Investment guide: how to expand your real estate portfolio

BY BEATRICE MWANGI

Even though creating wealth is an art that requires research and learning to ensure one invests in the most profitable avenues, there is need to note that the higher the returns, the higher the risks. Therefore, it is important that one fully understands the investment options and make informed decisions.

Some of the investment vehicles available in the market include bank fixed deposit, stocks, government bonds and real estate, among others. But let’s delve into investing in real estate, outlining what an investor should know before committing their capital. To begin with, buying and owning real estate is an investment strategy that can be both satisfying and lucrative. It is generally capital intensive and illiquid hence the need to be well informed before committing the funds.

To begin with, there are three common ways through which one can get a piece of the real estate pie among them, rental properties whereby an investor could either build or buy property, and rent it out thus obtaining a rental income. The amount one can collect from rental property is mostly dependent on the type of property, its location, proximity to amenities and availability of facilities.

Rental property offers the investor the benefit of a regular income, often monthly subject to having a tenant, and the property value can appreciate over time. On the flipside, it can be tedious managing tenants. Let’s not forget that there are scenarios where a property is damaged by a tenant and must be repaired. This tells you that there are chances of reduced income.

Secondly, some investors have excelled through flipping, which is a case where an investor buys properties with the intention of holding them for a short period, say, for not more than three to four months, and quickly selling them at a profit. The two primary approaches to flipping a property include; (i) repair and update, where one buys a property that he/she thinks will increase in value after certain repairs and updates.

Ideally, a lot of flippers complete the work as quickly as possible and then sell at a price that exceeds the total investment (including the renovations); (ii) hold and resell. Here the investor buys in a rapidly rising market, hold for a few months, and then sell at a profit.

Real estate investment trust

With either type of flipping, the investor runs the risk that they won’t be able to unload the property at a price that will turn a profit. The third way is through a real estate investment trust (REIT) – a REIT is best for investors who want portfolio exposure to real estate without a traditional transaction.

A REIT is created when a corporation (or trust) uses investors’ money to purchase and operate income properties. REITs are bought and sold on the major exchanges, like any other stock. It pays through annual dividends, and investors who don’t need or want the regular income can automatically reinvest those dividends to grow their investment further.

Key to note, the Kenya REIT market has over the years performed poorly attributable to not only insufficient institutional-grade real estate assets and lack of investor appetite in the instruments but also high minimum investment amounts set at Sh 5mn that is over 100x the median income in Kenya. Low investor knowledge is also among the trouble with REITs. But is it hard to start investing in real estate? What does it take to expand a portfolio?

For first-time investors, the real estate market can seem like somewhat complex, and it can often feel like property investment is a hard sector to navigate. But this doesn’t have to be the case if the potential investor takes into account a variety of factors among them;

Market Research

It is important that the potential investor undertakes an in-depth research on the current real estate landscape with the aim of establishing the current property trends, historical and current property performance in terms of returns, price appreciation, and rental yield. A major advantage of this is that one is equipped with essential information on the market gap and the existing investment opportunity.

Location

The location of property is as important as the property itself as it determines the security, potential of property value growth, proximity to amenities and availability of utilities. It is advisable to aim for a prime location in order to increase the chances of good returns, somewhere in the middle of a development push, and with good track record when it comes to property growing in value.

Type of Property

This could simply refer to making a choice between a commercial and residential property guided by the objective of the investment. The next choice is between rental versus buy to sell properties. Rental properties are for investors looking for long-term gains through rental income, while buy-to-sell approach offers the chance for higher returns in the short-term, but the strategy comes with much more added risk. Finally, it is important to establish the type of market one intends to venture into i.e low end, mid end or high end market segments. These segments are determined by the value of property with the high end market segments having the highest priced property in the market and are located in prime locations,

Diversification

When investing in property it’s important to diversify your portfolio. Spreading your money across multiple properties allows you to mitigate risk and increase the potential for returns because you will not be subject to the success or failure of just one piece of real estate. In the case where one property performs poorly, the others will balance it out, while another might prosper elsewhere.

Risk Analysis

Just like with all other investment avenues, investing in real estate is associated with several risks that could have mild to adverse effects on property returns. It is at the back of this that a potential investor ought to map out all potential risks, evaluate their risk appetite and establish a way of mitigating the risks.

In conclusion, real estate can be profitable when potential investors have the knowledge to make wise investment decisions. It can provide steady cash flow, substantial appreciation, tax advantages, and competitive risk-adjusted returns, making it a sound investment. It is therefore important to weigh all the major factors that could determine the performance of your property, some of which are mentioned above – whether you opt for physical property, REITs, or something else.

Beatrice Mwangi is a real estate research analyst

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