Category Archives: investment real estate

Calling in the pros – Implementing a successful property management

Implementing a successful property management system is vital to the longevity, health and overall profitability of your growing portfolio of investment properties. Property management systems come in all different shapes and sizes, and can be completely tailored to your specific portfolio needs and wants. Rather than examining these different systems, which could take up an entire magazine, I want to explore three ways to increase your ROI by taking advantage of professional property management.

1. Set realistic expectations from day one
In my view, hiring a professional property manager is very similar to hiring an employee. You wouldn’t give a new hire a vague description of their tasks and responsibilities and then let them manage their job any way they want. You would give your employee a clear definition of their role and show them the kind of results you expect.

The same is true when engaging a property manager for the first time. The following are five simple questions to ask your PM – and yourself – as you’re working out the relationship. If everyone can answer every question definitively, you know you’re on the right track:

  • What is needed?
  • Who is doing what?
  • When will it be done?
  • How will it be done?
  • How much will it cost?

This may seem like a lot of work when you’re just getting started, but completing the above exercise will eliminate the roadblocks, misunderstandings and accidents associated with starting a new professional relationship, and will ultimately improve your ROI.

A professional PM will usually have all these roles pre-defined in their contract, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be challenged or negotiated to better suit your needs. Communicate above and beyond to maximize your results.

2. Hire a superintendent
This can be a hot topic depending on who you talk to – some investors dismiss the idea of hiring a super outright, and some absolutely can’t operate without theirs. I believe that if handled correctly, using a superintendent can be an effective management strategy for a medium to large building, especially if done in tandem with professional property management.

The greatest advantage of superintendents is that they live on site. This is extremely convenient when small issues arise that need immediate attention, like a spill in the hallway that needs cleaning or a tenant who needs to give you cash. For small, more regular tasks like mopping hallways and shovelling walkways, a super is usually the most cost-effective and efficient method. In my experience, waiting for your PM to deal with small items can take too long and not be as cost-effective.
I prefer my super to have a smaller role, meaning my PM handles all maintenance calls from tenants, major renovations, rent collection, tenant placement and regular reporting to me. It’s important to ensure the super is not impeding the job of your PM and vice versa. Each have their roles and should be complementary to each other. The PM is in charge, and the super is there to assist when needed, along with tending to a short list of responsibilities.

This PM-plus-super system frees up more time for me to focus on strategy, grow my portfolio and create value in my current assets. My accountant also appreciates the efficient system, as we save a fair amount of money on minor property maintenance with a super in place.

3. View property management as a service, not an expense
This is more of a way of thinking than an operational guideline. This particular piece of advice stems from years of wrestling with the same question over and over with my group of investors: “Paul, I like the property, and the numbers make sense to me, but when you factor in the cost of property management, the cash flow decreases, and the numbers are just average or below par. What do you think?”

There is no way to avoid the cost of property management. Either you are going to engage a professional to do it for you and pay for it out of the property’s cash flow, or you will handle the property management all on your own. You may think this will save you money or make your property more profitable. If you have spare time and energy and want to learn the business, I would encourage you to take on the PM responsibilities. However, if you’re busy with your career, family and lifestyle, like many of us are, by taking on the day-to-day management of your properties, you’re doing yourself a massive disservice.

Whether you pay a professional PM or not, it’s still going to cost you the same or more. By taking on the PM role, you’re going spend your own time, energy and gasoline and take away quality time for other activities you could be pursuing, like spending time with your family, getting some exercise (mowing the lawn doesn’t count), reading a book or sleeping. This may not sound like traditional ROI, but since most investors get into real estate to improve their lives, not just their bank balances, finding a good property manager will provide these other, highly attractive returns.

You cannot avoid the cost of property management. You either pay in dollars or you pay in your own time and energy. Either way, it must be done properly.

Source: Canadian Real Estate Wealth Magazine –  Contributor 14 Nov 2017

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Capital gains explained

Source: MoneySense.ca – by   

 

Capital gains explained

How it’s taxed and how to keep more for yourself

What is it?

You have a capital gain when you sell, or are considered to have sold, what the Canada Revenue Agency deems “capital property” (including securities in the form of shares and stocks as well as real estate) for more than you paid for it (the adjusted cost base) less any legitimate expenses associated with its sale.

How is it taxed?

Contrary to popular belief, capital gains are not taxed at your marginal tax rate. Only half (50%) of the capital gain on any given sale is taxed all at your marginal tax rate (which varies by province). On a capital gain of $50,000 for instance, only half of that, or $25,000, would be taxable. For a Canadian in a 33% tax bracket for example, a $25,000 taxable capital gain would result in $8,250 taxes owing. The remaining $41,750 is the investors’ to keep.

The CRA offers step-by-step instructions on how to calculate capital gains.

How to keep more of it for yourself

There are several ways to legally reduce, and in some cases avoid, capital gains tax. Some of the more common exceptions are detailed here:

  • Capital gains can be offset with capital losses from other investments. In the case you have no taxable capital gains however, a capital loss cannot be claimed against regular income except for some small business corporations.
  • The sale of your principal residence is not subject to capital gains tax. For more information on capital gains as it relates to income properties, vacation homes and other types of real estate, read “Can you avoid capital gains tax?
  • A donation of securities to a registered charity or private foundation does not trigger a capital gain.
  • If you sell an asset for a capital gain but do not expect to receive the money right away, you may be able to claim a reserve or defer the capital gain until a later time.

If you are a farmer or a newcomer to Canada, they are special capital gains rules for you. The specifics can be found at the CRA website.

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Pay less tax on rental properties

Q: I have five rental properties in my name. Should I switch them to a numbered company?

–Travis

A: Hi, Travis. Incorporating a holding company to own rental properties has some advantages and disadvantages depending on the objectives you have in mind in both the short and long term. However, you should first speak with a tax accountant about any tax ramifications both personally and corporately to ensure as perfect an integration of the two systems as possible. Then speak with a legal advisor to draft up the appropriate corporate structure before making the transfer.

From a tax point of view, there are two things to consider. While the transfer of real property held personally should qualify for a Section 85 election to rollover the properties at their cost base, you will want to be sure the CRA will not consider your properties to be held as “inventory”; that is property, held primarily for resale rather than rental. If so, they will not qualify for a tax-free rollover or capital gains treatment. Therefore, the transfer could trigger unexpected tax consequences. Your history of receiving rental income from the property will help you avoid this.

Second, you’ll also want to understand the difference in taxation rates both inside and outside of the corporation. Recent tax changes may have made it less desirable to own passive investments inside a corporation, depending on where you live in Canada.

Some advantages of incorporation include limited liability and creditor protection. However, if you are holding mortgages, most financial institutions will still require personal guarantees. Corporate directors and officers can also be held liable on default, so proper insurance protections for these instances is critical.

From a retirement planning point of view, incorporation may provide more flexibility as to when income is taken as dividends. It could help you to avoid personal taxes or spikes into the next tax bracket, and benefit from the recovery of refundable taxes in the corporation.

Consider also that there will be costs for setting up and annual reporting of the holding company. Transferring the properties from the taxpayer to a holding company may have tax consequences, other than income taxes. If your province has a land transfer tax (or equivalent), you may have to pay the land transfer tax when the properties are transferred.

The bottom line is this: you’ll want to be thoughtful about the transfer, and you’ll want to match your investment objectives and desired tax outcomes as closely as possible.

Source – MoneySense.ca – Evelyn Jacks is a tax expert, author, and founder and of Knowledge Bureau in Winnipeg

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Still thinking of home ownership as an investment? Here’s proof you’re wrong

 

Source: The Globe and Mail

Take some advice from rookie home owner Desirae Odjick about houses as an investment.

As a personal finance blogger, she ran the numbers on the cost of owning a home and concluded that breaking even would be a good outcome when it comes time, many years down the road, to sell. “A house is not a long-term investment,” she said in an interview. “It’s not a miracle financial product. It’s where you live.”

The idea that owning a house is an investment is so ingrained that a recent survey found one-third of homeowners expect rising prices to provide for them in retirement. But rising prices do not necessarily mean houses are a great investment.

Ms. Odjick lives in a suburb of Ottawa, where the real estate market’s recent strength still leaves it way behind price gains seen in the Toronto and Vancouver areas. But her point is relevant to all markets where prices aren’t soaring, and probably to hot markets as well if you’re just now buying a first home and understand that continuous massive price gains are unlikely.

In terms of home upkeep costs, Ms. Odjick and her partner have had an easy time of it since they bought in the spring. But they’ve still had expenses that surprised them. “You can use all the calculators you want and you can plan as much as you want, but until you’re in it you really don’t know what the costs are going to be.”

One example is the $3,000 spent at IKEA to equip the house with furnishings as mundane as bathmats. Another was the cost of term life insurance, which, incidentally, is a smart purchase. Term life answers the question of how the mortgage gets paid if one partner in a home-owning couple dies.

Estimates of the cost of upkeep and maintenance on a home range between 1 and 3 per cent of the market value. Her house cost $425,000, which means that upkeep costs conservatively estimated at 1 per cent would come out to an average of $4,250 per year and a total $106,250 over 25 years. Ms. Odjick is too recent an owner to have much sense of these costs, but the housing inspector she used before buying warned her to expect to need a new roof in two or three years.

She and her partner don’t have grandiose plans to fix their place up right now, but she did mention that they are looking at having children. There will almost certainly be expenses associated with getting the baby’s room ready.

In her own analysis of housing costs, Ms. Odjick estimated the cost of property taxes at 1 per cent of a home’s value. That’s another $4,250 per year. This cost would add up to $106,250 over 25 years, and that’s without annual increases factored in.

The biggest cost homeowners face is mortgage payments. Ms. Odjick and her partner made a down payment of 10 per cent on their home and chose a two-year fixed-rate mortgage at 2.71 per cent. Assuming rates stay level and no prepayments are made, this would theoretically work out to a total of $542,122 in principal and interest over the 25-year amortization period.

But rates have crept higher since mid-summer and could increase further in the months ahead. In a post on home ownership on her Half Banked blog, Ms. Odjick said the idea of rates staying level “is bananas and will not happen.”

Let’s add up the costs of home ownership as likely to be experienced by Ms. Odjick over 25 years. There’s the $42,500 she and her partner put down to buy the house, the $106,250 cost for each of property taxes and upkeep/maintenance and $542,122 in mortgage principal and interest. Total: $797,122.

Now, let’s imagine the $425,000 house appreciates at 2.5 per cent annually for 25 years. That’s in line with reasonable expectations for inflation. The future price in this case would be $787,926, which means Ms. Odjick and her partner would have paid a bit more in costs than they get for selling their house in the end.

Houses can be sold tax-free if they’re a principal residence, so there is something to the house-as-an-investment argument. But the numbers comparing what you put in and what you take out over the long term don’t exactly scream “financial home run.”

Ms. Odjick’s fine with that, because buying her home was a lifestyle decision. “If we’ve lived here for 25 years, even if it does end up costing money, then it will have been a great place to live.”

Are you a Canadian family that has made a financial decision to remain lifelong renters? If you would like to share your story, please send us an email

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Five ways to maximize your investment property

Wasim Elafech of Century 21 Bravo Realty in Calgary is among the banner brokerage’s top sales agents in the world. Century 21 operates in 78 countries with over 100,000 agents, and Elafech managed to become their number one unit producer in 2015 and number three in Canada last year, so he knows a thing or two about getting the best bang for your buck out of a rental property. He shared some of those tips with us.

1. Maintain the property
Elafech says some he’s sold properties to clients who in turn rented them out, but without putting in the necessary work. “The work you do doesn’t have to be expensive, but it has to be brand new,” he said. “It will be liveable but it won’t look good. The floors will be cracked or peeling, and when people walk in they get the impression it’s a rundown property, but they won’t if you do the work. Make sure all the fixtures work, that they’re not broken; make sure door handles are loose or need to be replaced. If the place is well-maintained, 100% of the time you’ll get more money for your rental.”

Elafech added that properties are often reflections of the people who live in them.

“A really good tenant won’t look for a rundown place, first of all, so they wouldn’t take that place. You’ll attract the type of people your property looks like. People who accept living (in shabby properties) aren’t the best tenants.”

2. Bungalows yield higher rents
Bungalows are excellent rental properties because the top and bottom floor can be rented out as separate units. “One guy I know pretty much made his whole house different rooms with a common living room, couch and TV.”

Typically, however, the upper and lower floors of a bungalow can be rented as separate units. “Bungalows are the easiest houses to sell in certain areas here because you can rent the upper and lower levels, if it’s properly treated. In an area where you’re renting a whole house to a person, you’d get, say, $1,600 a month, but if you’re renting the floors separately, you can get maybe $2,200 a month. It’s about volume.”

3. Screen your tenants
Screening tenants adequately ensures your rental investment doesn’t become a nightmare.  “I see it a lot,” said Elafech. “They don’t want to lose a month on the mortgage payment, so if it’s been sitting for a couple of weeks they’ll rush into a deal and rent it to whoever comes next, and sure enough the people either do a midnight run or don’t pay. I’m going through that now with my client.”

Elafech recommends waiting it out, even if that means the property sits empty for a month or two. Ask tenants for references and their job history. “If the tenant is reluctant, there’s usually a reason. Keep a look out for red flags.”

He also suggested hiring a rental management company if an apartment building, rather than two or three properties, needs to be maintained. While pricey, they’re well worth it – and they screen tenants.

Sometimes, though, less is more.

“I have a client that’s renting out a house with a garage for $1,000 month that usually goes for $1,800, because he has a good tenant. He cuts the grass and maintains the property. He does everything for the landlord, so that peace of mind is worth more than the money he’d get from renting the parking pad and garage in the back.

4. Rent the garage and parking spot separately
Elafech mentioned a rental property he’s currently showing. “The owner is going to park his trailer on the parking pad, rent out the garage and both floors of the bungalow separately – rental income from upstairs, downstairs and the garage.”

5. Location, location, location
Location is everything in real estate, so Elafech recommends investing in a property that’s surrounded by prime amenities like transit and schools.

“In Calgary, we have LRTs and buses. Even having shopping centres and schools nearby is important. A client had a condo with an LRT across the street, and he got more for it than a similar place he owns that had a similar layout but was a bit bigger, because it was six or eight blocks away and farther from the LRT. In Calgary, when it’s minus-40 outside, you’re not walking, or waiting for a bus when it’s cold. People pay for convenience.”

Source: Canadian Real Estate Wealth – Neil Sharma

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The real estate math mistake we all make

real estate math

Most financial choices boil down to simple math. Add up the gains, subtract the costs, and you should get a number that helps you draw a conclusion. Those numbers are particularly useful when trying to make a major life decision, such as whether or not to sell the family home.

Given how hot big city markets like Toronto are these days, the math would certainly make a compelling case to sell. Yet according to the April sales data from the Toronto Real Estate Board, listings are down 27% year-over-year in the GTA. Despite brisk sales and skyrocketing prices, most homeowners living in semi-detached and detached homes are choosing to stay put. (A similar lack of inventory is plaguing Vancouver, Halifax, Ottawa and nearly every large city in Canada.)

TREB’s rationale for the dearth of listings? A widespread aversion to the high cost of land transfer. Other people have surmised that the scarcity is a symptom of our fear of paying a premium on the next property. After all, while you may sell high, you’re also forced to buy high—a proposition that leaves some feeling like prisoners to the status quo. But I think there’s another reason people aren’t selling as many homes these days, and it’s buried deep inside our brains. More precisely it has to do with how we process gains and losses.

According to Nobel-prize winning professor Daniel Kahneman, we’re hardwired to overvalue a loss and undervalue a gain. “The aggravation that one experiences in losing a sum of money appears to be greater than the pleasure associated with gaining the same amount,” is how he puts it.

To appreciate what Kahneman means, consider the case of Larry and Laura. Retired for three years, the Toronto couple have a comfortable debt-free life, funded by modest pensions, savings and government income programs. Thing is, they could have more money in the bank if they sold their home—let’s say they bought it 15 years ago for $250,000. But Larry and Laura can’t wrap their heads around selling and downsizing in such a crazy market, even though they could probably sell it for $750,000 or more.

The math says they’d be ahead by as much as half a million. But that calculation isn’t entirely accurate, at least not from an economist’s point of view. To understand how they’re undervaluing their gains, you have to consider the difference between sunk costs and opportunity costs. Sunk costs are anything spent that cannot be recovered. For Larry and Laura, that would mean the money they paid into the mortgage, the time and money it took to maintain their home and the emotional and mental energy they invested in raising a family in the house.

The opportunity cost, on the other hand, is what’s incurred from not taking the next best alternative. This is a fancy way of referring to all the ways Larry and Laura could be spending their time and money if it weren’t tied up in their family home.

Pretty straightforward, right? Only Larry and Laura aren’t as rational as they think. The idea of dismissing all the money, time and energy they poured into their family home feels like the emotional equivalent of losing their investment, a perceived loss that prompts them to overvalue their sunk costs. Economists would say this is irrational. They would explain our refusal to dismiss these irretrievable expenses as a “behavioural error” or an action that doesn’t conform to rational choice theory (a principle that assumes we always make the prudent and logical decision that provides us with the greatest benefit).

If Larry and Laura were truly rational, their real gain for selling their debt-free family home would be closer to $750,000 (the sale price minus transactional costs). Even if they chose to repurchase in the same market, it would likely be something smaller and less expensive; they’d still have money left in the bank to spend on travel, explore new hobbies or give to their kids and grandkids. So does that mean Larry and Laura should sell? Yeah, maybe. Since each person values a future gain slightly differently, it’s important to ask yourself the following questions:

1. What are the intangible and tangible sunk costs so far?

2. Am I willing to accept that these sunk costs will never be returned to me?

3. If so, can I see what I may be missing if I overweight costs that are irretrievable?

4. Finally, what would I actually gain if I were to sell and move now?

It’s totally understandable if you answer these questions and still choose to pass up the opportunity for a large financial gain. Sometimes the math used to determine a home’s value ignores the intangibles—factors that can outweigh even the most compelling balance sheet surplus. But going through an exercise like this will help anyone make a more informed, more rational decision. It’s better than feeling trapped in the status quo, a prisoner in a surprisingly expensive home.

 

Source: MoneySense.ca – by  

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Reporting the sale of a rental property

Q:  I bought a house in 2010 for $600,000 and lived in that house as my principal residence until 2013.  Then I bought and moved into another property. I rented out the first house and reported all income on my tax returns. In 2016, I sold the rental property for $900,000. When I file my tax return for 2016, how much capital gains am I supposed to declare and report to the CRA?  Is it $900K minus $600K, minus the cost of disposition; or $900K minus whatever the deemed fair market value of the property at the time when I moved out in 2013, minus the cost of disposition?      

— Wallace, Toronto


Ayana Forward is a Certified Financial Planner with Ryan Lamontagne Inc. in Ottawa: 

You are entitled to a principal residence exemption for the time you lived in the residence—between 2010 and 2013. The formula for calculating your principal residence exemption also includes an extra year so you will have four years of exemption according to the formula.

The formula is as follows:
((# of years home is principal residence + 1)/# of years home is owned) x capital gain

Your capital gain before factoring in the principal residence exemption is your proceeds of disposition ($900,000) minus your purchase price ($600,000), which works out to $300,000.

Using the above formula, your principal residence exemption is:

((3 + 1)/6)  x $300,000 = $200,000

Your capital gain after factoring in the principle residence exemption is $100,000 (as $300,000 minus $200,000 = $100,000). Because it’s a capital gain, the CRA will only charge you tax on 50% of that gain, resulting in a taxable capital gain of $50,000.

The amount of tax you pay on that $50,000 will depend on your marginal tax rate.

To report the sale and tax owed, you must complete form Form T2091(IND) Designation of a property as a Principal Residence by an Individual (Other Than a Personal Trust) and file it with your income tax return.

Source MoneySense.ca –  Ayana Forward  is a real estate investor who also holds the Certified Financial Planner (CFP®) designation. Ayana is fee-based Financial Planner with Ryan Lamontagne Inc in Ottawa, ON.

 

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