Is the Real Estate Rebound Here?

Over the past six months, real estate foreclosures have continued along at a blistering pace. In addition, the number of bank owned homes is also swelling. Until recently, banks appeared to be unwilling to accept losses in to their real estate portfolio. Short sales proved to be very tough to execute and very few foreclosed properties were actively in the market. The tide appears to be shifting.

Bank Real Estate Owned (REO) Properties

While the average home sales price continuing to decline, sellers can take solace in the fact that volume seems to be turning. After the government tax break ended, there was a stiff drop off in the number of home sales. However, over the past month or two, volume appears to have stabilized, albeit at lower price points.

Buyers have banks to thank for the increased volume. Banks are beginning to show a willingness to deal their trouble properties to the highest bidders. Banks faced a major concern of selling too early at lower prices than they may have gotten by waiting. It would appear that the waiting game is over and many institutions believe the markets have bottomed out.

All real estate is local of course, so it might take a bit longer for the smaller markets in Florida and Las Vegas to experience a rise in the volume of sales, but rest assured its coming. If the economy can avoid a second recession and begin to add jobs, expect residential real estate sales to come back in a big way.

Real Estate Sales Volume vs. Price

While a volume resurgence might be a few months off, a price rebound is at least a year away. The same force driving volume back up is pushing prices down. Every sale of property is recorded the same way, rather it be a foreclosed sale or a sale by an individual. Appraisers and buyers have no way of knowing what sales were foreclosures and what were not. As such, the average sales price will always be deflated in markets with a large amount of foreclosed properties.

On average foreclosures sell for 30 – 40% less than non-foreclosed homes. If half the sales are foreclosures, the market price will decline by 20% more than if all of those homes had been sells by individual owners. The same dynamic that contributes to the volume increase will likely accelerate the price deflation. Assuming buyers can maintain their cool, expect prices in the hardest hit areas to remain below their historical averages for at least one more year.

Success As A Landlord Comes From People Skills

Although current market conditions in many parts of the United States are making rental properties more affordable to more people interested in real estate investing, individuals must determine whether they are up to the challenges of being a landlord.

Being successful as a landlord requires familiarity with the laws, ordinances, and regulations that apply where a rental property is located. Yet, what makes many individuals with no experience as landlords hesitant about entering the residential rental market is the fear of dealing with tenants and their problems. While this is a legitimate concern, it is also necessary to recognize that there will be dealings with government authorities and craftspeople who will be working at the properties.

Landlords Need Basic People Skills

Some people have the innate ability to get along with others while still getting what they want; other people are clueless about the subtleties involved. Fortunately, most individuals can develop their people skills to the level needed to be effective landlords.

Tenants: As the ones who supply the funds used to pay the mortgage, maintain the property, and generate a profit, tenants are the clients of their landlords. What landlords need to understand about tenants is that most of them merely want a decent place to call home, to pay their rent, and to go about their lives; most tenants prefer to have minimal contact with their landlords. Of course, there are “high-maintenance” tenants who either constantly complain about perceived problems or who are a nuisance to the landlord and other tenants due to their lifestyles and behavior – by being filthy, engaging in illegal activity, or throwing loud parties, for example. By choosing tenants in a deliberate and cautious manner, landlords can avoid most of these types of headaches.

Nevertheless, problems will occur even with good tenants. The appropriate approach by investors in rental properties is to view tenant problems as resolvable and temporary, even if it sometimes takes a while to abate certain conditions, such as vermin infestation. To make the landlord/tenant relationship work, a landlord needs to be even-tempered, courteous, and fair with the tenants without becoming a “pushover.”

Government officials: By definition, these people are charged with the safety and well-being of members of their constituent communities. Government officials carry out their duty by administering the statutes, ordinances, and regulations that prescribe the minimum standards of sanitation, habitability, and security that landlords must meet with regard to their rental properties.

These standards and the way they are administered and interpreted may seem burdensome at times. Nonetheless, landlords who strive to meet the prescribed standards will avoid unnecessary fines, government intervention, and court appearances. However, if the enforcement of a standard seems arbitrary or unreasonable, a landlord should not hesitate to speak up. For instance, if a code enforcement officer issues a citation for failure to recycle at a two- or three-family property, when in fact the recycling bins go on the curb only when they are full, the landlord who can document this may be able to defeat the citation in municipal court.

Craftspeople: Contractors and handymen offer services in return for payment. In other words, dealing with them means engaging in a business transaction. Landlords who want to avoid feeling cheated and dissatisfied with the services rendered must chose their craftspeople carefully, preferably on the basis of recommendations from other property owners. Moreover, the services to be performed and the costs involved should be spelled out clearly in a contract.

Landlords are Business People

Most important, landlords must remember that they are engaged in a business. Therefore, to succeed, landlords must act in an unemotional, business-like manner at all times, regardless of the status of the persons with whom they are dealing.

Investing In The Real Estate Multifamily Sector

Investors wondering how they can benefit from the huge wave of foreclosures sweeping the nation should look no further than apartments. The sector presents the best opportunity to finance and profit from potential increases in rent and property valuations.

Multifamily Investment Strategy

As foreclosures rise, people will continue to need places to live. When they cannot own, they must rent. As millions of former homeowners become renters, apartment owners can expect to benefit from decreased vacancies, increasing rents and potential asset appreciation. This asset class is the perfect place to start investing today.

Like all real estate asset classes, apartments experience significant short term declines in value. Overall valuations grew when rents were expected to grow as fast as the economy. As the economy contracted, rents declined because tenants simply could not pay. Additionally, many homeowners begin to rent their homes at lower prices and potential renters doubled up and sought rent stabilized apartments rather than renting their own apartment. As the economy recovers, expect these trends to reverse.

Investors should consider where they want to position themselves. Investors with cash should attempt to buy higher class properties to take advantage of the many consumers that have enough cash to rent, but are wary of owning in a declining market. These properties typically appreciate faster than Class B and C properties and hold their value longer. Investors should also consider rehabilitating Class B and C properties.

Apartment Financing

Fannie Mae finances apartments. This simple fact keeps the multifamily sector level, while the other commercial real estate sectors decline. Investors can still secure 60-75%+ financing through Fannie Mae at very competitive rates.

It is important to note that Fannie Mae has not been immune to lending issues. Many investors continue to speculate that they will stop lending at some point because of the massive amounts of bad loans they currently have on their books. The government guarantees these bad loans, so at any time they could be given a mandate to stop lending. At that point, investors should be leery of the segment because without financing, smaller investors would have to exit the sector.

Investors interested in this segment should be prepared to manage their properties for at least five years. As the economy recovers and tenants continue to remain fearful of buying primary residence, apartment owners will benefit. Landlords can differentiate themselves by providing a positive, cleaning living space with responsive management. Multifamily tends to be a longer term cash flow investment. As such, name recognition and character directly affect return on investment.