As many of you know one of the benefits of subscribing to this blog is that you not only get access to high-level strategies, news and hot off market properties that we ourselves own on occasion, but we also try to dissect the trends and market stories we see and give you insight on how you can use them to help yourself in your real estate business.
I am an active real estate investor, owner of the largest real estate group on LinkedIn and of course founder of ListedBy.com, but I am not a writer so forgive me if my silly excitement often comes through in the form of ALL CAPS, and un needed exclamation points but if you can sift through all that “fun” there is hopefully some exciting nuggets here to take with you.
We were thankful to attend the big Inman News Real Estate Connect event in SFO this last week for the third year in a row. Inman for those of you who don’t know is one of the biggest names in real estate tech and is targeted mainly towards technology that real estate agents can use to better their businesses. As an entrepreneur and multi-time sponsor of the event for ListedBy as an exhibitor I am often more drawn to check out the exhibitor booths to see whats fresh and new to hit the market. A lot of times there are pretty unreal items there and this year was no exception.
Here are a few of the high-lights for up and coming companies I had a chance to chat with (Full disclosure none of these companies are aware we are posting this so this is strictly my third party review and understanding of what they do and in no way comes directly from them)
Massive platform up and coming as a resource for landlords and property managers to use for their rental inventory. I was blown away when one of the founding members told me they are getting more than 200,000 hits per month in traffic! As a long time investor a resource like this to get more exposure for my rentals properties is very exciting and honestly other than craigslist there really is no reliable option that I am aware for this type of targeted exposure.
Again full-disclosure on this one, I have known the founder for a couple of years after first meeting him at an Inman event in 2012 and I have to say I have been patiently waiting for this technology to really come live ever since! What Nuoffer does with digital signature functionality is a life saver in my opinion not only for real estate agents but also real estate investors. We have often wanted to integrate similar functionality in to the back-end of ListedBy.com to allow users to not only submit offers on properties through the site, but actually take the entire process digital all the way up to the close of escrow! The time saved for all parties is exceptional and it sounds like Imran and the NuOffer team have already expanded rapidly in Texas so looking forward to seeing them hopefully really catch on.
Reesio is a company that I have been aware also for a while now and know the founder Mark Thomas fairly well. Their platform is REALLY starting to gain major traction as a transaction management resource for real estate agents and specifically helpful for large real estate brokerages. I discussed with Mark at the event how it seems that the same core “project/task management” style functionality could just as easily work well for real estate investors also. When buying and selling having all your documents in one spot and being able to set and manage targets for all the parties involved is ridiculously efficient. Mark is a true entrepreneurs’ entrepreneur and I am always excited to see what him and his team will do next.
Honestly there were probably an extra 5-6 new items that REALLY caught my eye and got me excited but we had to limit to to 3 for this segment or else my team that actually proof reads this would stab me in the face.
At ListedBy.com we are proud to be a small part of the growing push to take real estate in to the digital era the way so many other industries have gone. My fundamental dream for ListedBy was and is to streamline the home buying process taking it online and eliminating paperwork, hassle and ultimately bringing PEOPLE together in a direct and effective format. I would say these three companies and really all of the exhibitors I met with this year at Inman share a vision in their own way that speeds up the process for all parties and takes the research and the actual action of buying a home online in new creative ways we have yet to see. in 2012 70%PLUS of all home purchases started with an online search. That statistic tells you everything you need to know. The researching aspect and informational content has never been easier to receive and never had as much knowledge and desire to go and get it. Now sites like these and like ListedBy can work together to help the transactional side catch up and ultimately benefit the consumer in a way the world has never seen.
The 5 Tops Ways to Make More Money With Your Rental Properties
Rather than just acquiring as many properties as possible, let’s take a step back and think about whether or not the best way to make more money right now is to focus on your current portfolio.
To maximize the profit of your rental properties you must first minimize vacancy.
The best way to do this is to find a long-term tenant so that you don’t have to deal with turnover. This is covered separately by my next point because it is not the only way to keep your property occupied.
In the event that your tenant must move, vacancy can also be minimized by keeping turnaround time to a minimum. A friend of mine owns a condo in the D.C. area that is rented to 3 individual roommates.
Although multiple tenants have moved on, he has kept occupancy at essentially 100% by posting ads the minute he learns of the move. Demand in the area is so high that he will have immediate interest and line up a new tenant to move in on the coat tails of the old one.
You might be thinking “how does that apply to my property in an area with lower demand”. The thing is, nearly every property in every neighborhood has solid demand at a price.
What do you think would happen if you lowered the rent of this property by 25%?
People would be falling over each other to live there, even if it meant breaking their current lease, wouldn’t they?
If not, then you have invested in a seriously economically depressed neighborhood!
I am not suggesting that you offer your properties for ridiculously low rents, but am exaggerating to make the point that if your vacancies are high you may be doing it to yourself and need to think about your price point.
Every month of vacancy costs you 8.3% of your potential yearly revenue, so you would be better off renting every property one month faster for 5% less rent, two months faster for 10% less rent, and so on.
Another way to think about vacancy is this. If a property does not have some characteristic that sets it apart from the rest and sells itself such as a prime location or a to-die-for kitchen, you can give it one by providing the best value in town.
I once had a vacancy problem that cost me almost six months in rent. By my calculations above, I would have made out much better if I had lowered rents by 30% and found a good tenant immediately! Of course, I was not expecting such a problem in the beginning.
The property is a large 4 bedroom 2.5 bath home in a very family friendly community. It became vacant right around Thanksgiving, which I learned is the worst possible time to be selling or renting a home to families since very few want to move during the holidays and in the middle of the school year.
The first mistake that I made was to slow play the work that needed to be done to make the home truly desirable as a rental. It needed new interior paint and carpeting, and rather than taking care of it immediately, I prioritized a big vacation to New Zealand that I was about to embark on.
Two months later there had been very little interest and I realized I needed to lower the rent a bit and get the home in prime condition right away. The work took a few weeks and I waited some more. Still no one was biting. I could not figure out why there was no interest.
Finally, I lowered the rent to about 8% below market value. I had lost almost 50% of the property’s annual revenue before I found a renter! What I learned from this is that it hurts much more to keep a property vacant than it does to drop rents, pay a contractor to put it in prime condition immediately, and provide value to a new tenant.
In retrospect, I would have been better off lowering rent by 10% or more at the first sign of trouble. For this type of property in this area, I also learned to make sure that leases come due in the summer months when there is a much larger pool of renters.
2. Minimize Turnover
Turnover costs money in multiple ways.
There are advertising costs, the cost of patching and painting walls and replacing flooring that your previous tenant would have lived with, and, of course, vacancy. It’s a little counterintuitive, but this is another area where relatively lower rent may have the tendency to increase revenue.
Recall my example of lowering rent by 25%. For that price, your tenants may never want to leave. It would take a job transfer or personal situation to force them to give up such a deal.
One of your goals should be to find quality tenants that take care of your property and pay consistently. When you find these people, do what you can to keep them!
Some people will inevitably leave because they are moving across the country or buying a home, but the last thing that you want is to lose your best tenants to the landlord down the street, dealing with the expense of acquiring a new tenant and lost revenue in the vacancy.
The price of rent is not the only factor involved in tenant retention. The other key that is in your control is customer service. Whether you personally manage your properties or have a property manager, make sure that your tenants are treated with respect and professionalism, their concerns are valued, and matters are dealt with urgently and to their satisfaction. A good tenant/landlord relationship keeps tenants from thinking about moving.
To assess whether your property manager is performing in a way that fosters good tenant/landlord relationships, send a post card soliciting feedback from your tenants, letting them know that their opinion is valued and they can contact you directly if a they are dissatisfied with their manager.
3. Increase Rent Strategically
Now for the contradiction.
After telling you that lower rents can lead to higher revenue, I will proceed to tell you to increase your rents on your longer-term tenants. This is really not a contradiction at all. Rather, it is a delicate balance that requires knowledge of your property’s value relative to your competition.
Increasing rents is a touchy matter. As I mentioned, tenants may be more loyal if they can’t find lower rent elsewhere. But this doesn’t mean that you should never raise rents when you have good reason to do so.
Once you have acquired a tenant, there is a cost for them to move. If the value of their current rental is significantly better than the value of a new rental plus the cost of moving, you still have the upper hand.
Make sure that you know the rents in the area, researching sites such as Zillow, rentometer, Craigslist, and the MLS if you have access. You may find that there is plenty of room to increase your revenue a small percentage each year (1-3%) while remaining competitive, and there is no reason to give this up.
Two tactics that I use to increase rents are to communicate an offset to new costs such as increased HOA fees, which cover utilities and amenities that they enjoy, and to have them coincide with an upgrade to the rental.
For instance, I may plan to paint the exterior of the home or upgrade old windows from single to dual pane anyway, but I will schedule the work to coincide with a lease renewal and the tenant feel they are getting something out of the deal.
I may even ask them if there is anything that would make them more comfortable and select items from this list that will justify rent increases while increasing the market value of the home. In other words, make improvements that are necessary for maintenance or have immediate return on investment.
4. Be Diligent on Late Fees
Showing kindness and respect to your tenants does not mean being a pushover when it comes to rent collection and late fees.
Collections are not the most enjoyable part of being a landlord, but are an essential part of running a profitable business. Make sure that your tenants understand that this is a business, they have signed a contract, and it is your job to complete this transaction, following the contract and all applicable laws (including eviction proceedings if necessary).
Realizing that this is your business, you are leaving money on the table by only loosely following the contract and allowing tenants to get away with paying late without the appropriate fees.
By doing this, your tenants will likely see if they can get away with late payments several more times, causing you extra work and stress which should, of course, be compensated through those fees.
If your tenant goes as far as sending you a late check without including the late fees, politely explain that rent is not considered paid until all fees are collected, and that unfortunately you cannot accept this payment until all fees are paid. If you hold firm, they will quickly learn that you cannot be taken advantage of and will most likely comply.
5. Add Revenue Streams
This form of revenue does not apply as easily to single family residences (SFRs), but can be a great way to increase cash flow in multi-family properties.
Look for the opportunity to add services like coin-operated laundry and vending machines, which will not only provide revenue but will add resale value by raising the CAP rate.
If you are particularly entrepreneurial, you may even find additional revenue streams in your SFRs. An idea that I have had is to offer house cleaning and landscaping services to my tenants at the time they sign the lease. These are responsibilities that they have per the lease and may not be excited about taking on.
Basically, you become a one stop shop for taking care of their home. You can negotiate the rates of independent landscaping and cleaning services, contract them out, and collect a fee as the contractor. For instance, if a cleaner agrees on a $75/month fee, you may offer the service to your tenant for $85/month, increasing your annual revenue by $120.
Before you worry about buying additional properties, think about whether or not you are maximizing those that you already own.
Are vacancies and turnover as low as they could be?
Are you increasing rents in a way that will not cause you to lose quality tenants?
Are you collecting all of the fees that you are entitled to?
Could you easily create new revenue streams?
You may find that you can reach your business goals not only through acquiring a large number of properties but by operating a smaller number of properties more intelligently.
Would you add any tips or steps to this article?
Be sure to leave your comments below!
It was truly a pleasure getting to sit down with the FlipNerd team and review exciting aspects of ListedBy.com, and Social Media (Specifically LinkedIn) for the real estate sector. We covered some fun topics that hopefully add some extra value to real estate investors in how they can use LinkedIn for real estate investing and use ListedBy.com as a real estate investor and real estate agent. You can watch the interview HERE and we sincerely thank you as always for being a part of the site!=)
Overseas buyers scooped up $92.2 billion of U.S. real estate last year, driven mainly by wealthy Chinese looking for a safe haven for their families and fortunes. A new report from the National Association of Realtors says sales activity from international buyers surged 35 percent in the 12 months that ended in March. While international buyers represent only 7 percent of total existing home sales nationally over the period, their buying is highly focused on high-end homes in Florida, California, Texas and Arizona. Chinese buyers were the largest foreign buyers measured by dollar volume, with sales jumping 72 percent over the 12 month period to $22 billion. Chinese buyers now account for 24 percent of all sales made to overseas buyers by dollar volume. Canada was second with $13.8 billion in deals, followed by the United Kingdom and India, each with $5.8 billion. Overseas buyers tend to pay all cash and prefer higher-end homes. Chinese buyers were the biggest spenders. The mean price they paid hit $590,826, and more than half of their purchases were in California, Washington and New York.
Chris Dodd and Barney Frank have long since retired, but the namesake legislation they crafted four years ago is about to unleash sweeping changes in the mortgage and real estate markets.
According to real estate attorney Shari Olefson, who also wrote the book Financial Fresh Start, the changes took effect January 1st and few people even know about them.
“It’s not a bad idea to have less risky loans,” she says in the attached video. “The problem is folks are just not really ready for this. Banks have been preparing for this for a while, but folks on the street are just not aware of it.”
What she’s talking about is the coming dawn of the qualified or ‘’safe harbor’’ mortgage era.
“Here’s the problem. In order for banks to benefit from a ‘safe harbor’ against lawsuits by borrowers, the loans they issue now under Dodd Frank have to be considered qualified mortgages,” Olefson says.
Specifically, she says that means debt-to-income ratio cannot exceed 43%, points and costs cannot exceed 3% and banks must independently verify that a borrower “has the ability to repay” via eight different criteria.
While the all sounds logical and well intentioned, Olefson foresees some problems.
“Here’s the catch, about 20% of people who have mortgages right now, will not be able to get qualified mortgages. So what’s going to happen to those people is they’re going to have to go elsewhere for the new mortgage loans, or banks will have to price them more expensively because they don’t have these protections against lawsuits.”
What that means, she says, is that “it’s starting to sound like we may be seeing what used to be sub-prime loans again,” as well as the reality that more people will be pushed into the rental market.
Again, while this may be news to Mom and Pop, institutional money has been pouring into residential, single-family homes for years, and Wall Street is now poised to collect rent-checks until the real estate market rebounds enough for a suitable return on investment. As she frames it, private industry is stepping in exactly as Uncle Sam is easing out of the mortgage business.
Olefson also points out that all of this comes at a time when homeownership levels are already falling, from a peak of 69% to just 63% today. It’s a trend she fears could carry huge societal ramifications given the fact that 75% of American wealth has historically come from home ownership, or as she calls it, “essentially a forced savings account.”
Mess with that safety net, and it’s easy to see why she says the ripple effects of unintended consequences could easily outweigh the benefits of a four year old law.
The day those of us gather to celebrate this countries birth,
Celebrate the men and women that fought hard to draw that firm line in the dirt,
The dirt we as real estate agents, and investors now sell to survive,
We say God Bless America, with a sense of humility and a strong sense of pride,
237 years have passed since it was signed in to law on this special day,
When the founders of our country vowed never to let our freedom slip away,
From the ListedBy team to every single reader, supporter, and member who enjoys what we do,
Happy Independence Day from all of us and a sincere thanks directly to you!
This Sappy Real Estate Moment brought to you by the ListedBy Team, Happy 4th of July everyone!=)
UPDATE: Police don’t believe Ashley Okland’s murder was a random act, and think she may have been killed by a fellow realtor. They’re now looking for a scruffy-looking man previously seen driving a Cadillac Escalade. See update after the jump…
Ashley Okland was out doing what realtors do Friday afternoon, showing townhomes to prospective buyers at the Stone Creek Villas in West Des Moines, Iowa. Just after 2 p.m., a woman who works in the development found her covered in blood in a model unit.
Ashley died at the hospital. She was shot once in the head and once in the chest.
So far, police have no suspects or motive in the slaying. They believe it was an isolated incident, but really have no way of knowing at this point. Just to be on the safe side, Iowa Reality, Ashley’s company, canceled all home showings for the following day.
The motive could have been robbery. Realtors like to put on the affectations of wealth, leading a moron to believe that they could be a good target for a takedown. In February, two men were arrested in Ottumwa, Iowa for robbing an agent in which they got away with cash and her cell phone.
But Ashley would seem an unlikely target for a beef. She was 27-years-old and served on the boards of civic social groups. Her family says she has no known enemies.
|Police are looking for scruffy man previously seen with Ashley at the model home where she was killed|
UPDATE: Police believe Ashley may have been killed by a fellow realtor.
They’re now looking for a man believed to be a fellow realtor who has been seen multiple times in February and March outside the townhomes where she was shot. The man is described as “scruffy-looking” and driving a black SUV along the lines of a Cadillac Escalade.
It also has tricked out wheels.
He was spotted talking to Ashley outside the model townhome in the months leading up to her slaying. On one occasion, he reportedly followed her when she left the area in her own car.
But detectives remain tight-lipped about the details of the case. They won’t say whether Ashley was robbed or assaulted prior to her murder.