Investing in Real Estate

Many investors are turned off by real estate because they do not have the time or inclination to become landlords and property managers, both of which are in fact, a career in themselves. If the investor is a rehabber or wholesaler, real estate becomes more of a business rather than an investment. Many successful property “investors” are actually real estate “operators” in the real property business. Fortunately, there are other ways for passive investors to enjoy many of the secure and inflation proof benefits of real estate investing without the hassle.

Active participation in property investing has many advantages. Middlemen fees, charged by syndicators, brokers, property managers and asset managers can be eliminated, possibly resulting in a higher rate of return. Further, you as the investor make all decisions; for better or worse the bottom line responsibility is yours. Also, the active, direct investor can make the decision to sell whenever he wants out (assuming that a market exists for his property at a price sufficient to pay off all liens and encumbrances).

Passive investment in real estate is the flip side of the coin, offering many advantages of its own. Property or mortgage assets are selected by professional real estate investment managers, who spent full time investing, analyzing and managing real property. Often, these professionals can negotiate lower prices than you would be able to on your own. Additionally, when a number of individual investor’s money is pooled, the passive investor is able to own a share of property much larger, safer, more profitable, and of a better investment class than the active investor operating with much less capital.

Most real estate is purchased with a mortgage note for a large part of the purchase price. While the use of leverage has many advantages, the individual investor would most likely have to personally guarantee the note, putting his other assets at risk. As a passive investor, the limited partner or owner of shares in a Real Estate Investment Trust would have no liability exposure over the amount of original investment. The direct, active investor would likely be unable to diversify his portfolio of properties. With ownership only 2, 3 or 4 properties the investor’s capital can be easily damaged or wiped out by an isolated problem at only one of his properties. The passive investor would likely own a small share of a large diversified portfolio of properties, thereby lowering risk significantly through diversification. With portfolios of 20, 30 or more properties, the problems of any one or two will not significantly hurt the performance of the portfolio as a whole.

Types of Passive Real Estate Investments

REITs

Real Estate Investment Trusts are companies that own, manage and operate income producing real estate. They are organized so that the income produced is taxed only once, at the investor level. By law, REITs must pay at least 90% of their net income as dividends to their shareholders. Hence REITs are high yield vehicles that also offer a chance for capital appreciation. There are currently about 180 publicly traded REITs whose shares are listed on the NYSE, ASE or NASDAQ. REITS specialize by property type (apartments, office buildings, malls, warehouses, hotels, etc.) and by region. Investors can expect dividend yields in the 5-9 % range, ownership in high quality real property, professional management, and a decent chance for long term capital appreciation.

Real Estate Mutual Funds

There are over 100 Real Estate Mutual Funds. Most invest in a select portfolio of REITs. Others invest in both REITs and other publicly traded companies involved in real estate ownership and real estate development. Real estate mutual funds offer diversification, professional management and high dividend yields. Unfortunately, the investor ends up paying two levels of management fees and expenses; one set of fees to the REIT management and an additional management fee of 1-2% to the manager of the mutual fund.

Real Estate Limited Partnerships

Limited Partnerships are a way to invest in real estate, without incurring a liability beyond the amount of your investment. However, an investor is still able to enjoy the benefits of appreciation and tax deductions for the total value of the property. LPs can be used by landlords and developers to buy, build or rehabilitate rental housing projects using other people’s money. Because of the high degree of risk involved, investors in Limited Partnerships expect to earn 15% + annually on their invested capital.

Limited Partnerships allow centralization of management, through the general partner. They allow sponsors/developers to maintain control of their projects while raising new equity. The terms of the partnership agreement, governing the on-going relationship, are set jointly by the general and limited partner(s). Once the partnership is established, the general partner makes all day to day operating decisions. Limited partner(s) may only take drastic action if the general partner defaults on the terms of the partnership agreement or is grossly negligent, events that can lead to removal of the general partner. The LPs come in all shapes and sizes, some are public funds with thousands of limited partners, others are private funds with as few as 3 or 4 friends investing $25,000 each.

Residential Real Estate Investing

Residential real estate investing is a business activity that has waxed and waned in popularity dramatically over the last few years. Ironically, there always seem to be a lot of people jumping on board with investments like stock, gold, and real estate when the market’s going up, and jumping OFF the wagon and pursuing other activities once the market’s slumping. In a way that’s human nature, but it also means a lot of real estate investors are leaving money on the table.

By understanding the dynamics of your residential real estate investment marketplace, and acting in opposition to the rest of the market, you can often make more money, as long as you also stick to the real estate investing fundamentals.

Real estate investing, whether you’re buying residential or commercial property, is not a get-rich-quick scenario. Sure you can make some fast cash flipping houses, if that’s your bag, but that is a full time business activity, not a passive, long term investment. The word “investment” implies that you are committed to the activity for the long haul. Often, that’s just what it takes to make money in real estate.

So, while the pundits are crying about the residential real estate market slump, and the speculators are wondering if this is the bottom, let us return to the fundamentals of residential real estate investing, and learn how to make money investing in real estate for the long term, in good markets, as well as bad.

A Return To The Fundamentals of Residential Real Estate Investing

When real estate is going up, up, up, investing in real estate can seem easy. All ships rise with a rising tide, and even if you’ve bought a deal with no equity and no cash flow, you can still make money if you’re in the right place at the right time.

However, it’s hard to time the market without a lot of research and market knowledge. A better strategy is to make sure you understand the four profit centers for residential real estate investing, and make sure your next residential real estate investment deal takes ALL of these into account.

  1. Cash Flow – How much money does the residential income property bring in every month, after expenses are paid? This seems like it should be easy to calculate if you know how much the rental income is and how much the mortgage payment is. However, once you factor in everything else that goes into taking care of a rental property – things like vacancy, expenses, repairs and maintenance, advertising, bookkeeping, legal fees and the like, it begins to really add up. I like to use a factor of about 40% of the NOI to estimate my property expenses. I use 50% of the NOI as my ballpark goal for debt service. That leaves 10% of the NOI as profit to me. If the deal doesn’t meet those parameters, I am wary.
  2. Appreciation – Having the property go up in value while you own it has historically been the most profitable part about owning real estate. However, as we’ve seen recently, real estate can also go DOWN in value, too. Leverage (your bank loan in this case) is a double-edged sword. It can increase your rate of return if you buy in an appreciating area, but it can also increase your rate of loss when your property goes down in value. For a realistic, low-risk property investment, plan to hold your residential real estate investment property for at least 5 years. This should give you the ability to weather the ups and downs in the market so you can see at a time when it makes sense, from a profit standpoint.
  3. Debt Pay down – Each month when you make that mortgage payment to the bank, a tiny portion of it is going to reduce the balance of your loan. Because of the way mortgages are structured, a normally amortizing loan has a very small amount of debt pay down at the beginning, but if you do manage to keep the loan in place for a number of years, you’ll see that as you get closer to the end of the loan term, more and more of your principle is being used to retire the debt. Of course, all this assumes that you have an amortizing loan in the first place. If you have an interest-only loan, your payments will be lower, but you won’t benefit from any loan pay down. I find that if you are planning to hold the property for 5-7 years or less, it makes sense to look at an interest-only loan, since the debt pay down you’d accrue during this time is minimal, and it can help your cash flow to have an interest-only loan, as long as interest rate adjustments upward don’t increase your payments sooner than you were expecting and ruin your cash flow. If you plan to hold onto the property long term, and/or you have a great interest rate, it makes sense to get an accruing loan that will eventually reduce the balance of your investment loan and make it go away. Make sure you run the numbers on your real estate investing strategy to see if it makes sense for you to get a fixed rate loan or an interest only loan. In some cases, it may make sense to refinance your property to increase your cash flow or your rate of return, rather than selling it.
  4. Tax Write-Offs – For the right person, tax write-offs can be a big benefit of real estate investing. But they’re not the panacea that they’re sometimes made out to be. Individuals who are hit with the AMT (Alternative Minimum Tax), who have a lot of properties but are not real estate professionals, or who are not actively involved in their real estate investments may find that they are cut off from some of the sweetest tax breaks provided by the IRS. Even worse, investors who focus on short-term real estate deals like flips, rehabs, etc. have their income treated like EARNED INCOME. The short term capital gains tax rate that they pay is just the same (high) they’d pay if they earned the income in a W-2 job. After a lot of investors got burned in the 1980’s by the Tax Reform Act, a lot of people decided it was a bad idea to invest in real estate just for the tax breaks. If you qualify, they can be a great profit center, but in general, you should consider them the frosting on the cake, not the cake itself.

Any residential real estate investing deal that stands up under the scrutiny of this fundamentals-oriented lens, should keep your real estate portfolio and your pocketbook healthy, whether the residential real estate investing market goes up, down or sideways. However, if you can use the real estate market trends to give you a boost, that’s fair, too. The key is not to rely on any one “strategy” to try to give you outsized gains. Be realistic with your expectations and stick to the fundamentals. Buy property you can afford and plan to stay invested for the long haul.

How To Impose Physical Security In Your Building And Property

Physical security pertains to the actions you can do to ensure and maintain the safety in your buildings and property against intruders or criminals. When planning a physical security program you must know the areas and levels that you need to protect in your property. The three levels that you should address when planning a physical security program are the outer perimeter, inner perimeter and interior level. Safety measures and protection in your property can be achieved by executing two or three type of security at each level.

Below are the three levels of physical security that you need to consider that you need to implement:

1. Outer Perimeter Security

The outer perimeter of your property is the actual property lines and your goal in securing this level is to control who comes in and goes out in the premises of your property. One of the common and intensive forms of outer perimeter security is the use of barbed wire fence with a gate safeguarded by armed security personnel. On the other hand, some property owners choose simple hedge as their defense. When selecting the type of perimeter security to adopt, it is vital that you consider the risk of an intruder trespassing in your home or building with the cost of the physical security that you will impose.

Moreover, it is necessary for you to comprehend the two security concepts regarding perimeter security, the natural access control and territorial reinforcement. Natural access control is the utilization of building features to guide people as they come in and exit in your property. It is necessary to take into consideration both entrances and exits when employing natural access control. It does not only dispirit trespassers but it also shut all the possible escape routes. Another concept that people must understand is the territorial reinforcement. Its principal function is to deter unauthorized access and to make an apparent distinction between public and private property. This is necessary because it gives the rightful owners have a sense of ownership and distinguish the people who do not have the access to enter a property. This also makes it hard for intruders to blend in. Though territorial reinforcement and perimeter security are dissimilar but they share a common goal that is to discourage criminals from entering the premises of your property.

2. Inner Perimeter Security

The inner perimeter of a certain property is comprised of doors, windows and walls. These areas of your building can be protected and safeguarded with the use of locks, keys and alarm systems. The locks and keys are used for the purpose ensuring that intruders will never get the opportunity to get inside the property. An electronic access control system is also widely used today by many commercial buildings and businesses as a tool for controlling the flow of traffic into your inner perimeter. Then, the alarm system tells you when someone breaks in inside your private property. When implementing any physical security system, always make sure that you hold the control of your keys and do not let any unauthorized person make copies of your keys. If an unauthorized person gets an access to your security system without your knowledge, then you could be in a serious trouble.

3. Interior Security

Interior security is an important level of security. It includes the interior of a building or property. Security cameras are effective protection device for monitoring the interior of a building or business. It also serves as a recording evidence of crimes during investigations. Electronic access control systems can also be utilized to manage the flow of traffic within your area and prevent unauthorized people from entering protected areas.