If you’re considering whether or not to buy properties in a particular town or region, chances are you have already investigated the local fire department and police force to be sure that they can protect your properties and your tenants from fire and crime.

You should investigate hospitals too. Not many real estate investors bother to do so, but stop to think. If a hospital down the block from one of your investment properties suddenly boards up its windows and doors and shuts down, that failure can exert a negative force on the value of your properties. And make no mistake, it really does happen

On a deeper level, the health of regional hospitals offers a reliable indicator of the overall economic health of the area where they are located. If hospitals are clean, bright and new-looking, that tells you something important. If they are dingy and surrounded by poorly maintained roads – well, that tells you something too.

One problem is that the underlying economic health of hospitals is not always easy to assess by simply looking at them. You need to dig a bit deeper. One strategy is to visit their administrative offices and ask to see a copy of their annual report. (Incorporated institutions should have copies available for the asking.)

It can also be smart to visit the Websites of local newspapers and search for articles about hospitals in the area where you might invest. Do the stories that you read about them convince you that they are stable and strong, or that trouble lies ahead for them?

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