Categories
Shortterm Rentals

How to Diversify Your Short-Term Rental Portfolio

Investing in short-term rentals (STRs) requires you to apply one of the main two schools of thought that exist when it comes to real estate investing in general:

  • Diversifying: Balancing risk and reward by spreading out investments across varied property types, locations, classes, and strategies.
  • Specializing: Focusing on investing in the same property type—repeating what you’ve found successful without spreading your resources too thin.

Both strategies are valid approaches to grow your portfolio. One focuses on horizontal expansion, while the other does it vertically. While investors tend to stick with one over the other, there is a way to have a hybrid—focusing on STR investments across different locations but keeping just to one specific asset class. Doing this can help you mitigate risks while focusing on one property type of your choice.

Before you set out to diversify your short-term rental portfolio, let’s look at the benefits of this approach.

Why You Need to Diversify Your STR Portfolio

There are two primary reasons why you need to diversify your STR portfolio: 

  1. To remain resilient in the market, especially with the unique rhythm of vacation rentals. Compared to long-term rentals that give consistent income year on year, the income generation of STRs is highly dependent on the season, the location, and their respective peak times.

A lake house will attract more guests in the summer, a log cabin near a ski resort will be profitable in the winter, and homes near Disneyland will be in high demand during school vacations.

  1. To meet the rising post-pandemic demand, where travelers are now seeking alternative accommodations to minimize human interaction and maximize flexibility.

In fact, the bookings’ reservation volume this year is now 400% higher than 2020 and 50% higher than 2019. With this increase in demand comes higher prices as well, where STRs are charging 20% more than they did last year.

As an STR investor, you want to protect your portfolio and capitalize on the growing demand—expanding your coverage to include rentals in other locations and of different class levels.

How to Diversify Your STR Portfolio

Now that we’ve discussed the benefits, let’s look at two ways you can diversify your portfolio. One way to diversify is opting to have STRs in multiple locations, which can bring more stability to your investments.

Diversifying By Geographical Location

While the STR demand in one city might be booming, another might be slowing down. By having investments in different locations, you can take advantage of a market’s natural ups and downs for a more stable and consistent revenue flow.

For example, take a look at how Big Bear Lake, South Lake Tahoe, Gulf Shores, and Sedona performed vastly differently over a two year period (thanks to seasonal demand, among other factors):

Source: AirDNA

If you have STRs in only one market, the success of your investments will completely be at the mercy of that market’s performance. Instead, consider spreading your investments across different geographical locations, so you’re not vulnerable to the same risks simultaneously.

In choosing where to spread your investments, AirDNA shares a list of different markets that covers the key factors of a successful STR investment:

  • Growing rental demand: Where the annual occupancy of rentals and listing growth rates are increasing. A good number means the STR and travel demand in the market is healthy.
  • Financial viability: Where you compare the home value to the average income of other STRs in the area (e.g., Airbnbs) to evaluate the rent-to-price ratio. The rule of thumb is to make sure that the monthly rent you can charge is at least 1% of the purchase price.
  • Increasing revenue growth: Where the income earned from STRs increases over time. You can calculate this by looking at the year-on-year change of revenue per available room (RevPAR) for the rentals that were booked in both time periods.

Here are some locations to consider, based on AirDNA’s top performers for these metrics:

Source: AirDNA

Diversifying By Asset Class

Generally, real estate asset classes are divided into four letter grades: A, B, C, and D. While these scores refer to property condition and neighborhood livability, it also describes the type of guests or tenants you’ll attract:

  • Class A properties: These are the most expensive and best-maintained homes in the market. They attract guests and tenants who can afford to live in luxury and enjoy the special features available in the property.
  • Class B properties: These are slightly smaller and more affordable than class A properties, but are still well-maintained. They attract those who want a pleasant place to stay without spending too much money.
  • Class C properties: These are reasonably maintained and decent homes. When times are tough, guests and tenants who used to stay in class A or B options might opt for class C instead.
  • Class D properties: These are older homes in areas that guests find less favorable to stay in. Aside from being in a more dangerous neighborhood, class D homes are likely far from shopping areas or grocery stores. Typically, they don’t make profitable STRs.

There are specific asset types to consider for Airbnbs as well. Properties are not divided into the same letter grades, but are categorized according to the type of guests they’ll attract:

  • Unique Stays: These are unusual but beautiful places to stay for a vacation. Whether it’s a yurt in the woods or a houseboat in a scenic lake, unique stays will attract guests looking to splurge on an adventure.
  • Entire Place: These are typically whole houses where guests have complete privacy to enjoy amenities and other activities exclusively.

Since these can be the likes of single-family homes, you can keep the letter grades in mind to diversify your “entire place” offers.

  • Private Room: These are single rooms in a bigger property. These listings attract guests who have no problem with shared spaces, such as kitchens and bathrooms. Travelers passing through the city or students on a budget tend to choose these.
  • Shared Room: These are similar to private rooms, except the guest can have another person sharing the room with them. These options often attract guests who are younger and more budget-conscious, like backpackers. 

The list is not exhaustive, but it shows how STRs are attractive to guests with varying budgets. Based on how guests generally respond to economic changes, it’s safe to assume that higher-class or luxurious properties would fare better in good economic times, while lower-class or budget ones will become necessary in tougher times.

The bottom line is you should consider the guests’ needs and preferences to diversify your STR portfolio and remain profitable in all parts of the market cycle.

Conclusion

The goal is to diversify your STR portfolio to appeal to a broader base, creating more stable revenue streams in your investment model. Doing so will help you weather market cycles and peak seasons, helping you meet the increasing demand for STRs in the post-pandemic world.

Any other tips on how to diversify a portfolio that’s focused on STR investments?

Image courtesy of Alexandr Podvalny

Categories
Landlords

Should Tenants Be Allowed to Make Home Improvements?

Nothing is worse than having a tenant who took “please feel at home” way too seriously.

While some tenants will only install their own wall decor or child safety latches on kitchen cabinets, some tenants make more permanent changes to the rental without your permission. This creates a whole lot of trouble—broken lease agreements, depleted security deposits, and costly restorations when they finally move out.

So, should tenants be allowed to make home improvements in any circumstances? Let’s look at some considerations.

Common Home Improvements to Expect from Tenants

Here are some examples of rental property alterations often done by tenants:

  • Painting the interior walls
  • Changing light fixtures
  • Changing appliances
  • Installing new locks on doors
  • Upgrading security systems
  • Changing the landscaping/garden

While these changes may be considered an actual improvement or upgrade to the property, you need to ask yourself the following questions before allowing them:

  • Will your tenants do a good job? They may not have the skill to carry out the project and may not adhere to safety or industry standards.
  • Who will pay for the improvements? They might expect a decrease in rent due to work done and materials used—even if the changes made are not up to par. 
  • Can you reverse the renovation? It’s possible that they deviate from the purpose of the original design (e.g., laminated floors are easier to clean than hardwood, simple landscaping is easier to maintain, etc.), which could require reversals in the future.
  • What does the lease state? Allowing them to break agreements might lead to them pushing their luck—further ignoring other clauses beyond just home improvements. 

You need to remember that your rental property is an investment—one that you should take ownership over, improve, and maintain according to your standards. Moreover, your tenants should see the importance of adhering to the contract and, ultimately, respecting you as their landlord.

What to Do If They’ve Done It Already

Should you discover that they’ve already made the improvements without authorization, here are three steps that landlords should do:

  1. Send a written notice of the home alteration, expressing your disappointment that they did not notify or seek permission before implementing the changes. Point out the specific lease clauses that they have violated.
  2. Warn the tenants that there should be no further changes done to the property without permission and that you’ll happily consider any changes they might still want to make.
  3. Outline the consequences of their action. This could range from just a fair warning to requesting that they reverse the renovation made—at their expense. If the alterations are extreme, you can deduct the cost from their security deposit upon Move-Out or proceed with eviction due to lease violation.

How to Prevent Tenants From Making Unauthorized Home Improvements

As they say, prevention is better than cure. So if unauthorized home improvements have been made by your tenants, make sure to review the lease agreements. Ensure that the following lease clauses are clearly stated:

  • Improvements that can only be done by the landlord or with landlord’s written permission
  • Improvements that can be done by either party
  • Consequences for alterations that devalues the property

Your goal is to create a space for tenants to freely improve their living conditions while being firm and clear with the boundaries. Even if you lucked out this time and the tenants did a great job improving the home, an unclear lease will open you to future problem alterations…and your luck may just run out.

Conclusion

Every rental property will need renovations and improvements from time to time. From repairing to re-flooring, landlords need to stay on top of their rental properties and make the necessary renovations when needed.

If your property can use a bit of work and you see that the tenants are capable of doing a good job, you should have no problems allowing them to improve the space. The bottom line is to make sure that they understand the boundaries and adhere to your lease agreements, and you should be good to go.

Do you allow your tenants to make home improvements? What are your non-negotiables? 

Image Courtesy of Polina Tankilevitch

Categories
Wholesaling

6 Things Beginner Wholesalers Wish They Knew

Remember Carlton Sheets—that real estate guy who was always on TV in the late 1980s?

He was a legend in the industry, and one of the key influencers who popularized real estate wholesaling. He had a course on wholesaling that customers took through a toll-free phone number, where his iconic line encouraged people, “You can get started in real estate with no money!”

Sheets isn’t as famous nowadays, but the excitement he created for wholesaling is still alive and well. He inspired many people then and now to get involved in real estate wholesaling even if they didn’t have any background in it.

While the process can differ from case to case, the typical wholesaling procedure goes like so:

People get into wholesaling because it sounds so simple, but they don’t realize how difficult it is. While all beginners will face common pitfalls and inevitable challenges, our goal is to equip you with the knowledge to tackle them, head-on.

Read on to learn the seven things beginner wholesalers should know before getting started!

1. Generating Wholesale Leads is Harder than You Think

Most people read about real estate wholesaling and think it’s easy, as there’s little capital involved in the investment. However, research shows that most real estate agents fail in their first year because they can’t find enough good deals or buyers.

The reality is that generating wholesaling leads is difficult. And, like new real estate agents, most new wholesalers don’t have a network and don’t spend enough time building one.

Beginner wholesalers will typically call all their friends and family, get a deal or two, and immediately exhaust their options. Relying on friends and relatives isn’t a scalable strategy, so many wholesalers get through their first year and quickly fizzle out.

That’s why the most important thing to know as a new wholesaler is how to generate deals and build a pipeline that provides a consistent flow of deals.

Here are six of the ways you can generate wholesaling deals:

  • Make offers on the Multiple Listing Service (MLS)
  • Make offers on the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)
  • Make offers at auctions, both offline and online
  • Make networking a priority
  • Make time to drive by neighborhoods and find distressed properties
  • Make your own website or Facebook page to get inbound deals

We’ve gone over the details of these methods in our article about finding wholesaling deals if you want to know more about the specifics of each one.

Once you get some momentum going, you can also hire an assistant to help you make offers, find listings, and close deals.

With your deal generation system set up, the next step is to learn how to analyze the deals properly, because…

2. Analyzing Deals Correctly Will Make or Break Your Success

Wholesalers need to position themselves as expert deal finders who make buyers’ lives easier. Your goal is to build a good reputation for yourself and establish your business towards growth and expansion.

To do so, you’d need to learn how to properly analyze wholesaling deals and become a master in creating value for buyers and investors.

Here’s how to accurately analyze your deals:

  1. Determine the After Repair Value (ARV): Run comparables (comps) in the area using websites such as Zillow or Redfin to see how a property will be worth AFTER it’s been fully renovated (AKA the “after repair value”). Comps are the properties within ¼ – ½ a mile of your property that are of similar size, type, beds/baths, and age, and have sold within the last 6 months.

Here’s the formula for determining your ARV:

  1. Evaluate the Estimated Repair Costs (ERC): As properties for wholesaling are often distressed, you need to understand the rehabilitation costs to know whether or not a particular property is really a good deal or not.

Here are some quick tips for estimating the repair costs accurately:

  1. Finalize the Ideal Purchase Price (The 65% Rule): After determining your ARV and ERC, you’ll now calculate the ideal purchase price for your investment property. You can use The 65% Rule to compute this, where the formula is as such:

The 65% Rule is the wholesaler’s adaptation of the flipper’s 70% Rule—a rule of thumb that tells the flipper to purchase properties at a maximum price of 70% of its ARV. As a wholesaler, you can have a 5% difference that enables you and the buyer to make a profit—especially when you’re selling to flippers. Investors are likely to steer clear from a price that is more than 65% of the ARV (minus the ERC).

Keep in mind that the opposite is true: if you don’t know how to analyze properties and offer great deals, you will struggle with building your reputation and growing your network of buyers and investors.

3. Having the Right Documents and Contracts is Key

Wholesaling is basically buying and selling contracts, so getting this part right is pretty important! However, a LOT of new wholesalers don’t even have the appropriate paperwork in place before getting started, and that can lead to them getting burned.

You need to have the right paperwork with a contract that is assignable:

Let’s take a look at the key factors a wholesale contract needs to have:

  • The Wholesale Real Estate Assignment Contract: This is the legal document that makes it possible to transfer the right to purchase a property from the wholesaler to an end buyer. Once you and the seller enter an equitable conversion (making the eventual buyer the owner of the property once they sign the contract), you need to draft an Assignment of Real Estate Purchase and Sale Agreement:
    • The Assignment of Real Estate Purchase should have a copy of the original purchase and sale agreement between you and the seller, informing the end buyer of all the terms, contingencies, conditions, and payment terms involved in the deal.
    • The Sale Agreement should say that the buyer will purchase the home from the seller and assume property ownership—effectively absolving you from all responsibility.
  • The Wholesale Real Estate Purchase Agreement: There are many components in this agreement. The Wholesalers Toolbox have shared their templates to get you started on your contracts and agreements. There are also other sources you can find on the internet, just make sure that include the parts highlighted in this sample:

Make sure you have all of this in place before finding your first deal so you don’t waste time or end up scrambling to pull the documents together when an opportunity comes along.

4. Keep Your Profit Margin Private by Following the Double Closing Technique

The double closing technique in wholesaling is a popular strategy, because it allows you to keep your wholesaler fee private. In other words, it lets you hide your profit margin. You won’t have to explain to potential buyers about the price differences between your contract and the seller’s, thus saving you the headache of being cut out of the transaction.

This method contrasts with contract assigning because you won’t have to purchase the property—you only facilitate the transferring of contracts. In a nutshell, the technique is closing two independent deals that happen almost simultaneously, sometimes within a few hours or weeks. One of them is with the property’s original seller, and another is with the end buyer.

As the wholesaler in both these transactions, you need to treat them as individual deals with their settlement statements:

  • Statements with the seller are referred to as HUD-1, and outlines the purchase price you have negotiated and settled on. HUD-1 includes any prepaid interest charges, homeowners’ insurance fees, title insurance, property taxes, and closing agent fees.
  • Statements with the buyer identify the final purchase price you have agreed to sell the property. This deal is contingent on the first closing with the original property owner.

For more information on this technique, you can visit here. But simply put, the process goes like so:

It’s not rocket science, but it does take a lot of leg work. There is also the stress of indecisive parties, people backing out suddenly, and aligning the schedules of everybody involved in the deal.

The double closing technique is a good alternative to contract assigning, especially when used as an exit strategy. Of course, you would need to put “more skin in the game” by taking legal possession of the property for all of five seconds, but if contract assigning doesn’t work, double closing can increase the chances of a deal transpiring.

5. How to Turn Any Lead Into a Deal

Now, how do you handle “imperfect deals” or deals that seem tough to profit from?

The good thing about real estate investing is that there are many ways in which you can still make a profit. As long as the seller is motivated, you can find a way to make money off the property.

For example, if the seller owes more than the house is worth (i.e., upside down in the mortgage), you could find a lender that will agree to wholesaling the property as a short sale. These deals are rare but entirely possible.

Here are two nontraditional ways to wholesale a short sale property:

  • Buy in a Land Trust: This agreement is where a Trustee agrees to hold the property title for the benefit of other parties, known as the Beneficiaries. The name you’ll put in the purchase contract is the Trustee (the primary buyer). The buyer will then submit copies of the trust documents to the bank, as lenders will require the buyer’s LLC documentation to be submitted along with the offer. Once you get to closing, the beneficial interest of the trust gets assigned to the end buyer for a wholesaling, assignment fee.
  • Create an LLC: You can also create an LLC with the end buyer (typically costing anywhere from $100 to $500), buy the property as an LLC, and sell it to the end buyer. The LLC’s name on the short sale approval letter will not change when the buyers change hands, and you’ll still charge a wholesaling fee.

Alternatively (and, if you ask me, the better way to earn money from real estate long-term), you can take ownership of the property and turn it into a cash flow generating rental. Thus, you’ll extend yourself into becoming a rental property investor—and still make money off the property.

6. Adapting to Shifting Markets is How to Scale & Sustain Your Wholesaling Business

Just like any other business, you need to stay updated with market shifts that affect your business. Real estate is a dynamic industry that requires you to spot market trends early, collect relevant insights, and adjust the way you conduct your wholesaling business constantly.

Take the recent pandemic, for example, that changed the industry for years to come. We noticed four trends for wholesalers to keep watch of to stay successful in 2021 onwards:

  1. Work-from-home Becoming Mainstream: Many office workers move out of dense cities and into residential areas with more freedom and space. Wholesalers, therefore, need to pay more attention to the rural areas where buyers are now increasingly interested in.
  2. People Upgrading Their Current Homes: With the pandemic forcing people to stay indoors, people are now willing to invest in comfortable homes with larger rooms, backyards, bigger patios, and more. Wholesalers need to pay attention to the evolving preferences of homeowners and their heightened attraction to certain home features.
  3. More People Purchasing Homes: Interest rates hit an all-time low in 2020, and the forecast for 2021 reflects similarly. With these low mortgage and interest rates for properties, people want to own homes more than before. While wholesalers will have a harder time finding properties, determined wholesalers that do secure homes will sell faster and at top dollar.
  4. Decrease in Housing Inventory: Given the ongoing transmission of COVID-19, people have put off selling their houses to minimize contact with strangers. Competition within the housing market then increases—decreasing the chances of wholesalers getting properties at a discount. Nevertheless, it also makes exiting deals much easier and at a higher profit—where supply is low, demand is high (due to low mortgage rates), and home prices are soaring.

The pandemic might be a one-time thing, but disruptions and changes will always happen in the industry. The only thing constant is change—which means wholesalers should stay updated!

Conclusion

Wholesaling real estate is deceptively easy… And it is if you know what you’re doing.

Start on the right footing, and you’ll set yourself up for real estate success in the wholesaling business. Continue to learn from successful investors who freely share their best tips, join networking groups to discuss with other wholesalers in your local area[3] , and get familiar with:

  • Generating wholesale leads
  • Analyzing properties properly
  • Securing the right documents and contracts
  • Learning how to double close wholesale deals
  • Turning any lead into an investment opportunity
  • Adapting to shifting markets

With these in your back pocket, you can be just as excited as Carlton Sheets about real estate investing. You’ll have the knowledge required to truly become a successful wholesaler and “start on your own path toward financial independence” today.

Image courtesy of Djordje Petrovic


Categories
Flipping

How an S Corp Election Can Help Flippers

While house-flipping is potentially very profitable, there’s an expensive catch.

You might have to pay a self-employment tax, which is a whopping 15.3% of your profit. That’s a significant amount of money that can go to your next vacation or property you want to flip!

Nevertheless, there is a way to set up your business in such a way that you’re not required to pay the tax. Let’s take a look at how an S Corp election can help you pocket more of your flipping profits.

Why House Flipping is Subject to Self-Employment Tax

While the usual real estate investments such as buy-and-hold are considered a passive activity, flipping homes conducted in a limited liability company (LLC) are active transactions—required to pay self-employment tax on top of the income tax.

Let’s define these two things that come with flip-and-fix projects.

Active Income. Active income applies to anybody who runs a business where one earns ordinary income from performing a service or selling a product. Business owners must pay the 15.3% self-employment tax up to a net profit of $128,400. (Beyond this threshold, you’ll only pay 2.9% as the Social Security portion of the self-employment tax is removed.)

Self-employment Tax. In essence, self-employment tax is similar to payroll taxes withheld from an employee’s wages. For self-employed individuals like house flippers, however, they must cover both the employer and employee portion of the tax. In addition, members of an LLC taxed as a partnership are considered self-employed individuals—which means their earnings will be subject to self-employment tax if they participate in the partnership’s trade.

The 15.3% self-employment tax of your gross salary does chip away at every dollar you earn. Moreover, 15.3% comes in before including the marginal tax rate from the federal and state perspectives. For example:

So, naturally, we want to find a way to save on taxes. One way is to run your flip-and-fix business out of an S Corp instead of an LLC or C Corp. Let’s talk about how you can do this.

How an S Corp Election Can Save on Taxes

First, set up an LLC or C Corp, then elect to have it taxed as an S Corp. Said structure is a tax entity or federal tax election—not a legal one. It’s not for asset protection but for reducing your exposure to tax.

By conducting your business this way, self-employment taxes only apply to a “reasonable salary,” and you’ll pay the remainder of your income as a dividend—not subjected to self-employment taxes. 

Here’s how it’ll go: Set up the S Corp, set up payroll, and begin paying yourself a W2 wage. The self-employment tax will only apply to the W2 wage, and the rest of the income will be considered a cash distribution or cash dividend. Of course, you can only do this with an S Corp route.

Take a look at how the situation now changes and how much you can save:

If you earn $100k with no S Corp (either as a Sole Proprietorship or an LLC), you’ll report your income as Schedule C. You’re going to pay $15,300 on self-employment taxes even before the marginal tax rate or state taxes come into play.

However, if you’re taxed as an S Corp, you can pay $50k to yourself as a W2 wage and have the other half as a cash dividend. With the $100k split up, half of it won’t be subject to the 15.3% tax—and you can pocket $7,650 just like that.

Just remember to never pay yourself the entire profit in W2 Wages. The whole point of setting up an S Corp is to help you reduce taxable income!

Conclusion

There are so many other factors that will come into play, so make sure that you talk to your accountant before considering this tax election for your flipping business. You may be able to amend your LLC to take advantage of this technique or establish a new LLC to start conducting your business as S Corp from the get-go.

Either way, it’s a good strategy to save on taxes legally!

Image courtesy of Jopwell

What do you think of this technique? Any additional tips on how to save on taxes?