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Archive of posts published in the tag: Real Estate
Sep
20

What Are Escrow Fees

Basics

The escrow company usually serves as a neutral intermediary between all the parties involved in a real estate or mortgage transaction.

These parties can include:

  • lenders
  • brokers
  • insurance agents
  • appraisers
  • notaries

A mortgage loan usually involves a very large amount of paperwork. This is necessary to protect all the parties involved, including buyers, sellers, lenders, and others.

The escrow agent also handles the transfer of money between the parties. A lender will wire money into an escrow account. If it is a refinance to cash equity out the escrow agent will deduct the relevant fees owed to other parties and pay the remainder out to the borrower.

If the transaction is a real estate purchase the escrow agent will receive money from the lender, pay off any existing mortgages and closing costs, collect any buyer depsosit, and give the rest as sales proceeds to the lender.

After any transaction the relevant public records are updated to reflect the ownership of a property and the liens on it.

It is a crtitical job that requires meticulous record keeping.

How The Escrow Affects You

Escrow fees are usually around $500 – $1500 depending on the loan size. The size of the escrow fee may change depending on the amount of the loan or transaction.

Shopping Around For Escrow Services

The escrow service is usually chosen by the realtors in the event of a real estate purchase and the lender or mortgage broker in the event of a refinance.

Professionals who have done lots of deals usually get a better per deal price from an escrow company which may in turn pass on the savings to you.

You can ask how the escrow agent is selected, and find out how their rates compare.

Sep
19

How to Find a Quality Halfway House in the United States

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT HALFWAY HOUSES*

The first thing you need to know is that most halfway houses are NOT regulated. Many operate without a state license. Most halfway houses, regardless of whether they are licensed or not, do a great job at helping a person stay sober, and can assist a person in reconnecting with family, and also becoming a contributor to society. Many Halfway Houses operate without a license simply because the licensing agency and/or the zoning commission prevent halfway houses from operating in their neighborhoods by restricting census (total amount of residents in any single location or house). Few halfway houses can stay open when a licensure agency and/or zoning department tell them they can only have 4 residents in a large 4 bedroom house. Few places can keep their doors open with these unfair and illegal tactics due to the large overhead incurred (lights, electricity, heating, cooling, insurance, mortgage payments, staff, etc.). What is most important is how they go about helping people to stay sober and keeping residents on track- what is their main focus, making money or helping people- this is typically the main difference between a quality run halfway house and a poorly run facility. There are many questions to ask to determine the difference between the two. Are they staying on top of their resident’s sobriety? How do they maintain a clean and sober environment, etc.? Do they have rules? What are the rules? How do they enforce them? Always ask to see a copy of the rules!!! Are they a coed facility? Typically, a male or female only halfway house has better odds at maintaining sobriety and dealing with length of stay issues. You will want to know what happens if you come home drunk at 2 A.M. on a Friday- do they just kick you out of the halfway house into the neighborhood? Do they have protocols for dealing with this and many other possible scenarios? Find out how they deal with situations before moving in. You should definitely be given a complete tour (especially visiting exactly where you are going to be placed), along with explaining all the rules and regulations, as well as a residents responsibilities. Note: Most Halfway Houses require, at least initially, a resident to have a roommate, as this helps make sure a person is accountable by at least one other person besides the House Manager and the General Manager/Owner.

You should take note of how the place looks. A few years ago I was involved in property assessments for a program helping mentally ill patients. One of the first things we would take note of is whether there was grass growing in the cracks of the concrete. Another item was the condition of the landscaping (was the grass mowed, the bushes trimmed, the trees pruned, etc.). We would then move on to how the paint looked, the roof, whether the windows were clean, etc. With this same approach, you should be looking …

Sep
18

Economic Stability and High Quality of Life in Plano, Texas

Situated approximately 20 miles north of Dallas on U.S. 75, Plano, which lies for the most part in Collin County, has more than 274,000 residents. A suburb of Dallas, the city has garnered numerous community accolades in recent years and is considered a prime location for singles or families relocating to the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex.

In 2006 CNN’s Money Magazine named Plano the 11th best place to live in the United States after citing it in 2005 as the best place to live in the Western U.S. In 2008, Forbes selected the city, along with Highland Park and University Park as the “Top Suburbs to Live Well” in the DFW.

Exceptional Ease of Access to the Greater Metroplex

Because Plano is a member of the Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART) system, commuting into the city is made much easier. The DART system operates light rail, commuter rail, and buses and maintains high-occupancy vehicle lanes in Dallas and 12 of its suburbs. With 45 miles of track, DART is the largest light rail operator in Texas, and has an average daily ridership of 57,000.

Plano is also served by major roadways: U.S. Highway 75 to the east, the Dallas North Tollway to the west, the President George Bush Turnpike to the south, and SH 121 (a toll road) to the north. Preston Road (State Highway 289) also routes through Plano.

Stable Local Economy with Strong Corporate Presence

Many business have located their corporate headquarters in the city including HP Enterprise Services, Frito-Lay, Dr. Pepper, JCPenney, Cinemark Theatres, Ericsson Inc., Siemens PLM Software, and Rent-A-Center. An estimated 80% of the visitors to Plano are there for business purposes and the city owns and operates a medium-sized convention center.

Thanks to a targeted effort on the part of the city, a significant amount of retail presence has been cultivated in the downtown area, anchored by the Shops at Legacy in Legacy Town Center. The multi-use development includes shops, restaurants, apartments, a full-service hotel, and entertainment venues all in a community setting.

Superior Schools and Access to Higher Education

The Plano Independent School district includes 70 campuses with an enrollment of 55,193 making the locale especially attractive for families. The Collin County Community College district has two campuses and there are 16 private schools available locally. Southern Methodist University maintains a campus in Plano with academic programs in business, engineering, education, and computer training (as well as a slate of continuing education courses.)

In the broader Metroplex region, graduating seniors can choose to attend Texas Christian University in Fort Worth, the University of North Texas, the University of Texas at Arlington, the University of Dallas in Irving, and a host of smaller and specialized institutions.

Climate Conducive to Outdoor Activity Most of the Year

North Texas has a humid, subtropical climate, characterized by warm spring and fall seasons with temperature extremes in July and August and again in January and February. A series of days of 100 degrees and more is common in August, …

Sep
17

Apartment Building Investing – Find Motivated Sellers

As the creator of the “Buy Your First Apartment Building E-Course” I have many potential students and beginning investors ask me, “How do I find motivated apartment building sellers?”

There are many ways that investors use to find motivated sellers, however, what I see happening many times with beginners is that they start looking for properties to purchase before they thoroughly understand how to identify a truly profitable opportunity. Here are my recommendations for how to begin learning about multifamily investing and then how to find motivated sellers.

Begin by learning what makes mult-family property profitable by taking these steps:

  1. Study and learn about what makes an apartment building profitable.
  2. Read as many books about real estate investment and apartment building investment as possible. It is a lot easier to learn from other people’s mistakes. There is no need to reinvent to the wheel.
  3. Find a reputable real estate investment club in your geographic area and meet with the commercial investor members. These “old hands” are a valuable source of market information.

After the aspiring multi-family property buyer has received a thorough education by reading books, industry magazines and networking with other commercial real estate investors then he or she is ready to begin the process of searching for an actual property to purchase.

Contacting Commercial Realtors

A great reference source for finding well educated commercial real estate agents is the CCIM website. The CCIM is a professional designation that qualifies a commercial real estate professional as capable and knowledgeable in the field. You can also find commercial real estate agents using a simple search on the web.

When searching for a commercial real estate agent take these steps:

  1. Speak to a number of commercial realtors in the area and ask about “pocket listings”. Pockets listings are apartment building owners that the experienced realtor might know who are serious about selling their building but they have not listed the property yet.
  2. Find a commercial realtor who specializes in multi-family investments. A good commercial realtor who specializes in multifamily properties should have a great knowledge of what apartment buildings have sold for recently.

Alternative Strategies for Finding Apartment Building Deals:

  1. Place an ad on Craigslist stating what you are looking for:
  2. “Looking To Sell Your Apartment Building? I am a commercial real estate investor interested in buying multi-family property in Philadelphia between 5 and 100 units. I am looking for owner financing over five years with 5% down or will buy with a 20% down payment and a bank loan.”

    Or, here is an ad that I copied directly from Craigslist this morning:

    I BUY MULTI-FAMILY PROPERTIES W/SELLER FINANCING OR QUICK CASH. Need to sell?
    Moving? tax benefits run out? call me for a offer.

  3. You can also place the same ad in the commercial real estate section of your local newspaper but be prepared to pay a handsome sum for the ad and also be ready for unsolicited calls for real estate agents. Newspaper ads do work but you are
Sep
16

Save Yourself From Fake Realtors

People across the globe have been fooled and cheated by land scamsters. The misleading claims of real estate dealers lure people in buying property, which was never open to sale! If you are thinking of purchasing land, do the necessary homework beforehand to avoid falling victim to such land scams.

In these tough economic conditions, investing into real estate is considered to be a potent tool to attain financial stability. This is the reason why people find investment in real estate more reliable and are therefore ready to pour down their fortune to own a piece of land. As usual, this boom has also given birth to frauds and scams and a considerable amount of people have fallen victim to these swindlers.

So, if you are thinking of acquiring a plot, beware of these con artists. You can follow these simple steps to avoid being a victim;

Reputation Of The Real Estate Dealer

First look around to know about the reputation of the real estate dealer. You can also check with the firm itself to know about its experience in the field. Tell them to show you testimonials from previous clients. Find out whether the dealer you are thinking of hiring holds and participates in property exhibitions periodically. This will help you judge the goodwill of the firm or the dealer. You can also research on the amount of expertise or capability of the personnel associated with this firm. Last thing that counts to judge the reputation of the concern is whether the top brass of the firm are invited or rather asked to speak at social gatherings. These points will really help you to judge the reputation of the real estate dealer.

Visit The Realtors

Sometimes, due to work pressures, we often find it hard to manage time for a visit to the real estate dealer. And therefore we try to get the entire work done either through phone or online. Studies show that maximum land scams occur due to this very reason. Though you can start a negotiation online or through phone but you are advised to visit the realtor personally. Doing so will let you spend some time with the firm which will further educate you on their capabilities and previous work reports. Moreover, you can also ask them questions regarding the property.

Legal Guarantees

When you acquire land, you also get inclined to several issues and tensions. To get rid of such complications you should make sure that the realtor or firm you are choosing offers guarantee that the land is indeed up for sale and they have the right to sell it. Go through the legal documents very carefully.

Verify All The Claims Made

Your watch out job starts when you visit the real estate dealer and are presented with a brochure. This brochure usually contain information about the plot as researched by the firm in due times. Studying them carefully will give you an idea whether the inputs are sketchy or true to sense. …

Sep
15

Wholesaling Real Estate In Six Easy Daily Checklists

We ran the largest real estate wholesaling business in the world wholesaling properties to investors in 280 US markets and the entire wholesaling process can be broken down into 6 easy to implement daily checklists. Here they are in order of importance and, coincidentally, the order you should work them each day.

First, you need to remind yourself daily the direction you are heading in and what you want to achieve. Stephen Covey says, “begin with the end in mind,” and so we want to review our goals, empowering daily questions and affirmations first. It should only take 5 or 10 minutes but it sets the tone for the entire day and is a critical, often overlooked, first step.

Second, and this is a big one, you need to take care of all your marketing. When wholesaling real estate you need to focus on marketing in a few major categories: buying (or controlling properties), selling (and building your buyers list) and hiring help.

For the marketing for buying properties you’ll be taking actions that get sellers calling you with the properties they have for sale. Easy things like using Craigslist effectively can produce a steady flow of wholesale deals.

You can also rely heavily on Craigslist when marketing to sell properties that you have control of and to grow and strengthen your buyers list. However, there are some highly effective, low cost direct mail methods of finding the most serious, active buyers that are buying deals just like the ones you control and are trying to wholesale too.

One of the easiest things to do to automate your wholesaling business is to find help that costs you nothing up front and that is only paid when you close a deal. Posting just one or two ads per week to find researchers and bird dogs can bring you a flood of deals and investor buyers that puts you in the position of sifting and sorting which sellers and investors you work with.

The third daily checklist is working with your seller inquiries through the entire buying process from the initial call back, through the research phase, to making offers and following up all the way through you collecting your wholesaler fee when you release control of the property to your buyer.

The fourth daily checklist is working with your buyers (both retail and investor). One of the great appeals to wholesaling is being able to rely heavily on the work you’ve done in the past with your existing buyers list. Growing your buyers list in number and strengthening your relationship with your buyers list are worthwhile daily activities.

The fifth daily checklist is where you work with your other real estate dream team members. Here’s where you focus on working with your title company, hard money lender, real estate agents, mortgage brokers and more. A strong team can make even the weakest leader successful so focus on getting the strongest team possible and let them do their best. If the transaction …

Sep
14

BPO Questions and Answers – 10 Secrets for Completing Broker Price Opinions Like a Pro!

The BPO business is an exciting niche of the foreclosure industry to be in today. Whether you are a veteran real estate agent or you are brand new to the business, real estate agents typically spend several hours every week creating comparative market analyses (CMAs) for potential clients with the hope of landing a listing or convincing a buyer to make an offer. In the end, every agent hopes that their CMA will result in a nice paycheck; but this is not always the case. When you complete a BPO, however, you are certain that the report you spend an hour or two completing will result in some additional income for that month.

So what is between you and that pay check when you complete a BPO? Other than the obvious need to photograph the property and complete the report, there is a department of every BPO company that is in charge of quality control. If you cannot get past this department, then you will not only delay how quickly you get paid, but it will determine if you will receive any additional BPOs from that company. Also, if your orders are turned in on time and without errors, your chances of selling that property when it gets foreclosed on increased because the banks know you are a reliable real estate agent.

After completing over 2000+ BPOs over the past 18 months I would like to share with you 10 Secrets to Completing Your BPO Reports Like a Pro:

1. Immediately upon acceptance of a BPO order, read the confirmation email and write down the DATE and TIME that the order is due. Note the time zone of the due time as it may be different than your current time zone. Not paying attention to this can make the difference between a report that is turned in on time and one that is late.

2. Note whether the order is an exterior or interior BPO. If it is an interior, look for point of contact (POC) information to gain access to the property as soon as possible. Also note what photos are required. There is nothing worse than forgetting to take the right photos. It is better to take too many photos than not enough.

3. Most BPO companies have a website that you log into to complete the report. Be sure to log into that company’s website and read the full details of that report which will include the guidelines for that report. This will save you a lot of trouble in your analysis of the property and when you go to research comparables.

4. Pull the tax record and/or call the County Assessor’s office to learn as much as you can about the property. Note the property’s parcel number, market and land assessment values, if the property is residential or commercial, current property taxes for the entire year, if any taxes are delinquent and what year the last assessment occurred. The property taxes will be provided by …

Sep
13

Beginners Guide to Your Commercial Real Estate Lease

Trying to completely cover the leasing process in a few paragraphs would be understating its importance. Your rent will be one of, if not the single largest monthly expense. Upon finding a location satisfactory, you must then be able to negotiate the lease to terms which will facilitate your startup, coincide with your anticipated opening (which in our industry is imperative), insure your long-term profitability, and make it possible for you to sell your business in time to someone who may continue on successfully. In order to do so, you must understand that everything is negotiable in a lease. Anything is fair game for discussion. And the stronger your business plan and financials, you will find the more flexible landlords will be.

Negotiating a commercial real estate lease needn’t be a battle. Remember, and you shouldn’t have to remind the landlord of this, that it is in both of your best interests that you are successful. If you lease on bad terms, you go out of business, and they have no tenant. In fact, many landlords now recognize that providing “superior tenant service” begins by making the lease negotiation process as simple and efficient for tenants as possible. As important as it is to arrive at a lease agreement that meets the needs of both tenant and landlord, long delays over minor details serve neither party.

It has become more commonplace that landlords have ‘standard’ alternate clauses prepared to substitute should the situation dictate. This prevents delays in legal counsel having to re-prepare specific language repeatedly.

If you choose to deal with an agent, make sure that they are looking out for YOUR best interest. Just hiring an agent doesn’t commit them to your success. Bear in mind that oftentimes they are going to be paid by the landlord for filling the space. Building a relationship with your agent can be done, just as building a relationship with your banker, your realtor you bought your home with, or your advertising agent – with communication. Ask around, ask other agents, ask the agent questions, leave nothing to question.

Terminology

Some basic terminology, to simplify the explanation process.

Request For Proposal (RFP): To be sent, via your agent, to the landlord to request a copy of their standard lease form agreement. The RFP will address many important issues but should always include a section outlining the tenant’s expectations with respect to Common Area Maintenance (CAM) and Tax Escalation.

Standard Lease Form Agreement: The standard lease that every landlord has prepared for any commercial property up for lease. Terms and language may differ from property to property, landlord to landlord, but remain very similar in structure.

Base Rent: The asking price for the space itself, not including any taxes, maintenance, insurance, or any type of financed money that may be used for buildout.

CAM: Common Area Maintenance. Do not assume or mistake CAM for Triple Net, or you may be in for a surprise.

Triple Net: The total between the CAM, taxes, and …

Sep
12

NMLS CE Review of Kaplan and Proschools

In previous years the states regulated the mortgage industry. In 2011 the Nationwide Mortgage Licensing System & Registry (NMLS) is in place under the federal government. A requirement to maintain a NMLS license is 8 hours per year of continuing education (CE).

Options for CE are classroom or an online course. I got an offer for a discount price of $99.95 from “Kaplan Real Estate Education” and decided to do that. Having done CE courses for insurance and mortgage licensing for the last five years with no problems, it seemed like a good option. The Kaplan NMLS CE course is divided into multiple sections. You view the material for a section and then take a take a 10 question quiz. You must get 100% on the quiz to move to the next section. If you get 90% or less you do it over until you get 100%. This is very irritating. Then when you finally get to the end of the eight hour course (more if you spend a lot of time on the quizzes) there is a 25 question final exam. Kaplan gives you two chances to get 75% or better on the exam. Some of questions are worded in a different way from the material presented. Other questions ask for statistical historical information that has no educational value. OK, I am making excuses for flunking the exam twice! The first time in five years I have had any problem with a CE exam. When I called to complain the Kaplan supervisor said I should pay again, do another 8 hours of CE class, and then they would let me try their stupid test two more times….with no certainty of getting a CE certificate. When I asked about a refund I was told that they do not give refunds.

A couple days later a representative called from Proschools to see if I wanted to do their CE course. The rep said they had a satisfaction guarantee. She also said that students rarely had a problem with the exam, and that they allowed unlimited attempts if needed. Preschools offered a discount that made the cost around $100 and I decided to give it a try. The material seemed to be geared a little more towards useful information rather than arcane historical data. Proschools has a quiz after each section but there was usually only two to four questions. This made it much easier to get 100% on the quiz. The quiz offered a choice of a practice or “final” mode. You have to do the “final” quiz, even if you get 100% on the practice mode that has the same questions. It is best to skip the practice and go straight to the “final” quiz. You get multiple chances for the final quiz if needed. Then came the dreaded final exam. The government requires the course provider to require 70% or better to pass. (Why does Kaplan require 75%? So more people will flunk and have to repeat their course?) …

Sep
11

Some Financial Aspects of Property and Real Estate Investments

Property or real estates are not considered to be really liquid investment instruments since individual properties or real estates are not interchangeable. Therefore identifying land or real estate in which to invest can take a pretty high amount of time and efforts and much depends on how familiar the investors might become with the particular segment of the market corresponding to their interests. Real estate or land investors often use a variety of appraisal methods to make their lives a bit easier, by means of price comparison. The sources of information relative to prices may include: public auctions, private sales, public agencies, market listings or real estate agents.

Real estate or land assets are much more expensive than bonds or stocks. Therefore investors most often avail themselves of a mortgage loan that can be collateralized by the land or real estate itself. Accordingly we usually use the terms *equity* or *leverage* with reference to the money paid by the investor as opposed to the amount lent by the bank. Their ratio is called Loan-to-Value (LTV) which is considered to represent the risk taken by the investor. Most banks regard 20% of the appraised value as a minimum equity requirement. Quite a number of pension funds and REITs, or Real Estate Investment Trusts, regularly purchase land or real estate with *zero* leverage thereby minimizing their risks, but capping their Return-On-Investment (ROI) as well.

If the purchase of the land or real estate is leveraged, the necessary monthly instalments or “carry costs” might create a negative cash flow for the investor right away after purchase. In addition to possible positive cash flow elements such as those generated by depreciation, equity buildup and capital appreciation, investors might also partially or entirely offset the “carry costs” by means of the so-called Net Operating Income, or NOI. This technical term typically means *rents less expenses* and in countries other than the US it is often referred to as Net Cash Flow. The ratio *NOI/purchase price* is called the Capitalization Rate. It indirectly indicates in how many years the property or real estate will pay for itself in an interest-free financial environment.

E.g. if an investor has purchased a piece of land or real estate for $ 800,000 which generates a positive Net Operating Income of $ 40,000 annually, then the Capitalization Rate of the property is 5%. It shows the investor that the land property or real estate will pay for itself in 20 years in terms of net cash flows.