Your lender is the most important person you need to know because, other than your spouse or an actual business partner, your lender will be the closest person to you. As the primary source of funds, he or she will be the person most responsible for getting you and keeping you in the real estate business. Interview potential lenders early. Tell them what you want to do and show them your financial ability and sincerity. Find out what they are looking for in the deals they make and what kind of business plan they are going to want to see from you. No lender will OK a loan without reviewing a property's finances or the property itself, but you can and should get the process rolling by having your personal portions of the loan application (tax returns, employment information, etc.) in the works well ahead of finding a property. Going into your negotiations for a property, you want the self-assurance that you and your deal will qualify for a loan. Indeed, having your finances already lined up could be a powerful negotiating tool that could help you shave some of the asking price.
Many real estate people suggest avoiding real estate agents. Buy why? If your goal is to acquire reasonably priced investment properties, why shut yourself off from a potentially valuable source of information? Real estate agents often know of available properties long before they actually go on the market, and they certainly maintain their own networks of potential buyers and sellers. If you have relationships with a number of agents, all of whom know you are a serious buyer, you will be as valuable to them as they are to you because they will be able to tell sellers they have a buyer ready to deal.
Even in states such as California where you don't need a lawyer to handle a real estate transaction, as an investor and property owner, you are going to need the services of an attorney to write and review sales contracts and leases. If you are planning to own and operate your income properties under any kind of partnership or corporate arrangement, you will need a lawyer to help you set those up and file the appropriate documents with your state. You will also want an attorney who can help you with tenant-landlord issues that will come up.
As you will see in the other articles, your accountant can be a big moneymaker for you. Real estate related tax laws are constantly changing. An accountant who can save you a couple of thousand dollars a year in taxes is well worth the expense.
Like any homeowner, a new property investor is going to have to learn to do a lot of basic repair and upkeep - it doesn't take many visits from a plumber to eat up a month's profit. But you will still need a trusted contractor to evaluate buildings and to do the really big jobs, such as replacing a roof or installing energy efficient windows. Sometimes you can use a contractor rather than a property inspector when you look over a new place. Inspectors are valuable; a good one who finds a cracked foundation or some other high cost problem can save you from a bad deal or thousands of dollars of extra expenses. But an inspector will point out problems but is unlikely to tell you what has to be fixed right away and what can slide for a bit; nor is the inspector likely to be able to come up with a better cost estimate than the contractor. That will be especially valuable when you make your offer on the building.