Real estate investing has a long history of creating wealth for the common investor. Today, virtual investing exponentially compounds that possibility. With current technology, you are no longer bound to deals in your local community.
Let's dispel the misnomer that you have to live in a community to know it well. With all the information available from realtor websites, the local real estate section of the newspaper, and other sources, it's easier than ever to learn what you need to know about properties anywhere in the country. Or even internationally. You can just as easily perform your due diligence online as well.
The fact is that online real estate investing offers you the chance to maximize your profits. You do this by picking a prosperous market any where in the country and becoming a 'local expert' without ever leaving the comfort of your home.
Just like all real estate investors, online investors must specialize if they want to succeed. Before selecting a city or region of the country to invest in, you must first decide what you want to invest in. Will it be commercial or residential? Will it be multifamily housing or a niche like student housing? Once you make this decision, you can begin narrowing your selection to locations offering the best opportunities.
After you find distant locations offering you the best opportunities in your specialty, its' time to become a local real estate expert. Beginning this is no more difficult than googling 'real estate offices in [your favorite location]'. At the same time, pull up a local map of the vicinity.
Use the map and the local MLS listings to gain detailed knowledge of the local landscape. If you're looking at single-family houses, plot the MLS information on the map. You'll soon understand where the high-end neighborhoods are located, where the white picket fence neighborhoods are, and where the run down neighborhoods are. You can even use Google Earth to look around many neighborhoods.
Most decent real estate websites also offer information about local demographics (which you can also find online from the U.S. Census Bureau). Information you need includes:
Other sources of information you want to hook into are the local newspaper's real estate section and listings. You'll also learn about FSBO property on craigslist. You'll want to signup for electronic newsletters that local real estate offices make available.
Truth be told, being an online local expert will likely make you a better expert than if you lived there and 'assume' you are fully in touch with the local market.
Eventually, you are going to need 'feet on the ground' in your distant market - the same people you would have in a local market. This includes a local realtor, remodeling contractor, title company, real estate attorney, etc. This might be one time you choose to physically visit the location so that you can have in-person meetings with several of these people before deciding which to work with. Many people like to look associates in the eye before deciding to work with them. But really, how different is being in-person from having a video conference using a webcam?
After that, what's left is your marketing your property to sell or rent. If you're not already doing online marketing, you're way behind the power curve. Online investing and marketing is what many advanced investors turned to years ago. It may be time for you to do the same. In the end, the only thing keeping you out of the most prosperous real estate markets is your reluctance to grasp the technology bull by the horns.
Author bio: Brian Kline has been investing in real estate for more than 30 years and writing about real estate investing for seven years. He also draws upon 25 plus years of business experience including 12 years as a manager at Boeing Aircraft Company. Brian currently lives at Lake Cushman, Washington. A vacation destination, a few short miles from a national forest in the Olympic Mountains with the Pacific Ocean a couple of miles in the opposite direction.