Want to be a Landlord?

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Real estate has consistently been one of the highest rated investments available to individuals. TV shows certainly make rentals look easy and you may even know someone who has made a lot of money with them. Possibly, the thought has crossed your mind that if they can do it, you can too.

Before you contract for your first investment, ask yourself some questions that could save you time and energy. Not all people have the time, the inclination or even the skill to manage property. Landlords need to be good business people who can maximize revenue and minimize expenses. If investors don’t have the skills and talent to handle some of the repairs, they at least need to know reputable and reasonable service professionals.

Another important element is to be familiar with the state and local landlord tenant laws. You’ll need to know what are allowable security deposits and where the money can be held. Knowing how long you have to return it to a tenant is important and what to do if you plan to keep all or part of it for damages done. It is important to know about the eviction process and how fair housing applies.

If you decide that you may not be cut out for being a landlord, it won’t eliminate investing in rentals. It does mean that you will need to engage a property management company who is capable of dealing with all aspects of the process. The peace of mind and convenience will cost you a fee, usually a percentage of the rent collected. They can handle finding a tenant, doing the background check and writing the lease but there will be an additional fee for that service.

Even though your expenses will be higher with a property manager, with their experience, they should be able to help you lease the property for more money than you can get and will probably have service providers to do the work needed for less.

Occasionally, rental property requires out of pocket expenses for repairs and improvements which is like making another capital contribution. As equity builds in a rental property due to appreciation and principal reduction, the owner does have the option to take cash out of the investment either to pay additional expenses or to use any way the owner wants. Pulling equity out of a rental doesn’t even trigger a taxable event.

Single-family homes and up to four-unit buildings offer an investor the opportunity to get a high loan-to-value mortgage at a fixed interest rate for 30 years on appreciating assets with tax advantages and reasonable control compared to other alternative investments.

Many investors like the fact that you can borrow to purchase a rental investment where many other investments require cash. The use of borrowed funds can create an advantage called leverage. Assume you paid cash for a $100,000 home that generated $7,000 income after the rent was collected and expenses were paid. Divide the value of the home into the income and it would earn 7%.

If you decided to put an $80,000 mortgage on it at 5% interest, the interest expense would be $4,000 leaving only $3,000 income. However, at that point, you’d only have $20,000 invested in the property. Divide the cash invested into the income and the rate of return would increase to 15%.

This is a simple example of leverage showing that borrowed funds can increase an investor’s yield on a property.

Rental property can be an excellent investment when it is treated like the business that it is. Knowledge of the investment will reduce the risk and enhance the opportunity to make a profit. Some investors consider their rental income as “mailbox money” because each month, they go to their mailbox and they have money being sent to them by their tenants. The benefits of rental property can easily outweigh risk involved.

Contact me for more information on rental properties and the option to be the landlord or to delegate it to a property manager.

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Money You Saved for a Down Payment

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Occasionally, buyers who can qualify to purchase a home decide to “take a break” and wait to purchase a home. When the focus of buying a home is relaxed, other uses for the money that was going to be used for the home are considered.

Maybe they think how much fun it would be to have a Sea Doo or a motorcycle or a new car. It is amazing how many people would like to buy a home but either don’t have the down payment, the income or the good credit to make it possible.

Instead of spending the money, consider investing the money for two years until the time is right to buy a home. Let’s look at putting the money in a certificate of deposit that earns 2% or in the stock market that could average a 5% return.

Assume you were purchasing a $295,000 home on a FHA loan with 3.5% down payment. The $10,325 would grow to $10,742 in the CD which isn’t a big increase but at least it is safe and secure, and it will be available when you’re ready.

If the same amount were invested in a safe stock or mutual fund that earned 5%, it would grow to $11,383 in the same two-year period. It earns more but there is more risk involved.

Your Best Investment
CD Stock Market Home
Cash to Invest $10,325 $10,325 $10,325
Wealth Position $10,742 $11,383 $38,871
Profit Taxed as Ordinary Income Long-term capital gains §121 exclusion applies

Alternatively, if you invest the same amount in purchasing a home that appreciates at 3% a year, the equity would be $38,871 two years from now. The dramatic increase is due to leverage, being able to control a large asset with a small amount of cash. The appreciation is based on the purchase price not the down payment.

Another factor is that there is principal reduction with each payment that is made.

Make your own projections with Your Best Investment.

Downsizing is an Alternative

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It is estimated that over 15% of the population in the U.S. are over 65 years of age. With one of the most common fears of seniors being their money will run out early, it is understandable that downsizing may be strategy to meet their goals.

Once the kids are grown, have careers, relationships and get a place of their own, parents find they may not need their “big” home like they did before. In other situations, their lifestyle might have changed, and the house just doesn’t “fit” anymore.

The benefits of a smaller home can include the following:

  • Easier to maintain
  • Lower utilities
  • Lower property taxes
  • Lower insurance
  • More convenient location
  • Single level
  • Possibly more energy efficient
  • Possibly lower maintenance

Like any other big change in life, it is recommended that a person should take their time to consider the possible alternatives and outcomes. Are they going to stay in the same area? What type of property would suit their needs for the future?

The tax-free exclusion allows a homeowner to take up to $250,000 of gain for single taxpayers and up to $500,000 for married taxpayers. Part or all of this could be used to generate income for retirement. Other uses for the equity could include paying off other debt, taking the trip of a lifetime or making a special gift.

There will be expenses involved in selling a home as well as the purchase of a new home. These will lower the amount of net proceeds you’ll have to invest in the new home.

Homeowners should consult their tax professionals to see how this applies to their situation. Please contact me at (303) 775-2553 or jgreen if you have any questions about what your home is worth or how long it might take to sell it. Other things that could be of value are our Homeowners Tax Guide or Sellers Guide.

Steps in Home Buying Process

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The process of buying a home can be different based on the price range and whether a mortgage is needed. While some things are different, others are similar regardless of price, financing or local customs.

Each year, the National Association of REALTORS® surveys buyers and sellers who have purchased or sold in the previous twelve months in order to identify the process and steps taken. It provides a lot of information for the people who will be going through the process now and in the near future.

44% of all buyers looked online for properties for sale. This might be considered a logical first step to determine the prices of homes in certain areas and what features they offered.

17% of all buyers stated that their next step was to contact a real estate agent. In another REALTOR study, it is reported that 87% of all buyers purchased their home through a real estate agent or broker. Buyers identify a wide range of services the agents offer that is considered valuable in the purchase of a home.

The next step identified by most buyers is to look online for information about the home buying process. In many cases, agents share this information in their first substantial meeting but since it is identified as the third highest steps taken by buyers, some people may not be getting adequate information from their agents or they are verifying the process as explained to them.

The fourth step identified by buyers is to contact a bank or mortgage lender. The position this step takes place is interesting because many real estate professionals suggest that it be one of the first things buyers should do. The reason is to find out how much mortgage they can qualify for, so they are looking for homes in the right price range. This can save a lot of time and frustration.

The three next highest steps included driving by homes and neighborhoods, talking with a friend or relative about the home buying process and visiting open houses.

The buyers in this study mentioned that they depended on several sources for information during the home search. The most frequently used were online website, their real estate agent, mobile search device, open houses and yard signs.

The three most difficult steps listed were finding the right property, the paperwork and understanding the process and steps.

You can download a Buyers Guide that has a lot of interesting information. We have an array of Financial Apps that can provide insight on things like Rent vs. Own, Mortgage Payment and Your Best Investment. And of course, I’d be happy to schedule an appointment with you to go over all these things and talk to you about finding your next home. Call me at (303) 775-2553.

Invest in Equity Build-up

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Equity build-up could be one of the biggest advantages to buying a home. There are two distinct dynamics that take place to make this happen: each house payment applies an amount to reduce the mortgage owed and appreciation causes the value of the home to go up.

It is easy to make a projection based on the type of mortgage you get and your estimation of appreciation over the time you expect to own the home. Even conservative estimates can produce impressive results.

Let’s look at an example of a home with a $270,000 mortgage at 4.5% for 30 years and a total payment of $2,047.55 payment including principal, interest, taxes and insurance. The average monthly principal reduction for the first year is $362.98. If you assume a 3% appreciation on the $300,000 home, the average monthly appreciation is $750 a month.

The total payment of $2,047.55 less $1,112.98 for principal reduction and appreciation makes the net monthly cost of housing, excluding tax benefits, $934.57. If this hypothetical person was paying $2,500 in rent, it would cost them $1,565.43 more to rent than to own. In the first year, it would cost them over $18,000 more to rent.

Together, the items in this example contribute over $1,100 to the equity in the home . This is one of the reasons a home is considered forced savings. By making your house payments and enjoying increases in value, the equity grows and the net cost of housing decreases by the same amount.

In this same example, the $30,000 down payment grows to $133,991 in equity in seven years. While this is equity build-up, the extraordinary growth is attributed to leverage. Leverage is an investment principle involving the use of borrowed funds to control an asset.

To see what your net cost of housing and the effect of leverage will have on a home in your price range, see the Rent vs. Own. If you have questions or need assistance, contact me at (303) 775-2553.

America Still Considers Real Estate the Best

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35% of respondents, in a recent annual Gallup poll that dates back to 2002, identified real estate as the best long-term investment option compared to 27% who identified stocks.

The top choices included real estate, stocks, savings accounts and gold. Even with the remarkable prices of the different U.S. stock indices recorded in 2019 through April and May, homes have the highest confidence in the minds of the respondents.

This seems to be based on the stability of the housing market and the expectation that home prices will continue to rise. Homeowners build equity from both appreciation as well as reducing principal with each payment made. These same factors exist for investors of rental homes in predominantly owner-occupied neighborhoods.

Real estate has another dynamic working to produce favorable investment results due to leverage. Leverage occurs when borrowed funds are used to control an asset. When the borrowed funds are at a lower rate than the overall investment results, positive leverage occurs which can increase the yield from an all cash investment.

Gold and savings accounts must be funded with cash. The maximum borrowed funds allowed for stocks is 50% and generally, at a rate higher than typical mortgage rates.

Homes are a particularly attractive investment because you can enjoy them personally by living in them. The interest and property taxes are deductible and gains on the profit are excluded up $250,000 for single taxpayers and $500,000 for married taxpayers filing jointly.

Many people consider an investment in a home for a rental property an IDEAL investment: Income, Depreciation, Equity Build-up & Leverage.

If you have questions or are curious about the process, contact me at jgreen or (303) 775-2553.

Determining Property Type

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The Internal Revenue Service considers four different types of real estate. Specific types of properties have benefits based on their classification. The determination does not depend on the property itself as much as it depends on how the property is used and what the owner’s intentions are.

Principal Residence … a principal residence is the place a person lives or expects to return if they are temporarily away from it. It could be a single family, detached home or condominium or a duplex, tri-plex or four-unit. The owner(s) can deduct the qualified mortgage interest and property taxes on the schedule A of their tax return. There is a capital gains exclusion on profit of up to $250,000 for a single taxpayer and up to $500,000 for a married taxpayer.

Income Property – is improved property that is rented or leased to tenants as opposed to using it personally. It can include houses and condos, apartment buildings, office complexes, shopping centers, warehouses and other commercial buildings. Depreciation is allowed on the improvements. For property held more than one year, the profits are taxed at long-term capital gains rates. This type of property is eligible for a tax deferred exchange.

Investment Property … can be raw land or improved property that is not rented or leased. This property is not subject to depreciation. If the property is held for more than one year, the profits are taxed at long-term capital gains rates. It is also eligible for a tax deferred exchange.

Dealer Property … this type of property is primarily considered inventory because the intention is to sell it without intentionally holding it for more than a year. It could be new construction such as a home builder. It could be an investor who buys a property and expects to sell it for more. There is not a requirement to make improvements. The profits on dealer property are taxed as ordinary, “sweat of the brow” income. Dealer properties cannot be exchanged.

A second home is like a principal residence in that you can deduct the interest and property taxes on your Schedule A, up to the limits. A second home, as well as a principal residence, can be rented out up to 14-days a year without threatening the status of the property. Seconds homes are not eligible for exchange because personal use properties are not allowed. A second home is not a principal residence and profits are taxed like an investment property. If you own it for more than a year, it is taxed at long-term capital gains rates.

Vacation homes are rented for more than 14 days a year and are like income property but with some additional rules that apply. If your personal use is 14 days or less or 10% of the time it is rented, your expenses can be deducted in excess of income. If you use it for more than 14 days or more than 10% of the number of days it is rented, it is considered personal use and your expenses are limited to the amount of income collected with no losses being deductible.

Taxpayers can strategically change the property type based on their intentions. A principal residence can be converted to income property. Dealer property could become a principal residence. A rental property could become a principal residence.

Professional tax advice is always recommended to be able to understand the information and how it applies to your specific situation.

Get Leverage Working for You

Leverage is an investment term that describes the use of borrowed funds to control an asset; sometimes referred to as using other people’s money. Borrowed funds can affect the investment in your home positively.

For instance, if you had a $100,000 rental property, collected the rents and paid the expenses and had $10,000 left, you would earn a 10% return (divide the $10,000 by the $100,000.) With no loan on the property, there is no leverage.

If you decided to get an 80% mortgage at 8%, you would owe an additional $6,400 in expenses leaving you only $3,600 net. However, your return would grow to 18% because your investment is now $20,000 in cash (divide the $3,600 by $20,000.)

Leverage, the use of borrowed funds, causes the return to increase in this example. While, most people associate leverage with rental properties, it also applies to a home. The larger the mortgage, the more leverage you have. A FHA mortgage with a 3.5% down payment has more leverage than an 80% loan.

Assume we’re looking at a $295,000 purchase price with 3% closing costs and a 4.5% mortgage for 30 years with a five-year holding period. The following table shows the return based on different down payments and appreciation rates. The initial investment is the down payment plus closing costs. The equity build-up at end of year five is the result of normal principal reduction and appreciation.

Down Payment 1% Appreciation 2% Appreciation 3% Appreciation
3.5% 21% 28% 34%
10% 12% 17% 21%
20% 7% 10% 13%

Another way to look at the 3.5% down payment example with 3% appreciation would be to say that a $10,325 down payment plus $8,850 in closing costs could grow into $82,482 of equity in a five-year period producing a 34% rate of return on the initial investment.

Estimate what your initial investment could grow to using this jgreen

Delay Will Usually Cost More

Two things can happen when the mortgage rates go up before you’ve found a home or locked-in your mortgage. You’ll either pay the current mortgage rate which means a higher payment, or you’ll have to increase your down payment to keep the monthly payment at the same level.

If the rate were to go up by ½%, the payment on a $275,000 mortgage would increase by $82.87 per month for the entire 30-year term. That would increase the cost of the home by $29,835.

Some people are purchasing the maximum home that they can qualify for. In that case, they cannot qualify for a higher payment and the only way to buy the same price home is to put more money down which may not be a possibility. The other alternative is to buy a lower price home which may not be in the same area or size which will involve some compromises.

The rate is not the only dynamic that affects buyers waiting to purchase. The home they want could sell to someone else. Prices could increase as new homes come on the market. The question that many buyers ask themselves when they become a victim of the consequences of delay is “What could we have spent the money on if we didn’t have to make a higher payment?”

Mortgage rates are very attractive currently and within ½% of the all time low of 3.35% in December 2012. The highest rate was 18.45% in October 1981. Whether you’re purchasing or refinancing, it may not be this low again.

To see how it will affect the payment, plug your numbers into this Cost of Waiting to Buy calculator or call me at (303) 775-2553 and I’ll help you with it.

Measuring Square Footage

Square footage is commonly used to determine if a home will fit a buyer’s needs. The price per square foot can be used to compare the costs of different homes and even, determine the value of a property.

The challenge is what is the source of the square footage measurement and how was it done.

County records use square footage to determine assessed value for property tax purposes. They are assumed to be reliable but there can be inaccuracies in their tax rolls. Another source of square footage could be from the house plans but the problem there is that the builder may have made modifications, or a subsequent owner could have made additions.

Appraisers are required to measure the home to determine square footage and they generally, adhere to a standard method which leads to uniformity in the industry. The ANSI, American National Standards Institute, guidelines are considered the standard but there are no laws governing the process.

Because basements are below grade level, regardless of whether they are finished, they are typically not counted toward gross living area. Attics because they are above grade level can be included in gross living area if they are finished to the same standard as the rest of the home and they meet the minimum height requirement of seven feet.

Unfinished areas are usually not considered in the square footage because it is not livable.

For detached properties, it is common to measure the perimeter of the house but to only include the living areas, not porches, patios or garages. Gross living area includes stairways, hallways, closets with minimum height and bathrooms. Covered, enclosed porches would only be considered if they use the same heating system as the house.

By contrast, condominiums, generally measure the inside area of the unit. Some appraisers may add six inches to account for the wall thickness. If you were to compare the total of the interior room measurements of a detached home, it would be far less than the stated square footage using the normal method.

If the county records are significantly different from the appraisal or the plans, it will be necessary to determine which one is more accurate. This may require getting the home measured by an appraiser which should be less than paying for a complete appraisal.