2010 Real Estate Guide
A cream house with white trim, wooden accents and the sky
real estate
Great time to invest in rental property

Have capital lined up. Speak to potential lenders or even a financial planner about whether you have enough assets to handle the ups and downs that could come with investing. Even if you plan to rent out the property, count on paying the mortgage whenever there's a vacancy. "If you can have about six months of mortgage payments saved up, it's there if you need it, and you can use that money for repairs," says Sjolin. Even if you're planning to fix up a home and sell it, you may end up holding onto it for several months in the current market, Sjolin adds.

Build a supporting cast. Don't wait until a rental property needs repairs to find someone to handle them. "Line up maintenance individuals who can take care of the different challenges that occur so you can simply call the person when a particular issue comes up," says Taylor. Other sources you may want to have relationships with are an attorney to consult with on tenant issues, a property management firm to handle the day-to-day rental affairs and an accountant to help you understand the tax ramifications of investing. The more support you have, the better you will be able to handle the problems that come your way.

Whatever you do, understand that buying investment property is an entirely different experience than buying your primary residence. "When you go to buy your own home, you usually have emotions in it," says Sjolin. "When you go to buy an investment property, you need to put all that aside and ask, 'What makes sense?'"

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