Archive for the ‘General’ Category

How Supply & Demand Impacts The Real Estate Market

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Real Estate Market Snapshot

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The San Francisco metro area has once again put up the largest annual home price gain in the U.S., according to the most recent numbers from a prominent real estate index.

Gold coins

The latest S&P Case-Shiller Home Price Indices, which run two months behind, say that single-family home prices in the San Francisco area increased by 9.3 percent in December, the most of any of the 20 major U.S. metro areas included in the report. San Francisco returned to the top of the Case-Shiller index for the first time in 18 months in November, when prices rose by 8.9 percent year over year.

As was the case in the two preceding months, home prices in San Francisco grew at about double the national rate in December. Case-Shiller’s numbers put the U.S. annual rate of home price appreciation at 4.6 percent in the final month of 2014.

Although existing home price growth and sales across the country are at their normal levels, David M. Blitzer, managing director and chairman of the Index Committee at S&P Dow Jones Indices, said that he believes the housing recovery is “faltering,” a by-product of sluggish construction and new-home-sales activity.

“Before the current business cycle, any time housing starts were at their current level of about one million at annual rates, the economy was in a recession,” Blitzer said. “The softness in housing is despite favorable conditions elsewhere in the economy: strong job growth, a declining unemployment rate, continued low interest rates, and positive consumer confidence.”

According to MLS data, the median single-family home price increased year over year in every one of Pacific Union’s Bay Area regions except the Mid-Peninsula subregion, which saw a slight decline. Home prices topped the $1 million mark in our Contra Costa County, Marin County, Mid-Peninsula, San Francisco, and Silicon Valley regions as 2014 came to a close.

The chart below provides more information on annual Bay Area home price changes. Also, be sure to check out Pacific Union’s fourth-quarter 2014 real estate report for more in-depth sales data and information on how we define our regions.

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(Image: Flickr/Bhautikjoshi)

Source: Pacific Union

What, You’re Missing Documents? Then No Short Sale For You!

REQUIRED READINGThe short sale is undoubtedly preferable to a foreclosure, and properly executing one can be tricky. But a large number of short sales fail, by some estimates up to 60%, and those failed short sales ultimately end up in foreclosure.

There are a variety of reasons why short sales don’t go through, but the existence of a junior lien is often a stumbling block. RealtyTrac reported in July 2012 that nearly 40% of loans entering foreclosure have at least one junior lien attached. The existence of junior liens on these loans certainly does not preclude a short sale, but it does make the transaction more complicated. For starters, the holders of liens, such as second mortgages or home equity lines of credit, need to approve a short sale for the transaction to go through – and that can be a challenge.

Junior lien holders are generally the ones absorbing the loss in a short sale because they recover whatever money remains after all the associated costs are paid. All too frequently, the amount remaining isn’t satisfactory to the junior lien holder. And sometimes, there’s nothing left for junior lien holders at all, so it’s easy to see why they might be reluctant to agree to a short sale.

Even the Federal Housing Finance Agency sees second liens as a stumbling block to short sales. In late August, the regulator announced that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are issuing new guidelines to mortgage servicers that will align and consolidate existing short sales programs into one standard short sale program. The guidelines, which went into effect Nov. 1, 2012, stipulate that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac will offer up to $6,000 to second lien holders to expedite a short sale.

Factor in the more complicated documentation process when there’s more than one lender, and it becomes clear that these transactions – and ensuring that all of the necessary documentation is in place – can become very difficult.

Improper or missing documentation can stall a short sale substantially, particularly when there is more than one lien holder. Whether a lender chooses to perform the function in-house or to outsource it, assembling all the necessary documents and providing for timely and properly conducted lien releases are critical to the success of short sales. Unfortunately, there are a number of ways that improper or missing documents, as well as poorly executed lien releases, can stop a short sale in its tracks.

At the beginning of the process, the seller’s mortgage lender needs to thoroughly review a seller’s short sale request. Collecting and assembling the required documentation can be a time-consuming and frustrating process. It may be difficult to obtain the required paperwork from the seller, who could be uncooperative or otherwise delay submitting the required documents.

Preparing the paperwork and getting the deal accepted by the mortgage lender can also be a lengthy and difficult undertaking. The challenge becomes even greater if there’s more than one lender involved.

A clear title is needed: verification is required that the mortgage is properly recorded with the first lienholder, and that the title policy is accurate. In cases where there are one or more additional lien holders, clearing the property title requires more time and effort.

If the loan was sold to an investor, the investor will have to approve the short sale, and investors have their own set of requirements before they’ll grant approval. When there are mistakes or missing documents, the loan file needs to be returned to the lender, and the process takes place again.

A current owner search needs to be performed to show how any and all liens are recorded to confirm all current lien holders are of record. There are times when an assignment may be missing. When a loan has been sold several times, there is a good probability that at least one of the lien holders isn’t properly recorded. In those cases, an interim assignment or assignments of records is necessary.

Avoiding litigation 

When a short sale is completed, a lien release needs to be performed promptly in order to avoid future problems, including the potential for litigation. Each state has a different timeline for how quickly lien releases need to take place, ranging from 30 to 90 days. Delaying or not properly performing and documenting a lien release will leave the lien holders vulnerable to being sued for an open balance. The potential for this sort of litigation is considerably higher in the case of short sales with subordinate liens.

The proper paperwork needs to be returned to the borrower, depending on whether or not the lender is seeking a deficiency balance. A lender or servicer can either accept the amount recovered in a short sale, or go after the borrower for a deficiency balance.

When a servicer opts to seek a deficiency balance, the note is not returned to the borrower. If the short sale is accepted as paid in full, then the mortgage note and recorded release are sent to the borrower.

With delinquency rates at high levels, there are more chances for mistakes to happen in documentation. Improper documents need to be repaired, and missing documents need to be located. In addition to cost and time, servicers also need to keep in mind that new mandates by regulators, investors and the secondary market agencies are continually changing, particularly for loans that are in a pre-foreclosure status.

When it comes to documentation, tracking of ownership, and lien releases, getting it right the first time will clearly save servicers time, money and headaches. Determining whether those services should be performed in-house or outsourced to a document services vendor will depend on the size and the resources of the servicer.

Ownership tracking, recording of assignments and lien releases are a complicated business, made even more so by the continually changing guidelines. Even one misstep can jeopardize ownership security and ultimately halt a short sale or foreclosure.

A successful short sale is good news for all involved, but missing or improper documents can stall the short sale process or, in some cases, halt it altogether. The bottom line message is clear: Make sure that you have all of your docs in a row!

Source: Mike Wileman,  President and CEO of Orion Financial Group.
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Rising home prices lift 1.3 million borrowers above water!

Rising home prices lifted more than 1.3 million underwater homeowners above water this year, the Obama Administration’s said in its October Housing Scorecard report.

The latest report shows more signs of a strengthening housing market, but the Treasury is still careful to say the recovery overall remains fragile.

The government’s Home Affordable Modification Program, which launched in 2009, has been the catalyst for close to 1.3 million homeowner-relief actions in the past three years, the Obama administration said.

With so many families in the Northeast now struggling with damaged and inhabitable properties, the Treasury announced that servicers partaking in the Making Home Affordable Programs should review existing guidelines for providing Hurricane Sandy victims with additional housing-related relief.

The program guidelines allow servicers to offer qualified, distressed storm victims tied to Home Affordable initiatives with a minimum of 3-months forbearance. The borrower’s property has to be in a region designated as a disaster zone to qualify for aid. The New York metro area currently has about 60,000 homeowners partaking in HAMP.

“As the October housing scorecard indicates, our housing market is continuing to show important signs of recovery – with the FHFA housing price index posting its largest annual gain in five years and new home sales at its fastest pace since April 2010,” said HUD acting assistant secretary for policy development and research Erika Poethig. “But with so many households still struggling to make ends meet, we have important work ahead. That is why we are asking the Congress to approve the president’s refinancing proposal so that more homeowners can receive assistance.”

Homeowners who benefited from the government’s Making Home Affordable programs over the past three years saved roughly $541 on their monthly mortgage payments, the scorecard said.

HAMP also appears to be successful in preventing re-defaults, with 86% of homeowners still performing well two years after receiving a HAMP loan modification, the Housing Scorecard said.

To date, the HAMP program has launched 1.1 million modifications. Close to 14,000 new modifications were launched in the in-between period from the last report to Friday’s survey.

As for what is causing a tepid housing recovery, the Scorecard shows home prices and home sales on the rise, which is buoying the recovery somewhat. The latest Case-Shiller report has the average home price hovering around $145,900, up from $143,000 a year earlier. That figure, to date, is still lower than the $150,500 mark recorded at the beginning of the housing crisis four years ago.

New and existing home sales in the most recent period hit 32,400 and 395,800 units, respectively. That is up from 25,500 units and 356,700 units, respectively a year earlier, according to data from the government, the National Association of Realtors and CoreLogic.

The supply of houses in the U.S. also fell from 2.4 million a year earlier to 2.320 million in the latest survey period, according to NAR and government data.

The housing recovery also is benefiting from record low interest rates, with the average 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage hitting 3.39% in the most recent report, down from 3.41% in the September report and a drop from 4% last year.

Source: Kerri Ann Panchuk of Housingwire.com

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What is a short sale? Five things you need to know.

What is a short sale? Five things you need to know.

Is a foreclosure staring you in the face? For many Americans faced with foreclosure and, possibly, bankruptcy, a better option is often a short sale. Short sales, which are up 10 percent from the same period last year, according to RealtyTrac, are becoming an increasingly popular way to deal with homes and homeowners burdened with too much debt. However, many homeowners still aren’t clear what a short sale is and whether it is the best solution for them. Here are five things you need to know about short sales: 

A brand-new $1.1 million, 5,200 square foot home in Davie, Fla., is offered for short sale in this 2010 file photo. Often, lenders will agree to take a loss on a short sale because they would lose even more in a foreclosure. (J Pat Carter/AP/File)

1. What is a short sale?

Very simply, a short sale is when a lender agrees to take less than what he’s owed and allows homeowners to sell their property because they are facing financial hardship. Typically, the homeowner’s mortgage is worth more than his home and he’s having trouble making payments. So the homeowner sells the home and the bank marks down the value of the mortgage to the sales price, leaving the homeowner free and clear.

Lenders agree to do this because it makes financial sense for them. According to recent statistics, homes offered as short sales are bought for roughly 20 percent below their market value as opposed to 39 percent under market value for foreclosed homes. Lenders also save on costly foreclosure and maintenance procedures. Thus, the short sale is typically a better option for the lender as well as the seller.

2. How do short sales compare to foreclosures?

A foreclosure can be extremely damaging to an individual’s credit report and it can have long-term effects on anyone seeking credit. So, for several years after foreclosure, former homeowners can find themselves denied credit – or paying much higher rates to finance a car and other large items. A borrower would also have to answer yes on an employment application if she ever had a foreclosure. She could be denied employment.

And forget about taking out a mortgage to buy a home. In most cases, a lender won’t even consider you until five to seven years have passed, although lending guidelines are changing every day. A negative credit report can even make it more difficult to rent an apartment.

Short sales, by contrast, do far less damage to your credit report. Also, if a borrower has a home equity line of credit attached to their property, the rights to collect on that do not cease to exist.  They will remain open and sought. If borrowers reside in a recourse state (most Americans do), the lender also has a legal right to seek recourse against them. Foreclosure will sink a credit rating nearly as much as bankruptcy does.

3. How do short sales compare to bankruptcy?

When faced with foreclosure, some individuals turn to bankruptcy instead. In some cases, filing for bankruptcy can be less damaging to your credit profile than having a foreclosure on your record. Filing for bankruptcy will consolidate your debt and can wipe out your liabilities. But it will not prevent an eventual foreclosure if the bank has already started the process. A bankruptcy only delays a foreclosure. The property will eventually foreclose, which will also affect neighboring values by up to 28 percent.

However, if your home is the only debt that is creating your financial hardship, a short sale is probably your best alternative to bankruptcy. That’s because a short sale will be reported as a “settled debt” versus having to go the route of bankruptcy or foreclosure, which is far less damaging on one’s credit report. Although you can conduct a short sale while in bankruptcy, it requires strategy and a plan. It is best to consult with a knowledgeable bankruptcy attorney and short sale real estate agent before making any decisions.

4. Are you qualified for a short sale?

One reason homeowners resist short sales is because they don’t understand if they qualify for the process. Though each short sale is unique, homeowners generally must show legitimate hardship. Common reasons include: death, divorce, loss of job, relocation, etc. Anytime a property is inevitably headed towards foreclosure, a borrower qualifies for a short sale.

Short sales are a way to mitigate the lender’s loss. They’re not a consumer bailout. Nevertheless, the consumer participating in a short sale will more than likely be able to walk away from all his debt and start over.

If you should happen to find yourself underwater, owing more on your home than the home is worth, find a proper real estate agent who is knowledgeable about short sales and has a proven track record. They are different than the average transaction, and it is important that you do your own research.

5. Consider all the benefits

One of the major benefits of a short sale is that it ends the financial and emotional nightmare quickly. After the homeowner accepts a contract, it usually takes no more than 120 days (and often much less time) for the sale to close. Losing one’s home is a painful process, but a short sale can help families reduce their frustration and their time in financial limbo. It can also help maintain their credit and allow them to move forward with their lives. As long as the housing crisis continues, short sales will continue to grow in popularity. Homeowners need to become educated and empowered to undertake the process.

Source: Mike Cuevas, a national short sale Realtor trainer and a partner of Exit Realty, a residential real estate firm in Chicago that also specializes in Short Sale nationally.

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“Should I Stay or Should I Go?”

In 1981, English punk rock band The Clash wrote “Should I Stay or Should I Go?” about the rocky personal relationships between members of the band when facing the dilemma of sticking together or breaking up. The lyrics could not be more appropriate for homeowners buried in a mountain of negative equity and wondering what to do. After all “if I go there will be trouble and if I stay it would be double.”

The first step in answering this question is to find out if you qualify for a modification or if you can refinance using the HARP program to take advantage of today’s low interest rates. The process of getting a modification can be very frustrating.  It’s “always tease, tease, tease, you’re happy when I am on my knees.” It not only takes a while to get approved, you must keep in mind that the lender does not have a legal obligation to offer or approve a loan modification. It is important to note that they may dual track your file, which means that while they are considering the modification they are moving forward with the foreclosure. Sometimes they “set you free” and foreclose in the middle of your modification application.

Let’s say you get a modification. I have a Client who was approved for what at first appeared to me to be an unbelievable loan modification. The modification did not lower the principle but did lower the interest rate to just 2 percent and locked that in for 30 years! This reduced their payment to the same amount that they would pay to rent a similar property. As such, it certainly seemed reasonable to stay – they get to keep their credit intact and remain owners, while paying no more than they would in rent anyway. Plus the payment remains fixed for 30 years, while rents would increase. But that analysis is incomplete. The question that remains is their status when they might want or need to sell, and when do they break even given the substantial negative equity that would remain?

Life events like divorce, death, job loss, job transfer, and others happen. Also sometimes folks just want to relocate. Based on our analysis, and assuming long-term home price appreciation rates, these folks would need to stay until 2026 to simply BREAK EVEN vs. paying rent. Worse, unless they use the rent savings to pay down principal, they’ll be stuck upside down in the property, and unable to sell without bank approval of a short sale until 2033. So whether or not it is a good deal for them depends a lot on how long they plan to stay.

For most of my Clients, the best financial decision appears to be to try to short sell their current home, or if necessary let the bank foreclose. If they then rent for 2 to 3 years they should be able to qualify again to buy. Assuming interest rates don’t skyrocket, or some other major change doesn’t occur, this will save them over $100,000, and give them the flexibility to move if needed without being stuck in their current prison of debt until 2033.

Unfortunately, few homeowners facing this decision have the financial skills to really analyze the various scenarios, and few will consult a qualified accountant or other professional to do it for them.

This analysis is different for every homeowner facing this question. How far under water they are, and the terms of the loan modification are clearly important. It also requires some assumptions about price appreciation, rent inflation, and future interest rates. And importantly, it requires some serious thought as to how long they plan to stay, and perhaps some soul searching on the moral implications of walking away.

Bottom line, this question can be answered only by the homeowner based on their current situation and what is best for them. Would you stay or would you go now?

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Homeownership rate experiences biggest drop in 70 years!

The U.S. homeownership rate experienced its biggest drop in 2010 in 70 years, dropping to 65.1%, down from 66.2% in 2000, according to data from the Census Bureau.

The decline came even as the nation added 15.8 million housing units, increasing the total housing inventory by 13.6%, the Census Bureau said Thursday.

Eleven states suffered declines of at least two percentage points in their homeownership rates, led by South Carolina, with a decrease of 2.88 percentage points.

Nevada, the state that experienced the biggest housing boom in the nation over the past decade, saw its homeownership rate fall by 2.09 percentage points. The state’s housing units grew by 41.9% from 2000 to 2010. Housing growth outpaced population growth — which was already the fastest in the nation — by almost 7 percentage points.

Nevada, also registered the biggest growth in vacancy rates. The state’s vacancy rate, a measure of the share of unoccupied units on the Census survey, rose by 5.1 percentage points in 2010 from 10 years earlier. It stood at 14.3% at the end of 2010.

That increase “was almost completely driven by the increase in Clark County,” said Ellen Wilson, a statistician in the Census Bureau’s Economic and Housing Statistics Division, on a conference call Thursday. Clark County, home to Las Vegas, saw a 6.4 percentage point increase in vacant units.

Nevada’s vacancy rate was followed by Florida, (up 4.2 percentage points); Michigan (up 4 percentage points); and Georgia (up 3.9 percentage points).

The 10 states with the highest housing unit growth rates were in the West and South. After Nevada, Arizona clocked the second-largest gain, as its housing inventory rose by 29.9%, followed by Utah, with a 27.5% gain, and Idaho, with a 26.5% increase.

California had the most total housing units in 2010, as it did in 2000, with an inventory of 13.68 million units. Texas was next, with 9.98 million units, followed by Florida, which gained enough housing units to surpass New York.

Source: Liz Enochs

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A Wachovia Short Sale is the New Real Estate Heaven

Wachovia Short Sales Are Far More Superior than Any Other Short Sales

As a Real Estate Broker in the trenches who hears and experiences a lot of short sales horror stories each and everyday, when we closed our first Wachovia short sale, we thought we all had died and gone to Real Estate Heaven. When the manager of the short sale department for Wachovia first came to my office to talk to me about Wachovia’s short sale program. It was hard for me to believe his pitch because it sounded way too good to be true.

The truth is Wachovia takes the pain out of short sales for everyone involved in the transaction. Wacovia is a portfolio lender, meaning it made its own loans and is responsible for deciding whether to approve a short sale. Other banks such as Bank of America, CitiMortgage, Chase or Wells Fargo generally have to submit the file to their investors for approval. Depending on the guidelines those investors follow, the process can be complex, lengthy and or produce ridiculous demands that cause short sales to be rejected. Not so with Wachovia!

How Banks Other than Wachovia Handle Short Sales

First, to truly appreciate a Wachovia short sale, it helps to look at the short sale process adopted by most major banks. Once you realize what hell those banks put a seller and buyer through, you’ll understand why Wachovia is special.

Here are some of the problems with other short sale banks:

  • The worst problem is it takes too long. Buyers get tired of waiting for short sale approval and cancel their purchase because banks can’t process their short sales fast enough. It can take a minimum of 6 weeks to 6 months or longer to get short sale approval.
  • Banks require a ton of paperwork from the sellers. They generally want their last 2 years of tax returns, W2s, payroll stubs, completed financial statement, bank statements, hardship letter, in addition to a slew of documentation from the listing agent.
  • Some banks demand seller contributions, even on California purchase-money loans. Purchase money loans in California are typically exempt from a deficiency judgment in the event of a foreclosure, but to grant a short sale, the banks may demand money from the seller.
  • Often, when there are two short sale loans, the two banks fight over how much the second bank will receive. Some second lenders try to push sellers to commit short sale mortgage fraud. It’s a nasty situation all the way around!
  • By the time the short sale finally closes, the sellers often feel broken down, beat up and battered. They wonder why they even tried to do the right thing by choosing a short sale over a foreclosure. And even after closing, sometimes the bank’s departments are so confused that the short sale department forgets to notify the foreclosure department that the transaction has closed, and the bank files foreclosure anyway.

How Wachovia Handles a Short Sale

With Wachovia, it’s like opening the door at the train station in Venice and discovering the Grand Canal is at your feet, looking just like a picture postcard. Like Dorothy in Wizard of Oz, leaving her black-and-white world and entering the colorful Land of Oz. It’s like eating chocolate for breakfast.

Before rendering an opinion on the short sale, Wachovia asks for basically 3 things:

  • The buyer’s and seller’s signed purchase offer.
  • The buyer’s preapproval letter and proof of funds.
  • The seller’s listing agreement.

A representative from Wachovia will either call or visit the seller at home to discuss the seller’s financial situation and appraise the home. If there are two short sale lenders, Wachovia knows how much the second lender is likely to accept and offers that sum to the lender. A HUD statement is then delivered to Wachovia by the Title Company, and a decision is rendered, generally within a few weeks.

In certain situations, Wachovia will offer the seller a cash bonus to assist with moving expenses. All short sale banks should approve short sales like Wachovia and when they do the entire Real Estate Community will all feel like they have all died and gone to Real Estate Heaven! 🙂

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The True Cost of Waiting

I Want a Bigger/Nicer Home but…

Over the past few weeks I have talked to many present and past Clients that are current homeowners that would like to move up to a larger or a nicer home, but are patiently waiting for the market to improve.  A frequently heard complaint is that they can’t sell their home for what it is currently worth.

Buying up in a down market is actually advantageous because while you might get less for the home you’re selling, you’re also getting the larger home for less.  For instance, if you had to sell a $400,000 home for a 10% discount, you might feel that you left $40,000 on the table.  However, buying a $600,000 for the same 10% discount would put you $20,000 ahead on the sale and purchase. (The $ 60,000 you gain by buying at a 10% discount minus the $ 40,000 you lose by selling at a 10% discount equals a $ 20,000 profit.)

The other obvious matter is that when the mortgage rate increase while you’re waiting for the market to improve, it dramatically increases your cost of housing with higher payments.  The cost of housing is affected by price and mortgage rates.

To accurately evaluate your current options, you need facts and assessment tools that will provide you the information to make an informed decision. Below is a example that simply illustrates how by just waiting to move up to a larger home while the mortgage rate increases how much more the house will cost while you wait for the market to improve.

Therefore, if you have contemplated on moving up to a larger home now is the perfect time to make that move before the interest rate increases and you end up paying more for the same house.

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Why Investing in Rentals Could Be a Good Move Now?

As home prices fall and rents rise, some investors are plunking their money into real estate, chasing the cash flow that comes along with becoming a landlord.

“For the first time in a long time, you can buy that home and can get a cash-on-cash return immediately,” said William King, director of valuation services for Veros Real Estate Solutions, a supplier of housing data to the country’s largest banks, as well as government organizations. “There are a lot of places in the country where an investor can buy a single-family home, rent it, and get a positive cash flow.”

In fact, investors bought 20% of all the homes sold in April, according to the National Association of Realtors. Some of them are buying with cash.

But even if they do finance part of the purchase, they’re able to turn around a profit much quicker than they would have been able to in the past, King said. And the return on rentals can be much better than returns on other investments these days, he added.

In the past, investors would subsidize their monthly payments on a property with the rent they were able to collect, and the big payoff was the price appreciation he or she would accumulate, he said. Now, investors can come in with a 25% or 30% down payment, finance the rest, and the rent they collect often can cover the mortgage payment, taxes and insurance — with additional cash left over, he said.

“Investors are looking at these properties on a monthly income generating basis,” said Alex Villacorta, director of research & analytics at Clear Capital, a firm that provides data for real-estate asset valuation and risk assessment to financial services companies. “They can start to realize instant profit margins, even as the market goes down more.”

“There’s a turning point where the cost of owning a home is less than the cost of renting,” he said. “When that disparity grows … we will see a push from investors to pick up investment properties.”

In general, that investors are beginning to snap up rental properties is a good thing for the stabilization of housing markets, King said. It’s also one of the ways that a floor on real-estate prices can be established; as more investors spot opportunities in residential markets, prices could bottom.

“Once investors come into a community, you’re seeing the beginning of the end of the decline,” King said.

What to look for

Before investing in a rental, make sure you’ve considered the harsh realities of becoming a landlord, said Mike Litzner, broker and owner of Century 21 American Homes, which has locations in Long Island, Queens, Nassau and Suffolk Counties. He’s also a landlord.

“There are some people who think it’s glamorous, but when you get the wrong tenants, it can be a nightmare,” he said. That said, when you get the right tenants and the properties perform as expected, it can be a “tremendous” way to make a buck — and he believes the “smart money” is now working its way into the marketplace.

Before considering any purchase, decide if you have it in you to be a landlord. You have to be willing to set expectations and consequences to ensure rents are paid on time, and you have to ready for the possibility of evicting non-paying tenants, he said. Plus, you’re responsible for the upkeep of the property, no matter how your tenants treat it.

From there, it’s a numbers game. Get a sense of what rents are in the area you’re considering, the vacancy rate, and consider your costs of financing, Villacorta said. Don’t forget the other costs of owning a property, including taxes and upkeep. Some investors may want to enlist the help of a real-estate agent to assist with analyzing the market.

Remember, often the best investment is a home you wouldn’t necessarily buy to live in yourself, Litzner said. These days, foreclosures can be snapped up at bargain prices, and as long as you have the means to make required repairs, they can represent good opportunities.

Don’t buy the most expensive house in the neighborhood,” King said, “and look at the broader community. Where are the renters going to come from, and what do they do?” Areas near colleges and military installations can be good places to invest; and think about what renters typically look for, including access to public transportation, he said.

Some of the houses bought in the worst conditions ended up being the best investments for Litzner, who was able to put some sweat equity into the homes before renting them out. It’s also important that investors have multiyear plans for the properties they buy, planning the financials at least 5 years into the future, he said.

Best markets

Many investors sink their money into properties not far from where they live. Those are likely the communities they’re most familiar with, and from a management perspective, you’re never far from the tenants you’re dealing with.

But some markets are better than others to invest in right now.

A recent report from Inman News, an online real-estate industry publication, named the 10 best markets for home investors. These are markets with traits including high affordability, low prices, high share of foreclosure sales, high population growth, improving unemployment rate, and high return on investment in the next 10 years.

The following are their top 10 markets:

  1. Indianapolis-Carmel, Ind.
  2. Winchester, Va.-W.Va.
  3. Gainesville, Fla.
  4. Tucson, Ariz.
  5. Tallahassee, Fla.
  6. Hagerstown-Martinsburg, Md.-W.Va.
  7. Salt Lake City
  8. Richmond, Va.
  9. Gainesville, Ga.
  10. Winston-Salem, N.C.

Source:  Amy Hoak, Wall Street Journal

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