As real estate professionals, it’s our job to make the real estate process as easy as possible for everyone involved. That means providing quality information that can benefit you immediately. Whether you’re buying or selling, we want to share information with you that will help you save money and also make you money in real estate!
When it comes to investing, everybody has certain goals and aspirations. However, we have found that there are certain guidelines every aspiring real estate investor needs to know:
1. Compare Property Values and Rents
Financial statistics only go so far; the best measure of a property’s market value is often the sale prices of nearby properties. The same holds true for area rents. A low price can often be justified by a reasonable rent; renters who can afford a high rent can afford to buy instead, so reasonably priced rent is a need.
2. Be careful – Tax laws may change
Don’t base your tax investment on current tax laws. The tax code is constantly changing, and a good investment is a good investment regardless of the tax code. The right property with the right financing is what you should look for as an investor.
3. Specialize in something you Know
Start in a market segment you know. Whether you focus on fixer-uppers, foreclosures, starter homes, low-down payment properties, condominiums, or small apartment buildings, you’ll benefit from experience by specializing in one aspect of investment real estate properties.
4. Know the Costs going in!
Know the financial statements inside out. What are operating expenses? What are loan payments? Vacancy costs? Taxes? What does the cash flow statement look like? These are key issues that must be addressed before making a solid investment.
5. Know where your tenants are coming from
If the last rent increase was recent, your tenants may be considering a move. If tenants have a short-term lease, they may be living there simply to attract unsuspecting buyers. It is also important to collect the tenants’ security deposits at closing.
6. Assess the tax situation
Taxes are an integral part of successful real estate investing, and They often make the difference between a positive cash flow and a negative one. Know the tax situation, and see how it can be manipulated to your advantage. It may be a good idea to consult a tax advisor.
7. Investigate insurance coverage
If seller’s coverage is based on lower-than-current replacement value, your insurance cost may increase when you pay a higher purchase price.
8. Confirm Utility Costs
Ask the local utilities to verify recent utility expenses, especially if any of these costs are included in your tenant’s rent.
9. Consult Your Accountant
Taxation is a key element of successful real estate investing, so be sure to find an accountant who is well-versed with the constantly evolving tax code.
Make sure that you always perform a thorough inspection of the property before buying it. Never, ever buy any property without at least examining the site. In some cases, hiring professional inspectors to examine the structural mechanical system may be a sound investment.
1. Get “Pre-Approved” – Not “Pre-Qualified!”
Do you want to get the best property you can for the least amount of money? Then make sure you are in the strongest negotiating position possible. Price is only one element in the negotiations, and not necessarily the most important one. Often other terms, such as the strength of the buyer or the length of escrow, are critical to a seller.
In years past, I always recommended that buyers get “pre-qualified” by a lender. This means that you spend a few minutes on the phone with a lender who asks you a few questions. Based on the answers, the lender pronounces you “pre-qualified” and issues a certificate that you can show to a seller. Sellers are aware that such certificates are WORTHLESS, and here’s why! None of the information has been verified!
Many times unknown problems can come to the surface! Some of the problems I’ve seen include recorded judgments, alimony payments due, glitches on the credit report due to any number of reasons both accurately and inaccurately, down payments that have not been in the clients’ bank account long enough, etc.
So the way to make the strongest offer today is to get “pre-approved”. This happens AFTER all information has been checked and verified. You are actually APPROVED for the loan and the only loose end is the appraisal on the property. This process takes anywhere from a few days to a few weeks depending on your situation. It’s VERY POWERFUL and a weapon I recommend all my clients have in their negotiating arsenal.
2. Sell Your Property First, Then Buy the House
If you have a house to sell, sell it before selecting a house to buy! Contingency sales aren’t nearly as strong as one that comes in with a ready, willing and able buyer. Consider this scenario: You’ve found the perfect house – now you have to go make an offer to the seller. You want the seller to reduce the price and wait until you sell your house. The seller figures that this is a risky deal, since he might pass up a buyer who DOESN’T have to sell a house while he’s waiting for you. So he says OK, he’ll do the contingency but it has to be a full price offer! You have now paid more for the house than you could have because of the contingency, and you have to sell your existing house in a hurry! Otherwise you lose the house! So to sell quickly you might take an offer that’s lower than if you had more time. The bottom line is that buying before selling might cost you THOUSANDS of dollars.
If you’re concerned that there is not a house on the market for you, then go on a window-shopping trip. You can identify possible houses and locations without falling in love with a specific house. If you feel confident after that then put your house on the market.
Another tactic is to make the sale “subject to seller finding suitable housing”. Adding this phrase to the listing means that WHEN YOU DO FIND A BUYER, you will have some time to find the new place. If you don’t find anything to your liking, you don’t have to sell your present home.
3. Play the Game of Nines
Before house hunting, make a list of things you want in the new place. Then make a list of the things you don’t want. You can use this list as a guide to rate each property that you see. The one with the biggest score wins! This helps avoid confusion and keeps things in perspective when you’re comparing dozens of homes.
When house hunting, keep in mind the difference between “STYLE AND SUBSTANCE”. The SUBSTANCE are things that cannot be changed such as the location, view, size of lot, noise in the area, school district, and floor plan. The STYLE represents easily changed surface finishes like carpet, wallpaper, color, and window coverings. Buy the house with good SUBSTANCE, because the STYLE can always be changed to match your tastes. I always recommend that you imagine each house as if it were vacant.
Consider each house on its underlying merits, not the seller’s decorating skills.
4. Don’t Be Pushed Into Any House
Your agent should show you everything available that meets your requirements. Don’t make a decision on a house until you feel that you’ve seen enough to pick the best one.
A decade ago, homes were selling quickly, usually a few days after listing. In that kind of market, agents advised their clients to make an offer ON THE SPOT if they liked the house. That was good advice at the time. Today there isn’t always this urgency, unless a home is drastically underpriced, and you’ll know if it is.
Don’t forget to check into the SCHOOL DISTRICTS of the area you’re considering. Information is available on every school; such as class sizes, % of students that go on to college, SAT scores, etc. You can get this information from this web site.
5. Stop Calling Ads!
Please note – ads are sometimes created to make the phone ring! Many of the homes have some drawback that’s not mentioned in the ad, such as traffic noise, power lines, or litigation in the community. What’s not mentioned in the ad is usually more important than what is.
For this reason, I want you to be very careful when reading ads. Remember that the person writing the ad is representing the seller and not you! The most important thing you can do is have someone on your side looking out for your best interests. Your own agent will critique the property with an eye towards how well it meets your needs and will point out any drawbacks you should know about. So whether you decide to work with me or not, pick an agent you feel comfortable with and enlist the services of that agent as a buyer’s broker. Then you become a client with all the rights, benefits, and privileges created by this agency relationship, and you’re no longer just a shopper. Did you know that many homes are sold WITHOUT A SIGN ever going up or an AD EVER BEING PUT IN THE PAPER? These “great deals” go to those people who are committed to working with one agent. When an agent hears of a great buy, who do you think he’s going to call? His client, who he has a legal obligation to work hard for you, or someone who just called on the phone and said “keep your eyes open”? So to get the best buy on a property, I always recommend that you hire your own agent and stick with him or her.
Less is more!
If you’re new to investing or real estate and don’t know the first thing about interest rates, here’s a good tip: the higher the interest rate, the more expensive it’s going to be. High interest rates mean you will have to pay back more on the money you borrow. Another good rule of thumb is that affordability increases if you use an adjustable rate mortgage (it’s easier to qualify this way). Of course, there will be a wide range of prices that you can choose from, depending on what kind of financing you choose..
Not even the Fed knows for sure
The Fed holds a considerable amount of power, but they can’t control everything. Mortgage interest rates are affected by many unpredictable political, economic and social events. So there is no guarantee what direction interest rates will go, despite the forecasts of the experts. Therefore, make your financial decision based on where things are today including your budget, your needs and your future plans.
Locking in rates assures your lowest interest
If you do decide you want to lock in at a certain interest rate, you will need to complete a loan application and send it to your lender as soon as possible. This must be done so that your commitment doesn’t runout before your loan is approved. Follow up and be se sure that the lender is receiving all of the necessary documentation. Get a property appraisal, which usually costs about $300, through your loan agent as soon as possible.
Don’t obsess and miss a good real estate deal
Although rising interest rates can create more problems for home buyers, waiting and hoping for low rates is not necessarily a smart move. You may end up paying a higher price. Also, refinancing is always an option in the event that interest rates come down.
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Finding the right real estate professional requires doing a little research and asking a few questions. You need to know everything about the selling process. What is the marketing strategy? What kind of advertising will be done? Is the REALTOR® capable and willing to communicate effectively? Can the REALTOR® effectively present and sell the less-noticeable assets of the property?
Real estate professionals also need to be knowledgeable about the community. They need to have a feel for the history of the area and the approximate price that people will be willing to pay. Also, real estate agents should know what the competition is and how much it will effect your sale.
NEVER choose a REALTOR® on price alone. Remember that a REALTOR® cannot magically raise the selling price of the house. Consider the buyer. The purchaser won’t willingly pay too much; it’s most likely that he or she will do research on the market and try to find the best product for the best price. The facts simply cannot be changed, no matter which REALTOR® you select. In spite of these unchangeable factors, the REALTOR® you select must still be diligent and knowledgable.
If your property does not elicit attention within several weeks, the cause can most likely be attributed to one of these three factors: location, condition, and price. The location obviously cannot be changed. You should consider examining the conditioning of your property and reevaluating the marketing strategy. Ask your REALTOR® to offer an explanation of the competition and your pricing strategy.
Lower Your Taxes
Tax incentives for real estate investors can often make the difference in your tax rates. Deductions for rental property can often be used to offset wage income. Tax breaks can often enable investors to turn a loss into a profit.
For which items can investors get tax breaks? You could claim deductions for actual costs you incur for financing, managing and operating the rental property. This includes mortgage interest payments, real estate taxes, insurance, maintenance, repairs, property management fees, travel, advertising, and utilities (assuming the tenant doesn’t pay them). These expenses can be subtracted from your adjusted gross income when determining your personal income taxes. Of course, these deductions cannot exceed the amount of real estate income you receive. In addition to deductions for operating costs, you can also receive breaks for depreciation. Buildings naturally deteriorate over time, and these “losses” can be deducted regardless of the actual market value of the property. Because depreciation is a non-cash expense — you are not actually spending any money — the tax code can get a bit tricky. For more information about depreciation and various tax alternatives, ask your tax advisor about Section 1031 of the U.S. Tax Code.
Have a Positive Cash Flow
There are two kinds of positive cash flows: pre-tax and after-tax. A pre-tax positive cash flow occurs when income received is greater than expenses incurred. This sort of situation is difficult to find, but they are usually a strong and safe investment. An after-tax positive cash flow may have expenses that outweigh collected income, but various tax breaks allow for a positive cash flow. This is more common, but it is generally not as strong or safe as a pre-tax positive cash flow.
Regardless of what kind of real estate you choose to invest in, timely collections from your tenants is absolutely necessary. A positive cash flow — whether it be pre-tax or after-tax — requires rental income. Be sure to find quality tenants; a thorough credit and employment check is probably a good idea.
One of the most important factors in determining a solid investment is the amount of equity you are purchasing. Equity is the difference between the actual worth of the property and the balanced owed on the mortgage.
Benefit from Growing Equity
While investing in real estate is relatively complex, it is often worth the extra work. When compared to other financial investments, like bonds or CD’s, the return on investment for real estate purchases can often be greater.
The key to real estate investing is equity. Determine an amount of equity that you want to achieve. When you reach your goal, it’s time to sell or refinance. Determining the proper amount of equity may require the assistance of a real estate professional.
Easing the Transition to Your New Home
Use the right boxes, and pack them carefully. Professional moving companies use only sturdy, reinforced cartons. The boxes you can get at your neighborhood supermarket or liquor store might be free, but they are not nearly as strong or padded, and so can’t shield your valuables as well from harm in transit.
Use sheets, blankets, pillows and towels to separate pictures and other fragile objects from each other and the sides of the carton. Pack plates and glass objects vertically, rather than flat and stacked.
Be sure to point out to your mover the boxes in which you’ve packed fragile items, especially if those items are exceptionally valuable. The mover will advise you whether those valuables need to be repacked in sturdier, more appropriate boxes.
The heavier the item, the smaller the box it should occupy. A good rule of thumb is if you can’t lift the carton easily, it’s too heavy. Label your boxes, especially the one containing sheets and towels, so you can find everything you need the first night in your new home.
For your family’s safety and comfort
Teach your children your new address. Let them practice writing it on packed cartons. You can lighten your load and reduce any storage space you need to rent by hosting a garage or yard sale.
Fill two “OPEN ME FIRST” cartons containing snacks, instant coffee or tea bags, soap, toilet paper, toothpaste and brushes, medicine and toiletry items (make sure caps are tightly secured), flashlight, screwdriver, pliers, can opener, paper plates, cups and utensils, a pan or two, paper towels, and any other items your family can’t do without. Ask your van foreman to load one of these boxes, so that it will be unloaded at your new home first. Why the second box? In case the movers are delayed getting to your house on the day of the move.
Keep your pets out of packing boxes and away from all the activity on moving day.
Let all your electrical gadgets return to room temperature before plugging them in.
Since you may need to call old neighbors or businesses from your new home, pack your phone book.
Work hand in hand with your mover
Give the mover’s foreman your reach numbers and email addresses so you can stay in contact.
Read the inventory form carefully, and ask the mover to explain anything you don’t understand. Make a note of your shipment’s registration number, and keep your Bill of Lading handy.
If you’re moving long distance, be aware that your property might share a truck with that of several other households. For this reason, your mover might have to warehouse your furniture and belongings for several days. Therefore, ask your mover whether your goods will remain on the truck until delivered. If they have to be stored, ask whether you can check the warehouse for security, organization and cleanliness.
Mistake #1 — Pricing Your Property Too High
Every seller obviously wants to get the most money for his or her product. Ironically, the best way to do this is NOT to list your product at an excessively high price! A high listing price will cause some prospective buyers to lose interest before even seeing your property. Also, it may lead other buyers to expect more than what you have to offer. As a result, overpriced properties tend to take an unusually long time to sell, and they end up being sold at a lower price.
Mistake #2 — Mistaking Re-finance Appraisals for the Market Value
Unfortunately, a re-finance appraisal may have been stated at an untruthfully high price. Often, lenders estimate the value of your property to be higher than it actually is in order to encourage re-financing. The market value of your home could actually be lower. Your best bet is to ask your REALTOR® for the most recent information regarding property sales in your community. This will give you an up-to-date and factually accurate estimate of your property value.
Mistake #3 — Forgetting to “Showcase Your Home”
In spite of how frequently this mistake is addressed and how simple it is to avoid, its prevalence is still widespread. When attempting to sell your home to prospective buyers, do not forget to make your home look as pleasant as possible. Make necessary repairs. Clean. Make sure everything functions and looks presentable. A poorly kept home in need of repairs will surely lower the selling price of your property and will even turn away some buyers.
Mistake #4 — Trying to “Hard Sell” While Showing
Buying a house is always an emotional and difficult decision. As a result, you should try to allow prospective buyers to comfortably examine your property. Don’t try haggling or forcefully selling. Instead, be friendly and hospitable. A good idea would be to point out any subtle amenities and be receptive to questions.
Mistake #5 — Trying to Sell to “Looky-Loos”
A prospective buyer who shows interest because of a “for sale” sign he saw may not really be interested in your property. Often buyers who do not come through a REALTOR® are a good 6-9 months away from buying, and they are more interested in seeing what is out there than in actually making a purchase. They may still have to sell their house, or may not be able to afford a house yet. They may still even be unsure as to whether or not they want to relocate.
Your REALTOR® should be able to distinguish realistic potential buyers from mere lookers. REALTOR®s should usually find out a prospective buyer’s savings, credit rating, and purchasing power in general. If your REALTOR® fails to find out this pertinent information, you should do some investigating and questioning on your own. This will help you avoid wasting valuable time marketing towards the wrong people. If you have to do this work yourself, consider finding a new REALTOR®.
Mistake #6 — Not Knowing Your Rights & Responsibilities
It is extremely important that you are well-informed of the details in your real estate contract. Real estate contracts are legally binding documents, and they can often be complex and confusing. Not being aware of the terms in your contract could cost you thousands for repairs and inspections. Know what you are responsible for before signing the contract. Can the property be sold “as is”? How will deed restrictions and local zoning laws will affect your transaction? Not knowing the answers to these kind of questions could end up costing you a considerable amount of money.
Mistake #7 — Limiting the Marketing and Advertising of the Property
Your REALTOR® should employ a wide variety of marketing techniques. Your REALTOR® should also be committed to selling your property; he or she should be available for every phone call from a prospective buyer. Most calls are received, and open houses are scheduled, during business hours, so make sure that your REALTOR® is working on selling your home during these hours. Chances are that you have a job, too, so you may not be able to get in touch with many potential buyers.