What Is Your Investing Niche?

Regardless if you close a deal a month or a handful a year it is important to have a specific investing niche. Many investors think that being a jack of all trades and investing in numerous different areas of the business is a hidden key to a strong portfolio. While this is true over time you need to plant your flag somewhere and find something that works. Without a bread and butter niche to rely on you will simply bounce around from deal to deal without any real direction. You may close a few random deals, but you won’t be able to build a sustainable business.

Your investing niche could be developing raw land or focusing solely on tax lien auctions. It can be developing large apartment buildings or sticking to single family rentals. It is not cliché to say that there is truly a niche for every type of investor. As long as you are passionate about it and are willing to become an expert you can be successful in whatever niche you follow. Here are some examples of potential investing niches.

  • Single family rehabs. If you are a real estate investor in 2018 there is a good chance you dabble in rehabs and flips. Without question this is currently the most popular form of investing today. As popular as it may be, it doesn’t mean it is for every investor. Not only do you need to find discounted properties, but you need to do the right work, follow a tight schedule and a strict budget. There is plenty of upside in house flipping but only if you know what you are doing. With the recent influx of competition, it is important to have a backup niche if your market has become oversaturated.
  • Multifamily rentals. There is an almost natural progression for rental property owners. Most start out self-managing their single-family property and over time explore the option of adding additional units. In most cases owning a three or four family property delivers a greater return on investment in relation to a single family, yet this niche remains largely untapped. Many owners are apprehensive about managing the additional units. Additional units don’t mean additional headaches. In fact, the extra units provide a layer of protection with more rents coming in. With additional rents it makes it easier to justify hiring a dedicated property manager, making your life even easier.
  • Tax lien auctions. The key to being a successful real estate investor is finding deals with reduced competition. This isn’t to say that tax liens are an untapped niche, but they can provide a unique opportunity. A tax lien auction is similar to a property auction in some respects but also has several unique qualities. For instance, the winner of a tax lien auction receives the tax lien, not necessarily the property. This may eventually lead to the property, but worse case is a guaranteed return. Popularity in tax liens has slowly started to spread but is still a niche with reduced competition.
  • Mobile homes. When most investors consider mobile home investing they think of large vehicles that can be taken on the road. In reality, investing in a mobile, or modular home, is very much like investing in a condominium. A mobile home community features some of the same perks and amenities as the average condo complex. The biggest difference is the size of the units. The reduced size also comes with a reduced price tag which can make it an ideal niche for someone looking to invest their own funds on a budget. The percentage gains for some mobile home flips rival that of single family homes in the market, but with much less competition.
  • Commercial buildings. A commercial building is any property with five or more units, including mixed use and retail. It can mean a pizza shop with an in-law apartment upstairs or a twenty-five-unit retail space. Commercial purchases are typically intimidating, but in many respects are the same as any other purchase. The biggest difference with commercial buildings is that they are based more rents received and formulas rather than value. All it takes is one prime commercial building to set your portfolio up for years to come.
  • Land. If you are looking for a blank canvas to build, raw land is what you are after. There are some definite hurdles and drawbacks investing in land, but the returns are generally worth the headache. Raw land alone is not where the value is, but rather what you do with the land. Building any type of structure takes time, money and resources but in the right location can be a legitimate home run.

By associating yourself with a niche not only will you know what to look for, but you will find yourself with more opportunities. People in your market will know that you are an expert and associate you with the niche. If there is a deal in the niche they may give you the first crack at it. Additionally, you will know which deals are an automatic pass and which to pursue, saving yourself hours of time and effort. If you are interested in a niche you should give yourself every opportunity to pursue it. Not only will you enjoy the business more, but you will see the impact on your bottom line.

5 Tips To Help You Get A Great Deal On Your Mortgage

There is a lot that goes into buying a property. Regardless if you are buying as a primary residence or an investment you need to find the right type of financing. There are times when the best financing is through a traditional lender. Anyone that has closed a deal with a bank over the past five years knows that the process has changed. The basic steps and requirements are the same but the amount of paperwork and documentation has increased dramatically. This has tacked on additional days to the closing which impacts the interest rate and at times even the loan approval. Getting the best financing deal does not have to be an intimidating process. Here are five tips to help you get the best possible mortgage deal.

Know Your Options. With any loan you should always have a good idea of exactly what you are getting into. Most buyers are so consumed with finding the right property that the mortgage is often the last thing they think about. As you start your property search you should take some time to research your mortgage options. Start with all of the loan program options available. A traditional 30 year fixed mortgage may not make the most sense given your goals for the property. There are times when a short term adjustable rate mortgage (ARM) can be a much better alternative. Even if you plan on using the property as a rental you should at least explore a hard money option. This type of loan may not make sense for the current purchase but you never know when you may need it at some point down the road. The better you know and understand all of your loan options the easier it is to get things started when a good deal comes your way.

Be Ready To Act. If you are thinking about making an offer you need to be ready to act. You never want to have to scramble around with your financing if a good deal comes your way. The best way to avoid this is by having all of your loan items in place well before you start your property search. Items like your tax returns, business license, social security card and driver’s license do not need to be updated regularly. Keep these items in a dedicated file on your laptop or in a secure place in your home. Other items such as your bank statements, rent checks and income documents can be updated on a monthly basis. You should also keep an updated pre-qualification letter on file as well as a copy of your credit report. The more items you can supply your lender or mortgage broker the easier it is to get the process started. Cutting a few days off of the process can speed up the projected closing date which can give you the inside track on the deal.

Shop Around. In a perfect world you would have an established relationship with a lender you can turn to when financing is needed. If you haven’t had a need for lender financing in some time this may not be the case. It is important that you shop around everyone involved in the transaction. Obviously the lending company you use is most important but you can also shop the attorney and homeowners insurance company. Like anything else in business you are shopping for a mix of price, experience and efficiency. If you know that your loan approval may be difficult simply getting it closed is the top priority. You may have to pay and extra point to use a mortgage broker who has access to a certain program with a lender. Don’t nickel and dime everyone in the process but don’t give anything away either. Whatever you do you should give yourself peace of mind knowing that you spoke with at least three people and were able to compare apples to apples.

Lock. All buyers want to get the best possible deal. However you always need to remember that there is another side to that coin. Interest rates are a moving target. They can move every day and at times even multiple times a day. As much as you want to lock at just the right time trying to squeeze an extra eighth of a point may end up costing you if rates go up. Always lock when you are comfortable with the deal you have. Interest rates have a way of going up much quicker than they will go down. On larger loans a quarter point can have a tremendous impact on your monthly payment. Once you lock you cannot get a lower rate but you also eliminate the risk of getting a higher one. Always lock when you are comfortable regardless of where you think the market may be headed.

Ask Questions. This is your transaction and you should be in control of every aspect of it. If you have a question about something or someone in the process you need to ask. Sometimes by simply asking a question you can get a better deal. It is not a stretch to say that you can shave off as much as $1,000 in the transaction by using the right attorney or questioning a fee from your broker. If something doesn’t look or feel right speak up and ask about it.

Any fees with the loan must be disclosed at the time of the application. You can be confident that the deal you sign will be the deal you see at the closing. Use these five tips to help you get the best possible mortgage deal.

7 Steps To Keep Your Rental Property Occupied

It takes great management to run a successful rental property. One of the most important aspects of rental property management is avoiding vacancies.  Every month that rental income is not coming in directly costs you money.  In most cases these vacancies can be avoided with proper marketing.  There are several little things that you can do that will generate interest to your property.  If you wait until the last minute to find tenants you are playing with fire.  Here are seven simple steps you can take to keep your property occupied.

  • Start marketing early.   It is never too early to find your next tenant. You should always keep your ears open for who may be looking for a rental down the road. Stay in contact with local real estate agents and mortgage brokers. Don’t be afraid to ask them if they may have someone looking for a rental. In addition you should give yourself plenty of time to find someone. Once you are under two months you should start making posts on social media and placing bandit signs in your yard. You can also focus on Craigslist, Zillow and any other website that has worked in the past. The longer you wait to get started the more likely you will be forced to pick the best available tenant.
  • Price right. Regardless of your property or the location price is important. It is often the first item that potential tenants look at. Even if you made improvements you need to look at other rentals on the market. A new dishwasher may look great but it probably won’t add the value you are looking for. You need to price your rent according to how it compares to what else is on the market. If the amenities are close tenants will usually opt for the rental that is less expensive. Do some homework on your market and price your rental accordingly.
  • Highlight positives. With whatever kind of marketing you do you control the narrative. A prospective tenant doesn’t know anything about your property other than what you choose to present. It is up to you to put the property in the best possible light. Start by highlighting all of the positives. If you are one of the few rentals in your market with a third or fourth bedroom make that easily known. The same should be done with any amenities. Focus on items that you think a tenant would find appealing. A deck, garage, driveway, fireplace or new appliances should all be highlighted. Think about what makes your property stand out and drive that home throughout your marketing.
  • Pictures/video. Positive features may generate interest but you need to support those with pictures or videos. We live in a visual day and age. It is not enough to simply say something we need to support it with images. You need to do more than just snap off a couple of pictures and put them on a website. The quality of the pictures is important. Start with a picture of the front of your property. This is the first impression they will have. From there you need to include pictures of all the rooms in the house. The angle of which you take these pictures can make the room like big or small. If you don’t have experience with these or don’t have the right camera it is important enough to consider hiring someone that does. If the pictures are poor the response will be equally as bad.
  • Bonus features. Are there any features that make your property stand out? Do you include heat and hot water with the rental? Is snow removal and lawn maintenance included? Are there a washer & dryer on site? These are the seemingly small items that can be put your property to the top of the list. These may not seem like a big deal to you but they need to be mentioned. Something as simple as basement storage can be a big factor. Anything that you can think of that may be considered a bonus should be included.
  • Create action. The closer you are to the end of your current lease the less leverage you have. If you are in this situation you need to create action. One way you can do this is by offering something of value if they act within a certain timeframe. Free cable for a month can be a good way to get your phone to ring. Even if you don’t want to give up anything of value you need to create a sense of urgency. Phrases like “property won’t last long” or “act now” may give you the little push that you need.
  • Contact info. Dealing with tenant phone calls constantly can get annoying at times. This is nothing compared to dealing with a vacancy. On every ad you place either in print or on a website you need to include multiple contact options. Leaving an email address is not enough. You need to include your name and phone number as well. People are more likely to call if they are interested than send an email. When you get incoming calls you need to answer them. You never know who will be the call that turns into a tenant. You can’t wait for a tenant to leave a message and call back when you feel like it. By the time you call they may have already spoken with three other landlords.

Finding a tenant usually does not happen on its own. You need to put some work in to keep your property occupied.  Following these seven steps will greatly improve your chances of never having to face a vacancy again.

 

4 Advantages Of Multi Family Investing

There is more than one way to invest in real estate. One of the most intimidating hurdles in the real estate world is taking the leap to multifamily investing.  The common thought is that with increased units comes increased risk.  The reality is that the opposite is often the case.  Sure, multifamily properties can be more difficult to obtain but are often far less risky than single family properties.  In fact the rewards often outweigh the risk. There is nothing wrong with single family investing but multifamily properties should not be blindly ignored.  If you are on the fence as to whether or not multi’s are for you here are four advantages of multifamily investing.

  • Cash Flow. On a single family property you have one rent coming in. With multifamily properties there is almost no limit as to the number of units you can have. When most people think of multifamily investing they usually think of a two or three unit house. Multifamily investing also includes commercial, mixed use and apartment rentals. On a large apartment complex you can have 100 units or more. This increase in units directly increases your cash flow. This doesn’t necessarily improve your net income but your cash flow amount is much greater. Increased cash flow reduces risk. With a single family property if your tenant stops paying you have no cash coming in. On a ten unit property if one tenant doesn’t pay that is only 10% of your total units. While this scenario isn’t ideal it is much easier than dealing with an eviction and trying to offset the entire monthly payment. This alone makes it much more of an attractive investment in relation to a single family property. A single family property may be easier to sell but a multiunit property is less risky partially due to the increased cash flow.
  • Competition. If you have avoided multifamily properties for years you are not alone. In fact you are much more the norm than the exception. Once the extra unit or units are added to the mix many investors run for the hills. This greatly decreases the competition for these properties. Like anything else in the real estate world the less competition the easier the property is to acquire. Instead of competing with a dozen other investors for a property there may only be one or two interested people. On large apartment and commercial complexes there is often little to no competition at all. There are other hurdles to acquire these properties which are largely financial but reduced competition allows you to streamline the process. Instead of wasting time on single family properties that you may not end up getting your due diligence can be rewarded. Anytime competition is reduced it greatly increases the chances you can get a property you really want.
  • Management. One of the most common reasons that investors shy away from extra units is the perception of increased work. As crazy as it may seem you may actually end up working more on a single family property than you would on a ten unit. There are many single family owners whose cash flow is paper thin. Instead of spending money on property management they are forced to do everything themselves. Every time the phone rings or something needs to be fixed they are the ones handling it. Over time this becomes too much to bear and they look to simply get out of the property. With multifamily properties the increased units give you increased cash flow. This gives you the option of hiring a property management company to take care of the property. You will still get the occasional phone call but you don’t need to hop in your car every time the toilet clogs. Your property will pretty much run on autopilot while you focus on other areas of your business.
  • Appreciation Potential. One of the golden rules of real estate investing is never count on appreciation. This is true regardless of the number of units. While your focus with multifamily properties isn’t necessarily on appreciation there is greater upward potential. With a single family property you are at the mercy of the local market. You may have made great improvements and have strong cash flow but it doesn’t necessarily translate to increased value. With most multifamily properties comparable listings and sales are far less important. Buyers look at certain rental formulas and calculations to determine value. If the property is running at maximum cash flow and the local area is on the rise your property will appreciate. In most cases the appreciation levels are much greater with the more units you have. Some of the wealthiest in the world have accumulated their wealth with multifamily properties. Increased appreciation is never a guarantee but the potential is much higher with increased units.

While there are some differences in single and multifamily investing the process is essentially the same. You are still looking to generate rental income which relates to value.  Like anything else you do in real estate you need to be comfortable with how you invest.  If a multifamily opportunity presents itself don’t dismiss it solely based on the additional units.  Once you close your first multifamily deal you will discover that it was often much easier than you anticipated.

 

4 Ways to Reduce Your Power Bill This Season

As the days get shorter and the weather gets steadily colder, homeowners across the country will see their power bills increase dramatically. Heating and lighting your real estate investment through the late fall and winter can cost you thousands if you’re reckless. So don’t be! Here are a few steps you can take to help keep your heating and power bills to a minimum:

  1. Pull the plug. Did you know that even when a device or appliance is turned off it’s still drawing power? Things like televisions, home theater equipment and stereos actually run in “standby” mode when you leave them plugged in, and they can draw as much energy as a 100-watt light bulb. If you remember to switch off your power strips or unplug the individual devices, you can easily save $10 a month on your electric bill.
  2. Put your computer to sleep. Much like car engines, a computer uses more energy during startup and shutdown than it does when it’s left to continuously run in a low-power state. Instead of shutting your computer down, try putting it into hibernation mode instead. You’ll save money on your power bill, and because you won’t have to boot up quite so often, you’ll save time too.
  3. Use small space heaters. Don’t crank up the thermostat every time your real estate investment gets a little chilly. Small, portable space heaters can warm a bedroom in minutes, and when used wisely they can save you hundreds a month on your heating bill. You can pick them up at any department store for less than $20 per unit.
  4. Upgrade your windows. Do you have double-paned argon-filled windows in your home? If you don’t, they’re definitely worth considering. Not only will they save you 9.8 tons of heat annually, they’ll also boost your property value significantly.

The weather might be extreme this season, but that doesn’t mean your power bill has to be. If you take the right steps to insulate your real estate investment and remember to unplug your appliances when they aren’t being used, you can keep your wallet stuffed and your property value high.

5 Things You Need To Know Before Making An Offer

Most new investors are in a rush to make an offer. They want to accelerate the process and get things started as quickly as possible.  As great as taking action is you also need to know everything about the deal and property you are making an offer on.  A lack of due diligence in just one of a few key areas can completely change the perception of the property.  Prior to looking at any new property you should have a due diligence checklist firmly in place.  This will help streamline the process and allow you to quickly react and avoid a major oversight.  Here are five things you need to know and have in place before making an offer.

  • Financing. The starting point for any purchase is financing. How you plan on financing the property impacts almost everything you do in the transaction. The terms and price on a property you are paying cash for is different than if one you would utilize lender financing. Either option you chose can work but you need to know which way you are going to go prior to making an offer. If you plan on paying cash you need to have your proof of funds letter updated with any amounts adjusted. If you are using lender financing your pre-qualification letter has to have the proposed purchase price in addition to as much specific information as possible. Your financing can, and probably will, change depending on the specific property. However you need to know which way you want to go prior to making an offer. The type of financing you choose will often influence the decision of the seller.
  • Understand Local Market. Getting an alert about a new listing at a reduced price may seem like a steal but it can end up being fool’s gold. If the property is in a declining market getting it for virtually nothing can still end up doing more harm than good. Prior to making any offer you need to know everything about the market the property is located in. It can be argued that the market is more important than the actual property. You need to understand both the micro and macro view of the property. The micro view looks at properties and trends as close to the subject property as possible. The macro view looks at the town as a whole and the big picture view of the area. It is important that you understand as many trends as you can find and have an idea of what influences them. The local market of the property will often directly influence the property value as well as what your future options are. It is not enough to simply acquire the property and figure things out as you go.
  • Know The Property. If you are going to make an offer on a property you had better know everything about it. Almost every seller will go to great lengths to make their property appear as appealing as possible. If the flaws are not obvious it can be difficult finding them. Prior to making any offer you need to go the extra mile to know exactly what you are buying. Track down the listing history and see if there was any work recently completed on the property. Walk the grounds with your contractor or an inspector to give you an additional perspective of the property condition. In your excitement to make an offer it is easy to gloss over some minor items that can actually have a significant impact. By having someone you trust provide an additional perspective on the property you reduce the risk of finding something unexpected after you take ownership. If you aren’t comfortable with your knowledge of the property you should consider passing until you are.
  • Walkaway Price. There is a lot of work that goes into researching a property and making an offer. There are times when you will do hours of due diligence on a property and not be rewarded with a deal. As difficult as this is it is part of the business. What you can’t do is let one deal influence your actions on the next one. It is important that you have a walkaway number in your head prior to making any offer. Without this number it is easy getting caught up in a bidding war and letting your emotions take over. Sometimes some of the best deals you make are the ones you walk away from. Stand firm with your number and know where to draw the line and walk away.
  • Research Exit Strategies. What do you plan on doing with the property if your offer is accepted? Do you have a backup plan or two in mind if things don’t go the way you anticipate? The longer you are in the real estate business the more you will accept that things won’t always go the way you plan. There will be plenty of times when you need to call an audible and change gears on the fly. If you are not ready to adjust you may find yourself in a situation with a property you desperately want to get out of. Prior to making an offer you need to have multiple exit strategies you can employ in a moment’s notice. The more options you have the more valuable the property is. Never put all your eggs in one basket and assume that everything will go the way you anticipate.

You always want to be confident you are making the right offer on the right property for you and your business. If this means taking a little more time on due diligence than that is what you need to do.  Always know and understand these five areas before making an offer.

Buy And Hold Rental Basics

It wasn’t too long ago that buy and hold rentals were the most popular form of real estate investing. While the popularity of this niche has declined in recent years it is still as profitable as ever.  Finding the right rental property in the right market can supply the perfect mix of short term monthly cash flow along with long term benefits.  For as many investors have taken advantage of rentals there are still quite a few who are on the sidelines.  They have heard horror stories about bad tenants, changing market conditions and nonstop management issues.  Even though these are the exception rather than the rule this is the impression that many non-rental owners have.  Deciding on whether a rental property is for you depends on your real estate goals as well as your resources.  Here are a few pros and cons associated with buy and hold rental properties.

PROS:

  • Monthly Cash Flow. The first benefit of a solid rental property is the monthly cash flow it provides. This should continue for as long as you own the property. What you do with your cash flow is entirely up to you. One month you may allocate some of the funds for property maintenance. The next you can use it to pay down monthly debt. Whatever you choose to do the cash flow received will be higher than the yield you would receive from a savings account. As long as you take care of the property and find good tenants this cash flow should be available for the foreseeable future.
  • Immune To Market Fluctuations. With a long term approach to your rental property you are not as worried about market fluctuations. On a rehab property you are trying to time the market for maximum return. With a rental property you are not as interested in where current property values are. Your goal is to ride out the fluctuations for years until you own the property free and clear or decide the time is right to sell. This allows you to focus on other areas of your business and not stress about the market.
  • Potential Appreciation. With rental property investing the focus is on the future. It is never advisable to buy anything based on the potential value but the possibility is there with a rental property. With your down payment as well as ten years of monthly payments you will eat away much of your principal balance. Most markets have stabilized but still not fully taken off. This means there is plenty of room for future gains and appreciation. This makes for a great retirement vehicle or an avenue of forced savings.
  • Tax Benefits. There are a handful of tax benefits to consider with a rental property. You have the ability to write off a good number of expenses associated with the property. You also can use depreciation in your favor. With the help of a quality accountant a rental property can be a real benefit come tax time.

CONS:

  • Property Management. To run a successful rental property you need to stay on top of it. It is not enough to simply find a tenant, give them a key and wait for rent checks to roll in. There will be maintenance issues, problems with rent collection and trouble finding the perfect tenants. The best way to solve this is by having a dedicated property manager handle everything. This only works if there is enough monthly cash flow left over to fit it in the budget. Regardless of the property management is always a big concern.
  • Down Payment. One of the biggest hurdles to investment property ownership is the amount of down payment. Most one or two family investment properties require a down payment of anywhere from 20-25%. This is in addition to the closing costs and prepaid property tax requirements. Once you get into the property you still need funds for repairs, applications and monthly maintenance. With a long term approach you may not get your money out for several years.
  • Vacancy Concerns. As a rental property owner you are only as good as your tenants. You can do everything else right but if your tenant stops paying you are in trouble. The threat of a vacancy is always in the air with a rental property. You are only one month away from things getting turned upside down. If you are forced to deal with an eviction not only do you lose the current monthly income but it changes the way you view the property. One bad tenant can have an impact that lasts several months.
  • Cash Investment. There is an old expression in real estate that cash is king. When you have a rental property your cash is tied up and at the mercy of the market. Even putting down a large down payment does not necessarily give you the option of taking it out if you need to. Many lenders have made second mortgages or refinancing very difficult to obtain. Plus, there is no guarantee that property values will rise in the future. If you are thinking about a rental property be prepared to have your cash tied up for many years.

There are many investors who have made great amounts of income through rental properties. These investors are more concerned about ten years from now rather than what will happen in the next 60 days.  Rental properties can truly change your portfolio for the better but are not without some downside.  Before you commit to a buy and hold property you should know exactly what you are getting into

– See more at: http://www.cthomesllc.com/2016/04/buy-and-hold-rental-basics/#sthash.YBf0j29h.dpuf

5 Tasks To Complete At The End Of Every Lease Calgary

No landlord likes dealing with tenant turnover however, it is a critical part of the job. How you deliver the rental to your tenant often sets the tone for the rest of the lease. If the property is sloppy, or even dirty, your tenants will feel that since you don’t take care of it they don’t need to either. They will be resentful from the first month which leads to property neglect, late payments and increased wear and tear. On the flip side if the property dazzles they will want to maintain it as long as possible. They will go the extra mile to make sure they take care of everything and will call you at the first sign of trouble. They may also be inclined to renew their lease or recommend someone simply based on the first impression. Dealing with tenant turnover isn’t easy but here are five items you must do prior to any new tenant moving in.

  • Professional Clean. There is a big difference in a few hours of cleaning and having the property professionally cleaned. Even if you are armed with a bucketful of cleaning supplies and hours of time you may not get the property as clean as it should be. Of all the items to spend money on at the end of the lease cleaning should be the most important. It is not enough to simply wipe the kitchen sink and be done with it. You need to clean the refrigerator, bleach the tub, dust the curtains and steam the carpet. These are items that a professional house cleaner notices. A tenant wants to open the door to their rental and immediately feel like home. If the property is clean and smells nice they will have this feeling and want to stay there as long as possible. Spending a few hundred dollars to have the property professional cleaned is worth every penny.
  • Paint. There are many landlords who think the walls are “good enough” for a rental property. Even if they are in average condition you should consider hitting them with a fresh coat of paint. Your tenants are not going to treat the property the same way you would. They are going to put their dirty hands on the walls and if they have kids you can bet there will be something written in crayon somewhere. Painting the walls is not a massive expense. Since most landlords prefer to keep the walls a neutral color you are simply painting over the existing color which means you don’t have to prime and can probably get away with just one coat. Dirty walls stand out in an otherwise clean rental. You can do everything else right but if the walls are a mess this is what your tenants will notice.
  • Declutter. You should not treat your rental property like your own personal storage bin. When you deliver a rental to a new tenant it should be cleaned from top to bottom. Many landlords will clean the interior but forget about the basement, garage and attic. While these are not obvious items they still need to be addressed. Start by removing any large sized items that you have been moving around the house for years. The basement may seem like a good place for storage but you are decreasing the value of your rental. If you have advertised use of the basement or garage you need to follow through on it. Depending on the items you can possibly get away with renting a pickup truck and taking a trip to the local dumpster. If they are too big you may need a small dumpster to get rid of items accumulated over the years. This usually doesn’t take more than a few hours and maybe the help of a few friends. The end of a lease is a good time to declutter and give your rental a fresh look.
  • Exterior Clean Up. As important as cleaning the interior is you can’t ignore the outside. The exterior is the true first impression your tenants have of the property. If there is garbage or old toys near the garage they will be less than enthusiastic with the property. The same is the case if the bushes are overgrown or the grass needs to be cut. You should take a walk around the yard and see if there is any debris by the back-yard fence or approaching the front door. Putting down a fresh layer of mulch or placing some plants on the front steps certainly won’t break the budget but should be considered before your new tenants arrive.
  • Utility Changeover. The final item you should do is have your new tenants change over any utilities in their name. It is not uncommon to wait weeks before a cable company can schedule a new service appointment. Your tenant will appreciate if you give them enough notice so the cable can be in as soon as their lease starts. The same is the case with the electricity. Even if this is simply a phone call it should be done at least a few days before the start date so there are no issues.

The little things you do as a landlord often have the greatest impact. Focus on these five items before the start of ever new lease.

How to Stop Foreclosure

Today’s housing market can be difficult for homeowners in danger of defaulting on mortgages. The foreclosure process can be incredibly quick. In some states, if you miss just one payment without taking action, you may find yourself homeless in less than a month. If you’re concerned that you may default on your mortgage, never fear: there are ways you can stop foreclosure. Although it can be challenging, you do have several options to keep your home from being foreclosed on.

Some possibilities for avoiding the threat of foreclosure include:

  • Get a housing counselor. Loan counselors are professionals who will work with you to find options to stop foreclosure. Because they are familiar with the industry, they’ll be able to point you towards the right solution for you.
  • Forbearance. Lenders may sometimes agree to give you time before taking legal action against you. This gives you time to figure out how to repay your mortgage.
  • Refinance. You may be able to reamoritize your loan by adding your back payments to your loan balance. However, you’ll need to be back in a stable financial position, since this will probably increase your monthly payments.
  • Note modification. You may be able to work with your lender to get a more favorable interest rate or more time to pay back your loan in the long run.

No matter which option you choose, make sure it works for you financially. Almost a third of all foreclosure modifications offered by lenders can actually increase monthly payments.

If you’re already facing foreclosure and none of the above options work for you, you still have a chance. Consider the following options to stop foreclosure:

  • Selling your home. To avoid a foreclosure, one option is to sell your home. Work with a good real estate agent to ensure that you’ll get the best value for your property. Make sure your real estate agent can work with you very quickly to sell your home so that you can sell it before it’s foreclosed on.
  • Short sale. If your home is worth less than you owe, you may be able to consider a short sale. However, you’ll have to work with your lender to make sure they’re amenable to the sale.
  • Deed the home back to the lender. Although this affects your credit the same as a foreclosure, it prevents the negative consequences. In this scenario, you would deed your home to the lender, and in return, they forgive the mortgage.

Defaulting on a mortgage is a scary prospect. Luckily, you still have a chance to stop foreclosure. No matter what your situation, make sure you contact your lender if you believe you’re going to have an issue making payments. If you wait too long, it may be too late.

6 Tips To Help Improve Business Negotiation

Negotiation is an essential part in almost everything you do. Without even realizing it you negotiate with your spouse, kids, business partner, contractor and attorney on a daily basis. Some negotiations are worth thousands of dollars and others are strictly for principal. It is human nature to try to win every negotiation we are part of regardless of what is at stake. The best negotiators know that it is not how fast your talk or the cadence of your voice that has an impact on the result. Some of the best negotiators would be considered average speakers. There are several things that seasoned negotiators do that separate them from the pack and give them the results they desire. They do so without raising their voice or speaking 1000 mph. Here are six tips that will help anyone improve their business negotiation.

  • Discover motivation. In every negotiation there is something that both sides want for their desired outcome. With that there is usually a motivation behind their desires. A bank often tries to get the highest sales price or the quickest transaction. A distressed homeowner may need to sell to avoid foreclosure or because they are dealing with a divorce. An attorney may be trying to squeeze extra money from you at the closing. Whatever the case is it is important to discover the motivation of the other party. The motivation will drive their actions, requests and scenarios. It will push them closer to an agreement or drive them farther away. You can usually find their motivation but doing a little bit of research or simply asking the right questions. Before you get too deep in your negotiation you should always try to discover their motivation.
  • Have a walk away number. As you enter in a negation it is important that you know where to draw the line. Many investors that go to live auctions get caught up in the process and before they know it they are in a bidding war thousands of dollars above their desired price. They didn’t have a walk away number in mind before they got started. Regardless of what your number is or what you are negotiating for you need to know when you will walk away. This isn’t being stubborn or unreasonable but rather measured and responsible. If things get too heated or the ends don’t justify the means it is ok to walk away.
  • Never make idle threats. Having a walk away number and making threats often go hand in hand. Everything that you say in a negotiation can be used against you. If you say that you are wholeheartedly opposed to something and later you are open to it nothing else you say in the negotiation will be taken seriously. When you say that you will not go a penny higher or this is your absolute bottom line you had better mean it. Any blanket statements like these should be at the end of the negotiation and only when you feel things aren’t getting anywhere.
  • Give to get. The best negotiations are the ones where both parties feel like they have won. Even if you have the upper hand you never want to completely steamroll the other side. If they feel they are being taken advantage of they will most likely try to find an alternative. One of the best ways to wrap up a negotiation is by offering up a small concession. Not only is this seen as a sign of flexibility but it gives the other party something of value. They may want you to pay for the closing costs but rather you counter that you would pay for some of them. They may want you to go to their number but instead you increase your offer slightly. By being flexible and open minded you can get more negotiations to the finish line.
  • Focus on positives. There are two sides to every negotiation. Most people focus on what they are giving up rather than what they are receiving. Your goal should be to constantly focus on the positives of what you are offering. If you are looking to buy a property at a discount you need to focus on your ability to close quickly given all the issues with the property. Constantly point out any work that needs to be done, the cost of repairs and the limited pool of potential buyers. The better you are at pointing out and explaining the negatives the more likely they will give in and agree to your proposition.
  • Don’t take anything personally. There is plenty that is said and done during negotiation. It is important that you understand that this is just part of the deal and you should never take anything too personally. If someone makes you a lowball offer you should not be insulted by it and cut off communication. On the flip side you also need to recognize what may be insulting to the other party. Not everybody may have thick skin. By nickel and diming the other side you can lose their trust and make the negotiation more difficult.

Negotiation is a cat and mouse game where the more controlled person usually wins. If you are negotiating with someone you frequently work with such as a contractor, attorney or real estate agent you should try to be as fair as possible. Winning the negotiation can cause you to lose a valuable partner.