The prospect of buying inexpensive properties, making cosmetic improvements and flipping those homes back onto the market for a hefty profit causes many people to ponder becoming real estate investors.

And while a fraction of those who take this approach are successful, most of them have worked for other people to learn the business, have extensive experience in real estate and contracting and/or have the resources to support themselves — and cover some losses — so they can focus on flipping homes full time for a few years to get started.

For everyone else, the best way to make money in real estate is to focus on the long haul: Buy cash-flow positive properties, do due diligence before buying and keep tenants for a long time.

Learning as you go

Buying rental properties for long-term hold is likely to be a successful way to earn money in real estate. But it isn’t easy; in fact it’s a lot of hard work. Most rental property owners have horror stories of lessons learned from losing money and the hassles they’ve experienced on rental properties. But they learn as time goes on, and they start to earn consistent income. And once they do, they laugh about the past and most of them would swear they’d do the same thing over again.

Wise investing

If you make smart real estate purchase decisions and buy decent properties that are cash-flow positive, put money into improving those properties, select good tenants and work hard to keep those tenants, then you can earn a nice retirement “pension” plan.

Beware that buying decent properties is no easy task: The education is formidable, and you will feel some pain over time as mistakes you make come to light. But it can be a great long-term wealth building tool if you’re patient and stick with it.

For most people, building real estate wealth simply takes time.

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