Addicted to Real Estate – Why I Can’t Stop and Why You Should Start

The All-Money-Down Technique

So how does the all-money-down technique work by purchasing a home with cash? First of all, let me repeat that I really didn’t have any cash, but I had a significant amount of equity from Terry’s home and several homes that I owned put together to give me a substantial cash down payment. Banks and mortgage companies alike will accept money from a home-equity line of credit as cash to purchase a home. At least they did in 1997 under the financial guidelines of the day. What you must remember about mortgages and lending is that the guidelines change constantly, so this technique I used in 1997 may or may not be able to be used in the future. Whether it is or isn’t able to be used again doesn’t really matter to me as I believe that there will always be a way to buy real estate with limited money down sooner or later. There will always be a technique to acquire real estate but exactly how that will be done in the future I’m not completely sure.

I began purchasing homes in the Mayfair section of Philadelphia with the prices in the $30,000 to $40,000 per home price range. I would purchase a home with three bedrooms and one bathroom on the second floor with a kitchen, dining room, and living room on the first floor and a basement. What we call a row home in Philadelphia would consist of a porch out front and a backyard the width of the home. Most row homes in Philadelphia are less than twenty-two feet wide. For those of you who are not from Philadelphia and can’t picture what a Philadelphia row home looks like, I suggest you watch the movie Rocky. Twenty-two homes on each side of every block will really test your ability to be a neighbor. Things that will usually cause an argument with your Philadelphia neighbors often stem from parking, noise your children make, where you leave your trash cans, parties, and the appearance of your home.

In 1998 my girlfriend and I moved in together and to the suburbs of Philadelphia called Warminster. After living on a street in Tacony, much like Rocky did, I really looked forward to having space between my home and my next-door neighbor. I told Terry not to even think about talking with the people who lived next door to us. I told her if one of them comes over with a fruitcake I am going to take it and punt it like a football right into their backyard. I believe I was suffering from Philadelphia row home syndrome. My new neighbors in Warminster turned out to be wonderful people, but it took me eighteen months before I was willing to learn that.

So you just bought your row home for $35,000 in Mayfair, and after $2000 in closing costs and $5000 in repair costs, you find yourself a good tenant who wants to rent the home. After renting the home with a positive cash flow of $200 a month, you now have an outstanding debt of $42,000 on your home equity line of credit that will have to be paid off. When purchasing the home, I did not get a mortgage as I just purchased a home for cash as it is said in the business. All monies I spent on this house were spent from the home-equity line of credit.

The move now is to pay off your home-equity line of credit so you can go do it again. We now go to a bank with your fixed-up property and tell the mortgage department that you want to do a cash-out refinancing of your real estate investment. It helps to explain that the neighborhood you purchase your property in should have a wider range of pricing as the neighborhood of Mayfair did in the mid-90s. The pricing of homes in Mayfair is quite unusual as you would see a $3000 difference in home values from one block to the next. This was important when doing a cash-out refinancing because it’s pretty easy for the bank to see that I just bought my property for $35,000 regardless of the fact that I did many repairs. I could justify the fact that I’ve spent more money on my home to fix it up, and by putting a tenant in, it was now a profitable piece of real estate from an investment standpoint.

If I was lucky like I was many times over doing this system of purchasing homes in Mayfair and the appraiser would use homes a block or two away and come back with an appraisal of $45,000. Back then there were programs allowing an investor to purchase a home for 10 percent down or left in as equity doing a 90 percent cash out refinance giving me back roughly $40,500. Utilizing this technique allowed me to get back most of the money I put down on the property. I basically paid just $1,500 down for this new home. Why did the mortgage companies and the appraisers keep giving me the numbers I wanted? I assume because they wanted the business. I would only tell the bank I need this to come in at $45,000 or I am just keeping it financed as is. They always seemed to give me what I wanted within reason.

This whole process took three to four months during which time I may have saved a few thousand dollars. Between the money I saved from my job and my investments and cash out refinancing, I had replenished most or all of my funds from my home-equity line of credit that was now almost back to zero to begin the process again. And that is exactly what I intended to do. I used this system to purchase four to six homes a year utilizing the same money to purchase home after home after home over and over again. In reality, the technique is a no-money down or little money down technique. At the time maybe I had $60,000 in available funds to use to buy homes off of my HELOC, so I would buy a home and then replenish the money. It was a terrific technique that was legal, and I could see my dream of being a real estate investor full-time coming to an eventual reality even though I wasn’t there yet.

During the years from 1995 to 2002, the real estate market in Philadelphia made gradual increases of maybe 6 percent as each year went on. I began to track my net worth that was 100 percent equity, meaning I had no other forms of investments to look at when calculating my net worth. Generally speaking, the first five years of my real estate career did not go well because of the bad decisions I made purchasing buildings and the decline in the market. Furthermore, my lack of knowledge and experience in repairs made it a rough. The second five years of my real estate career that I just finished explaining didn’t make much money either. I supported myself primarily through my career as a salesman, but I could definitely see the writing on the wall that down the road real estate was going to be my full-time gig.

Realty Professionals of America

I own an office building that has a real estate company as a tenant called Realty Professionals of America. The company has a terrific plan where a new agent receives 75 percent of the commission and the broker gets only 25 percent. If you don’t know it, this is a pretty good deal, especially for a new real estate agent. The company also offers a 5 percent sponsorship fee to the agent who sponsors them on every deal they do. If you bring an individual who is a realtor in to the company that you have sponsored, the broker will pay you a 5 percent sponsorship out of the broker’s end so that the new realtor you sponsored can still earn 75 percent commissions. In addition to the above, Realty Professionals of America offers to increase the realtor’s commission by 5 percent after achieving cumulative commission benchmarks, up to a maximum of 90 percent. Once a commission benchmark is reached, an agent’s commission rate is only decreased if commissions in the following year do not reach a lower baseline amount. I currently keep 85 percent of all my deals’ commissions; plus I receive sponsorship checks of 5 percent from the commissions that the agents I sponsored earn. If you’d like to learn more about being sponsored into Realty Professionals of America’s wonderful plan, please call me directly at 267-988-2000.

Getting My Real Estate License

One of the things that I did in the summer of 2005 after leaving my full-time job was to make plans to get my real estate license. Getting my real estate license was something I always wanted to do but never seemed to have the time to do it. I’m sure you’ve heard that excuse a thousand times. People always say that they’re going to do something soon as they find the time to do it, but they never seem to find the time, do they? I try not to let myself make excuses for anything. So I’ve made up my mind before I ever left my full-time job that one of the first things I would do was to get my real estate license. I enrolled in a school called the American Real Estate Institute for a two-week full-time program to obtain my license to sell real estate in the state of Pennsylvania. Two terrific guys with a world of experience taught the class, and I enjoyed the time I spent there. Immediately after completing the course at the American Real Estate Institute, I booked the next available day offered by the state to take the state exam. My teachers’ advice to take the exam immediately after the class turned out to be an excellent suggestion. I passed the exam with flying colors and have used my license many times since to buy real estate and reduce the expenses. If you are going to be a full-time real estate investor or a commercial real estate investor, then you almost have to get a license. While I know a few people who don’t believe this, I’m convinced it’s the only way.

I worked on one deal at $3 million where the commission to the buyer’s real estate agent was $75,000. By the time my broker took a share, I walked with $63,000 commission on that deal alone. With the average cost per year of being a realtor running about $1200 per year, this one deal alone would’ve paid for my real estate license for fifty-three years. Not to mention all the other fringe benefits like having access to the multiple listing service offered too many realtors in this country. While there are other ways to get access to the multiple listing services or another program similar to it, a real estate license is a great way to go.

Some of the negatives I hear over and over again about having your real estate license is the fact that you have to disclose that you are realtor when buying a home if you’re representing yourself. Maybe I’m missing something, but I don’t see this as a negative at all. If you’re skilled in the art of negotiation, it’s just another hurdle that you have to deal with. I suppose you could end up in a lawsuit where a court of law could assume because you are realtor you should know all these things. I don’t spend my life worrying about the million ways I can be sued any more than I worry about getting hit by a car every time I cross the street.

New York Real Estate Ownership Guide

This article is designed to be a roadmap for the first time homebuyer or seller. Throughout, I’ll guide you through the many steps of purchasing or selling your property and explain to you in the process how to avoid the most common mistakes. You will also learn both the legal and psychological problems often encountered.

For most people, buying (or selling) a home is one of the biggest part of living the “American dream”. It’s also probably the biggest investments they will ever make. Not surprising then, that many find this experience to be very exciting but also worrisome at the same time. Achieving the final transaction and transfer of funds for the property (referred to as the “closing”) can leave many home owners feeling exhausted, even depressed. The same can be said for buyers. However, if the process is done correctly, it can also be both interesting and exciting for everybody involved. The ultimate outcome depends on many factors: time, energy needed to devote to the transaction, thoughtfulness and patience. All these traits are included in the process, and all can have an impact on your bottom line.

That’s why preparation is key in any successful transaction. The process, complicated by multiple transactions and waiting periods, can be quite confusing. Real estate transactions require expertise. Those wanting total control of the transaction with a do-it-yourself attitude can make many costly mistakes. So unless buyers and sellers have a solid background in Real Estate, they stand to lose thousands of dollars in any given transaction.

Saving on New York Real Estate Attorney Fees

Trying to save a few extra dollars on legal fees may sound like a nice idea, especially for those with large down payments. But this strategy may backfire. You may end up being penny-wise, but broke in the long run. There are many detailed procedures involved in the purchase process that the vast majority of consumers may overlook.

In one of the biggest purchases of your life, it’s simply not the time to “bargain shop”. Remember the key criteria: if you can’t afford to see the big picture in the transaction you probably aren’t ready to close the deal. The amount of legal fees charged should not be the deciding factor in hiring a particular New York Real Estate Lawyer. You retain a New York Real Estate Lawyer because you trust that they will represent your best interest in the transaction. The bottom line is that you want a New York Real Estate Lawyer you can trust, if trust becomes an issue you are well advised to seek another New York Real Estate Lawyer, no matter how low the fees are. For the most part, a New York Real Estate Lawyers aim to satisfy their clients and keep that satisfaction within the legal bounds of the law –all at the same time. The happier their clients, the busier the New York Real Estate Attorney will be with future clients. So it makes common sense as much as it makes dollars sense to retain a New York Real Estate Lawyer who aim is to achieve the client’s goal in the real estate transaction.
Real Estate transactions involve use of standard legal language. It is quite understandable then, if a buyer or seller do not understand the terms used in the transaction. First-time homebuyers have the worst experience. That is the reason why it makes sense to hire a New York Real Estate Lawyer who can represent your interest and can help you avoid pitfalls and unnecessary problems.
If not detected prior to closing, once a problem occurs, it can take time and money to correct the situation. An attorney with experience in New York real estate law can help steer a buyer or seller away from costly mistakes.

What kind of home fits my needs?

When buying a home, you have to determine what property will fit your needs. Picking the right kind of property to purchase requires careful planning, organization, and sacrifice. Since most people don’t have the time, real estate brokers can be extremely helpful in letting you understand the many issues you might encounter. The questions involved can be overwhelming. What matters need further inquiry? Which homes come with bad neighbors? There are many matters which you need to inquire about when you look at different properties that interests you. However, some issues are common to most real estate purchases. A simple tip is to determine what borough you like to live. If you plan on living in Queens, Brooklyn, Bronx, Staten Island, Manhattan or Long Island, you may want to deal with a broker in that borough.

Coop or Condos?

Cooperatives are the most popular property purchased in New York City. One reason for this is a trend away from expense-ridden properties where foreclosures are common. Another reason for coop popularity is convenience. Deals can be less expensive (about half the price of a condo) and may involve less paperwork in the closing. Less financial stress and fewer headaches might sound good, right? But what most buyers don’t know is that when you buy a co-op, you’re NOT buying the physical apartment. Actually, you’re buying “shares” of a corporation that owns the building which contains the co-op on its land. Also keep in mind that, just like any other company, a co-op has officers such as a president, a vice-president and a treasurer. And just like any other company they’re responsible for the well being of the coop. If the coop suffers a financial meltdown, you could lose your apartment investment altogether.

What happens if I do decide to buy a coop?

You receive a stock certificate and a proprietary lease.

The co-op requires that each coop owner pay a “maintenance fee”. If you own a condo, you’ll be paying a “common charge.” Usually, the monthly fee paid by a shareholder is almost double the fee paid by condo owners.

Sometimes a co-op only “owns” the improvements, and some other company or organization owns the land. This form of co-op is not the normal situation, but it does exist. Your New York Real Estate Attorney should be able to assist you in determining if you are purchasing such a property.

Where does the maintenance fee go? How is the money spent?

When an “entity” (i.e. some organization or other company) holds a mortgage of the co-op, the coop corporation must pay a monthly mortgage payment to the bank. The “maintenance fee” charged to coop owners helps the corporation offset this cost. By charging each shareholder a charge per share the “maintenance fee” helps pay the city taxes on the property as a whole and pay for the expenses in maintaining the property (such as the superintendent or doorman) The “common charge” for a condo helps offset the expenses associated with the maintenance of the building. Elevators, painting, cleanliness and any landscaping all require funding not to mention the common areas of the residential unit.

It is important to note that the monthly fee is not fixed. Just like rent, it can be increased. In buying a condo, however, you are buying a portion of the physical building in which the apartment is located. You then own part of the building and will receive a deed to the property that shows that you are the legal owner. The common charges for condos usually tend to be stable. Most co-ops require that a seller receive approval by the board before attempting to sell. Likewise, the buyer must also be approved by the board to make sure that the buyer will be a “responsible” co-op owner. One exception to this situation is when the coop has a special status as being a “sponsor unit”. That means that when the building was converted into a co-op, the co-op conversion plans allowed the sponsor of the building to reserve the right to sell unsold shares without board approval. If you are purchasing the co-op from the original sponsor, then most likely you will not need to get board approval. The same applies to subletting the unit. In most cases you’ll need permission. In some cases, purchasing the unit from the original sponsor, may entitle you to the same rights and privileges as the sponsor.

Recently after the cost of fuel skyrocketed, many co-ops and condos monthly fees increased. So when buying a coop or condo make sure that you understand the financial future implications. Ask for the financial information before signing on the bottom line.

Should I buy a single or multi-family residence?

One of the most common dilemmas encountered when purchasing a home is whether to buy a “single-family home” or “muti-family home”. Common sense dictates that a single-family home will cost you significantly less than a multi-family home, and will appreciate accordingly. What are the advantages? The peace that comes with it is enticing for some. Not having to deal with renting to strangers, and the headaches of hiring (or being) a landlord. However, on the other side of that argument, a multi-family home can be a financial plus: the rental income helps with the monthly mortgage payments and makes ownership less financially stressful.

How can a real estate agents help me?

Normally the first person you may have direct contact with in the purchase or sale of land or residence, is a real estate agent. Most people use them rather than do it themselves. The agent works for his or her supervisor, and they are called “brokers”. The kind of relationship you have with the agent can have a major impact on how well you as a buyer or seller, understand the initial process, and transaction. Two important points: Agents can normally provide good advice and suggestions regarding your purchase or sale. Since they’re well-educated in both the property markets and their field, they are can give you past performance for a particular property. However, although the agent may seem to work for you, unless expressly contracted for, they normally work for the seller!

What is a Binder? Why is it important?

A binder (otherwise known as an “offer to purchase”) is the first document secured by a minimal money deposit. You will normally sign a binder at the moment that you decide to make the seller an offer to purchase. This tells the seller that you are serious about making the purchase. Once the Binder Agreement is executed, the real estate broker or agent will present it to the seller. If accepted, the property will no longer be shown to potential buyers. It is important to note that the binder, unlike a contract of sale, is subject to a time limit. Unless the binder details the money to be refunded, it will be forfeited under most circumstances.

What should I know about the “Contract of Sale”?

The contract of sale is the first formal stage of the buying and selling process. When you have retained a New York Real Estate Lawyer and have made an acceptable offer, at this point in time, you and the seller will sign a contract of sale. The seller’s New York Real Estate Attorney will normally draft the contract and then the buyer’s New York Real Estate Attorney will review the contract to make sure that you are protected from any future problems (both legal and residential issues).

It’s also important to note that when the buyer signs the contract, a “Down Payment” is given to the seller for the seller’s New York Real Estate Attorney to hold in a special account called an “Escrow”. The seller’s New York Real Estate Attorney is required by ethical rules to do so. However, not to worry: the entire amount will of course, be credited to the buyer and applied to the final outstanding balance at “closing.”

The biggest mistake a buyer or seller can make is signing a contract of sale before getting adequate legal representation. A contract of sale is an agreement to purchase and sell the property. Once it’s signed, it becomes a legal document. If you change your mind and want to change the terms of the agreement or if you want out of the transaction altogether, then you will find yourself in an extremely frustrating legal bind. That’s why an experienced New York Real Estate Lawyer is necessary throughout the process, especially at the beginning stages. The contract of sale dictates exactly how the transaction will proceed. It says how payments will be made and collected, and contains all the important details. Tell your New York Real Estate Lawyer every detail which you think is important and essential to you intensions. For example, maybe you are selling another property while simultaneously buying a home. Since the sale of your property is a condition, that condition is a major detail that you should tell your New York Real Estate Lawyer since, the other “party” may have not accepted your offer had they known such a condition.

Another issue that sometimes comes up is the issue of occupancy. Generally a house is sold vacant. However, if you would like to keep the existing tenants, it is a good idea to tell your New York Real Estate Lawyer (assuming it’s not a new construction), and that by itself can save you time and hassle in the process of renting the property later on.

As a seller, should I have my home inspected?

Home inspections can sometimes make or break the deal. A New York Real Estate Lawyer can secure a condition in the contract of sale which allows the buyer to refuse to purchase the property if the home inspector determines that the structure is not physically sound. Termite problems or signs of other wood-destroying insects are great reasons for a buyer to opt out of the contract. In such cases the seller usually return the buyer’s down payment and everybody walks away from the table. Home inspections are relatively convenient, inexpensive and will save you a lot of time and money.

Finding a New York Real Estate Lawyer?

When looking for legal representation, most importantly, you want a New York Real Estate Attorney whom you feel comfortable with. If you don’t feel comfortable with a particular New York Real Estate Attorney, chances are that you will not have a good working relationship.

An experienced New York Real Estate Lawyer, who you feel comfortable with, can be greatly beneficial in explaining and reducing the mystery out of buying or selling real estate in New York. Your New York Real Estate Lawyer can review and prepare the contract of sale, order title insurance, and conduct key parts of the transaction. Making sure the property you are purchasing has no undisclosed liens. If they do exist, your New York Real Estate Lawyer can take care that they will be satisfied prior to the closing.

The last thing you need is to have doubts and questions about your transaction. You want to make sure that after all the documents are signed and notarized, that you understand what just happened and that you are confident that everything was done correctly.

When should I close the deal?

The closing is the climax of the transaction. The buyer’s New York Real Estate Attorney is normally the ringmaster who coordinates the time and place of the closing. The closing is where the parties meet to finalize the deal. Normally the parties you will see at the meeting are the seller and their New York Real Estate Attorney, the bank’s New York Real Estate Attorney, and the title representative. What occurs at the closing table can be broken down to three major steps:

The bank makes the loan to the buyer and in return the buyer gives the bank an interest in the property (Mortgage)

The buyer turns that loan over to the seller and in turn receives a deed from the seller

The title company makes certain that the seller does indeed own the property they are transferring

Unless there are any serious outstanding issues, the closing can take about 2-3 hours. At this stage, the buyer should have obtained homeowners Insurance prior to the closing. Since not all insurance companies charge the same prices for the replacement value of a house you might want to shop around before the closing.

Lastly, a day or two prior to the closing, it’s always a good idea to do a walk though of the property to make sure that it is in the same condition as when you decided to buy it.

A Guide to Investments in Indian Real Estate

Real estate has traditionally been an avenue for considerable investment per se and investment opportunity for High Net-worth Individuals, Financial institutions as well as individuals looking at viable alternatives for investing money among stocks, bullion, property and other avenues.

Money invested in property for its income and capital growth provides stable and predictable income returns, similar to that of bonds offering both a regular return on investment, if property is rented as well as possibility of capital appreciation. Like all other investment options, real estate investment also has certain risks attached to it, which is quite different from other investments. The available investment opportunities can broadly be categorized into residential, commercial office space and retail sectors.

Investment scenario in real estate

Any investor before considering real estate investments should consider the risk involved in it. This investment option demands a high entry price, suffers from lack of liquidity and an uncertain gestation period. To being illiquid, one cannot sell some units of his property (as one could have done by selling some units of equities, debts or even mutual funds) in case of urgent need of funds.

The maturity period of property investment is uncertain. Investor also has to check the clear property title, especially for the investments in India. The industry experts in this regard claim that property investment should be done by persons who have deeper pockets and longer-term view of their investments. From a long-term financial returns perspective, it is advisable to invest in higher-grade commercial properties.

The returns from property market are comparable to that of certain equities and index funds in longer term. Any investor looking for balancing his portfolio can now look at the real estate sector as a secure means of investment with a certain degree of volatility and risk. A right tenant, location, segmental categories of the Indian property market and individual risk preferences will hence forth prove to be key indicators in achieving the target yields from investments.

The proposed introduction of REMF (Real Estate Mutual Funds) and REIT (Real Estate Investment Trust) will boost these real estate investments from the small investors’ point of view. This will also allow small investors to enter the real estate market with contribution as less as INR 10,000.

There is also a demand and need from different market players of the property segment to gradually relax certain norms for FDI in this sector. These foreign investments would then mean higher standards of quality infrastructure and hence would change the entire market scenario in terms of competition and professionalism of market players.

Overall, real estate is expected to offer a good investment alternative to stocks and bonds over the coming years. This attractiveness of real estate investment would be further enhanced on account of favourable inflation and low interest rate regime.

Looking forward, it is possible that with the progress towards the possible opening up of the real estate mutual funds industry and the participation of financial institutions into property investment business, it will pave the way for more organized investment real estate in India, which would be an apt way for investors to get an alternative to invest in property portfolios at marginal level.

Investor’s Profile

The two most active investor segments are High Net Worth Individuals (HNIs) and Financial Institutions. While the institutions traditionally show a preference to commercial investment, the high net worth individuals show interest in investing in residential as well as commercial properties.

Apart from these, is the third category of Non-Resident Indians (NRIs). There is a clear bias towards investing in residential properties than commercial properties by the NRIs, the fact could be reasoned as emotional attachment and future security sought by the NRIs. As the necessary formalities and documentation for purchasing immovable properties other than agricultural and plantation properties are quite simple and the rental income is freely repatriable outside India, NRIs have increased their role as investors in real estate

Foreign direct investments (FDIs) in real estate form a small portion of the total investments as there are restrictions such as a minimum lock in period of three years, a minimum size of property to be developed and conditional exit. Besides the conditions, the foreign investor will have to deal with a number of government departments and interpret many complex laws/bylaws.

The concept of Real Estate Investment Trust (REIT) is on the verge of introduction in India. But like most other novel financial instruments, there are going to be problems for this new concept to be accepted.

Real Estate Investment Trust (REIT) would be structured as a company dedicated to owning and, in most cases, operating income-producing real estate, such as apartments, shopping centres, offices and warehouses. A REIT is a company that buys, develops, manages and sells real estate assets and allows participants to invest in a professionally managed portfolio of properties.

Some REITs also are engaged in financing real estate. REITs are pass-through entities or companies that are able to distribute the majority of income cash flows to investors, without taxation, at the corporate level. The main purpose of REITs is to pass the profits to the investors in as intact manner as possible. Hence initially, the REIT’s business activities would generally be restricted to generation of property rental income.

The role of the investor is instrumental in scenarios where the interest of the seller and the buyer do not match. For example, if the seller is keen to sell the property and the identified occupier intends to lease the property, between them, the deal will never be fructified; however, an investor can have competitive yields by buying the property and leasing it out to the occupier.

Rationale for real estate investment schemes

The activity of real estate includes a wide range of activities such as development and construction of townships, housing and commercial properties, maintenance of existing properties etc.

The construction sector is one the highest employment sector of the economy and directly or indirectly affects the fortunes of many other sectors. It provides employment to a large work force including a substantial proportion of unskilled labor. However for many reasons this sector does not have smooth access to institutional finance. This is perceived as one of the reasons for the sector not performing to its potential.

By channeling small savings into property, investments would greatly increase access to organized institutional finance. Improved activity in the property sector also improves the revenue flows to the State exchequer through-increased sales-tax, octroi and other collections.

Real estate is an important asset class, which is under conventional circumstances not a viable route for investors in India at present, except by means of direct ownership of properties. For many investors the time is ripe for introducing product to enable diversification by allocating some part of their investment portfolio to real estate investment products. This can be effectively achieved through real estate funds.

Property investment products provide opportunity for capital gains as well as regular periodic incomes. The capital gains may arise from properties developed for sale to actual users or direct investors and the income stream arises out of rentals, income from deposits and service charges for property maintenance.

Advantages of investment in real estate

The following are the advantages for investing in Real Estate Investment Schemes

• As an asset class, property is distinct from the other investment avenues available to a small as well as large investor. Investment in property has its own methodology, advantages, and risk factors that are unlike those for conventional investments. A completely different set of factors, including capital formation, economic performance and supply considerations, influence the realty market, leading to a low correlation in price behaviour vis-à-vis other asset classes.

• Historically, over a longer term, real estate provides returns that are comparable with returns on equities. However, the volatility in prices of realty is lower than equities leading to a better risk management to return trade-off for the investment.

• Real estate returns also show a high correlation with inflation. Therefore, real estate investments made over long periods of time provide an inflation hedge and yield real returns

Risks of investment in real estate

The risks involved in investing in real estate are primarily to do with future rental depreciation or general property market risk, liquidity, tenancy risk and property depreciation. The fundamental factors affecting the value of a specific property are:

Location – The location of a building is crucially important and a significant factor in determining its market value. A property investment is likely to be held for several years and the attractiveness of a given location may change over the holding period, for the better or worse. For example, part of a city may be undergoing regeneration, in which case the perception of the location is likely to improve. In contrast, a major new shopping center development may reduce the appeal of existing peaceful, residential properties.

Physical Characteristics – The type and utility of the building will affect its value, i.e. an office or a shop. By utility is meant the benefits an occupier gets from utilizing space within the building. The risk factor is depreciation. All buildings suffer wear and tear but advances in building technology or the requirements of tenants may also render buildings less attractive over time. For example, the need for large magnitude of under-floor cabling in modern city offices has changed the specifications of the required buildings’ space. Also, a building which is designed as an office block may not be usable as a Cineplex, though Cineplex may serve better returns than office space.

Tenant Credit Risk – The value of a building is a function of the rental income that you can expect to receive from owning it. If the tenant defaults then the owner loses the rental income. However, it is not just the risk of outright default that matters. If the credit quality of the tenant were to deteriorate materially during the period of ownership then the sale value will likely be worse than it otherwise would have been.

Lease Length – The length of the leases is also an important consideration. If a building is let to a good quality tenant for a long period then the rental income is assured even if market conditions for property are volatile. This is one of the attractive features of property investment. Because the length of lease is a significant feature, it is important at the time of purchase to consider the length of lease at the point in time when the property is likely to be re-occupied. Many leases incorporate break options, and it is a standard market practice to assume that the lease will terminate at the break point.

Liquidity – All property investment is relatively illiquid to most bonds and equities. Property is slow to transact in normal market conditions and hence illiquid. In poor market conditions it will take even longer to find a buyer. There is a high cost of error in property investments. Thus, while a wrong stock investment can be sold immediately, undoing a wrong real estate investment may be tedious and distress process.

Tax Implications – Apart from income tax which is to be paid on rental income and capital gains, there are two more levies which have to be paid by the investor i.e. property tax and stamp duty. The stamp duty and property tax differ from state to state and can impact the investment returns ones expected from a property.

High Cost Of Investment – Real Estate values are high compared to other forms of investment. This nature of real estate investment puts it out of reach of the common masses. On the other hand, stocks and bonds can now be bought in quantities as small as-one share, thus enabling diversification of the portfolio despite lower outlays. Borrowing for investment in real estate increases the risks further.

Risk Of Single Property – Purchasing a single – property exposes the investor to specific risks associated with the property and does not provide any benefits of diversification. Thus, if the property prices fall, the investor is exposed to a high degree of risk.

Distress Sales – Illiquidity of the real estate market also brings in the risk of lower returns or losses in the event of an urgent need to divest. Distress sales are common in the real estate market and lead to returns that are much lower than the fair value of the property.

Legal Issues – While stock exchanges guarantee, to a certain extent, the legitimacy of a trade in equities or bonds and thus protect against bad delivery or fake and forged shares, no similar safety net is available in the property market. It is also difficult to check the title of a property and requires time, money and expertise.

Overall keeping an eye on market trends can reduce most of these risks. For instance, investing in properties where the rentals are at market rates, also, investing in assets that come with high-credit tenants and looking for lease lock-ins to reuse tenancy risk are simple guidelines to follow.

Future Outlook

The real estate market is witnessing a heightened activity from year 2000 both in terms of magnitude of space being developed as well as rational increase in price. Easy availability of housing loans at much lesser rates has encouraged people who are small investors to buy their own house, which may well be their second home too.

High net worth individuals have also demonstrated greater zeal in investing in residential real estate with an intention of reaping capital appreciation and simultaneously securing regular returns.

In the wake of strong economic growth, real estate market should continue to gain momentum resulting in falling vacancies in CBD areas and more development in suburbs; it is unlikely that commercial property prices will rise or fall significantly, beyond rational reasoning.

As the stamp duty on leave and license agreements has been further reduced, it should further attract to deal in this manner encouraging the investors and the occupiers.

With current budget focusing on infrastructure, it will attract quality tenants and add to market growth. Heighten retail activity will give upward push for space requirement.

Further, the proposed introduction of REMF (Real Estate Mutual Funds) and REIT (Real Estate Investment Trust) will boost these real estate investments from the small investors’ point of view. These foreign investments would then mean higher standards of quality infrastructure and hence would change the entire market scenario in terms of competition and professionalism of market players.

Looking forward, it is possible that with evident steps of the possible opening up of the REMF industry and the participation of financial institutions into property investment business, it will pave the way for more organized investment in real estate in India, which would be an apt way for retail investors to get an alternative to invest in property portfolios at all levels. Overall, real estate is expected to offer a good investment alternative to stocks and bonds over the coming years.