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5 real estate investing strategies for building income and wealth

Find out how to invest in real estate, as well as potential advantages and risks.

Investing in real estate is a long-established strategy to potentially help build wealth and generate income, and there’s more than one way to go about it.

You can invest in real estate directly by purchasing property yourself, or indirectly through pooled investment vehicles. These strategies are not for everyone, however. Based on your financial goals, an Ameriprise financial advisor will help you evaluate whether and how to incorporate real estate investing into your financial strategy, including associated costs, taxes and risks.

Here are five common strategies to consider:

In this article:

  1. Publicly traded real estate investment trusts (REITs)
  2. Private real estate funds
  3. Long-term rental properties
  4. Short-term rental properties
  5. Purchasing, renovating and selling homes
  6. Questions to ask your Ameriprise financial advisor

1. Publicly traded real estate investment trusts (REITs)

Traded REITs are public companies that invest in commercial real estate. Shares of these companies can be bought and sold on an exchange similar to other stocks. With REITs, you can earn a share of the income produced through commercial properties — such as apartments, office buildings, industrial warehouses or shopping centers — without purchasing the real estate yourself.

However, there are some potential downsides to be aware of, such as the potential for market volatility. Because these investments are publicly traded, they are more closely correlated with stock market fluctuations.

Advice spotlight

Publicly traded REITs can be an accessible investing option for those seeking a passive approach to real estate.

They allow investors who don’t want the responsibility of managing a physical property to benefit from the potential income that real estate can generate.

2. Private real estate funds

Investors may also consider pooled investment vehicles that buy and sell commercial real estate. These funds encompass a variety of strategies, and investment decisions are made by professional third-party investment managers. Fund structures may include non-traded REITs, non-traded closed end funds and private LPs or LLCs.

These investments may deliver a durable income stream and may exhibit pricing resilience relative to publicly traded REITs. This may be appealing for those investors who are seeking steady income, asset appreciation and portfolio diversification.

However, private real estate is a long-term investment with limited liquidity and is not an appropriate option for all investors, nor are they available to all investors as they are generally private placement offerings and only open to accredited investors.

3. Long-term rental properties

Perhaps the most traditional way to earn income with real estate is purchasing a property and renting it out to tenants on a long-term basis. By setting the rent at a price point that covers your expenses and allows for a profit, you can create a stream of passive income while also potentially building equity. In time, you may be able to borrow against the equity gained from one property to finance another.

Long-term rental properties are not a hands-off investment, however. In addition to fronting a down payment and other fees to purchase the property, maintaining it can require ongoing time, money and effort. Among a landlord’s many responsibilities include vetting and securing tenants, rent collection, property repairs and maintenance. Some investors take on these responsibilities themselves to maximize their returns, while others outsource these duties to a property management company.

4. Short-term rental properties

Short-term rental properties, also known as vacation rentals, are residential properties that are rented out on a temporary basis — often for 30 days or less. In recent years, the use of short-term rental properties to generate income has become an increasingly popular strategy as online marketplaces for rentals have been adopted by the public on a large scale.

Like long-term rental properties, this strategy requires a direct investment by purchasing the property, which requires a down payment and other closing fees. However, compared to their longer-term counterparts, short-term rentals have a higher potential for fluctuating cash flow and may require more ongoing attention. There also may be added costs and responsibilities. For example, you may need to furnish the property and have plans for customer service, maintenance, security and cleaning.

Advice spotlight

If you are seeking to sell an investment property but maintain an allocation to real estate, a 1031 exchange may help you delay capital gains tax on the sale.

Section 1031 of the Internal Revenue Code allows taxpayers to sell appreciated investment property, purchase like-kind investment property/properties — through direct investment or a packaged solution — and defer the capital gains tax that would ordinarily be due upon the sale.

5. Purchasing, renovating and selling houses

If you have the time, resources and experience to renovate homes, house flipping may be a good strategy. It involves buying a home, renovating it to increase its value and then selling it for a profit — ideally within a short period.

However, flipping a home isn’t for the hands-off or risk-adverse investor. It requires the investor to have a strong understanding of the local real estate market, as well as solid project management skills and construction experience. Time is also a critical factor in earning a return: You’ll have to pay the mortgage and interest, property taxes, homeowners’ insurance and other holding costs for each month the project lasts.

Which real estate investment strategy makes sense for you?

Real estate can be a powerful tool to help build wealth and generate income. If you would like to discuss any of these potential strategies and how they may fit within your financial goals and your portfolio, reach out to your Ameriprise financial advisor to discuss. 

What financial implications should I consider before investing in real estate? How will investing in real estate impact my financial goals and time horizon? Would investing in real estate make sense for my financial situation?

When you’re ready to reach out to an Ameriprise financial advisor for a complimentary initial consultation, consider bringing these questions to your meeting.

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An Ameriprise financial advisor will help you determine how investing in real estate fits into your overall financial strategy.

Or, request an appointment online to speak with an advisor.


At Ameriprise, the financial advice we give each of our clients is personalized, based on your goals and no one else's. 

If you know someone who could benefit from a conversation, please refer me.

Background and qualification information is available at FINRA's BrokerCheck website.

This information is being provided only as a general source of information and is not a solicitation to buy or sell any securities, accounts or strategies mentioned. The information is not intended to be used as the sole basis for investment decisions, nor should it be construed as a recommendation or advice designed to meet the particular needs of an individual investor. Please seek the advice of a financial advisor regarding your particular financial situation.
Alternative investment strategies and structures may involve substantial risks, may be more volatile than traditional investments, and are designed to be low or non-correlated to traditional equity and fixed income markets.
Investments in a narrowly focused sector such as real estate may exhibit higher volatility than investments with broader objectives. An investment in real estate is subject to market risk economic risk, and mortgage rate risk.
Like real estate, REITs are subject to illiquidity, valuation and financing complexities, taxes, default, bankruptcy and other economic, political or regulatory occurrences.
Diversification does not assure a profit or protect against loss.
Ameriprise Financial, Inc. and its affiliates do not offer tax or legal advice. Consumers should consult with their tax advisor or attorney regarding their specific situation.
The initial consultation provides an overview of financial planning concepts.  You will not receive written analysis and/or recommendations.
Investment products are not insured by the FDIC, NCUA or any federal agency, are not deposits or obligations of, or guaranteed by any financial institution, and involve investment risks including possible loss of principal and fluctuation in value.
Securities offered by Ameriprise Financial Services, LLC. Member FINRA and SIPC.

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