Buy Properties Worth Holding (Real Estate Is A Long-Term Investment)

Many people “fall into” owning a rental property. They get married, move in together and, rather than selling the extra home, decide to rent it out. Or they inherit a home from their parents and rent it out instead of immediately selling it.

Often these are not ideal rental property situations for a few reasons. The main reason is that the numbers don’t work. And that is because planning is always better than falling into almost any life situation.

If you would not buy the property as an investment for the specific purposes of rental income and/or capital appreciation, it probably won’t turn out to be a great real estate investment.

Let’s say you are not in one of these situations. Instead, you would like to buy and rent a property as an investment.

What makes a good investment rental property? You might have heard that real estate investing is all about “location, location, location.” And that’s certainly true with rental real estate investing. You want a rental that’s right for a large pool of reliable tenants who can afford the rent and are looking for housing.

As important as location is, it’s just as easy to lose money on a property in a great location as it is to lose money on a property in the dregs of town. The location alone is just one part of being successful.

The key thing is that the numbers work. You want to make sure your property is cash-flow positive. You need to precisely calculate rent revenue and expenses. This is called your “net rental yield.”

At its simplest, the net rental yield is the real estate version of the ROI (return on investment) you would look to achieve on any investment. It is calculated as follows:

Net Rental Yield = (Net Rental Income ÷ Total Property Cost) x 100

You need to calculate, or very precise estimate, your total property cost and your net rental income to arrive at your net rental yield. So, what goes into those numbers.

Here are the details of one of my properties that have been rented for nearly a year now:

Cedar Barn Way Property Details

Purchase Price


Closing Costs


Rehab Costs




Annual Rent


Budgeted Vacancy


Budgeted Expenses


Annual taxes and insurance






Your total property costs need to include all out-of-pocket expenses to get the property move-in ready for tenants. That would be your purchase price, closing costs, financing costs if you took out a loan, the cost of rental licensing and fees, and advertising costs. All costs need to be counted.

Likewise, you need to know your annual rental income and all your costs to come up with the difference. That is your Net Rental Income.

Typical costs come from upkeep, property management fees, taxes, insurance, vacancy expenses (budgeting for months when the property may not be rented) and monthly utilities (if your lease doesn’t state that the tenants pay those). Make sure to total rental income less all the expenses of keeping your asset and producing that income.

Being surprised by unbudgeted costs is a novice mistake. In the case of this property, you will notice that I budgeted for vacancy and upkeep. But I didn’t incur either of these costs in year one because: (1) the tenants were screened with care and signed a one-year lease, and (2) new appliances with warranties were placed in the property as part of the rehab process.

So, my net rental yield for this property was 11.8%. (Annual Rental Income of $16,488 Divided By Total Property Cost of $139,269.)

What’s nice about knowing your net rental yield is that it lets you weigh properties against each other. Then you can find the better deal before buying. It even lets you compare your estimated real estate returns against the expected return of other investment choices like stocks and bonds.

What About Appreciation?

For years, many thought that properties only went up in value. The housing collapse of 2008–2010 brought a dose of reality to that thinking. But even in that bubble, there were residential properties across the nation that held their value and even appreciated.

Properties chosen with care hold a real value that does not go away.

While the prospect for capital appreciation is an important consideration in my property selection process, I don’t count on it to make my numbers work. Markets are fickle and prices go up and down. And if you think about it, the market price of residential property matters only when you want to sell it.

Ruth Lyons
Ruth Lyons
5850 Waterloo Road Suite 140 Columbia MD 21045