A few times a week I talk to investors planning on putting a large down payment on the purchase of a single-family rental home. The goal is to have a better “cash flow”. It may sound logical – the greater the down payment, the smaller the loan, and hence the monthly payments. However, the foundational piece of buying rental homes in the United States is the “gift” called “the 30-year fixed rate loan”. This loan sounds like a miracle to most foreigners, since neither the monthly payment nor the mortgage balance EVER keeps up with the cost of living around the world, while everything else does.
The magical 30-year fixed rate loan
The 30-year fixed-rate loan is at the heart of life transformation for investors when the homes are held for 10 years or more (preferably over 15). The loan keeps getting eroded by inflation (or CPI– the cost of living), while the home, rent, and everything else keeps requiring more dollars to buy (hence in dollars, their value goes up – even without intrinsic appreciation). The 30-year fixed rate loan starts looking quite puny after 12, 14, 16 years. It may be years before it is paid off, but since it never keeps up with the cost of living, inflation hammers the real value of the loan.
These loans are a great financial gift, with future-changing potential. Why, then, would you want to make the gift smaller? Especially at today’s low rates? The answer is, you don’t. A larger down payment will mean the magical loan will be smaller.
May be wise not to exceed 20% down payment
This is not fully utilizing the power of the fixed-rate loan, and it means the borrower has expended more of their scarcest resource: cash! Even very wealthy people, who can afford to put down a large down payment or buy for cash, choose to put down less money. They do this to leverage their cash with the 30-year fixed-rate loan.
I think that in normal cases, a 20% down payment should not be exceeded. The small additional cash flow due to having a smaller loan is insignificant at the present time. Right now, your main “cash flow” should come from your own earnings (salary). It is later in life during retirement that the rental homes can replace your income.
In cases of big 1031 exchanges, with not enough properties to identify, or in cases of not being able to get the FNMA loan anymore, then larger down payments are merited and that is a different blog post. I still think the down payments should be less, rather than more, in any circumstance. Currently, in our Membership area on our website, we have podcasts and a webinar that discuss loans and cash flow in depth. You can learn more about it at icgre.com/members
We have discussed, in a previous article, why investing in Single Family Homes is a superior investment, especially for the busy professional (which most of us are).
We discussed the benefits of buying single-family homes using the unique 30-year fixed rate financing available ONLY in the United States (foreigners are amazed that we can get loans where nothing keeps up with inflation for as long as 30 years, meaning inflation keeps eroding the real value of our debt while the tenant is gradually paying it off for us). The 30-year fixed-rate mortgage is only available on 1-4 residential units, making single-family home rental investments even more attractive.
We also discussed how owning a portfolio of single-family rental homes can change everyone’s financial future. It can facilitate sending your kids to a great university, it can retire you sooner and more powerfully, and overall it can create a financial safety net for your future.
Single-family homes are easier to manage than other property and are usually occupied by families with kids, who go to local schools and serve as an anchor of stability to keep the family renting for a longer time. Single Family Homes are also possibly the most liquid real estate since when you put it up for sale your potential buyer pool is essentially everyone in the marketplace. It is still considered the “American Dream”, a dream which is attainable in many markets in the United States.
Where should we buy our single-family home rentals? To begin with, we can focus on large metropolitan areas. Large metropolitan areas are usually comprised of a number of cities (for example the Phoenix metro area includes cities such as Chandler, Mesa, Gilbert, Scottsdale, Avondale, Peoria, Glendale, and others). A large metropolitan area usually has good economic and employment diversity and a large pool of industries and employers. This is likely to create employment opportunities and economic stability. A large metro area also is likely to have a diversity of education, culture, culinary and many other facets of life, which can be attractive to a larger pool of residents and create a stable place in which to live.
Next, it is always instructive to study the demographic trends in the United States. Even before we had the World Wide Web and search engines to facilitate research, demographic information was available through multiple sources, including the US Census. It is evident that as far as overall demographic movements, the Sun Belt States are the states which usually experience net growth in population on an ongoing basis (those states in the sunny, southern part of the US, such as Nevada, Arizona, Texas, Oklahoma, Utah, Colorado, Florida, and other southern states.) Not all Sunbelt states keep growing on a net basis, but many of the big ones do, and that would be one criterion on which to base our geographic choice.
We will continue on “Where to Buy Rental Homes” in part 2 of 4 of this article. We will also discuss these subjects and much more during our ICG Quarterly 1-Day Expo on Saturday, December 2nd, 2017 near SFO. We will have experts discuss Asset Protection, Tax planning for year-end, 1031 Exchanges, special loans for investors (including foreign investors and investors who own over 10 properties), and a lot more. To register, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and mention this blog. You can attend for free with a guest.
In an article in the Wall Street Journal from May 7th, 2016 by Chris Kirkham, we learn how builders of new homes have to focus more on the second-tier and higher product. The reason is that land costs (including local fees) have increased, as well as building costs. Builders have a harder time squeezing a profit from the lower-priced new homes.
This is becoming an issue with families seeking to buy new affordable homes.
As investors, this points to a certain window in time in which we can get brand new homes at reasonable prices. We are still buying new homes for $130K-$170K, mostly in the middle of this range. Rentals are strong (partly because some would-be-owners become tenant due to lack of affordable homes to buy), and needless to say, if the more affordable homes will become scarce, it is likely to bode well for their appreciation, as the higher priced home in a subdivision will provide comparable values which will help the appreciation of the more affordable homes. This is how it happened historically.
The ability we still have as investors to buy the more affordable (yet quality) product, coupled with the still-low mortgage interest rates, creates a sweet spot in time to add to our real estate investment portfolio.
The WSJ article by Chris Kirkham can be found here.
We will discuss this, as well as a host of other relevant and important issues, at our quarterly ICG 1-Day Expo near the San Francisco Airport THIS SATURDAY – May 21st. For details, see www.icgre.com/events. Anyone mentioning this blog can attend free – just email us at email@example.com and write in the subject line, “Read your blog on construction homes getting scarce.” We will have experts about complete insurance and umbrella coverage nationwide, 1031 exchanges, property management, and lending, among others. Looking forward.
The 30-year fixed-rate loan does not usually get its due as an amazing financial tool that should be utilized by any savvy investor who can get it. For many foreigners, it’s incomprehensible that in the U.S. we can get a loan that will never keep up with the cost of living for 30 years. During that period, essentially everything else DOES keep up with the cost of living, including rents. Only the mortgage payment and balance (which also gets chipped down by amortization) do not keep up with inflation.
You can talk to many borrowers who have taken 30-year fixed-rate loans and after, say, 16 years, realized that although there are 14 years remaining to pay off the loan, the loan balance AND the payment seem very low relative to the marketplace rents and prices. The remaining 14 years is almost meaningless since in many cases (statistically and historically) the loan balance will be a small fraction of the home price and not very “meaningful.” Just to get some perspective, most other countries on earth have loans that constantly adjust based on inflation. Both the payment and the balance track inflation all the time, usually with no yearly and lifetime caps as adjustable loans have in the U.S.
The power and positive effect on one’s financial future get magnified when you consider that in 2016 we are still in a period in which interest rates are very low. While investors cannot get the same favorable loans as homeowners, it is nevertheless quite common nowadays to see investors getting a rate of between 4.25% and 4.75% on Single Family Homes (SFHs) investment properties.
From a historical perspective, these are extremely low rates. Most experts think that in the future, mortgage rates will rise; from a historical perspective, even 7% is considered a low rate. Thus, these days, you can “turbo boost” the great power of the never-changing-30-year fixed-rate loan by also locking in these amazing rates which will never change. If in the following year’s interest rates indeed go up, you will feel quite good about having locked under-5% rates forever.
Once you secure your fixed-rate loans, two inexorable forces start operating incessantly: inflation erodes your loan (both the payment and the remaining balance), and the tenant occupying your SFH pays rent which goes in part towards paying down the loan principal every month. These two forces create a powerful financial future for you.
Many investors think that if a 30-year fixed-rate loan is good, then a 15-year loan must be better. I actually beg to differ. You can always pay a 30-year loan in 15 years (or 14 or 20 or 10 or 8) if you wish – just add some extra to the principal payment. However, you cannot pay a 15-year loan off in 30-years. Thus the 15-year loan FORCES you to make the higher payment while the 30-year loan gives you the important flexibility of keeping your payments low OR making them high based on your financial situation and other considerations.
Some would say that the 15-year loan is also better since it has a better rate. True, the 15-year rate maybe 0.25% or even 0.5% better than the 30-year rate. However, in my opinion, this is not enough to justify the enormous loss in flexibility. In addition, having the loan for a longer time allows inflation to “erode” the loan even further. This last consideration greatly minimizes the argument some investors make that “…with a 30-year loan I pay hundreds of thousands of dollars more over the life of the loan.”
One factor missing here is that they neglect the TIME VALUE OF MONEY! These extra dollars paid in year 20, 22, 28, etc., are in fact extremely “cheap” dollars in the sense that their buying power is greatly lowered over time. If the value of these future dollars were to be calculated based on the PRESENT buying power of the dollar, some of the later payments may be worth mere pennies on the dollar.
In summary, I recommend getting a 30-year loan and then choose how long to take to pay it (anywhere between zero and thirty years – you choose!).
While interest rates are low, it would behoove the smart investor to buy SFHs and get 30-year fixed-rate loans on them while this “window” is open. Investors can finance up to 10 residential properties using conventional 30-year fixed-rate loans (if their credit permits). With some maneuvering, married couples may be able to stretch it to 20. If you are under that 10 (or 20, as the case may be) property barrier, it would be quite a smart move to buy SFHs and utilize the incredible loans you can get. You may wish to pay the loan off in 16 years to pay for your kid’s college education (SFHs are effective at this – especially if they don’t go through a crazy 10-year cycle as we had from 2004-2014). You could aim for the properties to be paid off at your retirement date (or the savvier move is just realizing how low they have become and let inflation keep eroding them as equity grows into your retirement years, providing financial growth well into the future in the face of ever-increasing lifespans, and the need for our finances to keep up with our life expectancy).
Thirty-year fixed-rate loans are available on 1-4 residential units, which mostly means Single Family Homes – the ideal investment for most individual real estate investors, as we have covered in a previous blog.
We will discuss this topic, as well as many other crucial topics for investors, at our Quarterly 1-Day Expo on Saturday, May 21st near SFO. We will have market teams present, including a new exciting market… We have also invited top-notch experts to lecture. We will have experts on Property Management, 1031 Exchanges and Proper Insurance – the first and most important barrier in protecting your assets, including nationwide umbrellas.
Everyone mentioning this blog is invited to attend for free, with associates. Just email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to register, and in the subject line write, ‘Read your blog!’ Then give us your contact information. We will respond with a confirmation for your free entry. AND that is all. We hate spam as much as you do. See you there.
As a busy professional, it is likely that your income will be sufficient to qualify for loans on investment properties – especially Single Family Homes – in most of the U.S. markets. A high percentage of busy professionals also have good credit scores, which bodes well for getting good financing.
I maintain that the ideal property for real estate investment for the busy professional is the Single Family Home (SFH). SFHs are almost a perfect property for the individual investor who also has a regular job or business. SFHs are still the “American Dream” for most people. They are also a relatively attainable dream in many large metropolitan areas in the U.S. where prices are quite affordable, even in 2016.
SFHs are essentially the “liquid” real estate since when it is time to sell your potential buyer pool is the largest – effectively all home-buyers in the marketplace. These homes are the real estate investment on which you can get the most powerful loan in the real estate universe – the magical fixed-rate, 30-year loan.
Technically this loan is available on 1 to 4 residential units so duplexes, triplexes, and four-plexes also qualify. However, SFHs are usually superior to 2-4 unit properties. In good areas, you will usually find only SFHs, while you may have to travel to another part of town to see the “plexes” and they will usually be surrounded by many other “plexes.” The “plexes” are more likely to present management challenges, have more short-term tenants (statistically) and to top it off, may not necessarily provide as good an appreciation over the long term.
One exception is new duplexes in white-collar areas, but overall the SFHs are superior. I have been buying homes for well over 30 years and helped people buy nearly 10,000 homes in dozens of markets. During these decades, I have witnessed many “plexes” and their performance as well as many thousands of SFHs. My experience and the experiences of thousands of investors leads me to favor the SFHs over the “plexes.”
Buying larger residential properties – apartment complexes – can be a good investment, but there are areas where the investor needs to be an expert. The optimal apartment complex size, based on the experience of most apartment complex investors, is between 100 and 300 (many say 150-300) units, so economies of scale can be utilized to improve cash flow.
For example, you may need one full-time on-site manager and one full-time maintenance person for a 110-unit complex, but if you have a 60-unit complex, you may STILL need to use one full-time on-site manager and one full-time on-site maintenance person – but with 50 fewer rents coming in! That is NOT using economies of scale very well. There is a lot to discuss on the subject of large apartment complexes, but for the scope of this article, they require deep expertise to run properly.
They may take up much more time than a busy professional has available; they are NOT financed with the magical 30-year fixed rate loans, and they usually call for a large investment up front. For the busy professional, Single Family Homes presents a simple, effective, and very powerful investment, with outstanding financing that cannot be found anywhere else and a time commitment, which is relatively low.
We will discuss this topic, as well as many other crucial topics for investors, at our Quarterly 1-Day Expo on Saturday, May 21st near SFO. We will have market teams present, including a new exciting market. We have also invited top-notch experts to speak on Property Management, 1031 Exchanges and Proper Insurance – the first and most important barrier in protecting your assets, including nationwide umbrellas. Everyone mentioning this blog is invited to attend free, with associates. Just email us at email@example.com to register, and in the subject line write: Saw your blog! See you there.
Media headlines have been a pretty good gauge on the overall mood and trends in the real estate industry. During the big boom of 2005 and 2006, the headlines were screaming, “When is the bubble going to burst?” (A sage point to ponder as it turned out.) During the dark ages of 2008 – 2010, the media headlines took pains to emphasize just how much prices were down in so many markets – a good tip for the savvy buyer.
What does it look like these days?
Within the past couple of months here are a few headlines: October 20th in the Wall Street Journal, the headline to an article by Jeffrey Sparshott says, “Builder Optimism Hits 10-Year High.” I believe you can guess what the article is about. In any case due to the blessed internet – you can just look it up. Another headline, again from the Wall Street Journal, by Anna Louise Sussman and Laura Kusisto, says, “Home Sales Head for Best Year Since 2007.” Again pretty self-explanatory.
The above two articles convey good optimism and strong home sales. For real estate investors this may not always be the best news, as naturally, they hunt for bargains. Nevertheless having a strong real estate market in many cities lends itself to strong occupancy, builder (built) homes (always an attractive investor buy due to builder incentives, and new homes bode well for a long hold with minimal potential repairs, and usually the best financing). Having solid real estate markets is a strong backdrop for our tried-and-true-buy-and-hold-with-a-30-year-fixed-mortgage strategy. Add this to low rates still existing today and you have some very good opportunities to expand your portfolio, lock in super low rates forever and change your financial future.
And about those rates – isn’t the Fed just about to raise rates? Let’s look at this headline from November 24, 2015, San Francisco Chronicle article by Kathleen Pender, “Rate Hike Won’t Hit Too Hard – At First.” I concur—rate hikes will most likely begin by ¼ of a point for short term debt. In addition, this anticipation may already be baked in the current mortgage rates. It will most likely be a while before the needle moves on mortgage rates in a significant manner.
With that being said the Fed’s intention highlight yet again that we operate within a “golden window” of super-low mortgage rates. For new investors, this seems like the norm. For veteran investors, we recognize these rates as the lowest in decades. If anyone has the ability to fix these rates forever in a loan that never keeps up with inflation – now may be the time.
During our quarterly 1-Day Expo THIS SATURDAY – December 5, 2015, we will have a sophisticated asset protection attorney—back by popular demand—Brett Lytle, who will speak on asset protection. Brett always has the most cutting-edge information on protecting our assets and the pros and cons of the type of entities we form. Ron Stempek, MS-Tax, CPA, will speak on optimizing your taxes for reporting 2015—important must-know information for optimizing tax dollars, and actions to take going into the new year. Christopher Orr, Director of Institutional Products at PENSCO will be speaking on retirement savings goals by using self-directed IRAs, buying properties from a self-directed IRA, and using this vehicle to further your wealth. As always, we have cutting edge market teams, lenders, networking and lots of Q&A time.
Anyone contacting us and mentioning this blog can attend free (email to firstname.lastname@example.org or call us at 415-927-7504). If you email us, put in the subject “I read your blog on Blogger” and give us your name and phone number so we can confirm with you.
Looking forward to seeing you, and Happy Holidays!
As you know we always preach the gospel of buying single-family homes, renting them, financing them with 30-year fixed-rate loans and then just holding them long term. We have discussed the benefits of having a 30-year loan which never keeps up with the cost of living (while everything else does!) Thus your loan gets constantly eroded by inflation (and don’t let anyone tell you the United States will have no or negative inflation in the face of the massive fixed debt it is on the hook for), while the tenant makes the payments for you (of course the RENT does change with inflation which makes it all the sweeter).
In the past month, I got a call from a financial planner handling the affairs of one of my investors. He had purchased nine single-family homes in Phoenix in the mid-’90s. It turns out he did not even live in the United States anymore, hence the financial planner handling his affairs in the U.S. They decided it was time to sell the homes in light of the 2012-2015 run-up in values that Phoenix has experienced in the aftermath of the recession.
Needless to say, his mortgages, while still not completely paid off (they are 30-year loans after all), are essentially as good as paid off after over 20 years. They never kept up with the cost of living and the principal payments whittled them down pretty low – very funny numbers considering the 20+ year inflation which the loan never kept up with.
A few quick CMAs (Comparative Market Analysis) by one of our Phoenix brokers revealed that after selling the nine homes, the investor would NET (after-sales expenses and closing), about $1.7M. Considering he bought the homes for an average of $80K each and using 10% down payments (those were the financing terms back in the mid ’90s), his overall return on investment is not only staggering, but the $1.7M is a real, tangible, powerful enhancement for the rest of his life (he is now in his mid 60’s).
As much as this is a satisfying long term result, I know the investor could have easily bought way more than nine homes. Loans were plentiful back then (no up-to-10 limits) and he had the capacity to easily buy three times as many homes. Nevertheless, even with this investment, he has created a powerful effect on his financial future. Alternatively, he could have just kept the homes and have the net rent from all nine homes contribute to his retirement income.
During our next 1-Day Expo (tomorrow near SFO – see www.icgre.com for details and if you mention this blog entry, you are invited at no cost – just email us at email@example.com with the attendees’ names), we will discuss new loans available to investors who own over 10 homes as well. Loans are now also available to foreigners again, and of course, if you own less than 10 homes there are conventional investor loans available to you from most banks.
The Dow closed down 588 points last Wednesday as worries of a China Slowdown permeate the business community. Even though there was some recovery in the market on Wednesday the market is still volatile. In looking at this from the prism of a single family home investor; there are pros and cons to consider.
On the pro side, it’s already assumed that any interest rate hike by the fed will now be postponed until things feel stable. Since it takes time for a rate hike to translate to mortgage rates, we get more time with our delightfully low mortgages. Of course, since most mortgages have yearly caps, it will take even longer (in some cases much longer) for rates to climb in a significant way.
Also on the pro side, people are confused as to where money should operate. The knee-jerk
reaction is to have money sit as cash (with close to zero yields). However, when people are scared of stock markets, real estate and (especially) single family homes usually become more interesting as a safe hard asset that produces income, which we tell our clients at ICG as well.
People may also feel this is not a bad time to pull money out of stocks and finally buy a home for themselves since they might have been planning to do it anyway – this would not be a bad time to deploy that cash, right into locking in a low rate 30-year fixed loan. This, of course, would boost real estate markets in the single family home sector.
On the con side, obviously what is happening is not engendering a lot of overall economic confidence and more doom-and-gloom messages are circulating. This can create an environment where people “hunker down” which will not help the housing market.
We will also have Ralph Bunje Jr. talking about reverse and regular 1031 exchanges and how to do them right, and Charles Byrd about using Evernote for business, and total life organization and efficiency. We will have market teams from the best United States markets and lots of Q & A, networking and learning. Anyone mentioning this blog can attend for free with two guests. Just email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call at 415-927-7504. Looking forward to seeing you!
ICG uses single-family home investments, bought in advantageous locations and the best U.S. markets. We enable you to enjoy the clout that comes from purchasing a multitude of houses, even if you only buy one.
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