Solid Rock Realty Blog 

Dec. 11, 2019

Real Estate 101: Calculating Expenses

The Costs of Owning Property

 

Investing in real estate can be an extremely profitable venture when done correctly. One of the most basic skills that must be learned in order to properly analyze potential investments is the ability to estimate the true expenses involved in owning the property. All too often, new investors look at their mortgage payment (principle, interest, taxes, insurance) along with the cost of monthly utilities when considering expenses and neglect repairs & maintenancecapital expendituresproperty management, and vacancy. It’s essential to budget for these expenses as if they will be incurred on a monthly basis so that when they do come up you are able to comfortably afford them as they will come up in time. A property that truly cash flows will be able to pay for these expenses and still have income left over each month. So what are capital expenditures and why should you set aside money for them each month? And why budget for property management if you’re going to self-manage? These are important questions and their importance becomes clear when you take a long-term perspective. (All of the following percentages are assuming the rental property is a single family home or a residential (2-4 unit) multi family property.)

Capital Expenses

 

Capital expenses are the major expenses that come up rarely but are extremely costly such as a new roof, furnace, repairs to the foundation, etc. If you plan to own real estate in the long-run it’s essential that you budget for these expenses as these big-ticket items will need replaced on regular intervals. Generally speaking, you can plan for these expenses with some degree of accuracy as you know the approximate life of items like your roof or furnace but accidents happen and things break unexpectedly so you must plan for the unexpected if you want to be successful. You never know when a furnace will go out in the middle of winter and you will need $5,000 for an immediate replacement. For all of these reasons, it’s essential to allocate a percentage of your monthly income from the property to be put aside for capital expenditures. Determining the exact amount to budget each month depends on the specifics of the property. Was it built 100 years ago and are many of the major components of the house getting old? Then you will likely need to budget upwards of 8%-10% of your monthly income towards capital expenditures. On the other hand, if you buy a property and rehab it inside and out you will likely only need to budget 5%-7% for cap ex. Regardless, it’s essential to plan for these expenses as not doing so will likely lead to a very brief career in real estate investing.

Repairs & Maintenance

 

Repairs & maintenance are the smaller, more frequently occurring expenses such as painting after tenants leave or fixing simple leaks. These items are small but add up quickly and will come up frequently no matter what. When tenants leave there will always be small repairs to be made and even if tenants stay in the long-term there will always be things that break. You must budget an additional percentage of your monthly income for repairs & maintenance and even if you’re handy and intend to complete the work yourself you should still ensure that the income from your property covers this expense as you may not always want to do the work yourself. 5%-7% of your monthly rent should be budgeted for repairs and maintenance, closer to 5% for newer properties and 7% for older ones. This way you will be prepared when these costs come up and you don’t end up pouring your own money into the property.

Vacancy

 

Vacancy is another expense that comes in the form of lost rent. You can’t expect your property to be occupied 100% of the time so it’s key to plan for vacancy. If you own a single family rental it’s a safe bet that 1 month a year the property will be unoccupied on average which is about 8% of the time. If you own a small multi family property (say a four-plex) it’s generally safe to budget for slightly less of a vacancy expense (closer to 5%). Regardless, you must have some cash set aside to pay the mortgage when your property is unoccupied. Vacancy isn’t a tangible expense the way the others are so it’s often forgotten but when your rental is empty your mortgage payment is still due so you need to be prepared!

Property Management

 

Of all the aforementioned expenses, property management is the one most often neglected by new investors. Managing rental properties is not an easy job and will lead to terrible performance of your investment if not handled correctly so most new investors have no business managing their properties anyways (another blog on this soon). However, if you do have the knowledge/expertise to self-manage you should still budget for this expense as you never know what your situation will be in the future. You may not always have the time to self-manage so it’s important that the rents can cover this expense if need be. This is why it’s so essential to think through the long-term when purchasing real estate as your current situation may not be your situation in 5 years.If you own a single family rental you should expect 10% of your monthly income to go towards the cost of management. If you own a small multi family property it may be lower in the 7%-8% range. Many property managers tack on all kinds of hidden fees so it’s important to read through their contracts when you’re selecting a property manager but a good company will have a straightforward percentage cost with minimal to no fees.

Other Potential Expenses to Consider

 

Depending on the type of property, there may be other costs associated with ownership. Is the rental in an HOA with a quarterly fee? Do you have to pay someone to do the landscaping and snow removal? Did you remember to include the cost of garbage removal in your monthly utilities? Are you paying for bookkeeping software? These are all small items that are often missed and add up over time so it’s essential to think through all of the costs you will incur while owning the property. Plan for the long-termOne of the key takeaways from this article is planning for future uncertainty. Yes, you may want to manage your rentals now and you may not need a new roof for 5 years but if you don’t plan for both of these expenses now what happens when you can no longer self-manage or when you need $20,000 for a new roof? Perhaps 3 years pass with no turnover so you begin to think that you can just forget about vacancy expense. But what happens when your tenants leave in November and you aren’t able to rent out their unit for several months? In the long-run, everything regresses to the mean so if you get lucky and have abnormally low expenses in a certain area they will likely be made up for in the future. The point is, you must plan for all of the expenses involved owning property as if they occur every single month. This is the best way to ensure that your investment is profitable over time and that you do not end up losing your property when things go wrong!

Don’t Plan for Best Case Scenario

 

Do you really need to budget 8% for vacancy or up to 10% for capital expenditures? Perhaps not, but what happens when you do need that much capital set aside for these expenses? Would you rather take the risk of saving slightly more money each month than needed? Or risk losing your investment because you didn’t have the necessary funds set aside to support the property?  The point is that you need to plan for the worst and reduce your exposure to catastrophic loss (i.e. losing the property) first and foremost. Regardless of whether you’re investing in real estate or another vehicle for building wealth, the most successful investors are the best at mitigating risk and ensuring they don’t lose their capital when things go wrong. In real estate investing, this starts with planning for all of the potential expenses involved in owning property and running your numbers conservatively!

This blog was written by Dan Haberkost - dan.haberkost@gmail.com

Nov. 19, 2019

Hiring the Right Property Manager

As a corollary to last week’s blog on self-managing (So, You Want to be a Property Manager?), I wanted to follow up with an article detailing what to look for in a property manager. After investing the time and money required to acquire an investment property, the last thing that you want to do is hire the wrong property manager. A rental property is a business, and the way that business is operated is largely what determines whether or not it will succeed or fail. For this reason it is absolutely essential to be sure that whoever manages your investment is qualified, ethical, and has their interests aligned with yours.

Why Hire a Property Manager?

Many new investors want to manage their own rental properties when they should be outsourcing the job to a professional. One of the most common situations that necessitates hiring a property manager is when you do not live in the same city as the property. If you live more than an hour away, you should absolutely hire a local property manager to ensure that your tenants’ needs are handled promptly. When an investor’s rentals are not local they often neglect them and fail to keep up on regular maintenance/inspections. There is a reason that one of the best sources for seasoned investors to buy real estate at a discount is by contacting out-of-state property owners! Another good reason to hire a property manager often comes about when you look at the opportunity cost. Are you a business owner or a highly-paid professional whose time is better spent in your (other) business or job? If so, it may cost you more in lost revenue from your primary income source to manage your own rentals than it does if you pay a small fee to hire a property manager.Have you taken the time to educate yourself on Fair Housing Laws, screening tenants, and managing properties? Do you have a legally sound lease? If you haven’t done these items and aren’t planning to, don’t even think about managing your own properties. Find a professional manager and it will save you substantial frustration in the future.Finally, are you the type of person that is willing and able to have the difficult conversations involved in property management? Are you ready to evict tenants who do not pay their rent or charge late fees when necessary? If this doesn’t sound like you, find a reputable company to manage your portfolio!

What does an Effective Manager Do?

A reputable property manager will handle all aspects of managing your rental units.  Your property manager should find, screen, and sign new tenants immediately when your property is vacant. Additionally, they should handle all maintenance requests and tenant questions/complaints. Everything from evictions to late night maintenance calls should be taken care of by your management company. Your tenants should not even know who the owner of the property is. Your PM should also have a website where you can access all the information on your investment’s financial performance, your tenant’s leases, and all other pertinent information. The only item you should be tasked with is checking your monthly financial statements and approving repairs that exceed a pre-determined limit.

What does it Cost?

Most property managers charge between 6%-10% of the monthly rent for their services (closer to the higher end of the range if it’s only a few units, closer to the lower if it’s a large portfolio). At first glance, this seems to be relatively inexpensive for such a difficult job, which is why it’s imperative that you read the entire contract when hiring a property manager! All too often, property management becomes expensive when you consider the numerous fees that are included in the fine print of their contract. Annual fees, tenant signing fees, lease renewal fees, listing fees, inspection fees, and on it goes. This is where you have to be extremely careful when hiring a manager. If they take the entire first month’s rent when they sign a new tenant that’s 8% of your yearly revenue from that unit. When considered separately, these fees may seem arbitrary but if you do the math they can easily push the total monthly expense to 20% or more. Be sure to read the contract from beginning to end when hiring a manager so that you know exactly what you’re signing up for.

What's a Fair Price?

Does this mean that property management has to be this expensive? No, of course not. It means that you have to be competent in your due diligence when selecting a PM. There are professional managers out there that charge no fees at all beyond a standard monthly percentage but they are few and far between. If you find a manager who charges 10% of the monthly rent and has several hundred dollars in fees a year they may still be a good option. Especially if they have a positive reputation for being reliable and effective among investors who use them. What you want to avoid are companies who have unreasonable amounts of fees and especially those whose fees motivate them to cause turnover. 

Are your Interests Aligned?

If your property manager keeps the entire first month’s rent every time that a new tenant signs a lease (and it’s regardless of how long the last tenant was there) are their interests really aligned with yours? Say that rent for your unit is $1000/month and your manager charges 10%. That means (if your unit stays occupied) they will gross $1,200 a year. But if that same unit turns over half way through the year and they fill it within a month they make an additional $1000 and only lose one month’s rent ($100). Additionally, when a unit is vacant there are usually repairs and maintenance that need done, does your PM mark-up the work they do on your unit? Suddenly, it would appear that your PM may not be happy to have long-term tenants. Be wary of property managers whose financial incentives are in conflict with yours, you want a manager who will act in your best interests and in order to achieve that their interests must align with yours!

What do the Reviews Say?

When looking to hire a PM, check out reviews online to see what other landlords are saying about them. If you look at reviews on Google you’re likely to see numerous complaints from angry tenants who were evicted or charged late fees. This is not necessarily a cause for concern. What you really want to find are reviews from landlords who hired the company for at least a year. Check real estate investor networking sites like BiggerPockets and Connected Investors to see if you can find any additional reviews from property owners who hired the company. Attend local real estate groups and see who other experienced investors are using. Other real estate owners are your best source for honest feedback on the performance of a property management company.

Association Membership

Reputable property managers will often be members of various groups for professionals managers. When screening prospective PMs, check to see if they’re a member of groups like the National Association of Residential Property Managers (NARPM), the Institute of Real Estate Management (IREM), and Building Owners & Managers Association (BOMA). While not essential, membership in one or more of these national groups is a telltale sign that the organization is serious about their profession. (Yardi 2018)

Expectations

When entering into any sort of business agreement there should be clear expectations on both sides. A good property manager will have standards for the properties they manage just as you should have standards for their services. Does the prospective PM take on management of just any property? Or do they require their units to meet a minimum standard condition? This is a great question to ask a potential manager as any self-respecting company will refuse to manage properties if the owner won’t invest their own funds to keep up on the maintenance. If they are willing to take on any property and have no standards for the condition of the units they place tenants in, this is cause for concern!

Additional Questions to Ask

In addition to the aforementioned items, when screening a potential PM ask questions pertaining to their processes such as “how often do you inspect the property?” and “what does your tenant screening process include?”. Be sure to get as much information as possible about their systems and processes so that you know what level of attention your property and renters will be given. You also want to be able to get in touch with them when needed so be sure to ask who your point of contact is and how to best reach them.The key to hiring the right property manager comes down to conducting thorough due diligence. You should know exactly what you’re going to be charged for their services, what their process looks like, and who you will be communicating with and on what intervals. There should be no ambiguity as to how the relationship works. Remember, not all property managers are equal! Taking extra time upfront to thoroughly screen several different potential PMs is well worth it as it will greatly reduce future headaches and unnecessary expenses!

 

References:

“4 Property Management Associations To Join – & Why You Should!” Yardibreeze, Yardi, 2018, www.yardibreeze.com/blog/2018/11/4-property-management-associations/

 

 

This blog was written by Dan Haberkost - dan.haberkost@gmail.com

 

 

Nov. 6, 2019

So, You Want to be a Property Manager?

Effective Property Management, the Key to a Profitable Investment

When it comes to real estate investing, the price you buy at is often considered the most important factor in being successful. However, if you intend to own your property for any length of time the manner in which you operate it (i.e. property management) is equally important. Tens of thousands of dollars can quickly be lost if you attempt to self-manage without the proper systems & processes in place. A house bought for a severely discounted price can quickly turn into a liability (and a significant source of stress) if you do not manage it effectively. On the contrary, a property that you may have paid slightly too much for can (in time) become a profitable venture with exceptional management.

So, you want to manage your own properties?

All too often, novice investors with no prior experience purchase real estate and attempt to self-manage. They assume that it's easy and that tenants will treat the property as if they owned it. This assumption can lead to a very short career in real estate investing. A rental property is a business, would you attempt to run a business if you had no prior experience/education in the industry? There is a reason that one of the most reliable sources for successful investors to purchase properties at a discount is from small-time rental property owners who self-manage. They are often willing to get rid of their properties for any price because they are so tired of managing them (and losing money). They begin their (brief) careers as property managers thinking it's easy and end them with no desire to ever own a rental again. There are certainly investors who have self-managed their rentals from day but those individuals made sure they understood all of the following items from day one.

It's going to get uncomfortable

Property management can involve difficult situations and extremely unpleasant conversations. Are you prepared to post an eviction notice on a family's door? Are you comfortable having to explain to your tenant why you're keeping their security deposit when they move out due to damage? Are you prepared to increase rent when the market dictates? These are all realities of property management and if you're in the business for any length of time you will almost certainly have to have these conversations. All too often, novice managers let these items slide and avoid difficult conversations which ultimately leads to the loss of money and the steady decline of the property's condition. If you're planning on self-managing, you must be prepared to deal with these situations as they come up and not allow your emotions to affect your decisions.

Advertising Your Property

Implementing effective marketing strategies to attract tenants to your property is essential to running a profitable business. You first have to determine what the appropriate monthly rent is which can be done by looking at what comparable properties are listed for, using sites link Rentometer to see what similar properties are currently rented for, and talking to local agents/property managers. Once you know what to charge for your unit it's time to start advertising. If you're in a hot market then this is relatively easy and you may be able to quickly fill your units simply by posting on Zillow. However, if you're in a slower market you will want to be sure to also post on other sites such as Craigslist, Hotpads, Trulia, Facebook Marketplace, Realtor.com, and your own website if you're business is far enough along to have one. You can also put a "for rent" sign in the yard but the reality is that few prospective tenants are calling numbers off of yard signs and nearly all of them are looking online. Utilizing several different marketing platforms will help ensure that you begin to get leads, but knowing how to screen them effectively is essential to being successful.

Screening Tenants

If you are going to manage your own rentals, thoroughly screening your tenants may be the most important step of the process. Before someone has moved in there are numerous (legal) reasons to not allow them tenancy. However, once they have settled in it is EXTREMELY costly, difficult & time consuming to get them out. Therefore, you must have a solid vetting process that ensures only responsible, trustworthy adults are renting from you.

First and foremost, you should always require that they fill out a rental application. This (seemingly) simple task disqualifies many people as they will take one look at it, see the multitude of personal questions, and decline to even fill it out (this is a good thing). A solid rental application will at minimum include all of the prospective tenant's personal info needed to run a background check, financial information, the phone numbers of their two previous landlords, their employer's information, names of all individuals that will be moving in with them, and questions asking if they've been evicted/foreclosed on. In addition, the tenant should pay an application fee that covers the cost of the background check.  Here in Colorado, the law dictates that you can only charge a tenant the exact amount the background check cost you and you must be able to provide them a receipt showing that amount if requested. If you live elsewhere the law may vary but be sure to check on this item before you charge an arbitrary application fee. Additionally, be sure to check on your state's laws regarding what questions can and cannot be asked on your rental application as it varies tremendously depending on where you live.

Once you have the application filled out, you can now conduct your due diligence by running the background check, calling their references and verifying their employment. As a rule, the prospective tenant's gross monthly income should be 3 times the monthly rent at minimum. This should be verified by asking for two pay stubs and by calling the employer and speaking with their manager. In addition, if the background check shows any felonies, evictions, or foreclosures the applicant should be immediately disqualified. Finally, when you call the applicants previous landlords ask questions like "were they ever late on rent?", "was there any damage to the property when the tenant left?", "why did they leave?", and "would you rent to them again?". A 10 minute conversation with their last landlord will give you a good idea as to whether or not you want them in your unit. If you take all of the aforementioned precautions, you will significantly increase the probability that the tenants who make it through your vetting process are financially responsible adults.

Fair Housing Laws

When screening tenants, it's extremely important to be cognizant of fair housing laws. The Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination of a prospective tenant due to their race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status, or disability. These are the protected classes outlined in the federal law and these items must not be taken into consideration when deciding who to rent to. It's important to keep in mind that this is a federal regulation and your state may have additional legislation outlining what might be considered "discrimination". (HUD.gov)

What if you have a tenant who is behind on rent? Perhaps they're a single parent and you know they're trying their best to pay on time so you decide to cut them a break by not charging them a late fee. You've likely violated fair housing laws. If you have charged your other tenants that late fee, but did not charge this specific one a fee due to their situation, you are discriminating. What if you have a "no pet" policy but a tenant claims they have an "emotional service animal"? You can request that they provide documentation proving that it is registered but you CANNOT reject them due to the animal or else you are discriminating. These examples illustrate why it's essential to know the subtleties involved in fair housing laws. When you think of "not discriminating" the first thought that comes to mind is often that you would never do so. That is, until you realize that helping a tenant out who falls on tough times may be considered discrimination. The key is to have standardized policies and procedures that adhere to the law that you never deviate from. (HUD.gov)

Your Lease

Once you have your screening process down, ensuring your lease is bulletproof is the next big step in effective property management. If you know an experienced real estate investor/property manager who is willing to share their lease with you (and they're in the same state, therefore, under the same laws as you) then using their lease as a starting point can be a good option. You should always have the lease looked over by a real estate attorney but having an existing lease for them to analyze will cost far less than creating one from scratch. Otherwise, you may want to bite the bullet and have them draft a lease from scratch to ensure it's legal and thorough. An effective lease will outline all of the responsibilities of both parties, highlight who is renting the property and for how long, and describe what actions allow for breaking of the lease by both parties.

This will likely be one of the first questions that the prospective tenant will have asked, but the amount of the security deposit should be clearly outlined in the lease. At minimum, the tenant should not be allowed to move in until you've received first month's rent and one extra month's rent as a security deposit. Ideally, you should require first AND last month's rent along with 1 month's rent as a security deposit. If you're in a decent market this should be realistic and is the safest way to go.

Be sure your lease isn't entirely one-sided. It should include clauses that outline the tenant's rights just as it outlines yours as the property manager. Leases that are too heavily geared toward protecting the landlord and that fail to include the tenant's rights are likely to be thrown out in court.

Pre Move In Inspection

Once you've selected your tenant, they've signed the lease, and they're ready to move-in, it's essential to conduct (and document) a pre move in inspection that documents the condition of the unit before the tenant moved in. This should be a full-report with photos of all rooms in the unit clearly demonstrating that everything was in working order before the tenant moved in. Additionally, the tenant should sign & date the document verifying that they agree with the details of the report. This ensures that when the tenant moves out there are no questions as to whether or not damages were there prior to move in.

Regular Inspections

Your lease should clearly state what intervals you will be inspecting the unit on. Again, this should not be a one-sided relationship and the inspections are as much to ensure that the property is safe and well-kept as it is a chance for you to be sure they're adhering to the terms of the lease. You should be inspecting the property twice a year minimum and some managers go as far as quarterly. Whatever interval you decide to put in the lease is what you should follow and be sure to give your tenants several days' notice before you conduct your walk through.

Maintenance

When you conduct your inspections you will likely find that your property is in need of maintenance. Do not put off repairs! Always hire a qualified expert to do the work and be sure it's completed promptly. Novice property managers frequently try to save money by completing repairs themselves which can be a good option if it's a simple fix. However, if it's something that requires more specialized knowledge such as electrical work be sure to hire someone who has the expertise to do the work properly. Trying to save a quick buck by doing work yourself that you're unqualified to do can lead to significant management issues (and more expenses) down the road.

As a property manager, you need to remember that your tenants are your customers and treat them as such. Tenants need to be able to submit maintenance requests easily and you must respond to them quickly. Setting up a Google Voice number for your tenants to use when they need to contact you is a cost-effective way to avoid giving out your personal cell number.

Evictions

If you manage rentals for any length of time, then there is a high probability that you will have to go through the process of evicting tenants. The process varies from state to state, but generally begins with the landlord issuing a notice requiring the tenant to correct whatever issue is causing the landlord to take action (non-payment of rent, violation of other parts of the lease, etc.). If the tenant does not fix this issue then (after a certain number of days depending on the state) the landlord can file an eviction suit against the tenant. The lawsuit can take several weeks or several months to go through depending on the details but once the process is complete a law enforcement official is the only person that can legally remove the tenant from the premises. This can be problematic because often times there is a significant wait for the official to come to your property and remove the tenant. Here in Colorado, it normally takes up to a month. Besides the lost rent, you're looking at $3,000-$4,000 in costs to go through the entire process. This is why it's so essential to implement a rigorous screening process that reduces the chances of ever having to evict a tenant. (Dillman, Beth)

It's also important to note that you must be 100% consistent in your process when evicting tenants. Your lease should state exactly what day rent is due and how many days after is considered late. If you serve a tenant a 3 day notice on the 3rd of the month for non-payment then EVERY tenant who has not paid rent by the 3rd of the month must be sent the same letter. Remember, your treatment of tenants must be consistent in all of your operations to ensure you're not in violation of fair housing laws.

Further Considerations

Another mistake that leads to poor property management is the lack of funds to properly maintain the unit. All too often, investors over-extend themselves and end up not having the capital required to operate their property effectively. They end up deferring maintenance which leads to lower rents and less responsible tenants. With less money coming in via monthly rent checks and more negligent tenants many landlords then become even more hesitant to spend funds towards repairing their property. This is an unfortunate cycle that leads to an investment that is not profitable and tenants who do not get a functional and safe home. The takeaway here is that you must be financially prepared to handle maintenance as it comes up or your property will often become more of a liability than an asset.

As a real estate investor, it pays to be forward-thinking. Although you may manage your properties now, you never know what your situation will be in 5 years so even if you plan to self-manage you should be prepared to hire a property manager eventually (blog on this soon). Therefore, it's important that your monthly rents afford a margin to cover a property manager in the future.

Managing properties is not easy, but if you take the time to set up efficient systems & processes, to understand your state's laws, and to keep your property safe and functional a new investor can effectively (and profitably) manager their rentals.

 

 

References

Dillman, Beth. “The Eviction Process in Colorado: Rules for Landlords and Property Managers.” Www.nolo.com, Nolo, 19 Jan. 2016, https://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/the-eviction-process-colorado-rules-landlords-property-managers.html.

HOUSING DISCRIMINATION UNDER THE FAIR HOUSING ACT.” HUD.gov / U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), https://www.hud.gov/program_offices/fair_housing_equal_opp/fair_housing_act_overview.

 

This blog was written by Dan Haberkost - dan.haberkost@gmail.com

Oct. 29, 2019

House-Hacking

House-Hacking, The Foundation to Financial Freedom

Investing in real estate is one of the most effective methods for building long-term wealth. However, many people are discouraged by the high price of property in their market and the expenses that come with owning it. If you're buying an investment property in the traditional manner, you will need 20% down minimum which can (depending on your market) amount to quite a bit of money that greatly exceeds most peoples' savings. Additionally, if you don't have property management experience it can be intimidating to consider managing tenants yourself. Since you can realistically only inspect the property several times a year, it is extremely difficult to know whether or not your tenants are adhering to the lease and taking care of the property that you poured much of your life savings into! In this situation, house-hacking can be such a safer, less expensive, yet financially impactful first step into the world of real estate investing!

House-hacking, what is it? 

Simply put, house-hacking is a form of real estate investing where you rent out extra units (if you own a multi-family property) or extra bedrooms (if you own a single-family property) in your home while living in the property as to reduce or completely eliminate your monthly housing costs. The benefit of living in the property is that you're able to obtain owner-occupied financing which means you need a much smaller down payment than you would if purchasing an investment property in the traditional manner and you typically receive a lower interest rate as well. Depending on your situation, you may qualify for a loan requiring no money down or as little as 5%. This makes house-hacking far more feasible for the average person as it does not require nearly as much capital. Residential loans will lend on up to 4 units which allows you to purchase up to a fourplex with an owner occupied loan but you can also be successful with a single-family house that has extra bedrooms as well.

The financial benefits

If you're like most people, housing is your single largest monthly expense taking up 1/3+ of your income. Consider how financially liberating it would be if you didn't have that expense anymore. Imagine what it would be like if someone else paid your housing, while increasing your savings, and lowering your taxes for you? Well that is exactly what house-hacking does! Consider the following scenario, you buy a duplex and your mortgage (principle, interest, taxes & insurance) is $950/month and your renter on the other side pays $900/month (this is 100% feasible!). You've just created a situation where your monthly housing expense is almost completely eliminated. Now imagine that each unit has 2 bedrooms and you also rent out the extra bedroom in your unit for $450/month. In this situation you would not only be living for free, but you would also be making money above and beyond your mortgage each month! Again, this is 100% doable and many investors have eliminated their housing expense while increasing their income exactly this way. The same concept works with a single-family home as well. In fact, house-hacking a single-family property can potentially be even more profitable if you buy the right investment. With the proper layout, a 4 bedroom house will often be substantially cheaper than a 4 unit building yet you can rent out the other 3 rooms while living in it and make a significant return.

As if having your monthly housing expense eliminated and making money on top of it wasn't enough, house-hacking (and real estate in general!) offers additional benefits through tax savings, appreciation and mortgage reduction. Let's go back to our example of house-hacking with a duplex. If you're living in one side of a 2 unit building while renting out the other, many of your living expenses now become deductible as well! Monthly utilities? 50% deductible. Weekly grass cutting? 50% deductible. The same principle applies to single-family house-hacks as well, the percent of the house rented will be the percent you're allowed to deduct of these types of expenses.

If you buy real estate in a city with strong population and job growth, it's reasonable to expect that it will increase in value over time. This is often the most significant way in which real estate builds wealth. If you're property is worth $300k and appreciates 3% in a given year, that's a (completely passive) $9,000 added to your net worth. If you buy right, appreciation is often substantially more than 3% in a given year which is why it's so essential to buy property in areas with strong demographic trends! 

Last but not least, every month your mortgage is paid down which increases your equity in the property. The significance of this when house-hacking is that you are not the one paying the mortgage each month! Every month your tenants are paying down the principal on your loan for you which acts as a sort of forced savings account. At the beginning of your loan, the principle reduction is minimal but still (typically) results in an additional $3,000-$4,000 each year. As time goes on, the amount of principle paid each month increases at an exponential rate which leads to a snowball-effect of wealth building!

When one considers the financial implications of eliminating your housing expense, monthly cash-flow, tax benefits, appreciation, and mortgage pay down resulting from house-hacking, it becomes clear that there are few investments that compare. House-hacking sets you on a trajectory to be financially independent years (perhaps decades) before the average person and requires a minimal amount of effort. Additionally, few other investments allow you to get started with such a small amount of capital. Managing tenants in a house-hack tends to be much easier than managing them in a traditional rental as well.

Your tenants are easier to manage

For those concerned about potentially unruly tenants, house-hacking offers a solution to this too! Since you're living in the same building (maybe the same unit!) your tenants know that you're there on a daily basis and it will be far less viable for them to violate the lease. This is especially true if you're house-hacking a single-family home as the only area they occupy that you don't also use is their bedroom and (sometimes) bathroom. The communal living situation pressures them to keep the kitchen and other common areas clean while being considerate with noise in the evenings and early morning. There's no way for them to sneak animals into the house, renovate without your permission, or violate the lease without you knowing. Living with your tenants may sound uncomfortable, but if you do the work up-front and screen them thoroughly it can lead to a profitable win-win situation!

Additional Considerations

It's clear that house-hacking can have a tremendously positive effect on your financial situation, but it's still essential that you take the time to think through the subtleties of the arrangement such as the parking situation, your local laws, your tenants' schedules, and so on. Make sure that there is plenty of space for your tenants to park their vehicles! If they have to park on the street that's fine but they shouldn't have trouble finding a spot to park. Here in Colorado Springs the law states that no more than 4 unrelated individuals can live in one unit at a time. So if you're going to buy a single family home with 5 bedrooms and rent them out you would need 2 of the roommates to be related our you would technically be violating the law. Additionally, be mindful of your tenants' schedules when deciding who to rent to. If you and all 3 of your tenants have a typical 9-5 there may be conflict when everyone is getting ready for work at the same time and getting home at the same time. Ideally, you want roommates whose schedules vary to avoid multiple people using the common areas simultaneously.

Finally, screen your tenants thoroughly every time and do not vary from your policies/procedures. You should be conducting a background check on every tenant just as you would for a traditional rental. In addition, make sure that their (gross) income is 3 times the monthly rent, that you verify their income, and always call their previous landlords. Do not be lax on your due diligence or you are likely to create headaches for yourself in the future!

If you take the time to screen your tenants diligently, purchasing a home to house-hack can transform your financial situation and put you on a trajectory to retire years before the average person. With the elimination of your largest expense, house-hacking offers a level of financial freedom that few people have which ultimately gives you freedom to pursue the things that you enjoy!

 

This blog was written by Dan Haberkost - dan.haberkost@gmail.com

March 20, 2019

Exciting Things to Do This Spring

Spring has officially arrived. What an exciting time of the year! Whether it means cleaning, getting outside, taking a chance, or wishing it was still winter, there are plenty of things to do in this great city. Check out the awesome events Colorado Springs has to offer us this year!

 

Canon City Music & Blossom Festival

May 1st-5th, Canon City will be hosting this exciting festival. With parades, marching band competitions, craft fairs, a rodeo, and more, this event proves fun for the whole family! Find out more by clicking here.

 

 

 

Pikes Peak Birding & Nature Festival

Calling all bird enthusiasts! May 17th-19th, Fountain Creek Nature Center will journey out to identify migrating birds. Learn how it's done and join the fun by clicking here.

 

Territory Days

There's a chance you know this one well! Annually on Memorial Day weekend, Old Colorado City hosts this action-packed festival. There will be entertainment, food, vendors, and plenty of fun! For details, click here.

 

 

Meadowgrass Music Festival

Starting May 25th, Black Forest will host this three day event. There will be music, camping, kids' activities, and top notch food! For details on pricing and volunteering, click here.

 

Manitou Springs Wine Festival

June 1st, from 11:00-5:00, Memorial Park will be hosting this awesome wine festival. Show up to enjoy the food, vendors, and wine paraphernalia. For tickets, click here.

 

 

 

Top of the World Rodeo

June 8th-10th, head to the Teller County Fairgrounds for a classic rodeo experience! For more information, click here.

 

Colorado Springs is an incredible place to live! With events like these, views like ours, and wonderful people, what more do you need? For additional details on these local events and more, check out the Visit Colorado Springs website. They prove a detailed and up-to-date guide on all things Colorado Springs!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

March 4, 2019

Prepping for a Home Inspection

First and foremost, don't panic! If there is an issue within the home, the inspector will most likely find it. The buyers will either ask you to fix it or they wont. You will know once the inspection is complete. There is no need to stress before, during, or even after! That being said, there are ways you can prepare for the inspection. Doing some light prep for the inspection and keeping an open mind are a great way to approach the process. Check out what we recommend below.

 

1. Clean Home

Having a clean home wont affect the inspection itself, but it's a way to start off on the right foot and set yourself up for success. Put the inspector in a good mood by making their job a little bit easier and sending the message that you take care of your home.

 

2. De-Clutter Access Points

To make the inspector's job easier, clear entrance to crawl spaces, the attic, and basement. Clean up utility rooms and beneath sinks. Make sure the home inspector can access all major electrical and HVAC systems.

 

3. Take Care of the Basics

Ensure smoke and carbon monoxide detectors are working, replace burnt out light bulbs, fix any damaged window screens, and get a fire extinguisher. Make sure all pilot lights are lit and, if you haven't in a while, replace your furnace filter.  It is also wise to trim any trees or bushes hanging over the house and clean gutters.

 

4. Do a Walk Through

Do a little walk through before the inspection. Check to make sure all doors open, close and lock properly. Tighten any loose locks or doorknobs. Tighten hinges on cabinets to ensure they hang straight and open easily. Check around sinks and toilets to ensure there are no leaks present. If you find leaks or standing water, you will definitely want it fixed prior to the home inspection. While you're at it, make sure all toilets flush properly. If you have a toilet that runs, consider getting it fixed, as it will likely catch the inspector's eye. Replace any worn or damaged weatherstripping. Check that all windows open, close, and lock easily. We don't recommend doing any huge projects here, and this definitely isn't something to stress over

 

5. Check Fuse Box 

Ensure your fuse box is free of cobwebs and properly labeled. Leaving room for confusion will, if nothing else, waste time and prolong the inspection process.

 

 

 

 

 

6. Be Courteous

As a courtesy, leave the home and plan to be gone at least three hours. This can be an emotional time for some, and it is best to give the buyers the privacy they need to discuss anything that comes up. In addition, remove pets, leave behind a garage door opener as well as keys to any outer buildings or storage spaces. Empty the washer, dryer, and dishwasher as the inspector will likely run these.

 

 

The home inspection can be nerve-wracking for both parties. No matter how much preparing you do, it is quite likely that something the inspector finds will worry the buyers. Don't stress and try not to over think it. It's all part of the home-selling process. If you have questions about any aspects of the selling process, don't hesitate to give us a call. We are always happy to hear from you!

Oct. 24, 2018

Water: A Home's Worst Enemy

Water has the potential to damage any area of your home. It can cause warping, buckling, expansion, and mold throughout the house. From the roof to the foundation, water can cause devastating damage at an outrageous cost. Fortunately, the are preventative steps you can take to avoid water damage. Continue reading for some tips on how to avoid a water catastrophe in your home!

 

 

Shut off Water

If you're going out of town, it is a good idea to shut of the water to your home. This will ensure you don't come home from your happy vacation to a flooded living room. This is especially important when it comes to mold. Mold can begin to grow in as little as twenty-four hours. Mold is a health hazard, and the damage can last much longer than the physical property damage caused by water.

Clean Gutters

This task is huge in preventing water damage. Buildup in gutters can stop water flow, causing water to pool. Clogged gutters can result in leaks, roof damage, flooding, and interior damage. Clean your gutters now to avoid a huge headache later!

 

Disconnect Hoses

It's wise to disconnect your hoses, especially during the winter months. Any water inside the house has the potential to freeze into the pipe, causing leaks or a totally broken pipe.

 

Check Before You Plant 

Before planting any trees or bushes, make sure you're not placing them close to any pipes or septic tanks. Once the plants are mature, their roots can burst pipes and sewer lines.

 

Look At Your Water Bill

An unusually high water bill is a good indication that there is a leak somewhere. These kinds of leaks can go unnoticed for a long time, causing irreversible water damage. If your bill comes in high, check for leaks and make a call to your water provider.

 

Do Not Ignore - Know The Signs

The most obvious sign of a moister problem is a puddle on the floor or flooded areas. At that point, it is absolutely a good idea to call someone. Other times, it may not be as easy to detect. Keep an eye out for signs of water, and please don't ignore them. They will likely get worse. Any warping, discoloration, wood expansion, and general change in appearance can indicate you have a water problem. Check for leaks and call in a professional. Know where your main shutoff valve is in case of an emergency. Shut the water off before calling for help.

 

In the event that you come home to a flooded basement or an overflowing bathtub, it is crucial to dry it out immediately. Shop-Vacs are a fantastic water removal tool. Don't stop once you've gotten the majority of the water out though. You want it completely dry. Put every fan you own in the flooded area, open windows if possible, and remove wet belongings. You might call a water restoration company right away to assess the damage. Your goal here is to not only avoid damage to the home, but to eliminate the chances of mold growth. Mold can cause serious health defects, and remediation is costly. If you're unsure, it is always worth calling in professional. Water damage is not worth the risk.

If you find yourself in need of a plumber, roofer, or restoration company, don't hesitate to give us a call. We have worked with many contractors in this city, and we are happy to provide recommendations. If you're looking to buy a home and want to know what to look for and what to expect if an issue arises, our team can help!

 

Sept. 7, 2018

Dealing with Difficult Neighbors

Introduce yourself

Whether you're new to the neighborhood or the people next to you just moved in, introduce yourself. It may be a turn off or seem odd to some people, but there's a good chance they will be grateful and think it a kind gesture. Even if you don't become friends, being friendly on a regular basis can absolutely help diffuse any future problems.

Communicate

When any issues arises, the first step is communication. Be careful in how you approach your neighbor. Avoid outright accusations, nasty notes, and assumptions. A face-to-face conversation is not the easiest way to tell your neighbor they're a nuisance, but it's often the most effective. Be sure to present a solution, not a problem. Let them know why you're concerned as well. Don't just tell them they're too loud. Explain to them that you have to get up early for work or have children napping. Whatever the situation, be reasonable and willing to compromise. Always avoid a heated confrontation. Be kind, casual, and pleasant.

Write a Letter

If you are unable to talk to your neighbor, try writing a kind letter. There is so much more room for misinterpretation here, so be careful in how you word your letter. Have a friend or spouse read it to ensure it conveys the proper tone and message. The same rules applies with a letter: do not make accusations and present a solution rather than a problem. End the letter with offering to talk in person even if you'd rather not.

Offer to Help

For the junky house or the eyesore yard, don't assume your neighbor is a lazy bones. Perhaps he or she just had back surgery and is unable to mow their lawn, or maybe they're lacking the proper tools. Offer your lawnmower or your help. If nothing else, it will get them thinking about taking action, especially f you've manage to make your offer in a non-condescending, truly helpful manner.

Regulate

If communication doesn't solve the problem, check out your city's codes or HOA governing documents. If you live within an HOA, simply contacting the community manager may resolve the problem. Whether you contact your HOA or the local authorities, they are likely to send your neighbor a letter informing them of their violation. It is a good idea to keep a record of all such complaints.

Order a Survey

If it's an issue of property line, offer to split the cost of a survey with your concerned/concerning neighbor.

Take Caution

If there is a harassment issue or any safety concerns, contact the authorities and keep a record of all incidents. Although it may sounds extreme, consider installing a security camera. If ever necessary, you want to be able to present a detailed and accurate record of your dangerous neighbor's actions.

 

 

 

 

 

July 27, 2018

Budget-Friendly Living Room Updates

Often times, the living room is the first thing you see when you get home. It's probably safe to say that it is also one of the most used rooms in your house. Updating this area will bring new life into your home while making it an aesthetically pleasing place to live and entertain. As you likely know, updating any room in any house tends to add up quickly. Don't panic! There are many affordable options out there. Check out the tips below and learn how to bring a fresh, stylish look to your living room without breaking the bank!

1. Clean

The key to whipping any room into shape is cleaning -- deep cleaning. Don't stop at dusting and vacuuming. Take it further by removing clutter. Get rid of things you don't use or aren't completely in love with. Avoid using the area for any kind of storage. Ridding the room of unnecessary clutter will not only make the space look bigger, but it will help create a simplified, chic look.  

2. Rearrange

There's nothing as cost-effective as using what you already have! Take a look at your space, and figure out the best way to utilize it. Experiment with furniture to find what setup you like the most. Try pulling furniture away from walls or creating a cozy sitting area. If nothing else, create some change to liven things up.

3. Paint

Painting a room is a quick and fairly easy way to absolutely transform it. For your living room, choose soft, neutral colors or pull a color from something else in the room. If all your throw pillows have a little splash of color you like, tie everything together by painting the walls that color. Though, be careful not to go too dark. Dark walls quickly make a room feel small. If purchasing paint for the whole room is not an option, create an accent wall instead.

4. Add or Alter Lamps

Add a lamp or pair of lamps that will complement the color and theme of the room. If buying lamps doesn't sound so good, consider switching out the shades on existing lamps. Again, choose something that will subtly complement the entire room.

 

 

 

 

5. Get the Right Drapes

The style and color of your drapes can set the tone of the entire room. Avoid thick, light-blocking materials that will make the room feel smaller. Curtains affect lighting as well as aesthetics, which is why proper installation can make a huge difference. Check out this article for some helpful tips and visuals.

6. Use Accents Pieces

A good accent pillow, throw blanket, or rug can do a lot for a room. This is where you can choose a color or pattern that pops. The key is to avoid mixing colors or patterns that don't work well together.

 

 

7. Spruce up the Mantle

A fireplace mantle is a huge focal point in a room. If you have one, spruce it up a bit! Brick mantles can be transformed by a coat of white paint. It will bring in a modern look and help brighten the room. Decorate the mantle with a couple of simple pieces like a vase or set of candles. Just don't place flammable things too close during the winter!

8. Create a Gallery Wall

Making yourself a gallery wall is a fun and stylish way to personalize the room. You can use your favorite photographs, artwork, or get creative with it. To avoid chaos on the wall, use matching frames for each piece. You can even buy frames at a second hand store and paint them all to match. There should be an overall theme or color scheme as well. Check out these awesome gallery walls for inspiration!

 

Updating your living room is not only an awesome way to liven up your living quarters, but it's also  good way to prep for the market if you plan on selling your home. If you're curious what your home is worth, give us a call or find out for free on our website! We are always happy to hear from you!

July 18, 2018

Annual Summer Events

There's nothing quite like spending time in the sun with family and friends. Lucky for us, there is an abundance of opportunities to get out there an enjoy it! Make this summer extra memorable by attending one or more of the many events this awesome city has to offer. Colorado Springs and the surrounding areas are host to an immense amount of annual festivals, markets, and sporting activities. Below you will find some of our favorites. Take a look through our list and see if there's anything you're itching to be a part of!

 

Old Colorado City Farmer's Market

Head to Bancroft Park every Saturday for this awesome farmer's market, which runs through October. A wide variety of vendors offer fresh produce, delicious foods, and handmade goods. Head to the park between 7:00am and 1:00pm to join the fun!

 

Rocky Mountain State Games

Calling all athletes! July 20-22 & 27-29, thousands of athletes will compete in a wide variety of sports. The locations vary, so be sure to check out their website for scheduling details and registration guidelines.

Vino & Notes Woodland Park Wine Festival

August 4th, check out the wine, food, and music! This festival runs 12:00pm - 6:00pm at Bergstrom Park in Woodland Park, CO. Tickets may be purchased here at $35 per person.

 

 

 

 

Mountain Arts Festival

Woodland Park has so much to offer, including this two day festival featuring artists from across the country! Their booths will be up August 4th & 5th from 10:00am - 4:00pm. Located at Ute Pass Cultural Center in Woodland Park, admission is free.

Woodland Music Series

This free concert series takes place at Woodland Park's Ute Pass Cultural Center and runs through August. The theme changes each month, so head to their website for scheduling details.

 

Pikes Peak Marathon

August 19-20th, head to the Manitou Springs Barr Trail for this annual, high-elevation marathon! For registration details, click here.

Colorado Springs Labor Day Lift Off

Perhaps one of Colorado Springs' most colorful events, the Labor Day Lift Off is held annually at Memorial Park. September 1st - 3rd, keep an eye on the sky to see the awesome hot air balloons! Or head to Memorial Park for this free event.

 

 

If you're looking for more to see and do, the Visit Colorado Springs website is a fantastic resource. What are some of your favorite things to do in Colorado Springs? Tell us below!

 

Posted in Home Owners, Summer