Buying Investment Property - An Example of the Issues

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My aunt is going to move to a new condo and wants to sell her old one. I would like to buy her old condo as an investment and rent it out (as I am already a home-owner). This whole investment/rental buying is all new to me.

She has lived there about 5 years and the value has increased more than double. Obviously I would love to be able to keep her tax base. I am thinking about getting an interest only loan to help me get into this. Can I get a loan for 100% of value? My aunt will need the entire amount to purchase her new place. What suggestions do you have to make the loan process easier and pay the least amount in fees?

It is worth between 360,000 to 390,000 (we haven't yet got an appraisal, this is from comps in area). My wife and I currently have a house in (City) with a value of 650,000 and a mortgage of 400,000. We both work and have some extra income, maybe 400 a month that we could supplement against a renter. I think we could qualify for the loan, but then we would have to refinance our house to cover a down payment and closing costs. We don't have any savings to pull from. My wife hopes to retire in 2 years and I will in about 8 years.


Investment property is a different item from a personal residence, in several particulars. First off, even if it's residential, the loan is a riskier one to the lender. A loan on investment property is going to carry a surcharge of 1.5 to 2 discount points (one discount point is one percent of the final loan amount), over and above any other charges for the rate you choose. Furthermore, despite a lot of research, I don't know a single lender that will do a loan on investment property for more than 95 percent of the value, and most of them will only go 90 percent. The ones who will go 95 percent typically charge higher rates, and are to be avoided if you can. So you need a down payment of at least five percent and preferably ten.

The good news is that whereas you do not have savings to pay it, you do have a considerable amount of home equity. Depending upon your exact situation, either a "cash out" refinance or just taking out a HELOC (Home Equity Line Of Credit) might be in your best interest. It depends upon your current mortgage and your credit, and I cannot make a recommendation one way or another without looking at the market you're in for current comparables, running your credit, and seeing what can be done. If you've got good credit and income, and have had the good credit and income for some time, it's more likely to be in your best interest to simply take out the HELOC. I have some without prepayment penalties and that are zero cost. If your credit or income has improved of late, it may be in your best interest to refinance, or if you've got an ARM that's about to adjust anyway. Assuming you're "A" paper, you may now be a conforming loan where you would not have been when you took it out, although taking the cash out could cause you to exceed, once again, the conforming limit.

Cash flow is also an issue with investment properties. If you don't have a tenant, you get zero credit for the rent at initial purchase from A papeer. If you do have a potential tenant, with a signed lease for at least one year, the lender will give you a credit of seventy-five percent of the proposed rent towards your cost of owning the home (principal, interest, taxes and insurance). Some subprime lenders will credit you with ninety percent, but their rates are typically higher in compensation. With the vacancy rate in urban California being about four percent, even ninety percent is a bit low, but the standards are what they are. I know many people who are making money hand over fist on rentals where the bank thinks they are paupers.

Now there is no such thing as an easy documentation investment property. Indeed, for any loan, for all real property you have to show the full breakdown for each property you own. You can state your overall income in most cases (and indeed, most folks with investment property have to do stated income due to the cash flow computations being so restrictive.)

In urban California, however, prices have gotten so high that I do not recall the last time I saw a single family residence being purchased for rental purposes that "penciled out" with a positive cash flow. As I said in my article Cold Hard Numbers, this was one of the things that convinced me California real estate was overvalued.



Now, as long as you have the cash flow to last until rents catch up, this is fine. But you need to be very certain that you do have that cash flow. If you're buying for $360,000, this is a first loan at about 6.75 percent right now of $288,000, which gives a payment of $1868. Additionally, there's going to be Homeowner's Association dues of probably about $200, and taxes (assuming no Mello Roos) are about $375 per month, or about $200 if you can keep your aunt's tax basis. That sums to $2443 or $2268 if you can keep her tax basis. Now ask yourself how much similar units are renting for? If it's less than $2050 (or $1875 if you can keep the tax basis), your $400 per month isn't going to make up the difference. You might consider a negative amortization loan in this circumstance, but be advised that you're eating up your investment every month, the real interest rate is actually higher than the 6.75 percent, and prices may go down and not recover for several years, leaving you holding the bag for a big loss. It's a risk some folks are willing to take, others are not. I'm willing to do them for people in this situation, but only after I explain all the pitfalls (Option ARM and Pick a Pay - Negative Amortization Loansand Negative Amortization Loans - More Unfortunate Details cover most of them). Usually people who have been informed of the pitfalls decide that these loans are not for them, which is one of the reasons why I question whether the risks have been adequately explained to the forty percent of all local purchases being financed by these (or were when the article was originally written).

Indeed, given the fact that you're going to have to make payments on the Home Equity Line of Credit as well, it's difficult to see how your $400 per month of extra cash flow is going to stretch to cover. If your credit is decent, I can get you into the property, but that's not exactly doing you a favor if you find it impossible to make the payments.

Caveat Emptor

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1 Comments

ilikechimps Author Profile Page said:

I would be wary, particularly because property prices have a good chance of falling substantially in this uncertain climate.

Another approach you could take in order to make a successful investment is to rent the property to holidaymakers (providing there is demand in the area for short lets). One to two week rents are worth a lot more than renting on a 12 month contract. Typically, you can charge between 2 and 4 times the long term rental price. For example, if your income for a 1 year rental would be $20,000, then your income for a 1 week rental might be as much as $1,500. If people would pay this in your local area and if you can keep getting lots of short lets, then this becomes a good investment.

The key issues are how much you could charge and how much demand there is. Ideally, you should book the property for at least 80% of the year (42 weeks). The internet can help you rent the property out - there are lots of services to help holiday home owners. But do your research before you take the plunge because there is a lot at stake!

DM: Edited to remove commercial link, but the rest is worth reading.

Please be civil. Avoid profanity - I will delete the vast majority of it, usually by deleting the entire comment. To avoid comment spam, a comments account is required. They are freely available, and you can post comments immediately. Alternatively, you may use your Type Key registration, or sign up for one (They work at most Movable Type sites). All comments made are licensed to the site, but the fact that a comment has been allowed to remain should not be taken as an endorsement from me or the site. There is no point in attempting to foster discussion if only my own viewpoint is to be permitted. If you believe you see something damaging to you or some third party, I will most likely delete it upon request.
Logical failures (straw man, ad hominem, red herring, etcetera) will be pointed out - and I hope you'll point out any such errors I make as well. If there's something you don't understand, ask.
Nonetheless, the idea of comments should be constructive. Aim them at the issue, not the individual. Consider it a challenge to make your criticism constructive. Try to be respectful. Those who make a habit of trollish behavior will be banned.

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This page contains a single entry by Dan Melson published on December 25, 2007 7:00 AM.

Let Me Tell You About The Loan You Could Have Had was the previous entry in this blog.

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