The seesaw swings both ways with leverage
The main advantage of leverage
The main drawback of using leverage
If you haven’t noticed, the entire landscape of the residential property investing marketplace has been going through a seismic shift over the last several years. Coinciding with the financial crisis that begain in 2008, demand for single family homes has plummeted. At the same time, rental prices have skyrocketed, making residential rental properties hot commodities of late.
One of the main reasons for this is the millennial generation. They have come of age, and are taking their place in rapidly increasing numbers into the workforce. However, unlike their predecessors in the Baby Boomer and Gen X demographic models, millennials stay at home with their parents much longer, don’t feel this is a major social negative in doing so, are not fiancially prepared to obtain mortgages for their first home, and are quite scared of losing their jobs. Hence, these reasons effectively keep large numbers of them on the first-time home buying sidelines.
However, statistics are now showing an increasing trend for millennials to start purchasing investment property to live in as their first home. Buying two to four family homes, and living in one of the units, allows them to offset the normal investment property expenses, pay their mortgage each month, and even create a small positive cash flow in the process. In addition, they are treated to the loophole of being able to utilize FHA and VA style mortgages, since they will be owner-occupants. This makes obtaining a rental mortgage much easier.
Many in the millennial generation also are purchasing multifamily homes with friends to offset their costs. The millennial generation (born between 1977 and 1998) share some rather unique characteristics that make then especially suited to do this style of investment property acquisition. Generation Y characteristics include a celebration of diversity, with an overriding sense of optimism about the future. They tend to be rather inventive. And while they may be used to individualism, they consider their friends quite dear – so much so that they may equate their friends as family.
In addition they are used to creating new rules, and they are certainly well-versed in the internet and the concommitant communication style that entails, including an easy acceptance of all new technological advances. They’re excellent at multitasking, and are used to feeling nurtured. All of these characteristics make them better suited for the ability to trade off the traditional first time home buying process for the non-traditional role of first time owner-occupant-landlord.
When coupling these characteristics with the fact that, in today’s real estate market, rental prices are very high, first time home prices are also quite high, and most first time buyers are unable to afford to buy a home in an area that they would like to live in, these millennials are basically priced out of the home real estate market. But not so with the owner-occupant multi-family rental property market.
The average first time investment property buying millennial has never bought a home before, and sees the rental property as his entree into the home buying world, while at the same time creating an inflationary hedge in real estate. They effectively get in on the ground floor, utilizing their rental units in the process. Again, many millennials may jointly purchase an investment property spreading the costs, while also renting out other units for cash flow. Remember, they hold their friends in high esteem – and aren’t afraid to live with them in the next unit over as co-owners. This is one of the many characteristics that give generation y the ability to make these bold, new, trend-setting investment property moves.
photos courtesy of loyalogy.com, immersiveyouthmarketing.com, screenmediadaily.com
One of the fundamentals of real estate investing is quite straightforward and simple – don’t ever sell any of your investment properties. Once you sell, you’ll have to pay capital gains tax, and you’ll lose the cash flow from the investment (assuming it is positive), as well as losing the ability to leverage your equity in the properties for future investment acquisitions. This third feature is probably the most important and financially productive for your ongoing success as a real estate investor. It truly comprises one of the most basic of property investment fundamentals – namely, using other people’s money to grow your real estate investments.
Never selling any of your rental properties also means you’ll pay stricter attention to detail – like ensuring you always run at a positive cash flow for each property you acquire. I once purchased a four-family house with generous owner financing. I paid slightly over market value for the property because of several reasons. First, I knew I’d be holding the property for the long-term. Second, in return for “giving in” to the seller’s price demands, I secured an incredible below-market rate of interest with excellent terms from him directly. I didnt have to apply with a bank, or pay bank fees associated with closing one of their investment property loans.
In addition, the owner-financing was for a first mortgage with no balloon payment in a short period of time. And because of the term and interest rate the monthly payments were ridiculously low. I knew I had a cash cow from day one on this rental property. I was using other people’s money (in this case, the seller), and I had added another rental mortgage to my stable without incurring any hit to my credit rating for taking on more debt. (Private mortgages do not show up on credit reports). So I left my credit rating intact, and could still use this new property for future leveraging of my equity in it when needed for other rental property acquisitions.
So even though I knew I was overpaying in the short run, I knew I was adding a great positve cash flow to my stable of investment properties for the long term. And by holding onto it, I was deriving the benfits of the excellent cash flow it was throwing off, the ability to leverage my equity in it at will, and I did not have to pay capital gains taxes on it as long as I held it. It was truly a triple winning rental property combination. So be sure to analyze the cash flow aspects of any rental property deal when encountering a “stubborn” seller who “must” get his price. You never know when that stubborn seller may turn a dog of a rental property into a cash flow bonanza for you. Always ask for owner financing to obtain your investment mortgage loan, and see what they say. You could end up with a marvelous real estate investment acquisition in the process.
photos courtesy of houstonmortgagetexas.com, anchorloans.com, zillow.com
I’ve found through all the house flips I’ve done that the biggest danger is going in with a flipping business model that is destined to fail. Just know that when you are learning how to flip a house, you may execute a business plan poorly, but if it’s a good model, you still have a chance of succeeding financially, and pulling out a profit. It’s when you have a poor house flipping business plan, even when executed well, that can’t possibly achieve success.
From the outset, you’ll need to create a pro forma budget for your real estate investing project. This is the easy part. Acquisition costs, tentative rehab costs, and carrying costs until you sell it need to tallied up. Be sure to be conservative in all areas, and don’t forget to add 10% as a overage factor when investing in real estate. Then, figure on a realistic market value for the property once it’s all fixed up to determine your net income projection.
Make sure you use a local contractor to obtain accurate quotes on the work you need to have done for your renovations. Also, once you have a very good idea of the total work to be done, write it up! You can then bid out the work to several contractors (or, to disparate tradespeople responsible for their own individual parts of the whole rehab). And you’ll at least be comparing quotes with exactly the same work to be done.
House flippers know that seasonality is extremely important in any flipping business model. Look to acquire properties in the late Fall and dead of Winter. You’ll find sellers tend to drop their prices right after Thanksgiving and Christmas…Likewise, try to have your renovations completed by the Spring to take advantage of the best time of year for any seller to place a house on the market. This is because most homebuyers come out of the woodwork in Spring, having stayed on the buying sidelines during the middle of Winter.
This is the largest component to your house flipping business model. With research done online (for example, web sites such as Realty Trac, Zillow – http://www.zillow.com/ – or Trulia supply excellent data for your area) you should be well acquainted with the average sales price of like properties. In addition, you should know off the top of your head how many houses for sale there are in your town this month, how many there were last year, and what the overall change was. Likewise, you need to be very familiar with the most important statistic of all to a house flipper: the average number of days houses stay on the market in your area.
Any experienced real estate investor will tell you that the greater the average number of days average that a house remains on the market in your area, the less of a proper chance for your flipping business model to succeed. House flipping requires as short a time as possible between your acquisition of the property to the date you actually have it sold. In my business model, I won’t even consider purchasing an investment property to flip if the average number of days on the market for house sales in my area runs over one year. I would prefer six months or under. And I would take a very long look at my net income projection numbers on any given project for each month over six as an average time on the market in a given area.
So make sure you do your research into your geographic area as intensively as possible before looking to buy investment property for flipping. Keep a keen eye on the most important statistic: the average days on the market in your area. If it’s too high, consider purchasing in a more fertile area for flipping…Even if it means you’ll have to travel farther each day to oversee the renovations. Just don’t get stuck holding a flip property in a bad economic environment. Your carrying costs (taxes, insurance and mortgage) will eat up all your potential profits – and then some.
photos courtesy of tmgnorthwest.blogspot.com, cbsnews.com, metrosdrealty.com, foreclosurequestionsguru.com, foreclosuredatabank.com
While REO properties (“real estate owned” bank foreclosures) can appear on the surface to be great deals, make sure you’re aware of these potential pitfalls that could mean unexpected gargantuan costs down the road. These hazards should normally be avoided even when acquiring non-foreclosed investment properties. However, there is an even greater danger with REO’s. In many instances, water and electricity have been turned off by the bank that owns the property. This safeguards them from further property damage in case of any leaks or winter freeze-ups.
However, banks that own REO’s tend to be sticklers in the adage “caveat emptor” (buyer beware) when they place their inventory of foreclosed homes for sale on the market – and they require all offers be in “as is” condition. Also, they usually refuse to turn the water and electricity back on prior to closing. So you’ll be in the dark, quite literally, regarding your house inspection.
When buying a foreclosed home, make sure you get a very experienced house inspection company to go over the property in tremendous detail. If they can’t make a determination about some of the following major hazards, you’ll have to build in a slush fund for the probability that one or more of these hazards are present. Crunch your offer numbers accordingly…
Buying a property with mold is a major headache. While the reasons for the mold problem itself is usually an easy fix, mold remediation is not. In addition, trying to get a mortgage on a foreclosure with mold present is going to be problematic, since the lender will want it removed prior to your closing on it. (I am currently representing a buyer in the purchase of a ranch house with mold in the unfinished attic. The seller foolishly had bathroom fans on the first floor empty hot, humid bathroom air without venting of any kind directly into the attic space…You can’t make this stupidity up. The situation had apparently been this way for years. In winter, the attic space would actually develop frost, according to one current tenant of the building. Naturally, there is an accumulation of mold throughout the attic now. And in order to sell the property, the seller must address the issue. And to do so properly, a specialized mold abatement company, licensed by the state, needs to be called in to properly remediate the problem.) So make sure there is no evidence of mold anywhere in any REO you’re considering purchasing. Especially since banks will still expect you to be making an offer on their property in “as is” condition only.
Any foundation cracks need to be inspected for size, shape and duration for how long they’ve been there. Different cracks mean different things. Let your house inspector make the call as to how big a potential problem any given crack could represent in the future of the property. If it’s simple settling over a long period of time – not a big problem. But if the issue means a total rebuilding of the foundation – well, obviously, this will be a major costs that could run tens of thousands of dollars.
Any good house inspection company will be able to ascertain very quickly the presence of pest infestations. Termites tend to be number one on the potential list. If evidence of past termite infestations is old and not active, and the damage to the house sills have been minimal, or repaired, there shouldn’t be a problem moving forward. But if the damage is active and extensive, calling for sill replacement, this could also pose a potential cost you didn’t expect that could run in the thousands of dollars. Be very wary when confronted with the evidence of termite damage in foreclosed homes.
If the water has been turned off, you really won’t be able to get a good idea of any potential problem lurking in the house, especially if there is the presence of much older piping in place. In this case, you must plan for the worst – and expect the pipes to have burst or leaked at some point in the past. Using “caveat emptor,” you’ll need to either plan on a very expensive renovation of all plumbing in the building. Or simply be prepared to walk away. And make an offer on another property in the foreclosure process instead.
Likewise, if an REO has no electricity on, it is impossible to ascertain the integrity of the entire electrical system. Are some wires old? Are some fixtures shorting out? A house inspector won’t be able to inspect anything that’s hidden behind the walls. They must have the electricity turned on to determine the potential hazards. With REO’s, just like with plumbing when the water has been turned off, expect the worst. You’ll have to decide if you’re prepared to rewire the entire house – or move on to another offer. Just be aware of the potential hazards.
photos courtesy of bestlongislandhomeinspectors.com, homesinspectors.com, 203krehabnow.com, 24dash.com
Attracting good tenants is the lifeblood of any successful rental property investment. And there are some essential rules for attracting these tenants to your units. Keep these tips in mind as you continue buying rental property. These tips will also help keep you maximizing your cash flows when investing in real estate. Remember that you can always be learning new and better ways to maximize your profits in investment properties by becoming an even better landlord.
Any landlord worth his salt will ensure he performs proper maintenance on his rental property. As a landlord, you should not only make repairs in a timely manner on all defects you can see – but also on those you can’t. Remember, that when investing in rental property, since you’re not going to want to disturb your tenants constantly, make sure to ask them on a periodic basis what physical property issues are arising in their units. Is there a new small leak in the kitchen drain? Is their toilet working properly? Any gas or oil odors suddenly present? You need to ask to find out.
And you should be asking these questions about your investment properties on a regular basis. When you keep up with repairs to your investment property, you make your tenants feel more secure about you, as well as making them feel good about staying in your unit. This will aid in future retention. Obviously, the more tenants you can retain year to year, the less work you’ll have to do – since you won’t need to look for new tenants to replace them. Proper maintenance also keeps your overall repair costs down over the entire term of your ownership of the rental property.
If you’ll be using the services of a property management company, make sure you are stringent in your due diligence prior to hiring them. Check out their references, talk to their current landlord roster, and obtain referrals from local real estate pros like real estate agents in your area. Good property managers always stay in regular contact with all tenants. They don’t simply collect rent. It’s their job to maintain good relationships with all tenants. They are proactive at performing property inspections, and will take care of maintenance and emergency repairs as needed. And they will screen prospective new tenants for you as well.
If you set a rent that’s too high, you may profit from the incremental amount above market rent for a short time…but you’ll end up paying for it later when that tenant decides to move because his rent is too high. Again, looking for new tenants is always a costly endeavor. Not only time-wise, but also due to the increased vacancy that occurs every time a tenant moves out. On average, expect at least a month of lost rent due to any tenant moving out. Always make sure you know what current market rents for your area are. Check out your competition for like units. Go visit them. Talk to local real estate agents to get more information as to what constitutes market rents for comparable units at any given point in time. Check out Craigslist listings for rentals in your area. Become an expert on market rents. Know what other real estate investors in your area are charging at any given time.
Likewise, setting rent too low does you no good either. While you may get more takers for your unit, you’re not optimizing your cash flow, as you are giving up the differential between market rent and what you’re charging each month. Remember too that tenants that pay rents under market rate tend to not be so careful about keeping up the look of the unit. Ultimately, they may end up doing more harm to the physical space due to increased wear and tear, and lack of care. Basically, they’ll take much less pride in their living environment when they know they are paying a discounted rate for it.
Tenants that know how to work the system are the ones you’ll need to be most careful installing in your units. While tenants that don’t pay their rent on time need to be evicted as quickly as possible, some states allow the eviction process to last for months. All the while you’re losing revenue due to non-payment. And don’t forget the legal fees involved as well for retaining the services of a good eviction attorney. The best advice here for all real estate investors is simple: make sure you carefully check all references for any prospective tenant. This includes speaking with their previous landlords, running credit checks on them, as well as criminal background checks too. Do this, and you should properly protect yourself from those professional tenants who are gaming the system.
photos courtesy of regulatedtenants.com, iresvegas.com, newhomessection.com, lowesforpros.com, landerassociates.wordpress.com
A recent survey undertaken by overseas lender Homeloans Ltd. finds that real estate investors tend to choose bricks and mortar properties over Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs) as the primary vehicle for their property investment funds. The singular reason? Most investors buying rental property prefer the “comfort factor” that a physical property affords them. Read: they want the feeling of security that controlling one’s own rental properties affords.
According to this report, the Homeloans Home Buyer Barometer, about half of property investors who took part in the survey preferred investing in rental property over purchasing shares in a REIT, regardless of the type of REIT (residential, commercial, or mixed). The comfort factor means that rental property buyers feel more secure in navigating their own destiny, rather than leaving it up to other real estate investment professionals to do so for them. They also want to realize a greater chance for capital growth returns, as well as higher cash flows from rentals that these real estate investments provide them.
As usual, the survey indicated that most property investors choose bricks and mortar rental houses that are close to transportation, jobs and local amenities. Naturally, this means central cities are the most popular spots for purchasing rental properties, followed closely by suburban bedroom communities. Rural communities rank last in desirability for rental property acquisitions. This is because rental demand is completely predicated on the proximity of services and amenities for prospective tenants. This also plays a major role in the ability for property investors to have an easier time of selling their properties when they deem it necessary to do so.
The report went on to say that most investors would be in the market to purchase a rental property at some point in the next year. In addition, some 34% of the survey takers claimed they will be making their first rental property buy during this time. Some other highlights of the report indicated that close to one quarter of the respondents had bought their first rental property when they were between the ages of eighteen and twenty-nine. In addition, more than 50% had bought a detached house as their very first rental property.
Many prefer to buy close to where they currently live. About one sixth of respondents wanted the ability to drive by their rental properties on a regular basis to keep an eye on them. Also, about two-thirds of survey takers said they use a property manager, while a third self-manage their own rental properties. And finally, the average number of rental houses owned by the respondents was 1.6 properties.
photos courtesy of tenantscreeningblog.com, itimes.com, moneyaftergraduation.com, lawofficewalterjennings.com
The reason investment property loans are more expensive, harder to obtain, and more restrictive than loans on personal homes, is that investment property mortgages are inherently riskier than home lending. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac charge higher rates for investor property loans, much more than for primary home loans because of these higher risk factors. It’s a simple axiom – the greater the risk, the higher the cost. Of course, the opposite axiom is likewise the same – the lower the risk, the smaller the cost. For lenders, real estate investors are inherently more dangerous as a group to make loans to than are homeowners.
Banks have to look objectively, and ruthlessly so, at their bottom line. What’s their worst case scenario in any lending situation? Naturally, a foreclosure. And in the case of those investing in rental property who are unable to make their monthly loan payments, since they have no emotional stake in the property, they will be more likely to walk away from their loan obligations in any worst-case scenario. Much more so than any homeowner would, since homeowners are emotionally grounded to their home – which is most probably their single greatest asset. This helps explain why total mortgage costs run higher for real estate investments, as well as why investment property mortgage rates are higher than homeowner rates.
Real estate investors understand that buying a rental property is simply a game of numbers. A homebuyer views their purchase decision in much more emotional ways – deciding what emotional benefits will accrue him if he buys a particular home. Conversely, this makes it much more difficult for the homebuyer to give up “his baby” so to speak. And this single reason is what makes lenders value the homebuyer as much less risk than anyone buying rental property.
Regardless of the specific area of the U.S. you may look to buy in, real estate investments will have mortgages that will generally run about half a point greater than home loans on average. In addition, many fees tend to be added to loans on investment properties – many more than home mortgages. Thus, the overall cost of any rental property mortgage will be greater as well. Some of the factors involved in the overall costs associated with an investment property loan include the borrower’s current credit score, the loan-to-value ratio for the loan, the property character (ie. – single family, duplex, multi-family, multifamily with owner-occupying one unit) and the specific mortgage program being applied (FHA, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac or no government-insured program).
In many instances, when in investing in real estate, lenders set up loan-to-value (LTV) ratios at higher overall amounts than home loans. The greater the amount you put down on the rental property you’re trying to finance, the less overall risk to the lender. Most lender these days have maximum loan-to-value ratios of 70% of the purchase price, where you, the buyer, must put down at least 30%. But if you put down 40%, or even 50%, you’ll find your interest rate and overall costs of the mortgage loan will come down substantially. This is also because you are helping to substantially lessen the lenders overall risk. (After all, it’s much harder to walk away from a property you have 50% down in equity than it is if you had only 30% down.)
Traditionally, banks will allow 75% of gross rents currently in place on units in any property you’re thinking of acquiring to help offset the monthly carrying cost of the loan. Keep in mind that this applies only to actual rentals…not hypothetical “market” rents. In addition, the tenants need to already be in place. Typically, the same 75% figure can be used to offset monthly loan costs in any refinance situation for your rental property.
You should also remember that lenders usually require those buying rental property to have better credit scores than their homebuyer counterparts. Lenders like to see scores of at least the low to mid-700’s before extending any rental property mortgage. (That’s not to say that it’s impossible to obtain a loan if your score is in the 600’s – but it will be more difficult, and certainly, it will come with a much higher interest rate. The bank, after all, is always looking to defray their risk.)
photos courtesy of thelastembassy.blogspot.com, answers.yourdictionary.com, ehow.com, ocdwellings.com, chicagoagentmagazine.com, infinitecredit.com
When I was just starting out buying rental property, an investment opportunity came on the market that totally captured my fancy. It intrigued me so much, I came very close to acquiring it – and making a major error at a very early stage of my real estate investing career. The property was an eight unit set of townhomes, all attached, and owned by a local bank that had taken them over when the developer defaulted. The project was totally finished – nothing had to be repaired, fixed up, renovated…a truly turn-key operation among investment properties. Of course, new tenants would need to be found for it, which would take several months after a closing to gain full occupancy.
I negotiated directly with the bank, and they were willing to provide the loan, with investment property mortgage rates that were very beneficial for me on the property. And the numbers, which I got into a habit of crunching several times a day, every day for a few weeks, kept making more and more sense. So – why didn’t I acquire the property? Simple – it would have used up every penny I owned in available capital. Any mistake on my part in my numbers crunching meant I could potentially lose money as I was just learning about investing in rental property. And it could happen quickly – without any means to tap a “slush” fund for emergencies…not only for the townhomes, but for myself personally. In effect, I could lose everything I owned on this one set of real estate investments.
I could sense the danger every day I got more and more serious about closing the deal. Ultimately, common sense prevailed. While the upside was also quite large on this grouping of townhome investment properties, and would have set me up, in theory, quite nicely moving forward, the downside, as I evaluated it was equally nerve-racking. I just didn’t have the stomach. So I backed out of the potential deal.
This offers a good lesson – as I taught myself – in the need for diversification in any type of real estate investing. To have put all my eggs in one basket, at the beginning stages of my property investing career, would have been a very risky, and probably fool-hardy thing to do. When I applied reason to my analysis, I came away with other options, like picking and choosing smaller multifamily homes, one at a time, that were much less risky. Again – not as much reward, but no one property would sink me like this townhome project could if I was wrong in my calculations.
Diversifying is such an integral part of investing theory, and yet when confronted directly with the prospect of a “big kill,” the notion of diversification can easily go out the window, especially when dollar signs go up in the sky in big bold letters.
In real estate, this means diversification can have many looks. You can diversify across one class of properties – for example, sticking entirely within residential real estate, and acquiring individual homes as I have done. It can also mean spreading risk out over several classes, or types of real estate investments. Owning a small office building, a retail store property and a multifamily home at one time are a good way to diversify your real estate holdings.
With more diversification comes lessened risk – as a downturn or a financial hit to one segment won’t totally destroy your overall holdings. It’s slow and steady financial gains that are approached as an averaging of all your different real estate holdings in the diversification model. In this way, real estate investors can protect themselves, and can be ready in the event of any downturn…Ready to acquire another, different class of investment property moving forward.
photos courtesy of besthawaiihomes. com, elementcommunity.com, worldpropertychannel.com, chrismercer.net, rifuture.org
There is such an abundance of television programs that show you how to flip houses, you’d think everyone in the free world would be house flipping by now. But realistically, it ain’t for everybody. And more to the point, deciding if flipping houses is right for you by simply viewing television shows on the subject is akin to thinking you can learn how to play piano by just listening to a great concert pianist. Obviously, not gonna happen.
Having a true passion and devotion to the flipping process is integral in doing it correctly, and more importantly, making a profit at it. You’ll first need to ascertain whether you have the time and inclination towards flipping. In addition, ask yourself if you have the stomach for the risks involved in such an undertaking. If you’re paying all cash for a property to flip, you’ll be tying up a huge amount in investment with no leverage. And that’s even before you put more into the project in renovation costs…sometimes renovation costs are double, triple and even quadruple acquisition base costs for the property.
Keep in mind that if you take on a mortgage for a house flipping project, you’ll be taking on a large amount of extra closing costs. And those costs will be paid back in (hopefully) a short period of time when you place the house on the market again, fully renovated. A quick turnover is great. But keep in mind the financing costs are magnified when paying the mortgage off in a short period of time. I’m a big proponent of using other people’s money for leverage. Just be sure you’ve researched the lowest cost alternatives for a short-term financing goal.
Will you be doing the work yourself, or hiring a crew of tradespeople to oversee? Or, will you hire (at a premium) a full contractor who will be in charge of hiring subcontractors to perform the necessary renovations. Do you have any design sense to pull off a large scale renovation? Most beginning property investors leaning how to flip houses will certainly make mistakes early on. Mistakes like not understanding the need to design and renovate with as little of your emotional self as possible. Learning that an investment property is not a home, and certainly not a vanity project. Renovating a downtrodden house just so you can be proud of how it looks after you’re done does not a profitable property investor make.
The first time project in house flipping is the most important. It’s where you’ll make your costliest, most egregious mistakes. But if you have the passion, and have allowed a wide berth of a financial cushion for yourself. When buying the property (by purchasing a house substantially below market value, for example), you’ll have a canvas on which to paint your first property investment masterpiece. Even if it ends up looking like a pre-school exercise in finger painting. Just consider it a great learning experience. Then move on to the next project with lessons learned from experience.
photos courtesy of islaythedragon.com, askmen.com, cbsnews.com, home.howstuffworks.com, foreclosurequestionsguru.com