Many investors are turned off by real estate because they do not have the time or inclination to become landlords and property managers, both of which are in fact, a career in themselves. If the investor is a rehabber or wholesaler, real estate becomes more of a business rather than an investment. Many successful property “investors” are actually real estate “operators” in the real property business. Fortunately, there are other ways for passive investors to enjoy many of the secure and inflation proof benefits of real estate investing without the hassle. Active participation in property investing has many advantages. Middlemen fees, charged by syndicators, brokers, property managers and asset managers can be eliminated, possibly resulting in a higher rate of return. Further, you as the investor make all decisions; for better or worse the bottom line responsibility is yours. Also, the active, direct investor can make the decision to sell whenever he wants out (assuming that a market exists for his property at a price sufficient to pay off all liens and encumbrances).
Passive investment in real estate is the flip side of the coin, offering many advantages of its own. Property or mortgage assets are selected by professional real estate investment managers, who spent full time investing, analyzing and managing real property. Often, these professionals can negotiate lower prices than you would be able to on your own. Additionally, when a number of individual investor’s money is pooled, the passive investor is able to own a share of property much larger, safer, more profitable, and of a better investment class than the active investor operating with much less capital.
Most real estate is purchased with a mortgage note for a large part of the purchase price. While the use of leverage has many advantages, the individual investor would most likely have to personally guarantee the note, putting his other assets at risk. As a passive investor, the limited partner or owner of shares in a Real Estate Investment Trust would have no liability exposure over the amount of original investment. The direct, active investor would likely be unable to diversify his portfolio of properties. With ownership only 2, 3 or 4 properties the investor’s capital can be easily damaged or wiped out by an isolated problem at only one of his properties. The passive investor would likely own a small share of a large diversified portfolio of properties, thereby lowering risk significantly through diversification. With portfolios of 20, 30 or more properties, the problems of any one or two will not significantly hurt the performance of the portfolio as a whole.