rented.

  • Pick a location: One successful investor I know hired a firm that keeps track of detailed sales information to find the best markets for his fix and flips. He then spent 6 months there exploring the market and then decided to invest in real estate in that area. I am not saying you have to spend 6 months in an area, after all this investor makes his living flipping. It is smart to spend some time meeting people and exploring any area you want to invest in.


  • Find a great Realtor: A great realtor is a key to any successful investors strategy. If you want to invest in real estate long distance, you need an awesome agent. That agent will help you find deals, possibly inspect homes for you and schedule inspections. If possible I always suggest investor become agents themselves, but that is difficult with long distance investing.


  • Find a property manager: If you want to invest in long distance rental properties, you need a property manager. A good property manager can mean the difference between a profitable rentals and a disaster. A property manager will rent the home, manage the expenses, hire contractors and look over the house for you.


  • Find a great contractor: It can be tricky to find a great contractor in your local area, it’s even tougher long distance. This is where you need a great Realtor and property manager to help you find a great contractor. The best way to find a contractor is word of mouth or referrals. You need to have people you can trust in the area you are investing in to refer contractors.

7. How to make money investing in real estate with vacation rentals

Vacation rentals are out of my comfort zone, but I know the basics. Buy a house in a great tourist location, use a great property manager to rent it out for you and collect the rent. The difficult part of a vacation rental is the extremely cyclical market. Peak season can bring top dollar while low season can bring almost nothing because demand goes down. I have stayed in many vacation rentals and the key in my opinion is to price a vacation rental low enough that the unit stays rented.

The cash flow on vacation rentals can look amazing at first, but the management fees, expenses and vacancies will almost always be much higher on a vacation rental than a long-term rental.

More information on vacation rentals.

8. How to make money investing in real estate with short-term rentals

Short term rental properties can be planned or come about as a necessity. Many investors will invest in real estate and hope it appreciates, so they can sell the property for a profit. This is a very dangerous tactic when you invest in real estate. Most of the time, cash flow is not the primary goal and people end up losing money every month when they invest for appreciation. It is very difficult to hold a property for years when you are losing money every month. Many times the investor will be forced to sell the home in a down market and lose even more money. If you invest for cash flow and look at appreciation as a bonus you can avoid this is mistake.

Other investors are sometimes forced to move out-of-town or they want a nicer home, but cannot sell their current home. The investor ends up renting their house and hoping the market to improves enough to sell the home in the future. This tactic is also dangerous because there is no guarantee the market will appreciate. The market could continue to decline and make things even worse.

9. How to make money investing in real estate with non performing notes

Non performing notes are mortgages that have been taken out against a home and the homeowners stopped paying or have fallen way behind. The interesting part about investing in non performing notes is you can buy them for a huge discount. Many companies sell non performing notes to investors and I have a great article on the subject here.

When you invest in non performing notes, you are not buying the home, only the mortgage. If the owner defaults, you must foreclosure yourself, complete a Deed in Lieu, allow a short sale or come up with another solution.


There are many ways to make money investing  in real estate. I prefer long-term rentals because they continue to provide cash flow month after month, year after year. Fix and flips can provide tremendous income, but you must keep a high volume of deals going and turn them quickly to make a lot money. Vacation rentals, long distance investing and non performing notes can also be great investments if you do your research, take your time and buy right.

For more information on finding awesome rentals or flipping homes. Check out my best selling books on Amazon:

Build a Rental Property Empire

Fix and Flip Your Way to Financial Freedom



  1. mamabwe bwalanda February 8, 2016
  2. Frank September 17, 2015
    • Mark Ferguson September 19, 2015
  3. WA Strata Management March 18, 2015

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