Buying a home is better than investing in gold. But how do you get started?

Wondering how to begin investing, but uncertain about how the economy is going to go, and therefore, how stocks will do? Gold and real estate are a couple of your investment options if you’re not too excited about stocks.

Gold is a hedge, one investors use as backup against the dollar. If the dollar doesn’t do well vs. other currencies, the logic says gold will be a strong commodity that fetches demand around the world. But, if the dollar does well, gold isn’t going to yield great returns. Essentially, gold and the dollar compete against each other. Real estate, on the other hand, is a long-term investment that many view as safer than gold.

There will always be a demand for real estate, no matter what the dollar does. True, you can lose on real estate. But that’s if you sell when property values are lower than they were when you bought the place. You can always rent your house out, creating steady income, until the right time to sell comes along. Real estate is your smartest investment, for one because it gives you positive cash flow. But if you buy gold when it’s valuable, there’s a chance the dollar won’t tank to the same extent again. But more than that, there’s good chance you would’ve made more money on stocks or real estate.

Need any more convincing? The housing market is healthy–it’s not in a bubble like it was when the Great Recession hit. In 2016, foreclosure rates were the lowest they’ve been since 2000, and June saw property values appreciate at a rate of 5.7%, which means there’s good demand. In general it looks like lenders and buyers have learned from mistakes that led to the housing crisis. Barring some sort of unforeseen housing market disaster, the recovery can (and should) continue. Even if there’s a big collapse, this guide will help you stay away from an investment that will ruin you.

If you’ve still got your heart set on bullion, people have discovered gold in their backyards with a metal detector. In one case, US Army postal inspectors used a military-grade detector to uncover $153,150 worth of gold. So if you buy a house, there’s always the chance you’ll strike two kinds of paydirt, the practical real estate investment kind, and the shiny yellow kind.

Evaluate what you can afford

Essentially, you want to find out which properties you can afford that are going to deliver the best long-term value. There are multiple types of real estate you could invest in, but since this is your first time, I’m going to concentrate on residential real estate. Invest in a home, and you can live in it and rent out the other rooms as well. That way, your tenants make your mortgage payments for you. Once you’re ready, you can move somewhere else and begin to really take advantage of your property’s full earning potential.

The other scenario is you have a family. In that case you’re still making a good investment, because down the line, once you’ve paid off your mortgage and hopefully made some improvements on your home, you can either sell for a profit or become a landlord. Either way, you’ve made a secure investment that will pay off.

Check your credit. If your credit history is bad, do your best to fix your credit score by paying off any outstanding credit debts and debts on other loans. Check to see if there are any errors on the report, and if so, dispute them. If you have any accounts in collections, set up a payment plan to get them out. If you’re in the position to do so, pay off a credit card completely and leave it open. Have a reliable friend add you as an authorized user on their credit card. Next, find a mortgage lender and get a pre-approval letter.

A property in need of renovation can be a solid investment for your money. An FHA Rehab Loan covers both the cost of the mortgage and the cost of renovations. To qualify for one, you must do the following:

  • Find a fixer-upper house in need of rehab
  • Find a qualified lender
  • Meet the lender’s minimum credit score requirement, debt-to-income ratio requirement, and provide proof of income

After the loan is approved, your lender sets up a Repair Escrow Account, and you must begin renovating within 30 days of closing and complete renovations in less than six months.

Particularly if you have great credit and property values are high in the surrounding area, a Rehab Loan could help you flip a house (meaning you fix it then sell it) and make a great short-term return on your investment.

Research the market in your area

Your research into the right home can take multiple forms. A good realtor does all the research for you, and can lead you to properties in your price range in neighborhoods where value is likely to appreciate. Online, you can do all your own research first through sites such as Zillow and Redfin. Look into areas with low crime rates, less inventory than more, and access to desirable resources, such as shopping centers and parks. Once you’ve found an area you like, a realtor will help you get the best deal, and the seller will pay realtor fees. If it’s for sale by owner, ask if they will pay your agent’s commission fee.

Finish the deal

Once you’ve found the home for you, find out what documents your lender needs, provide them, get your loan, and make your offer. Sign a contract with the seller, complete your mortgage application, close the transaction–either through your agent or the seller–and get the keys to your new home.

Keep the place up over the years and make improvements. The value will go up, and you’ll have an investment on your hands that leaves you secure and ready for retirement.