How to Invest in Real Estate

Build up your start-up capital by speaking to your bank about a savings or personal investment plan. Find ways to save your money, keeping in mind that you should have enough to put a 25 percent down payment on your first residential real estate investment.

Take a reputable real estate investment training seminar. As a general rule, bigger is better: trust professionals who offer courses at well-known convention centers or training institutions. In general, it's also a good rule of thumb to head to your bookstore rather than the Internet if you want to read about real estate investing, as there are many websites that don't deliver what they promise.

Learn to identify motivated sellers. A motivated seller is a person who, for one reason or another, has to sell her home relatively quickly. Often, you can buy a home for thousands less than its market value from a motivated seller, making what amounts to an instant profit.

Make sure you have enough knowledge to be able to make your own assessment of a house's structural soundness. If not, bring along someone who does when you go house-hunting, or consider hiring an appraiser if you're serious about a particular property and want an independent evaluation of its value.

Make a down payment on the home of your choice and rent it out as soon as possible, at as long a term as you can get at a rate that at least covers (if not exceeds) the sum of your monthly mortgage, fees and property taxes.

Build up equity in the home by having your renters pay down the mortgage for you, making sure you keep a cash float fund available for contingency purposes.

Use the equity you've built up in your investment property to put a down payment on another house, if you want to build your own mini-real estate empire. You can continue to buy and rent out homes in this manner to whatever degree you consider manageable in your present situation.

Remember that buying, renting out then selling or using a home's equity for further investing is but one of many real estate investing strategies. You can also flip houses by buying them at below-market rates, having improvements made then selling them at a profit. You can also invest in commercial real estate, such as apartment buildings, mobile home parks, strip malls and other lands that businesses use.