The pitch is compelling: Buy a vacant house or apartment building and rent it out to some of the throngs of Americans who have lost their homes to foreclosure. With interest rates near record lows and property values still slumping, getting into the landlord business is cheaper than it has been in years.


Investors turned off by paltry bond yields and the mercurial stock market are intrigued. Kimberly Foss, president of Empyrion Wealth Management in Roseville, Calif., says she has seen a surge of clients looking to purchase distressed homes and apartment buildings. Her clients have an average net worth of about $4 million, she says.

投资者对此很感兴趣,因为现在的债券收益率低得可怜,股市又是如此地反复无常。加州罗斯维尔(Roseville) Empyrion财富管理公司(Empyrion Wealth Management)的总裁金伯莉•福斯(Kimberly Foss)说,她看到有不少客户在寻求购买低价出售的房屋。她的客户的平均资产净值在400万美元左右。

'Many of my clients are looking to use part of their portfolios to scoop up properties,' she says. 'They see it as an alternativeretirement plan.'


But aspiring property owners need to watch out for a slew of traps. Among them: prolonged vacancies, surprise costs, deadbeat tenants, difficulty refinancing and overestimating the rental potential.


It is easy to overlook those risks when the market conditions appear so ripe. Home prices have fallen to 2002 levels nationwide, according to the latest data from the S&P/Case-Shiller index, and financing remains cheap. For the week ending Nov. 10, the average rate on a 30-year fixed-rate loan was 3.99%, not far from the Oct. 6 record low of 3.94%, according to Freddie Mac data going back to 1971.

当市场环境万事俱备时,投资者很容易忽略这些风险。标准普尔/凯斯-席勒房价指数(S&P/Case-Shiller index)的最新数据显示,全美房价已经跌至2002年时的水平,同时融资成本保持较低水平。房地美公司(Freddie Mac)始自1971年的历史数据显示,截至2011年11月10日的那一周,美国30年期固息贷款的平均利率为3.99%,离10月6日的历史最低位3.94%相去不远。

Rents are improving, too. The average monthly rent for all categories, including apartments and single-family homes, was $846 nationwide in the third quarter, up 2.5% from the same period a year earlier, according to Local Market Monitor, a Cary, N.C., firm that analyzes real-estate trends. That is lower than the long-term average gain of 3.5% a year, but better than the 3% decline in calendar year 2009.

租金水平也在上升。据北卡罗莱纳州卡瑞市(Cary)房地产趋势分析公司Local Market Monitor称,2011年三季度,包括公寓和独栋别墅在内的美国住宅的平均月租金为846美元,比去年同期增长2.5%。这一水平低于3.5%的长期平均年增长率,但比2009年租金同比下降3%的情况要好。

Even the Obama administration is considering getting involved in the rental markets. Government officials have been soliciting ideas for how to convert some of the foreclosed homes owned by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac into rentals, in order to cut the mortgage giants' losses on those homes.

连奥巴马(Obama)政府都在考虑参与到租房市场中来。政府官员正在研究如何将一些因不能偿还贷款而被房利美(Fannie Mae)和房地美公司收回的房子投入租赁,以减少这两家住房抵押贷款巨头在这些房屋上遭受的损失。

All of this is attracting interest among investors. Brian Davis, who runs ezLandlordForms.com, a website for property investors, says traffic is up 20% this year.

所有这些都在吸引投资者的目光。房地产投资网站ezLandlordForms.com运营商布莱恩•戴维斯(Brian Davis)说今年网站的访问量增长了20%。

'Most people think I'm crazy to buy now,' says Jason Walker, a marketing director in Washington. But the numbers were too good to pass up, he says. Mr. Walker is closing this week on a town house in Baltimore, for which he paid $275,000. He says he put down 20% of the purchase price, locked in a 4.5% rate on a 30-year fixed mortgage and expects to net $1,000 a month in profit.

华盛顿某公司的市场总监杰森•沃克(Jason Walker)说,"很多人觉得我现在买房很不理智。"但房价太具诱惑力了。沃克11月份在巴尔的摩(Baltimore)买了一栋联排别墅,价格只要27.5万美元。他说自己付了20%的首付,余额用4.5%固定利率的30年期贷款支付,租出去后,估计每月能净赚1,000美元。

Here is what you need to know before taking the plunge.


Cheaper homes aren't always a good investment. Even if a property is selling for half the price it fetched during the boom, that doesn't mean it will generate enough income to make the deal pay off, says Wayne Copelin, a financial planner in Sugar Land, Texas.

便宜的房子并不总是一笔好的投资。得克萨斯州Sugar Land公司的金融规划师韦恩•考普林(Wayne Copelin)说,即使这个房屋是以房地产市场鼎盛时期的半价出售,也不一定能产生足够的收入来让你赚钱。

The key is to figure out how much rental income the property will generate. A good rule of thumb: Make a deal only if you can collect at least 1.25% of the purchase price each year in rental income, says Jason Reed, a real-estate agent in St. Paul, Minn., who works exclusively with investors.

投资的关键是要搞清楚你买下的房子能带来多少租金收入。明尼苏达州圣保罗市(St. Paul)专为投资客提供服务的房地产经纪人杰森•瑞德(Jason Reed)说,一个大致的原则是:只有年租金至少能达到房价的1.25%时才值得出手。

Determining the rental potential can be tricky. Some properties already have been rented out, and the owner can furnish records. Others have no rental history.


One way to examine the rental market is to use websites like FinestExpert.com, which tracks occupancy rates and rents across the country.


In certain sweet spots, rents are rising even as home prices fall. Take Nashville, Tenn., where rents have jumped 6% over the past 18 months, while home prices have dropped 3%, according to Local Market Monitor. Other markets where that is happening: El Paso, Texas; Houston; Omaha, Neb.; Raleigh, N.C.; Pittsburgh; and Washington.

在有些特殊的区域,房价下跌,租金却还在上涨。以田纳西州首府纳什维尔(Nashville)为例,根据Local Market Monitor的数据,那里的租金在过去一年半以来涨了6%,而同期的房价下跌了3%。存在同样现象的地方还有得克萨斯州的厄尔巴索市(El Paso)、内布拉斯加州的奥马哈市(Omaha)、北卡罗莱纳州首府罗利市(Raleigh)、匹兹堡(Pittsburgh)以及华盛顿。

Markets in areas that have been battered by foreclosures, such as Las Vegas and Phoenix, remain unstable. They might have low prices, but they also are suffering from high unemployment. That could leave aspiring landlords with empty homes, which then could fall even further in value, according to Local Market Monitor President Ingo Winzer.

Local Market Monitor公司的总裁因戈•文泽尔(Ingo Winzer)表示,在一些坏账房屋情况严重的地方,如拉斯维加斯(Las Vegas)和菲尼克斯(Phoenix),那里的房地产市场依然很不稳定,房价可能很低,但失业率也很高,可能导致一些房屋长期空置无人来租,从而进一步降低房屋的价值。

Local Market Monitor cites Austin, Texas; Akron, Ohio; and Dallas as among the most attractive markets overall, and calls Detroit, Las Vegas and West Palm Beach, Fla., 'dangerous.'

Local Market Monitor将得克萨斯州首府奥斯丁市(Austin)、俄亥俄州的亚克朗市(Akron)以及得克萨斯州的达拉斯(Dallas)列为最具吸引力的市场,将底特律(Detroit)、拉斯维加斯和佛罗里达州西棕榈海滩(West Palm Beach)列为"危险"区域。

When looking at properties, act like a renter, says Jeff Cronrod, president of the Boulder, Colo.-based American Apartment Owners Association. Tour the neighborhood to see if landlords seem desperate to lure tenants. Are there lots of vacancies? Are buildings offering deals like living rent free for a couple of months in order to drive up demand? If so, be wary, Mr. Cronrod says.

位于科罗拉多州博尔德市(Boulder)的美国公寓业主协会(American Apartment Owners Association)的主席杰夫•克朗罗德(Jeff Cronrod)说,投资者在评估房产价值时,要以一个租户的眼光来看。去房子周边的社区转转,看别的房东是不是急着招揽租户。是不是有很多空屋?有没有业主提供几个月免费入住的优惠条件以推动租赁需求?克朗罗德说,如果存在这些现象,那就要小心为好。

Carrying costs add up. Another pitfall for real-estate investors: not accounting for unexpected expenses.


Besides closing costs, which generally average between 3% and 6% of the purchase price, general maintenance expenses like taxes, insurance and repairs can be much higher than many investors expect, says Jason Post, president of Los Angeles based Post Investment Group, a boutique real-estate investment firm that buys and operates apartment buildings.

洛杉矶小型房地产投资公司Post Investment Group的总裁杰森•普斯特(Jason Post)说,除了占房价3%到6%的交易成本以外,税收、保险、维修等一般性维护费用可能远远超过投资者的预期。该公司购买并经营公寓住宅。

You should allot roughly $2,000 a year for insurance, taxes and any association fees for neighborhood pools and the like, Mr. Reed says. To ensure that a major repair doesn't break you, set aside at least six months' worth of expected rent, he says.


'You can't even fathom some of these strange costs,' says Jerry Garretty, who runs a property-management firm in San Jose, Calif. Six months ago, Mr. Garretty says, he found a nasty surprise after overseeing the eviction of tenants who were three months behind on rent in a Cupertino, Calif., home: They had poured quick-drying cement into the sewer pipes