Multifamilies for Retirement Income

photo by Laurent Montaron

Financial Advisor quoted me in More Retirees Turning To Multifamily Homes For Income. It opens,

Many clients are investing in multifamily residences as a way to generate retirement income.

“A common way for people nearing retirement is to buy a triplex or fourplex, live in one unit and rent out the others,” said Keith Baker, a financial advisor and professor of mortgage banking at North Lake College in Irving, Texas. “They sell their home and use the equity they have built up to do this, and if they still owe some debt, it will be paid down more quickly.” Among the best multifamily properties to acquire for supplemental income is one that has separate entrances with no shared common areas so that each family has their own space, according to Michael Foguth, a financial advisor in Brighton, Michigan.

“Townhomes are very popular,” Foguth told Financial Advisor. “Also popular are duplexes where you have one unit on the ground level and one unit on the second level.”

But clients should not spend so much money to acquire a property that their retirement income ends up undiversified. “If the bulk of your retirement income is tied up in one property, you are exposed to natural disasters like floods as well as economic downturns in that market,” said David Reiss, a professor at Brooklyn Law School who teaches real estate finance.

An alternative to buying a property is modifying an existing residence with the intent of renting out rooms on websites like AirBnB or HomeAway. “You would need to make sure that deed restrictions, zoning and city ordinances allow this,” Baker said. “It also will require property insurance and additional liability coverage.”

When a multifamily rental property is also a primary residence, a portion of the mortgage is tax deductible, according to Carla Dearing, CEO of SUM180, an online financial planning service. There may also be the opportunity to leverage tax benefits like depreciation.

“Selling your home and taking out a loan on a rental four-unit apartment complex allows you to deduct from your income the pro-rated interest expense along with the depreciation expense of the portion of the units you don’t live in so that much of the income is sheltered,” Baker said.

Over time, the income support received from a rental property can be greater than the interest income from investing in the stock market. “You’re likely to receive a nice stream of income when you are renting to people with guaranteed incomes,” said James Brewer, CFP, in Chicago. Nationally, the average price-to-rent ratio is 11.5, meaning that the average property owner is buying a property for a price of 11.5 years worth of rent, which is an estimated 8.7 percent yield on her investment, according to data from Zillow.

A house that cost $200,000 should bring in $1,450 per month in rent using the national price-to-rent average, according to Matt Hylland, an investment advisor with Hylland Capital Management in Virginia Beach. That’s compared to 10-year government bonds, which yield 1.7 percent and the S&P 500 index, which yields about 2 percent.

“But this 8.7 percent is before any costs,” Hylland noted. In other words, clients who add rental property to their portfolios should also add cash to their emergency funds so that have money on hand to maintain and repair the house. “If the roof needs replacing, do you have $5,000 available to fix it?” asks Hylland.

Ideally, a multifamily acquisition will be move-in ready. “Homes that require construction or renovation can easily turn into a money pit, costing twice what you estimate up front,” Dearing said.

Making the Switch to Dirt Law

photo by Tunde

Lawyer & Statesman quoted me in Real Estate Lawyers in Demand about how lawyers can make the transition to a dirt law practice. It reads, in part,

Real estate is one of the most fickle industries around — hot when the economy is growing and cold when it is not. The good news is that real estate is growing again and that means more jobs for attorneys.

Robert Half Legal, a legal staffing agency, reports that the real estate lawyer is the third most in-demand legal position in the South Atlantic region. Real estate is the second-fastest-growing legal industry in the South Atlantic region and the fourth fastest in the Mountain and Pacific regions.

At Brooklyn Law School, real estate law has become the most popular specialization. Graduates are finding more jobs in the specialization’s niche areas such as cooperative and condominium representation, said Professor David Reiss, who also serves as the academic program director of the Center for Urban Business Entrepreneurship.

If you have the time and money, Reiss thinks additional training in real estate can certainly help attorneys specialize their experience in the law. Course and certificates seem to be the best option in regards to both time and money.

“Taking a few relevant courses might make sense for most people instead of devoting the time and money that an LL.M. in real estate would entail,” he said. “Certain kinds of certificates can also help you stand out from other candidates, like the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certificate. It does not involve nearly as much time or money as an LL.M. degree would, but it does signal a level of knowledge and commitment to a particular practice area.”

Don’t worry about getting your real estate license (unless you already have one). Spreading yourself too thin will be more harmful than productive, Reiss said. Attorneys also need to consider the requirements and restrictions of their individual jurisdiction.

“In some jurisdictions, such as New York, members of the bar are exempt from the various requirements necessary to become a licensed real estate broker,” he said. “But in my experience, lawyers are better off doing one thing well — being good lawyers — rather than being a jack of all trades.”

As with a lot of specialized areas of the law, real estate law has plenty of niche areas in which lawyers can further delve into. This can make you more attractive to clients and employers.

“Specializing in areas of the law relating to real estate can make a lot of sense — co-ops, condos and HOAs; construction law; land use; finance; affordable housing; and foreign investment programs, to name a few,” Reiss said.

*     *     *

While real estate can be up and down, Reiss said real estate law could be a good field even during slower economic times.

“No matter what the economy as a whole is doing, clients are still buying and selling properties, financing and refinancing them, and entering into property leases,” he said.

To prepare for careers in real estate law, Brooklyn Law School encourages job applicants to have very focused resumes, which increases their marketability.

“We find that students with focused resumes can make a compelling case to a range of real estate employers, even if their overall GPA is not high,” Reiss said.

Participating in bar association committees is also highly recommended for networking and learning purposes. Reiss says it is important to notify your network that you are transitioning into a new specialization.

“A good word about your work ethic and ability to learn can help compensate for a lack of direct experience,” Reiss said.

All that said, Reiss recommends attorneys be sure of their specialization interests before getting too far into the field.

“You should keep in mind that once you specialize, many people will pigeonhole you in that area,” he said. “So you want to make sure that you like the practice area and that there is a sufficient flow of work to keep you busy.”

Thursday’s Advocacy & Think Tank Round-Up

  • Enterprise Community Partners’ latest blog post in the Spotlight on HOME Investment Partnership series highlights the experience of 22 year old Lani, a single mother of two boy’s, who was able to transition from homelessness to stability with the help of Project Independence, a program administered by Adobe Services in Alameda California, partially funded by HOME.  Enterprise is highlighting the effectiveness of the program because deep budget cuts threaten to reverse the success of HOME.
  • The Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) released a letter sent to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) expressing concerns that the recently implemented Know Before You Owe/Truth in Lending Act/Real Estate Settlement Procedures Acts (TILA/RESPA) regulations are causing widespread market disruptions in the mortgage industry, and that lenders are worried about mistakes and potential liability – causing a decline in loan approval rates and ultimately liquidity.  The CFPB’s Director, Corday, issued a letter in response, acknowledging that the new rules will require extensive operational adjustment and stating: “examiners will be squarely focused on whether companies have made good faith efforts to come into compliance” and that initial examinations will be “corrective and diagnostic, rather than punitive.”
  • The National Association of Realtors (NAR)’s Pending Home Sales Index (a forward looking index) is down slightly for November, the fourth straight monthly decline.  Year over year the metric is up, for the 15th straight month. According to NAR the decline is attributable to tight inventory and rising home prices.
  • NAR’s RealtorMag predicts the top cities for first time homebuyers in 2016, among the contenders are Orlando, Florida; DeMoines, Iowa; and Banton Rouge, Louisiana.

Tuesday’s Regulatory & Legislative Round-Up

  • The Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) is seeking public comment on its revised system of records for the National Mortgage Database Project. The FHFA collects information on all outstanding U.S. mortgages in keeping with its mandate to ensure the creditworthiness of borrowers. Mortgages remain in the NMDB until they terminate through prepayment (including refinancing), foreclosure or maturity. Information from credit repository files on each borrower associated with the mortgages in the NMDB will be collected from one year prior to origination to one year after termination of the mortgage.

Friday’s Government Reports

  • The Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) has reported an uptick in mortgage rates from June to July 2015.  This is according to the Monthly Interest Rate Survey (MIRS), which measures several indices of new mortgage contracts to arrive at a national average.  July’s average was 4.02% up 17 basis points from June’s 3.8%.
  • The FHFA has also released its second quarter Home Affordable Refinance Program (HARP) refinance results. According to the report refinances remained unchanged between the first and second quarters of 2015, 31,561 borrowers refinanced with HARP funds, which represented 5% of all U.S. refinances.  HARP was established in 2009 in order to assist homeowners unable to refinance because of a decline in their home value.  As of March the FHFA estimated that there were over 500,000 borrowers eligible for the HARP program.
  • Also according to the FHFA house prices rose 1.2% from the first to the second quarter (Q2) of 2015 and are up more that 5% over Q2 201.  This is according FHFA’s House Price Index (HPI) which has been up for the last 16 consecutive quarters.

Tuesday’s Regulatory & Legislative Round-Up

  • Fannie Mae announced HomeReady – a new affordable lending product which will be rolled out later in the year.  The program includes features designed to make it more flexible for lenders and buyers alike.  For lenders Desktop Underwriter (DU) allows lenders to make credit risk, eligibility and loan availability assessment in one tool.  HomeReady loans also promise simplified execution due to the ability to commingle them with standard loans into Mortgaged Backed Security polls.  Purchasers are able to put as little as 3% down, and are able to use rental income from the property and non-borrower household income to meet the requirements.

Thursday’s Advocacy & Think Tank Round-Up

  • Community Builders, an initiative of the Sonoran Institute has released Place Value: How Communities Attract, Grow and Keep Jobs and Talent in the Rocky Mountain West recommends walkability and quality of life conscious development of communities .
  • According to the National Association of Realtor’s analysis of the New Housing Starts data homebuilders are increasingly developing high density housing with “walkability” suburban and single family housing has been deemphasized.
  • The Urban Institute released its Housing Finance at a Glance monthly chartbook, which Prof. Reiss finds to be a very helpful holistic view of the mortgage industry.
  • The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)’s Office of Policy Development and Research has developed the Creating Connected Communities: A Guidebook for Improving Transportation Connections for Low and Moderate Income Households in Small and Midsize Cities – the guidebook contains recommendations geared toward cities with 250,000 or fewer residents which among other things suggest a refocus of financial resources on critical needs and improvement of the alignment between housing and transportation investments.
  • Zillow has announced that home prices are rising faster than incomes for most Millenials (no surprise there).  This report also finds that first time home buyers rent for longer before buying typically more expensive homes which are paid for with a larger share of income.