If you have a business mindset with all your dealings, you will automatically have a "professional hat on" as it were. It will also remind you to keep your emotions in check when making decisions with respect to your real estate dealings.
Seek out good council and stick with them. Like a landlord you will need to screen their credentials to ensure that they are familiar with the nuances and details of real estate in their particular field. Pay for talented experts; as the CEO or GM of your real estate team you deserve to be well informed and protected to make sound decisions. Real estate lawyers, accountants, trainers, appraisers, and a real estate agent.
You need to know the market value, of all the condos that are in your area with respect to age and condition. If you know the market value, you will know when you come across a bargain. A real estate agent will help with this. Learn what the market rents are, so you have an idea as to what condition of place draws the best rent, and proceed with your product to market accordingly.
These get missed a lot. Get to know what all your costs will be to close on the condo, in addition to any down payment. Legal fees, land transfer tax, title insurance, etc. can amount to thousands of dollars, so find all of this out beforehand.
Look at all the numbers, the down payment, expected rental income, repairs to be made, maintenance fees, extra cash for an "Emergency fund" (for unexpected expenses, budget 2 to 3 months of mortgage payments as a rule of thumb) and then decide if it is for you. Be careful not to let your fear of getting going stand in your way of proceeding with a good deal. Bounce it off your investing peers to ease your comfort level and understanding.
It is better to leave your rental unit vacant than to settle for a questionable tenant. Getting a trouble tenant out that outright snubs and stick-it-in-your-face refuses to leave is a time consuming process. There are also additional costs involved to physically remove a tenant, if necessary. If you find yourself with one of these, bite the bullet and take a proactive stance. Immediate and swift action is what you need to minimize your losses. Check references, personal and financial; interview previous landlords (particularly the landlord before their current one if possible); get all their contact information, including next of kin with addresses and phone numbers, banking information, work information, and have them give signed consent to a credit check. Meet with them personally to get a gut read as this will come into play too. Check ALL information, don't be rushed, or let yourself be rushed by the applicants. Then, select your tenant, remembering Rule#1. Remember, better to leave it vacant.
Mistakes do happen and will happen. It's part of any worthwhile growth in this game. Learn what you need to learn up front to try to avoid mistakes, but learn from what the street has to teach you. Learning from mentors and peers will minimize but not eliminate them. Don't let the fear of making mistakes squash your dreams of becoming a successful investor. Keep learning new things, new ideas and strategies, share them with your peers and they'll return the favour. This is not a "lone wolf" kind of business. Use your network to your mutual benefit.
If you are limited on your own money, climb over that obstacle. If you are keen to put in the time to educate yourself, find and prepare a good deal. A joint venture partner with cash to use can help get you going. Let this be your motto: "If a good deal comes along, the money will appear!" Get in the game and don't let anything stop you, even lack of personal money.
Rule#1 talks about this being a business, but real estate for me is truly fun. If you don't have fun with the things that you are doing then why are you doing them? Investing in real estate is a fun way of securing a financial future for you and your family. With some education and support, you can make the experience virtually risk free!