Investing in real estate can allow you to build a passive income stream and some financial padding. If you do well, your properties can also give you a severe net worth and, ultimately, financial independence. It’s genuinely an excellent way to build lasting wealth—if you do it right. Looking to start learning at home? Here are some of the best property investment resources you can start with, from books to websites to apps:
Learning the basics
Every Landlord’s Legal Guide (book)
This comprehensive book offers legal guidance for property managers and landlords in all states. It will show you your duties and liabilities as a landlord while providing advice on some potential legal problems you may encounter. The best thing about it is that it offers a wide range of legal forms that you can use.
Leases and Rental Agreements (book)
From the same authors as the book above, this one focuses on the east and rental agreements. It also discusses relevant laws on discrimination, security deposits, tenant screening, reference checks, etc.
If you want to formalize your skills, you can earn a real estate investment certificate from Harvard through its extension school (online). This is a graduate-level program that requires you to complete three courses covering enterprise management, financing, and real estate. You also need to complete an elective course on environmental risk, architecture, and sustainability.
Are you looking for something a little more budget-friendly? Udemy offers real estate investing courses covering everything you need to start, from fundamentals to advanced rental analysis and financial modeling. You can probably finish a course in about 5 hours.
Everything you need to know about investing in commercial real estate is here. It provides a wealth of information about commercial mortgage loan types, how they work, and how to qualify for them.
Finding potential investment properties
Fannie Mae, FDIC, and HUD
These websites are excellent sources of government-owned foreclosures, all offering online lists of properties that are for sale, foreclosed, or soon to be auctioned.
The local county clerk’s office
You can also check your county clerk’s website to find foreclosure notices in the area you are interested in or search property records. This is an excellent way to keep tabs on notices so you can swoop in on a potential investment property before the competition sees it.
Are you interested in investing in bank-owned homes? This is an excellent source of owned assets that also allows you to find foreclosures, pre-foreclosures, and real estate-owned properties anywhere in the US. There are tools provided to filter search results by zip code, city, or neighborhood.
This website lets you search for real estate properties that are currently at auction across the US. Some auctions are done in courthouses or auction houses, while some happen online. Download the mobile app if you want to track auctioned properties on the go.
The Multiple Listing Service
While you need to be a licensed real estate agent to get into the MLS, it’s possible to check out all public-facing listings through websites like Realtor.com, Zillow, and Trulia. It’s also a good idea to partner with a real estate agent who works in the locality you’re interested in if you want more data and regular MLS updates. Provide them with your criteria—including location, conditions, property type, and price range—so they can let you know about new listings that might interest you.
Evaluating and determining the value of properties
Want to get rough estimates of what specific properties are currently worth given the market conditions? Zillow provides such estimates based on public records and recent sales. You can also lookup recently sold properties in certain areas for more insight.
Aside from Zillow, these websites can also offer property value estimates:
RealQuest by Corelogic
You can use this tool for more accurate valuations. You can use this tool. It charges a fee that can provide deep-dive data points that you won’t find elsewhere. You can check out ownership and transaction records of any given address, nearby sales, estimated property values, MLS data, and more. It even allows you to check the foreclosure status of a property you’re thinking about buying.
This tool by Altisource lets you analyze the financial performance of a potential single-family property. You can estimate an asset’s cash flow, yields, cap rate, etc.
The FBI’s crime reporting statistics
It’s essential to look at the source if you want to gauge crime rates in an area you are interested in. Get access to specific crime statistics of any given community or city across the US. Simply select the state and city, then the local police department. The website also allows you to filter by date range and crime type so you can get a clear idea of how safe (or unsafe) a location is.
With natural disasters and hurricanes becoming more common, it’s more important than ever to determine the flood risk of a property before buying it. The Federal Emergency Management Agency Website gives you everything you need. Key in the address of the property to see an interactive flood map.
This is another great tool for residential real estate investors. Even if a property is not for sale, HomeSnap can give you real-time and accurate data just by taking a picture of the property. This app also provides information on property history, school zones, and much more.
The quality of local schools often affects the attractiveness of properties in the community. This website lets you evaluate different school district ratings and individual campus reviews/scores. You can even get information on student progress, teachers, test scores, discipline records, etc.
Other sources for checking school quality include:
Your state’s education agency
- The National Center for Education Statistics
- Neighborhood Scout
This is the website to see if you want information on an area’s livability scores, crime rates, education, costs of living, weather, housing affordability, employment prospects, local demographics, and more.
If you’re considering buying a real estate asset that you can’t visit right now, you can use Google Maps to scope it out. Key in the address and click ‘street view’ to see a more raw and unpolished representation of the property instead of just fancy listing photos. You can also use this tool to get a feel for the neighborhood. Explore the streets in the area using your mouse.
Financing investment properties
If you’re an American, you can get free credit reports from Experian, Equifax, and Transunion every year. It is always prudent to pull your score before you start looking for financing for your investment property to get an idea of what financing options may be available to you.
Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac loans
Check out the types of investment property loans available from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac if you are looking for a low-down-payment option to finance your investment. These websites also provide guidelines to determine if you’re eligible, as well as a list of requirements.
Credit Repair: How to Help Yourself(//www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0058-credit-repair-how-help-yourself)
Does your credit need help? The Federal Trade Commission provides tips on how to improve it. It also offers resources for avoiding scams and finding legitimate credit repair programs.