Tips for long-distance real estate investing

A commercial property investor who never looks much beyond their own back door will probably end up missing out on some prime opportunities. Some of the best real estate deals you may ever encounter could be located halfway across the country -- or further.

Is investing in real estate at a distance entirely safe? No, of course not. No investment is truly safe, but there are always ways you can mitigate the risks you face. Here are a few tips you can use when a long-distance deal comes your way:

1. Understand the advantages of long-distance investment

Primarily, you can diversify your investments, which can protect against major losses caused by some local environmental calamity and insulate you against blips in your local market. However, you can also stretch your investment dollars. A $1 million investment doesn't buy much of anything in certain parts of California. If you take that same $1 million to central Ohio, however, you may find long-term investment gold.

2. Have a clear goal for your investment

Don't buy commercial property simply because it's available. Understand exactly what your goals are for your purchase before you make it. If you have immediate goals, consider the feasibility of putting them into practice when you have to travel back and forth from your current location. If you have long-term goals, consider carefully what factors could affect the future real estate market in that area.

3. Make an effort to physically control your investment

If you get serious about an investment, it's time to take a trip to see the property in person. Any commercial property can be dressed up to look enticing online or in a flyer. Once you see the real thing (and the surrounding area) you will have a better feel for its value. If you proceed with your investment, hire a management company to make sure that the property is cared for without complications.

If you're investing in commercial real estate, play it smart -- talk to an experienced attorney before you agree to any contract or sale.