There are two ways investors make money in real estate: renting and selling for profit. Of course, the savvy investor can use both methods, even on the same property. Here we will go over some details of each method.

It should be emphasized that whether renting out a property or selling for raw profit, the importance of location can’t be overemphasized. The fact is that nearly any model of residential or commercial building can be replicated in many locations. However, the local amenities, culture, atmosphere, weather, or historical value cannot be duplicated. It is such factors that give rise to widely different prices and rents for otherwise identical structures.

Cash Flow: Rent

When renting, the first priority is attracting and retaining tenants. Generally, home-like rental properties or long-term commercial leases are a better option than short-term rentals that, admittedly, fetch a comparatively higher monthly rental. This is because vacancies take their toll and are bad for cash flow. Make sure to specify clear lines of responsibilities for tenants and the property owner. Maintenance, repairs, utilities and tax responsibilities accrue as costs to the property owner, so make sure that rental cash flow at least matches maintenance and other necessary expenditures.

Fix and Flip

Buying low and selling high is the holy script of investing. When buying real estate, beware that the purchase price essentially traps liquidity upon sale completion and for as long as it takes to renovate and resell the house. Also consider the opportunity cost of other income-producing activities, including renting, that the property owner could be doing. Such opportunity costs can add up, but if the buyer were to completely outsource the “fix” to others, the added cost would reduce or even eliminate the profit margin upon resale.


Note that both methods of making money from real estate entail unexpected costs along the way. Vacancies, irresponsible and toxic tenants, as well as competing units can take the steam out of anticipated cash flow from rental properties. Costly repairs, illiquid funds, and all-in marketing and resale costs can deflate profit margin from fix-and-flip properties. Consider the time and expertise required for each investment method and pick whatever works best. Real estate can be lucrative, but is not risk-free.