Cover Your Assets Part 1 – Protecting Your Wealth Today and Tomorrow

An essential element of real estate investing is protecting the assets you’ve worked so hard to acquire.

When you’re just starting out, your investment business is pretty low liability. But as you acquire properties, the liabilities build up … and a legal problem with one property could cascade and affect your other assets if you don’t have the proper protections in place.

In this show, we’ll talk with a Rich Dad advisor on how to sort your assets into buckets so you NEVER lose everything at once.

Part one of this two-part series is for beginners and experienced investors alike. As John F. Kennedy said, “The time to repair a roof is when the sun is shining.” NOW is the time to put in place protections to keep you safe if troubles arise.

In this episode of The Real Estate Guys™ show you’ll hear from:

  • Your host, asset Robert Helms
  • His liability of a co-host, Russell Gray
  • Garrett Sutton, best-selling author and legal advisor to Robert Kiyosaki

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Firewall your assets

The society we live in is very litigious … and that’s not going to change any time soon. So what can investors do?

We talked to Garrett Sutton about precautions YOU can take to protect your assets as they grow.

Your best option, Garrett says, is probably an LLC, simply because they provide the best asset protection. An LLC allows you to firewall your assets so one lawsuit doesn’t set off a chain reaction that leaves you asset-less.

Why is an LLC better than a corporation? Besides better asset protection, LLCs offer more tax flexibility and charging order protection.

Charging orders are legal judgments that allow creditors to access the money you make through your business. But some states offer charging order protection to LLCs.

And, Garrett says, most lawyers prefer to go through insurance so they can collect right away. So ideally investors have two firewall protections … an LLC or corporation AND insurance to back them up.

Some states, like Utah, California, and New York, don’t provide great asset protection for LLCs. Creditors can blow through the LLC and force the sale of assets … not ideal.

What can you do if you live in a state that doesn’t have the best rules for entities? Garrett reminds us you DON’T have to form an entity in the same state as your property or your residence.

How to set up your own LLC

While setting up an LLC may sound onerous and difficult, Garret says it’s really not that hard. There are two main steps:

  1. Set up an LLC in the state you want.
    1. Pick a name and make sure the name is available
    2. File your articles of organization, operating agreement, and certificates.
  2. Transfer the title of your property into the name of your LLC. This is NOT a sale … simply a transfer.

While there are plenty of websites advertising do-it-yourself LLC help, it’s much better to talk to an attorney, says Garrett.

A certified legal professional can walk you through all the steps and help you understand which business decisions are right for you.

And, an attorney will help you stay aware of formalities … the easy-to-follow rules that will keep your LLC safe from legal troubles.

Fine-tune your asset protection strategy

Garrett is a best-selling author. His books on starting your own corporation or LLC cover the strategies and techniques YOU can use to increase wealth and reduce risk.

A technique SOME people use is changing their LLC from partnership taxation to C or S corporation taxation.

That’s fine, says Garrett … as long as you don’t forget to amend your operating agreement.

Business decisions as simple as tax changes have many permutations we don’t even think about … another reason an asset protection attorney is essential.

Other investors are looking into offshore asset protection trusts. Something some investors don’t realize is that more than 10 states have created onshore trusts. But while these trusts make your money bulletproof, recent cases have demonstrated that it’s only bulletproof in the state where you’ve set up the trust.

Although there are many tricks for upping your protection level … and your wealth … investors don’t need 17 layers of LLCs.

They also don’t need to spend a ridiculous amount of money to form an LLC. For example, a Wyoming LLC provides great protection levels, for only $50 a year (plus any legal fees).

And LLCs don’t mean you’re locked into operating decisions. You have the latitude to make changes. LLCs are flexible!

Interested in delving deeper into the legal realm of asset protection? Delve into what Garrett has to offer on his website.

And while Garrett provides affordable asset protection and legal services, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t seek out your own legal help … just make sure the people you work with are serious about helping small investors stay on top of corporate formalities.

In part two of our asset protection series, we’ll delve deeper into the legal world with a discussion of offshore asset protection strategies. Listen in for info on taking your profits outside of the States!


More From The Real Estate Guys™…

The Real Estate Guys™ radio show and podcast provides real estate investing news, education, training and resources to help real estate investors succeed.

Ask The Guys – Super Session Part One

Ask The Guys is our radio segment where YOU ask us your burning questions … and we give our best shot at answering them.

Lately, we’ve received so many excellent questions we decided to do not one, but TWO episodes of Ask The Guys! In this first installment, we discuss finding deals that make sense, breeding equity, how to keep going when you’re out of money … and much more!

Before you get into the good stuff, we have to give you our standard disclaimer. We’re not tax advisors, and we’re definitely not attorneys, so we never provide any advice … just IDEAS.

In this episode of The Real Estate Guys™ show you’ll hear from:

  • Your problem-solving host, Robert Helms
  • His problematic co-host, Russell Gray

Listen



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Question: I’m looking into local real estate, and the numbers don’t make sense. What do I do?

This question comes from Walter, a Canadian listener.

Can you guess our first response? You got it … “Live where you want to live, and invest where the numbers make sense.”

Investing locally means you can have a heavy hand in daily business and management operations. Investing in other markets means someone else will do the work for you.

That can be a really good thing … IF you have the right team.

As you know, the market overall is quite tight right now. If you’re looking for deals in a tight market, you might spend all your time searching out deals that fit your criteria. That’s why it’s a good idea to look for markets that fit your criteria, then build relationships with a trustworthy team.

Of course, start out by building a solid personal investment philosophy.

Next, find your market and get set up with a good team. THEN you can work on finding a property to invest in.

Starting by finding a property first can be a disaster. We know because we’ve seen it.

Think this information sounds great, but wondering where to start? There are a few steps you can take:

  1. Start networking with folks in your area who are investing elsewhere. Get to know them and get familiar with what they’re doing.
  2. Research different markets, identify a handful that fit your criteria, and then check them out … in person!
  3. Get your resource network set up by seeking out credible management folks who know what they’re doing.

Whatever you do, ALWAYS evaluate whether a market makes sense before you even start looking for deals. Always.

Question: Can I reposition my equity to buy more properties?

Ari from West Hollywood, California, asked us whether it was prudent to use the equity from current properties for the down payment on a new property.

The short answer is yes.

The long answer is that equity repositioning can be a good idea, with some caveats.

You CAN take equity out of a property through cash-out refinances (or 1031 exchanges, if you want to relinquish the property).

And with today’s low-interest rates, this process allows you to harvest your equity.

A word of caution … it is possible to run into trouble. It’s NOT the act of moving equity that can work against you, but the act of taking on additional debt and income.

Any time you move your money, you have to weigh your ability to manage your income against your debt. It doesn’t make sense to take money out and invest in a property with low or negative cash flow.

When done right, equity optimization allows you to move easily from mature markets to emerging ones and diversify your holdings.

Always remember these words of wisdom … “Do the math, and the math will tell you what to do.”

Question: We’re purchasing our first property. Should we create an LLC to protect our personal assets?

Jonathan in New York City, is buying his first rental unit in the U.S. state of Maine (congratulations on taking action, Jonathan!).

He’s wondering whether it’s prudent to form an LLC in order to purchase the property … but worried that buying as an LLC will force him into a commercial loan with 10-year terms.

How to protect your personal assets is a common newbie question … and it’s a good one!

The primary question Jonathan has to ask himself is whether the added expense will be worth the protection. That answer will vary.

If Jonathan has a ton of assets, it might be worth it to form an LLC. Keep in mind there are other places he can move his money to … primary residences and retirement accounts come to mind.

The bigger question, though, is whether Jonathan will need the protection in the first place. Investors like Jonathan can put up a three-pronged line of defense:

  1. Consistent, good business practices.
  2. Clear documentation and legal paperwork with built-in arbitration clauses.
  3. Insurance, which will cover most problems that might arise.

The reality is that most people who use entities are usually working on bigger projects. And not all lenders will be willing to lend to an LLC with no operating history.

If you’re in Jonathan’s situation, you have to weigh the pros and cons. We recommend doing your homework … and checking with a local tax attorney.

Question: When is the next Investor Summit at Sea™, and when do tickets come out?

Adrian from Salt Lake City, Utah asked this timely question. Thanks for asking, Adrian!

The next Summit will be early to mid-April, 2018. Exact dates will be announced shortly!

We roll out registration in three phases … alumni first, then our syndication mentoring club, and then our advanced notice list.

Your best chance at getting a ticket? Get on the list! Sign up now if you’re serious about attending next year.

Question: Will it be more profitable to invest on our own or with a syndicate? (And should we invest for equity growth or cash flow?)

This question comes from Sheryl, in Pacifica, California. Sheryl told us she and her husband are newly debt free. Her question is best in her own words:

“Our goal is to save $100,000 this year and buy a rental property on the big island of Hawaii, where we eventually plan to live, to start establishing some cash flow. We also plan to take a year off and live off my spouse’s retirement while visiting Southeast Asia, South America, and Africa. We are frugal and have simple needs. Would it be better to invest $100,000 with a syndicate for better monthly cash flow return?”

Sheryl, you could invest in a property that provides cash flow and will be well-suited for your eventual retirement home.

But we’d caution you that one property may not be able to solve multiple needs.

One solution would be to buy a cash flow property, then use the equity you’ve saved to buy a perfect retirement home when the time is right.

Another solution might be to look for a property that will provide long-term price appreciation instead of a high cash flow. It’s a different investment vehicle that could carry you to the same destination.

And of course, syndication is always an option, and it might be a good one if you’re traveling and need a hands-off investment.

If you decide to come alongside a syndicator, you do have to be careful. Vet the deal and the sponsor just like you’d vet a deal of your own.

Make sure you line up your investment objectives and the timing with the investment and manager you choose. And above all, be certain you understand the underlying risks.

Question: I’m out of money. How do I extend my property portfolio?

This listener hails from London, England. (A side note: we LOVE hearing from listeners around the world!)

A former nurse, Bobby purchased a couple of properties in the outskirts of London. He loves real estate and wants to expand, but he’s out of money.

Maybe this sounds familiar to you … you got enamored with real estate, got educated, pulled the trigger and took action, then quickly realized your money was gone. This happens to a lot of folks.

If you’re like Bobby, the first thing you should do is ask yourself, “Knowing what I now know, would I still invest in these properties?”

If the answer is no, it might be time to switch things up.

We’ve found the best way to expand when you have limited resources is to force equity from properties by adding value, then use that equity in other properties.

The other way to go would be to syndicate. Leverage your knowledge, and use your skills to acquire and manage assets on behalf of clients who do have money … taking small slices from the pie along the way.

Because Bobby came from a demanding career path and wants to make his way in what can be a very demanding real estate world, we’d also caution him to be very careful about what he chooses to do and how he structures his business.

It’s no good to pursue real estate for less stress and then fall into the same pattern of stressful days and no fun.

Question: I’m a syndicator. What’s a good percentage to offer investors?

Our last question for this episode comes from Joel in Boston, Massachusetts. Joel puts deals together for investors, but he’s new to the game and isn’t sure whether he’s offering a percentage that’s too high.

He wants to find the sweet spot, and that’s a laudable goal … one every syndicator should have.

Our answer? There is no magic formula.

We’ve done deals about every way possible, and in our experience, the right structure is one that attracts the right capital and the right investors for YOU.

Finding the right number can be a dance and an art form. But there is a place you can start.

Begin by having conversations with investors and gauging their responses. Ask, “What number would make sense for you?”

And realize number may vary with each deal you make.

If you’re just getting started with syndication, err on the side of giving more to the investor.

The purpose of your first few investments ISN’T to build a fortune. You’re trying to start a business, so you need to emphasize your dependability, focus on predictable results, and build your track record.

Ultimately, the magic number is one you’re willing to get up every day and work for!


 More From The Real Estate Guys™…

The Real Estate Guys™ radio show and podcast provides real estate investing news, education, training and resources to help real estate investors succeed.

2/16/14: Ask The Guys – Loan, LLCs and What To Do About a Big Fannie

If you want great answers, you have to ask great questions.

In this edition of Ask The Guys, we take on several great questions from our amazing audience!

Broadcasting from the beach in beautiful Belize because we can:

  • Your unbelizeable host, Robert Helms
  • His rummy co-host, Russell Gray
  • The Godfather of white sand real estate, Bob Helms

You’d think with that tee-up that this whole episode is about Belize.  But it’s not.  We just happened to be in Belize when we did the show.  Not sure how we got there.  Rum may have been involved.  But when we realized it was time to do the show, there we were in Belize, so sometimes you just do what you gotta do.   You have no idea the sacrifices we make to bring you The Real Estate Guys™ Radio Show.

There are few things we like better than answering your questions.  Mostly because we don’t have to think of a topic for an episode. 😉   But also, because we always get great questions.  We wish we had time to answer them all.  Since we can’t, we pick out those we think are most relevant to the audience.

How do we know what the audience likes?  By reading all the questions that come in.  So add your views to the discussion by sending your question to us on our Ask The Guys page.

Remember!  We’re not lawyers, CPAs, or investment advisors.  In fact, we’re not even that bright.  So before you run off and put real money at risk because “The Real Estate Guys said so”, remember we’re only sharing ideas and personal opinions.  Always check with your own qualifed advisors before taking action on anything you hear on the radio, find on the internet or read on the bathroom wall.

With that said, let’s get into it…

Should I dump a great loan so I can put the property in an LLC?

We get this one a LOT.  And like nearly every question we get, the answer is…it depends.

In this listener’s case, he has a below market interest rate on a loan he got when he was the owner-occupant.  Great!  But the bank may call the loan if he moves it into an LLC.

Stop right there.  Why would the bank do that?

Well, in the real world, as long as you’re making the payments on time, they probably won’t.  At least, we’ve never seen it happen.  But they have the right to because nearly every loan contains a “due on sale or transfer” clause which “accelerates” the loan in the event of any change of ownership.

But even if you make the payments on time, if you have a below market interest rate, is the lender motivated to get the money back from you so they can loan it to someone else at today’s higher rate?  Maybe.  It’s a risk you take.

Now if you call up the lender and ask ahead of time, our experience is they almost always say “no”.  So you can try to sneak it by and hope no one notices, which happens all the time, but you run the risk of losing that lush loan.

Or, you can go ahead and transfer the property into the LLC and get a new loan.  Which begs the question, “Is it worth it?”

First, the loan will undoubtedly cost more.  Not only will you pay today’s higher market rates, now that it’s a rental property, you’ll pay the additional risk premium (higher interest) for it not being owner-occupied.  Plus, you can’t get government subsidized loans like Fannie, Freddie or FHA if you are using an entity like an LLC.  So you’ll pay even more.

Add to that the time, expense and hassle of forming an LLC and transferring the property, plus the ongoing expense of maintaining the entity, and it really starts to add up.

So if it’s a somewhat expensive hassle, why consider it?

It’s all about asset protection…and perhaps about privacy.  Let’s deal with each individually.

First, asset protection.  An entity like an LLC creates a firewall which isolates the liability created by the property.  In order to get to assets not owned by the LLC (like everything else you own), the plaintiff (the person suing you) will need to “pierce the corporate veil” and prove in a court that you’re personally liable for whatever damage they suffered.

BUT…before it ever comes to your other assets, they will need to get past your insurance policies.  In most cases when you or your entity is sued, your insurance policies will defend you.  And because the lawyers really don’t want to go to court, they’ll just work together to get the insurance company to settle.  Sometimes, they’ll ask you to kick something in too, which is no fun.  But it’s less expensive than going to trial.

At least that’s our experience.

So, when you look at all the added expenses of giving up the great loan, it might be a better use of money to beef up your insurance policies.

Of course, if there’s millions of dollars of net worth exposed to the liability of the property, then the added expense might be worth it.

This is why we say, “it depends”.  Check with you own professional advisors and they’ll help you make the right choice for you.

How do you build a great local team when investing out of the area?

This is another great question and is less complicated to answer.

First, look for referrals from other successful investors in the area.  Just being referred by someone is an edge because now the service provider is risking both your business and his current client’s (the referrer) if they do a poor job.  That alone is worth something.

Next, find the real estate agent who controls most of the kind of inventory you’re looking for.  That is, what name seems to show up the most on the For Sale listings?  This is obviously a person who’s very active in the market.  And with the internet, it’s easy to find them and check our their on-line reputation before you ever meet face to face.

Property managers can be a great starting point in a new market.  Someone who primarily or exclusively does property management often has less of a sales agenda than nearly anyone else on your real estate team.  Why?  Because while the agent and lender will handle your transaction and get paid all at once then are off to the next deal, the property manager is looking into a long term relationship where they’ll make their money over time…like you do.

Local market real estate expos and investment clubs can be a great place to meet fellow investors and service providers who are active in working with local investors.  You may have to fly into a town a few times to network and have meetings, but once the team is built, you can operate fairly easily from afar.

What’s the optimal amount to put down on a property?

We LOVE this question. In fact, we cover this topic extensively in our out-of-print book Equity Happens (we’re working on an update) and our Real Equity Home Study Course.

The short answer is:  Use as much leverage as you can comfortably debt service when allowing for unexpected expenses and inability to raise rents substantially.

Obviously, prevailing interest rates, local competition, the strength of the local job market, macro-economic factors that affect cost of living (interest rates, oil prices, healthcare costs, etc), all affect the durability of the rental income and must be carefully considered when pushing the leverage ratio higher.

But rather than just dump money into paying down a loan when mortgage rates are still dirt cheap, think about taking the extra cash and buying income producing investments that outperform the cost of the mortgage.  For more ideas on this topic, check out Using Oil to Lubricate Your Investment Portfolio and Real Asset Investing.

How can I keep investing if I can’t get any more Fannie Mae loans?

Another great question that comes up a lot.

First, even though post 2008, it seems like the only loans available are government backed, that’s starting to change.  So when you Fannie (portfolio) has gotten too big, you have the option of switching to private (non-government) money.  This could be owner-carry back, hard-money lenders, mortgage pools or any number of independent funds that have stepped into the pick up the pieces after the mortgage meltdown wiped out most the mortgage banks.

You can also go commercial by moving into apartment buildings (5 residential units or more), commercial, industrial, retail or office properties.  For the average rental home owner, the natural progression is apartments.  But you could look at mobile home parks, self-storage, or even parking lots.

Assuming you want to stay in the residential 1-4 space and collect more Fannie loans, you could take on credit partners.  These are people who have virgin credit scores when it comes to Fannie / Freddie, and you partner.

Whew!  If you read all the way to here, you’re a hard core information junkie.  Great!  So are we.  So you keep reading and listening, and we’ll keep reading and talking.  Then let us know what you think on our Feedback page.  And if you love the show, please give us some love on our iTunes page.  Each positive review not only inspires to keep working, it improves the show’s ranking, which is helpful for attracting sponsors to support the effort and VIP guests to interview on the show.

Thanks!  Now, please enjoy the latest edition of Ask The Guys, where believe it or not, there are additional questions discussed that didn’t make it into this mega-blog.  But we’re getting callouses on our finger tips from typing, so enjoy the podcast!

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The Real Estate Guys™ radio show and podcast provides real estate investing news, education, training and resources that help real estate investors succeed. Visit our Feedback page and tell us what you think!

2/5/12: Ask The Guys – Super Bowl Edition

Super Bowl Sunday is the biggest media event of the year – even bigger than The Real Estate Guys™ radio show (hard to believe, we know).  For perspective, consider that the projected 110 million Super Bowl viewing audience is 5 times bigger than American Idol’s nearly 20 million person audience!

And what does that have to do with you and your real estate investing?  Well, pretty much nothing.  Because unless you’re somehow connected to the business of football or lucky enough to place a winning bet (how ’bout those Giants?), the Super Bowl doesn’t really have any positive impact on your financial life.

So, being the ever faithful hosts that we are, for those who are more interested in how to score points on their financial statements, we’re in the studio for another educational edition of Ask The Guys!

Sitting all alone behind the silver microphones in The Real Estate Guys™ studio:

  • The quarterback of the show, your host Robert Helms
  • Running back (and forth to fetch Robert’s coffee), your co-host Russell Gray

As always, our Ask The Guys playbook has more questions than we can get to in one episode.  But keep ’em coming!  We love reading them, and when we see things that come up over and over, we know it’s something we should take time to address.  To submit your question, use our Ask The Guys page.

When we reached into the Ask The Guys e-mail  grab bag for this episode, here’s what we pulled out:

  • How can a young person, saddled with student debt and just starting out, get their dream of real estate financial independence started?
  • What can you do with a credit score of 800 (besides brag about it to your friends)?
  • Are low down payment deals still out there?  Where and how to find them?
  • Help! I’m a brand new landlord and my tenant just went Chapter 13!  What can I expect?
  •  I’m under 30 and have saved up $100,000.  Now what?
  •  I just got out of college and noticed you can get a lot more money each month by renting out 1 room at a time.  What do you think?
  • How do I get cash out of a property in an LLC to pay off a property I bought with my 0% interest credit card?
  • MORE!

Sometimes we know the answers because, after all, we are brilliant (and humble!).  Sometimes we need to use our powerful positioning as big time radio talk show hosts to call up subject matter experts for help.  In any case, we LOVE answering your questions because we always learn something, and it reminds us that there really are people out there in radio-land (and now podcast-lands) listening to us week in and week out.

So THANKS for keeping us company during the Super Bowl and keep your questions coming!

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The Real Estate Guys™ radio show and podcast provides real estate investing news, education, training and resources to help real estate investors succeed.