The profit potential in single family homes for investment has been a consistently good long-term investment. They offer investors the opportunity of high loan-to-value mortgages at fixed interest rates for 30 years on appreciating assets, tax advantages and reasonable control that other investments don’t offer.
Warren Buffett has said that if he had a way of buying a couple hundred thousand single-family homes, he would load up on them. Blackstone group L.P. (BX) has now purchased over 30,000 homes and American Homes 4 Rent (AMH) has more than 19,000 for rental purposes.
Individual investors actually have an advantage over the institutional investor but if they are not familiar with rental real estate, some basic rules could be very helpful.
Invest now to get more in the future. Whether it is time, effort or money, the prudent investor is willing to forego immediate gratification for something more at a later date.
Real estate is an IDEAL investment. IDEAL is an acronym that stands for income, depreciation, equity build-up, appreciation and leverage.
Invest in single family homes in predominantly owner-occupied neighborhoods at or below average price range. This strategy should involve homes that will increase in value, rent well and appeal to an owner-occupant in the future who will pay a higher price than an investor.
Location, location, location. The same homes in different areas will not behave the same. You can improve the condition, modify the terms or adjust the price but the location can’t be changed.
Understand your strategy – buy and sell, buy and hold or buy, rent and hold. These three distinct strategies involve big differences in acquisition, management and taxation.
Know where your profit is coming from before you invest. The four contributors to profit are cash flow, appreciation, amortization and tax savings. They don’t contribute equally or the same in all investments.
Profit starts with purchase. Buying the property below market value builds profit into the investment initially.
Risk is directly proportionate to the reward involved. An investment that has a high degree of upside also will have considerable downside possible.
Avoid functional obsolescence unless you have a plan before you buy. The lack of usefulness or desirability of a home that exists when you buy it will still be there when you sell it. Unless it can be cured, it will affect future profit.
Good property + good tenant + good management = great investment. These are three solid components for a successful investment.
Problems left unresolved have a tendency to get worse. It is generally cheaper in time or money to fix a problem earlier rather than later.
If you’d like more information about the opportunities in our market, contact me.
Retirement Without a Mortgage
Planning for retirement is obviously important and many times, an activity plagued by procrastination. Some people plan to have their home paid for by that magical date so they won’t have payments after they retire. It makes sense to eliminate a large recurring expense before they quit working.
One strategy would be to be make regular principal contributions in addition to the payments so that it will eliminate the debt by the target retirement date.
Let’s say that a homeowner refinanced their $200,000 mortgage at 4% last year with the first payment due on May 1, 2012. Under normal amortization, the home would be paid for at the end of the term; 30 years in this example.
By making additional principal contributions with each payment, it would accelerate the payoff on the home. An extra $250.00 a month would pay off the mortgage in 20 years. $524.55 extra with each payment would pay off the loan in 15 years; and $796.23 would pay off the loan in 12 years.
Having a home paid for at retirement has the obvious benefit of no house payment. It is also a substantial asset that could be borrowed against or sold if unanticipated events should occur.
Another strategy might involve purchasing a smaller home now to use as a rental that you intend to live in when you retire; see Retirement Home Now.
Not many buyers have assumed a mortgage in the past 25 years. Most people think it was because FHA and VA in the late 80’s began to require that buyers qualify for the assumptions. Not having to qualify for a mortgage would certainly benefit certain buyers.
If a homeowner must qualify for an assumption like a new loan, they'll generally choose the mortgage with the lower interest rate. Over the past 25 years, rates have been trending down but it appears that rates have bottomed out and will gradually increase. As they continue to rise, the lower rates on the FHA and VA loans created in the last few years will appeal to buyers even if they do have to qualify for the assumption.
There are significant advantages to assuming one of these government insured mortgages if the current interest rate on a new loan is higher:
1. Mortgage is further into amortization schedule 2. Lower interest rate loans amortize faster than higher interest rate loans 3. Lower closing costs than a new mortgage 4. Easier to qualify than on a new mortgage 5. No appraisal required
FHA assumptions are only allowed as owner-occupied residents. The borrower must meet current FHA guidelines for borrowers. The total debt ratio including house payment to be assumed cannot exceed 41% of borrowers’ monthly gross income. VA loans are also assumable with buyer qualification. However, in order for the veteran Seller to have their eligibility reinstated, the buyer must also be a veteran with eligibility.
A 1% difference in the current rates and a lower assumable mortgage rate begins to make it very attractive to assume a mortgage. When the differential becomes even greater, assumptions will become more prevalent than they’ve been in over twenty years.
Get Your Offer Accepted
Inventory is dramatically shrinking and it is commonplace in many markets to have multiple offers on a home. While the sellers would prefer to be able to choose the best offer for them, it can be incredibly frustrating for the buyers who might consider the following tips to get their offer accepted.
1. Remove the uncertainty that you may not be approved for a mortgage by having a pre-approval letter from your mortgage company.
2. Show your sincerity by increasing the normal amount of earnest money customary for the area and price of the home. The earnest money will be applied toward your down payment and closing costs. Consider placing even more money in escrow when the contingencies have been met.
3. Specify a closing date in the contract but acknowledge that you can be flexible to accommodate the sellers moving date. If it becomes an issue, it still must be mutually agreed upon.
4. Make the contingency periods shorter if possible to make the seller feel that they’ll know sooner that the offer is solid.
5. If the contingency really isn’t important to you, leave it out of the offer. The more contingencies included in a contract, the more the seller will feel might happen to keep it from actually closing.
6. Write a personal note to the seller explaining why you like and want their home. Consider including a picture of your family and pets.
7. Physically sign the offer with a felt tip pen of contrasting color. You’d be surprised how this adds a personal touch to the offer.
Offer a fair price for the property in your initial purchase agreement. It shows sincerity and good faith that you’re actually trying to purchase the home and not trying to take advantage of the seller. The old adage that you can always go up later may never happen if there are multiple offers on the property in the beginning.
What's It Worth?
How much is a one carat diamond worth? Anyone who has shopped for one knows that the price could have a significantly wide range of value. It's been said that purchasers should consider the color, cut, clarity and carat size to compare stones but when it gets down to decision time, buyers still want to know “how much is it worth?”
Real estate valuation can be equally as confusing to the public. There are three commonly used tools that today’s home buyers rely on to make decisions but they vary significantly in the methods used to make the determination as well as the possible final consideration.
Appraisals are an opinion or estimate of value based on specific guidelines made by individuals who are licensed and possibly certified. Buyers and sellers may be reluctant to engage an appraiser because there is a fee of several hundred dollars that must be paid in advance even if no sale is ever consummated.
A Broker’s Price Opinion (BPO) as defined by the National Association of REALTORS® is an “estimate of the probable selling price of a property.” The Dodd-Frank Act describes a BPO as “an estimate…that details the probable selling price of a particular piece of real estate property and provides a varying level of detail about the property’s condition, market, and neighborhood, and information on comparable sales, but does not include an automated valuation model.”
A Comparative Market Analysis (CMA) is a commonly used tool of salespeople to provide information to buyers and sellers to facilitate a sale. In most cases, it would be difficult to distinguish a CMA from a BPO because the steps considered are essentially the same and practitioners commonly use the terms interchangeably.
Another method called Automated Value Model (AVM) use software to search available data on the Internet to arrive at an approximation of value. Zestimates found on the Zillow site use this method. AVM’s may not consider all the market activity such as MLS sales and active listings. They can’t make adjustments based on human experience and market knowledge.
For what it’s worth, a buyer or seller might want to acquire as much current and factual information as possible from a trusted real estate professional familiar with the market before making a decision on the largest single asset most people acquire.
Will the "Good Life" Be Ready When You Are?
The Life of Riley was a TV show from the 50’s starring William Bendix but the title’s origin came from an expression meaning that a person was living the “good life.” Most people envision themselves living the good life by retirement but don’t really have a plan to get there.
There’s a rough rule of thumb used to estimate how much net worth a person would need by the time they retire to generate a certain income. The target annual income is divided by a safe, conservative yield to determine the investable assets needed.
A person who wanted $100,000 annual income generated from a 5% investment would need investable assets of $2,000,000. If a person had $500,000 now, they would need to accumulate $1.5 million more by the time they retire. If it was estimated to be 15 years away, they would need to save about $100,000 a year, each year until retirement.
It is a sobering example that could be depressing without a plan. It might be easy to say, “I should have started sooner” which may be true but there is still hope. Gradually, over the next several years, accumulate rental property and allow the tenant to retire the debt for you. The equity in each property will grow from the amortization of the loan each time a payment is made. It also grows as the property increases in value due to appreciation.
Single family homes as rentals offer the investor an opportunity to meet their retirement and financial goals for the following reasons:
The ability to borrow large loan-to-value mortgages
At fixed interest rates
For long terms (easily up to 30 years)
On appreciating assets
With significant tax advantages
And reasonable control not offered by alternative investments.
The benefits of regularly changing the heating and air-conditioning filters are obvious to homeowners; the real challenge is creating a system to make sure it gets done.
A reasonable schedule would be to replace it with a new one-inch pleated filter every 60-90 days. Households with shedding pets should consider replacing them every month. Some people change their filters every month when they pay their electric bills. A simple system would be to set a recurring appointment on your calendar like Outlook or Google.
Filters trap dust, mold and bacteria which can directly affect the air quality and play havoc with your allergies. When a filter is dirty, it prevents proper airflow and allows dust, dirt and allergens to blow through your home. Changing your filter regularly helps to avoid maintenance, improves equipment life and produces increased energy savings.
When shopping for filters, it’s understandable to look for the best bargain but the cheapest price may not be the best choice. When purchasing, recognize that HEPA-rated and HEPA-type filters are not the same thing. HEPA stands for high-efficiency particulate air. A HEPA filter meets or exceeds standards for efficiency set by the U.S. Department of Energy. Most HVAC contractors recommend HEPA filters.
Some filters need to be changed monthly and other types have manufacturer recommendations of every three months. An alternative to disposable filters are the permanent, washable types. These will cost more initially but because you can clean them and re-use them, eventually, you’ll recapture the cost and realize savings.
"Please take our offer..."
It’s interesting that the housing climate has changed so quickly. Some buyers, who think they’re still in the driver’s seat, find the market is now going up and they’re losing the home that they really want.
Multiple offers are increasingly more common and buyers are frustrated because even full-price offers don’t guarantee that they’re going to get the home. In an effort to personify a contract offer and add emotional appeal, buyers are including a personal letter to the seller.
In most cases, the seller wants to maximize the net proceeds from the sale by getting the highest price with the least expenses and an assurance that the home will actually close on time without surprises. When a seller is faced with multiple offers that may be close to the same net, an emotional appeal might make the difference in them accepting a particular offer. That’s where the letter comes in play.
It should be a relatively short letter that gets to the point. The tone of the letter should be humble while positive and definitely, shouldn’t mention that you may have lost other homes due to multiple offers.
Try to identify a common feature or characteristic of the home that is important to the seller and you.
Don’t criticize the home or tell them about all of the improvements you need to make to justify your offer.
Do verbalize why living in this home is important to you and your family.
Assure the seller that you can indeed qualify for the home and that if they accept your offer, the sale will be consummated.
After writing the letter and eliminating the non-essential parts, read the letter a few times to your spouse or friend. Polish the verbiage and check the spelling and grammar. If your handwriting isn’t attractive and easy to read, print it. Use nice paper to appeal to the tactile senses. Attach the letter to the offer so they’re considered simultaneously.
Being pre-approved with good credit, adequate financial resources, good employment, sufficient earnest money and a reasonable offer with minimum contingencies will favorably position you. A personal letter might be the deciding factor in your favor.
Cut Refinancing Expenses
Every single day, homeowners who are excited about lowering their rate have a tendency to ignore the refinancing costs because they’re being rolled back into the new mortgage. If the payment is lower than what they’re currently paying and there’s no money out of pocket, it seems like a good deal.
Refinancing your home because a lower rate is available is one thing but the closing costs associated with that new loan could add several thousand dollars to your mortgage balance. By following some of the suggestions listed below, you may be able to reduce the expense to refinance.
Tell the lender up-front that you want to have the loan quoted with minimal closing costs.
Check with your existing lender to see if the rate and closing costs might be cheaper.
If you’re refinancing a FHA or VA loan, consider the streamline refinance.
Shop around with other lenders and compare rate and closing costs.
Credit unions may have lower closing costs because they are generally loaning deposits and their cost of funds is less.
Reducing the loan-to-value so that mortgage insurance is not required will reduce expenses.
Ask if the lender can use an AVM, automated valuation model, instead of an appraisal.
You may not need a new survey if no changes have been made.
There may be a discount on the mortgagee’s title policy available on a refinance.
Points on refinancing, unlike purchase, are ratably deductible over the life of the loan.
Consider a 15 year loan. If you can afford the higher payments, you can expect a lower interest rate than a 30 year loan and obviously, it will build equity faster and pay off in half the time.
A lender must provide you a list of the fees involved with making the loan within 3 days of making a loan application in the form of a Good Faith Estimate. Every dollar counts and they belong to you.
Woulda - Coulda- Shoulda
It is the mantra of people who missed a great deal. It's the theme song of the procrastinator. It's the refrain that reminds us of the one that got away.
Some people are still beating themselves up because they didn't recognize the housing bubble was really going to burst. It is impossible to change the past but will they see the signs of the next housing trend?
In the past four years, prices have adjusted with 30% corrections nationally and much more in areas with high percentages of foreclosures. New homes are almost non-existent. Interest rates are slightly above record lows. Consumer goods are skyrocketing; our budget deficit and national debt are staggering and escalating inflation appears certain.
"Forget stocks. Don't bet on gold. After four years of plunging home prices, the most attractive asset class in America is housing." states Shawn Tully, Senior Editor at-Large for Fortune magazine in a March 28, 2011 article.
"If I would have known that this was the best buyer's market ever, I could have taken advantage of the prices and interest rates; I should have fixed my cost of housing for years to come." Don't catch yourself saying this. You owe it to yourself and your family to get firsthand information to see what your options really are.