So… You may ask yourself, why should you buy or invest in real estate in the First Place? Because it’s the IDEAL investment! Let’s take a moment to address the reasons why people should have investment real estate in the first place. The easiest answer is a well-known acronym that addresses the key benefits for all investment real estate. Put simply, Investment Real Estate is an IDEAL investment. The IDEAL stands for:
• I – Income
• D – Depreciation
• E – Expenses
• A – Appreciation
• L – Leverage
Real estate is the IDEAL investment compared to all others. I’ll explain each benefit in depth.
The “I” in IDEAL stands for Income. (a.k.a. positive cash flow) Does it even generate income? Your investment property should be generating income from rents received each month. Of course, there will be months where you may experience a vacancy, but for the most part your investment will be producing an income. Be careful because many times beginning investors exaggerate their assumptions and don’t take into account all potential costs. The investor should know going into the purchase that the property will COST money each month (otherwise known as negative cash flow). This scenario, although not ideal, may be OK, only in specific instances that we will discuss later. It boils down to the risk tolerance and ability for the owner to fund and pay for a negative producing asset. In the boom years of real estate, prices were sky high and the rents didn’t increase proportionately with many residential real estate investment properties. Many naïve investors purchased properties with the assumption that the appreciation in prices would more than compensate for the fact that the high balance mortgage would be a significant negative impact on the funds each month. Be aware of this and do your best to forecast a positive cash flow scenario, so that you can actually realize the INCOME part of the IDEAL equation.
Often times, it may require a higher down payment (therefore lesser amount being mortgaged) so that your cash flow is acceptable each month. Ideally, you eventually pay off the mortgage so there is no question that cash flow will be coming in each month, and substantially so. This ought to be a vital component to one’s retirement plan. Do this a few times and you won’t have to worry about money later on down the road, which is the main goal as well as the reward for taking the risk in purchasing investment property in the first place.
The “D” in IDEAL Stands for Depreciation. With investment real estate, you are able to utilize its depreciation for your own tax benefit. What is depreciation anyway? It’s a non-cost accounting method to take into account the overall financial burden incurred through real estate investment. Look at this another way, when you buy a brand new car, the minute you drive off the lot, that car has depreciated in value. When it comes to your investment real estate property, the IRS allows you to deduct this amount yearly against your taxes. Please note: I am not a tax professional, so this is not meant to be a lesson in taxation policy or to be construed as tax advice.
With that said, the depreciation of a real estate investment property is determined by the overall value of the structure of the property and the length of time (recovery period based on the property type-either residential or commercial). If you have ever gotten a property tax bill, they usually break your property’s assessed value into two categories: one for the value of the land, and the other for the value of the structure. Both of these values added up equals your total “basis” for property taxation. When it comes to depreciation, you can deduct against your taxes on the original base value of the structure only; the IRS doesn’t allow you to depreciate land value (because land is typically only APPRECIATING). Just like your new car driving off the lot, it’s the structure on the property that is getting less and less valuable every year as its effective age gets older and older. And you can use this to your tax advantage.
The best example of the benefit regarding this concept is through depreciation, you can actually turn a property that creates a positive cash flow into one that shows a loss (on paper) when dealing with taxes and the IRS. And by doing so, that (paper) loss is deductible against your income for tax purposes. Therefore, it’s a great benefit for people that are specifically looking for a “tax-shelter” of sorts for their real estate investments.
For example, and without getting too technical, assume that you are able to depreciate $15,000 a year from a $500,000 residential investment property that you own. Let’s say that you are cash-flowing $1,000 a month (meaning that after all expenses, you are net-positive $1000 each month), so you have $12,000 total annual income for the year from this property’s rental income. Although you took in $12,000, you can show through your accountancy with the depreciation of the investment real estate that you actually lost $3,000 on paper, which is used against any income taxes that you may owe. From the standpoint of IRS, this property realized a loss of $3,000 after the “expense” of the $15,000 depreciation amount was taken into account. Not only are there no taxes due on that rental income, you can utilize the paper loss of $3,000 against your other regular taxable income from your day-job. Investment property at higher price points will have proportionally higher tax-shelter qualities. Investors use this to their benefit in being able to deduct as much against their taxable amount owed each year through the benefit of depreciation with their underlying real estate investment.
Although this is a vastly important benefit to owning investment real estate, the subject is not well understood. Because depreciation is a somewhat complicated tax subject, the above explanation was meant to be cursory in nature. When it comes to issues involving taxes and depreciation, make sure you have a tax professional that can advise you appropriately so you know where you stand.
The “E” in IDEAL is for Expenses – Generally, all expenses incurred relating to the property are deductible when it comes to your investment property. The cost for utilities, the cost for insurance, the mortgage, and the interest and property taxes you pay. If you use a property manager or if you’re repairing or improving the property itself, all of this is deductible. Real estate investment comes with a lot of expenses, duties, and responsibilities to ensure the investment property itself performs to its highest capability. Because of this, contemporary tax law generally allows that all of these related expenses are deductible to the benefit of the investment real estate landowner. If you were to ever take a loss, or purposefully took a loss on a business investment or investment property, that loss (expense) can carry over for multiple years against your income taxes. For some people, this is an aggressive and technical strategy. Yet it’s another potential benefit of investment real estate.
The “A” in IDEAL is for Appreciation – Appreciation means the growth of value of the underlying investment. It’s one of the main reasons that we invest in the first place, and it’s a powerful way to grow your net worth. Many homes in the city of San Francisco are several million dollars in today’s market, but back in the 1960s, the same property was worth about the cost of the car you are currently driving (probably even less!). Throughout the years, the area became more popular and the demand that ensued caused the real estate prices in the city to grow exponentially compared to where they were a few decades ago. People that were lucky enough to recognize this, or who were just in the right place at the right time and continued to live in their home have realized an investment return in the 1000’s of percent. Now that’s what appreciation is all about. What other investment can make you this kind of return without drastically increased risk? The best part about investment real estate is that someone is paying you to live in your property, paying off your mortgage, and creating an income (positive cash flow) to you each month along the way throughout your course of ownership.
The “L” in IDEAL stands for Leverage – A lot of people refer to this as “OPM” (other people’s money). This is when you are using a small amount of your money to control a much more expensive asset. You are essentially leveraging your down payment and gaining control of an asset that you would normally not be able to purchase without the loan itself. Leverage is much more acceptable in the real estate world and inherently less risky than leverage in the stock world (where this is done through means of options or buying “on Margin”). Leverage is common in real estate. Otherwise, people would only buy property when they had 100% of the cash to do so. Over a third of all purchase transactions are all-cash transactions as our recovery continues. Still, about 2/3 of all purchases are done with some level of financing, so the majority of buyers in the market enjoy the power that leverage can offer when it comes to investment real estate.
For example, if a real estate investor was to buy a house that costs $100,000 with 10% down payment, they are leveraging the remaining 90% through the use of the associated mortgage. Let’s say the local market improves by 20% over the next year, and therefore the actual property is now worth $120,000. When it comes to leverage, from the standpoint of this property, its value increased by 20%. But compared to the investor’s actual down payment (the “skin in the game”) of $10,000- this increase in property value of 20% really means the investor doubled their return on the investment actually made-also known as the “cash on cash” return. In this case, that is 200%-because the $10,000 is now responsible and entitled to a $20,000 increase in overall value and the overall potential profit.
Although leverage is considered a benefit, like everything else, there can always be too much of a good thing. In 2007, when the real estate market took a turn for the worst, many investors were over-leveraged and fared the worst. They could not weather the storm of a correcting economy. Exercising caution with every investment made will help to ensure that you can purchase, retain, pay-off debt, and grow your wealth from the investment decisions made as opposed to being at the mercy and whim of the overall market fluctuations. Surely there will be future booms and busts as the past would dictate as we continue to move forward. More planning and preparing while building net worth will help prevent getting bruised and battered by the side effects of whatever market we find ourselves in.
Many people think that investment real estate is only about cash flow and appreciation, but it’s so much more than that. As mentioned above, you can realize several benefits through each real estate investment property you purchase. The challenge is to maximize the benefits through every investment.
Furthermore, the IDEAL acronym is not just a reminder of the benefits of investment real estate; it’s also here to serve as a guide for every investment property you will consider purchasing in the future. Any property you purchase should conform to all of the letters that represent the IDEAL acronym. The underlying property should have a good reason for not fitting all the guidelines. And in almost every case, if there is an investment you are considering that doesn’t hit all the guidelines, by most accounts you should probably PASS on it!
Take for example a story of my own, regarding a property that I purchased early on in my real estate career. To this day, it’s the biggest investment mistake that I’ve made, and it’s precisely because I didn’t follow the IDEAL guidelines that you are reading and learning about now. I was naïve and my experience was not yet fully developed. The property I purchased was a vacant lot in a gated community development. The property already had an HOA (a monthly maintenance fee) because of the nice amenity facilities that were built for it, and in anticipation of would-be-built homes. There were high expectations for the future appreciation potential-but then the market turned for the worse as we headed into the great recession that lasted from 2007-2012. Can you see what parts of the IDEAL guidelines I missed on completely?
Let’s start with “I”. The vacant lot made no income! Sometimes this can be acceptable, if the deal is something that cannot be missed. But for the most part this deal was nothing special. In all honesty, I’ve considered selling the trees that are currently on the vacant lot to the local wood mill for some actual income, or putting up a camping spot ad on the local Craigslist; but unfortunately the lumber isn’t worth enough and there are better spots to camp! My expectations and desire for price appreciation blocked the rational and logical questions that needed to be asked. So, when it came to the income aspect of the IDEAL guidelines for a real estate investment, I paid no attention to it. And I paid the price for my hubris. Furthermore, this investment failed to realize the benefit of depreciation as you cannot depreciate land! So, we are zero for two so far, with the IDEAL guideline to real estate investing. All I can do is hope the land appreciates to a point where it can be sold one day. Let’s call it an expensive learning lesson. You too will have these “learning lessons”; just try to have as few of them as possible and you will be better off.
When it comes to making the most of your real estate investments, ALWAYS keep the IDEAL guideline in mind to make certain you are making a good decision and a solid investment.
When considering making an investment in real estate, many new investors struggle with what to offer. Part of the challenge for them is deciding what their exit strategy will be. In other words, will they be purchasing the property and then immediately reselling it? Will they sell the contract before they even close? Will they be buying it to rent and hold long term?
Not knowing what you ultimately want to do with the property makes it extremely difficult to structure an offer to purchase.
This is actually a challenge we had when modeling the how to make purchases of real estate in our Learn To Be Rich investment game. Here’s how I handled it.
To simplify the process, we divided purchasing real estate into two major categories: buying for equity or buying for income.
Buying for equity is purchasing the property at a discount from the current fair market value. This is usually when you are buying a house to fix up and resell.
Buying for income is purchasing the property based on the payments and expenses you will incur when you hold the property as a rental. It also includes assessing the income that the property will produce. This analysis is typically used when you will be holding the property as a long-term investment.
By simplifying the process, investors can now decide whether they are buying for income or equity. It makes it much easier to recognize a good deal with this clear-cut criteria.
For example, if an investor is buying based on equity and he wants to make $10,000 on the deal, he can easily calculate what he can afford to pay for the house in order to net that amount in profit.
On the other hand, if an investor is buying based on income and he wants to make $100 per month, it is just as easy to calculate what his payments and expenses will be. By getting an accurate estimate of what the rental income will be, you can then reverse calculate the price you can afford to pay by using current interest rates in order to have the desired monthly payment amount that makes the property cash flow.
Investing in real estate scares some people. Understanding just what will happen when you invest, and even how to do it, can leave most people bewildered. This article’s been assembled to supply you with the some easy, but effective tips on entering the exciting field of real estate investing.
Remember that real estate investing is all about the numbers. When you’re buying a home to live in, you may get emotional about the place, but there’s no room for that in investing. You need to keep your eye on the data and make your decisions with your head, not your heart.
Do not be afraid to spend money on marketing. It is easy to just focus on the numbers and get fixated on how much marketing is costing you. However, it is important to think of the marketing as an investment in and of itself. If done the right way, it will only benefit you in the end.
Keep an accountant on speed dial. You can be aware of tax laws and current taxation; however, there are many variables to keep in mind. A good accountant, that understands and keeps abreast of tax laws, can be an invaluable asset. Your success with investing can be made or broken by your approach to taxes.
When negotiating, you should limit the amount of talking you do. You will be surprised at how often someone will do all the work for you just by letting them speak. Also, because you are listening, you will catch the right moment to strike for the price you seek.
As you look for investment properties, seek those that are likely to grow in value. Purchasing anything near water or close to other businesses will be beneficial to you later on. Think about the big picture and the chances its value will increase.
Don’t let your emotions cloud your judgement. Choosing a property to invest in should be a business decision, not an emotional one. It can be easy to get attached to a house or really fall in love with a location. Try to always look at things objectively. Shop around for the best deal without getting attached to one of the first few places you look at.
Find a contractor to work with that you can get along with. There’s no reason to get someone to help you with fixing up the real estate you invest in if you don’t like how they operate. You can save yourself a lot of frustration if you just find someone that you know will work well with you.
Stay away from deals that are too good to be true, especially with investors that you cannot trust or do not have a good reputation. It is important to stick with those who have a good reputation because getting ripped off in this business can cost you a lot of money.
Build your real estate investment buyers list with online ads. For example, you could use social media, online ad sites such as CraigsList and/or the local newspaper to draw attention to the properties you have on offer. Be sure to retain contact information for every person who shows and interest so you will have a well-rounded contact list as you accrue new properties.
Know the value of your time. You may enjoy renovating properties, but is the time you’re spending on it time well spent? Consider if you could better spend your time by searching for the next opportunity. If you are able to outsource certain jobs, then you should do so. It’s worth freeing up your time for the more important aspects of your business.
Don’t buy property in a bad neighbourhood. Pay close attention to where a property you are interested in is located. Make sure you are very thorough when looking at the area. Homes in bad neighbourhoods are often low-priced. The property could be at risk for being vandalized and may be hard to sell.
If you are thinking about purchasing rental properties, consider hiring a property manager who can help you screen qualified tenants. Because rental payments are likely to be the source of your mortgage payment, your tenants need to be reliable. Otherwise, you may end up losing money.
Before you buy investment property in a neighbourhood, find out if the city has anything planned for the areas surrounding this neighbourhood. For example, you would not want to buy in an area if the city proposed to turn an area into a landfill. If there are positive improvements on the horizon, this may be a good investment.
Don’t let a real estate investment deplete your emergency reserve or cash fund. When you invest in real estate, you’ll often not be able to access the money for a while. Don’t let this situation destroy your ability to live from one day to the next.
Know what you should be looking for in a property based on current trends in the market. For example, if you’re going to rent out the properties you buy, then it’s best to have units that are for single people, which is a current trend. Another example is to ensure any home you buy has three or more bedrooms because it will be easier for you to sell or rent to families.
As you see, there is a lot of information to learn regarding real estate investments. This article has provided you with the proper foundation concerning real estate investing. So, remember what you have learned, keep learning and get into real estate investing today.
Most real estate investments will fall into five categories – single-family residential investment properties, multi-family residential investments, commercial properties, undeveloped land or lots, and real estate investment trusts. To learn about each type of investment property, keep reading.
Single Family Residential Investment Properties
Whether you’re purchasing a traditional single-family home, condo, town house or cooperative, these all fall under the header of single-family residential properties.
Typically, the traditional single-family home offers the easiest purchasing and selling process along with a fairly reliable market and rate of return. Buying a condo means you not only get the unit, but also a share of the common areas. However, you’ll also be paying for condo association fees each month to cover the maintenance costs associated with the building.
Town homes are simply attached homes – that is, more than one attached to others. Their only stipulation is that they may have to meet requirements about exterior paint colors, gardens and possibly parking. Finally, co-operatives offer a share in the entire building, which includes the space in which you live. Generally, you need to obtain permission from the co-op association if you want to rent or renovate your unit.
Multi-Family Residential Investments
From a simple duplex to a four-unit apartment building, these are all multi-family residential investments typically purchased to provide the investor with ongoing rental income while the property appreciates in value.
The advantage is that these properties provide cash flow which improves with time since the mortgage payments will remain fixed while rents eventually increase. In addition, buyers of multi-family properties with existing tenants can use a percentage of the rental income toward their monthly income statement on their mortgage application.
Commercial property includes large apartment buildings (more than five units), industrial space, retail space and office space. Typically, investment in these properties can be complicated and dragged down with bureaucracy and taxes.
If you’re considering jumping into commercial properties, hire a good accountant and a very experienced commercial real estate lawyer.
This involves simply buying a plot of land that doesn’t have a building on it. The advantage is it often costs less and you don’t have to deal with tenants or property maintenance. The trick is finding land in an area where property value is steadily appreciating. So, look for an area where a community is expanding, and then purchase land there.
Real Estate Investment Trusts
Real Estate Investment Trusts (REIT) are private, for-profit companies that let small investors invest in large, commercial, income-producing properties.
Real estate investing strategies have undergone major changes in the past four years. Before the banking crisis and economic recession, many investors were generating massive profits through rehabbing distressed properties and engaging in house flipping. Today, investors are using distressed properties to generate rental income or to offer creative financing options.
The first step to achieving real estate investment success is to become educated about the market. Investors should become familiar with the various types of investment properties such as residential, commercial, and vacant land, as well as investing in real estate notes and land contracts.
Residential real estate can be used as rental properties or placed for sale. Many investors are offering creative finance strategies to attract buyers who cannot qualify for bank financing. Popular financing options include lease purchase option agreements and seller carry back mortgages.
Commercial real estate includes a wide mix of properties such as condominium and apartment complexes, retail shops, warehouses, and office buildings. Investors often partner with other investors or investment groups when purchasing commercial property in order to cover the costs and management duties required to maintain investment properties.
Commercial property has the potential to generate substantial profits as long as investors evaluate market conditions. Investors may be entitled to tax incentives when commercial investments bring employment opportunities to the area or when properties are upgraded using energy-efficient technology such as solar panels or other forms of green energy.
Investors often seek out bank owned foreclosure properties because this type of realty is usually priced well below market value. Bank owned realty encompasses all types of properties and can range from mobile homes to swanky high-rise apartments and industrial parks to golf courses.
Locating residential and commercial foreclosures is relatively simple. Using the services of a realtor can expedite the process. Agents can access the multiple listings (MLS) database to quickly locate all types of properties for sale.
Once banks repossess properties they are first placed for sale through public or government auctions. The property is given back to the bank if it goes unsold at auction. Banks then sell foreclosure properties through their loss mitigation division or local realtors.
Prices of bank owned properties are generally higher than properties sold through auction. However, banks remove liens and judgments in order to sell the real estate with a clean title. Buyers are able to take quick possession and can move forward with preparing the property for sale or rent.
Many investors are buying residential properties through Fannie Mae’s Homepath Mortgage program. In addition to selling homes at deeply discounted prices, Homepath Mortgage offers low down payment requirements and special financing options to both individual buyers and real estate investors.
Many Fannie Mae properties qualify for grant money offered through HUDs Neighborhood Stabilization Program. NSP grants are offered to improve properties located in areas with high rate of foreclosure. Qualified investors can obtain up to five NSP grants.
Investors who invest in commercial real estate must become educated about federal, state, and county property laws. Commercial buildings must comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act and be zoned for commercial use.
Although the real estate market continues to head in a downward spiral, there are still plenty of solid investment opportunities. Investors must stay abreast of market conditions and be capable of changing strategies when needed. Otherwise, they will quickly become another real estate statistic.