By ALEX VEIGA
Low mortgage rates have made buying a home more affordable and turned rentals into an attractive option for investors.
Throughout the downturn in the housing market, average investors, sometimes pooling their money, have bought foreclosures at a sharp discount and turned them into rentals. Many homeowners also have purchased a second home and rented out their first property.
Although the housing market is showing signs of recovery, demand for rental housing is expected to remain strong. The national unemployment rate remains high at 7.9 percent, banks are still working through a backlog of foreclosures and tight lending requirements prevent many renters from becoming homeowners.And the Fed has said it will keep its short-term interest rate, the federal funds rate, at a record low until U.S. unemployment falls below 6.5 percent, something many economists don't expect to happen until late 2015 at the earliest. "In this market, at this point, it's a sweet spot," says Chris Princis, a senior executive at financial advisory firm Brook-Hollow Financial and owner of two rental properties in Chicago. "You're getting the market where it's just starting to rebound, but still at the bottom, with what's looking to be a great recovery." Here are six tips on becoming a landlord or investor in rental property: 1. UNDERSTAND WHAT IT MEANS TO BE A LANDLORD Residential real estate generally provides three possible ways to get a return on your investment: when it's sold, assuming it has grown in value, by collecting rent and through tax savings, such as the mortgage interest deduction. So, if you elect to buy a property for the long-term investment potential, the goal should be to ensure that the rental income covers the cost of your mortgage and monthly maintenance costs. If you buy a foreclosed home, you'll have to factor in the cost of repairs to ready the home for rent. And if you have a mortgage on the property, you'll need to be prepared to cover the costs for however long it takes to find a tenant.