How big should your down payment be?
When home prices rise, so do the down payments required to purchase those homes. This has long posed a roadblock for many would-be first-time homebuyers. But it doesn't have to be the case.
Our real estate agents share everything you need to know about making a down payment on a home.
A down payment is simply the part of the home's purchase price you pay upfront. It might be the biggest check you ever write in your life, and the amount you pay could impact your finances for years, if not decades.
Contrary to conventional wisdom, you don't have to put 20 percent down on a house. There's no law or rule for a universal minimum down payment. The amount you should put down is a personal decision that depends on what's best for your finances. Lenders require homebuyers to make a down payment for most mortgages. For instance, the amount is usually 3% of the home's price for conventional mortgages.
On that note, most lenders will require a down payment of 20 percent to avoid paying private mortgage insurance (PMI)—in case you're wondering where the 20 percent number comes from. Far from most types of insurance, this legally binding document protects the lender's vested interest in the home, not the homeowner.
When you make a down payment of less than 20 percent, your mortgage loan-to-value (LTV) ratio is over 80 percent. As such, you present a higher risk profile to the lender, which necessitates purchasing private mortgage insurance to offset this risk. PMI will increase your monthly mortgage costs until you have accumulated enough equity in the home that the lender no longer considers you high risk. So, there are advantages to making a larger down payment.
Another advantage is lower interest rates. A solid down payment may signify that you're less likely to default on your loan, which may prompt lenders to reduce your mortgage interest rate. Even saving a fraction of a percent on your interest rate could save you thousands of dollars over the life of your loan. Still, your overall interest will depend on factors other than your down payment, such as credit scores, home price, and loan term.
As mentioned, down payment requirements vary depending on the type of mortgage you qualify for. For instance, if you qualify for government loans, your down payment may be as low as zero.
There are several options for a mortgage with no or low down payment:
It's important to weigh your mortgage options before committing to a down payment amount. Even though a 20 percent down payment is ideal, you shouldn't fixate on it. The right amount depends on numerous factors, including how much you can comfortably afford. You don't want your down payment to be so large that it leaves you with too little savings.
It's always lovely when schedules line up perfectly. But, the reality is that when it comes to real estate transactions, there's likely to be a slight lag between the day you buy the home and the day you can move in. You may sell your home before you find a new home, may need to wait until the seller can move into their new home, or wait while the renovation company completes any necessary repairs or upgrades. Or, you may want to wait until you find the best deal on a house that fits within your budget. Our real estate agents know there are plenty of reasons you may need to rent a home, and we advise all clients to carefully think over the possibility of living in a short-term rental before moving into their new home.
We invite you to contact us to learn more about the best strategy for your specific situation. We're happy to answer your questions and help guide you in the right direction to move into your new home at a time and price that's most convenient for you.
Whether you're a first-time buyer or a seasoned homeowner, shopping for a new home can feel daunting. In fact, 56% of buyers said that "finding the right property" was the most difficult step in the home buying process.1
Buying a home is a significant commitment of both time and money. And a home purchase has the power to improve both your current quality of life and your future financial security, so the stakes are high.
Follow these five steps—and complete the corresponding worksheet offered below—to assess your priorities, streamline your search, and choose your next home with confidence.
STEP 1: Set Your Goals and Priorities
The first step to finding your ideal home is determining WHY you want to move. Do you need more space? Access to better schools? Less maintenance? Or are you tired of throwing money away on rent when you could be building equity? Pinpointing the reasons why you want to move can help you assess your priorities for your home search.
Don't forget to think about how your circumstances might change over the next few years. Do you expect to switch jobs? Have more children? Get a pet? A good rule of thumb is to choose a house that will meet your family's needs for at least the next five to seven years.2 Be sure to set your goals accordingly.
STEP 2: Determine Your Budget
Many financial professionals recommend following the "28/36 Rule" to determine how much you can afford to spend on a home. The rule states that you should spend no more than 28% of your gross monthly income on housing expenses (e.g., mortgage, taxes, insurance) and a maximum of 36% of your gross monthly income on your total debt obligations (i.e., housing expenses PLUS any other debt obligations, like car loans, student loans, credit card debt, etc.).3
Of course, the 28/36 rule only provides a rough guideline. Getting pre-qualified or pre-approved for a mortgage BEFORE you begin shopping for homes will give you a much more accurate idea of how much you can borrow. Add your pre-approved mortgage amount to your downpayment to find out your maximum purchasing potential.
STEP 3: Choose a Location
When it comes to real estate, WHERE you choose to buy is just as important as WHAT you choose to buy.
Do you prefer a rural, urban, or suburban setting? How long of a commute are you willing to make? Which neighborhoods feed into your favorite schools? These decisions will impact your day-to-day life while you live in the home.
Another important factor to consider is how the area is likely to appreciate over time. Choosing the right neighborhood can raise the profit potential of your home when it comes time to sell. Look for communities that are well maintained with high home-ownership rates, low crime rates, and access to good schools, desired retail establishments, and top employers.4
STEP 4: Decide Which Features You Need (and Want) in a Home
Start with the basics, like your ideal number of bedrooms, bathrooms, and square footage. Do you prefer a one-story or two-story layout? Do you want a swimming pool?
Keep in mind, you may not find a home with all of your "wants," or even all of your "needs" … at least not at a price you can afford. The reality is, most of us have to make a few compromises when it comes to buying a home.
Some buyers will opt for a longer commute to get a larger, newer home in the suburbs. Others will sacrifice hardwood floors or an updated kitchen so that their kids can attend their desired school.
If you're faced with a tough choice about how or what to compromise in your home search, return to STEP 1. What were your original goals and motivations for moving? Reminding yourself of your true priorities can often provide the clarity that you need.
STEP 5: Meet with a Real Estate Agent
A good real estate agent can remove much of the stress and uncertainty from the home search process. From setting goals to securing a loan to selecting the best neighborhood to meet your needs, we will be there to assist you every step of the way.
And no one has more access to home listings, past sales data, or market statistics than a professional agent. We can set up a customized search that alerts you as soon as a new listing you might like goes live. Better yet, we get notified about many of the hottest homes even BEFORE they hit the market.
You might guess that the VIP service we provide is very expensive. Well, the good news is, we can represent you throughout the entire home buying process at NO COST to you. It's true; the home seller pays a buyer agent's fee at closing. So you can benefit from our time, experience, and expertise without paying a dime. It's no wonder 87% of buyers choose to purchase their home with the help of an agent.1
And although we've listed it here as STEP 5, the reality is, it's never too early (or too late) to contact an agent about buying a home. Whether you plan to buy today, next month, or next year, there are steps you can (and should) be taking to prepare for your purchase.
Call us today to schedule a free consultation!
The above references an opinion and is for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be financial advice. Consult a financial professional for advice regarding your individual needs.
If you're thinking about buying a home, you've probably received your share of advice from family and friends. Add to that the constant stream of TV shows, news segments, and social media posts that over-simplify the home buying process for easy entertainment.
With so much information to sift through, it can be tough to distinguish fact from fiction. That's why we're revealing the truth behind some of the most common home buyer myths and misconceptions.
Buying a home is a big decision, but it doesn't have to be a scary one. If you arm yourself with knowledge and a qualified team of support professionals, you'll be well equipped to make the right choices for your family and financial future.
DON'T FALL FOR THESE COMMON HOME BUYER MYTHS
Myth #1: You need a 20% down payment.
Plenty of buyers are purchasing homes with down payments that are much less than 20% of the total cost of the property. Today, you can buy a home with as little as 3-5% down.
There are multiple programs out there that allow you to have a lower down payment, and a lender or mortgage broker can talk you through which option is the best for you. Since you're putting less money down, you're a riskier borrower to your lender than people who put down a full 20%. Because of this, you will most likely need to pay mortgage insurance as part of your monthly payment.
Myth #2: Real estate agents are expensive.
Your agent is with you every step of the way throughout your home buying journey, and he or she spends countless hours working on your behalf. It sounds like having an agent is expensive, right? Well, not for you. Buyers usually don't pay a real estate agent's commission. Your agent's fee is paid for at closing by the seller of the home you're buying.1 The seller knows to factor this cost into the property's total purchase price.
Myth #3: Don't call a real estate agent until you're ready to buy.
The earlier you bring in an agent to help with the purchasing process, the better. Even if you're in the very early stages of casually browsing Zillow, a real estate professional can be a huge help.
They can create a search for you in the Multiple Listing Service (MLS), so you get notifications for every house that meets your criteria as soon as it hits the market. The MLS is typically more up-to-date than popular home search sites like Zillow and Trulia. Setting up a search a few months before you're considering buying gives you a good idea of what's out there in your town that's in your budget. Reviewing the MLS and speaking with an agent as soon as possible can help you set realistic expectations for when you actually start the house hunting process.
Myth #4: Fixer-uppers are more budget friendly.
We've all watched the shows on HGTV that encourage people to go after fixer-uppers because they're more affordable and allow buyers to eventually renovate the home to include everything on their wishlist. But, this isn't always the case.
Sometimes, homes that need a lot of work also require a lot of money. Big renovations, like add-ons, a total kitchen remodel, or installing a pool, take a lot longer than it looks on TV. If you're really interested in a fixer-upper, ask your agent to show you a mix of newer homes and older homes. If you fall in love with an older home that needs a lot of work, get some quotes from contractors before you buy so you know the real cost of the renovations and see if you can work them into your budget.
Myth #5: Your only upfront cost is your down payment.
Your down payment is big, but it isn't the only money you'll spend during the home buying process. At closing, you'll pay your down payment, but you'll also bring closing costs to the table. Closing costs are typically anywhere from 2-4% of the total purchase price of the home.2 This amount includes the cost for items like homeowners insurance, title fees, and more.
You'll also need to pay for an inspection before closing, which usually costs a few hundred dollars. This price will be higher or lower based on the size of your new property. Your lender will also require an appraisal. An appraiser will come in and inspect the home to determine how much it's worth. Depending on your lender, you may have to pay this when the appraisal is conducted or it might be rolled into your closing costs.
Myth #6: You need a high credit score to buy a house.
You don't need perfect credit to buy the perfect home. There are loans out there that buyers with lower credit scores can qualify for. These are good options for people who have had credit issues in the past, but some of them come with additional fees you will need to pay. Speak to a few local lenders or mortgage brokers to talk through which options might be best for you.
Myth #7: You can't qualify for a mortgage if you're still paying off student loans.
While some buyers may feel more comfortable paying off their existing debts before taking the leap into homeownership, it's not a requirement. When you're applying for a mortgage, the lender takes a close look at your debt-to-income ratio.3 If you want to calculate this on your own, add up all of your monthly debt payments and divide those by your monthly income. When you're lender does this, they're trying to make sure that you will be able to afford your monthly mortgage payments along with your other existing payments. If your income is high enough to allow you to make all of these payments each month, having a student loan will most likely not stop you from getting a mortgage.
Myth #8: You should base your budget on what your lender approves.
How much house you qualify for and how much you can afford are two totally different numbers. When you prequalify for a mortgage, your lender will look at your income, debt, assets, credit score, and financial history to determine how much money you might qualify for.4 For some people, this number might be much higher than you thought because lenders tend to approve for the highest amount they think you can afford. But that doesn't mean that's how much you should borrow.
Instead, figure out how much house you can actually afford. An online mortgage calculator can be a good first step in determining this number. We recommend thinking about what you want your monthly payment to be as a starting point. And remember to include your principal, interest, taxes, and, insurance. You should also think about ownership expenses that aren't part of your monthly payment, like HOA dues and maintenance.
Myth #9: It's all about location.
You've heard the phrase. Location, location, location is basically the real estate industry's motto, but we'll let you in on a little known secret: It's not always true. Yes, location is great to consider when it comes to school districts and commute times, but you also need to think about how the home will function for you and/or your family's lifestyle. If a family of five is choosing between a one bedroom condo in the bustling city center and a 4-bedroom home out in the suburbs, the latter is probably the best, most functional choice for them. Also, by buying in a less sought after neighborhood, your property taxes will most likely be much lower!
Obviously, you might still want to choose an area with great resale potential, and this is something that your agent can speak to you about. They're an expert in your city and are constantly monitoring buying and selling trends.
Myth #10: If you look hard enough, you'll find a home that checks every box on your wishlist.
You've seen that famous house hunting show. And while we have our suspicions about how real it is, the one thing they get right is that almost every buyer needs to compromise on something. Yes, the perfect house that meets every item on your wishlist is probably out there, but it's also probably double or triple your budget.
A long wishlist can be a great starting point for figuring out what you want and don't want, but we recommend narrowing that wishlist down to the top five things that are important to you in order of priority. We also recommend noting on your wishlist what your absolute deal breakers are, like "must have a yard for our dog," and noting what you can live without, like "heated bathroom floors."
This is a great list to discuss when you first start talking to an agent. A good real estate agent will be able to look at your list and find properties that might work for you. By coming to that first meeting with realistic expectations and knowledge about home buying rather than a bunch of myths heard here and there, you'll be able to start the process off on the right foot and be in your new house in no time.
WE'RE HERE TO HELP
Whether you're a first-time buyer or a seasoned homeowner, there's no reason to go through the home buying process without an advocate on your side. We're here to answer your questions and do the hard work for you, so you can spend your time dreaming about your new home. Call us today to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation.
Don't wait until you're ready to move to start preparing financially to buy a home.
If you're like the vast majority of home buyers, you will choose to finance your purchase with a mortgage loan. By preparing in advance, you can avoid the common delays and roadblocks many buyers face when applying for a mortgage.
The requirements to secure a mortgage may seem overwhelming, especially if you're a first-time buyer. But we've outlined three simple steps to get you started on your path to homeownership.
Even if you're a current homeowner, it's a good idea to prepare in advance so you don't encounter any surprises along the way. Lending requirements have become more rigorous in recent years, and changes to your credit history, debt levels, job type and other factors could impact your chances of approval.
It's never too early to start preparing to buy a home. Follow these three steps to begin laying the foundation for your future home purchase today!
STEP 1: CHECK YOUR CREDIT SCORE
Your credit score is one of the first things a lender will check to see if you qualify for a loan. It's a good idea to review your credit report and score yourself before you're ready to apply for a mortgage. If you have a low score, you will need time to raise it. And sometimes fraudulent activity or erroneous information will appear on your report, which can take months to correct.
The credit score most lenders use is your FICO score, a weighted score developed by the Fair Isaac Corporation that takes into account your payment history (35%), amounts owed (30%), length of credit history (15%), new credit (10%), and credit mix (10%).1
Base FICO scores range from 300 to 850. A higher FICO score will help you qualify for a lower mortgage interest rate, which will save you money.2
By federal law, you are entitled to one free copy of your credit report every 12 months from each of the three major credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian and Transunion). Request your free credit report at https://www.annualcreditreport.com.
Minimum Score Requirements
To qualify for the lowest interest rates available, you will usually need a FICO score of 760 or higher. Most lenders require a score of at least 620 to qualify for a conventional mortgage.3
If your FICO score is less than 620, you may be able to qualify for a non-conventional mortgage. However, you should expect to pay higher interest rates and fees. For example, you may be able to secure an FHA loan (one issued by a private lender but insured by the Federal Housing Administration) with a credit score as low as 580 if you can make a 3.5 percent down payment. And FHA loans are available to applicants with credit scores as low as 500 with a 10 percent down payment.4
Increase Your Credit Score
There's no quick fix for a low credit score, but the following steps will help you increase it over time.5
At 35 percent, your payment history accounts for the largest portion of your credit score. Therefore, it's crucial to get caught up on any late payments and make all of your future payments on time.
New accounts will lower your average account age, which could negatively impact your length of credit history. Also, each time you apply for credit, it can result in a small decrease in your credit score.
The exception to this rule? If you don't have any credit cards—or any credit accounts at all—you should open an account to establish a credit history. Just be sure to use it responsibly and pay it off in full each month.
If you need to shop for a new credit account, for example, a car loan, be sure to complete your loan applications within a short period of time. FICO attempts to distinguish between a search for a single loan and applications to open several new lines of credit by the window of time during which inquiries occur.
When you pay off your credit cards and other revolving credit, you lower your amounts owed, or credit utilization ratio (ratio of account balances to credit limits). Some experts recommend starting with your highest-interest debt and paying it off first. Others suggest paying off your lowest balance first and then rolling that payment into your next-lowest balance to create momentum.
Whichever method you choose, the first step is to make a list of all of your credit card balances and then start tackling them one by one. Make the minimum payments on all of your cards except one. Pay as much as possible on that card until it's paid in full, then cross it off your list and move on to the next card.
Credit Card 1
Credit Card 2
Credit Card 3
Closing an old account will not remove it from your credit report. In fact, it can hurt your score, as it can raise your credit utilization ratio—since you'll have less available credit—and decrease your average length of credit history.
Similarly, paying off a collection account will not remove it from your report. It remains on your credit report for seven years, however, the negative impact on your score will decrease over time.
Mistakes or fraudulent activity can negatively impact your credit score. That's why it's a good idea to check your credit report at least once per year. The Federal Trade Commission has instructions on their website for disputing errors on your report.
While it may seem like a lot of effort to raise your credit score, your hard work will pay off in the long run. Not only will it help you qualify for a mortgage, a high credit score can help you secure a lower interest rate on car loans and credit cards, as well. You may even qualify for lower rates on insurance premiums.6
STEP 2: SAVE UP FOR A DOWN PAYMENT AND CLOSING COSTS
The next step in preparing for your home purchase is to save up for a down payment and closing costs.
When you purchase a home, you typically pay for a portion of it in cash (down payment) and take out a loan to cover the remaining balance (mortgage).
Many first-time buyers wonder: How much do I need to save for a down payment? The answer is … it depends.
Generally speaking, the higher your down payment, the more money you will save on interest and fees. For example, you will qualify for a lower interest rate and avoid paying for mortgage insurance if your down payment is at least 20 percent of the property's purchase price. But what if you can't afford to put down 20 percent?
On a conventional loan, you will be required to purchase private mortgage insurance (PMI) if your down payment is less than 20 percent. PMI is insurance that compensates your lender if you default on your loan.7
PMI will cost you between 0.3 to 1.5 percent of the overall mortgage amount each year.8 So, on a $100,000 loan, you can expect to pay between $300 and $1500 per year for PMI until your mortgage balance falls below 80 percent of the appraised value.9 For a conventional mortgage with PMI, most lenders will accept a minimum down payment of five percent of the purchase price.7
If a five-percent down payment is still too high, an FHA-insured loan may be an option for you. Because they are guaranteed by the Federal Housing Administration, FHA loans only require a 3.5 percent down payment if your credit score is 580 or higher.7
The downside of getting an FHA loan? You'll be required to pay an upfront mortgage insurance premium (MIP) of 1.75 percent of the total loan amount, as well as an annual MIP of between 0.80 and 1.05 percent of your loan balance on a 30-year note. There are also certain limitations on the types of loans and properties that qualify.10
There are a variety of other government-sponsored programs created to assist home buyers, as well. For example, veterans and current members of the Armed Forces may qualify for a VA-backed loan requiring a $0 down payment.7 Consult a mortgage lender about what options are available to you.
Qualify for the best rates and no mortgage insurance required
Must purchase private mortgage insurance costing 0.3 - 1.5% of mortgage annually
Upfront mortgage insurance premium of 1.75% of loan amount and annual fee of 0.8 - 1.05%
If you're a current homeowner, you may have equity in your home that you can use toward your down payment on a new home. We can help you estimate your expected return after you sell your current home and pay back your existing mortgage. Contact us for a free evaluation!
Closing costs should also be factored into your savings plan. These may include loan origination fees, discount points, appraisal fees, title searches, title insurance, surveys and other fees associated with the purchase of your home. Closing costs vary but typically range between two to five percent of the purchase price.11
If you don't have the funds to pay these outright at closing, you can often add them to your mortgage balance and pay them over time. However, this means you'll have a higher monthly payment and pay more over the long term because you'll pay interest on the fees.
STEP 3: ESTIMATE YOUR HOME PURCHASING POWER
Once you have the required credit score, savings for a down payment and a list of all your outstanding debt obligations via your credit report, you can assess whether you are ready and able to purchase a home.
It's important to have a sense of how much you can reasonably afford—and how much you'll be able to borrow—to see if homeownership is within reach.
Your debt-to-income (DTI) ratio is one of the main factors mortgage companies use to determine how much they are willing to lend you, and it can help you gauge whether or not your home purchasing goals are realistic given your current financial situation.
Your DTI ratio is essentially a comparison of your housing expenses and other debt versus your income. There are two different DTI ratios that lenders consider:
Also called the housing ratio, this is the percentage of your income that would go toward housing expenses each month, including your mortgage payment, private mortgage insurance, property taxes, homeowner's insurance and association dues.12
To calculate your front-end DTI ratio, a lender will add up your expected housing expenses and divide it by your gross monthly income (income before taxes). The maximum front-end DTI ratio for most mortgages is 28 percent. For an FHA-backed loan, this ratio must not exceed 31 percent.13
The back-end ratio takes into account all of your monthly debt obligations: your expected housing expenses PLUS credit card bills, car payments, child support or alimony, student loans and any other debt that shows up on your credit report.12
To calculate your back-end ratio, a lender will tabulate your expected housing expenses and other monthly debt payments and divide it by your gross monthly income (income before taxes). The maximum back-end DTI ratio for most mortgages is 36 percent. For an FHA-backed loan, this ratio must not exceed 41 percent.13
Home Affordability Calculator
To get a sense of how much home you can afford, visit the National Association of Realtors' free Home Affordability Calculator at https://www.realtor.com/mortgage/tools/affordability-calculator.
This handy tool will help you determine your home purchasing power depending on your location, annual income, monthly debt and down payment. It also offers a monthly mortgage breakdown that projects what you would pay each month in principal and interest, property taxes, and home insurance.
The Home Affordability Calculator defaults to a back-end DTI ratio of 36 percent. If the monthly cost estimate at that ratio is significantly higher than what you're currently paying for housing, you need to consider whether or not you can make up the difference each month in your budget.
If not, you may want to lower your target purchase price to a more conservative DTI ratio. The tool enables you to scroll through higher and lower price points to see the impact on your monthly payments so you can identify your ideal price point.
(Note: This tool only provides an estimate of your purchasing power. You will need to secure pre-approval from a mortgage lender to know your true mortgage approval amount and monthly payment projections.)
Can I Afford to Buy My Dream Home?
Once you have a sense of your purchasing power, it's time to find out which neighborhoods and types of homes you can afford. The best way to determine this is to contact a licensed real estate agent. We help homeowners like you every day and can send you a comprehensive list of homes within your budget that meet your specific needs.
If there are homes within your price range and target neighborhoods that meet your criteria—congratulations! It's time to begin your home search.
If not, you may need to continue saving up for a larger down payment … or adjust your search parameters to find homes that do fit within your budget. We can help you determine the right course for you.
START LAYING YOUR FOUNDATION TODAY
It's never too early to start preparing financially for a home purchase. These three steps will set you on the path toward homeownership … and a secure financial future!
And if you are ready to buy now but don't have a perfect credit score or a big down payment, don't get discouraged. There are resources and options available that might make it possible for you to buy a home sooner than you think. We can help.
Want to find out if you're ready to buy a house? Give us a call! We'll help you review your options, connect you with one of our trusted mortgage lenders, and help you determine the ideal time to begin your new home search.
The above references an opinion and is for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be financial advice. Consult a financial professional for advice regarding your individual needs.
Turn on the television or scroll through Facebook, and chances are you'll see at least one advertisement for a group or "guru" who promises to teach you how to "get rich quick" through real estate investing. The truth is, much of what they're selling are high-risk tactics that aren't a good fit for the average investor. However, there is a way to make steady, predictable, low-risk income through real estate investing. In this blog post, we'll examine the tried-and-true tactics that can be used to increase your income, pay off debt … even fund your retirement!
WHY INVEST IN REAL ESTATE?
One of the basic principles of real estate investment lies in this fact: everyone needs a place to live. And according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics' most recent Consumer Expenditures Survey, housing is typically an American's largest expense.1
But there are other reasons why real estate is a great investment choice, and we've outlined the top five below:
Appreciation is the increase in your property's value over time. History has proven that over an extended period of time, the value of real estate continues to rise. That doesn't mean recessions won't occur. The real estate market is cyclical, and market ups and downs are natural. In fact, the U.S. housing market took a sharp downturn in 2008, and many properties took several years to recover their value. However, in the vast majority of markets, the value of real estate does grow over the long term.
The S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller National Home Price Index, which tracks U.S. residential real estate prices, released its latest results on August 29 with the headline "National Home Price Index Rises Again to All Time High."2
While no investment is without risk, real estate has proven again and again to be a solid choice to invest your money over the long term.
Inflation is the rate at which the general cost of goods and services rises. As inflation rises, prices go up. This means the money you have in your bank account is essentially worth less because your purchasing power has decreased.
Luckily, real estate prices also rise when inflation increases. That means any money you have invested in real estate will rise with (or often exceed) the rate of inflation. Therefore, real estate is a smart place to put your money to guard against inflation.
One of the big benefits of investing in real estate over the stock market is its ability to provide a fairly steady and predictable monthly cash flow. That is, if you choose to rent out your investment property to a tenant, you can expect to receive a rent payment each month.
If you've invested wisely, the rent payment should cover the debt obligation you may have on the property (i.e. mortgage), as well as any repairs and maintenance that are needed. Ideally, the monthly rental income would be great enough to leave you a little extra cash each month, as well. You could use that extra money to pay off the mortgage faster, cover your own household expenses, or save for another investment property.
Even if you only take in enough rent to cover your expenses, a rental property purchase will pay for itself over time. As you pay down the mortgage every month with your rental income, your equity will continue to increase, until you own the property free and clear … leaving you with residual cash flow for years to come.
As the owner, you will also benefit from the property's appreciation when it comes time to sell. This can be a great way to save for retirement or even fund a child's college education. Purchase a property when the child is young, and with a little discipline, it can be paid off by the time they are ready to go to college. You can sell it for a lump sum, or use the monthly income to pay their tuition and expenses.
One of the unique features that sets real estate apart from other asset classes is the ability to leverage your investment. Leverage is the use of borrowed capital to increase the potential return of an investment.
For example, if you purchase an investment property for $100,000, you might put 10% down ($10,000) and borrow the remaining $90,000 in the form of a mortgage.
Even though you've only invested $10,000 at this point, you have the ability to earn a profit on the entire $100,000 investment. So, if the property appreciates to $120,000 – a 20% increase over the purchase price – you still only have to pay the bank back the original $90,000 (plus interest) … and you get to keep the $20,000 profit.
That means you made $20,000 off of a $10,000 investment, essentially doubling your money, even though the market only went up by 20%! That's the power of leverage.
One of the top reasons to invest in real estate is the tax benefit. There are numerous ways a real estate investment can save you money each year on taxes:
When you record your income from a rental property on your annual tax return, you get to deduct any expenses associated with the investment. This includes interest paid on the mortgage, maintenance, repairs and improvements, but it also includes something called depreciation.
Depreciation is the theoretical loss your property suffers each year due to aging. While it's true that as a home ages it will structurally need repairs and systems will eventually need to be replaced, we've also learned in this post that the value of real estate appreciates over time. So getting to claim a "loss" on your investment that is actually gaining in value makes real estate an appealing investment choice.
Serial Home Selling
Even if you're not interested in owning a rental property, other types of real estate investments offer tax advantages, as well. Generally, when you own an investment property you pay a capital gains tax on any profits you make when you sell the property.
However, when you sell your principal residence, you are exempt from paying taxes on capital gains (up to $250,000 for singles and $500,000 for couples). The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) only requires that you live in the house for two of the previous five years. That means you can purchase an investment property, live in it while you remodel it, and then sell it for a tax-free profit two years later. This can be a great way to get started in real estate investing.
Section 1031 Exchanges
In addition to profiting off of your personal residence tax free, it is possible to sell an investment property tax free if you do it through a 1031 Exchange. If structured properly, the IRS Tax Code enables an investor to sell a property and reinvest the proceeds in a new property while deferring all capital gains taxes.
Tax-Deferred Retirement Account
It's a common misconception that you can only purchase financial instruments (i.e. stocks, bonds, mutual funds, etc.) through an Individual Retirement Account (IRA) or 401(k). In actuality, the IRS allows individuals to invest retirement funds in real estate and other alternative types of investments, as well. By purchasing your investment property through an IRA, you can take advantage of all of the tax savings these accounts offer.
Be sure to consult a tax professional regarding all tax matters related to your real estate investments. If structured correctly, the profits you earn on your real estate investments can be largely shielded from tax liability. Just another reason to choose real estate as your preferred investment vehicle.
TYPES OF REAL ESTATE INVESTMENTS
While there are numerous ways to invest in real estate, we're going to focus on three primary ways average investors earn money through real estate. We touched on several of these already in the previous section.
HGTV has countless "reality" shows featuring property flippers who make this investment strategy look easy. Commonly referred to as a "Fix and Flip," investors purchase a property with the intention of remodeling it in a short period of time, with the hope of selling it quickly for a profit.
This is a higher-risk tactic, and one for which many of the real estate "gurus" we talked about earlier claim to have the magic formula. They promise huge profits in a short amount of time. But investors need to understand the risks involved, and be prepared financially to cover additional expenses that may arise.
Luckily, an experienced real estate agent can help you identify properties that may be good candidates for this type of investment strategy… and help you avoid some of the pitfalls that could derail your plans.
One of the more conservative choices for investing in real estate is to purchase a rental property. The appeal of a rental property is that you can generate cash flow to cover the expenses, while taking advantage of the property's long-term appreciation in value, and the tax benefits of investing in real estate. It's a win-win, and a great way for first-time investors to get started.
And according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, rents for primary residences have increased 21.9 percent between 2007 and 2015 as demand for rental units continues to grow.1
With the huge movement toward a "sharing economy," platforms that facilitate short-term rentals, like Airbnb and HomeAway, are booming. Their popularity has spurred a growing trend toward dual-purpose vacation homes, which owners use themselves part of the year, and rent out the remainder of the time. There are also a growing number of investors purchasing single-family homes for the sole purpose of leasing them on these sites.
Short-term rentals offer several benefits over traditional rentals, which many investors find attractive, including flexibility and higher profit margins. However, the most profitable properties are strategically located near popular tourist destinations. You'll need an experienced real estate professional to help you identify the right property if you want to be successful in this highly-competitive market.
DOES REAL ESTATE INVESTING SOUND TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE?
We've all heard stories, or maybe even know someone, who struck it rich with a well-timed real estate purchase. However, just like any investment strategy, a high potential for earnings often goes hand-in-hand with an increase in risk. Still, there's substantial evidence that a well-executed real estate investment can be one of the best choices for your money.
Purchasing a home to remodel and resell can be highly profitable, as long as you have a trusted team in place to complete the remodel quickly and within budget … and the financial means to carry the property for a few extra months if delays occur.
Or, if you buy a house for appreciation and cash flow, you can ride through the market ups and downs without stress because you know your property value is bound to increase over time, and your expenses are covered by your rental income.
In either scenario, make sure you're working with a real estate agent who has knowledge of the investment market and can guide you through the process. While no investment is without risk, a conservative and well-planned investment in real estate can supplement your income and set you up for future financial security.
If you are considering an investment in real estate, please contact us to set up a free consultation. We have experience working with all types of investors and can help you determine the best strategy to meet your investment goals.