Although there are many complex factors that go into a successful and profitable real estate investment, the basics of making money through real estate investment can be summed up in three different categories.

Cash Flow

A real estate property produces income from the rent its tenants pay. Whether it is a one-bedroom apartment, an office building, or a shopping mall, at the end of the day the property primarily generates income for leasing its space. The property owner must also pay expenses to manage the property, such as electricity, insurance, janitorial, and property taxes, which are deducted from the rental revenue to produce the net annual income or cash flow to investors.

Appreciation

Real estate has intrinsic value, like food or precious metals. People must live, work, and shop somewhere. Yet there is a limited supply of property. How limited depends on location. Manhattan has more people competing for space than Peoria, Illinois. Like all things, price is a reflection of supply and demand. In the world of real estate, if the demand for space outpaces the supply it results in appreciation of the asset. In other words, the value increases, even though there may not have been an overt change to the property physically or to its amount of cash flow.

As an owner of that property that value could be captured in higher rent, a sale, or refinance of the asset. That way you are able to pull out the value created through appreciation. Similarly, property can depreciate if demand falls or supply increases. Real estate prices can be volatile as markets change. Newly developed buildings, government expansion, local crime, recessions, culture, and demographic shifts all affect the supply of and demand for real estate.

Development

Development is the business of improving real estate through the process of building, renovating, or leasing physical property. Just as with the production of a car or computer, raw materials and labor are combined and financed to create a whole more valuable than the sum of its parts. On the whole, land with a finished building on it is worth more than just the land itself. A building occupied by a rent-paying tenant it is worth more than a vacant building.

Vehicles for Real Estate Investment

Their are a much larger number of ways to access the income that investment properties produce. These include REITs, private equity funds, direct investment, and online platforms such as Fundrise. We dig into those methods more deeply in our article “Ways to Earn Residual Income Through Real Estate.” To understand the difference between the Fundrise eREITs and other real estate investment vehicles, please see our FAQ page.