Real estate investing
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Real estate investing involves the purchase, management and sale or rental of real estate for profit. Improvement of realty property as part of a real estate investment strategy is generally considered to be a sub-specialty of real estate investing called real estate development. Someone who actively or passively invests in real estate is called a real estate entrepreneur or a real estate investor.
Sources and acquisition of investment property
Real estate markets in most countries are not as organized or efficient as markets for other, more liquid investment instruments. Individual properties are unique to themselves and not directly interchangeable, which makes evaluating investments less certain. For this reason, locating properties in which to invest can involve substantial work, and competition among investors to purchase individual properties may be highly variable depending on the knowledge of availability. Information asymmetry is commonplace in real estate markets, where one party may have more accurate information regarding the actual value of the property. Real estate investors typically use a variety of real estate appraisal techniques to determine the value of properties prior to purchase.
Investment properties are often purchased from a variety of sources, include market listings, real estate agents or broker, banks, government entities such as Fannie Mae, public auctions, sales by owners, and real estate investment trusts.
Real estate assets are typically expensive, and investors will generally not pay the entire amount of the purchase price of a property in cash. Usually, a large portion of the purchase price will be financed using some sort of financial instrument or debt, such as a mortgage loan collateralized by the property itself. The amount of the purchase price financed by debt is referred to as leverage. The amount financed by the investor's own capital, through cash or other asset transfers, is referred to as equity. The ratio of leverage to total appraised value (often referred to as "LTV", or loan to value for a conventional mortgage) is one mathematical measure of the risk an investor is taking by using leverage to finance the purchase of a property. Investors usually seek to decrease their equity requirements and increase their leverage, so that their return on investment is maximized. Lenders and other financial institutions usually have minimum equity requirements for real estate investments they are being asked to finance, typically on the order of 20% of appraised value. Investors seeking low equity requirements may explore alternate financing arrangements as part of the purchase of a property (for instance, seller financing, seller subordination, private equity sources, etc.)
If the property requires substantial repair, traditional lenders like banks will often not lend on a property and the investor may be required to borrow from a private lender utilizing a short term bridge loan like a hard money loan from a Hard money lender. Hard money loans are usually short-term loans where the lender charges a much higher interest rate because of the higher risk nature of the loan. Hard money loans are typically at a much lower loan-to-value ratio than conventional mortgages.
Some real estate investment organizations, such as real estate investment trusts (REITs) and some pension funds and hedge funds, have large enough capital reserves and investment strategies to allow 100% equity in the properties that they purchase. This minimizes the risk which comes from leverage but also limits potential ROI.
By leveraging the purchase of an investment property, the required periodic payments to service the debt create an ongoing (and sometimes large) negative cash flow beginning from the time of purchase. This is sometimes referred to as the carry cost or "carry" of the investment. To be successful, real estate investors must manage their cash flows to create enough positive income from the property to at least offset the carry costs.
With the signing of the JOBS Act in April 2012 by President Obama there was an easing on investment solicitations. A newer method of raising equity in smaller amounts is through real estate crowdfunding which can pool accredited and/or non-accredited investors together in a special purpose vehicle for all or part of the equity capital needed for the acquisition. Fundrise was the first company to crowdfund a real estate investment in the United States.
Sources and management of cash flows
A typical investment property generates cash flows to an investor in four general ways:
Net operating income, or NOI, is the sum of all positive cash flows from rents and other sources of ordinary income generated by a property, minus the sum of ongoing expenses, such as maintenance, utilities, fees, taxes, and other items of that nature (debt service is not factored into the NOI). The ratio of NOI to the asset purchase price, expressed as a percentage, is called the capitalization rate, or CAP rate, and is a common measure of the performance of an investment property.
Tax shelter offsets occur in one of three ways: depreciation (which may sometimes be accelerated), tax credits, and carryover losses which reduce tax liability charged against income from other sources for a period of 27.5 years. Some tax shelter benefits can be transferable, depending on the laws governing tax liability in the jurisdiction where the property is located. These can be sold to others for a cash return or other benefits.
Equity build-up is the increase in the investor's equity ratio as the portion of debt service payments devoted to principal accrue over time. Equity build-up counts as positive cash flow from the asset where the debt service payment is made out of income from the property, rather than from independent income sources.
Capital appreciation is the increase in the market value of the asset over time, realized as a cash flow when the property is sold. Capital appreciation can be very unpredictable unless it is part of a development and improvement strategy. The purchase of a property for which the majority of the projected cash flows are expected from capital appreciation (prices going up) rather than other sources is considered speculation rather than investment.
Some individuals and companies focus their investment strategy on purchasing properties that are in some stage of foreclosure. A property is considered in pre-foreclosure when the homeowner has defaulted on their mortgage loan. Formal foreclosure processes vary by state and may be judicial or non-judicial, which affects the length of time the property is in the pre-foreclosure phase. Once the formal foreclosure processes are underway, these properties can be purchased at a public sale, usually called a foreclosure auction or sheriff's sale. If the property does not sell at the public auction, then ownership of the property is returned to the lender. Properties at this phase are called Real Estate Owned, or REOs.
Once a property is sold at the foreclosure auction or as an REO, the lender may keep the proceeds to satisfy their mortgage and any legal costs that they incurred minus the costs of the sale and any outstanding tax obligations.
The foreclosing bank or lending institution has the right to continue to honor tenant leases (if there are tenants in the property) during the REO phase but usually, the bank wants the property vacant in order to sell it more easily.
Buy, rehab, rent & refinance
- "Fundrise Adds Big Name Investors Including Ratner, Elghanayan & Guggenheim: Funding Now at $38 Million". 26 September 2014.
- Gage, Deborah (26 September 2014). "Renren-Backed Fundrise Bulks up in Real Estate Crowdfunding Sector". Wall Street Journal.
- Levinrad, Lex (17 December 2010). "Investing in Foreclosures For Beginners". Distressed Real Estate Institute. Archived from the original on 2 January 2013. Retrieved 31 December 2012.
- Portman, Janet (7 February 2008). "Foreclosure causes heartache for renters". Inman News. Retrieved 24 February 2008.
- Eisen, Ben (9 December 2018). "Housing Slowdown Unnerves the Fix-and-Flip Crowd". WSJ. Retrieved 15 October 2019.
- "How young investors are chasing early retirement". Albany Business Review. Retrieved 15 October 2019.