As it has with almost every business, the growth of the Internet has significantly changed the landscape of property investment.
Many of the traditional requirements still apply, but buying and selling property has been made vastly easier and less costly with the emergence of thousands of sites devoted to Real Estate.
Finding properties is easier than ever, as is finding out more information about them. Not too many years ago finding properties outside a local area required poring over out-of-town newspapers or specialized publications that were expensive and hard to find. Finding information on them often meant relying on local agents' ability to describe them or taking a lengthy, expensive trip.
Now, with a brief search and a few mouse clicks, you can find more properties than you could ever turn over and more information about them than most of the previous owners know. With the arrival of high-bandwidth connections you can quickly access and view photos, 360-degree views of the interior and exterior, as well as the surrounding area and streaming video in close-up and overview.
Title searches, back taxes owed, legal encumbrances, previous ownership history and other pieces of valuable data are easy to obtain along with the current and past selling price. In some cases, you can get past inspection reports and records of repairs made.
And most of that information is available for nothing more than the cost of your time to find and review it.
Of course, mortgage financing has taken on entire new possibilities with the growth of the sites devoted to that subject. Traditional lenders have taken advantage of the technology, but there are also dozens of mortgage lending sites that have no brick and morter presence at all.
Even out-of-state and foreign markets have been opened up across the globe by the growth of the world wide web of property information. A Spanish investor can find a villa in Italy or France, while an American can easily locate wineries for sale in France or a Bed and Breakfast in England. Properties are available for purchase as a pure investment, a second home - which can be rented for part of the year using Internet sites, or even full-time rental.
Selling, too, has been made easier by utilizing any of the hundreds of sites devoted to the subject. For Sale By Owner is now much more feasible and quicker thanks to sites that advertise property - many of which provide low-cost additional services for helping you make that sale. That's an average 6% increase - the average cost of an agent's fee - in profit all by itself. Six percent of $200,000, for example, is $12,000. Subtracting off $100 for a three month listing still leaves a very healthy reduction in cost.
Though it's always a good idea to see any prospective property first hand, much time can be saved by gathering useful information before a site visit. And with the ease with which appraisers, contractors, title companies and realtors can be found - and more so with the growth of Local Search by the major search engine vendors - buying and selling has gotten even easier.
It won't be long before transactions can be carried out entirely electronically without leaving your home office. Many states and countries already allow electronic signatures on documents, eliminating the need for mail or faxing of paperwork.
Now if they could just invent something to legally produce the investment capital.