How to Rent out A Condo

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Realtor.com quoted me in How to Rent out a Condo: Watch out! It’s Not the Same as a Home. It opens,

How to rent out a condo: This may seem like a simple question, but if you own a condominium, you probably know it’s actually rather complicated.

For those who are foggy on what a condo is, let’s start with the definition: It’s a home, typically part of a larger building, that comes with shared common areas such as yards and garages that are maintained by hired help, rather than by individual owners. This makes condo ownership a breeze, by comparison with the labor involved in maintaining your own house, and you pay for that convenience in condo fees.

This more communal living arrangement, however, also means that you can’t just rent out your place whenever the whim strikes. In the past, condominiums were pretty flexible about allowing unit owners to rent out their homes. In recent years, though, condo associations have become a little more restrictive, according to David Reiss, professor of law and academic program director at Brooklyn Law School. Here we break down everything you need to know about how to rent out a condo.

Step 1: Read your condo association’s governing documents

Every condominium is different, but they all have one important feature in common: Owners are subject to a set of rules established by the condo association and upheld by the Board of Directors. Some do not allow for renting as an option. Review your condo association’s bylaws, and/or rules and regulations, to understand the existing policies regarding renting out units.

Step 2: Know your condo association’s restrictions

If renting is allowed, there may be limitations on the length of the lease term—including minimum and maximum times—and on whether pets are allowed. Also look into whether or not renting has been an issue in the past, which could give you a crystal ball into your future. “Review board meeting minutes to see if any new policies are being discussed that might impact your plans,” says Reiss.

Another potential renting deal-breaker to be aware of is that some condominium associations allow only a certain percentage of total units to be rented out at any one time. Check to see if the current ratio of rented to non-rented condos will accommodate your unit. Keep in mind that some associations only allow renting after an owner has lived there for a minimum period, usually two years.

What’s with 1031 Exchanges?

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US News & World Report quoted me in Why 1031 Exchange Investments Are Worth a Look. It opens,

With tax reform nearing final passage in Congress, one of the most underlooked, but potentially overpowering, tax-advantaged investment tools is the 1031 exchange, which was spared major changes in the proposed legislation.

The 1031 exchange, especially when related to real estate investments, is all about “timing and taxes” and the better you manage the two, the more money you can make.

What is a 1031 exchange? By and large, IRS Section 1031 covers “exchanges” or swaps of a specific investable asset (such as real estate) for another. The end game for the taxpayer/investor is to avoid having exchanges listed as taxable sales. But if they’re executed within the confines of a 1031 exchange, taxes are either significantly reduced or eliminated altogether.

The primary benefit of 1031 exchanges related to real estate investments is tax deferral, or avoidance of capital gains taxes on the sale of appreciated investment property, says Kevin O’Brian, a certified financial planner at Peak Financial Services, in Northborough, Massachusetts.
“If held inside owner’s estate at death, the asset would receive a step-up in cost basis to the market value, as of the date of death,” O’Brian says. “Therefore, heirs could avoid capital gains taxes, if sold after inheriting it as well.”
Others note that following IRS guidelines on Section 1031 are a must.
“1031 exchanges allow a real estate investor to sell one property that has appreciated in value and not pay capital gains tax so long as the investor buys another property,” says David Reiss, a professor at Brooklyn Law School. “This is a powerful tax deferral tool that many sophisticated real estate investors use. It is, however, somewhat complicated to pull off and involves some additional costs and planning so it is not for those looking for a quick and easy way to defer capital gains.”
What are the rules for a 1031 exchange? The rules governing 1031 exchanges have to be followed carefully and it makes sense to plan for it with an appropriate team of professional advisors and a reputable 1031 exchange company, Reiss says.
“Generally, the investor needs to sell the property that has appreciated in value; place the proceeds in escrow with an intermediary; and then use those proceeds to buy a replacement property within a certain period of time,” he says. “If the investor fails to follow the requirements for the exchange, he or she may be taxed on the full capital gain.”
Investors should also be sure to use a 1031 exchange company that meets specific criteria. “Not the least of which is that it’s properly insured to protect you in case your funds disappear from escrow,” Reiss says. “This has been known to happen.”

How To Buy a 2,3 or 4 Family Home

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FitSmallBusiness quoted me in How to Buy a Duplex, Triplex, or Fourplex – The Ultimate Guide. It opens,

Buying a duplex, triplex, or fourplex can be a good investment for both investors and residential home buyers. Purchasing small multi-unit properties requires some basic understanding of how to locate, finance, and manage multiple units. Those activities are only slightly more involved than for buying single-family properties but can lead to a profitable multi-unit investment.

Buying a duplex, triplex, or fourplex can be broken down into 7 steps:

1. Determine Whether Buying a Duplex, Triplex, or Fourplex is Right for You

Whether you learn how to buy a duplex, triplex, or fourplex as an investor, or as a home buyer attempting to secure some rental income from your property, buying a small multifamily investment is a bit different than for a single-family property. Assessing the benefits and downsides at the outset is a good idea.

Benefits of Buying a Duplex or Small Multi-Family Building

There several reasons why duplexes, triplexes, and fourplexes are sensible purchases. Home buyers can live in one unit and generate rental income with the others; they provide a good way to start investing in multi-unit properties; and, for investors, they diversify the rents and consolidate expenses among multiple units.

You Can Live in One Unit of a Multi-Family Building and Generate Rental Income

If you are buying a personal residence, a duplex or other small multi-unit building will provide you with a place to live along with rental income. You can live in one unit while renting out the others to generate income.

It is fully possible, particularly with triplexes and quadraplexes that your rental income can pay your entire mortgage and maybe even a bit more. In effect, you can purchase a place to live, but have your tenants pay for it.

David Reiss, Professor of Law and Director, CUBE, The Center for Urban Business Entrepreneurship, Brooklyn Law School tells us:

“There are significant benefits that you can get fromDavid Reiss - How to buy a duplexbuying and living in a duplex, triplex, or fourplex instead of a single-family home. For instance, you may be able to use the rental income from the additional units to increase the amount that you can borrow and that rental income can offset a big part of your monthly mortgage payment. You can also deduct more of your expenses, such as part of your insurance premium and a portion of your repair bills, as business expenses.”

 

Duplexes, Triplexes, and Four-Unit Properties Are a Good Way to Start Investing in Multi-Unit Properties

Learning how to buy a duplex, triplex, or fourplex provides a good entry into multi-unit properties without taking a deeper dive into apartment buildings. While screening tenants and managing renters in any kind of multi-unit building is a bit different than with single-family properties, the leap isn’t insurmountable. Duplexes and the like provide a good transition from managing single-family properties to handling multi-unit buildings without getting overwhelmed.

What Is Compound Interest?

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US News & World Report quoted in What Is Compound Interest? It opens,

When it comes to investing, compound interest really is the most powerful force in the universe. Remarkable in both its simplicity and its power, compound interest is the concept of reinvesting, along with the original principal sum, the interest earned on your investment.

As a result, you earn interest on top of interest, and then more on top of that larger sum, and so on. “Over time, a small amount of money can become a mountain of money,” says David Winters, CEO of Wintergreen Advisers.

Compound interest is one of the most basic concepts for investors to understand, in no small part because its magical results work the same whether you have $100 or $100 million.

In that sense, it’s every investor’s secret weapon – and you probably want to use your secret weapon if it can help you build your retirement nest egg (which it can). Unfortunately, if you look at how the average American spends and invests, it doesn’t reflect a great respect or understanding of compound interest.

It’s time to change that.

Proving its power in a thought experiment. David Reiss, professor of law at Brooklyn Law School, likes to convey the profound power of compound interest with a riddle of sorts.

“Would you rather receive a gift on Jan. 1 of $1 million, or a penny that doubles every day for the rest of the month?” Reiss says. “Most kids would go for the million bucks, but those who are patient enough to do the math know that they can get millions more if they are patient enough to wait the month.”

It’s true. The penny-doubler would in fact finish January with $9.7 million more than his or her instant gratification-seeking friend.

Investing in Mortgage-Backed Securities

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US News & World Report quoted me in Why Investors Own Private Mortgage-Backed Securities. It opens,

Private-label, or non-agency backed mortgage securities, got a black eye a few years ago when they were blamed for bringing on the financial crisis. But they still exist and can be found in many fixed-income mutual funds and real estate investment trusts.

So who should own them – and who should stay away?

Many experts say they’re safer now and are worthy of a small part of the ordinary investor’s portfolio. Some funds holding non-agency securities yield upward of 10 percent.

“The current landscape is favorable for non-agency securities,” says Jason Callan, head of structured products at Columbia Threadneedle Investments in Minneapolis, pointing to factors that have reduced risks.

“The amount of delinquent borrowers is now at a post-crisis low, U.S. consumers continue to perform quite well from a credit perspective, and risk premiums are very attractive relative to the fundamental outlook for housing and the economy,” he says. “Home prices have appreciated nationwide by 5 to 6 percent over the last three years.”

Mortgage-backed securities are like bonds that give their owners rights to share in interest and principal received from homeowners’ mortgage payments.

The most common are agency-backed securities like Ginnie Maes guaranteed by the Federal Housing Administration, or securities from government-authorized companies like Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

The agency securities carry an implicit or explicit guarantee that the promised principal and interest income will be paid even if homeowners default on their loans. Ginnie Mae obligations, for instance, can be made up with federal tax revenues if necessary. Agency securities are considered safe holdings with better yields than alternatives like U.S. Treasurys.

The non-agency securities are issued by financial firms and carry no such guarantee. Trillions of dollars worth were issued in the build up to the financial crisis. Many contained mortgages granted to high-risk homeowners who had no income, poor credit or no home equity. Because risky borrowers are charged higher mortgage rates, private-label mortgage securities appealed to investors seeking higher yields than they could get from other holdings. When housing prices collapsed, a tidal wave of borrower defaults torpedoed the private-label securities, triggering the financial crisis.

Not many private-label securities have been issued in the years since, and they accounted for just 4 percent of mortgage securities issued in 2015, according to Freddie Mac. But those that are created are considered safer than the old ones because today’s borrowers must meet stiffer standards. Also, many of the non-agency securities created a decade or more ago continue to be traded and are viewed as safer because market conditions like home prices have improved.

Investors can buy these securities through bond brokers, but the most common way to participate in this market is with mutual funds or with REITs that own mortgages rather than actual real estate.

Though safer than before, non-agency securities are still risky because, unlike agency-backed securities, they can incur losses if homeowners stop making their payments. This credit risk comes atop the “prepayment” and “interest rate” risks found in agency-backed mortgage securities. Prepayment risk is when interest earnings stop because homeowners have refinanced. Interest rate risk means a security loses value because newer ones offer higher yields, making the older, stingier ones less attractive to investors.

“With non-agencies, you own the credit risk of the underlying mortgages,” Callan says, “whereas with agencies the (payments) are government guaranteed.”

Another risk of non-agency securities: different ones created from the same pool of loans are not necessarily equal. Typically, the pool is sliced into “tranches” like a loaf of bread, with each slice carrying different features. The safest have first dibs on interest and principal earnings, or are the last in the pool to default if payments dry up. In exchange for safety, these pay the least. At the other extreme are tranches that pay the most but are the first to lose out when income stops flowing.

Still, despite the risks, many experts say non-agency securities are safer than they used to be.

“Since the financial crisis, issuers have been much more careful in choosing the collateral that goes into a non-agency MBS, sticking to plain vanilla mortgage products and borrowers with good credit profiles,” says David Reiss, a Brooklyn Law School professor who studies the mortgage market.

“It seems like the Wild West days of the mortgage market in the early 2000s won’t be returning for quite some time because issuers and investors are gun shy after the Subprime Crisis,” Reiss says. “The regulations implemented by Dodd-Frank, such as the qualified residential mortgage rule, also tamp down on excesses in the mortgage markets.”

Keeping Cash on Hand

1127px-American_CashTheStreet.com quoted me in Why Some Investors Are Keeping Large Sums of Money in Cash. It reads, in part,

Investors are still holding large positions in cash amid the continued volatility in the stock market since they remain uncertain about the outlook of the economy.

After being spooked by the markets this year — evinced by the 21 times the Dow gained or lost 200 or more points through March 1 compared to only nine in 2015 — investors are finding a large cash reserve to be a reassuring cushion.

A report by Capgemini and RBC Wealth Management in 2015 cites the total cash held by high net households or those who have $1 million or more investable assets in North America as $3.8 trillion. Out of that total, $3 trillion to 3.5 trillion of those assets are estimated to be in the U.S., said Gary Zimmerman, CEO of MaxMyInterest, a New York-based company that maximizes cash balances for savers.

One reason cash remains popular among all age groups is because the sentiment of the economy, job growth and markets is viewed unfavorably. Data on the amount of cash that consumers keep in checking or savings accounts or CDs are not tracked.

“Cash is still a favored asset for investors, because frankly, people are nervous about the economy,” said Sean Stein Smith, a CPA in Hackensack, N.J.

Even wealthy people are allocating large sums of their assets in cash, with 23.7% of high net worth people keeping their portfolios in cash in 2015, according to the report.

 *     *     *

Homeowners should also consider starting a repair fund in addition to having emergency savings to cover household expenses, said David Reiss, a law professor at Brooklyn Law School in N.Y. Some repairs need to be made immediately such as a roof leaking during the rainy season or the boiler during winter months.

“A homeowner who wanted to be conservative could put an amount equal to 10% of his or her mortgage payment into a comparable fund for home repairs,” he said. “There is probably not one right answer for everyone. Some people are handy and can do all sorts of repairs themselves, others can’t.”

Valuing Rental Property

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Money quoted me in Here’s How Much You Should Pay for a Rental PropertyIt opens,

Q: I want to invest in a rental property. Is there a formula I can use to determine the value of a building based on the rent it takes in?

A: One useful calculation to use is the capitalization (or “cap”) rate, which is the ratio of net rental income to the purchase price of the property, says Brooklyn Law School professor David Reiss.

Start with your gross rental income, which is simply the total of one year’s worth of rents for all of the units combined. Subtract 5% or so to account for occasional vacancies throughout the year. It’s safest to use existing rents, but you can conservatively increase the amounts if you are planning to improve the units and raise rents.

Then add up the yearly operating expenses — property taxes, insurance, utilities, plus at least 5% of gross income for a maintenance/repair fund — and subtract that from the annual income. To get your cap rate, divide that number (the net operating income) by the purchase rate.

Run the Numbers

Let’s say you’re buying a five-family house and anticipate gross annual income of $100,000. If you calculate your total annual operating expenses at $30,000, you end up with $70,000 in net operating income. For a property that cost, let’s say, $1 million, that equates to a 7% cap rate.

But is 7% a worthwhile return on your investment for the work and risk of being a property owner and a landlord?

“That depends on the building,” says Reiss. “For a brand new, fully rented, high-quality building in a prime neighborhood, a reliable, low-risk 4% to 10% return might be reasonable.

“But if you’re talking about a rundown building, in an borderline neighborhood, with a several vacant units that you’re planning to fill after you undertake major improvements, you might reasonably hold out for a 20% cap rate,” he explains, because you’ll have renovation costs on the expense side, perhaps a higher vacancy rate while you fix it up — and you’re taking a bigger risk with your money.

Using a Mortgage

Also, the cap rate assumes a cash purchase. When you take a mortgage to buy an investment property, lenders will likely demand a down payment of 25% or more, says Reiss.

So in that case, he suggests also calculating your return on upfront costs.

In our example, if you invest $300,000 in upfront costs (down payment plus other initial expenses like closing costs and renovations) and expect to earn $20,000 a year (after $50,000 annual mortgage payments), that’s just under a 7% annual return on your money.

Again, you need to consider the relative risk of the particular investment property to determine whether that payback rate is high enough. Look at several properties to get a better feel for how the risks and rewards compare.