Building Your Real Estate Portfolio: Part 1 Getting the Home Purchased!

So you have read some of my previous blogs and you feel like you want to get started in real estate.  Well, there are a couple of ways to get started.  In my experience the way most people get started has very little to do with a “free seminar” where seating is “extremely limited”.  Most of these “seminars” I would compare to the traveling snake oil salesman of old.  What they have will cure everything and solve any problem. You can make tons of money without using any of your own and its risk free!!!! Yeah, not likely!

The real way that many start to get involved and often the easiest way to gain entry into the world of real estate is to purchase your first house. If you are looking to buy a house and you also know that you want to fix and flip or get a portfolio of rental properties, you may as well start with your personal, owner occupant house.  You see banks have no problem lending you money to buy a house you are going to live in.  It is in most circumstances the easiest loan you will ever get and you have the most options, VA, FHA, FHA 203K, conventional, or any number of “first time home buyer” type products. The one you choose is the one that best suits your plan and personal situation. Even better is that you will get a lower interest rate on an owner occupant purchase than an investment purchase and most lenders will allow between 6 and 10 owner occupant loans.

VA, FHA and most “first time home buyer” loans (which almost all run through FHA underwriting) are great products but if you are handy and want a property that needs a great deal of work, then an FHA or VA loan is likely not going to get you the property you want.  Those loan programs will not allow you to purchase a house that needs a ton of work. They will however get you in with the least amount of money down and sometimes that is what you need. You need a place to live and that is the first home investment step in what can be a life long process.  The one sort of loophole to this is to buy a house that is very dated and priced accordingly.  The FHA and VA loans don’t care that the house is dated, they do care that everything is there and that the house is livable at the time of purchase. You will want to make sure that you have a VERY knowledgeable realtor if you are thinking about going this rout. If they do not know tons about the process and about houses and maintenance you could be risking your earnest money, not to mention the cost of an inspection and an appraisal!

You will have a great deal more flexibility with an FHA 203K. FHA 203K allows  you to purchase a house that needs lots of work but the work has to be done rapidly right after the purchase and the money for the repairs are rolled right into the loan and earmarked for the repairs. This process has some pluses and some minuses.  The plus is that the home can be in pretty tough shape and you can still get it bough and fixed.  One draw back is that often you will likely need to hire a contractor to do the work and this can eat up a lot of the potential profits.  The loan itself also has quite a bit of extra work involved in the process. Lastly you will need to qualify for the entire loan amount of the purchase price and repairs. This can be restrictive if you have a high income to dept ratio, or need to max out your loan amount just to get into the market.

A conventional loan will be your best bet for purchasing a home that needs plenty of work and has lots of sweat equity. Be aware that the house still can not be in terrible condition unless you are putting TONS of money down, and even then you may find road blocks.  Lenders want you to purchase a home that they can sell if you do not make your payments. A burned out hole is hard to sell!  Again you should find a real estate pro that knows the process and can make sure that your loan will go through and reduce the risk if you loosing your earnest money.

The last and highest risk way to purchase a property is with a Hard Money Loan.  These are loans that are generally not based on the credit worthiness of the borrower but on the value of the asset. They vary a great deal from institution to institution or lender to lender.  Often times these are a group of investors or a single person that want to make a large return on their money and are willing to take bigger risks than most standard investment vehicles. Often you will need to put down a large chunk of funds up front, pay multiple points up front, carry very high interest rates and they are short term (often not longer than 6 months).  If you are buying the home to live in this is probably a bad option.

More on this subject to come!


Buy vs Rent a Different Perspective.

Buy vs Rent a Different Perspective

Being in the business of real estate I often see news reel clips from the different cable news outlets extolling the virtues of home ownership or of renting.  These are diverse topics covering lots of ground but here is a quick little take on the subject.

The most blatantly obvious reason for home ownership is Net Worth!  For many years now the net worth of a renter as stated by the Federal Reserve hovers just above $5,000. In contrast the net worth of homeowners, according to the same data source, has increased to a projected $220,000 in 2016.  This is a HUGE difference.

So the biggest reason to own a home could be that you are VERY likely to increase your net worth by leaps and bounds!  What are the reasons to rent? One reason swam across my Facebook feed just this morning.  One “friend” was sad because their furnace had stopped working and they were going to have to spend money to have it replaced.  A comment from one of their “friends” was “that’s why I rent, I let the landlord take care of all of that stuff”.  Well that is certainly true. The landlord (if they are a good and upstanding person) will have to take care of that for the renter.

So the renter saves money. Well not really, at least not in my market.  Renting a house, generally costs much more then owning that same house.  This is not true for all price points and all houses but is generally the case.  I see again and again where a renter pays at least a couple hundred dollars per month more to rent than the principal, interest, taxes and insurance are likely to be for the mortgage (HOA’s and PMI can eat up some of the savings of home ownership but that is information for a blog all on its own).

So let’s do some math again…  If you save $200/month owning you would have the money for a new furnace in about 3 years, roof may take 6-8 years to recoup the cost if you had to pay for it out of your pocket, a water heater, about 1 year. So as long as the home is in OK shape when you buy it you will hopefully not come out on the loosing side of this equation.  Even if things do seem to be breaking faster than you had hoped, your mortgage payment will stay relatively the same for 30 years (only taxes and insurance are likely to change).  Rent as a rule is always headed up, up, up! So again, you will probably come out ahead even if lots of stuff breaks.

Another advantage of ownership is that under the current IRS rules you get to write of the interest you pay on your mortgages.  This can really be a substantial savings, especially early on when you are paying nearly all of the monthly payment towards interest! In many cases this can easily be $100-$200/month in “savings”.

The other big point renters use to make themselves feel good about the decision is that they can move at any point they like. They are not tied down like an owner.  Not really true. Most landlords make you sign a year lease and you are on the hook for all that money.  Even if you have a great landlord or are on a month-to-month lease, well that’s still a month.  In a normal, healthy real estate market you can list, close and move out of your house in 2-3 months. Or, you can always rent out your house and be gone in a month just like your renter friends! So yah, not as foot loose and fancy free, but pretty dang close.

So your landlord will fix your broken furnace and you will likely be BROKE compared to your home owning friends even though they are spending money to fix thing and you are not. All this, and we did not even get into the paying of principle or owning a generally appreciating asset.

List NOW! Buy NOW!

List NOW! Buy NOW!

Many may not know that right now we have the lowest inventory of real estate listing most professionals in the business have ever seen! Even at the December sales rate, which is usually relatively low, we have less than two month of inventory!  To place that into perspective, a normal balanced market is considered to have 5-6 months of inventory at whatever the most recent months sales rate. If this seems complicated, call me and I will explain it to you, because this information is not the main reason for my writing of this post.

What everyone needs to understand is the our real estate market needs listing and it needs them right now.  If you or anyone you know is thinking of selling their house, they should put it on the market as soon as possible.  Normal wisdom is to wait until summer buying season to get listed but right now is likely as good or possibly better than the summer season will be for sellers.  Since the inventory is so low, homes that are priced right sell very easily and quickly occasionally for over list price (just like they do in the summer)!

Sure you say, “but if I wait until summer time the prices will be up and I will get even more for my house!”  That is likely, and you will pay more for the house that you want to buy after you sell yours, so where is the advantage there? This is one point I debate with people from time to time.  If you are staying in the same general market, it does not matter all that much if prices are up or down. You will get about the same ratio of return no mater what.  When prices are up you make more you pay more, when prices are down, you make less you pay less, simple.

The last reason to list now is a bit different. I believe that we need as many listing as possible to create a more balanced market.  If inventory stays low and demand continues to out pace it we run the risk of creating a bubble. Many of you may have heard how crazy the Denver market has been over the past couple of years.  We are not Denver and we will likely not see that scale of growth here. And that is good. We don’t want that level of growth. Slow and steady wins the race.  We need more listing to slow down the price growth.  Over the long term this will help us sustain growth in our community and lessen the chance of economic problems in the future.

So why then do I say buy now, if it is a seller’s market?  My main rational is that many projections expect 4-5 years of steady, or better than steady growth in real estate.  So basically the sooner you get in the better! You may as well take advantage of the great gains.  You also should take advantage of the still very low interest rates! The Federal Reserve has made a liar out of me for six years straight, (they say they will raise rates and then they don’t) so I am no longer predicting that rates are going to go up, even though they really are going to have to go up some day (the Federal Reserve did raise rates 1/4% but it had little affect on mortgages so far). And when they do…  I know that sounds like the beginning of and old man about to give you advice, but seriously, when rates finally clime LOTS AND LOTS of people will be kicking themselves for not getting in at the bottom.  Just the way that some of you reading this wish you would have purchased a house when prices where at or near the bottom, so it will be with interest rates.

I could write an entire small blog  post on how interest rate affects buying power, and maybe I will but not today.

If you buy a house in the near future for $200,000, and it appreciates at an average of 6% per year for the next 4 years, a pretty easy task if things keep moving on their current trajectory, that home will have an estimated value of about $254,000.  $54,000 of new wealth in only four years for living life indoors. Let’s now assume that this 6% appreciation is not sustainable nor is the growth cycle and home values fall. The bubble bursts, oh dear lord the horror!  Historically, when the bubble bursts prices drop about 10% or less.  Obviously the Great Recession that we just lived through was greater than 10% price drop but actually it is an anomaly. The growth was so huge that the bubble was much larger than “normal”. So if you take a 10% hit on the value of your home you have a value of approximately $225,000. That is not nearly as good but you are not upside down and could certainly get out from under it if you needed to sell.

This does not take into account all the other advantages that one gets from home ownership. Which, by the way, is what my next blog post will cover.

Don’t wait! Get in the market! Get a piece of these LOW interest rates! Help increase inventory! 

OK, love you, bye bye! Or buy buy if you can!

*** Please note, this is just meant to be informative, all facts and figures are assumed to be true and accurate but there can be differences in all values stated depending on the source material used.

Investing in Real Estate or the Stock Market


Real Estate Wins!


So you want to invest some money and you are not sure if it should be in the stock market or in real estate, keep reading. For this blog I am specifically talking about investing not buying the house that you want to live in. Owner occupant purchase of real estate is a vastly different endeavor then that of an investment purchase. I am writing this with the assumption that the reader already owns a home and is looking to better their financial situation with an investment

Let us start with some basics:

If you only have a small amount of money and/or you are not very good at saving it up to be a larger amount, small incremental investments in the stock market is likely your best play. For those that are not good at saving you can still create wealth and be heading in the right financial direction. If you have some money saved up and can make a down payment on real estate, you will likely be better off purchasing a house and renting it out. As for what I consider to be a reasonable amount of money you will need… well 25% of the purchase price you want to buy in is a great place to start.

You don’t need 25% of the purchase price for the purchase but it is the best way to go.  The main reasons for saying this is that it reduces your risk of loss.  If those that purchased speculative or investment real estate in the last housing boom would have put 25% down then we almost certainly would have not been caught in the situations we kept seeing and hearing about (which is another blog post in itself).  When you put 25% down you reduce the mortgage to a level that will help, making the payment from the rents received much easier. There are many points to how this helps.

Most obviously 25% less principal to make a payment on is a big deal.  Another reason 25% down is crucial is that you will automatically save yourself the cost of private mortgage insurance (PMI).  Once you put a minimum of 20% down, reaching 80% loan to value (LTV), you will not have to pay the extra expense of mortgage insurance. This can easily be a $150 per month savings. Lastly, the vast majority of lenders will not make an investment loan with less than 25% down.

For many, an even larger hurtle to overcome is for your first investment property you will need to be able to cover the mortgage expense of both houses (the one you live in and the one you wish to purchase). There are ways around this but that is a topic for another time and another blog post. Lending regulations change all the time and many lenders, especially smaller ones may have a product that can get around this but as of the time of my writing this blog, this can still be a tripping point for many.

So, let’s get to the meat of the math that shows you why real estate beats the stock market.  Depending on what source you use you will find that the stock market has increased somewhere just under 1900% since 1968.  Even if we use this large number, real estate still wins.  Here is the math.  If you were so blessed as to have $20,000 in 1968 and you placed it in the stock market you would have approximately $380,000 today.

If you were to take that $20,000 and invest it in real estate in 1968 even if it was just bought a single property, you would have an increase of just under 1100%. This is a much smaller return, and stocks pay dividends, etc. Yep, totally true! So real estate is a big looser. Nope! The way real estate wins is that you have a much larger vehicle for appreciation.

As we have seen above with that $20,000 dollars you could have purchased a property worth $80,000 (that would have been quite the home back in 1968).  Sticking with the 1100% increase, that home would be worth $880,000.  Not too shabby!  Now of course there are lots of costs that go with home ownership and those are not factored into this simple equation. Still, we are talking about better than double the value. Oh, and this is an investment property! SOMEONE ELSE HAS BEEN PAYING THE MORTGAGE ALL THIS TIME!  Also, it has been payed off since 1998 and a big cash cow for the past 17+years!  REAL ESTATE WINS!!!

So if you are not tired of the math up to now let’s take it one step farther. If you were a savvy real estate investor and this fits better into the reality for most of us, you likely would have taken that $20,000 and purchased four houses putting $5000 down on each one.  This gets you the same total appreciation, but would have done something you hear said is important for investing in stock, diversify your risk.  Sure it is all in real estate but an extended vacancy will not hurt the budget as it would with all your eggs in one basket. The last, almost unseen, benefit to this strategy is that those $20,000 houses would be worth $220,000 today, the current median home price in the US. This makes them the most likely and easiest to rent and keep rented and the most likely and easiest to sell if financial difficulties were to happen.

The last point that needs to be made is this:  Lets assume for easy math, that those four houses had an average rent of $1000 of the 18 years since they were paid off.  That is $4000 a month, 12 months per year equaling $48,000 per year, times 18 years equals an astounding $864,000!!!!  That should easily cover the cost of repairs and probably any dividends that the stocks would have paid you

So, yes, real estate wins!

Oh, and did I mention the most astounding part of all this? Banks will line up to lend you 3/4 of the money to invest in (buy) a historically appreciating asset. No one is going to give you $80,000 to put in the stock market!

If you have any questions about this topic I would love to talk with you, feel free to contact me!

*** Please note, this is just meant to be informative, all facts and figures are assumed to be true and accurate but there can be differences in all values stated depending on the source material used.

A Pretty Good Article on Buying an Investment Property

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This is not “amazing” but it is a good place to start your brain working in the right direction, if you are considering investing in real estate. I believe everyone should have a couple rental properties!!!