People often ask me how I got started in commercial real estate, and I tell them that it was a conscious decision for me. Most people who begin investing in real estate start off with single family residential properties because that is what they are most comfortable with. They tell themselves, “All I need to do is a couple of deals a month. I'll make myself five or ten thousand dollars, then at the end of a very few months most of my problems will be taken care of.”
They do not really understand everything that is involved in getting these properties going. They think they are going to be making big money, but before long, oftentimes they end up with a lot of problems and a lot of headaches. They might have traded in their job for a perceived higher paying job, but find that it is really taking a toll on their lives.
If you belong to a real estate investment group, take a look around you. Look at the people who have done twenty-five to fifty houses or more. Are they living the life of their dreams? More importantly, are they living the life of your dreams? They may be better off than you are now, but is this really what you want to work towards? I know so many people who have a large portfolio of properties but really haven't achieved the type of freedom, success, and wealth that they truly desire.
How can you change this? In my opinion, the answer is commercial real estate. When I decided to start investing in real estate, I stopped and took a look around. I realized that the people who were making the big money in real estate were the people who owned buildings not houses. People who owned the large apartment buildings, the large office buildings, the large warehouse and industrial space – those are the ones who really seemed to be living a lifestyle that I wanted.
They didn't have to be there tending to their properties; they had property managers who took care of that for them. Yet, they were the ones spending the checks, catching planes to exotic locations and destinations, and living the lifestyle that I desired so much. After looking at this for quite a while, I decided that there must be a way of getting this done. They couldn't have been much smarter, have learned much more, or have had access to more resources then I could.
Even though I didn't know how immediately, I knew I could figure out a way to do it. I sat down and took the time to learn how to invest in commercial real estate, which is what I would recommend that you do. I studied and figured out exactly what it would take, and as I learned, commercial real estate became less and less of a mystery to me.
How can you start? First of all, let's talk about why you would want to do it. What are the benefits of commercial real estate? First of all, one of the biggest benefits is that commercial real estate is valued differently. By “valued differently”, I mean the amount of income that a property produces is directly proportionate to its worth. So if a property produces more income, then it is worth more. It has very little to do with “market comps”.
Second, along the way you are going to get a far greater cash flow. Imagine if you were to buy a $200,000 home. That $200,000 home may rent for somewhere in the neighborhood of $1,500 per month. The underlying mortgage on that home may be somewhere between $1,000 and $1,400 per month. So you end up struggling to gain between $100 and $500 per month in positive cash flow. That's not a very high number for the amount of work you have to put in, and it certainly is not going to get you on the jet set.
Now, let's take a look at a similar investment from a commercial standpoint. That same $200,000 investment may end up yielding you an 8-unit apartment complex, based on $25,000 per unit to acquire the property. Let's say each of those units were two bedrooms, which could rent in most areas of the United States anywhere between $400 and $600 per month. For simplicity's sake, let's use an average of $500 per month.
At $500 per month times eight units, you're bringing in $4,000 per month – more than double the rent that you could expect to get from that same $200,000 single family home. Your underlying mortgage payment would be very similar to what you would expect on a residential property; for this example, let's use $1,400 per month. Your cash flow on this 8-unit apartment building will be $2,600 per month ($4,000 per month income, minus $1,400 mortgage payment). Now that will make a difference in just about anyone's life.
Third, and most essentially, you're now spreading out the risk over eight tenants, as opposed to one. If your single-family home goes vacant, you're on the hook for the entire mortgage. Every penny of that mortgage, all of the maintenance, and everything that goes along with it is now your responsibility. If the house is vacant for two months, you'd better be planning on spending a minimum of $2,800 to cover that mortgage plus miscellaneous expenses including maintenance, utilities, taxes, and insurance.
Potentially, you're looking at a very heavy negative cash flow. On the commercial property, however, if one of your eight units goes vacant at $500 per unit, you're still bringing in $3,500. So you get slightly less positive cash flow but you're certainly not experiencing negative cash flow. Say three units go vacant – you're still covering your mortgage and experiencing positive cash flow.
For the fourth and fifth reasons why to invest in commercial real estate, and how you can get started, see Part 2 of this article. Until then, make sure your “pot of gold” is filled with the real stuff!!