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Real Estate

Real estate is a financial and cultural pillar of living and working in America. Simply put, real estate is land and the permanent buildings or structures that sit on that land. Although real estate can serve as a long-term investment as well as a home for your family, many Americans now struggle to keep up with mortgage payments. We're here to help you understand how real estate works and what to do when you can't afford your mortgage.

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Americans who own their home

62%

Total Mortgage Debt in the U.S.

$8 trillion

Foreclosure filings in 2012

2.3 million

Owning Real Estate

Real estate can involve numerous types of transactions, the most important being buying and selling property. These actions require decisions about a home’s worth, the state of the market and what type of sale or ownership would be best. Learn more about buying and selling real estate.

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Mortgages

A mortgage is probably the largest loan you’ll ever take out. It allows you to buy a home and slowly pay it off over one or several decades. That way, you can invest now in a home that will likely gain worth over your lifetime. Home equity is the value of the home minus your mortgage. Learn about mortgages and home equity.

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Dealing with Real Estate Debt

Real estate is a valuable asset which you can use to your advantage. Refinancing your mortgage, taking out a second mortgage or using a home equity loan can give you extra cash, but you may be stuck in debt for years longer. Learn how to use real estate to take control of your finances and reduce your debt.

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Types of Real Estate

There are three main types of real estate: residential, commercial and investment properties. Residential, owner-occupied homes are the most common forms of U.S. real estate, with more than 130 million residential housing units as of 2010. Real estate that is used principally to conduct business on the premises is classified as commercial property. An investment property is one the owner uses to generate income. The investor does not live in or use the property. Rather, someone else leases the property, generating income for the landlord.

Real Estate Risks and Rewards

Owning real estate comes with its fair share of risks and rewards. Among the risks are the following:

  • Declining property values as a result of volatile housing markets
  • Liability for any negative actions that happen on your property
  • Increased debt in the form of mortgages

Real estate’s possible rewards include:

  • Short-term profit for investors in an improving housing market
  • Leverage for financial opportunities like loans and business development
  • Diversification of investment portfolios
Al Krulick

Author

Al Krulick

Staff Writer

Al is an award-winning journalist with dozens of years of writing experience. He served as a drama critic, high school teacher, arts administrator, theatrical producer and director. He also dabbled in politics, running twice for a seat on the U.S. House of Representatives for Florida. Al is a Certified Debt Specialist with the International Association of Professional Debt Arbitrators and specializes in real estate, credit and bankruptcy advice.

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