In an extended interview on Real Estate 360 Radio, ListedBy’s founder and CEO Stephan Piscano shares key information about the online auction movement and discusses specifics related to ListedBy.com.
With transparency and low cost environments being key drivers for buyers and sellers to explore auctioning residential or commercial real estate assets online, Stephan, an accomplished property investor in his own right explains how the free business model can benefit both buyer and seller, and how it can create a new opportunity for the representing real estate agent on both sides to capitalize on the auction trend.
In the interview Stephan offers to listeners an extremely compelling and complimentary downloadable eBook on real estate investing that is helping new and established investors generate double digit returns.
Listen to the interview at http://bit.ly/1eckLl7.
An indispensable tool for real estate professionals looking to estimate the current market value of a property, comparables have definitely experienced a growth spurt in terms of popularity. But as is the case with pretty much every online service, not all comparables tools are as efficient and accurate as they claim to be. So how do we know how to spot a good one? Here are a number of features to look for in a good comparables tool:
- Accurate data and frequent updates – no use in comparing properties sold years ago or looking at transactions with fictional or non-existing sales prices; make sure the platform you’re using for comps has a frequently updated database and that it collects its property records from reliable sources.
- Look for advanced filtering options – the very purpose of doing a comps search is to pull out prices paid for recently sold homes similar in size, characteristics, and location with your targeted property in order to determine its estimated market value. But as you already know, property characteristics can differ greatly, even for homes lined up on the same street. Advanced filtering—ranging from number of bedrooms to year built, zoning and more—will enable you to perform a more precise search, while also returning a more accurate result.
- You only need arm’s-length transactions for your comparables search – transfers and package deals are not relevant for your search and will most likely alter the estimated value of your property. So look for tools that allow you to choose arm’s-length transactions alone!
- User-friendly, personalized search tools – as more and more real estate websites have popped up in the past decade, competitiveness motivated them to create a number of useful, user-friendly tools and features in order to set themselves apart. Some service providers now allow you to perform comps searches by defining a polygon of your choice on a local map; you can even plot your comps results on a map so you can present it to a client afterwards.
- Additional services to complement your research. For instance, PropertyShark.com, a real estate research website, complements its offering of comparable services by allowing users to look at extensive property reports for each property included in the comps search, to tap into the area’s foreclosure stats, while also offering accurate data on neighboring school districts, FEMA flood zone maps and more.
So how do you know if a certain comps tool meets all of these conditions? Well, normally you wouldn’t have to do a lot of research, as most online real estate services providers are really proud to offer such complex and user-oriented tools; so they will advertise them heavily! Furthermore, each platform has a description of services you can refer to before deciding whether or not to use it.
When you meet Philip Chan, a pharmacist by profession, you quickly realize his passion for real estate. We recently caught up with him to get his views on the investment market specifically in the commercial real estate space, and to get a glimpse into his investment strategies.
Q: Philip, thank you for taking time to meet with us today. Would you please share a brief background with our readers on your career and involvement in real estate investing?
R: Thank you. I have been investing in real estate for ten years in both conventional and creative deals. My first commercial real estate deal was in 2006, involving a commercial lot in downtown Sacramento where I leased the space to a developer of one of the largest redevelopment projects in California. Three years ago I got involved in a mixed residential and commercial deal that cash flowed very well. But in 2012 was when I hit commercial real estate investing in a big way. 2012 was the bottom of the market and everyone was very fearful of commercial real estate. However, I analyzed the numbers and charts, and jumped in the deep end. That was one of my better moves I’ve made and it has now opened a lot more opportunities for me in both commercial and residential real estate.
One of my inspirations was Cherif Medawar. Cherif is a commercial real estate investment guru. I caught up with Cherif in Puerto Rico last year. Cherif spent some time showing me his commercial properties and what he did with them to build and accelerate value and potential. That was extremely inspirational. When I got back to California, one of the commercial deals near downtown San Jose I had been working on came through. The bank I was trying to get the property from gave me a deal at a significant discount at around $67 per square foot. Today that investment is worth about double that, just one year later, following a combination of both forced and market appreciation. At that time, other than Cherif, experienced real estate agents and investors said I was crazy to do the deal.
Anyone looking seriously at investing in the commercial space ought to take some time to listen to Michael Bull’s commercial real estate radio show at http://commercialrealestateshow.com. The link and additional resources, like real estate charts, are also on my website at www.mpcvilla.com. I relied on the show heavily as I was learning about commercial real estate – the radio show definitely helped propel me from a novice to an astute commercial real estate investor.
Shortly after the bank owned deal, I completed another 10,000 Sqft commercial property deal mostly retail and some office space, and took it over at the beginning of 2013 in a lease option agreement. I put 3% of the purchase price as option money and got the deal signed. The property was half empty and I was able to bring in a tenant quickly. I negotiated a few rent-free months with the owner which helped me recoup my option money. The investment has worked out great. I get a strong cash flow that generates more than 200% cash-on-cash return. When I exercise the option in three years, the down payment would have been accrued from the cash flow. I’ll be able to acquire the whole building without any of my money, and that’s excluding the benefits of any price appreciation on the asset. Basically, astute investors who apply the right strategies that take advantage of the downturn in the commercial real estate market can do amazingly well.
Q: Philip, what is your sentiment on the commercial space now that we have seen a major rebound in the market overall? Has the opportunity for investors passed or are there still good deals to be had?
R: I think there are still a lot of opportunities. My main geographic focus is the San Francisco Bay Area in California. But you can find many great deals elsewhere as well, since opportunities in the Bay area are harder to find. Seller financing and lease option deals and wrap around deals are out there. In this market, the owners in commercial are generally a lot more flexible than residential property owners, although the commercial market has already heated up quickly. I say take advantage of the opportunities now because they won’t last forever.
Today most investors look at residential. There is such a shortage of places to rent that rentals have gone significantly higher and vacancies have dropped to near historic levels. So residential is very hot and various market forces, including low inventory, increasing material and labor cost should continue to drive this uptrend.
At the same time, not as many investors are looking at commercial real estate, which I think is based on fear and lack of experience with commercial real estate. Within commercial there is office, retail, industrial and multi-family, and all operate a little differently. At some point the commercial space was very attractive and in high demand. That has now reversed but at some point it will re-establish its norm, which is already starting. In the mean time, investors have a wonderful opportunity to structure great terms.
Q: Of all the commercial opportunities you have been involved in, what do you think are the most lucrative and worth pursuing for new investors?
R: Each person’s comfort level and geographic location play a difference. The ability to align themselves with resources and expertise is important. It also depends on the deal. Retail for example is under performing. So if a person came across a retail property and it’s something where they can get an owner financed deal put together, or a lease option with some free rent and a low base rent, then lease it out and make money, I’d say it’s a good deal even though the retail sector is considered underperforming.
Most commercial real estate loans, other than the SBA loans for owner users, will require a fair amount more down payment, such as 30%, than residential deals. So more out of pocket and the loan terms are shorter, like 5, 7 or 10 years with 5 years fixed being more typical. So someone new to commercial real estate in my opinion has a generally lower risk opportunity and flexibility through lease options on a commercial property. In part because they are putting a smaller investment up front. The option allows the investor to gain control of the property for a small amount with the legal right to own it/purchase it later on. You can lease it out or sell your contract, if structured accordingly.
Another thing investors should keep in mind is that residential real estate as a vacant asset commands a higher value while commercial is the opposite. Get a vacant commercial deal structured well and fill it with tenants and see the value skyrocket.
Q: What parts of the country do you see more opportunity for commercial deals over the rest of the year and into 2014?
R: It will depend on the risk tolerance and what investors want. Hard hit areas like California and Florida will continue to grow and appreciate. I have never invested outside California but I think if I were to go out of state, it will likely be a commercial deal. I would go for larger corporate and well recognized brands as tenants, which tend to stay in one spot for a long time. They pay all taxes, insurance and maintenance. That I would categorize as an opportunity for a very secure income stream with low maintenance and it would be a great option, although competition for such deals is strong.
In terms of specific areas, based on what I’ve learned, you want to go to areas in high demand. Properties in lower demand areas will take a lot longer to find tenants. Commercial business districts are higher demand areas, as people and businesses tend to want to be close to those areas. Market trends also play a factor. With industrial properties, trends have been changing. Corporate tenants like Amazon and others want very new high end properties so they can run their businesses more efficiently. In the end it comes down to getting a property at either a discount and/or with great terms. An active investor should be able to make such deals work.
Q: Do you see more opportunities in residential or commercial over the coming year?
R: I’d say an investor ought to consider both residential and commercial. I’d look at both but in the end it will depend on the deal. As long as you are active in the market, you’ll always find deals no matter what the market situation is like. Interestingly, in this down and now improving market, some opportunities today are even more profitable than deals I transacted during the market rise to 2006.
Q: You have been applying the lease option strategy to many of your investments in residential and commercial real estate. How does the strategy work?
R: A lease option is a great way for an investor to get involved without too much money. It’s a lease or tenancy like renting, and the option is an additional agreement that gives the tenant buyer the option to buy the property without being obligated to do so. Within the option you have tremendous flexibilities, if structured right. Alignment of incentives among both parties makes lease options a great strategy.
Think about a car. If a car is rented out, the user won’t typically care for the vehicle very much. But if it is a lease to own, the driver will more likely take care of the car and be more responsible. Expand this concept to an even larger asset: real estate. The tenant may even improve on the property along the way, knowing that one day they may decide to buy it. In the end if the tenant doesn’t exercise the option, the owner keeps the option money, plus any tenant buyer improvements to the property. As a seller, you can even get a rent premium if you give out a lease option. 10-20 percent rent premium, plus a lump sum upfront would not be out of the ordinary. If the tenant buyer completes the transaction, everyone is happy. However, given that a majority of the tenant buyers do not exercise the option to buy, the owner is at a huge advantage. Imagine repeating the lease option cycle over and over. The same thinking applies to both commercial and residential assets. In summary, the strategy is all about relatively low out of pocket money with low risk and lots of flexibility.
Q: What should a new investor in real estate know about lease options? Give us some of the watch outs, do’s and don’ts.
In concept a lease option is pretty simple but the structuring and execution of it can get a little more complex. Each deal is a bit different because each landlord is different and their situation is different. One thing to keep in mind is protecting your interest as a tenant buyer by ensuring the deal is financially sound. Don’t acquire a property that eats you up financially. So you’d want to request a proof of payment such as on the mortgage and taxes for example, maybe quarterly. At least such due diligence with on going tracking gives you early notice on key things that may be going off track. When you exercise the option to buy, that’s when it becomes a traditional sale. When in escrow you make sure the property is transferred free and clear (marketable title).
I am still learning, applying and building. One of the biggest dangers about commercial real estate to watch for is long term vacancies. If the investor cannot withstand an empty commercial asset for at least one year, they should likely not get involved. That’s because some properties may stay vacant for quite a qhile, even as long as 4-5 years. However, you just don’t want to be in a deal like that. If you structure the deal right, you should be able to lease the asset at an attractive rent, in worst case scenarios and still make money or not be out of pocket until the asset appreciates and demand increases in the area. If you have that ability, then the deal would likely make sense. The key is getting the deal terms right. Commercial real estate involves a business to business arrangement, unlike a consumer residential deal. The mentality is completely different and the landscape is totally different. Businesses are usually more financially sound and publicly traded companies and big name brands make for great long term tenants. Deals around such tenants can get pretty exciting.
Philip Chan, pharmacist and active real estate investor, started his real estate investment business in 2003 (10 years ago). Philip conducts both creative and conventional real estate transactions with residential and commercial properties. Philip entered his first commercial real estate deal in 2006 and has been extremely active with commercial properties since 2012. One low cost way for investors to get involved in real estate is to use lease options, a strategy Philip has successfully used for both residential and commercial real estate in the San Francisco Bay Area.
To obtain Philip’s 10 Step Lease Option Protocol, visit www.mpcvilla.com, send him a request by e-mail or contact him by phone. Let Philip know if you are also interested in working with him on deals. You can also check current deals Philip is marketing on ListedBy, at http://listedby.com/Listing/Browse?Seller=mpcvilla.com or other commercial real estate auctions and over two million foreclosures at http://www.listedby.com/listing/browse.
Solving Real Estate Problems Creatively and Positively
- Cash. Lease Option. Benefits.
It’s certainly a milestone to see high value intellectual property assets related to real estate, but not exactly property, notes or timeshares, get auctioned on ListedBy. Here is the full announcement.
“NAPA, Calif. – Oct. 09, 2013 – ListedBy (www.ListedBy.com), the first free online real estate marketplace and social network with live bidding residential and commercial public real estate auctions and ‘Best Offer’ functionality today announced that Furman Investments, a North Hollywood company has listed its www.RealEstateAuction.com domain name for auction on ListedBy.com.
The high value asset is listed for USD $700,000 under the Own It Now category on ListedBy, which enables buyers to secure the asset at the specified price. Prospective buyers can also send in offers for the seller’s review, acceptance or countering, directly through the site.
“With ListedBy’s reach continuing to grow, it’s great to see more asset holders turn to ListedBy.com to market real estate related properties from REOs and Notes to now intellectual property, to tap global buyers in an efficient and meaningful way,” said Stephan Piscano, CEO and Founder, ListedBy.
“RealEstateAuction.com is an extremely powerful and commanding domain name that must represent very significant value over the long run,” said Scott Furman, President and CEO, Furman Investments and CEO and Founder, ApartmentBuildings.com. “The auction market is seeing sustained expansion and is expected to continue to grow for years to come. We believe the next owner of RealEstateAuction.com stands to be at a strong competitive advantage.”
The auction is now open and ends at 04:58 PM, PDT on October 11, 2013. Interested buyers can view the auction at http://bit.ly/1bFUlb0 and participate free of charge by first registering on ListedBy.com.”
No doubt about it: mobile technology helps us save time and increase productivity; and while some industries may not see an immediate need to turn to such technological advancements, savvy real estate agents know better.
With both buyers and sellers now having access to countless ways of researching properties and inspecting the local real estate market, agents often have to step up their game and find new ways to stay ahead. Smartphone and tablets may assist them in this quest, but in order to truly benefit from the mobility these gadgets have to offer, the property information already available must be properly adapted.
Here’s where responsive design steps in, ensuring that a website is optimized for a great deal of devices, operating systems, and browsers, while also retaining all of its design features. Basically, responsive design shuffles and realigns content to fit the screen of the device, so that the user can easily access the most important features of a webpage and find the most relevant information regardless of the screen’s size.
This is exactly what PropertyShark did. Catering to the needs of users looking to get their information on the go, PropertyShark.com has recently updated its website design so that all available property reports can easily adapt to any type of mobile device. With home buyers now being able to research homes on their own, PropertyShark acts as a secret tool for all real estate professionals, offering immediate access to a great deal of property information and instantly boosting an agent’s credibility.
Offering in-depth reports for over 90 million properties around the U.S., PropertyShark provides real estate agents with instant access to wealth of property data, gathered from hundreds of public and proprietary sources. Depending on the area, users can find detailed property characteristics (when the property was developed, who owns it, its exact characteristics, up-to-date sales history, property value estimates, information about current zoning, air rights, and much more) as well as information on title documents, property ownership information, FAR, permits, tax assessment, all neatly gathered in one place.
Same goes for many other PropertyShark services, including its up-to-date foreclosure listings, pre-foreclosures, comparables, a real estate lead generation tool, even REOs for New York City. To find out more about what PropertyShark.com has to offer, check it out via laptop, desktop, smartphone or tablet.
And PropertyShark is merely one of many online providers of real estate services, all betting on the changing scenario of the industry; fortunately, this works in favor of real estate agents, providing them with countless tools meant to help them stay up-to-date at all times, whether in the office or not.
Low real estate inventory, including distressed assets, was a key catalyst to a nearly 12 percent increase in property prices across the U.S. in June, compared to the same month last year, according to CoreLogic. Prices also increased by 11 percent, excluding distressed assets, which reflects an overall low impact of distressed asset inventory on prices.
This would be the 16th consecutive monthly increase in property prices in the U.S., according to the report, with prices rising in 48 states and falling in just Delaware and Mississippi. Only one of the 100 largest cities tracked by CoreLogic recorded a drop in prices in June.
Month over month, home prices managed to jump 1.9 percent, from May to June.
Nevada scored the largest gain across the nation with 26.5 percent followed by California at 21.4 percent, Wyoming with 16.7 percent, Arizona at 16.2 percent and Georgia at 14.3 percent.
While national price levels remain nearly 19 percent off the lows recorded in 2006, the impact of relatively low interest rates is expected by some analysts to continue to fuel price increases for the foreseeable future, with an accelerated rise in mortgage rates necessary to slow down the momentum.
The CoreLogic Pending HPI also indicates July 2013 home prices, including distressed sales, are expected to rise by 12.5 percent on a year-over-year basis from July 2012 and to rise by 1.8 percent on a month-over-month basis from June 2013.
The continuous move higher across the board is in line with ListedBy’s CEO and founder Stephan Piscano’s prediction in January 2013 during the INMAN Connect conference in New York.
No matter how hard anyone tries to convince themselves, the same people who look at their computer screens or smart phones today are the same people who would have spent that same time watching TV or listening to the radio, a few years back. They react the same way and internalize information the same way.
So the base a brand is targeting today is pretty much the same it used to target ten years ago. Except the channels for delivering the message have evolved.
Building a solid brand has always required the application of fundamental building blocks. Thinking, strategies and activities that have stood the test of time and remain central to this day.
The challenges of building a powerful brand like Coca Cola, BMW and other mega brands include the relative shortage of marketing professionals with the background and experience that can only be cultivated around the offices and boardroom tables of marketing giants like these and the multi-national advertising agencies that service them.
Knowledge imparted throughout these organizations represents many, many decades of experience, trial, error and learning. You just don’t weave your way around this kind of experience coming out of university with a marketing degree. Or a diploma that may be taught by individuals who do not have the depth of a proven brand builder who spent decades building mega brands around the world.
Today’s PPC (Pay Per Click) driven thinking, combined with widespread lack of deep marketing experience, compounded by an instant gratification generation and mentality are making it extremely hard to build true brands and brand equity.
PPL (Pay Per Lead) has now gained serious traction too. A click through is no longer enough as a measure of campaign ROI. Marketers are calculating and evaluating an advertising medium based on cost per lead, or even conversion. If I don’t sell this many tools, then your medium doesn’t work!
The worst part is that as marketers we tend to forget that the concepts we create and the ideas we generate are critical to advertising and marketing results. Click throughs, lead capture and conversion.
At ListedBy.com, a growing online real estate auctions marketplace, we constantly remind ourselves of these basic fundamentals as we work to build the next mega real estate venue on the Web.
A new age marketer, reporting to a superior who relies on the young professional’s ‘knowledge’ of new Web technologies and trends, may find it easy to default to blaming the advertising medium or channel, before they look internally at their own work. Like their landing pages, lead capture incentives or their lead incubation and conversion systems.
This spells trouble for the brand and the organization over the long haul.
Unless we put a stop to promotion driven PPC / PPL advertising and focus on messages that build brands, we will continue to drive our brands and sales primarily based on price and events. That is a recipe for failure. And often, disaster.
Price and promotion driven marketing is the antithesis to building a brand that stands for value – and the test of time.
Talk about testing your emotions. And your relationship with your lifetime partner.
You set a certain budget and know more or less the general areas you’d like to move in to. What you can’t control all the time is the choices that follow. Your REALTOR sets out to find and filter out some possibilities, and you go on the usual online search spree to add to the basket of choices. You also find some foreclosures listed on a public real estate auctions site, and add them to the pot for good measure.
Next comes the drive-by adventure. You come across one of the homes you had liked online, and indeed it looks stunning. Brand new, near schools and transit, and it satisfies many of your other parameters. Most important of all, you know the brand new stainless appliances await, two fireplaces are in stock and the counter tops are beautiful granite and in your favourite colour. That’s the house indeed.
Something nags you though, as the other homes on the street seem quite old. You’re not certain if the general surroundings are exactly what you had hoped for. Surely you could grab one of those older properties for half the price if any went on sale. So the question becomes whether your investment is being made in the right place.
You drive to the next property on your list and lo and behold, you pull into this really nice area with great landscaping and a good community feel. Many new or newer homes on the street, but the one you were looking at still stands from the dear old days it was built. Obviously very well cared for though.
You guessed the dilemma. This house sits in a great neighborhood but is unlikely to offer many of the things you desire. Like the walk-in closet and the shiny new kitchen island. Or the open layout concept. The floors may also not be fresh hardwood. In fact you may have to contend with some weird colour carpeting and wall paper until the renovations you must do are completed. A year or two down the line.
Which of the two homes would you choose to invest your dollars and the next many years in? Which of the two would be the better investment and the better move?
The older street may be due for some tear downs and new build outs. In time, the entire street will get upgraded and the value of your property would be supported along the way. But that’s never a guarantee. Some neighbours may decide to sit on their childhood property, as is, for another 20 years. It’s a gamble. Meanwhile though your home is the best looking one on the street, and you get to live in the house of your dreams.
On the newer street, you get to live in a superb neighborhood where your investment is more likely to hold up and grow, especially if you completely renovate or rebuild the house in the future. In the interim however, you must compromise on the quality of the house you’ve always dreamed of, and you become known as the one who lives in the old house.
This is when I run away from both options and look for a happy medium. Or simply give up the entire thing and hunker down for another couple of years until I can afford a larger budget.
When buying a home, always discuss and decide on your top priorities first. Why are you moving to begin with? What drives you? When we last moved, we really needed to get away from the neighborhood.
Is it a newer neighborhood that you most desire where you may compromise on the home itself a bit, or is it the home that drives you and you’re willing to get into a slightly inferior neighborhood but in an overall good area? Knowing your priorities from the start should minimize surprises, control stress levels a bit, and set your expectations right.
Some investment gurus suggest the older home on the newer street is the better bet. But can you emotionally deal with that and put your dream home aspirations on hold?
Check out some properties in your area that are being sold through online auction. Which would you instinctively want to bid on? The hot deal or the hot property?
If you’re lucky, and patient, you’ll find some that offer the best of both worlds.