“Bullish on Drones”

Los Angeles Magazine wrote a piece on drones which features Yours Truly. The funny thing is, you’d be surprised how many listing agents won’t shell out for drone footage. Of course, all of my listings get drone videos for free, if requested.  Here is the paragraph in the article about real estate:

Comparatively inexpensive aerial footage is also changing the way real estate agents market properties, whether palatial estates in Beverly Hills, starter homes in Echo Park, or condos in downtown L.A. “It’s not like every buyer needs a drone video, but you don’t want to alienate anybody because they feel you weren’t selling them hard enough,” says Coldwell Banker realtor David Brundige. He’s so bullish on drones that he formed a company last year, DroneMyListing.com, with a former airline pilot.

Of course he didn’t quote the part of my interview where I describe the value of videos in marketing a property. The truth is, certain properties are served better from drone footage than others, depending on what that drone footage reveals. I’ve even used a drone to scout the roof of a property for a buyer. That could reveal good things or bad things. When you market a property, it’s always about what you want to highlight. Drones provide a special angle, and one that can pay off if used correctly.

Here’s the article. Here’s a video for my listing that sold for $130,000 over what top agents at my brokerage considered an ambitious listing price:

 

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Sold! $110,000 above asking and that’s not the full story…

Closing my recent listing, the Glendale fourplex (1414 Dixon), at $1,305,000 this week answers the age-old question of “why sell.”

Not only did we negotiate $110,000 above asking, but the property also went into escrow like lightning speed. We had strong interest from several buyers, but ultimately the Seller favored the Buyer with the best financials and was most likely to close. The property went into contract 7 days after it went on the market, and closed in a 47-day escrow.

The hidden story behind this fourplex is that the Seller bought it with me in late 2014 for $860,000 and made $445,000 difference on the sale in less than 18 months time, minus closing costs and improvements on the property. Now we’re targeting two more properties that he can buy with these proceeds in a 1031 exchange (tax free), and hopefully do the same thing again next year.

There was no reason to sell 1414 Dixon, except that the landlord knew that he had maximized the property with the resources he had, and could do the same to a different, under-utilized one with new resources from the sale. If you have a property that you are curious about selling, please get in touch.

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1031 Exchange Strategy

I’ve had some very active buyers and sellers lately and it feels like everyone is in a 1031 exchange. This is a very important tax strategy in real estate, and it’s important that you know how to operate with precision when trying to execute a 1031. First I’ll explain what it is, and if you don’t need a refresher, go ahead and skip to the Strategy.

What is a 1031 Exchange?

Simply put, a 1031 Exchange is when you sell an income property, buy a new income property to replace it, and skip paying taxes on your sale.

What are the rules?

  1. They have to be income properties – essentially that means that neither property can be your primary residence. I’ve heard of some people doing some tricks like putting title in an LLC and paying themselves rent, but I’m not a lawyer and that is certainly not advice.
  2. You have to name 3 options for your replacement properties (or “uplegs”) within 45 days of your sale property (or “downleg”) closing escrow.
  3. You have to complete the purchase of your upleg(s) within 180 days of the sale of your downleg.
  4. Both the equity (cash down) in your upleg(s) and the total value (purchase price) has to be equal or greater than that of your downleg(s).
  5. All has to be accomplished within the same taxable year and to the same person(s) on title.
  6. You have to own the property for one year before selling.

These are the most common and basic rules. There are more if you strive to be more creative.

The Strategy

By skipping capital gains tax, you could save hundreds of thousands of dollars. But why sell in the first place if you’re just going to buy something else?

I’ve written about this before, but the fastest way to substantially grow your wealth through real estate is by buying and selling again and again. I’ve been a party to this and I think my clients in question would admit that I masterminded this growth for them. (And yes, when writing a blog your humility sometimes falls by the wayside.) Staying ahead of gentrifying neighborhoods, good deals and unnoticed potential is key to unlocking a property’s value that you can cash in one year later (1031 Rule #6).

Why sell that unlocked value rather than hoard it? Once you have unlocked a property’s value, you have maxed it out. And unless you have unlimited capital, you can’t simply buy more and more properties; you have to use that unlocked value to unlock even more value, and so on.

That’s the abstract. Here’s an example:

Property A, a fourplex, is selling for $780,000 in an up-and-coming neighborhood.

After closing the deal with 25% down, you fix up a vacant unit and rent it for $700/month more than the seller predicted. Another tenant moves out, and you do the same. Not only did you raise two rents in the property, but those rents are so high that you proved what the other units can get. You may or may not have the cash to renovate the other units, but who cares. You’ve implied the value in the property that no one saw before; you’ve unlocked it. Now your property is worth $1,050,000 (if  your agent knows how to present that unlocked value as current value).

You spent $50,000 to fix it up, and $220,000 on the down payment. After a year, the mortgage pay down is near negligible. But you doubled your equity to $540,000 on a $1.05M value. The bank not only won’t value your property like a buyer will, but it also won’t let you cash out enough to do it again. So you sell to a smart, more fluid, and less hands-on buyer and do it twice more with the newest gentrifying neighborhood / great deal / unnoticed potential.

If that sounded tricky, buying Properties B and C is where things can get sticky.

Because you only have 45 days to name your next properties, being sharp and aggressive during this process is absolutely essential. You make strong bids, drive by dozens of properties, and always see the forest rather than the trees.

When I have a client in a 1031 exchange, that client usually gets my ideas in their inbox first because (a) the 1031 time sensitivity and (b) they reward me with selling their property, as well as their responsiveness and aggressiveness in getting the next amazing deal.

Do you want to make one of these deals happen? I’ll tell you how you can unlock the value in your property to get top price, and guide you towards doing it again.

 

IMPORTANT DISCLAIMER: I am a licensed real estate agent, not a CPA nor a tax attorney, and nowhere on this website am I offering you tax advice.

 

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Growing Real Estate Equity

There are two goals for investing in real estate: 1) Growing your equity and therefore your wealth, and 2) creating a relatively steady and passive income stream to help with your bills.

Quick: what is equity? Equity is cash in the form of real estate. If you put 25% cash down on a $1M property then you have $250,000 in equity on the million-dollar property. Then, that amount changes with the value of your property and as you pay off your loan.

When you purchase income property, you may be fortunate enough to have the option to obtain financing or pay all cash. If your rental income covers your expenses, including mortgage, you love that the %$ you borrowed is turning into equity as your tenants pay off your loan over time. If you pay all cash, you enjoy a higher cash yield because you don’t have the extra expense of a mortgage.

Now, the big question: how do I grow my equity the fastest?

I can speak with some authority on this because not only have I doubled my own equity in one year by being an active real estate investor, but I have also helped my clients do the same – in one case growing my client’s equity more than 10X in under three years (this is rare).

Contrary to what some say, if you have a limited budget you have to sell to grow your equity quickly. Unless you are attracting investors or you have unlimited funds, you cannot hold onto all of your properties forever. In order to fully maximize the opportunity in a property, you have to be well capitalized. Not everyone is. And that’s why you sell.

If you bought aggressively, you probably took advantage of an uninformed seller and listing agent, or you bet on a neighborhood that is still up and coming, or both. This automatically puts you in a position to increase your equity by 1) selling with a good listing agent and/or 2) selling when the neighborhood popularizes. (Unfortunately, lenders don’t love to give you loads of cash when you refinance, so that’s not a viable option in the short term.)

Once you sell, a 1031 exchange allows you to trade up without paying taxes, as long as you follow certain protocol. Now it’s time for you to do the same thing you just did, only on a larger scale. Either your new equity will help you a) buy a more valuable building or b) buy two. Now you repeat your previous strategy, but this time in a new up-and-coming neighborhood or from a different uninformed seller.

Wash and repeat. Does it sound simple? Unfortunately it’s not. Because you really have to understand (1) rent control (2) neighborhood specifics (3) deal making and (4) 1031 exchanges, it means you have to be extremely aggressive during the sell/buy period and operate with finesse.

If you have $350,000 or more to invest and you want to actively build your equity/wealth, please get in touch.

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Earthquake Retrofitting for “Soft-Story” Apartment Buildings

dingbatOn Friday, the Los Angeles City Council unanimously passed mandatory new earthquake retrofitting requirements for over 15,000 buildings whose second floors are built over carports. This includes the “dingbat” in which I currently reside. The good news is: this will save dozens of lives in the next major earthquake. I’m sure you can also guess the bad news: landlords have to pay for it.

The city is discussing some ways to help landlords, like a small increase in rent, which may cover the capital outlay in twenty years. But the retrofitting needs to be completed within 7 years of being noticed, according to the law. The LA Times reports that the retrofitting for wood structures can cost between $60,000 to over $130,000. You can read the LA Times article here.

What does this mean for you? If you don’t have $100,000 cash to retrofit, you may be forced to sell your property if the city doesn’t come up with a better solution. If you do have the cash, that’s a big blow to your savings.dingbat

If you think you may need to sell your property, the best move would be not to wait. Sell your building to a buyer with the capital to make the necessary safety improvements now, or else a much worse disaster could be on our hands. Not to mention incredibly low interest rates mean the highest prices paid for income property in a long time.

 

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Selling Your Property

Selling Your Property

The common wisdom in real estate is never to sell.  However, there are several good reasons to sell your property in a bull market like today’s.  You just need to have a plan for your hundreds of thousands of dollars after the sale. Every situation is different, and you may have personal reasons why you need the money, but here are some good economic reasons to sell:

1) Neighborhood Hills and Valleys

Just like the economy, different neighborhoods in Los Angeles can peak in price. Neighborhoods become hot at different times, and if your property’s neighborhood is peaking in interest, it may be a good time to sell.  After all, you were smart enough to invest in this neighborhood before it was hot.  Why don’t you take advantage of the next up-and-coming neighborhood before it pops.  Selling your West Hollywood, Los Feliz or Silver Lake property at top dollar and buying low in Cypress Park or Boyle Heights will increase your equity faster, and more dramatically.

In other words, if the prices in West LA, Santa Monica, or Echo Park are ridiculous (they are), then you should sell to these ridiculous buyers, and then use that equity in a smarter investment.

2) Smart Equity

Neighborhood isn’t the only way in which you can improve the quality of your equity. Maybe you’ve built enough equity in your property that you’re cash-flowing okay, but there’s no cost-effective way to really improve your property.  You feel like it’s hit a dead end, maybe due to rent control, tenant issues, floorplan, neighbors, or you’re not even sure why.  There are buyers out there who will buy your property at a high price (developers, homeowners, foreigners), and you can move that equity into a property that fits your business model better.

3) Low Rents = No Cash Flow

Rent control is a problem for lots of property owners.  And while there are ways to improve your property under rent control, that takes lots of initial cash that you don’t have.  Selling your property with low rents to a buyer with more funds is a great option for getting yourself in a better position to cash flow.  Almost all of my clients buy properties where there is upside potential, and we select the right property for each client based on their ability to improve it.

4) Trading Up

The most aggressive real estate business people will continue to build equity rapidly by buying and flipping, buying and flipping.  To do this using a 1031 exchange, you have to wait 1 year between flips.  But I have had clients successfully sell one property and buy two, increasing the total value of their portfolio.

While selling your property is a big decision, it doesn’t hurt to test the market once in a while and list your property on the MLS to see where it stands.

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