To be or not to be…a landlord? That’s the question.

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I read an interesting article in the Wall Street Journal yesterday about the renting market versus the owning market. While the scene is in California, this can be very similar here in SW Florida and especially in Cape Coral and Lehigh Acres.

Agustin Gutierrez, a construction worker from this town in the hills northeast of San Francisco Bay, lost his job in 2009, then, 10 months later, he lost ownership of his home.

Now, the husband and father of 4 rents the identical five-bedroom ranch from McKinley Capital Partners, an investment company that is at the forefront of a brand new breed of big-money landlords.
McKinley, which has acquired more than 300 foreclosed single-family houses in the Bay Area over the past two years, lately teamed up with Och-Ziff Capital Management Group LLC, a new York hedge fund, with plans to buy at least 500 more foreclosed houses in the subsequent year. Those homes, too, will probably be rented to people like the Gutierrez loved ones.

Acquiring foreclosed homes as investment properties has long been dominated by mom-and-pop investors. But now hedge funds, private-equity firms, pension funds and university endowments are dipping into that market place. The attraction is double-digit returns at a time when most bonds along with other income investments yield extremely small.

Essentially the most well-liked strategy is for a large investor to team up with a neighborhood organization that scouts out houses and finds the renters. The hope would be to flip the homes within the future when prices recover.

“It’s kind of the Wall Street meets Principal Street phenomenon,” says John Burns, an Irvine, Calif.-based real-estate consultant who has discussed investing in single-family rentals with hedge funds. “The Major Street guys need to have the capital, and Wall Street requirements the expertise.”

At the finish of May possibly, 3.five million loans had been at least 90 days delinquent or in foreclosure, based on investment bank Barclays Capital. In the very same time, the country’s house ownership rate has fallen, to 65.9% inside the second quarter of 2011 from its peak of 69.2% in 2004, based on figures released by the U.S. Census Bureau final month. That drop has produced millions of new renters and helped push the vacancy rate for rental housing down by about two percentage points, to 9.2%.

“The single-family rental market is truly very large,” said Dennis McGill, director of investigation at Zelman & Associates, a study firm that follows the housing market place. “The average American says, ‘If I’ve got two kids and a dog, I can’t live in a one-bedroom apartment.’”

Zelman lately issued a report saying that in Arizona, Florida and Nevada, states hard-hit by the foreclosure crisis, the number of families renting a single-family house increased 48% from 2005 to 2010.

Huge institutional investors could eventually help stabilize the marketplace by soaking up the huge overhang of foreclosures, which could allow housing to begin healing. However, the number of single-family houses being bought by institutional investors is still small compared to the millions of distressed properties. The biggest players in the industry are deploying hundreds of millions of dollars, not the billions necessary to make a major dent.

The federal government has a significant role as well. The Obama administration is currently considering ways of selling foreclosed houses to investors who agree to rent them out. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and the Federal Housing Administration own a lot more than half of all unsold foreclosed houses.

Being a landlord can be a costly hassle for significant investors. Unlike apartment complexes, which concentrate hundreds of rental units in one place, investors must obtain hundreds of single-family houses that are miles apart, each with separate maintenance problems. Tenants can be troublesome.

“You could have a bad tenant who doesn’t want to pay their rent, or maintain the pool,” says Guy Johnson, an investor who buys foreclosed properties in Nevada, Arizona and California and rents some of them out. “A hedge fund manager doesn’t want to have to be their own plumber or electrician.”

Purchasing foreclosed properties isn’t easy either. Investors sometimes have to pay thousands of dollars in “cash for keys” payments to the previous homeowners in order to entice them to leave the property, and foreclosed homeowners often damage their houses before they are evicted.

Private-equity giant Carlyle Group LLC tried its luck with the single-family property market two years ago but abandoned the strategy late last year after concluding that the returns weren’t big enough. Carlyle’s method was different. The organization formed partnerships with nearby asset managers in California that bought and flipped houses, rather than renting them.

For now, a lot more investors are plunging into the single-family rental marketplace. McKinley, the Oakland, Calif., business that owns Mr. Gutierrez’s house, has already begun to use Och-Ziff income to purchase houses. Its model would be to acquire houses at an average price of about $100,000 apiece, put between $10,000 and $25,000 in renovations into them, and set the rental rate of the house so that it produces a return of 8% to 12% annually. This often works out to a rent of roughly $1,200 per month.

McKinley and Och-Ziff could see additional returns from selling the houses at a higher price after a few years, once the market place has improved. “Two years ago no one thought you could scale this business or that it could be institutionalized,” stated Gregor Watson, a principal with McKinley. “Now, you can get extremely good yields. It’s a quite good long-term strategy.” He declined to comment on the Och-Ziff investment. Och-Ziff also declined to comment.

Other significant investors have formed rental-housing partnerships.

G8 Capital, a private-equity fund based in Ladera Ranch, Calif., has bought 3,000 houses across the country since 2008, mostly to flip them. It decided last year to begin pursuing a hold-and-rent technique. It has since bought 250 foreclosed houses as rentals. Carrington Property Services LLC, a Santa Ana, Calif.-based property investment business that manages about 4,500 houses nationally, is in talks with investors to raise funds for a real-estate investment trust, to be called Residential National Trust, which would acquire foreclosed houses for rental. The company plans to purchase as many as five,000 far more rental homes in markets including Chicago, Miami, Phoenix and Las Vegas.

Waypoint Genuine Estate Group, an Oakland, Calif.-based firm, has bought 700 houses within the past two years as rental properties. Doug Brien, a former place kicker for the New York Jets who is now managing director of Waypoint, says that his company has approached pension funds, university endowments and big private investment groups about investing in his fund. In July, he says he closed on a financing deal from an Ivy League university endowment, but declined to name the university.

“At some point, there is going to be a shortage of housing,” Mr. Brien mentioned. “Everyone is realizing that single-family buy-and-hold is the way to go.”

In November, hedge fund manager William Ackman’s Pershing Square Capital Management LP released a report arguing that single-family rental properties are an “under-owned asset class” that would make “an intelligent investment for institutional investors.” Pershing Square predicted that investing in single-family houses and holding them as rentals for 10 years could produce double-digit investment returns, even if U.S. residence costs only improved marginally.

All the activity is fueling a renewed debate over whether investors are good or bad for the housing industry. In the early days of the housing bust, some community groups discouraged banks from selling foreclosed houses to investors for fear they wouldn’t take proper care of the properties. Some communities riddled with foreclosed houses became slums.

Alan Mallach, a senior fellow with the Brookings Institution in Washington, argues that instead of running from investors, local governments should provide subsidies to investors who buy, rent out and are good landlords for foreclosed properties. “If a neighborhood has a high rate of residence ownership, that’s obviously better,” he stated. “But in some markets, there was so much inventory coming on the market place that the sheer number of properties was destabilizing those markets.”

Mr. Gutierrez, the Vallejo construction worker, now pays $1,800 a month in rent, compared to the $2,500 per month he was paying to cover the cost of his mortgage when he owned the house. He says it bothers him that he no longer owns his property, but is happy to pay less and says his new landlords are good property managers.

He bought the house in 2003 for $340,000 using a $322,700 loan. He refinanced the house 5 times, driving up the total amount of debt on the house to $400,000. He lost the house to foreclosure in 2009. McKinley paid about $155,000 for the house that year.

“It’s confusing, because sometimes I think it’s my house, but I have to remind myself that it’s not,” mentioned Mr. Gutierrez, who says he doesn’t plan to try to repurchase the house. “It’s sad, but it’s what happened to a lot of men and women.”

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Comments (0) Aug 06 2011

Cape Coral chinese drywall issues

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Drywall imported from China and commonly referred to as “Chinese drywall” is causing quite a stir. But I also heard from my own office manager that no less than 9 different countries- including the USA – were actually making defective drywall and US builders were buying and importing them into the United States. So while those drywall are known as Chinese drywall, I prefer to call them defective drywall instead.

Defective drywall was imported to the United States in massive amounts during the housing boom between 2004 and 2008. It appears that when the importation of defective drywall first began, no one knew how much trouble it would cause. But then again, I challenge builder to open their imported container full of those defective drywall and not noticing the smell, which could have thrown a red flag right there.

Over time defective drywall begins to emit toxic fumes and odors that smell like rotten eggs. As if the smell isn’t bad enough, many people have become ill from chemicals found in drywall from those countries and homes themselves are falling apart as a result of the defective drywall. For instance, copper pipes are corroding and appliances are breaking down, all as a result of the drywall.

Desperate homeowners have filed claims regarding the problems associated with defective drywall with their insurance agencies only to find that problems as a result of defective materials used in construction are not covered in their policies.

To add insult to injury, the insurance policies on homes constructed with defective drywall are then canceled. To complicate matters further, other insurance agencies don’t want to write up policies on homes constructed with defective drywall, so desperate home owners are left without insurance on their homes. Since it is required to have insurance on homes that are not completely paid for, this puts home owners in a real bind and some of them even lose their homes because of it.

Replacing defective drywall may seem to be the only solution to this problem, but such a fix is neither cheap nor easy. Depending on the size and construction of the home, the two quotes I got from a contractor were roughly around $20,000 for each 1,000 s/f of home. Not only these drywall need to be replaced but the isolation also need to be replaced. Plus, all copper pipes and electric wired need to be fixed as well.

Most of the homes that have defective drywall were built in Florida, but other states, including Colorado, were also constructed with defective drywall. Here, in Cape Coral, when I show some properties to potential buyers, I have a lots of questions to answer in regards of defective drywall. I hope the public will find their questions answered here.

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Comments (0) Sep 23 2010

Lee County residents asking for higher assessment values

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Lee Home Appraiser Ken Wilkinson is used to fielding complaints from people who think their home assessments are too high.

After all, a increased assessment translates into greater taxes.

But what a difference the housing crash makes.

Now some individuals have a new complaint: “My assessment is too low.”

“Before two years ago, I never got a call,” Wilkinson said. “This year I got two calls. They wanted higher value since they needed to sell it.”

The News-Press also received calls from individuals upset about low assessments since Truth in Millage Notices were sent out with house values and tax rates last month.

Things changed when property values fell sharply right after the residential real estate boom ended in 2006 and commercial house followed suit two years later.

On this year’s county tax roll, as an example, of properties the use of which hasn’t changed, 459,226 went down in value (compared to 2009); only 36,716 went up; and 22,525 stayed the same.

But those who wish to promote or refinance aren’t all happy about the declining values.

“Our lot is appraised at $18,000? That’s insane,” mentioned certified public accountant Leslie D’Alessandro, who with her husband, Peter, has owned a three-bedroom, two-bath house in Caloosa Yacht & Racquet Club along the Caloosahatchee since 1999.

The value of their property on the notice sent out by Wilkinson’s office last week was $169,279, which Leslie D’Alessandro also considers a lowball figure. It’s down from $282,020 in 2009 and $390,730 in 2008.

“It concerns me as far as homeowners insurance,” she said. “How much is the replacement value?”

Refinancing the home also would be more difficult due to the fact of the low assessed value, D’Alessandro stated, and selling would be even harder.

“I’m just glad we don’t have to sell our house,” she mentioned.

Wilkinson mentioned his hands are tied. Even though house owners would pay more taxes if their home were adjusted up in worth, state law requires he assess everything equally.

The notices sent out by the home appraiser every August also are not intended to reflect current worth, he stated; they’re based on comparable sales no later than the end of the previous year.

They’re also more conservative than a private appraiser’s estimate, Wilkinson said. Sales costs are deducted from the total figure, for instance.

Mike Hagen, an attorney who handles home tax value appeals, stated he hasn’t been asked to get anyone’s home value higher. But he said that typically he’d advise someone making the request to leave well enough alone.

Insurance companies and banks deciding whether to refinance don’t rely on the property appraiser’s figures to make their calculations, Hagen mentioned.

A larger assessed worth would help only when trying to sell a house.

“There’s no question a potential buyer may look at the house appraiser system, see what their opinion is,” he said.

Bill Davis thinks his house value is too low but doesn’t blame the home appraiser.
Davis, a retired banker who lives in Marietta, Ga., owns a unit in the Renaissance condominium on Winkler Avenue.

Over the past three years his assessment has fallen from $133,000 in 2008 to $76,430 in 2009 and $22,200 this year.

His unit is worth more than that, Davis stated, but lenders who are dragging their feet on foreclosures keep the complex in limbo.

Dominic Calabro, president of the Tallahassee-based taxation watchdog group Florida Taxwatch, stated there’s some concern about overly low assessed worth by commercial property owners.

“They have a myriad of different loans to support the activity and they’re often leveraged,” he said. “It does (cause problems) in the sense that it can affect whether you have a net loss of worth: whether the banks will continue to renew loans for the appraised value.”

But generally, Calabro said, it’s a perfect storm of low house values and a difficult lending environment that has some people today in denial.

“Florida’s seen some house tax declines once every 30 or 40 years,” he said. “It’s just we haven’t seen the decline in value at the same time as tight money.”

One thing remains constant, he said.

“Property taxes are a lot like the weather: Men and women are never happy with them,” he stated.

If you need more info about Lee County properties, feel free to check the Cape Coral Real Estate website

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Comments (0) Sep 07 2010

Must do for first-time homebuyers

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As you may know, the first-time homebuyers’ $8,000 credit has been extended. I think it’s time to let you know what you should do before purchasing your first home.

1. Check the selling prices‘ of comparable homes in your area. Web sites like Zillow, Trulia or Homegain are not giving you an acccurate idea of what you should expect to pay. You can also do a quick search of actual multiple listing service, or MLS, listings in your area on a number of Web sites. The best will be to ask a Realtor® of course. Choose one that work in the area you are looking to buy.

2. Use a mortgage calculator to get an idea of what your monthly mortgage payments would be if you bought today. They are plenty of them online, just google it.

3. Find out what your total monthly housing cost would be, including taxes and homeowners insurance. In some areas, what you’ll pay for your taxes and insurance escrow can almost double your mortgage payment. Make sure you can afford that

To get an idea of what you’ll pay in insurance, pick a property in the area where you want to live and make a call to a local insurance agent for an estimate. You won’t be obligated to get the insurance, but you’ll have a good idea of what you’ll pay if you do buy. Just remember that exemptions and the intricacies of local tax law (like Florida’s Save Our Homes value cap) can create differences between what a homeowner is currently paying and what you can expect to pay as a new homeowner.

4. Find out how much you’ll likely pay in closing costs. The upfront cost of settling on your home shouldn’t be overlooked. Closing costs include origination fees charged by the lender, title and settlement fees, taxes and prepaid items like homeowners insurance or homeowners’ association fees. You can see what closing costs average here.

5. Look at your budget and determine how a house fits into it. Fannie Mae recommends that buyers spend no more than 28 percent of their income on housing costs. Go much past 30 percent and you risk becoming house poor.

6. Talk to a reputable Realtor® in your area about the real estate climate. Do they believe prices will continue falling or do they think your area has hit bottom or will rise soon?

7. Remember to look at the big picture. While a buying a house is a great way to build wealth, maintaining your investment can be labor-intensive and expensive. When unexpected costs for new appliances, roof repairs and plumbing problems crop up, there’s no landlord to turn to, and these costs and can quickly drain your bank account.

So consider whether you’re ready for the expense and effort of homeownership before pulling the trigger.

Then, prepare yourself for the hunting!

If the numbers make sense for you, taking a few steps at the beginning of the homebuying process can save you time, money and aggravation.1. Examine your credit. Right now, blemished credit or the inability to make substantial down payment can put the kibosh on your homeownership plans. That’s why it pays to look at your creditworthiness early in the home-buying process. Get a credit report and comb through it for errors and unresolved issues. If you find mistakes, contact the credit reporting bureau to make sure they are corrected. It’s also a good idea to get your FICO score, which will cost you a small fee.

2. Get your docs in a row. Collect pay stubs, bank account statements, W-2s, tax returns for the last two years, statements from current loans and credit lines, and names and addresses of your landlords for the past two years. Have them ready to show to the lender. This may seem like a lot, but in this age of tight credit, don’t be surprised if your lender needs a lot in the way of documentation.

3. Find lenders and get preapproved. Getting preapproved for a mortgage helps you bargain from a position of strength when you are house hunting. The institution where you bank and a local credit union are good places to start your search. Applying to multiple lenders in the same month helps increase your chances of getting a loan approved at the best rate possible without dinging your credit score too much.

4. If at first you don’t succeed, try, try … the government? If you can’t find a bank willing to lend to you — and in the current tight credit market, it’s possible you won’t — consider getting an FHA loan. The Federal Housing Administration has a program that insures the mortgages of many first-time homebuyers. As a result of this guarantee, lenders who might otherwise feel queasy about your qualifications will be more inclined to lend to you. As a bonus, the FHA only requires a 3 percent to 3.5 percent down payment from first-time homebuyers.

5. Finally, don’t forget about the first-time homebuyer’s credit. Get your hands on Form 5405 ahead of time and send it in with your tax return immediately after your home purchase to ensure you receive the $8,000 credit as soon as possible, especially since the credit is set to expire April 30, 2010 and you must close by July 31.

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Comments (0) Dec 07 2009

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