Is Real Estate a Viable Option to Accumulate Wealth?

There are many different ways to build wealth. Some paths are more viable and predictable than others. There is a lot of hype surrounding real estate. Does it live up to the hype? Is it a reliable asset class to build wealth?

Yes, real estate is a viable option to accumulate wealth. Income-producing real estate offers its owners the benefits of compounding growth, tax benefits, and cash flow.

Andrew Carnegie said, “Ninety percent of all millionaires become so through owning real estate.” This quote has been repeated many times over the years. Whether it is true and comes from actual data or not is in question, it certainly sounds truthy. When looking through biographies, and the history of various wealthy people, real estate has played a factor in the accumulation of almost all the stories of wealth I have read.

How Long does it take to Build Wealth with Real Estate?

Most strategies for building wealth in real estate are considered get-rich slow plans. They take advantage of capital appreciation, tax benefits, and rent growth to give high payouts to their investors. Unfortunately, these strategies can take years before they pay off. You should expect it to take about 5 years before you start to see some fruits of your investments. It may take 10-15 years before you have built a measurable amount of wealth.

Buying income properties is a great way to grow your net worth. While it is incredibly effective, it does take a strong mindset to persevere over the long term. It reminds me of when Jeff Bezos asked Warren Buffet:

“You’re the second richest guy in the world, and it’s so simple. Why doesn’t everyone just copy you?”

Warren buffet’s Reply, “Because nobody wants to get rich slow.”

Planning for building wealth in real estate is one thing. It is easy to look at a spreadsheet, and see if you buy x properties over the next 10 years you will have X dollars in equity, and X dollars in monthly cash flow.

In the real world, when you have purchased several properties, it can be hard to track how your portfolio is growing over time. At some times it may feel like things are very stagnant, and then there is a large run of growth, then stagnation again. This is because real estate is illiquid.

How Much Wealth Can you Accumulate with Real Estate?

Real estate is the world’s largest asset class. There is basically no limit to how much wealth you can accumulate with real estate.

Though there are limitations to your own time. If you are buying residential properties and doing all the property management yourself, you will likely start straining at about 10-20 properties while working a full-time job, 30-50 might be the point where you can’t add any more properties and still self manage. If you are a full-time investor, you might be able to manage 100+ units yourself without a professional property manager or your own staff.

Once you hire that help and continue to scale, there is really no limit to the scale of wealth one can amass with real estate.

Many Billionaires Made their Fortune in Real Estate

Real estate was the 3rd most common way for someone to be on the Forbes billionaire list. Additionally, 10% of billionaires made their fortune through real estate. This followed behind Finance and Retail.

In the book Real Estate Titans: 7 Key Lessons from the World’s Top Real Estate Investors, by Erez Cohen, does a bio on 11 mega real estate investors and then highlights the similarities between these real estate billionaires. These investors have created major portfolios and profitable businesses surrounding them. Many of the traits have to do with being very disciplined. Here are the 7 that Erez has identified:

  • Have a powerful minset
  • Hardest workers in the room
  • Deep Focus and Clarity
  • Educated and Quantitative
  • Surround themselves with Greatness
  • Extrodinary Salespeople
  • Execute their ideas

The top 10 Real Estate Billionaires according to the Forbes Billionaires list:

  1. Donald Bren – $15.3 Billion
  2. Sun Hongbin – $9.3 Billion
  3. Stephen Ross – $7 Billion
  4. John A. Soobrato – $6 Billion
  5. Neil Bluhm $5.7 Billion
  6. Edward Roski, Jr. $5.5 Billion
  7. Sam Zell $5.3 Billion
  8. Ted Lerner 4.8 Billion
  9. Igor Olenicoff 4.5 Billion
  10. Rick Caruso 4.2 Billion

What are some Methods to Build Wealth with Real Estate Investing?

There are many niches within real estate investing to choose from. But, ultimately it comes down to which one fits your personality, temperament, and goals the best.

Here are the most popular ways to build wealth in real estate investing:

  • Commercial real estate
  • Multifamily real estate
  • Single-Family
  • Syndications
  • REITs
  • Crowdfunding

Investing in Single-Family Properties

When investing in single-family properties, you have the choice between turnkey rental properties and buying properties and leasing them up yourself.

Usually, when investors are looking to buy a single-family rental property, they look for a mixture of positive cash flow and appreciation.

One popular method for building a rental portfolio of single-family properties is the BRRRR method. This stands for Buy, Rehab, Rent, Refinance, Repeat. It is a popular strategy because it allows the investor to essentially recycle their down payment over and over again.

Investing in Multifamily Real Estate

Multi-family is one of the most popular property types for real estate investors to accumulate wealth. As opposed to many commercial real estate asset classes, there is diversification in the renter pool. In addition, instead of renting out 100 or 30% of a property’s space to a single tenant, multifamily tenants usually only occupy one unit.

Multifamily real estate is usually traded through a commercial real estate brokerage.

Investing in Syndications

Syndication is essentially a partnership between passive investors and an active investor who is organizing the deal. The investor organizing the deal is called a sponsor. Sponsors can employ various investment strategies, so picking one that is aligned with your goals is important.

Almost all syndications are looking for accredited investors. However, there are a few classifications of investment syndications that could be looking for sophisticated investors or could be a type of crowdfunding that would not require their investors to be sophisticated.

Most syndication sponsors are looking for accredited investors because otherwise, they would have to raise capital from far too many individuals.

Usually, syndications pay out dividends as the underlying asset cashflows. When the property is sold or refinanced, then there is usually a return of the principal plus any gains to the investor.

Investing in Crowdfunding

Crowdfunding is a great option if you are looking to make passive income from real estate.

What is crowdfunding?

Crowdfunding is a way of raising capital from a large number of small investors.

In real estate investing, crowdfunding platforms are a place where you can make real estate investments with meager minimum investments.

What are the Benefits of Accumulating Wealth with Real Estate?

What are the benefits of real estate, and how do wealthy people utilize them to grow their wealth?

1. Tax Benefits

When you sell a real estate investment, the profits can either be taxed as short-term or long-term gains. Being categorized as long-term capital gains tax can greatly reduce your tax burden on profits from the sale and benefit from investing in real estate compared to investing in building a business.

One great benefit of building wealth with real estate is the ability to defer taxes. With tools like 1031 exchanges, and opportunity zones available to real estate investors, it is possible to reduce the tax liability for real estate substantially.

2. The Power of Compound Interest

Albert Einstein said that “compound interest is the 8th wonder of the world.”

Real estate has lots of opportunities to reinvest returns for growth. Where a closely held business may have few ways to earn more with reinvestment without diminishing returns, real estate usually can scale more linearly in that regard. This makes it possible to take advantage of compound interest.

3. The Power of Debt

Debt can be good or bad for your situation. You may hear financial experts talking about “good debt” and “bad debt” all the time. Over leverage is certainly a way to destroy wealth if you get into a tight spot and find yourself overleveraged and having to sell off assets quickly.

But how can you use debt to build wealth?

Wealthy people use the concept of positive leverage to build wealth. Positive leverage is where the return on an asset that you are borrowing for is higher than the rate of interest of the loan.

A quick example is if you buy a property for $1,000,000 that has a 10% return with a cash purchase. Let us say you finance 50% of it at a rate of 5%. You will now be paying $25,000 of the $100,000 annual income as an interest expense. The return of $75,000 on the $500k investment is 15%. In this example, because of the loan, the rate of return went up by 50%!

4. Forced Appreciation

Forced appreciation is a great way to accumulate wealth in real estate. Once you have properties, you can turbocharge their returns by injecting more capital into them.

If you then capture the forced appreciation through selling the property or refinancing it, you can continue to take advantage of compound interest when you reinvest into another property.

5. Market Appreciation

Market appreciation is when after you have decided to buy a property, you then build wealth simply by holding the line and not selling it. That is pretty simple, right?

The thing wealthy people know about market appreciation is that not all areas will appreciate evenly. While it is extremely challenging to pinpoint a single location that will appreciate the fastest, as a whole, investing in areas with strong growth fundamentals has been a viable strategy for many investors.

Are forced appreciation and market appreciation opportunities mutually exclusive? Nope! Strong market appreciation creates volatility that creates opportunities for forced appreciation.

6. Real Estate is Scalable

Some businesses, industries, and opportunities have serious problems maintaining their returns as they are scaled. They could become much more complicated to manage or suffer from diminishing returns of finding lucrative markets.

An advantage of real estate that wealthy people like is that it can scale with them. They can start off investing in small multifamily properties, putting money into syndication, buying up single-family houses, or investing in small commercial properties. As they grow, the size of their investments can grow while benefiting from the skills they learned while investing in the smaller properties.

Just how scalable is real estate? Last year Harbor Group bought 13,000 apartments in a single 1.85 billion dollar deal.

Learning More about Real Estate Investing

Reading books is a great way to learn more about real estate investing. Since real estate investing is not just about running numbers and cap rates, it is important to read books that can get you into the right mindset. Having a solid mindset will have as much of an impact on your success as knowing the technical details.

Real Estate Books

  1. Rich Dad Poor Dad – Robert Kiyosaki
  2. Millionaire Next Door – Thomas Stanley
  3. Richest Man in Babylon – George S. Clason

The forum BiggerPockets is a great resource for learning more about investing, reading success stories of other investors, and networking. The community arround biggerpockets is quite vibrant, and in many locations there are even montly meetups that are loosely related to biggerpockets itself.

Podcasts

There are a number of great real estate podcasts out there. Most of these are done in the interview format where the host interviews someone in the industry to help the listeners learn from their experiences.

  1. Biggerpockets Podcast
  2. Best Ever Real Estate Podcast
  3. Target Market Insights

Conclusion

Real Estate is a great wealth creating vehicle. There are many ways to invest in real estate, including buy and hold, real estate crowdfunding, and investing in funds. One of the most important aspects to being a successful investor is having a solid mindset. Luckily there are plenty of high quality resources out there for beginning investors.

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