Monthly Archives: December 2017

Commercial Real Estate

Real estate has always been known as the safest of investments.

In fact, real estate investment completed after proper research into and evaluation of the property (to determine actual and future value), can lead to tremendous profit.
This is one reason many people choose real estate investment as their full time job.

Discussions about real estate tend to focus on residential real estate; commercial real estate, except to seasoned investors, typically seems to take a back seat.
However, commercial real estate is also a great option for investing in real estate.

Commercial real estate includes a large variety of property types.
To a majority of people, commercial real estate is only office complexes or factories or industrial units.
However, that is not all of commercial real estate. There is far more to commercial real estate.
Strip malls, health care centers, retail units and warehouse are all good examples of commercial real estate as is vacant land.
Even residential properties like apartments (or any property that consists of more than four residential units) are considered commercial real estate. In fact, such commercial real estate is very much in demand.

So, is commercial real estate really profitable?
Absolutely, in fact if it were not profitable I would not be writing about commercial real estate at all!!
However, with commercial real estate recognizing the opportunity is a bit more difficult when compared to residential real estate.
But commercial real estate profits can be huge (in fact, much bigger than you might realize from a residential real estate transaction of the same size).

There are many reasons to delve into commercial real estate investment.
For example you might purchase to resell after a certain appreciation level has occurred or to generate a substantial income by leasing the property out to retailers or other business types or both.

In fact, commercial real estate development is treated as a preliminary
indicator of the impending growth of the residential real estate market.
Therefore, once you recognize the probability of significant commercial growth within a region (whatever the reason i.e. municipal tax concessions), you should begin to evaluate the potential for appreciation in commercial real estate prices and implement your investment strategy quickly.

Regarding commercial real estate investment strategies it is important that you identify and set investment goals (i.e. immediate income through rental vs later investment income through resale) and that you know what you can afford and how you will effect the purchase.

It would be wise to determine your goals then meet with your banker (or financier(s)) prior to viewing and selecting your commercial real estate.

Also remain open minded and understand that should the right (perfect)
opportunity present itself, your investment strategy might need to be revisited and altered, sometimes considerably.
For example: If you find that commercial real estate, (i.e. land) is available in big chunks which are too expensive for you to buy alone but represents tremendous opportunity, you could look at forming a small investor group (i.e. with friends or family) and buy it together (then split the profits later).

Or in another case (i.e. when a retail boom is expected in a region), though your commercial real estate investment strategy was devised around purchasing vacant land, you might find it more profitable to buy a property such as a strip mall or small plaza that you can lease to retailers or a property that you can convert into a warehouse for the purpose of renting to small businesses.

So in a nutshell, commercial real estate presents a veritable plethora of
investing opportunities, you just need to recognize them and go for it.

Pop Quiz Commercial Real Estate

I read once that if you took all the real estate lawyers in Illinois and laid them end to end along the equator – it would be a good idea to leave them there. That’s what I read. What do you suppose that means?

I have written before about the need to exercise due diligence when purchasing commercial real estate. The need to investigate, before Closing, every significant aspect of the property you are acquiring. The importance of evaluating each commercial real estate transaction with a mindset that once the Closing occurs, there is no going back. The Seller has your money and is gone. If post-Closing problems arise, Seller’s contract representations and warranties will, at best, mean expensive litigation. CAVEAT EMPTOR! “Let the buyer beware!”

Paying extra attention at the beginning of a commercial real estate transaction to “get it right” can save tens of thousands of dollars when the deal goes bad. It’s like the old FramĀ® oil filter slogan during the 1970’s: “You can pay me now – or pay me later”. In commercial real estate, however, “later” may be too late.

Buying commercial real estate is NOT like buying a home. It is not. It is not. It is NOT.

In Illinois, and many other states, virtually every residential real estate closing requires a lawyer for the buyer and a lawyer for the seller. This is probably smart. It is good consumer protection.

The “problem” this causes, however, is that every lawyer handling residential real estate transactions considers himself or herself a “real estate lawyer”, capable of handling any real estate transaction that may arise.

We learned in law school that there are only two kinds of property: real estate and personal property. Therefore – we intuit – if we are competent to handle a residential real estate closing, we must be competent to handle a commercial real estate closing. They are each “real estate”, right?

ANSWER: Yes, they are each real estate. No, they are not the same.

The legal issues and risks in a commercial real estate transaction are remarkably different from the legal issues and risks in a residential real estate transaction. Most are not even remotely similar. Attorneys concentrating their practice handling residential real estate closings do not face the same issues as attorneys concentrating their practice in commercial real estate.

It is a matter of experience. You either know the issues and risks inherent in commercial real estate transactions – and know how to deal with them – or you don’t.

A key point to remember is that the myriad consumer protection laws that protect residential home buyers have no application to – and provide no protection for – buyers of commercial real estate.

Competent commercial real estate practice requires focused and concentrated investigation of all issues material to the transaction by someone who knows what they are looking for. In short, it requires the exercise of “due diligence”.

I admit – the exercise of due diligence is not cheap, but the failure to exercise due diligence can create a financial disaster for the commercial real estate investor. Don’t be “penny wise and pound foolish”.

If you are buying a home, hire an attorney who regularly represents home buyers. If you are buying commercial real estate, hire an attorney who regularly represents commercial real estate buyers.

Years ago I stopped handling residential real estate transactions. As an active commercial real estate attorney, even I hire residential real estate counsel for my own home purchases. I do that because residential real estate practice is fundamentally different from commercial real estate.

Maybe I do “harp” on the need for competent counsel experienced in commercial real estate transactions. I genuinely believe it. I believe it is essential. I believe if you are going to invest in commercial real estate, you must apply your critical thinking skills and be smart.

POP QUIZ: Here’s is a simple test of YOUR critical thinking skills:

Please read the following Scenarios and answer the questions TRUE or FALSE:

Scenario No. 1: It’s Valentine’s Day. You are in hot pursuit of the love of your life. A few weeks ago, she confided in you that all she ever dreamed of for Valentine’s Day was that her lover would show up at her door, dressed in a white tuxedo with tails and a top hat, and present her with a beautiful bouquet of flowers. You’ve rented the tuxedo, but now you are concerned about how much money you are spending.

TRUE OR FALSE: Since flowers are pretty much all the same, it is OK for you to skip the roses and show up with a bouquet of fresh yellow dandelions.

Scenario No. 2: For several years you eyesight deteriorated to the point where you can barely see your alarm clock. You are now considering corrective eye surgery so you won’t need glasses. Your sister-in-law had corrective eye surgery and has had spectacular results. She recommends her eye surgeon, but mentions the cost is about $5,700 for both eyes and that the surgery is not covered by insurance. A few years ago, you had surgery to correct your hemorrhoids and it cost you only eight hundred bucks.

TRUE OR FALSE: Since surgeons all went to medical school and are all medical doctors, you are being frugal and wise by asking the surgeon who performed your hemorrhoid surgery to perform your corrective eye surgery.

Scenario No. 3: Several years ago, when you first got married, you asked a former classmate who is a lawyer to represent you in the purchase of your townhome. The cost was only $375. A year later, you started a family and decided you needed a Will. The same attorney prepared Wills for you and your wife for a total cost of $700. You started your own business and your attorney friend formed a corporation for you and charged you only $600 plus the cost of the corporate minute book. Years later, when your son was arrested for misdemeanor reckless driving, your attorney friend handled the criminal case and got your son off with supervision for only $1,500.

Your business has been successful and you have built a pretty sizable nest egg, but you are tired of working for every dime and want to try investing in real estate. You have your eye on a strip shopping center. It includes a grocery store, bank, hardware store, dry cleaners (on a month to month tenancy), a couple of fast food restaurants, a gift shop, dental office, bowling alley (with a lease about to expire), and wraps behind a gas station/mini-mart on the corner. The purchase price is $8,000,000, but the net operating income looks pretty good. You figure if you turn the bowling alley into a full service restaurant/banquet facility, and convert the dry cleaners into a 24-hour coin laundry, the net operating income will increase and the shopping center will turn into a spectacular investment. You plan to pull together much of your life savings and put down $2,000,000 to buy this strip shopping center, borrowing the balance of $6,000,000. You remember that your lawyer friend handled the purchase of your home several years ago, so you know he handles real estate.

TRUE OR FALSE: Commercial real estate is the same as residential real estate [Hey, its all dirt, isn’t it (?)], so you are being a shrewd businessman by hiring your lawyer friend who will charge much less than a lawyer who handles shopping center purchases several time a year. [What is this “due diligence” stuff anyway?]

ANSWERS:

If you answered “TRUE” for any of the foregoing Scenarios

STOP!

The Quiz is over.

Please find a quite place to reflect upon your life and consider whether the decisions you make consistently give you the results you desire.

If, on the other hand, you understand that the answer to each of the foregoing questions is FALSE, I am available to help you in Scenario No. 3.

For Scenario No. 2, you should follow your sister-in-law’s suggestion and contact her eye surgeon, or some other eye surgeon with equal skill.

For Scenario No. 1, you are on your own. [But, if you answered TRUE for Scenario No. 1, you may be FOREVER on you own.]

Investing in commercial real estate can be profitable and rewarding – but it requires good critical thinking skills and competent counsel.

You have a have a brain. It is strongly recommended that you use it.

  1. Kymn Harp is a seasoned attorney based in Chicago, Illinois with 30 years experience representing commercial real estate investors, lenders and developers. He is a frequent speaker at continuing education seminars, and is a widely published author on commercial and industrial real estate topics including due diligence, entitlements, commercial real estate financing, and Brownfield development and financing.

Real Estate Flipping

Real Estate Flipping – Is Flipping Real Estate the smartest way to get started in real estate investing?

“Flip This House”, “Flip That House”, “Property Ladder”,… and on and on…

Over the past couple years you and I have been hammered on TV with real estate flipping shows that depict these people making outrageous profits flipping homes and making it look easier than heck.

So, is this flipping stuff real? Well… it sure is. There are countless people out there making a darn good living flipping homes. But… the tv shows on flipping are darn deceiving when it comes to the “reality” of real estate flipping.

Is flipping real estate the best way to get starting in real estate investing? I’ll let you decide for yourself. However, in my opinion, for most people, especially in today’s down markets (not all markets are down… there are actually some doing really well), real estate flipping is not the best way to get started in real estate investing.

Here’s why:

First, let’s clarify two kinds of flipping.

  1. The Fix and Flip – Where you buy real estate, rehab it, and sell it to a retail buyer. The kind that is on the TV shows.
  2. The Wholesale Flip – Where you buy real estate (or get it under contract), find a wholesale buyer, and flip the contract. The kind that is less glorious… but has a ton of money in it… with a heck of a lot less risk.

To me, the Fix and Flip method is not for most newbie’s… even though that is the kind of real estate investing you see on TV all of the time.

Why?

  • You need a good understanding of rehab costs
  • You need to have good funding… either from a private lender or a bank (private lender is preferable)
  • You need to be able to float the carrying costs if you can’t sell the property quickly
  • If you don’t calculate your costs just right… there may not be a whole lot of room for error… and room for error means greater risk on you!
  • The market is in a downturn… so there are less retail buyers out there for middle income houses… which is what most people start out flipping

There are many people out there making a very good living flipping… but most of them started several years ago… and have many flips under their belts.

They already have systems down, have marketing channels for getting buyers, have solid lending sources, etc. Not to say that new real estate investors cannot do all of the above… YOU CAN!

But, there are better ways to get started in real estate investing that allow you to get in with little or no risk or money, and will allow you to learn the Fix and Flip business before you ever take a huge money commitment to do so.

What’s the single best way (in my opinion) to get started in real estate flipping to minimize your risk and shorten your learning curve… all the while making nice money in the process? Well… obviously option #2 from above: The Wholesale Flip – or in other words… wholesaling real estate, flipping houses for quick cash, flipping contracts, etc.

When you wholesale real estate you do everything a flipper would normally do… except actually repair the property and sell it to a retail buyer. But, you don’t have the risk or time commitment that a fix and flipper has.

Basically, you as a wholesale real estate flipper (or wholesaler for short), find properties that need work that you can purchase at a large discount and flip them for a fee to a rehabber who will do the work.

Your job is to find the properties, analyze the numbers to determine the repairs needed, create an offer that enables both you and the rehabber that you will sell to to make a profit, and sell the contract to a rehabber who will actually make the repairs.

Often times real estate investors will make between $2,000 and $20,000 on a wholesale deal. So, for a low to no risk way to get started in real estate… there are huge profits to be had.

Another reason for starting out doing wholesale real estate deals is that you learn the ropes of what it takes to be a rehabber. After analyzing several deals and talking to rehabbers to find out what they look for… you will have a good grasp on what a good deal is, how to accurately estimate repair costs, who the rehabbers use as contractors, etc.

So, you actually make money while you are getting a hands on education on real estate flipping and rehabbing.

Anyhow, I didn’t start out to write this article to scare you from the fix and flip mindset. There is good money in it…

My motivation to write this article is to help guide new real estate investors away from the glorified version of rehabbing that is plastered all over TV… and point you toward what I believe to be the best way to get started in real estate investing.

I have something to confess…I may be a bit of a hypocrite… but I didn’t start with wholesaling. I actually started with buying income properties. But, with today’s markets… wholesaling real estate is the way to go to get your feet wet and make some serious money in the process.

There is much more to real estate flipping and wholesaling real estate than the TV “reality shows” show. One of the best ways to learn the ropes is to learn from someone who does it everyday and makes a solid living doing it.

  1. Go to your local REI club and hook up with an experienced mentor
  2. Go out on your own and try to hack it yourself with no instruction (not advised)
  3. Invest in a quality, step by step multimedia course that walks you through A – Z on the exact blueprint that successful wholesalers and real estate flippers use.

If you want to go the route I took, the wholesaling course that I actually still use today is shown below.

The real estate wholesaling and real estate flipping course that I think is by far better than any other out there is below. They always way over deliver and they are the only “gurus” out there that I can truly say are trustworthy and good people. I’ve bought a ton of courses, and the Wholesaling for Quick Cash (link below) is the only one I’d recommend.

How a Foreign National Can Buy Real Estate

Opportunities for real estate investment for foreigners is wide and varied in the United States. It doesn’t matter where you’re from and what currency you’d be using to purchase a property, you have a property waiting for you.

There are generally three kinds of real estate investment available to foreigners. These investments include the commercial estate investment and residential property investment. Residential properties are further classified into single family properties, apartments or condominiums and recreational properties. Regardless of what kind of real estate you are interested in, there are all sorts of tax ramifications, financing options and legal requirements that you have to deal with.

Why Should You Invest in the U.S. Real Estate Market?

You’ve probably heard of the increasing number of foreign real estate investments in the United States. This is not surprising. With the troubles that the real estate investment market is facing in the United States, greater opportunities in real estate investment were opened to foreign investors.

With the dollar’s value in its all time low, foreign investors are finding real estate bargains all over the United States. There are no shortages of deals in this market. More and more distressed properties are being sold everywhere and foreigners are pouring in millions buying these foreclosed or distressed properties. The United States real estate has become a fairly attractive long-term investment for foreign investors.

In November of 2006, the National Association of Realtors released a report entitled “Foreign Investments in U.S Real Estate: Current Trends and Historical Perspective”. The report showed that there has been a steady increase in foreign real estate investment in the United States. This is especially after the euro and the loonie became stronger in the face of the continuous devaluation of the US dollar. Prime bargains were opened to foreigners. Many foreigners have now looked into the possibility of retiring or settling in the United States.

If you’re a foreigner, you would find a lot of reasons why you should invest in the United States real estate market. Aside from the fact that the floating exchange rate has given you a lot of leverage over the bargaining table, the financial market is a pretty good reason why you should invest in the US real estate.

The financial market in the United States in relation to the real estate market is quite liberal and the restrictions against foreign investors are pretty reasonable. This is ideal for foreign companies that are seeking to invest in the real estate market in the United States in order to avoid tariff restrictions and are considering setting up an office or a company in the United States.

Furthermore, despite the devaluation of the US dollar and the wide foreclosures of a lot of property, the real estate market remains to be stable, though slightly shaky, due to foreign investors’ capital appreciation. Domestic real estate buyers may not necessarily share the same opinion, but the market has remained to be strong for foreign real estate buyers. This may be largely credited to the fact that there is minimal risk for them.

Why are Foreign Real Estate Investments Safe and Profitable?

There are a lot of investments you can make, but the safest you can make right now is investing your money in real properties. This is another good reason aside from the fact that you can make a pretty nifty profit, if you like, particularly now with the widespread property foreclosures and seemingly continuous US dollar devaluation. This is especially true if you are going to use the euro or the loonie when making your investment.

But why is US real estate investment safe for foreigners?

It is undeniable that stock investments are not a safe avenue at this point. The recession has not only affected the US economy; the same recession has greatly affected worldwide stock investments. Stocks values are dropping. It is also a fact that even without the current economic situation, stock values fluctuates.

On the other hand, real estate investments are pretty stable if you would compare it to stock investments – or even bond or mutual fund investments. With real estate investment, you’d be putting your money in an investment that would grow in value as years go by.

What are the Benefits of Foreign Real Estate Investment?

US state government supports foreign investments and along this line has formulated various tax breaks to encourage foreign investment on real estate. Many of these tax breaks are not available in many countries. In fact, most countries would frown at foreigners owning real properties within their territory.

Foreign real estate investment in the United States is open to everyone. As long as you can afford to buy the property or at least comply with the mortgage requirements and payments, you can secure for yourself a pretty good property in the United States. Again, with the current economic situation of the United States, this is the perfect chance for you to make an investment.

Another great benefit that you can take advantage of is the availability of mortgage financing. Lenders have opened their doors to foreign investors who are looking into purchasing a property. So, you don’t have to actually deplete your bank account. You can actually secure a mortgage loan and gradually pay it off.

I’m Canadian, What Are My Financing Options?

There is a steady increasing rate of Canadian real estate investors in the United States; and accordingly, the government has made certain that they have attractive financing options available to them.

If you’re Canadian – or if you’re a foreigner – you’d find a lot of reasons why you should buy a piece of real property in the United States. For Canadians, the parity of the currencies or the apparent devaluation of the US dollar is a pretty good reason itself. But how do you finance your purchase?

There are various financing options available to you depending on which state you are in. In Arizona, for instance, you’d get favorable financing terms if you are purchasing a property for recreational purposes, that is, you do not derive any income or benefit from your purchase or ownership. You will be required, however, to sign up a disclosure agreement and give a 30% down payment for your loan. To qualify though for a loan, you may be required to show availability of liquid reserves for a period of three to six months. You may also be required to present a minimum of 3-month bank statement.

If you are purchasing a property for investment, you’d probably meet stricter terms. Requirements may be more stringent. For instance, you could be required to give a down payment of more than 30% and you may be required to show one year worth of liquidity reserves.

Regardless of your reasons, if you feel like you can fulfill the requirements of a financing loan, you can then proceed to actually applying for a mortgage loan. Also, keeping yourself updated with the financing terms flux may be a wise idea.

Understanding the Tax Ramifications of Real Estate Investment

The first foreigner to have ever bought a real estate property in the United States was Peter Minuit. This opened the doors to foreign real estate investors. After a couple of centuries later, foreign real estate investment has grown into huge proportions, accounting for billion-of-dollar worth of industry.

The low risk attached to US real estate market, the availability of countless properties, and the steady market liquidity attract foreign investors in droves. The initial snag, however, is the process of understanding the legal ramifications of foreign real estate investment.

What you have to understand is that foreign investment in the United States can take a lot of forms. A foreigner has various options. He can acquire direct interest. He can acquire an interest in the real estate through a partnership, a corporation, or a limited liability company. The latter is the typical structure used by foreign investors.

Limited partnership or Limited Liability Company offers financial protection or indirect asset protection, especially in cases of bankruptcy, law suits and taxes. Foreign investors are generally taxed on the property as if they hold the property in direct interest.

Ideally, you should secure the services of a real estate accountant to help you out with the tax ramifications, but it would help if you, at least, know the basics before you actually talk to an accountant.

There are tax consequences that you have to deal with when you buy a real estate in the United States. You would need an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number which you will use with all your tax transactions. Your investment in real estates can be treated as a portfolio investment and will be accounted for as an investment income which can either be fixed or a periodic income. This is typically taxed at 30% on gross revenues. This tax though does not apply though to all foreign investors. Tax rates would vary depending on the tax personality the foreign investor opted for. For instance, a corporation would be taxed differently.

Other things that you should take note of are availability and requirements of tax refunds and state tax laws on real estate properties as they may differ from federal laws, among other things.

By knowing all these things, you may save yourself from a lot of hassles when you finally approach a real estate accountant. You’d be in same wavelength when you finally get down to talking business. It is, however, very important that you secure the services of an accountant. You’d have an easier time dealing with the taxes ramifications. You’d also have assistance ensuring that you comply with all the accounting aspect of your investment. This is especially true if you are purchasing a real property for investment purposes.

Do You Need to Secure the Service of a Real Estate Lawyer?

If you are considering buying a property in the United States, you need to secure the services of a real estate attorney – someone who could help you with the legal issues concerning your purchase. It is tempting to forego securing the service of a lawyer to save money, but this could cost you a lot of money in the long run. Make sure that you have an experienced and trustworthy lawyer to help you out. Make sure that you have thoroughly checked out his credentials, profile, history of successful cases handled by him, and other factors that would influence your decision. You could check online and look for a lawyer working within the state where you are considering purchasing a property.

Functions of a Real Estate Lawyer

There is no actual distinctive function for a lawyer in a real estate case. However, you would really need the assistance of a lawyer for various tasks. A real estate lawyer would review the sales contract for you. He would also check on the title and other documents relating to the property. A lawyer would also review your mortgage contract and make the necessary adjustments or corrections. You could also get him to review with you the legal and tax issues concerning the purchase. A real estate attorney could also make the necessary adjustments relating to various expenses and costs involved in the purchase. He would assess your eligibility for tax refunds and draft the documents and statements relating to this.

Putting it simply, a real estate lawyer will be your watchdog. He would guide you through the whole process of purchasing a real estate in the United States in order to make sure that you will be legally protected. You will have a capable and trustworthy liaison to help you out with the contract. He will also face legal disputes if any arise.

Tips on How to Invest in Real Estate Successfully

Now, if you’ve fully bought into the idea of real estate investing in the United States, you might just want to know how to go about investing in real estate successfully. If you want to be successful in this venture, the first thing that you have to avoid is overanalyzing. Of course, it is a good idea to carefully think through your actions but it is a bad idea to overanalyze your investment to nonexistence. You might lose a great opportunity.

Before you purchase the property though, it might be wise to check the property value. If it sits well with you and you can reasonably afford the property, go ahead and make the purchase.

If you are considering the property for a quick flip, make sure that the property is in perfect condition and in good area. This is to ensure that you could double or actually triple your return of investment. If you can inspect the property yourself, do so. If not, a good and trustworthy agent can help you with this task.

Another important thing to remember when you’re buying real estate is good financing. You should take your time to carefully consider all your financing options. Foreign investors can email in their queries to various lending institutions. It is a good idea to make sure that you’ve had their terms and rates on paper because they tend to change these terms and charge you with a lot of junk. Your real estate agent can help you with reviewing the escrow charges.