Ask The Guys – Getting Started, Paying Off Debt, and Selling to Your Tenant

Lots of great real estate investing questions from our loyal listeners in this edition of Ask The Guys, including should I invest or pay off debt. 

Should I invest or pay off debt? How do I get started in investing? Should I sell my property to my tenant? Our producers said we had a lot of really good questions for this edition of Ask The Guys, so they wanted to bring in the BIG brains.

Sadly, they weren’t available, so we’re on our own for this show.

In the baffled box fielding your brilliant questions:

  • Your home-run host, Robert Helms
  • His choked up co-host, Russell Gray

Here are some of the questions our listeners pitched to us….

  • Is it better to invest or pay off debt?
  • Should I sell my property to my tenant?
  • What’s the best way to transfer real estate from parents to children?
  • Where can I find financing with foreclosure on my record?
  • And more …

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Should I wait until I’m debt free to start investing in real estate?  My wife is concerned about carrying too much debt.

Short answer:  The longer you wait to start investing, the longer until you profit from your investments.  So generally speaking, if you are wondering if it is better to invest or pay off debt, getting started sooner is better.

Obviously, there’s no one-size-fits-all answer.  Especially when wives are involved. 😉

But from a financial standpoint, debt that pays you to borrow is not bad.  In fact, we’d call it “good”…as in “good debt”. When looking at if it is better to invest or pay off debt, “good debt” is critical to consider.

Income producing real estate is one of the great vehicles for accumulating lots of “good debt”.  The key is to make sure of two things:

First, be sure the net cash coming in is enough to cover the debt payment going out.

Sounds easy.  But it’s also easy to forget about contingent and non-monthly expenses…the unpleasant surprises can make your easy life…not so easy.

So when you do your cash flow analysis, be sure you account for EVERYTHING.

Second, be sure you have adequate cash reserves.

Sometimes big expenses come up before you have time to build up reserves from cash flow.  Don’t count on credit lines because those can be shut off in an economic crisis.  And you never know when one of those pesky financial crises will show up. invest or pay off debt - A black swan is an unforeseen event which has a major negative impact on financial markets

So…if you’re able to borrow money (good debt) to acquire POSITIVE cash flow, you can use the positive cash flow from the good debt to pay down the debt (bad debt) which does NOT pay you. In this scenario, the answer is clear on if you should invest or pay off debt.

Of course, if YOU understand all that and your spouse doesn’t, you could be 100% right on paper…and dead wrong in the relationship.

It's better when life partners invest in learning about finances togetherYou have to decide what’s most important.  Just remember:  Happy Wife = Happy Life.  Just sayin’….

If your wife is concerned about your financial affairs, that’s a GREAT thing.  Consider it an opportunity to invest time studying together by attending seminars, reading books, meeting with advisors…even listening to amazing real estate investing broadcasts.

And until you find an amazing real estate investing broadcast, you can listen to The Real Estate Guys!

My tenant wants to buy my property.  Should I sell it?

Another great question!

Of course, whenever someone asks what they “should” do, we have to answer, “It depends”.

Ultimately, you have to do what YOU think is best…for YOU.  And YOU figure that out by getting ideas and information…and then considering your options.

So here are some things to think about…

You have the property now.  If you didn’t, would you buy it right now compared to whatever else is available for you to do with your time, equity and credit?

invest or pay off debt - Zero sum thinking asks if you didn't already own a current property would you buy itIf not, then you probably want to strongly consider selling it.  Of course, you have to think about timing and tax considerations.

If you’d like to keep the property for now but would like to sell it later, it’s likely you can make a deal with your tenant for a future purchase.

Maybe you want to time the realization of capital gain or need time to prepare for a 1031 tax deferred exchange.  Maybe the tenant needs some time to get their credit and cash lined up.

In any case, in most jurisdictions you modify your lease and provide your tenant with a future option to purchase.

You could also go with a protracted escrow, just be sure to consult with your tax advisor about when the tax law says you’ve actually “realized” the gain.

In the case of a lease option, your tenant might pay you an upfront fee and/or additional monthly payments as “option consideration”.  You might get a bigger number if you’re willing to credit some of it toward the purchase price.

There aren’t any set rules or formulas…which is the fun and creative part of real estate.  Just decide what YOU want and are willing to do, and what the tenant wants and is willing to do.  Then work out a deal that makes you both happy.

What’s the best way to transfer real estate from parents to children?

“Best” like “should” is always a dangerous question to answer.  After all, what’s best for someone is probably what they should do.  But who knows best what’s “best”?

You do…once you know what your options are.

What's the best way to transfer real estate to your children?So when it comes to transferring real estate from parents to children, you need to think about what YOU are trying to accomplish.

Sometimes, it’s about tax mitigation.  Sometimes you want to maintain control…even after you’re no longer here.

Once you figure out what YOU want, then you’ll want to consult with professional advisors who can help with the HOW to do it.

Typically, you’ll want an estate planning attorney and a tax advisor.

The tools you have to work with include entities (trusts, LLCs, etc.), contracts (options, purchase and sale agreements), and state specific laws (forms of title).

Entities are useful for eliminating probate, managing estate taxes, and maintaining control about how the property and its income are used.

The key is to focus on what you’re trying to accomplish.  Ask a lot of “what if?” questions until you’ve through a variety of potential outcomes.  Decide what you want to have happen in each scenario.  Write it all down.

Then go meet with your advisors and ask for ideas and strategies to create the outcomes you’re after.  Many times, experienced advisors will have seen how other clients have structured themselves to accomplish similar objectives.  So you may get some ideas you hadn’t even thought of.

After a reviewing all the ideas, options and expenses, we’re guessing it will be clear to see what’s “best” for you.

Where to find financing with a foreclosure on your record?

The lending landscape is littered with the walking wounded – folks who barely survived the Great Recession and whose credit reports are scarred with foreclosures, liens and other “derogatory” entries.

That’s the bad news.There are lots of walking dead borrowers after the Great Recession

The good news is that more lending is opening up for these walking wounded.  The key is to get someone on your team who is knowledgeable about the ever-changing array of conventional and unconventional financing options.

Because there’s a big population of folks with foreclosures on their records, there are specialty lenders who focus on serving their unique needs.

So job #1 is to find a competent mortgage broker experienced with working with investors.  Investigate non-government funding such as private lenders, community banks…even friends and family.

If you have consistent documented income, savings and a reasonable explanation for what happened, there are lenders out there who are willing to take a chance on you…if the collateral is good and the interest rate is right.

Even if you can’t find ideal financing today, you may still want to buy a good property as long as you have a reasonable plan for fixing the financing later.

Remember, you buy the property once, but you can change the financing later.

So if you meet with your mortgage consultant and they tell you you’re not lendable YET…then find out what YOU can do (in your control) to get there.  If the list and timeline seems reasonable, you may decide to accept less than perfect financing TEMPORARILY…with plan to replace it later when you qualify.

How to access home equity to invest?

At the risk of being redundant…again…one more time…

What's the best way to access home equity to invest?Get a mortgage pro on your team.  They can tell you what loans are available that YOU will qualify for.  And if the answer is “none”, don’t be dismayed.  You may find a private party lender who’d be willing to make the loan.

This of course assumes you wish to keep your home and just want to use the equity.  Otherwise, selling is the other obvious way to free up idle equity for investment.

Pre-2008, pulling equity out of Property A to investing in Property B (and C, and D, etc…) was popular because properties had equity and loans were readily available to extract the equity.

After the crash, those loans all went away.  So sad.

But they’re BAAAACK.  Yay.

However, there were some valuable lessons learned by those of us who went through the equity apocalypse…

First, when it comes to your HOME…be conservative.  Make sure, you feel comfortable making the new payment in case any or all of the investments you make with your home equity…flop.

As long as you can make your payment, you’re not homeless.  But if you can’t sell the house to pay off the mortgage, you might be trapped for awhile.

Be careful not to borrow short and invest long.

If you access equity in your home, be sure you understand the terms of the loan.  At today’s rates, we’re fans of long term, fixed rate loans.

Fixed rate long term loans give you stability of interest expense and payment.  And you don’t have too much risk that you’ll end up stuck with an above market rate.  It’s hard to imagine rates falling substantially from today’s level.There are an increasing number of mortgage choices when looking to finance or refinance a property

HELOCs (Home Equity Lines of Credit), ARM (Adjustable Rate Mortgages), balloons (i.e., 30 year amortization due in five) are all “short term” loans.  Meaning, the rates might adjust or the entire balance comes due in 5 years or less.

If you are SURE you can pay the loan back or handle the “worst case” scenario interest rate / payment adjustment, then MAYBE it’s okay to use the proceeds to invest.

The DANGER comes when whatever you invested in is NOT liquid when the loan comes due…or isn’t producing a high enough payment to cover the new payment after an interest rate re-set.

Now you may need to sell at a bad time.  Or you might not be able to sell at all.  Then you need to figure out how to pay off the loan or make the payment from other sources.

Again, avoid borrowing short to invest long.

Of course, if you’re hesitant to use your home equity to invest with, you can always find other people who have money available to invest.  They put up the money (or most of it) and you put up the time to find and manage the deal to a profit.  Then you divvy it all up.  That’s called syndication and we like it a lot.  You might like it too.

 

How to get started when properties are so expensive?

What do you do when properties in your area are too expensive?Another great question…

This listener makes $45,000 a year, has good credit and has been reading lots of books about investing.
BUT…he lives in Los Angeles and properties cost a fortune.  So he can’t qualify for a big enough loan to buy anything in his area.

One solution…

“Live where you want to live, but invest where the numbers make sense.” – Robert Helms

Sounds easy.  But how?

It’s a big topic, but in short, pick a few markets you think would be good.  Research those markets and then build relationships there.  Your market team will help you find properties.

Again…sounds easy, but how?

Relationships.

In this case, take your book (and radio show!) knowledge and go to places where more experienced investors gather.  Ask intelligent questions.  Find out what other people are doing and why.

In a huge metro like Los Angeles, there are investment clubs, seminars and conferences you can attend.  But don’t hesitate to travel to connect with the right people.  We do it all the time.

Once you’ve picked a few markets that look interesting, do some remote research.  Set news alerts.  Pay attention to the local economy.Your property manager is arguable the most valuable player on your local team

If it looks good, go there and start building a team.  And start with property management.

Property managers  usually aren’t trying to sell you a property.  But they can tell you where the tenants are most plentiful.

Remember, your true mission as an income property investor is to accumulate tenants.  That’s where the income comes from.  You buy the property to get the tenants and their income…at least a piece of it.

So your property manager is the MOST important member of your local team.

Lots of other great questions…so tune in as listeners Ask The Guys!


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