How to Start a Successful Airbnb in the Country, from Scratch

AirBnB in the Country

Have you dreamed of designing and renting out a country retreat through a popular site like Airbnb.com? One family shares how they made their rural Airbnb home a success.

The Hartman family live on a small piece of acreage just outside the Asheville, NorthCarolina city limits.

The Hartman family

Despite their proximity to one of the South’s most popular tourist destination cities, their land is rural in every sense.

Walk outside at the right time of day in the right season, and you may catch a glimpse of a black bear, wild turkeys, deer, a bobcat, some turtles or any number of birds. They’re less than a mile from several world-class hiking trails and the winding road to their home is surrounded by pasture and nature.

It’s the ideal blend of mountain-country-living with hip-city convenience.

So, when their neighbor’s home burned down about four years ago, the Hartmans leapt at the chance to buy up the 2.5 acres that abuts their current home.

Their plans for the land were vague, but after much planning, discussion, decision-making and brainstorming, they decided to build an Airbnb-style minifarm retreat: Blue Turtle Farm.

The only thing was, neither of them had any experience running a microfarm OR a hospitality business…nor did they have much spare time to learn. Meggan is a psychologist, sleep consultant and faculty member at Meridian University and Brody is an executive at a leading branding agency, as well as a Purpose Guide, mentor and a meditation teacher.

Yet they forged ahead and have managed to exceed their Airbnb business financial goals in just one year.

How did they do it (and could you do the same)? Read on to find out.

It All Started With 2.5 Wild Acres, A Chicken Coop And A Concrete Slab

Chicken in a chicken coop

Brody and Meggan knew they had something special in their new property (it’s not every day 2.5 acres with an existing house foundation and driveway go up for sale in your backyard). The trick was discovering the best use of that wild 2.5 acres.

“We sat on it for two years because we knew we had to get the overgrown land in order first,” Brody says. “So we got some chickens, got out there on weekends with the weed wacker and just dreamed about what we could do.”

Meggan adds, “We also had to set a clear intention for the property—do we want to have someone come in and do flowers, do we want to grow herbs or create a market garden? So we had to look at what we could feasibly do and manage with our limited time, andwhat made the most sense for income. We also knew we wanted continued access to the land.”

While they knew they wanted to care for the land by starting a sustainable “pocket farm,” they also knew the existing homesite would be perfect for an investment home.

“We always knew we’d build on that land someday and possibly move there,” Brody says, “the question was: just what type of structure to build and when?

“And if you’ve never managed or developed even a small piece of land, it’s a HUGE learning curve. So we had a ton of people come out to assess the soil, the water situation and where to place the home visually for functionality, off-grid capability and aesthetics.”

The Hartmans also talked to their neighbors about their plans and studied the local zoning laws.

Once the land was in order, they’d chosen the best homesite and decided on a short-term rental business, the next big choice was: what type of house to build?

Figuring Out What To Build: Tiny Home, Cabin Or Designer House?

Butterfly on a sunflower

The Hartmans originally thought they’d build something small and simple to keep costs low, but after talking to two real estate experts, they changed their minds.

“We consulted two of our friends in real estate and they both recommended we build-like we-needed-to-sell,” Brody says.

With that in mind, they began researching comps and found most buyers in the area were looking for a 3 bed, 2 ½ – 3 bath home with “X” amenities.

Brody says 3 other factors weighed heavily on their decision:

“#1: If we flip it one day, how do we get the most out of it for resale? #2: If we were to move over there, what would we want in a home? And #3: what would an ideal Airbnb experience be for our guests?”

In the end, the Hartmans hired a reputable local high-end builder to construct a modern 3-story, 3 bedroom/3 bath home with a separate basement suite on the existing foundation.

“Having a good architect or good house plans and finding a reputable builder is key. You also need to think about parking when designing your space,” Meggan says.

Next, They Turned Their Attention To Learning Their Local Airbnb Market

With a reputable builder in place and home design underway, the Hartmans re-focused on learning the local short-term rental market.

“We researched local Airbnbs and VRBOs for going rates, we read the reviews and drew on our personal experience as guests of Airbnbs,” says Brody. “We also talked to a lot of people who had Airbnbs. Knowing the market in your community is essential.”

How they determine competitive pricing:

While there are Airbnb-centric consultants, articles and content available, Meggan offered this advice on pricing:

“We knew we had to cover our costs and make a profit, and at the end of the day you’re working backwards from your mortgage—and it’s a bit of a moving target in the beginning because you know that number will change once you’re finished building.

“The Airbnb suggested rate for our area is lower than we decided to charge. But, we had a clear intention: we wanted to create the best experience in the best environment, and we knew people would pay for that.”

And they have. To-date, the Hartmans’ Airbnb earnings have already exceeded their monthly mortgage…and it’s been open for short-term rentals for less than one year.

“Pricing also depends on how you want to run your rental. For example, will it be a year-round rental or do you really want to crank it for just 4 months out of the year? So again, your intention and goals are everything.”

Tips On Creating The Best Experience In The Best Environment (without breaking the bank)

When it comes to creating an optimal guest experience, attention to detail is everything.

Bedroom

 

However, when you’re floating a mortgage and a construction loan you can’t typically do everything high-end. Here’s how the Hartmans furnished and decorated their Airbnb without breaking the bank:

  • Don’t go high-end on all the furniture. “Fortunately, the gentleman at our local furniture store runs his own Airbnb and told us where to invest,” Meggan says. “For example, he said not to invest in rugs, like use outdoor rugs indoors, and to think about high-traffic vs. low-traffic areas.”
  • Put your money where the details matter. “This means quality of the sheets, towels, beds, soaps and sundries. We’ve even gotten good reviews on our toilet paper, so little things like that matter to people.”

Once The House Was Complete, There Was Still A Lot To Do To Prepare For Guests

“In addition to getting the professional photography and branding/descriptions done, furniture had to be moved in and put together, detailed cleaning had to be done, window treatments installed, etc.,” Brody says. “It’s important you build in extra time to complete those details.”

When the house was finally done, the Hartmans invited friends and family to stay and critique the home.

“We told them to bring it! And thanks to their feedback we wound up replacing the downstairs bed and making some further improvements,” Meggan says.

To buy some time (and secure some more feedback) the Hartmans also rented the home to a local family of four for the first 3 months.

“That gave us a buffer and their feedback was extremely helpful.”

How They Promoted Their Brand New Short-term Rental Property

The Hartmans listed their home on Airbnb and VRBO and paid special attention to branding.

“Professional photography is very important,” says Brody, a branding expert, “as is getting the descriptions and owner’s manual just right.

Stairway and living room

 

“I’ll never forget when I got that first notification from Airbnb, then the first booking. It was so thrilling to see. I still get excited when I see them come in!”

Since Airbnb is all about recommendations and ratings, the Hartmans are vigilant about responding to guest requests, addressing any concerns and rating their guests promptly.

This attention to detail earned them “superhost” status in October. “It’s really important to get those milestones met, and it’s a high bar—no cancellations, at least 4.5 stars every time—but if you deliver, then superhost status will come,” Brody says.

While they are listed on both Airbnb and VRBO, they’ve found each application has its own distinctive audience and find Airbnb’s interface more intuitive and easy to manage.

To avoid double-bookings, they use an integrated managing calendar.

Running The Day-to-Day (Without Quitting Their Day Jobs)

For day-to-day, the Hartmans highly recommend hiring an exceptional cleaning service that specializes in short-term rentals/hospitality.

“Our first service was good, not great,” Brody recalls. “They didn’t get all the details or what it meant to be a superhost. I spend a lot of time in hotels for my job, so I know what those details are!”

One day, their cleaning service didn’t show up and Brody and Meggan had to run over to clean the house themselves. After that, they found a better service.

“We wound up hiring a husband and wife team who also does basic maintenance, which has been a game-changer,” Brody says. “They know what it means to care for a short-term rental, for example, she brings local magazines and keeps them up-to-date, and keeps the house impeccable.”

They’ve also given the cleaning service access to their booking calendars, which automates the entire process.

“Now we could leave the country for a month and would not worry.”

With the cleaning and maintenance dialed in, there’s very little other day-to-day work.

“The only other thing we do regularly is bring over wine, crackers, cheese and a custom welcome note,” Meggan says.

Technology also helps keep the day-to-day tasks at a minimum.

The Hartmans have set up their online booking so guests can book automatically—provided they meet certain requirements. Then they send a personal reply.

They also use an app that tells them if the doors are locked or unlocked, and they are out on the farm regularly should the guests need them (which they usually don’t).

How To Avoid Negative Reviews

Negative reviews are the plight of any modern short-term rental business, here’s how the Hartmans have maintained a nearly unblemished review profile:

“Airbnb lets you communicate with the guests before your mutual reviews are published. So we always take that opportunity to ask the guest if there’s anything we can do to improve hospitality. says Brody.

“With that approach, we’ve only had one 4-star review on one attribute saying we weren’t truly 12 minutes from downtown, so we changed the listing to 15 minutes.”

They also recommend being clear about the role you will play as host.

“Some hosts live off-property, some hosts live next door and personally greet every guest,” Meggan says. “We let people know we’ll be on the property and will be as available, or not, as they want. Most of our guests want to be self-sufficient and just say hello if they happen to see us, and we’re fine either way.”

How Long Did It Take The Business To Become Profitable?

“Our profit goal for year one was to exceed our mortgage costs, and we managed to do that within the first month of full-time short-term rentals,” says Brody. “There are months now that we’re more than doubling our mortgage.”

The Hartmans believe their location plays a role in this, as does the quality of the home and the natural beauty of the land.

Dining room and kitchen

 

Insider Startup Advice: What They Wish They Had Known

When asked their biggest startup challenges, the Hartmans offered these lessons learned:

  • “Money out vs. money in while building is a roller coaster—I mean you’re furnishing an entire house. It creeps up on you, and then once you get caught up in it you know you can’t skimp, so there’s that sense of having faith in the process.”
  • “Don’t skimp on construction! We did this right, but it’s still good advice. Our construction company came in on time and on budget. They landed that ship nicely.”
  • “The initial house set-up is crazy, so be prepared! That was a lot harder than we anticipated.”
  • “Be prepared to let it go,” says Brody, “I remember going over to answer some questions for our very first guests, and I walked in and saw this young man lying on my couch with his shoes on. I wanted to say, get your shoes off that couch! But I knew in that moment, I had to surrender the house. And that was quite a moment.”
  • “It pays to set your intention for the place,” says Meggan. “We really wanted to create a retreat and respite for people to unplug and connect with family…and it’s proving to be the perfect spot for families.”
  • “In the beginning we were so worried that the whole house would not get rented that we built that additional basement suite. Now I wish we hadn’t, because we’ve never not rented the whole house,” says Brody.
  • “Get your house rules figured out right away. This will keep your house in good condition and your neighbors happy.”

Where Will They Go From Here?

Based on their success and excellent reviews, the Hartmans’ property is now being considered for “Airbnb Plus” status.

This means they have to meet a 100-point inspection list and have a certain level of aesthetic value which caters to a higher-level guest. Airbnb pays to have the home re-photographed, and if they pass inspection, the property gets a special badge.

They also plan to add a hot tub and possibly a wood stove to increase winter rentals, and will use the property for purpose-building workshops.

To learn more about the Hartman’s property and view the rental, check them out at: www.blueturtlefarm.com or on their Airbnb page.

 

Source: Rethink Rural – Posted by Kristen Boye on April 15, 2019

 

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Condo flippers beware: The taxman is watching you, and has new tools at his disposal to ‘take action’

A condo building in downtown Toronto.Jack Boland/Toronto Sun/Postmedia Network

If you plan on selling a home or condo that you bought fairly recently, especially if you never actually moved into it, be wary as the tax man will be carefully watching how you report any gain on your tax return, lest it be seen as a “flip” and be fully taxable as income, rather than a half-taxable capital gain.

The Canada Revenue Agency’s ability to hunt you down over your real estate transactions has improved thanks to the recent $50-million boost in funding over five years announced in the 2019 federal budget to help “address tax non-compliance in real estate transactions.” The CRA uses advanced risk assessment tools, analytics and third-party data to detect and “take action” whenever it finds real estate transactions where the parties have failed to pay the required taxes. Specifically, the CRA is focusing on ensuring that taxpayers report all sales of their principal residence on their tax returns, properly report any capital gain derived from a real estate sale where the principal residence tax exemption does not apply, and report money made on real estate “flipping” as 100 per cent taxable income.

But what, exactly, constitutes a real estate flip? That was the subject of a recent Tax Court of Canada decision, released this week.

 

The case involved a transit operator for the Toronto Transit Commission who, along with his brother, bought and moved into a two-story, three-bedroom townhouse in Vaughan, Ontario, in 1999. His brother contributed toward the initial down payment, lived with him and together they equally shared all household expenses, including the mortgage payments. In 2003, the taxpayer’s brother met the woman who would become his future wife, whom he married in April 2007. She moved into the townhouse and they had a child together in February 2008.

Sometime prior to this, the taxpayer and his brother began discussing going their separate ways. The taxpayer testified that he wanted to sell the townhouse and move to a place that was smaller and closer to work. Indeed, in 2006 he found a smaller place, a two-bedroom condo, which was in the pre-construction phase. The tentative occupancy date of the condo was April 2008, but that date was pushed back several times, ultimately to 2010.

Prior to taking possession of the condo, however, circumstances changed. In December 2008, the brothers’ father passed away while in Jamaica, where he lived together with their mother for about six months each year. Following their father’s death, their mother did not feel safe living alone in Jamaica and in March 2009 she moved into her sons’ townhouse. The taxpayer testified that his brother and his family shared the master bedroom, while the taxpayer and their mother each occupied one of the remaining two bedrooms. This living situation didn’t last long and the taxpayer refinanced the mortgage on the townhouse in order to buy out his brother’s share of the property, enabling him and his family to move out.

In August 2010, the taxpayer took possession of the condo and immediately arranged to list it for sale, realizing that it would be too small for both he and his mother. No one lived in the condo in the interim. He sold it in October 2010 resulting in a net gain of $13,412, which the taxpayer reported as a capital gain, taxable at 50 per cent, on his 2010 tax return. The CRA reassessed him, finding that the $13,412 should have been reported as fully taxable income and slapped him with gross negligence penalties.

The common question of whether a gain from the sale of real estate is on account of income or on account of capital always comes down to the underlying facts. The courts will look to the surrounding circumstances and, perhaps most importantly, the taxpayer’s intention.

The judge reviewed the facts in light of the four factors previously enumerated by the Supreme Court of Canada by which these types of cases are decided: the taxpayer’s intention, whether the taxpayer was engaged in any way in the real estate industry, the nature and use of the property sold and the extent to which the property was financed.

The taxpayer testified that he purchased the condo with the full intention of living in it after his brother moved out of their shared townhouse; however, when his father died and his mother wished to return to Canada to live full-time, the taxpayer “changed his plans to move so that his mother could live with him at (the townhouse), which was a larger space.” He testified that since he could not afford to own both homes, he listed and sold the condo shortly after assuming title. As he testified, if not for his father’s death and his mother’s return to Canada, he would have carried out his plan to sell the townhouse and live in the condo as his primary residence.

The judge concluded that the taxpayer’s intention with respect to the condo was indeed to live in it as his primary residence. He had no secondary intention of putting the condo up for resale at the time of purchase.

The judge therefore concluded that the sale of the condo was properly reported as a capital gain and ordered the CRA to reassess on that basis and cancel the gross negligence penalties.

One final note is warranted: while justice was ultimately done and the taxpayer prevailed, it actually took him nine years and three separate visits to court to get relief. The CRA originally reassessed his 2010 capital gain as income back in 2014. The taxpayer filed a Notice of Objection to oppose the reassessment, which was reconfirmed by the CRA in January 2016. The taxpayer then had 90 days to appeal the CRA’s reassessment to the Tax Court. For a variety of reasons, he missed that deadline and ended up in Tax Court seeking an extension of the deadline to file an appeal. The Tax Court denied his request for an extension. He then went to the Federal Court of Appeal which, in June 2017, reversed the lower court’s decision and allowed an extension of time to appeal to Tax Court, which heard the case in March 2019 and released its decision this week.

 

Source: Financial Post – Jamie Golombek July 5, 2019

 

Jamie Golombek, CPA, CA, CFP, CLU, TEP is the Managing Director, Tax & Estate Planning with CIBC Financial Planning & Advice Group in Toronto.

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7-Step Process for Finding Great Contractors for Home Renovations

To be blunt, most contractors are terrible. As a landlord, I deal with it all the time. 

They don’t answer their phone. They don’t show up when they said they would. They don’t do what they said they are going to do.

But there ARE gems to be found in the rubble. The problem is most people have no idea how to identify that great contractor from all the bad ones out there—until long AFTER they’ve already hired one.

I want to share with you my seven-step process to identify a great contractor before hiring them. Whether you’re remodeling your own home, a rental property, flipping houses, or need a contractor for something else, here’s how to land a great one.

How to Find a Great Contractor

  1. Build your contractor list

What I mean by this is you need to get the names and phone numbers of a lot of different contractors in your area. I mean, if we’re searching for a needle in a haystack, we have to first get a haystack.

You can find potential contractors in a number of ways, but my three favorite are: 

  1. Referrals, meaning ask people you know who they have used
  2. Referrals, so yeah, asking people you know who they have used
  3. You guessed it! Referrals.

Human nature is to generally do what you’ve always done. It doesn’t guarantee success, but when you know a contractor has done great work in the past, it’s likely they’ll do it again.

So get in the habit of asking your friends and family often—even when you’re not looking for a contractor. “Who did this work for you?” Then, keep track of those referrals.

There are a few other ways to find contractors, as well. I like to talk to other contractors and ask who they like working with.

Rockstars tend to party with other rockstars, and good tradesmen tend to work with other good tradesmen.

For example, I have a great finish carpenter, so I can ask him, “Hey, do you know any great plumbers?”

You can also build your list by snapping a photo every time you see a contractor sign on the side of a work truck, or by searching Yelp, or by asking the employees in the pro department of your local home store who they like.

Related: The Ultimate Guide to Finding an Incredible Contractor

  1. Pre-screening on the phone and in person

Just as with tenants, our opinion of the contractor begins the moment we start talking with them, whether over email, phone, or in person.

Do they carry themselves professionally? Do they respond well to questions?

Ask them some general questions, such as:

  • How long have you been in this line of work?
  • What skill would you say you are the best at?
  • What job tasks do you hate doing?
  • In what cities do you typically work?
  • How many employees work for you? (Or “work in your company” if you are not talking to the boss.)
  • How busy are you?
  • Do you pull permits, or would I need to?
  • If I were to hire you, when could you start knocking out tasks?

Then, set up a time to meet and show them the project, if you have one. Set an appointment and be sure to show up a few minutes early, just to see exactly what time they arrive.

Are they on time? Late? Early? Do they look professional? How do they act?

If everything feels OK after this first meeting, move on to the next step.

man sitting at desk working on a computer

  1. Google them

The first thing we do now when looking for information on a certain contractor is to simply search Google for their name and their company name. This can often unearth any big red flags about the person.

You’ll also want to add your city name and some other keywords to the search, such as “scam” or “rip off” or “court.”

For example, if we wanted to find out more about First Rate Construction Company in Metropolis, we would search things like:

  • First Rate Construction Metropolis
  • First Rate Construction scam
  • First Rate Construction sue
  • First Rate Construction court
  • First Rate Construction evil

These terms can help you discover major complaints about a contractor. But keep in mind, not all complaints are valid. Some people are just crazy.

What this will do, however, is give you direction about what steps to take next.

  1. Ask for references

Next, ask the contractor for references from previous people for whom they have worked. Photos are nice, but names and addresses are better.

Then, do what 90 percent of the population will never do and actually call those references!

You may want to ask the reference several questions, like:

  1. What work did they do?
  2. How fast did they do it?
  3. Did they keep a clean job site?
  4. You are related to [contractor’s name], right? (If they are, they will think you were already privy to that information and will have no problem answering honestly!)
  5. Any problems working with them?
  6. Would you hire them again?
  7. Can I take a look at the finished product? (This could be in person or via pictures.)

These questions will help you understand more about the abilities and history of the contractor. Then, if possible, actually check out the work the contractor did and make sure it looks good.

Another tip recently given to us by J Scott was to ask the contractor to tell you about a recent big job they’ve done. Contractors love to brag about their big jobs, so he or she will likely regale you with the story of how much work they needed to do and how great it looked at the end.

Find out the address, and then go to the city and verify that a permit was pulled for that project. If not, the contractor did all the work without a permit, which is a good indication they are not a contractor you want on your team.

  1. Verify

It’s okay to be trusting, but make sure the contractor is worthy of your trust first! To do this, first verify that they truly do have a license to do whatever work you intend for them to do.

If they are an electrician, make sure they have an electrical license. If they are a plumber, make sure they have a plumbing license. If they are a general contractor, make sure they have a general contractor’s license.

Next, make sure they do actually have the proper insurance and bond. As we mentioned earlier, you could ask them to bring proof, but you can also simply ask the name of their insurance agent and verify it with that agent. Either way, just make sure they have it.

Remember: this protects you.

  1. Hire them for one small task

Before hiring the contractor to do a large project, hire them to do just one small task, preferably under $500 in cost. This will give you a good idea of what kind of work ethic they have and the quality of work that they do.

If the work is done on time and on budget, and if it meets your quality standards, consider hiring them for more tasks.

Even if the contractor has passed through the first several steps of this screening process, 75 percent of them will still likely fail at this step, so don’t settle with just one contractor. Hire multiple contractors for multiple small jobs and see who works out the best.

Related: 14 Killer Questions to Ask Your Contractor

  1. Manage them correctly

Ninety percent of the time, when I have a disastrous situation with a contractor, the blame lies on no one but myself. If I had managed the job correctly, I wouldn’t be caught in the positions I’ve been in.

Here’s an example. I hired a contractor to paint a bedroom. He says $500. I say, “Great.”

He calls me, tells me he’s done, and I send him the $500.

Now, I go check out the property and what do I see? He didn’t paint the ceiling, despite the obvious need for it. And there are a couple paint splatters on the floor that are easy to clean—but now I have to do it.

I call the contractor and he says, “Well, you didn’t say I needed to do the ceiling,” and “No, the floor was perfectly clean when I left. Someone else must have made the drips on the floor.”

Now, you might be saying, “But that’s ridiculous! It’s clearly his fault.”

But it’s my responsibility to manage him correctly. Therefore, when you work with a contractor, always get a detailed scope of work that clearly lays out 100 percent of what is going to be worked on, what’s included, and what isn’t.

Then, never pay anything until you’ve inspected the work. On larger jobs, be sure to spread out payments over the course of the job, so they don’t get too much money up front. You always want them hungry for the next paycheck.

To help with this, I put together a really simple “Contractor Bid Form” over in the BiggerPockets FilePlace—100% free—so you can fill this out every time you work with a contractor. Just go to BiggerPockets.com/bigform.

The Bottom Line

Whether you’re a real estate investor like myself or not, you’re going to need to deal with contractors in the future. By following this seven-step process, you’ll save yourself time, stress, and a lot of money.

Source: BiggerPockets.com by

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The Least Discussed Reason Wannabe Investors Don’t Take Action (& How to Overcome It!)

I’ve never fully understood the obsession with figuring out why other people fail to take action when it comes to real estate investing.

It seems like a lot of people genuinely look for justification not to start.

“If Jimmy didn’t start because he had no money, and I have no money, then I’m justified in not starting yet.”

This is entirely the wrong mentality! Why not focus your energy on figuring out why successful people DID take action?

Regardless, I’m going to tell you the real reason some who are interested in investing never take action. It’s something that isn’t discussed very often.

But first, here are some of the most stereotypical excuses.

Why Some Wannabes Never Take Action: The Typical Responses

Don’t get me wrong. All of these excuses are pretty understandable—yet unfortunate.

Let’s briefly discuss each.

Fear

Fear is a beast. And taking the plunge into real estate isn’t easy.

That being said, everybody experienced the feeling of fear when they bought their first property. It may not have been crippling, but it was there. Anyone who tells you they weren’t at least a little scared is probably not being completely honest with you.

This is why it’s important to make decisions based on numbers and bounce the analysis off experienced investors. Don’t bring your emotions into the deal at all.

Emotions are dangerous—leave them out of investing.

Nervous businessman peeking over desk

Lack of Experience

This excuse drives me nuts!

NOBODY had experience before they took action—you gain experience BY taking action!

If this is your excuse, either quit or work under somebody for free to gain the experience you so crave.

This is a silly excuse to me. Just take action!

No Money

This is an understandable excuse and probably the most common.

I have been investing since 2015. To date, I have never paid more than 6 percent down on a real estate transaction.

Leverage is wonderful. It is risky but wonderful. I house hacked my first duplex for less money than most of my cars have cost.

Theoretically, you could sell your car and buy a house.

You can overcome the “no money” issue by utilizing FHA loans, VA loans (if qualified), seller financing, purchasing subject to the existing mortgage, partnering, other people’s money, hard money lenders, etc.

My point is this: While having no money is scary, if you have knowledge and time, you can invest in real estate!

male showing empty pockets implying moneyless

Not Enough Time

YOU HAVE THE SAME AMOUNT OF TIME AS EVERYONE ELSE!

Set your priorities, and either make REI a priority or find someone with time and provide money/knowledge!

This is a cop-out excuse.

I purchased a property while spending six weeks on a remote island and only having access to the internet through my cell phone a couple of times.

Figure it out.

Why Some Wannabes Never Take Action: The Least Discussed Reason

We have ruled out the most common excuses. And yes, they are just excuses.

Now let’s talk about the least discussed reason some wannabes fail to take action (and how to avoid it).

You’re LAZY!

That’s it.

The number one reason some people fail to take action is the amount of work required.

This excuse is behind the time, fear, and experience excuses. You know it’s going to take a lot of time and energy to make this happen. You’re afraid because it takes a lot of work, and you don’t fully understand what to expect. You don’t have experience because you haven’t done it yet.

In the military, there is a common phrase we use in combat: “Complacency kills.”

Although the meaning is a little different when applied to real estate, the message is the same. It’s not the one morning you sleep in or the one day you get nothing done that hurts you. It’s not the hassle you avoided today or the excuse you used today in order to procrastinate.

However, if you ALWAYS avoid hassle, procrastinate, and sleep in, you will never succeed.

Sloth is one of the seven deadly sins. If you want to succeed as a real estate investor, or in life in general, you need to kill the urge to be complacent—before it kills you!

Related: Getting Started In Any New Real Estate Business

Start Investing NOW: Here’s How

Goals

The first step to conquering the excuse of laziness is to sit down and set goals.

You need to long-, medium-, and short-term goals. These goals should be similar to a five-year plan, yearly goals, monthly goals, and weekly goals.

Think of the cartoons you watched as a kid where a rider would tie a carrot to the end of a long pole and dangle it in front of a stubborn horse/mule in order to motivate them to move forward.

Goals are the carrot you dangle in front of yourself.

No matter how driven you are (or aren’t), there will be days when you lack the motivation to do any work. At these times, it is important to have a carrot (goals) to chase in order to stay on track!

Pensive young entrepreneur looking at laptop screen and drinking coffee at table in cafe

M.I.N.S.

Some of you may have noticed I didn’t say you need daily goals. You may have even been bothered by this and decided to tune out (haha).

The reason I didn’t mention daily goals is that, while they serve a purpose, I prefer to think in terms of the “most important next step.” This is sometimes called M.I.N.S.

M.I.N.S. should be determined every night before you go to sleep. This will ensure you knock out the most important next step toward your weekly goal(s) first thing the next morning.

If you can knock out the most important next step toward your goal every morning, it will snowball into accomplishing your goals quickly!

The key is determining what this step is the night prior, and then doing it first thing the next morning!

Accountability

Most of the actions you take to achieve your goals will not be fun or easy.

It’s easy to find “busy work” to use as a distraction. This busy work is more fun and often easier than accomplishing the most important next step would be.

Since we are all human (I think), it’s safe to assume that you will have days, weeks, months, or even years when you fail to do the difficult task(s) that need to get done.

This is human nature and a hard habit to break. And this is why accountability is crucial to your success as an investor.

You need to find some people who are on the same path as you, as well as a few who are farther down that path, and get together to grow and hold each other accountable!

A common way to do this is through mastermind groups. A mastermind group is comprised of people who have lofty goals for life and are determined to achieve these goals. They meet regularly, whether in person or on conference calls, and talk through their struggles, successes, and so on in order to help each other progress.

These mastermind groups are great for helping you grow and holding you accountable to achieve more!

Mans Hand Reaching For Red Ladder Leading To A Blue Sky

Systems

Real estate investing isn’t easy at first (most things aren’t).

Imagine REI as a large flywheel, and every step you take gets it to move just a little bit faster. As the flywheel speeds up, it takes less and less effort to keep it moving.

This is the power of systems!

Every time you complete a task, remember how you did it. If you complete that task a second time, create a system for streamlining the process. The simpler you can make tasks in real estate, the easier it becomes to buy homes!

For example, one of my favorite systems to date is my Google Drive folder for lenders. Every time I have applied for a loan, I needed to provide the previous two years’ tax returns, W-2s, bank statements, photo IDs, verifiable income, etc.

I created a folder titled “Lender Documents” in Google Drive that has all of this information in it, separated by tax year.

Now, when I apply for a loan, I simply email a link to this folder to my lender and wait for them to tell me if they need any more documentation (which is minimal, if any)!

Talk about streamlining the lending process.

Don’t forget to create systems as you journey down the path of real estate investing. It will make your life so much easier!

Use Laziness to Your Advantage

Lazy people will often find the easiest way to accomplish a task. Use this mentality to succeed as a real estate investor—without losing all of your hair.

Real estate investing isn’t easy, but it is extremely rewarding.

Embrace your laziness, and use the safeguards above to continually attack your goals.

Take the time to put in a lot of work now. You will be happy that you did!

Source: BiggerPockets.com by

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Listen, 2008 Is Never Happening Again—Invest NOW for Best Results

The real estate crash in 2008 was unique in that we saw a very fragmented industry that was burdened by large-scale systemic risk. This is not what usually happens.

It’s important to realize this situation would not be easy to duplicate; it was sort of a perfect storm of bad circumstances. Since then, we have implemented things to protect us from a similar event. Things like Dodd-Frank, better lending fundamentals, and a lot of growth left to capitalize on all make the possibility of another crash similar to 2008’s very unlikely.

Real estate is usually market-specific, so this isn’t to say prices can’t drop in the near future in your market. But it does imply that those waiting around for the next nationwide crash are going to watch a lot of success pass them by in the meantime.

This is going to frustrate many people who see inflated prices and increased competition making it a harder time to buy. However, the truth is real estate is going to be a good investment for a long time going forward. Now might not be as lucrative of a time to get in as it was in 2012, but investing now is likely better than getting in five years from now. In 20 years, it won’t make any difference at all.

Waiting for the perfect moment costs a lot more in experience and opportunity than the potential downsides could produce. As the saying goes: “Time in the market is better than timing the market.”

red down arrow on black and white grid indicating stock loss

When Will the Next Crash Happen?

In 2016, I bought my first rental property. At the time, there were an abundance of threads on BiggerPockets that said, “Don’t buy now. We are about to see a crash.”

Luckily I ignored this noise and bought anyway. In the last three years, I’ve done very well—despite the supposedly imminent danger. Grant Cardone had a bunch of content around this time claiming he was preparing for a crash, as well, but he’s done quite a bit of business since then.

The BiggerPockets forums now reflect much of the same message as a few years ago. Don’t buy! There will be a crash soon!

Maybe those members who are spreading this sentiment are right; maybe they are wrong. Either way, I find that this message seems to have a single constant underlying motive: jealousy.

I really think much of this mindset is coming from people who are actively hoping the market will downturn so they can buy in. They are salty they missed the last big opportunity.

I’m not mad about that. In fact, I’m salty I missed the last downturn, as well! I would have much rather purchased in 2012 than 2016. But unless I create a time machine to go back to 2010 and buy assets, I’m sunk. Fussing about it is never a helpful strategy.

While another recession of some sort is inevitable, no one really knows what it will look like or when it will happen. It most likely will NOT be a repeat of last time though. So waiting for the bottom to drop out of real estate is a mistake, because you’ll be waiting forever while not learning or building experience along the way.

If you don’t have the confidence to buy in an upmarket, you don’t stand a chance to pull the trigger in the down market.

Plan Around Fundamentals—Not Luck

Over the last eight years, many BiggerPockets members (myself included) have bought low and then ridden the wave upward, making money on the sheer luck of being in a good industry at the right time. This is not a sustainable strategy for success in the long term, but it doesn’t mean that real estate only works when you stand to get outsized gains.

Do you only want to buy real estate because you think you might get lucky with an area that’s rising? Or do you want to buy a profitable asset at a discounted price that is going to make money even through market fluctuations?

Waiting for a theoretical crash is just admitting to the world that you can’t compete unless the market is unusually easy to make money in.

In real estate, you make money when you buy. This holds true no matter where we are in the market cycle.

So instead of waiting for your market to downturn, find great deals that are going to make you money no matter what. Have good exit strategies in place, and pass on deals that don’t make sense.

Businessman forecasting a crystal ball

There are two kinds of mania surrounding real estate right now:

  1. Those who are so excited about real estate that they are willing to spend anything to get into an asset and are therefore blind to risk.
  2. Those who are so sure a crash is coming that they are sitting on the sidelines.

Neither of these two parties is going to make as much money as they could. They are too busy making decisions based on emotional hyperbole, anecdotes, and luck instead of solid financial analysis.

Focus on the fundamentals, and you can make money in any market.

Accept That Real Estate Is a Long Play

Why does everyone seem to be playing a two-year game with a 30-year investment? Even if you’re doing fix and flips, there is a long road of education and understanding that goes into this business.

Certainly there are outlier success stories of people doing 20 deals in their first year. However, it’s disingenuous to assume that is universally possible.

In many cases, chasing unrealistic gains gets people into more trouble when ambition outruns reality. Real estate is a slow business filled with complex transactions and ill-liquid assets. Even most superstars go slow!

It’s a patience game that relies on compounding. Trying to force outsized gains at the command of one’s ego is dangerous.

The long game of real estate levels out lots of short-term instability. You need cash reserves to weather economic storms, and you need to buy based on good fundamentals.

You will absolutely experience drops in the future; you can’t avoid them completely. This is why it’s best to get in now (at the right price) and start making money—money that will help you get through a recession.

Even if there were a crash tomorrow, it would be a long time before you felt comfortable at the bottom. The last bottom was in 2009, but people didn’t start buying until 2012 or so.

That’s three years later! Do you really want to wait that long to get started—just because you can’t buy at the discount the last crash offered?

You missed the crash. So what?!

Stop waiting around, nostalgically hoping that opportunity will return. Instead, enter the marketplace. Grab the opportunities that are available right now!

Source: BloggerPockets.com – by

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What Size Storage Unit Do I Need? And Other Questions to Ask When Picking a Facility

If you need a storage unit, there are many questions you should ask before you pick one. For example: What size unit do you need? How much does a storage unit cost?

Choosing a storage unit may seem daunting at first, but if you’ve reached that point where you’ve run out of space in your home for all of your belongings, it’s time to dive in. Here are some questions to ask to ensure you find the right storage unit for you.

What size storage unit do I need?

Before you begin your search for the right unit, make a list of all the items you’ll be storing. This way you can save time by focusing only on storage facilities that meet your needs in terms of size.

Storage units generally range in size from 5-by-5 to 10-by-25 feet, and some may be even larger. Wondering which size is best for you? Picture these:

  • A 5-by-5 unit is the size of a small closet and could hold several small- to medium-size boxes, a dresser, or a single bed.
  • A 5-by-10 unit is comparable to a walk-in closet, which could hold larger furnishings such as a queen-size bed or couch.
  • A 10-by-10 unit could hold two bedrooms’ worth of furnishings.
  • A 10-by-20 unit is equal to a standard one-car garage, and could hold the contents of a multiple-bedroom house.

Prefer not to climb over mountains of tubs and boxes to track down something stashed at the far reaches of that space? Choose a unit that allows entry on either side.

“How many times do you put something in the back of a closet only to find that you need it? The same thing happens with a storage unit,” explains Willie Dvorak, owner of AAA Storage in Mellette, SD. “Ensuring you can access your goodies from both sides of the unit makes it that much easier to find what you need quickly and safely.”

How much does a storage unit cost?

Unless you’re filthy rich (and then you probably have a big house with ample storage), you’ll want to know how much this unit will set you back each month. CostHelper.com breaks down how much you can expect to pay on average:

  • A 5-by-5 unit costs about $40 to $50 a month.
  • A 10-by-20 unit costs about $95 to $155 a month.
  • A 20-by-20 unit costs about $225 a month.

Is this storage unit easily accessible?

What good is having a storage unit if it’s hard to access, both in terms of its location and its design? Dvorak outlines what to look for when selecting a facility.

“If you can’t get your vehicle close enough to the unit, you’ll be lugging your stuff feet—even yards—in both directions,” he says. “While it may not seem like a long walk as you look at the unit, imagine carrying all of your stuff back and forth all of that way. When you’re storing stuff, every step is a nuisance. And, when you are stressed, you’re more prone to accidents. Turning that rental truck around just adds to the stress. Be sure you can pull up the unit and get your vehicle turned around without any trouble.”

What are the storage facility’s hours?

Once you’ve unloaded your belongings, you still want to know that you can reach them in a hurry should you have the desire.

“It’s hard to predict when you’ll need that hiking gear you haven’t used for years, Grandma’s scrapbook, or that special award you want to show off,” Dvorak notes. “Don’t miss out because you think of it after they’ve locked things up for the night (or weekend). Make sure you can access your stuff 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.”

What’s the payment policy?

Fred Levine, founder of Little Hard Hats, recommends reading all of the fine print of the contract to determine how long the price is guaranteed.

“They routinely get you in, then shortly thereafter, once you’ve moved all your stuff in, they sometimes raise the rates,” he cautions.

“Understanding the payment policy can also help you make decisions about a storage facility,” says Caitlin Hoff of consumersafety.org. “What is the late fee or policy? Some facilities will auction your storage unit if rent is not paid after a certain amount of time. Does your facility allow for online payments? If it doesn’t, do you have to pay in person? Knowing the full extent of the policy can narrow down a list of facilities.”

What type of security is used?

Ask how the storage unit facility is secured. Is there a guard? Video surveillance? Alarms? Is the area well-lit? Also, don’t assume the facility is going to cover damages to your possessions inside the storage unit in case of an accident. Check your homeowners policy, and purchase a rider if necessary.

Is it climate-controlled?

Depending on the items you are looking to store, you might debate whether or not you want a climate-controlled storage unit. A climate-controlled unit is better for items such as appliances or antiques that might be damaged in extreme temperatures.

How are pests handled?

No one wants to find that a family of critters has turned your family heirlooms into their home.

“If you are looking at an outdoor storage unit, you want to ask about pest control,” says Hoff. “Ask if they have had issues with any insects or critters, and find out how they handle these situations.”

Eric Hoffer, president of Hoffer Pest Solutions, suggests doing your own detective work when you preview the facility.

“Overgrown bushes, unkempt landscaping brushing up against the side of the building, and overflowing trash cans are not only a sign that maintenance may not be a priority for a storage facility, but these can be things that attract pests like rodents and roaches close to the building,” he says. “All it takes is a small crack or gap in the wall to allow pests inside.”

If you’re going to the trouble of storing your items for later use, you want to know they’ll be in the best shape possible when you want them. Finding the right facility can make all the difference.

Source: Realtor.com –  | Oct 29, 2018. Liz Alterman is a writer who’s covered a variety of subjects, from personal finance issues for CNBC.com to career advice for The Muse.
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The Benefits and Risks of Co-Signing for a Mortgage

 

Thanks to tighter mortgage qualification rules and higher-priced real estateparticularly in the greater Vancouver and Toronto areasit’s not always easy to qualify for a mortgage on your own merits.

You may very well have a great job, a decent income, a husky down payment and perfect credit, but that still may not be enough.

When a lender crunches the numbers, their calculations may indicate too much of your income is needed to service core homeownership expenses such as your mortgage payment, property taxes, heating and condo maintenance fees (if applicable).

In mortgage-speak, this means your debt service ratios are too high and you will need some extra help to qualify. But you do have options.

A co-signer can make all the difference

A mortgage co-signer can come in handy for many reasons, including when applicants have a soft or blemished credit history. But these days, it seems insufficient income supporting the mortgage application is the primary culprit.

We naturally tend to think of co-signers as parents. But there are also instances where children co-sign for their retired/unemployed parents. Siblings and spouses often help out too. It’s also possible for more than one person to co-sign a mortgage. A co-signer is likely to be approved when the lender is satisfied he/she will help lessen the risk associated with loan repayment.

Under the microscope

When you bring a co-signer into the picture, you are also taking their entire personal finances into consideration. It’s not just a simple matter of checking their credit.

Your mortgage lender is going to need a full application from them in order to grasp their financial picture, including information on all properties they own, any debts they are servicing and all of their own housing obligations. Your co-signer will go through the wringer much like you have.

What makes a strong co-signer?

The lender’s focus is mainly centred around a co-signer’s income coupled with a decent credit history. Some people think that if they have tons of equity in their home (high net worth) they will be great co-signers. But if they are primarily relying on CPP and OAS while living mortgage free, this is not going to help you qualify for a mortgage.

The best co-signer will offer strengths you currently lack when filling out a mortgage application on your own. For instance, if your income is preventing you from qualifying, find a co-signer with strong income. Or, if your issue is insufficient credit, bring a co-signer on board who has healthy credit.

Co-signer options

There are typically two different ways a co-signer can take shape:

  1. The co-signer becomes a co-borrower. This is like having a partner or spouse buy the home alongside a primary applicant. This involves adding the support of another person’s credit history and income to the application. The co-signer is placed on the title of the home and the lender considers this person equally responsible for the debtif the mortgage goes into default.
  2. The co-signer becomes a guarantor. In this scenario, he/she is backing the loan and vouching you’ll pay it back on time. The guarantor is responsible for the loan if it goes into default. Not many lenders process applications with guarantors, as they prefer all parties to share in the ownership. But some people want to avoid co-ownership for tax or estate planning purposes (more on this later).

gifting moneyNine things to keep in mind as a co-signee

  1. It is a rare privilege to find someone who is willing to co-sign for you. Make sure you are deserving of their trust and support.
  2. It is NOT your responsibility to co-sign for anyone. Carefully think about the character and stability of the people asking for your help, and if there is any chance you may need your own financial flexibility down the road, think twice before possibly shooting yourself in the foot.
  3. Ask for copies of all paperwork and be sure you fully understand the terms before signing.
  4. If you co-sign or act as a guarantor, you are entrusting your personal credit history to the primary borrowers. Late payments hurt both of you, so I recommend you have full access to all mortgage and tax account information to spot signs of trouble the instant they occur.
  5. Understand your legal, tax and even your estate’s position when considering becoming a co-signer. You are taking on a potentially large obligation that could cripple you financially if the borrower(s) cannot pay.
  6. A prudent co-signer may insist the primary applicants have disability insurance protecting the mortgage payments in the event of an income disruption due to poor health. Some will also insist on life insurance.
  7. Try to understand upfront how many years the co-borrower agreement will be in place, and whether you can change things mid-term if the borrower becomes able to assume the original mortgage on their own.
  8. There can be implications with respect to your personal income taxes. You may accumulate an obligation to pay capital gains taxes down the road. This should be discussed this with your tax accountant.
  9. Co-signing impacts Land Transfer Tax Rebates for first-time homebuyers. The rebate amount is reduced based on the percentage of ownership attributed to the co-signer.

Tips from a real estate lawyer

broker tipsWe spoke with Gord Mohan, an Ontario real estate lawyer, for unique insights based on his 22 years of experience.

“The cleanest way to deal with these situations is for the third party (which is typically a parent) to guarantee the main applicant’s mortgage debt obligation,” Mohan says. “This does not require the guarantor to appear on the title to the property, and so it prevents most later complications.”

Following are five key suggestions from Mohan:

  • Co-signers should seek independent legal advice to ensure they fully understand their obligations and rights.
  • All parties should have updated wills to address their intentions upon death and give their executor clear direction with respect to their ownership.
  • Many co-signers try to minimize future tax impact by opting for 1% ownership and having a private agreement that the borrowers will indemnify them or make them full owners if there is a tax bite down the road.
  • Some co-signers try to avoid future tax consequences completely by having their real estate lawyer draw up a “bare trust agreement”, which spells out that the co-signer has zero beneficial interest in the property.
  • A bare trust agreement can come in handy for the Land Transfer Tax (LTT) rebate,enabling the co-signer to apply for a refund from the Ministry of Finance – LTT bulletin.

Source – Canadian Mortgage Trends – ROSS TAYLOR 

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