Category: Landlording and Rental Properties
One of the biggest questions real estate investors have (or at least should have), is how many finishing touches and add ons they should give a remodel.
There are many factors which play into this. Some standard finishes will differ based on your particular market. Others should be different based on what the tradition and market history is locally, and the price point of your property and surrounding properties. All of these factors can be make or break when you are trying to turn a profit on your properties.
The Danger of Over-Improving Property
One of the biggest dangers of investing in real estate is over-improving your investment properties. It is the number one pitfall for first time investors. First timers often sink way too much money to over improve a rental property, and often times, they never get any return on the investment. Unfortunately, many investors just don’t know what really adds tangible value to their properties. Being smart and sensible with your value adds can be major when it comes to turning a profit.
When it comes to buy and hold rental properties, it should be attractive to your level of prospective renters. Keep in mind the type of perspective tenant you are looking to attract, and what kind of amenities they need and do not need. Listen to what the market is telling you. But many times landlords must remember that tenants are going to put some wear and tear on the property, and chances are a lot of updates are going to have to be done every time you turn tenants. It could be in 6 months, or 24 months. You just don’t know. So, instead of going all out, especially on items which are easily dirtied or worn, go for slightly more affordable options, and more durable finishes. For example; carpet which can be cleaned, instead of tile which may need to be completely replaced if it is cracked. Or stainless steel sinks, versus custom materials which can stain.
This approach applies to flips as well. You’ve got to know what really adds value, and not do any more than that. You’ve also got to know your buyers. Will they be renting the place out? Then stick to the above principles. In most cases, end buyers are going to have different tastes to you. That means no matter how nice you make it, they are likely to redo a lot of your work. Why put in unique, over the top finishes, if they are going to be pulled out and thrown on the curb a week after closing? They also aren’t going to pay you more, just because you think the design is nicer. Many tenants have a set range for the rent they are wiling to pay, and special add ons do not always help move that needle. Just because you spent a few dollars more per square foot on counter tops and flooring, doesn’t mean you’ll get an extra dollar on the sales price.
What’s Your MVP?
What investors need to know is what their MVP is. That is the Minimum Viable Product. That doesn’t mean be cheap. Do it right, make it look nice, but don’t throw away money. Otherwise you may have to sell at a loss, may not be able to sell at all, or are going to be making a lot less than you thought. You need floors, a roof, countertops, cabinets, bathroom fixtures, and freshly painted walls, but you don’t have to try and win any design awards. Basic countertops will work in most rentals. If you are doing a luxury renovation, you might get away with poured concrete or granite, instead of quartz. You can let the next buyer or renter get their own fridge, or stage it with a basic model, versus spending thousands on a smart fridge which may not be the right model your buyer wants.
Know what the minimum standard expected by local buyers and renters is. You can go a little bit above that if you want to move it faster, if you can get a good deal on the materials. But don’t overdo it.
There is a lot of confusion around what standard rentals and house flips should be finished too. It is also an area which can make or break investors fast. Know your values, and consult an actual appraiser, not just a Realtor to find out. Then set your own standard minimums based on your area, while looking out for deals on slightly higher quality, but neutral materials.
Short term, Airbnb style rentals have been gaining a lot of attention lately, especially in major metropolitan cities. The question is, how do they stack up as an investment strategy for long term income property investors? Are they more profitable? Or are long term annual rentals still the best way to go?
Hot Rentals in Hot Spots
Many real estate investors and entrepreneurs have discovered that there are very juicy rental rates to be found by leasing their units to short term renters for a day, week, or month. A whole new crowd has jumped into this industry to capitalize on this. It is a trend we are seeing more and more each day.
When rented as a hotel, property owners can often get far higher average rates than as annual rentals. What may rent for $1,000 a month to a regular long term tenant, may rent for the equivalent $3,000 per month on Airbnb. There is clearly a lot of value in this short term rental strategy, but there can be some drawbacks.
These rough figures can be very misleading. They don’t account for higher vacancy rates, taxes, wear and tear, and property management costs. All of which can take a big bite out of those anticipated rents.
More importantly; experienced investors know that short term and vacation rentals can be highly volatile. Short term rentla rates can fall just as fast as they rise, due to demand. There are many causes including the economy, new lists of top vacation spots, storms, gas prices, and other factors. All of which can catch short term rental property owners by surprise. Those who have paid high prices for these assets, assuming they’ll be able to rent at these high rates, can be caught short, and find themselves in tough financial situations if they are not careful.
If the numbers won’t work on a deal as an annual rental, be very, very wary. Research around popular message boards and forums frequented by users of AirBnb, VRBO, and more.
Long Term Rentals
In contrast long term rentals offer real estate investors more consistency, stability, and reliability for their investment portfolios. Good long term tenants can also save a lot on property management, maintenance, and marketing. That can even out the spreads a lot. Even more so when investors are purchasing homes at far lower prices. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that the yields on a $80,000 home that rents for $1,000 a month in the Midwest, may produce better yields than a condo on the coast that rents for $3,000 a month, but costs $500,000 or more. It is important to run these numbers before deciding on a short term or long term strategy
Both vacation rentals and long term annual rentals can produce income and attractive returns for investors. It’s all about the numbers. Unfortunately, many are not doing the full math, or are looking far enough forward when trying to jump on the Airbnb bandwagon. Do your math well. Get a second opinion from an expert. Make sure your choice matches your personal financial goals and timeline.
Rent to own deals appear to be becoming more popular again. What are the real pros and cons for investment property owners?
As home prices keep growing, and rent remain high, but mortgage lenders keep underwriting tight, renting to own, lease options, and seller held mortgages all appear to be getting more common again. They are highly desired by tenant-buyers, and can be highly profitable for real estate investors. What should you consider before making the leap?
The Pros of Offering Rent to Own Deals
There are a variety of benefits of this strategy, including the following.
Easy Exit in Tough Markets
Offering a rent to own option can provide landlords an easy exit, even in tough or declining housing markets. Just make sure it is priced in a way that is appealing and the right prospects can afford.
Higher Sales Prices
Rent to own tenants are mostly concerned about move-in costs and monthly payments. They care little about the actual sales price. This can help you get far more for your property.
Creating a seller financed mortgage note can deliver passive income with a lot less headaches. You no longer need to worry about tenants, maintenance, and all the time and risk involved. You just get monthly payments. The note created is also a new asset which can be sold and cashed in on whenever you like.
Providing a Valuable Service
There is a huge need for this service. Millennials and families are having a tough time in the rental market. They will find many benefits in homeownership. They may have good credit and incomes, but just fail to qualify for a conventional bank loan due to paperwork quirks. Give them a chance.
The Cons of Offering Rent to Own Deals
There are some potential downsides to these arrangements to. Make sure you know them.
It may be a little more expensive and time consuming to fix a default situation under these deals than with just a straight tenant.
You’ll be bound by your agreement for a while. This could be 6 to 24 months or more. You will have to stick it out, even if the market changes.
Less Cash Now
You’ll be getting less cash now than in a traditional sale. However, you’ll probably get a lot more over time.
Seller financing is still a bit of a cloudy space due to Dodd-Frank and other regulations. It is legal. Just consult an attorney so that you structure it right, with the right paperwork, and stay protected.
There are both pros and cons to providing rent to own deals as a property owner. Do the math. Remember your big goals. Is it worth it to you?
Experienced landlords know that the housing market goes through different phases and cycles each year. Spring and summer can be hot months for leasing units fast and for top dollar. This can change quite a bit once kids are back in school in fall. Most people have locked down in a new lease for the year. People get busy focusing on the holidays, and the weather may put a damper on showings. How can rental property owners ace it, and still keep their units full at this time of year?
Consider offering move-in specials. Take a look at your competition and see what you need to do to stay competitive. Can you offer a free month of rent, lower security deposits, or a discount on monthly rent? Test some out. Track the performance of these deals and tenants over time and reevaluate if they are worth doing again.
Make Open Houses More Attractive
Real estate in general slows down in fall and winter due to the weather. It is just generally less appealing to go out and view properties. Change that dynamic. Give potential tenants more motivation to come out, and come in to your open houses. How about hosting Santa, or giving away hot chocolate and other freebies?
Build up your inbound marketing and keep in front of potential movers with themed content. Use hashtags, relevant keyword phrases, and seasonal titles to get noticed and build SEO. This includes blogs, social media posts, and email newsletters. There are tons to choose from starting with Halloween through New Year’s Eve.
Pump Up Your Team
You can’t have your leasing team getting down or considering a new career. Keep them pumped and loyal with holiday dinners, seasonal gifts, bonus plans, and a little extra time to spend with family or holiday shopping.
Get Financially Prepared
Thousands of new real estate investors and landlords get crushed during this season each year. They just don’t see it coming. Maybe they got into the game in the buzz of summer, and made plans based on that market. Those who aren’t prepared can go broke, get discouraged, and quit fast. Anticipate the need for reserves. Be financially prepared with cash flow to get through the months tenants are most likely to be late on their rent.
Late August through December can be a little more challenging for landlords. Especially for those who aren’t prepared. Get ahead of the game and make this the season you stand out and excel.
Virtual reality continues to be one of the most exciting frontiers in tech, commerce, and real estate. If current trends continue, more real estate buyers, sellers, and investors could find it a necessity in navigating the market, and getting what they want.
The Rise of VR
Virtual reality (VR) technology has been in development for years. It really began gaining traction with the media coverage of Google’s glasses. Then QR codes morphed into augmented reality apps which enable people to interact with virtual items in the real world, via their phones.
Then came virtual reality headsets which are now available in numerous stores, and pretty inexpensively. More recently, leaders like charity: water, and top NYC commercial real estate firms have begun using VR to create new experiences and ways to engage with far off, or future places.
One VR company alone has created over half a million real estate related virtual tours in the last few years.
Uses of VR in Real Estate
VR tours can be used to view homes and rentals online and from a distance. VR goggles are one of the most immersive ways to engage with this material. Though consumers can also often view this material in regular video format through real estate websites and YouTube on their phones as well.
Exploring New Destinations
We may be more mobile, have more location freedom, and need to move or invest in new areas today, but most don’t want to take the time out and spend the money on flights unless they are really sold on the location and product already. VR is the best way to experience somewhere new from a distance so far. It can be used to explore new neighborhoods, views from a property, and local attractions.
Like with any new tech, one of the major challenges today is the limited number of users. Not everyone has compatible devices for the best experience. You can spend a lot to produce and deliver this content. Yet, may not be able to connect with enough of the right leads, yet. The solutions are to make sure there is alignment between your product and those already actively using VR. For a few hundred dollars you can get to Best Buy and get your own 360 degree filming equipment and record your own video to save on costs at the beginning.
What are your thoughts on VR for real estate?
How can landlords and property managers prepare for the end of summer rush before school starts?
Late spring and summer are considered peak season for home buying and selling. This can result in a back to school rush for tenants to relocate and get into new places before school starts.
When you’ve got this much action all at once, it can get really crazy. If you aren’t prepared it may become very stressful and expensive. Stay ahead of the game, and you’ll keep earning the loyalty of the best tenants, and keep your returns up.
Preparing for Exiting Tenants
The first step is to get ahead of the game on existing tenants. If you have leases renewing you want to touch base early and get new leases signed. You want to keep your good tenants and have a shot at talking them into staying. You also want to know if they are leaving as soon as possible. Then you can capture other movers in the market and get fresh rental property ads up before everyone is locked down for the next year.
Prepare for Turnovers
One of the worst blunders real estate investors make is waiting to put property management in place after a new lease is all closed, and it’s time to collect rents. Savvy investors get property management in the game before the change in tenants happens. A good property manager can help with the needs in getting the property ready, the rental process, and ensuring a smooth turnover.
Bring in Extra Help
With more phone calls, move-ins, and repair requests expected at this time of year, it is smart to bring in extra help. This could just be a part-time outsourced assistant. Factor in what it takes to line up additional vendors and backup vendors for landscaping, turning over units, and handling bookkeeping and tenant screening.
Home warranty plans can be a huge help at this time of year. Between new rental units, new tenants in units with older appliances, and perhaps new appliances being setup, there can be a lot of glitches. These can be a big time and money drain. Home warranty plans can help eliminate or minimize these expenses and disruptions.
Inspections and Preventative Maintenance
This is a smart time of year to set up routine property inspections and tackle any maintenance issues in advance before they get more expensive or disrupt the ability to keep units occupied. Preventive inspections of the heating units and winterizing the A/C unit is good to schedule for early fall.
Better Property Management Software
Better software may help streamline bookkeeping, reporting to any investor partners you have, and with accurately tracking property condition. These programs are constantly being updated, with new companies offering better and better solutions. Make sure you know your options and pick the one that suits your business.
Preparing ahead of time and getting the proper players in place can get you ahead of the game and help you to deal with the back to school rush. Don’t let the big yellow bus, with the flashing red lights, get in front of you and hold you up in leasing your properties!
Property management can be a major time drain if you do not find ways to manage your time. Doing so is a crucial part of the bigger picture, of building a highly profitable real estate portfolio. The more efficient you can be in this part of your investing, the better overall returns you can achieve while preserving time to actually enjoy the rewards of real estate investment.
Check out these ten simple ways to streamline your managing your properties.....
Accept Online Rental Payments
One of the ways to most dramatically streamline property management is to start accepting online rental payments. It will help cut down on time spent taking payments in-house or following up with bank statements and deposit slips. This can also make it easier for tenants to stay on track with their own rent payments.
Get a Bookkeeper
Unless accounting was your major, and you love it, leave it to someone else. Having at least a part-time bookkeeper can really pay off in maximizing annual tax breaks, and countless hours in pulling together receipts and documents at tax filing time.
Proactive Inspections & Maintenance
Slash the time involved in fielding complaints and repair requests, dealing with juggling vendors and additional bookkeeping by staying on top of regular property inspections, and tackling maintenance in advance. Small fixes done early can save many weeks and thousands of dollars.
Freedom to make Repairs
Whether you are a rental property owner with a property management company, or you are doing the DIY thing and are directly dealing with tenants, consider giving them more leeway to make repairs. Do you really need to personally handle every time a tenant locks themselves out, a toilet gets clogged, or a fuse blows? If it is going to cost less than $150 or $250, why not just give them the discretion to fix it?
Renew Leases Early
Ideally, you’ll know whether tenants are staying or leaving at least 60 days before their lease expires. This way you can work with tenants who are on the fence, which can save an enormous amount of time in turnover work. Or at least you know, and can minimize any vacancy periods.
Release Deposits on Time
Not handling potentially explosive legal issues fast can quickly create a lot of work and expense. That inevitably snowballs and impacts your finances in many ways over time. Deposits are a great example. If you delay mailing deposits back to exiting renters, that can lead to all types of problems, versus just handing them a check on the day of your move out inspection.
Deliver Default Notices on Time
The same as above applies to late notices. Train your tenants that if they are late you will start the eviction process. If they can come up with the money, that’s great. It’s also less likely they’ll let it go that far, and create a new turnover situation.
Pay Vendors Fast
When you drag your feet paying vendors, they drag their feet. It’s going to cost a whole lot more dealing with late penalties, digging up old invoices, and in time on the phone. You may even wind up being limited to only being able to work with the worst local vendors who can’t get employed by anyone else.
Streamline Tenant Selection Process
In your tenant screening process, go beyond the credit score or background check and choose who you think will maintain your property the best. The tenant selection criteria and screening process have to be process oriented and very cut and dry with no gray areas. By treating all applicants the same and completing the same process for each person it will help avoid fair housing and/or discriminatory issues.
Passive Income Investments
One alternative to cut out the need for virtually all the above is simply choosing passive income options, like turnkey rental properties, or investment models like Holdfolio which come with full-service property management.
When looking at the time expenditure for managing properties, it is wise to take into consideration all of the factors that eat up the most time for you. Where can you cut, who can you outsource, and how can you ensure that you aren’t a slave to your properties?
Which type of property is right for your first investment?
One of the most common questions new investors ask is, “What types of homes should I look for as a beginning investor?” So, what’s the answer?
What You Need to Know
The first step to deciding on which type of homes you should be looking for is to know what you really want out of it.
What are your financial goals?
What real estate strategies are you planning to use?
What resources do you have?
What talents do you have?
What types of properties do you understand?
What’s Important as a New Investor
As a new investor, the important factors you should probably be focusing on include:
Ease of property management
Low maintenance costs
Beginner investors should be looking to test the waters, and keep their risk low in their first investments. Err, on the side of this being a springboard investment to launch you forward as you learn and get results. The last thing you want is to bite off more than you can handle, and get stuck.
The ‘Bread & Butter’ House
For all of the reasons above, most investors trend towards the common ‘bread and butter’ house. That is your standard 3 bedroom, 2 bath, single family home. It’s what will typically be the easiest to finance, rent and resell, and where most of your money will come from. This is the standard, neighborhood home which appeals to the most people. There are exceptions, however. If you are in an area where there are mostly 2 bedroom, 1 bath homes, or almost all condos, then those may be your best choice vs. the 3 bed 2 bath home. It all comes down to what banks will be most comfortable financing, and which properties will fit the largest number of renters and end buyers.
Your first property is about maintaining flexibility and keeping risk low. It is about going for the homes that are going to deliver real, consistent results. You may aspire to live in a mansion next to LeBron James’ home, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it is a profitable investment. Leave the quirky homes and ultra-high-end speculation to others. Then you’ll be the one with the best investments making the most consistent cash flow at the end of the day.
Beginner investors should start by getting clarity on what they have, and what they want. They should be ready to take bold action and get going. Yet, to start smart, with properties that are going to give them the lowest risk, most options, and best flexibility. Once you get a few under your belt you can always expand to taking on more adventurous projects.
What type of insurance coverage do you need for your rental properties?
Rental property owners need insurance coverage. You may not love making premium payments, but you’ll be glad you’ve got it when something happens. If you plan to finance real estate investments you’ll often also find that insurance is mandatory.
Here are five types of insurance coverage you need to know about…
1. Title Insurance
Title insurance covers your rights to ownership and use of the property and helps cover legal defense if issues arise. You do not want to buy property without this. Every dollar of your investment and future income can be on the line. There is a lot of fraud out there today, and without title insurance, you are at risk.
2. Hazard Insurance
This is your basic property insurance. It typically covers fires and other common forms of damage. This is usually based upon the amount of the loan you have on a property, or the cost to rebuild the property. Make sure you keep the amount of coverage updated as your property value increases.
3. Special Disaster Insurances
Basic hazard insurance is very limited coverage. It typically does not cover a wide variety of other natural disasters which can destroy your property. If you are in a flood zone you will typically need special flood insurance. This is normally very inexpensive. Those in coastal zones may need windstorm or hurricane insurance which also can be very expensive.
4. Renters Insurance
Hazard insurance doesn’t cover tenant belongings. You don’t want to be on the hook for your tenants’ furniture and personal items if there is a fire, flood, or break-in. Typically, landlords will require that renters obtain their own renter’s insurance, at their own expense. This should be laid out in your lease.
5. Umbrella Policy Insurance Coverage
There is generally a discount when you group all of the properties together and this also provides ease of management. If you do enough deals, and own properties long enough you’ll run into something. Often loopholes in the above policies will mean you aren’t covered by them, or they may not provide enough coverage. An umbrella insurance policy can be used to cover you and act as a second layer of protection across all of your real estate business and assets. This can help cover issues like “dog bite” lawsuits.
Keeping in mind the need for all types of insurance coverage and this will make your property management experience a smoother and less risky endeavor.
Who are the essential professionals you need in your camp before you start investing in real estate?
It is important to keep up your momentum when getting started in real estate investing. Yet, you also want to make sure you are investing wisely and can enjoy a smooth process which delivers the best possible real estate success.
Here are the first five professionals you need to connect with before you invest:
Your actual investment returns will depend a lot on taxes. There can easily be a double digit difference in what you get to keep, depending on how you set yourself up, and how you file taxes. A good tax professional can help you strategize and get it right before you wind up with a big income tax bill.
Sooner or later you will want or need an attorney. It is just smart to have one already pre-screened and on call for when that time comes. You may want a specialist real estate attorney who can help negotiate contracts, and aid you in defending against lawsuits. It might also be helpful to have a family law or asset protection lawyer who can help you personally set up the right structures to grow and pass on your legacy.
Part of real estate success is the reduction of risk. Even if you don’t need direct property insurance to cover individual real estate assets, you will probably need an umbrella policy, life insurance, and other types of insurance to cover your assets in various areas.
Even if you don’t plan on needing credit or extra cash to invest, it can be wise to have relationships with these sources in advance. It will help you avoid any cash crunches or missing out on any great opportunities. This may be private lenders, mortgage brokers, or angel investors. You will also want to build relationships with bankers to make your transactions go more smoothly.
Having someone you can pick up the phone and call or shoot an email to for urgent help or an experienced second opinion can make all the difference in your business decision making. Find someone who is experienced in what you are doing and who shares your values.
If you plan to be an active real estate investor, make this a full-time thing, or to start a real estate business, you will also want these five people in your camp before you get going.
Having a trusted contractor on call can be invaluable for fast property inspections, repair estimates, timely turnovers and getting work done quickly.
Real Estate Agent
Whether or not you actually use a Realtor to help buy, sell, and rent real estate, investors can find them very useful for making sense of the market, and keeping on top of evolving trends.
You simply can’t do it all as an investor. Even if you have a strong marketing background, the most profitable use of your time is probably inking new deals. Still, with 90% of your success relying on your marketing to secure deals, fill them with renters, and resell them, make sure you have an expert on your team.
An assistant can be used to protect and free up your time so that you are getting the best ROI on every hour of the day. A good assistant can handle a wide variety of time-consuming tasks, including finding the other people on this list.
As you grow your real estate business, taking on a big multifamily property, or are building new homes to rent out, a project manager can save you time, and help things go smoothly. This could be a true project manager for a specific mission, a property manager, or a general manager for your organization.
Putting some thought into what and who you need to have in your camp to be savvy and efficient will help direct you towards the path of success!