The Ultimate Guide to Buying a House in 2024, Step by Step

Real Estate Investing11 min read

The complex process made simple in this guide!

JP Moses
JP Moses

There’s nothing quite like the thrill of transforming a neglected house into a profitable investment.

Picture this: a weathered property that’s been sitting idle, waiting for someone with vision and expertise to bring it back to life. That someone could be you.

As a residential real estate investor, you have the unique opportunity to turn these hidden gems into cash.

But is it really that easy? Where do you start? How do you ensure you’re making the right moves at every step?

Well, glad you asked!

In this step-by-step guide, we’ll cover everything from identifying the ideal market and finding distressed properties, to closing deals and maximizing your profit potential.

What Is Real Estate Investing?

Real estate investing is a dynamic field where you can make money in various ways, depending on your strategy and goals.

Essentially, it’s about knowing how to buy a house smartly, and then leveraging that purchase to generate income.

But what exactly does this look like in practice?

Here are some of the main ways people dive into real estate investing:

  • Wholesale: This is the art of finding undervalued properties, getting them under contract, and then assigning that contract to another buyer for a fee. It’s all about knowing how to buy a house at a bargain price.
  • Buy & Hold: This strategy involves purchasing a property and renting it out long term. The aim here is to generate steady rental income while the property appreciates in value over time.
  • Rehab & Flip: Also known as house flipping, this approach focuses on buying a fixer-upper, renovating it, and then selling it for a profit. It’s exciting but requires a good eye for potential and a knack for managing renovation projects.
  • Short-Term Rentals: Think Airbnb or vacation rentals. Investors buy properties in desirable locations and rent them out for short stays, often raking in higher rental rates than traditional leasing.

What Are the Steps to Buying a House as an Investor?

Alright, now let’s roll up our sleeves and dive into the nitty-gritty of how to buy a house. It’s time to go from curious newbie to savvy investor, step by step.

#1. Research markets

Not all markets are created equal — and finding the right one can make or break your investment.

Here’s what you need to research:

  • Economic Growth: Look for areas with strong job growth and a diverse economy. A booming job market means more potential renters or buyers.
  • Population Trends: Areas with increasing population numbers can signal a healthy demand for housing, making it easier to rent or sell properties.
  • Rental Yields: Check the average rental rates compared to property prices to ensure you’ll get a worthwhile return on your investment.
  • Neighborhood Quality: Schools, amenities, crime rates, and overall livability are key factors that can affect property values and desirability.
  • Future Developments: Keep an eye out for any upcoming infrastructure projects or new businesses moving into the area, as these can boost property values.
  • Regulations and Taxes: Each market has its own set of rules and tax implications that can impact your profits, so be sure to understand local laws and costs.

#2. Find distressed properties

Distressed properties are in a state of disrepair or facing financial troubles, often resulting in motivated sellers who are eager to offload these houses at a lower price. Finding these diamonds in the rough can set you up for a profitable investment.

So, how do you spot these distressed properties?

Here are some tried-and-true methods for how to find a house to buy:

  • One way is driving for dollars. Literally, hop in your car and cruise through neighborhoods looking for houses that appear neglected — overgrown lawns, boarded-up windows, and “For Sale by Owner” signs can be your clues. This hands-on approach gives you a firsthand look at potential deals.
  • You can also enlist a real estate bird dog (or “Scout,” as our pal Dolmar Cross calls them). These are people who scout out distressed properties for you in exchange for a fee or a cut of the profit. It’s like having an extra pair of eyes on the ground, saving you time and expanding your reach, so you can focus on other high-value goals.
  • Another effective method is scouring public records. Look for foreclosure notices, tax lien sales, and probate records. These documents can lead you straight to homeowners who might be willing to sell their property quickly and at a discount.
  • Networking with local contractors and real estate agents can also pay off. They often know about properties in need of major repairs or owners looking to sell fast. Building relationships with these professionals can provide you with insider tips on upcoming opportunities.
  • Lastly, don’t underestimate the power of online real estate platforms. Websites dedicated to foreclosures, auctions, and real estate marketplaces often list distressed properties. Set up alerts for new listings in your target area to stay ahead of the competition.

#3. Get the property under contract

Once you’ve pinpointed a distressed property worth pursuing, it’s time to get it under contract. This step is where your negotiation skills and attention to detail come into play when learning how to buy a house as an investment:

  • First things first, make your offer. It’s essential to present a fair but competitive offer that reflects the property’s condition and market value. Be ready to justify your price with comparable sales and any needed repairs. This is a key step in understanding how to buy a house successfully.
  • Next up is the art of negotiating. Aim for a win-win situation where both you and the seller feel satisfied. Don’t be afraid to give and take — maybe you agree to a slightly higher price in exchange for a quicker closing date or the seller covering some repair or closing costs. Flexibility can often seal the deal.
  • While negotiating, always keep contingencies in mind. These are clauses that protect you, such as financing contingencies or inspection periods. They give you a legal way out if something unexpected arises during due diligence.
  • Understanding how to buy a house also means ensuring that every detail is legally sound. Get all legal documents reviewed by an attorney to make sure that everything’s all good and that your interests are protected. This includes the purchase agreement and any addendums. 

#4. Market the contract (NOT the property)

It’s crucial to remember that it’s illegal to market the property itself since you don’t actually own it. Instead, what you’re selling is the contract — the right to purchase the property at the agreed-upon terms.

This is where your marketing chops come into play.

Use your network, marketing methods, and real estate investment groups to get the word out. The goal is to attract buyers who want to step into your shoes and complete the purchase, ensuring a smooth transition and a profitable outcome for you.

#5. Create a buyers list

A buyers list makes sure that once you secure a property, you can swiftly connect with interested parties, maximizing your chances of success and minimizing the time the property is under contract to you.

Here are some main ways to build a solid buyers list:

  • Networking events
  • Investor-friendly real estate agents
  • Direct mail campaigns
  • Craigslist and other online classifieds
  • Real estate auctions
  • Property management companies
  • Title companies
  • Builder and developer contacts
  • Cash buyers lists from wholesalers
  • Real estate investment podcasts and webinars
  • Paid advertising on real estate websites
  • Landlord associations
  • County courthouse steps networking
  • Bandit signs / billboards

Pro Tip: Oftentimes, experienced investors create their buyers list, then ask those buyers the exact types of deals they’re interested in, and the investor then goes “shopping” for those deals… rather than bringing random deals to buyers to see who perks up.

#6. Close the deal

When it comes to learning how to buy a house and close the deal, there are 2 main methods: assignment and double close (or back-to-back escrow):

Assignment

The assignment method involves transferring your rights to the purchase contract directly to your end investor buyer. Essentially, you step out of the transaction and let your end buyer take over, completing the purchase with the seller.

This method is straightforward, quick, and avoids closing costs since you’re not actually purchasing the property yourself. But, when you’re learning how to buy a house, keep in mind that the seller must agree to an assignment clause in the original contract.

Double Close (or Back-to-Back Escrow)

In a double close, also known as back-to-back escrow, you close on the first property, and then immediately sell it to your end buyer. This method can be beneficial if you want to keep your profit margin confidential or if you have a significant price difference between your purchase and sale. 

While this approach can be more complex and incur higher closing costs, it allows for greater control over the transaction and privacy, providing another valuable lesson in how to buy a house.

An investor-friendly closing agent and title company are crucial in either scenario. These professionals understand the unique needs of real estate investors and can help reduce closing costs, expedite the process, and ensure everything runs smoothly.

What Are the Benefits of Buying a House as an REI Investor?

  1. Wealth Building: Investing in real estate is a proven way to build long-term wealth and generate passive income.
  2. Appreciation: Property values tend to increase over time, allowing you to benefit from capital growth when you learn how to buy a house wisely — especially for buy & holds. (Beware: never buy a house as an investment with the expectation of appreciation, though.) 
  3. Cash Flow: Renting out properties can provide a steady stream of income, enhancing your financial stability.
  4. Tax Advantages: Real estate investors can take advantage of various tax benefits, including deductions on mortgage interest and property taxes.
  5. Leverage: Using other people’s money (like bank loans or private money lenders) to finance property purchases means you can control more assets with less of your own capital.
  6. Diversification: Adding real estate to your investment portfolio helps spread risk across different asset classes.
  7. Control: Unlike stocks or bonds, real estate investments allow you to have direct control over your assets and management decisions.
  8. Inflation Hedge: Property values and rental income generally rise with inflation, protecting your purchasing power.
  9. Community Impact: Buying and improving properties can enhance local communities and provide quality housing for tenants.
  10. Learning Opportunities: The process of figuring out how to buy a house and manage investments offers continuous learning and personal growth.

What Are Common Mistakes to Avoid When Buying a House?

  1. Skipping Due Diligence: Failing to thoroughly research the property and neighborhood is a major pitfall when learning how to buy a house.
  2. Overpaying: Paying more than the market value can severely impact your potential returns and financial plans.
  3. Ignoring Financing Options: Not exploring different mortgage and borrowing options can lead to higher interest rates and less favorable terms.
  4. Neglecting Inspections: Skipping professional inspections might save money up front but can result in costly repairs later.
  5. Underestimating Costs: Many first-time investors overlook additional expenses like maintenance, insurance, and property management fees.
  6. Emotional Buying: Letting emotions drive your purchase decisions can lead to poor investment choices.
  7. Poor Location Choice: Investing in the wrong location can affect rental demand and property appreciation negatively.
  8. Inadequate Exit Strategy: Not having a clear exit strategy may leave you stuck with a property that doesn’t meet your investment goals.
  9. Ignoring Legal Advice: Neglecting to consult with a real estate attorney can lead to legal complications down the road.
  10. Overlooked Market Trends: Failing to stay updated on market trends and economic factors can negatively impact your investment decisions in how to buy a house.

How Is Buying a House as an Investor Not Illegal and Do I Need a Realtor’s License?

Rest assured, buying a house as an investor is perfectly legal — as long as you play by the rules. 

The key is to ensure all your transactions are transparent and above board. Whether you’re flipping houses, renting them out, or holding onto a gem for future appreciation, you’re not breaking any laws simply by investing in real estate. 

One of the biggest things to remember: market the contract not the property!

Now, do you need a Realtor’s license to dive into the world of real estate investing?

The short answer is no. While having a license can provide some perks like access to the MLS, it’s not a requirement.

You can still learn how to buy a house, negotiate deals, and close transactions without one. No license required — just a keen eye for opportunity and a solid understanding of how to buy a house!

What’s the Profit Potential for Buying a House?

So, by now you’re curious about the profit potential when buying a house, right?

Well, the possibilities are as varied as they are exciting! Learning how to buy a house can open the door to numerous profit opportunities in the real estate game:

  • Appreciation: Over time, property values generally increase, allowing you to sell at a higher price than what you paid. This capital growth can be substantial, especially in high-demand areas.
  • Forced Appreciation: By making strategic improvements or renovations, you can increase the property’s value beyond market trends. Think of it as adding a little sparkle to your investment.
  • Equity Build-Up: As you pay down your mortgage, your equity in the property increases. This value can be tapped into for future investments or financial flexibility.
  • Cash Flow: It’s worth pointing out again — renting out your property can provide a steady stream of income each month, covering expenses and then some. Positive cash flow is the gift that keeps on giving.
  • Rental Income Increases: Over time, you can raise rents to match market rates, boosting your cash flow and overall returns.
  • Flipping Profits: Buying undervalued properties, renovating them, and selling them at a premium can yield significant short-term profits. It’s all about buying low and selling high.

Typically, investors aim for a $10k profit when wholesaling and significantly more when rehabbing/flipping.

Your Path to Real Estate Investment Success

You now have the essential steps to buying a house as a real estate investor.

From researching markets and finding distressed properties, to getting the property under contract and marketing it effectively, every step is crucial to your success. We’ve also covered the benefits of investing in real estate, common mistakes to avoid, and the profit potential that awaits you.

Remember, the key to thriving in the REI business lies in your ability to execute these steps with precision and confidence. With the right strategies and mindset, you can turn overlooked properties into profitable investments.

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