Good time to buy rental property?

I get asked this quite a bit. Some people want a long term rental and some are interested in airbnb-ing a property.

Here is the one single thing to know when considering any type of rental: There is no good or bad time. The numbers work or they don’t. If the numbers don’t work it, they don’t work even if it is a Buyer’s Market. If the numbers work, then you buy regardless of what the market is like.

What do I mean by this? Long story short, the house has to support itself without you having to throw in your own money every month. That is called cash flow. Positive cash flow means the house supports itself. It covers your mortgage, taxes, property insurance, maintenance and has at least a little left over for a profit. Negative cash flow is when the expenses exceed the rent.

Now, what about Long Term Rental verses Short Term Rental? I personally think Short Term Rentals are risky right now. I know, I know…..Many of you have made good money with your Airbnbs the past couple of years. I do not dispute that. My concern is that this trendy investment option will get oversaturated AND slow down drastically during tougher economic times. It is much more volatile than long term rentals. If you want a shot at huge returns and can stomach volatility, it’s easier to invest in stocks. So what I tell people when they ask me if they should get an Airbnb is to do it only IF they want to invest in real estate in general. If you do, then you can switch between short and long term rental as demand swings. Move your furniture out and you’ve got a long term rental. Best of both worlds for you.

Having a hard time selling your house?

Now that we have returned to a much more normal market after a brief period of utter craziness, it’s time for a refresher course on what to do if your house didn’t immediately sell.

Real estate has always been about price, location and condition. All three of these must be in balance for a house to sell. Since you can’t change the location of a house, all you can control is the condition and price.

Here is what over 17 years of experience in good, bad, terrible, average, great and crazy markets have taught me:

When you get lots of showing but no offers

This usually means that buyers think the price is realistic based on what they see online so they schedule a showing and come check out your house. If you don’t get any offers, that means their expectation did not match the reality of the house. Sometimes this can be caused by having pictures that make the house appear to be in better condition than it is, bad curb appeal of the surrounding properties, or some negative thing omitted from the listing that buyers won’t discover until they get there. 99% of the time it is just because the house didn’t “Wow” the buyers in person as much as it did online.

An old school rule of thumb is that when you have had 10 showings and no offers, it is time to reduce the price. Sometimes if the feedback from showings is all the same, you can keep your old price and improve whatever negative thing buyers mentioned. I usually prefer a price reduction because often you can spend money correcting that one big negative only to have subsequent buyers find the next big negative. There is nothing more frustrating than spending money solving a problem only to later discover you’ve got another one to solve.

When you are not getting any showings at all

Usually when this happens it is because buyers know the price is way too high and don’t even bother to come see the house. Occasionally buyers can overlook your house if the presentation of the listing was terrible but I don’t see that happen often. Sometimes it can be because you’ve got too much junk all over the house and the pictures, while good, just show a cluttered mess. The thing to do here is reduce the price to be competitive with similar houses buyers may also be considering. Something that is hard for sellers to understand is that buyers are looking at more houses than just their home. To a seller, their home is all they are thinking about. To a buyer, it is just one of several homes they can buy. Buyers have options now. You’ve got to make your house become their first choice if you want to sell.

Over the past 17 years, I have seen sellers refuse to reduce their price or do anything to make their home more appealing to buyers. They usually think the issue is with their realtor…..if only the realtor would do more open houses, if only the realtor would advertise the house, if only the realtor had glossy brochures inside the house for buyers to take home. These sellers usually let the listing expire then pick a new realtor. It is at this time that the new realtor suggest dropping the price. It is also at this time that the seller cooperates. And guess what, with a lower price, the house sells.

Selling a house is not rocket science. All you are trying to do is make your house a buyer’s first choice. Back in 2009-2011 when the market was the worst ever, I would sell houses the first day on the market and have multiple offers. Many people thought I had a magic wand back then. I put the same effort in all my listings. It wasn’t me. It was my sellers. They were realistic and took my advice.

19 0ffers and $40k over list-Fun getting the most for my seller

It’s been an exciting past few days.

This story begins one rainy Friday when I was on my way to a Radwood Car Show in Cleveland with my son. I got a text from a repeat client who I have become friends with. She tells me that her mother is going in assisted living and she wants me to sell her mother’s house.

After a few months, the house was ready to list. Unfortunately the market had really started to cool off since we first discussed the sale.

Full disclosure here…..I don’t think any realtor right now really knows how to price a house unless there are good comparable sales from the past 8 weeks. We usually look back 6 months for comparable sales. Six months ago the market was on fire. That market doesn’t exist today. Gone. Interest rates have nearly doubled. We are all, if we were to be honest with ourselves and the public, shooting from the hip on pricing right now. The market has changed so fast that we lack good data on pricing from this “New” market.

Since the absolute worst thing you can do in any market is to overprice a house, I suggested we put it on at a number I was 100% sure we could get and also expect multiple offers. That number was $185k. I was really hoping we might get multiple offers and I could drive the price up to maybe $200k but I didn’t tell this to my friend.

One investor heard about the upcoming listing and contacted me. I let him and his realtor show it the day before it hit the market. I told them that we wanted to expose the house to the market before deciding. They of course wrote a full price offer and wanted an immediate response. I told my seller that I was sure we could duplicate that offer from anybody since it was nothing special. She agreed.

I put the listing on the market very late Friday night. Immediately it started getting showing requests. By 9:AM the next morning, more than a dozen showings were scheduled. I spent all day Saturday, Sunday and Monday texting and talking to the 72 agents who had scheduled showings on this house. It was overwhelming.

Once the offers started coming it, I went to work on pushing the price up. With every new offer we got, I told the realtor if there was another offer with better terms for price, inspection type, financing type and closing date. The goal is to create the ideal terms for your seller by getting one buyer to change something on their offer so you can use that for leverage to get another buyer to change something.

We ended up with 19 offers. We had two cash ones that were very close (especially after I nudged each one of them to go higher to be competitive.) I think one of them figured out I was using their offer to push the other one up higher, and then come back to push them up again. This agent send me a Confidentiality Agreement. That is where one of the terms of their offer is that you can’t disclose any of their offer terms to anybody else. I won’t violate my integrity. In addition to experience, all I have to offer people is trust. I felt like both would go a little higher. What to do? How could I squeeze a little more money out of them for my elderly seller who needed it to live on? I decided to tell each of those two buyers they had the best offers and to send me their highest and best offer. They had one shot. The seller would pick the best one. This move ended up getting about another $4k for the seller.

In the end, the house sold for $225,750. Just over $40k more than the list price.

Who is the most important person in your renovation?

It’s not your contractor. It’s not your designer.

It’s your realtor.

Why?

Because one day you’re gonna want to sell your home. You will want all that time and money you spent on the renovation to have added value. Having a great designer and using the best contractors are wonderful things to do, but only your realtor will know if the work you’ve done added value. And let me tell you, NOTHING you do to your house will get a 100% return on your investment.

Here are some things to think about as you plan a renovation:

  1. Don’t over improve. If you live in a half million dollar neighborhood, don’t pick million dollar neighborhood materials. Yes, buyers will love the unexpected upgrade but you will be effectively giving it to them for free. Always keep the level of materials suitable to what people expect for the price range of the neighborhood.
  2. Don’t add too much square footage. I have seen some crazy additions where people end up with the biggest home in the neighborhood. That’s never a good idea. The buyers that want such a big house will probably want to be in a house surrounded by similar sized homes. The people wanting to be in your neighborhood probably aren’t going to want to pay you top dollar for the extra square footage. Also, appraisers usually give credit for square footage tiered to the price range. That means the more affordable your neighborhood is, the less an appraiser is going to value your excess square footage because they will be using recent sales from the neighborhood for comparisons.
  3. Don’t make crazy compromises. I have seen some wonderful additions but due to the existing floor plan of the house, you have to do something crazy like walk through a laundry room to get to the amazing new space. Buyers don’t like that. Yes, you’ve gotten used to it and it works for you but it will be a deal breaker to a buyer. The flow of the addition is very important.

The bottom line is that you want your house to still fit the character, size and price range of your neighborhood. Be sure to go over your plans with your realtor before committing to the job.

Being a realtor isn’t about houses

You’d think being a realtor would mostly be about houses, but it is really about relationships.

One of the things I am the most proud of is how many of my clients have used me multiple times. I always look forward to working with them over and over again. Since I have become friends with most of my clients, it doesn’t even feel like work.

Part of this relationship can sometimes be about keeping secrets. People often move when their life changes. I am often the first to know about a marriage proposal, job promotion, pregnancy. I am also sometimes the first to know about the less fun life events like a job loss, divorce and even a death.

I get lots of texts or calls about renovations. I’ve had people standing in the flooring isle at Lowe’s and asking me which floor will add the most value to their home. If you’re wondering, I usually tell people that if you think you’ll be in your house for more than 5 years, get whatever you want since styles will change and it won’t be brand new by then. If you think you might be there for less than 5 years, lets go with something buyers will like.

I get asked for contractor referrals a lot. This has gotten harder and harder to do since nobody seems to want to work any more. I recently had somebody who seemed promising at first and turned out to be a total loser. I am thankful that I have found a great handyman who was actually referred to me from a client. That doesn’t happen often! My HVAC person has faithfully been serving my clients and me for 13 years. Everybody loves him.

I get asked “What’s my house worth?” Sometimes people want to move. Sometimes they are considering refinancing and need to first know a number to see if it is worth it. Sometimes people just want to know how much equity they have in their house. Occasionally people have me over just to see their home after a renovation. It is always nice to get to see them, their home and have a cup of coffee with them.

Being a realtor is really a lifestyle. Yeah, its a business. It’s a job. But it is really about getting to know people and helping them any time they need something. I couldn’t imagine doing anything else.