Our Blog

An ongoing series of informational entries

Family Business "Thank you."

February 14, 2018

I want to thank my family and friends for their support. HAFKAR Solutions is a family business, we focus and assist our clients in the following areas:  divorce, short sales, foreclosures, auctions, or just want to sell. 


 As well as provide trends and the latest information on our blog.   

Fix-and-Flip Properties

March 7, 2018


This type of investment has become very popular because of a massive number of older homes hitting the market since the 2008 recession. Reality television shows have furthered the popularity of fix-and-flip investments. The fix-and-flip strategy is the opposite of buy and hold. It is similar to trading stocks, in that, an investor identifies an asset that could potentially make him or her a profit, purchases the asset, and “flips” it for a profit.

Most investors who employ this technique buy a home with the intention of holding it for a short period of time, usually six months to one year, and reselling it. The strategy can be challenging, in that the investor needs to identify properties that are significantly undervalued for their neighborhood while ensuring that the cost of repairs or renovation will not eat up too much of the potential profit. The recent recession provided ample inventory and opportunity; however, many contend that opportunities in larger markets like California have become oversaturated.


The lower value must provide enough equity so that the investor can make improvements and still be able to sell it at market value and earn a profit. Another challenge is that the improvements to the property have to be appealing enough to compel prospective buyers to accept the market price. However, there is a risk that an investor will be unable to sell the property for whatever reason, saddling them with those expenses associated with the property, namely, the mortgage and maintenance.


The costs associated with purchasing this type of investment are also high. Many times, flippers will have to take out a short-term loan, typically with a much higher interest rate than a traditional mortgage, to outbid competitors. If the property doesn’t sell or they run into problems with the renovation, the investor may get stuck making those high mortgage payments for many months, or be forced to dump the property for a loss.

Going for your "Passion"

April 7, 2018

Information from Ms. Wooley - Successful Wholesaler


Once Wooley gave notice at her job, she wasted no time starting some organic lead generation efforts. “I told everyone in the company I was looking for a house to flip, and pretty soon two guys who had inherited a house and were about to lose it at the tax auction asked me to come look at their property,” she said. 


Three days later, they signed the contracts at a local McDonalds and Wooley was on her way. “I made $30,000 on that house and I was completely hooked,” she said. “I knew I wanted to ride that roller coaster again and again. Wooley went to work looking for a second deal, but it cost her some serious sweat equity. “I had no idea how to find discounted houses. 


They don’t teach you those kinds of things in your basic real estate license course!” she said. “I was door-knocking, going on Craigslist; I had a serious hustle mentality and was constantly networking.”  As it turned out, her second deal would lead Wooley from flipping to wholesaling, although she was not planning for that. “My second house was a downtown, historic home that I got under contract for $80,000. About a week after I’d signed the papers with the owner, I got a call from another investor who had tracked me down as the new owner. He offered to buy the property for $120,000.”


Wooley was so new to real estate, she said, that she did not believe the offer was real. “I told him I hadn’t renovated the property yet, and he told me he didn’t care. And that was my first wholesale deal.”


As soon as the deal closed, Wooley put part of her flipping profits directly into her education, taking a wholesaling course while she searched for her second deal. “It was a step-by-step, daily program, and I did exactly what it said to do. That is how I created my wholesaling business, and now we’re looking at more than 150 deals in 2018 and probably more than 200 in 2019,” she said proudly.


“I admit, I was watching HGTV and I loved it!” she laughed. “I realized I would love real estate and I was already passionate about it. When my husband and I were young and broke, we bought an older home and renovated it all by ourselves, so I knew I could renovate a property. I had just never thought of real estate as something I could do as a career before – especially at 21 years old and as a new mother. Once I did, it all clicked.”

Mortgage Rates Hit 7-Year High

May 7, 2018

Last week, the Federal Reserve announced it would raise its benchmark interest rate by a quarter point. In response, the 30-year fixed mortgage rate jumped to 4.72 percent, the highest since 2011. This is up from 4.65 percent prior to the Fed’s announcement.


According to Sam Khater, Chief Economist for Freddie Mac, higher mortgage rates are not preventing prospective buyers from seeking new homes and accessing mortgage loans to purchase them. “The robust economy, rising Treasury yields, and the anticipation of more short-term rate hikes caused mortgage rates to move up. Even with these higher borrowing costs, it’s encouraging to see prospective buyers have a little more success.”


According to Khater, inventory constraints and home prices are easing in some markets. With consumer confidence levels at 18-year highs and steady job gains, it’s likely homebuying activity will continue to increase.


Historically, Rates are Still Low


Although interest rates are currently at a seven-year high in today’s mortgage lending market, it is important to view this upward trend from a longer perspective. In the early 1980s, interest rates were over 16 percent. Prior to the mid-2000s housing crash, interest rates ranged from 6.54 percent in 2002, to 6.34 in 2007.


Raising interest rates has consistently been a key tool used by the Fed to fight inflation. In the early 1980s, the high interest rates contributed to bringing yearly inflation down to 3.5 percent. At that point, the Fed lowered interest rates from over 10 percent to 7.4 percent over the 1990s.


According to the U.S. Census Bureau, as of 2017, about 63 percent of homeowners with mortgages were paying between three and five percent interest on home loans

Evite Debuts Real Estate Invitations

July 7, 2018

Electronic invitation website Evite.​com recently introduced real estate invitations with themes intended to promote open houses and other industry-related events. The designs, which feature headlines like “Open House,” and “Just Listed,” invite recipients to attend showings for homes. Although most of the designs fall under the website’s “premium” designation, there are several free choices on the platform.


The Benefits of Electronic Invitations


With the premium option, you can upload images of the property and remove advertising, which is visible with the free option. The designs are intended to look like printed invitations. There’s room for additional information in the “message from the host” section which is visible when the invitation is “opened.”

Real estate marketing professionals say the new offering could help sellers and investors cut their marketing costs substantially. 


Since Evites are easily created in a short amount of time, timelines for events can be moved up to allow for quicker showings. “Don’t get me wrong! I think there is a time and a place for an elegant, formally printed invitation. I just believe that in 2018 the typical homebuyer or broker is going to be more responsive to email invitations than a piece of mail,” wrote one.

The new format also provides valuable marketing insight and tracking. Account owners have the ability to track who opened the Evite and who viewed the invitation but did not respond. Automatic reminders can also be sent out to those who have not responded to the event.

Economists Say New-Home Sales Hit 9-Month Low

August 7, 2018

When you see headlines about home-sales volumes hitting nine-month lows, read carefully. Likely, the article is referring to new-home sales, or the number of newly built, single-family homes. According to the National Association of Realtors (NAR), sales in this sector are at their lowest level since last October. Furthermore, existing-home sales are also slowing in pace, warned NAR economists.


Construction Costs are Hurting New-Home Sales Inventory

Randy Noel, chairman of the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), blamed the declining rate on a lack of inventory. He said the relatively low volume of inventory “is pushing up home prices, which is hurting affordability and causing prospective buyers to delay making a home purchase.”

However, NAHB senior economist Danushka Nanayakkara-Skillington said, “We continue to see solid housing demand due to economic strengthening and positive demographic tailwinds.” She recommended builders manage construction costs in order to keep homes in their new developments competitively priced. The median price of new homes was nearly 2% higher this July. Labor and materials costs continue to rise as well.


The Federal Reserve is Watching


Most agree that the housing market is not due for a crash like the one it experienced in the mid-2000s. The Federal Reserve does appear to be taking note, however. According to the last Fed meeting notes, housing starts and permits, sales of new and existing homes, and affordability were all topics of discussion.

As long as new construction continues to lag, investors in big builders are likely to continue to falter as well. “Shares of most big builders are down by double digits since the start of the year,” observed MarketWatch reporter Andrea Riquier. She noted PulteGroup has lost about 12%, and Taylor Morrison is down nearly 20%.

Diversification of Your Asset Portfolio

September 7, 2018

Most people are invested in the stock market in one way or another, be it through work retirement programs or private investment. With real estate, an investor can hedge against a market downside by owning tangible assets, with low risk of severe devaluation.


Real estate has a negative correlation to the stock market. Meaning that when the stock market drops, real estate-related investment products are usually up. Although the Great Recession was somewhat of an anomaly, residential real estate prices continued to rise after 14 of the last 15 recessions.


Inflation Hedge


During expanding economic conditions like we are experiencing now, demand for housing rises. When demand rises, rents and values rise along with it. In this respect, the correlation between

GDP growth and real estate passes some of the inflationary pressure onto tenants, while generally retaining the purchasing power of the investor’s capital.


Leveraging Capital


Most real estate investing offers the power of leverage. Other investments, such as stocks or bonds, require the investor to pay the full value of the investment, whereas with real estate a buyer can leverage his or her credit and assets to finance the investment strategy.


Investors often obtain a second mortgage on a property they already own to place a down payment on another income-producing or flip property. No matter their plan for the investment property, they have leveraged a fraction of the assets they already own to purchase additional assets, without having to come up with the full price of the property out of pocket.

Flippers especially take advantage of this power of leverage. While most conventional mortgages require 20 percent down payment, many investors turn to alternative private lending to complete a transaction. With a private loan, an investor can leverage his or her existing assets, or the future value of the property to secure higher loan-to-value financing.


Real estate flippers especially like utilizing private lenders, where they can obtain quick financing based on the future value of the property after it is renovated, and their track record of making profitable decisions. This option offers them the flexibility to put up less cash and leverage more of the asset’s value against the potential to make a profit.

Future-Proof Important for the Future of Apartments

October 7, 2018

You’ve heard of baby-proofing, but did you know that there is also such a thing as future-proof? The concept does not necessarily involve protecting your investment properties from the future, but it requires preparation for the future. During a panel at the third annual IMN Middle Market Multifamily Forum Southeast in Orlando, Florida, five industry leaders discussed the concept of future-proofing in class A, B, and C properties.


Zego CEO Adam Blake asked the panelists how apartment owners can future-proof to get the best ROI. Panelists agreed that in every asset class, smart home technology is an asset and an entry point for attracting residents. However, that technology does not necessarily manifest as the trendier products available in the Internet of Things.


Future-Proof with Smart-Home


“The key is the access [to the residence]: the locks,” said Debbie Kimball, senior account manager for PointCentral. She noted that although most property managers tend to assume residents will find energy-saving smart-home technology attractive. In reality, most residents want the ability to track the “data” on who enters and leaves their home. “According to the 2017 National Multifamily Housing Council/Kingsley Renter Preferences Report, a high percentage of [potential renters] say they are very interested in security and smart-home features, like smart locks,” noted Noel Arvizu, a security expert from ADT also attending the event. According to Arvizu’s data, more than half of renters placed a high value on smart locks.


From a management perspective, Jeff Adler, vice president at Yardi Systems, added, the most valuable smart technology is water monitoring. This enables property managers to identify situations where properties are threatened by water damage. “You may not save money on water [usage], but you will save money when a water heater bursts on the third floor,” Adler said. He added on a more futuristic front, “Eventually, multifamily businesses may be able to generate their own electricity or create additional land [through] shared vehicle programs” that would eliminate parking.


All panelists agreed a simple way to future proof a multifamily investment property is to keep your data options open. “Residents want to choose their own wifi,” said Kimball. “5G is going to be kind of a necessity, so keep your current contracts short,” Adler concluded.

Opportunity is Knocking - Zoning in your area

November 7, 2018

OPPORTUNITY IS KNOCKING for real estate investors, thanks to the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017. A provision of the act allows investors to enjoy preferential tax treatment when investing in economically-distressed communities.


“The basic idea is that the governors of each state designated specific geographic areas to be opportunity zones, based on economic need and desired paths of growth,” says Derek Uldricks, president of Virtua Capital Management in San Diego. He says the program is designed to encourage investors to inject capital into these opportunity zones, potentially spurring economic growth.


“The opportunity zone program allows individuals and businesses to liquidate a wide variety of appreciated capital assets and to reinvest all or a portion of the gain into qualified opportunity funds within 180 days of triggering the gain,” Christian says. “The gain can then be deferred up until Dec. 31, 2026.”


In addition to deferring gains, taxpayers can reduce their recognized gain by 10 percent after holding the asset for five years, and by an additional 5 percent after holding it for seven years, Christian says. The biggest benefit comes at the 10-year mark.


“At that point and into the future, the investor will be exempt for any gain that accrued after the original re-investment,” he says.

Christian offers an example of what that benefit is worth. Under those guidelines, an investor who invests $1 million in an opportunity fund in 2018 and sees their investment appreciate to $1.8 million by 2028 would be able to sell at any time after that without paying federal income tax on proceeds in excess of $1 million.


“Ultimately, the tax benefits act as subsidies,” Uldricks says, “making projects that were not economically feasible into projects that are now feasible, as well as accelerating the inflow of capital to real estate development.”

Opportunity zones are new territory for investors. Here’s what you need to know if you’re considering taking the plunge.

Investment structure matters. To qualify for tax incentives, opportunity zone investments must be made through a qualified opportunity fund, which can be established as a partnership or corporation.


After selling or exchanging an asset, “the taxpayer rolls over cash equal to its gain for an interest in the fund,” says Erik Loomis, tax partner at Cox, Castle & Nicholson in Los Angeles. “The fund then has to own qualified opportunity zone property, which is either another corporation or tax partnership that runs a qualified opportunity zone business, or the fund invests in the qualified assets directly.”


Loomis says it’s important for investors to note that the fund you’re investing in owns the qualified property, “because it is the taxpayer’s interest in the fund that receives the benefit under the statute, not the underlying qualified opportunity zone property.”


He goes on to say that “while the statute posits a very simple rollover of gains into this interest, the devil is very much in the details as to the exit strategy with respect to the interest in the fund.”


Not every property is eligible for tax benefits. Know the rules for what you can – and can’t – invest in with opportunity funds. “An opportunity zone fund is required to invest, directly or indirectly, in an income-producing business located in a qualified opportunity zone,” says Jamie Null, an attorney at London-based global law practice Eversheds Sutherland.

Whether a business is eligible may be open to interpretation, depending on its use.


“If the fund holds an apartment building and triple net leases it, is it a business? Maybe not,” Loomis says. On the other hand, “if the fund instead holds and operates an apartment building, it has a much better case for holding qualified opportunity zone property.”


Similarly, if a fund holds a shopping center it most likely qualifies, except for some kinds of property that might be present. There are specific categories of businesses that can’t qualify for indirect investment, including private and commercial golf clubs, tanning salons, country clubs, massage parlors, hot tub facilities, gambling facilities and liquor stores.

Christian says opportunity zones can also include developed or undeveloped land investments. Regarding the list of excluded businesses, he notes that “the statute simply precludes investing in businesses that operate in such industries, but an opportunity zone fund can still start such businesses.”


Investors should be focused on long-term ownership when choosing properties.



Raising Interest Rate - What you need to know!!

December 7, 2018

RISING INTEREST RATES are having a ripple effect across the housing market as the Federal Reserve increases borrowing costs.


Analysts expect the Fed to raise rates again in December and possibly a few times in 2019. The effect of the Fed’s rate hikes is seen in mortgage rates, which are about 100 basis points higher compared with a year ago at nearly 4.9 percent for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage.


October housing starts data also fell short of expectations. Homebuilder sentiment is falling amid rising mortgage rates and stronger home prices, according to the most recent monthly survey by the National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index. The survey data show that builder confidence dropped eight points to 60 this month; it was 72 at the beginning of the year.


Experts say some areas of real estate and certain regions may hold up better than others with rising interest rates.

Doug Imber, president, Essex Realty Group in Chicago, says rising rates are the topic of conversation and concern for real estate investors, but the context for why rates are rising matters just as much as the direction.


“Rates go up for different reasons, and the reason that they're going up now, thankfully, is because we have a very strong economy and the Fed is trying to be mindful of inflation,” he says.


Robert Arnall, executive vice president and chief credit officer of FineMark National Bank & Trust in Fort Myers, Florida, says the Fed’s rate hikes are most pronounced in the short end of the yield curve. The longer end of the yield curve has seen less of a rise – that’s important for real estate investors, since most loans are based on the 10-year U.S. Treasury rate.


2019 - What to expect as an investor and home owner with buying and selling properties

January 7, 2019

Whether you're looking to buy or sell a home in 2019 – or find the perfect rental – it helps to know what you're up against. In many markets, the trend of a low volume of homes on the market compared to the number of buyers that has been fueling bidding wars and rapid increases in home prices may losing steam, but rising interest rates may also cause more buyers and sellers to hold off on making a new deal.


Here’s what to expect from the housing market in 2019.

Buying


The most common topic of conversation for potential home-buyers and sellers going into the new year is about rising interest rates. Mortgage rates are at their highest mark since 2011, and while higher interest rates are a sign of a good economy – especially compared with historically low unemployment rates – the change has many consumers hesitating about jumping into the housing market.

The Federal Reserve hiked interest rates three times in 2018 – with a fourth likely before the new year – and has also expressed plans to increase them more than once in 2019. While mortgage rates set by lenders are not beholden to the Fed’s set rate, they do often echo changes in the long run.


The decline in active buyers will likely lead to a slowing growth of home prices across the U.S. While prices have outpaced wage growth in many major markets for the last few years, that growth will continue to slow and possibly flatline in a couple areas, particularly in smaller metro areas where price growth hasn't been as quick.


Homeowners looking to sell their property may be hesitant to put their home on the market because that also means purchasing a new house, which more often than not requires a brand-new mortgage and more current interest rate. As a result, consumers can expect continued low inventory of houses on the market while buyers and sellers try to adjust to new rates.


Instead of selling, homeowners will continue to build equity as they make monthly payments on their existing mortgage and improve the property to increase its value, which will allow them to see greater profits when they decide to sell.  Home sellers are also seeing growing number of alternatives to placing their home on the market. The last few years have seen growth in the number of iBuyers and similar investment companies that specialize in quick cash purchases of properties to renovate and resell them. Rather than listing their home with a broker, homeowners can contact companies such as House Buyers of America, Opendoor and OfferPad to sell the house directly. 


Similar platforms are debuting where larger companies facilitate the transaction by teaming up with local investors who make the purchase and renovate.  While it’s unlikely that this platform will completely replace the traditional home selling process or the need for real estate agents, it’s becoming a popular option for sellers looking for a solution that better fits their situation and preferences. Ron notes that House Buyers of America was founded in 2001, so it’s been through different housing market cycles, and different needs for homeowners arise at different times.


In a market where demand is lessening, sellers may find that selling to a company rather than an individual buyer will make the process quicker and help them avoid issues, although the sale price is often less than what the house would sell for if placed on the market. But even when the market is hot and buyers are scrambling to make an offer, there will always be sellers who prefer an alternative to listing their property, Ron says. “People are looking for a hassle-free way to sell their home,” he says.


New Construction and Development


Residential construction has been slowly rising in the years following the recession when construction came to a standstill, but housing starts still aren’t on pace to meet demand. The slow rate of new construction has contributed to rapidly rising prices in the last few years, particularly because most new construction has focused on high-end luxury homes.


The start of 2018 saw a 10-year high for housing starts – the point when construction begins on a property – with more than 1.33 million housing units started in January nationwide, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.  Housing starts for the rest of 2018 haven’t reached past the January peak, however, and it’s possible interest rate increases are also restricting the construction industry. Developers and construction companies often rely on loans to complete projects, and with higher interest rates and less demand due to wary buyers, it’s possible construction won’t continue at the rate it needs to in order to keep up with new household formation.


There is a silver lining to a construction shortage, however: The housing market avoids a construction glut that overproduces, which can cause problems in a future economic downturn. “Normally you have an oversupply (of properties) – that’s what happened in the last crash,” Ron says.


Without an oversupply of housing and new construction, consumers have less to fear about housing prices in a future recession. Instead, the next recession would likely cause a dip in home values when unemployment rises, but the housing market would be able to recover much quicker.


Renting


Would-be first-time buyers who are apprehensive about mortgage rates or home prices may choose to stick to renting. In some markets, this could keep landlords happy without having to worry about increased vacancy due to lower demand.

But on the whole, renters benefit from declining rental demand. The U.S. Census Bureau reports the nationwide home-ownership rate is 64.4 percent as of the third quarter of 2018, a consistent increase since home-ownership rates reached 50-year lows – below 63 percent – in 2016.


Rising home-ownership rates are good for renters, who have fewer fellow renters to compete with and may have more bargaining power when it comes to gross rent, concessions, free months’ rent or better amenities.  Rising income and low unemployment rates also give renters another step up. In a report from rental housing information site RENT-Café released in November, affordability of rental housing has increased significantly since the recession. In 2017, renters making the median income could afford 49 percent of all rentals in the U.S., compared to just 38 percent in 2011.


Like homeowners, renters should continue to save as much as possible while wages are up and the job market is strong in preparation for a time when affordability declines to ensure rent can be made on time in the more distant future.

Trends to Watch in Real Estate

February 7, 2019

These are some of the trends that have been listed to watch in 2019 


Younger home buyers

Opportunity zones

E-commerce

Rising interest rates

Increased construction prices

Big data

Build to rent


As stocks continue to fizzle and pop, real estate investment strategies may look more promising. Historically, real estate has outperformed the stock market, acting as a stabilizer for investors when volatility takes hold. These eight real estate trends are the ones to watch in 2019.


Younger home buyers

Home ownership may have a new face in 2019 as younger buyers enter the market, while older homeowners make their exit. “Many millennials have recovered from the 2009 crash and have managed to find jobs that will allow them to afford homes,” says Nick Giovacchini, director of client services at AlphaFlow in San Francisco. As baby boomers age, they may be looking to trade down from larger homes to more affordable options, such as smaller rentals or senior living facilities. High-end home sellers may have to reduce prices as millennials increase demand for more affordable housing.


Opportunity zones

Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, opportunity zones are new territory for real estate investors. With valuations at cycle highs and fundamentals waning, the tax incentives offered by these programs are massively attractive, especially as not all of these zones are created equal, acknowledging numerous cities may prove to be diamonds in the rough. As capital flows in, certain sub-markets could see increased volume, and increased liquidity is a positive for the commercial real estate environment.


E-commerce

The retail landscape is in a state of flux as brick-and-mortar stores attempt to stem the e-commerce tide but 2019 may bring even stiffer competition. “Many consumers find it easier to purchase goods online, potentially threatening traditional retail’s survival.  E-commerce is forcing many retailers to close store locations because they money they take in isn’t enough to cover the cost of their rents.  Real estate investors who want to maintain a position in traditional retail should consider hair and nail salons, restaurants, yoga studios and gyms – services not accessible via e-commerce and may be better positioned to survive market downturns.


Rising interest rates

One of the biggest headwinds facing the commercial real estate market in 2019 is the combination of rising interest rates and slowing appreciation, principal analyst with EDR Insight. This means borrowers face a higher cost of capital at the same time that assets may not necessarily be showing higher yields to accommodate those costs. The Federal Reserve raised rates four times in 2018, with at least two hikes projected for 2019.


Increased construction prices

Construction prices inched up 0.5 percent in October, reflecting a 7.9 percent increase year-over-year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics Producer Price Index. That’s something investors should be watching closely in the year ahead,  In addition to supply-demand factors, there is a large policy component to this. Not only are interest rates being driven higher by the Fed, but materials costs are being affected in part by trade policy, while labor costs are moving higher in part due to immigration policy.


Big data

The tech train continues to glide along in 2019, with some unique implications for commercial property investors. Commercial real estate is on the cusp of moving from a potentially inefficient industry to one that is notably more efficient, largely due to the growing volume of data that isn’t yet being tapped.  Thanks to growing traction of technologies like machine learning, data analytics and platforms, the entire commercial real estate ecosystem will soon have better tools for decision-making.  One of the most exciting possibilities that lies ahead for commercial real estate investors is the application of tech to support property risk management.


Build to rent

Build-to-rent is a relatively new trend. These newly built and to-be-built rental communities have a lot of the conveniences and amenities of an apartment but feel more like a home.  As more developers move into this space it’s likely to join the mainstream of CRE asset classes. Build-to-rent communities are designed to fit the privacy and affordability needs of younger buyers shopping for a mortgage loan and boomers looking to downsize. 

Build-to-rent represents a new frontier for investors with a pioneer mindset looking to diversify into non-traditional housing.

8 Red Flags to Identify Scammers 

March 7, 2019

With just about every rental search beginning online these days, it's a given that con artists will try to take advantage of eager consumers. Combine the fake listings with rental brokers looking to pull a bait-and-switch with a rental of lower quality or higher rent, and you'll have a hard time believing which listings are real.


The Federal Trade Commission warns consumers about rental listing scams as a common danger on its website, instructing individuals to report suspected scams to the site the listing was posted on, as well as local law enforcement and the FTC itself.

Major red flags for rental scams include:


• The listing photos have an MLS watermark.

• The listing details are vague.

• They don't want to show you the place first.

• They're ready to make a deal with no background info.

• They're out of the country.

• They want you to sign before seeing anything.

• The asking rent doesn’t match up.

• They instruct you to wire money.


While active cons online can be reported, little is being done to try to prevent predatory apartment listings from being posted online in the first place.  The problem is most of the listings aren't real, and … this isn't going anywhere. No one – neither the (listing) website nor the state – no one's policing this, and I don't believe there's anyone that's going to be policing this.


While some sites do confirm listing info with the original poster, sites that follow the Craigslist platform of allowing listings to be posted for free help foster an environment where fake listings may be more common than real listings. It falls to you as the renter to spot telltale signs of a rental scam. Here are eight red flags to look for in online rental listings that indicate a possible con.


The Listing Photos Have an MLS Watermark


If the rental listing's photos sport a watermark – which is used to identify the owner of the photo – look closely. Scammers sometimes illegally pull photos from the local multiple listing service, where properties are listed for sale by real estate professionals. When a photo appears with an MLS watermark, the person who posted the rental doesn't have the original photo because he or she isn't actually associated with the property.


The Listing Details Are Vague


Not everyone is great at writing a rental description, but if basic details seem overly vague or don't quite make sense, it's probably because the person who posted the property has never been there. Omitting details on utilities or mentioning an attraction that's more than a mile away as being within walking distance can be an indication that the poster isn't familiar with the area or doesn't expect you to be familiar with it.

For brokers looking to pull a bait-and-switch on a renter searching for a new home, Goldman says it's common for them to avoid putting the exact address of the available apartment so the renter can't spot the lie. 


They Don't Want to Show You the Place First


If you reach out about an online rental listing and the responder doesn't immediately discuss showing you the available space, consider it a telltale sign that he or she has no association with the property. This also goes for potential renters reaching out to small-time landlords. If they have no interest in learning more about the property or coming to see it first, it may be a scam.


They're Ready to Make a Deal With No Background Info


You want a landlord or property manager who seeks reliable tenants. If someone claims to be ready to sign the lease with only email communication and no background on your financial stability, he or she is likely looking to get a one-time payment from you and may disappear before you move.  The FTC warns against adhering to requests for a security deposit or first month’s rent before you’ve signed the lease and met the landlord in person. You should never pay any amount beyond an application fee before you've confirmed the space is available, the individual you're working with is associated with the property and you've signed a contract that makes you the legal tenant.


They're "Out of the Country"


The reason many scammers give that they can't meet with you in person is they're temporarily out of the country. As the FTC reports on its website, scammers may even put in the effort to make it seem realistic: "It might even involve a lawyer or an 'agent' working on their behalf. Some scammers even create fake keys," and send them to you in the mail.


They Want You to Sign Before Seeing Anything


To avoid brokers looking to trick you into paying them a fee for an apartment they falsely advertised, don't agree to sign anything before you’ve seen the place that was promised.

Goldman says these brokers will have you sign a contract that states you owe a finder’s fee for any apartment they show you that you choose to rent. You may end up liking the place, but it probably wasn’t the place you wanted originally. Just in general, you're there under false pretenses.


The Asking Rent Doesn't Match Up


Con artists and shady brokers will hook many victims with the promise of a rent that can almost seem too good to be true. "That stuff is just all over everywhere," If you're looking at rentals in a certain neighborhood and spot one for a few hundred dollars less than the rest, proceed cautiously. Chances are it's either a fake listing or a fake rental rate to try to draw you in.


They Instruct You to Wire Money


Nigerian prince or not, any request for you to wire the security deposit or first month's rent is the clearest sign of a scam. Once the money has been collected, there's no way for you to get it back, and the person you thought you were in contact with can easily disappear.



But don't think you've outsmarted all possible fraudsters.  More careful renters means con artists will only try harder to trick you.

Real Estate Software Information

April 7, 2019

Types of Real Estate Software

       There are five types of real estate accounting software that are used in the industry. Each type is used for different operational purposes. The most popular types of accounting software include the following.


Real Estate Transaction Management Software


The software is used by Asset Managers and Investors who deal in properties for generating cash flows. It helps forecast return on assets and income streams over a period. For example, if you invest in a property and want to calculate cash flows at a certain interest rate, the software can quickly crunch the numbers on a monthly basis for you. On the other hand, if you want to charge a certain amount of rent each month, the software will tell you the exact rate of return on investment.  The transaction management software helps real estate investors improve the efficiency of their investment.


Real Estate Accounting Software


The pure accounting software is used to manage the ledger accounts and for recording expenses and income. They are the most common type of programs and used by almost everyone in the real estate industry.  The accounting software is also used to track any expenditure you make on a property for maintenance or upgrades. Real Estate professionals record marketing and admin expenses on the accounting software as well as the expenses they incur for prospecting on a client’s behalf. Commission income is also recorded on the software and it forms the basis of tax returns.


Customer Relationship Management Software


The CRM software does not fall directly under the umbrella term ‘accounting software’ but it is closely related to other management programs. The CRM is used to generate leads and prospects that the real estate agents nurture and convert into active client accounts. While it is possible to generate sales without the CRM software, you would be relying completely on chance and hope that a customer approaches your agents on their own. The CRM software helps you build a database of potential leads and contacts that will drastically improve your sales team’s efforts.


Real Estate Investment Processing Software


Special database platforms are used to turn regular loans and home mortgages into specialized security packages that can be traded on Wall Street. The programs help create database files in the form of packages that can be purchased by institutional investors in the market.


Benefits of Real Estate Accounting Software 

The advances in digital technology have made it much easier to develop and implement accounting software for real estate businesses. For example, the ability to update the accounting database through cloud accounting software will allow better coordination between staff members. The five major benefits of accounting software for real estate business are outlined below.

      1. Well designed real estate accounting programs make it easier for agents and processors to record information or generate bills and invoices. A lot of software use automation where information entered in one column is automatically filled in the other relevant columns as well.

     2. The real estate accounting software makes it easier to organize records in the central ledger and search through them quickly. A real estate firm without any accounting software would be severely restricted in its ability to grow operations beyond a certain point.

    3. The ledger records created through accounting software can be stored in multiple locations for better security and reliability. All it takes to create backup records are a few clicks and data can be easily restored in case of accidental damage.

    4. Modern Accounting Software offers synchronization where multiple sales agents can work on the same client to update different information. For example, suppose a broker is working with a client in the field and shows them a property that the client signs up to buy. The broker gets the client’s e-signature to seal the deal and the record is updated via their mobile device. The client then makes an EFT through their bank to the real estate agency that is received and confirmed by the firm’s accountant sitting in the office. This kind of real-time coordination is only possible with real estate accounting software platforms.

   5. Accounting software can also improve your business profitability by decreasing processing times and ensuring accuracy for your business transactions. Since many of the functions are automated, the staff can focus on core business operations.

   6. Real Estate accounting software also helps you calculate the accurate financial position of your business with the help of analytical tools and ratios.

Ways to Display Your Property

May 7, 2019

       Your home should have a unique expression of the interests of its inhabitants. Plates, rare books, antiques are just some of the items one can collect and display. These pieces readily get conversations started and offer the opportunity to showcase them in stylish ways. Read on to discover how unexpected spaces in the home can be the perfect gallery for personal treasures.


Welsh sideboard

       Practical and stylish, a sideboard offers discreet storage options on an uninterrupted surface. These timeless pieces were once relegated to the dining room, but now can be placed anywhere. Beyond serving food, they also offer a convenient area to display your treasures, particularly plates and vintage silverware. The trick is to select one focal point and keep backgrounds neutral. Collections will shine without overwhelming. If your display is particularly colorful, consider placing against a white or beige wall.


Pigeonholes of a desk

       A desk can be the perfect place to display a collection. Pigeonholes were once used to store office supplies and papers. They now can provide space for a mini gallery. Start by clearing off stationary and polishing for the cleanest surface. Arrange your collection in a way that pleases you the most and get ready for the compliments.


Bookshelves

       From masks to statues of all sizes, sculpture is one medium that thrives on proximity. These multi-dimensional works should be viewed from as many angles as possible. Bookshelves provide the perfect space for display, as most are elevated or at eye level. This placement also prevents accidents by keeping too many hands away from creating a hazard. To enhance these bold objects, consider adding the right lighting. A spotlight or single light may wash out intricate details. Diffused light, such as sunshine, works best. If that is not possible, try recessed lighting.


Built-ins

       Versatile built-ins are meant to be filled with personal treasure. Books, Depression-era glass or action figures can all find a home on them. These small landscapes offer the right amount of space and light to bring dimension and character to a flat wall. For the more creative types, deepen the impact of your display by playing with layers. Arrange books as a foundation and move smaller décor items to the forefront for a multi-dimensional look that will start many conversations. Love displaying your personal treasures as much as you love collecting them. This article was inspired by the April 1958 issue of Better Homes & Gardens magazine, proving beloved collections are timeless and always in style.  

Using a FHA Loan to invest in Real  Estate is an Option

June 7, 2019

      ONE WAY TO MAKE MONEY over the long haul is to invest in real estate. However, investing in real estate can be tricky because you often need a great deal of capital to buy real estate especially for investment.

You can get around the capital requirement, though, with a little creativity. If you're hoping create cash flow from renting, and you want a solid investment for the future, one way to do it is to use an FHA loan.

An FHA loan is a home loan guaranteed by the federal government. Traditional lenders make these loans to those who meet the requirements and the government guarantees them.

[ SEE: How to Invest in Real Estate Without Buying Property. ]

When you use an FHA loan, you only need a 3.5% down payment. On a $300,000 property, that's $10,500. That's much more affordable for many real estate investors than coming up with a 20% down payment – or meeting a $1 million minimum for an investment club.

       Using an FHA loan is the foundation for rental income for people like Brandon Turner of BiggerPockets.com. He's used the FHA loan to start investing in real estate to great effect.

Buying a rental property with an FHA loan. When you buy a rental property using an FHA loan, it's important to note that you must live in that home for at least a year. So, if you buy a single-family home, you'll have to make it your primary residence for 12 months before you can start renting it out.

       The way around this, if you want to start building your rental empire immediately, is to purchase a duplex or a four-plex. You can use an FHA loan to buy a property with up to four units, so this gives you the chance to live in one of the units, making it your primary residence, while renting out other units.

       After a year, you can move out of your unit and make way for another renter. In some cases, it makes sense to hire a property management company to take care of the renters after you move out. As an on-site landlord, you have to be available at all hours, and you might be tired of that after doing it for a year.

       No matter which route you take, it's important to have a plan of attack ahead of time. Make sure you know your end goal. 

       Have a clear vision for the property and what you plan to do with it. A plan can help you decide what kind of property to buy and be ready to move out when it's time to turn it into an income stream.

13 Areas to Keep Your Eyes on as an Investor/Landlord

July 7, 2019

   Renting out a property can be profitable, but there are a number of potential issues to watch out for, including tenant troubles, property maintenance issues, vacancy costs, or even a failure to reach your overall investing goals.

In order to avoid problems, owners should be mindful of the things that can affect the rental value of their property—or their long-term peace of mind when it comes to a tenant. 

1. Tenant Reference And Employment Checks

This should go without saying, however, too many landlords meet prospective tenants in person and trust them because they are nice and affable people. Unfortunately, not everyone has the best track record with their previous landlords and a lot of future pain can be saved by both asking for references.

2. Systems Failing And Things Breaking

Have a plan before things break and systems fail. Build relationships with plumbers, electricians, handymen, etc., creating a strong network of vendors that you can trust. Empower your tenants to get immediate help by having a list of approved vendors in a book you can leave at the property. 

3. Eviction Rights

Don't rent to anyone you can't evict. Who rents your home will make or break your rental income. If it is your friend, family or partner then when the time comes to make that decision of evicting, you won't do it. 

4. Realistic Rent Amounts

Check local rental listings to find out what you can realistically charge. If you want to find a good tenant, the rent must be comparable to the going market rate. 

5. Local Laws

Landlords will be tempted to rent more space than is locally allowed, such as a finished basement that is not approved as a legal unit. 

6. Your Investing Goals

One thing many first-time landlords forget to do is define their investing goals. We certainly did this with our first rental property. We figured, as long as it was cash-flowing, we'd keep renting it out. However, we failed to take into account the appreciation and diminishing return on equity. 

7. If The Numbers Work

Before you get emotionally invested in the idea of converting your home into a rental, you have to run the numbers. Ask yourself: "If I was a real estate investor analyzing this property for potential purchase as a rental, do the numbers work?" 

8. Condition Of The Home's Maintenance

In assisting a client with finding a rental property, you must consider the condition of the home's maintenance. Whether a relocation getting a sense of the area or moving from an apartment, the rental experience can make or sour the client to an area, ownership and your service. 

9. Getting Long-Term Tenants

Consider finding tenants that are interested in longer-term leases as this will save you time and money in the long run. Any property rented out will experience wear and tear, but you can avoid this annual cost if tenants are not moving out each year. A

10. Renters Insurance

I always make sure that the tenants who rent my clients' properties have rental insurance coverage. This protects them in the event that something goes wrong during the tenancy. - 

11. Vacancy Costs

Remember that pricing a property at market rate helps you become cash flow positive sooner and lowers vacancy costs. Landlords often price their property above market rate to "see what you can get." Starting your pricing too high actually lowers interest from renters. 

12. Home Warranty Plans

Becoming a landlord? Be sure to pay a few hundred dollars a year on a home warranty plan that covers repair costs with a minimum fee upfront and make the tenant pay the fee each time. Hire a property manager to oversee the property and any work orders placed with the home warranty company. Day 

13. Property Inspection

Getting a property inspection prior to tenants moving in is always a good idea. It will help owners understand if there are any "hidden" issues within the home so that they can make repairs on them before they could snowball over time. 

Mortgage refinances spike 12% on a big rate drop, but home-buyers pull back again

August 7, 2019

  Homeowners rushed to take advantage of a sizable drop in mortgage interest rates last week, but potential buyers were unimpressed.


Total mortgage application volume rose 5.3% from the previous week, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association’s seasonally adjusted index. Volume was 46.5% higher than a year ago, when rates were significantly higher.


Refinances drove the volume, rising 12% for the week and a stunning 116% from one year ago. Refinances are highly sensitive to even small interest rate moves, and last week’s was significant.


The average contract interest rate for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages with conforming loan balances ($484,350 or less) decreased to 4.01% from 4.08%, with points increasing to 0.37 from 0.34 (including the origination fee) for loans with a 20% down payment. That rate was 83 basis points higher one year ago.


“The Federal Reserve cut rates as expected last week, but the bigger influence on the financial markets was the development that a trade war with China has started. The result was a sharp drop in mortgage rates, which will likely draw many refinance borrowers into the market in the coming weeks and months ahead.

7 Alternative Investments That Might Fit Your Portfolio

September 7, 2019

      With market volatility causing concern for many investors, it’s no surprise that some are looking for alternative investments. These investments are outside the realm of stocks and bonds. In many cases, they aren’t directly correlated with stock and bond markets, which can make them attractive, especially in times of turmoil. It’s important, though, to carefully consider your portfolio, circumstances and long-term investing plan. 

        Consider consulting with a professional to help figure out what alternative investments are likely to work best and how much of your portfolio should be devoted to them. Remember, any investment comes with the risk of loss. Also, it’s vital to know how such investments are taxed. As long as you understand what you’re getting into, alternative investments can bolster a portfolio against volatile stock and bond market conditions. 


                                Here are seven to consider:

1. Raw land.

2. Tax liens.

3. Oil and gas MLPs (Master Limited Partnership - for tax sheltered distributions from the profits)

4. Precious metals.

5. Art and collectibles.

6. Venture capital or angel investing.

7. Cryptocurrency.

Rent-to-Own

October 7, 2019

     Homeowners rushed to take advantage of a sizable drop in mortgage interest rates, and potential buyers are impressed.

     The renter then moves in and pays a monthly bill that essentially includes funds for a future down payment. Rather than accumulate in a savings account owned by the renter, those funds earn the renter “purchase credits.” 

      The renter can then put those purchase credits towards a down payment to buy the home in the future — but only if the renter remains in the home for two years. 

Alternatively, the renter can move out and redeem their accumulated purchase credits for cash — but again, only if they stay in the home for at least two years.

      Meaning that even home-buyers that would be considered wealthy in other cities can’t necessarily afford homes in any area of the U.S. based on their income. 

     Customers or households must earn $35, 000 - $65,000 

a year and have some savings to qualify, and eligible homes have to be priced between $75,000 and $150,000.  The renter then moves in and pays a monthly bill that essentially includes funds for a future down payment. The goal is to bring back affordable housing to our communities