Why do I suggest my clients the 50%, the 2% and other rules for real estate investments.
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Why do I suggest my clients the 50%, the 2% and other rules for real estate investments.
If you are a regular reader of From Cents To Retirement, you buy it that rental properties are a great way to fund a retirement. In my opinion, there are great advantages to rental properties, in comparison to other investments and I will go through them once again in this post. However, there are very low hanging fruit arguments: rental properties produce predictable income that is naturally indexed to inflation, have many tax advantages and allow for easy leveraged.
If you want to retire off of rental properties, you should have, in my opinion, a strategy and a philosophy. These are different things. A strategy is a plan that will tell you where to go next. A philosophy to invest in real estate is a set of rules that you’ll apply always, regardless where you are at that moment. My strategy is so complex that I actually wrote a book about it.
In this article, I will share how you should calculate how many rental properties you need to retire off of. I designed this article so that you ask yourself a bunch of questions that will give you very solid indicators on how many properties you will need. It is not a magic formula, though. It is more of a comprehensive view on the topic that will help you arrive at a number, type, and location of a rental portfolio.
“How many investment properties do I need to retire?” is probably in the TOP3 of questions I get, when it comes to retiring with real estate. After all, I set the goal to retire by the time I hit around 30 cash flowing units (meaning 20 more than what I have now). To be honest, I love this question, because we don’t need the same number of properties to retire… Plus, I actually found out that, working with clients abroad, this question can be easily answered if we understand some points about early retirement and real estate first.
Before we dive into the actual calculation of how many properties you will need, let’s review some real estate points before.
The thing about investing in the stock market is lack of control. I love real estate because I can negotiate 1:1 and bring the cost of properties down. In fact, I love to shop around for properties and submit 30-50 offers in a matter of days. I submit these many offers because I go with very low offers – sometimes 20% of the listing price. And if I find a motivated seller, who had his/her property on the market of ages, I may walk away with a great deal. In the stock market, you can’t do this. Sure, you can find undervalued stocks but you can’t really buy a stock below market value.
Plus, you have very low flexibility with stocks. You buy them and you hope the companies you invested in do well. But you can’t run them. In real estate, you can negotiate the acquisition cost aggressively and monetize the property as you want. You can choose the renovation you want (and you can trade-off between renovation costs and income) and decide what and when to repair things (unless we’re talking about urgent things that needed to be repaired right away). The stock market is so far from this that many investors claim that if you’re going for the long term, it doesn’t really matter when exactly you buy in. Most investors think that the best thing to do is to buy a few index funds (such as a trident portfolio) and call it a day.
There are many retirement calculators that suggest you the number of properties you need to retire off of a rental property portfolio. I think that retirement calculators can be helpful but I don’t agree that they fit most people, as they are biased and usually designed towards a specific scenario. For instance, how would the same calculator work, not knowing if I live in the US, Portugal or Cambodia? Many people would say this is already factored in in the income I need to get to retire, but that completely ignores facts like the local tax code, how hard it is to leverage in those markets and how much that market will grow in the future.
I believe that the best way to determine your magical number of properties is actually my answering the questions below…
My own goal is to become financially free by the time I turn 33. At least that was the goal when I started From Cents To Retirement, 2 years ago. Now, it is more like being able to retire by the time I turn 30 years old.
Your goal may be 60 years old. Or 25. It doesn’t matter, just set up the goal. The sooner you retire, the more sustainable your portfolio will have to be, but the more work it may require – at least in my perspective. Real Estate is never as passive as dividend stocks, for example. You’ll have to deal with tenants in one way or another – even if you hire a property manager. They may solve most of the property issues without needing your intervention, but you’ll have to be involved to some extent. Usually, the younger you are, the more willing you are to get involved.
So, set your goal in terms of age, income needed to retire and the level at which you’re willing to get involved in the investments.
This question is essential in two ways: first, it will help you determine how much you will need throughout your retirement. Second, it will clearly tell you whether you should invest.
As for the needed income to retire, you’ll have to come up with a reasonable figure that enables you to live well in the area you want to retire in. The good news is, you already know the area very well, and can easily determine what the perfect figure would be. Maybe it is your current salary (that would perfectly do the trick for me).
Although you want to invest in real estate that is physically close to you (unless you go with turn-key properties), you need to make sure that the markets near you are indeed profitable.
So, the bottom line is, arrive at a number – regardless you want to retire in your current location or abroad.
At this point you know where you want to invest, so you should also know how much money each property yields. This is because you’re familiar with the market, and you can quickly say how much property is supposed to cost and yield. My advice is to study the market inside out when you get to this point. Make the following questions:
Once you answer these, the math becomes simple. Consider taxes, maintenance costs (usually 15% in the long run), vacancy costs (I use 10%) and property management fees. Then, arrive at a number of properties that enables you to retire off of (as you already know how much money you need to retire). Be conservative, as much as you can. But be realistic and don’t lie to yourself.
My first goal is to hit a net worth of about €670k-€680k, which, considering a 2% inflation rate, should have the same purchasing power of €755,000 in 6 years from now.
In today’s euros, I estimate that such a portfolio will generate a net salary of about €29,000/yr (this takes an average net yield of 7% and 28% tax into account). Just so you know how conservative I am: I will break this down into 4% for my salary (which is €16,500/yr – if you think this is low read my post about retiring in Portugal and geographic arbitrage), 2% to cover inflation and 1% for portfolio growth.
I estimate that about 70% of that income will come from rental properties. As each property usually nets about €200/mo net in my region (considering a 28% tax, property management fees, etc), I would need about 9 properties to make it happen (9*200*12 = €21,600 ~= 70% * €29,000). This math assumes 0 liabilities, which is clearly not the case in my portfolio. If I take liabilities into account, then this ramps up to about 20 cash-flowing properties, the double of what I currently have.
Next year I should have a total of 20 properties, but my debt will be as high as never before, as I plan to use some acquisition lines of credit, mortgaging RP#3 to that end. This may mean that my debt will be higher than €200,000. A necessary way to grow…
If you are a reader of From Cents To Retirement, you are probably an expert in real estate. However, I think that if you want to retire off of a rental portfolio, you must really know what you are doing. In particular, I think that these pointers will help you a lot, especially if you are serious about setting up a real estate business:
Simply take these tips and tricks into account when determining the number of properties you need to retire off of and starting a real estate business.
In my opinion, there is no magic formula that allows you to safely say how many properties you need to retire. We are all different, living in different places, needing different income to live off, and we all have different tolerance to risk and willingness to be active in our investments. However, there are a lot of questions you can make that will give you a rough idea of how many properties you’ll need. At the end of the day, it boils down to setting an income figure you want to receive every month and a plan to create as many properties as needed to create that income. Simply go through the questions and observations I’ve made in this post to determine how many.
Any comments? Let me know down below.
Your biggest fan,
Wanna know what happened to me last week? I met a Portuguese real estate investor (let’s call him John) who made a fortune in 4 years. He was generous enough to tell me exactly how he did it and offered himself to help me doing the same. (Yes, little did he know that I already have a master plan under execution).
Although I am sticking to my own plan, I found his story so compelling that I had to share it.
This guy started flipping houses in the worst financial moment of his life. He had just divorced from his wife, and he had about $1000 on his account. He had a brick and mortar business, which he had to shut down because of the divorce, in 2008. John basically started flipping houses with no money! I actually got so intrigued by John’s story and I realized that there are more people flipping houses without money! In fact, there are signs that will tell you if you should flip houses!
Fortunately for him, the housing market crash was at its peak at the time, and he had taken a course, two years before that, on flipping houses…
After determining how much house flippers make, he jumped right into it. But how, since he had no money? Here’s what I learned…
Like I said above, John divorced right in the middle of the last housing market crash. I soon learned that that was a determining factor for success. There was a ton of foreclosures and a lot of short sales as well. John started with a short sale: the owners had their second house damaged by water and didn’t have the money to repair it.
Eventually, the housing market crash hit and they couldn’t their mortgage. They owed the bank almost $60.000 on a property that cost them almost $200.000. John was able to buy this property for $55.000 and the owners got to keep their mortgage on the first property (if the bank didn’t agree on the short-sale, the owners would default on their primary property as well and the bank would get another house to their inventory – which was growing fast at that time). “I sold it the first day I walked inside. I had a toolbox and I was up to some repairs, but a neighbor saw me coming and offered me $80.000, which I took. That day I realized I could make a ton of money flipping homes…”
Of course that to replicate this, you would have to predict when the real estate market is going to crash. Or not. You can simply time the market in a different way. I mean, not in terms of crashes, but situations where owners are willing to sell for a loss. The key point is to get a property that can be bought way under its market value (maybe my portfolio will inspire you).
The key reasons why this is so important is so that you can make a large profit on the flip, but above all, so that you get 100% financed. Plus, there are many types of loans that also grant you money for the renovation works.
OK, easier said than done, right? How easy is it to get a sweet deal, where you buy a property for way less than what it is worth? Not easy… unless you know the right people.
In this case, I will speak based on personal experience. I’ve always bought real estate on discount. I was always able to buy properties at least 30% less than what they are actually worth.
To accomplish this, I believe that real estate investors need either time-consuming or sophisticated strategies… unless you know the right people. And who can be the right people in this market? Real estate agents and brokers, of course! Get along with them, let them know you’re a serious buyer but you’ll only buy underprice because that is your business.
Let’s assume you cannot find 100% financed deals. Your timing is not ideal and even though you got along with many agents, none was able to bring you the sweet deals you are looking for… those that can be 100% financed. There are proper ways to ask for loans to flip houses, you knew that?
If you are still presented deals where you can make a profit if you flip the property but you need to put 20% down.
If that is the case, you have no alternative other than raising money from friends, family or partners. Ideally, you should raise a bit more than 20% of the downpayment, as you’ll need money to renovate the property as well. If you do find great deals, which the bank will finance at 100%, you will still have to raise money for the closing costs and the renovation of the property.
Partners are easier to obtain, but you’ll need a tracking record. I know a bunch of people who would partner up with you if you show them a really good deal and you’re willing to do the hard work. Go to real estate seminars. Go to real estate events in general. Ask your broker for contacts – he will most likely provide them to you (as you’ll be buying from him if you’re able to find a partner).
No money from friends and family? Can’t find a partner? Check out the next tip…
I don’t personally like to use credit cards and their cash advance offers because the risk increases considerably. However, if someone wants to start investing and has no money, they can be a solution.
If you want to flip homes and you have no money, you will need to raise money for:
If you try to sell the property (after you flip it) through a real estate agency, you don’t need to have the money for the commission right away: remember that you only pay the agency when the house is sold.
Go here and check your credit score to start: https://aaacreditguide.
If you have bad credit, you may not have access to credit cards. You can still do great deals and get 100% financed, to the best of my knowledge.
To solve this problem, you can sell stuff you have a home and you don’t use anymore… and use it for a downpayment. I have done this myself. Just go to the attic and look around for things you don’t use anymore and you can sell online. Make a list and consider 20% below the worst case scenario. I personally found this to be a great activity: I made money to buy a home and I cleaned my parents’ home at the same time.”
This is actually one of my tips to quickly make some bucks. If you don’t have stuff at home, you can always buy stuff online and flip it buy selling it later on for a profit.
Working part-time can be another solution. You can quickly save up for closing costs (assuming you get 100% financed) by working part-time. Making some money quickly is not hard. It simply takes effort and persistence.
OK, this is a really big one.
Having favorable payment terms is the best thing one can do when flipping homes with little or no money.
This goes for renovation material and contractors (assuming you cannot do the work yourself). I typically negociate installments, when I have the cash, but I negotiate 30-90 day payment dues when I don’t have the money. This may give me 90 days after the renovation is done to pay the contractor. If we apply this to flips, we could actually end up selling the home before we have to pay for the renovation work!
So, always negotiate 30-90 payment dues with the contractor and the retailer that will provide with the material for the renovation.
This is really what really makes a difference when flipping a home with no money. It is also the best scenario that may happen, for a variety of reasons.
But what does it mean to sell a home before we flip it?
There are two different types of flips that can be done this way.
The first one is what I described in a previous post on a perfect flip. These are typically homes that you know you can sell for more than you bought them for, even without any renovation. Let us be realistic: some homes simply lack promotion and end up not selling for the right price. Sometimes you bump into really motivated sellers who want to sell really quick, resulting in incredibly low prices.
The second type is based on selling the home you bought to flip before you renovate it, but based on what the renovation is going to be. For example, you could tell the real estate agencies that you are willing to allow the end client to choose the tiles used in the renovation, or any other material they like. This will attract more buyers and increase your odds of selling the house fast.
Either, promting the house while you are flipping it is key to sell fast…
Take pictures while you are guttering the house. Take pictures of the tiles you choose. And pictures of the tub! Then, ask your friends on Facebook whether they like it. And ask them to tag their friends who may be looking for a new home.
This will pay off big time.
First off, if buyers can choose the materials for the flip, they will be inclined to buy your home over another. People love personalized homes. If they can choose what goes in there, they will definitely shift their attention towards that home, and forget others.
Second, asking your friends on Facebook what tiles/tubs/taps/whatever look better will entice them to the project. This can both help you with the flip, choosing materials that will be preferred by more people, and increase your chances to sell – especially if they share your pictures. People love home renovation. Not actually doing it, or ordering it. But following one closely. How many TV shows that are based on home renovations do you know? A few, at least, right? That is because there is a market!
John actually set up a Facebook page – called “Undergoing renovations” or something similar (I actually forgot it down the road) to promote his flips. A very clever thing to do! Once you have more practice with this market, and you start doing flips often, you’ll come up with clever methods to sell your flips faster. In fact, this is almost what this is all about…
Today, John is a real estate mogul. He almost never lost money on any deal, and he does about 20 flips a year. Pretty awesome!
He actually told me it is easy to become a real estate mogul. To have a successful flipping business, you need two things, according to him: finding deals where you buy way undervalue, and sell fast (even if you sell at discount sometimes). These are, according to him, the two key ingredients of a successful business.
I personally prefer to buy and hold, to be honest. However, I recognize that there is a lot of money in the flipping market. If you have the right infrastructure in place, you can do very well, even if you are looking to start flipping some homes with no money.
Are you a flipper yourself? What is your experience? Let me know in the comments down below!
As you know, I will start to use lines of credit to grow my real estate portfolio. After I decided my early retirement portfolio would come essentially from a rental property portfolio, I decided to look at lines of credit from a different angle. Just so you know, big rental portfolios have been proven to be some of the fastest ways to reach long-term wealth.
In theory, you need some assets to ask for lines of credit, but you can also start this process with a personal line of credit or an unsecured line of credit if you don’t have any collateral to show. If you do use a line of credit to buy a rental property, I recommend you to choose a rental property with very good changes of being rented out. Otherwise, it is risky… very risky…
Yet, lines of credit can be a great tool to expand operating rental portfolios. Just to be clear, in this post, I am covering home equity lines of credit, which are typically called HELOCs.
Before I proceed with my own model, I want to first review the generic model behind HELOCs.
Say you want to retire early with real estate (just so you know, it is among the best ways to retire early). You have a real estate portfolio composed of, let’s say, 3 homes. Two homes were purchased all cash, and so you haven’t mortgaged them. This means that they can be provided as collateral for a new mortgage:
You’re bored with your growth and you think of using a line of credit for investing further. Note that this is yet another way to finance yourself – you’ve got several options. The cool thing about lines of credit is that you don’t really need to guess much because the collateral is already yours. Plus, should you need money, it will be on your account pretty soon (after it has been established, that is). You can simply have it appraised and ask for a credit line. If you use the line of credit merely for investment, this is typically called an investment line of credit.
Now, as your property no. 1 and no. 2 are free and clear, you can have them mortgaged as a collateral for a line of credit. For the sake of discussion, this gives you access to a line of credit of $100,000:
For the sake of discussion, it doesn’t matter whether you mortgage one or two homes to get access to a line of credit. Now, given that you have access to $100,000, you buy a new investment property:
The best thing about this is that that investment property is free of any mortgage. Therefore, you can replicate this process essentially forever. The only things that are required to replicate this on and on are 1) that you don’t default and 2) your appraisals are enough so that the bank lends you enough money to buy a new rental property. An interesting question is “can I still get a line of credit if my credit score is low?”. I am not an oracle, but I’d say you need a decent credit score, so get yourself a secured loan and build that thing up!
Keep in mind that lines of credit typically work on a 70% Loan To Value (LTV) basis. That means that is your homes are appraised for say $100k, the bank will lend you $70k. This is why I am only interested in homes whose appraisal is way higher than the acquisition cost.
As I said before, I am establishing a line of credit of $180k, given that RP#3 was appraised at more than that. Plus, I have renovated it, so I can ask for a line of credit giving RP#3 as a collateral. I am creating a new LLC for that, although it is not simply to hold assets. I want to turn it into a big holding, but also a company to sell services, eventually. This new LLC will start with at least 150k of fresh capital. Essentially, I will have to build a rental property portfolio from scratch…
Within this new LLC, I hope to ask for a few lines of credit until the point I ask one or more every quarter. Eventually, I will simply be managing the ratio debt/income of the company. This company won’t be built just so that I build another real estate investment portfolio. My intention here is to leverage a lot and use HELOCs to build a very large rental property portfolio…
I believe that there will be a sweet spot of the income-to-debt ratio as time goes by. Here is a projection of what I want the company to make:
I will start this company with 150k and 0 debt (the 150k will be obtained at the cost of mortgaging RP#3, which belongs to another LLC), and it will take me a while to get my first line of credit accepted. Therefore, I am projecting 8 months to be running at full capacity (meaning having bought all properties and be drawing cash from them), which will create a revenue of $8,000 for the year. This is not particularly good, but it will be a start. In this scenario, I assume that, because the LLC is new, the bank won’t lend me money, which means I can only buy €150,000 worth of real estate. This should be enough to buy and renovate about 6-8 units.
In the math above, take into account that the debt on the 150k belongs to my other LLC that owns RP#3. That company will then have some debt on the balance sheets, but the rental income from RP#3 alone (projected to be more than €1,400 by February 2018) will be enough to pay for the installments of that line of credit.
If the bank lends me money, I will assume I can get $120k in debt. This means a monthly payment of $1,000 which is roughly $666 principal and $333 interest, on a 13-year mortgage.
In this case, I could potentially hit 15 units, which would mean an annual revenue of $32,000. However, I’d need time to buy and renovate the properties. Projecting 6 months to find, buy and renovate some properties, I’d say I would hit about $16k in revenue and pay down $4,000 in principle. The profit would be 60% of ($16,000 – $6,000), which means $6,000. This means that I would create $10k in actual wealth, as I pay down $4k in principle.
I will assume I ended up with the worst case scenario in 2018…
If the bank doesn’t lend me money in 2018, it will certainly lend me money in 2019.
In this case, I could get about $150k in debt, which, on a 13-year, 3% interest mortgage would mean about $1,200/mo and roughly $385/mo interest and $815 in principle. I would operate at 100% the entire year, thus making over $37,000 in revenue. With $15k in cost, I’d make over $13,000 in profit and build almost $10,000 in equity.
At the end of the year, I need to have at least 18 units, regardless of what happens in 2018.
In 2020, I will definitely resort to lines of credit…
Assuming I could create another $100k in debt during 2020, I will have 26 units in this LLC. This means that I would hit $55,000 in revenue for the year and have monthly payments of $2,300. This would roughly mean about $18,000 in equity, which builds up to $26,000. As for profit, we are talking about $16,000. With debt summing up to about $300,000, the company would hit $875,000 in assets and a net worth of more than half a million bucks.
If everything goes well, I could retire at this point and live solely on the profit of this LLC, while making sure that there are no mistakes maken from this point on.
Any thoughts on this? Let me know in the comments down below!
A lot of readers have been asking me why I prefer to invest in smaller markets. Whenever there is news on the best towns or markets to invest, it is common that only big towns pop up. I typically get the same questions over and over again, so I decided to write a comprehensive post on the pros and cons of investing in real estate in smaller towns and how that compares to bigger towns.
I lived in some big cities up until this day: Frankfurt, Germany and Milano, Italy, to mention two. But I actually grew up in a small city in Portugal, close to Spain, with less than 50.000 inhabitants. When I first started to consider investing in Real Estate (after the first decision, to invest in Portugal), I remember discussing with a friend over investing in rural and mid-to-small markets in mid-east Portugal vs going to the bigger cities, such as Lisbon and Porto.
When I meet other Portuguese real estate investors, their assumption is that I invest in Lisbon or Porto. In fact, I think that there is a very strong misconception in Portugal that only big cities are suited for real estate investing. I could not disagree more… let me go over the pros and cons to investing in small and big towns.
Although these are great points, there are also downsides to investing in smaller towns, which I list below:
In my opinion, small towns can be a great place to invest in real estate. In fact, most of my real estate portfolio is exposed to small towns. Below, I will go over the various pros and cons that I listed above, providing more details about them.
The average price of my properties is about €30,000. The first property I bought was purchased with savings from my childhood and the liquidation of a stock portfolio I had bought then. Although I bought the second property with a mortgage, I had saved enough money by living and working in Germany for about 3 years. This tells you how disproportional the price of my properties and my income was. I bet it is difficult to buy real estate in any part of the world with savings from 3 years of work.
Of course that all the properties I bought needed massive renovation, as I also think that this is the best way to create value, but if I were to invest in bigger markets in Portugal, such as Lisbon and Porto, I would pay 4-10x per square meter. Yet, the rent would only be about 2-4x higher, if that much. This also allowed me to start investing in Real Estate quite early in the game. This has also helped me tremendously with increasing my rental income, thus putting me in a better position to negotiate with the bank.
Given that most real estate investors I know believe that there is only money to be made in the bigger cities, I end up not having a lot of competition. This actually gives me a very nice edge: I actually wait a lot before I buy real estate. By letting the properties sit on the market for a big while, I can actually use that as an argument to present an offer way lower than the listing price, while the owners also increase their willingness to sell. This has proven to be a very effective MO for me.
In bigger markets, we actually end up making higher offers, as we have the pressure of other investors’ offers. This can be quite of a disadvantage. Another great advantage of lower competition are margins, which increase the yields. This applies both to buy and hold and fix and flip.
My real estate portfolio returns are quite nice. For instance, my third rental property yields about 20% on the total investment, and a much higher sum if we consider cash on cash, as I leveraged to buy it. This is much nicer than anything I would be able to reach through the stock market, I believe. However, the most important point is that these yields are certainly way higher than the yields I could get in bigger markets, such as Lisbon.
The yields are related to competition, as I say above, but a number of other things. If you buy the property at a higher discount, even with normalized rents we will obtain better yields. My strategy is to have above-average properties at below-average prices, and even in this case my yields are pretty juicy!
Right now, Lisbon is one of the sexiest cities in Europe. Every year, it attracts a multitude of people, mostly because of the conflict in North Africa and the saturation of other European cities. Plus, in a matter of 4 years, the city has managed to multiply by 8 the number of hostels and hotels. This is truly remarkable.
However, I do believe that this trend will soon stop. Other cities will become more prominent and the conflicts in Africa will end. These cities (in Poland, Bulgaria, Croatia, etc) will be cheaper than Lisbon, and because they haven’t been accessible to everyone in the last 20 years or so, they will attract a lot of tourists, I assume. What generated a huge appreciation of real estate may be responsible for a huge correction.
Smaller towns tend to be much more controlled markets. They are not exposed to huge spikes in tourism or change of airline routes. They don’t have an airport to start with! As a result, the number of jobs therein doesn’t really grow that much, which means that not many new people come. Yet, many locals tend to stay around. Today, with the amount of business that is done over the internet, we can afford to live in smaller towns and work for the world. I truly believe this will be crucial to maintaining populations in smaller regions, as they create their own jobs.
Although investing in smaller towns can be safer, in terms of volatility, we should also expect lower appreciation. I am personally OK with that, but we all are different as investors and this has to be taken into account.
What is it easier to fully understand? A small market, or a big one? The small one, of course. In fact, big markets like those in bigger towns actually tend to be made out of small markets, where every market is different from the other one. This can be a pain in the neck! If a real estate agent calls me up and tells me “I’ve got a property for $30.000” I will only know whether that is a good deal if it is a rural area or a small town, like those I invest in. In Lisbon, that could be a bargain or a very expensive deal.
Bigger towns have bigger market complexities. This, whether you admit it or not, is a big disadvantage. Not only you need more time to assess deals as the change to make a mistake is also higher. In fact, finding rentals in small towns is way easier! I know most agents around (at least those in the market for more than 6 months). They know me, as there are also not that many investors. I get to know of deals quite fast and I can find better deals way faster than if I were in a bigger town. So, add that one to the list: finding good real estate deals in small or rural areas is way easier!
This is really the key to finding good deals in small towns and rural markets: get along with the agents and let me know you are buying. Because the market is small, you’ll be presented deals really fast.
If you read my post on tricks to set up a real estate business, you should instantly know where I am going with this. I actually come up with a really nice plan to promote a brand in the markets I invest. I will order some signs (just like hotel signs) and stick them to my buildings. Together with the facebook pages I created to promote my real estate, I hope this will help to move a brand. Doing this in a bigger town would be considerably more difficult unless you had a much bigger number of units.
I’ve had many calls from friends of my tenants, who wanted to know “whether I had homes to available”. At some point, my tenants were working for me, beyond paying me every month. This would also work in big towns, but it is highly unlikely it would work as well as in a small town. In fact, I think that if you are able to build a brand in some small town or rural area, you’d be much more successful in continuing that brand in a bigger town.
While building a brand is important – although merely a business accomplishment – your impact will also be bigger. I am particularly happy to help and contribute to the renovation of the look of the city. I find it particularly appealing to buy a property with a distressed facade and renovate it. Plus, 1 in a million won’t be noticed – 1 in 1000 will!
I like to have really awesome tenants. First, I like tenants with large salaries. Second, I typically ask for co-signers (who are responsible for paying the rent if my tenants default). In smaller towns – let us be realistic – this is harder to get because there are fewer tenants to choose from!
Not only this can mean fewer tenants to choose from, it can also mean more time to get the property rented out. Fortunately, my properties have almost 0% vacancy rates, even if I invest in small towns.
I follow a free cash flow model when I invest. Put simply, this means that I focus on getting my money back as fast as possible (e.g. through monthly payments, such as with real estate) and I focus on high cash flow/yields, and I don’t look much at appreciation. In a rural setting, this is perfect because yields are high. However, if I were looking for high appreciation perhaps real estate in rural areas is not the kind of deals you should be looking for unless you expect a huge influx of people.
I also tend to think, based on my experience, that buy and hold works much better than wholesaling of fix-and-flip, when it comes to rural areas or small towns. My strategy is primarily buy-and-hold, although I have done flipping deals in a small town, but only because I knew there were many buyers for more money than what I paid for the property.
In smaller towns, from my experience, finding good contractors can be very hard. I actually know a few, but they are always overloaded with work. Unless you have yourself covered in this regard, it can be tough to maintain a large real estate business, due to the lack of people to work in this field.
As for property managers, I actually believe it is easier to find improvised property managers but harder to find professional ones. I personally get by just fine with improvised property managers, because they solve my needs and don’t cost me much money. However, if you need a professional property manager (I will assume you have enough volume to demand that) you’ll probably have to train one…
The same goes for other services you may need to keep your real estate business going.
Rural areas and small towns are, in my opinion, very attractive to invest in real estate. I have personally invested in rural areas and small towns with tons of success, having many apartments for rent in small towns of Portugal.
However, there are challenges inherent to these areas and they are very specific characteristics to these markets. Therefore, if you are thinking about investing in a rural market or a small town (over a big one), it is very important that you take an educated decision. Plus, this can really be the difference between the type of business you will set up. As I said above, setting up a business in a big town or a small town / rural area can have fundamental changes at its core, which may or may not suit your investing profile.
The biggest disadvantages I can identify in these markets include being difficult to sell real estate in rural areas if you are a fix-and-flip investor. In my opinion, the best investment in rural areas is buy-and-hold.
Let me know down below if you invest in rural areas or small towns.
The first time I decided I wanted to invest in Portugal, my family asked me why. To them, it would have been more natural to invest in Italy or Canada, where we spent some time. I am very happy I decided to invest in Portugal, for a number of reasons, but the first one because my investments have been working great.
There are a number of reasons why people want to invest in Portugal when they want to invest in Real Estate:
If you follow my blog you know that I invest in Portugal for a while. All my investments have been performing really well and I am looking to invest more until I hit about $6000/mo in rental income (I am at about $1350 right now and will hit $2000 until the end of the year).
In my company, we work with many types of people:
After working in over 20 transactions with investors, I am able to say why they typically want to invest in Portugal:
I could talk all they long about this, because there are very many (and so compelling) reasons to buy Real Estate in Portugal, especially as a retired foreigner. Here are some:
Buying real estate in Portugal can be hard for foreigners. The first thing that a foreigner has to know is where to buy. However, all markets are very different from one another and from my experience investors have no idea how different they are.
On top of that, they barely know important aspects, such as tax, transactions, and construction itself.
I typically invest in mid-sized to small cities, and I typically go after motivated sellers when I want to buy properties for me or the investors I work with. I feel comfortable in those markets are I know that I can always make money when I buy, as I usually buy way undervalue.
I offer consulting services if you’re looking to invest in Real Estate in Portugal, depending on the region you’re looking to invest in. I provide reports on the markets and I look for investment properties – both buy and hold and fix and flip.
If you want to have a simple report with data on te markets where we invest in, we usually charge from €700 to €2,900 + VAT. We also provide market studies and reports on specific cities and markets.
Our second service is to help the investor with the transaction, from the beginning until the end of the transaction. Our rate is 6% of the purchasing price, with a minimum of €5,000 + VAT. We can also represent you in the transaction too.
If you are thinking about buying a property in Portugal or if you want to know more about our service, send me an e-mail to fromcentstoretirement [at] gmail [dot] com.
The moment has arrived. My favorite part in REI…
In fact, if you read about renovating properties, this can be quite fun!
I am very excited to say that the second renovation phase of RP#3 has finally begun!!! In this post, I will go through the nuts and bolts of the renovation and the deal itself.
I have bought this property more than one year ago, but at the time I only renovated part of it. This property has 6 different units and I only renovated two of them when I bought it. I rented out those two units quite fast, for a total of €515/mo, which eventually became €500/mo as some problems popped up in one of the units and I decided to lower the rent to keep the tenants happy.
You may recall that the cost of that renovation was largely undercalculated, and I ended up spending way more money than I anticipated at first. The first renovation covered two units and one common area inside the building.
The building is divided into two parts, each of which contains 3 units:
After the renovation, I decided to put off the renovation of the second half – or right half, in the figure above – of the building (and I actually ended up renting out one of the units as it was (LINK)). The main reason was to preserve liquidity. Now, that my real estate company did well, I decided to cash out some monies and go ahead with the renovation on the second half of the building. This second half is promised to be rented out to the sub-leasing company I work with, for €540/mo, which will be instrumental for me to hit €2,000/mo until the end of the year.
First, the costs:
Total: about €33,300.
To pay for this renovation, I will withdraw as many funds from my RE company as possible. At first, I thought I could cash out €30,000, but due to the amount of taxes I will pay to do this, I will only be able to cash out around half of that (unless we have big sales until the end of the year). I am also relying on a €2,500 work bonus that I will collect by Christmas. At the end of it, I will have no money in the bank, which means that I will feel comfortable – remember, if you have money sitting the bank something’s wrong! 🙂
This is a building in the very center of a mid-east city in Portugal, with a very big and reputable university. The building is also relatively close to the university, so renting it out will be easy in the long run. Just to let you know, I wrote a post entirely on this unit a while back ago.
This has been my biggest deal so far, if we account for renovation costs. I have bought RP#3 for €31,500 but I was 100% financed. Here’s the rest of the costs I’ve had with this property so far:
Total invested to this day = €32,200.
Given that I will invest another €33,300 into this renovation, at the end of it, I will have €65,500 invested, and I will have a mortgage of €31,000.
As this property will safely yield €1,260 in December, we’re talking about a 23% cash on cash return and a 16% yield. I am not sure about you, but this looks like a great investment to me!
As I will write off the expenses with the renovation of the property, I will get, at least, 2 years of tax-free rental income on this property. This means that the 16% yield will be net. Well, to be fair, we need to deduct the property taxes and the insurance (together that is something like €500/yr). Therefore, the net yield is 15,15%. Still awesome, right?
Next year I will pocket €14,520 after all the renovations. I will get a line of credit on this property, of about 175k. On a 3%, 13-year credit line like this, I will pay €1,220 every month, which is essentially the rental income of the property. Note that, in the first year, €837 of the €1,220 is principle. After this, it allows me to have about 150k to go out for shopping. 🙂
I didn’t want to show much of the building online, but here it goes a little bit of unit. This is the lower unit of the right side of the building, which we just guttered:
As well as part of the 4th unit in the picture above:
We are still working on guttering it, actually, as we simply torn some walls down up until now. As you can see, they seem like a very small 1-bedroom (which in fact they are) that you would typically rent out to one student.
I have actually decided to start by tearing down the walls of every unit, so that we can plan the several rooms in a better way.
More to come soon! Stay tuned!
It finally happened! Property number 4 has finally been transferred into my name. After a few months of going back and forth, we finally did it. I am actually not calling this property Rental Property 4 (or RP#4 as I usually write) because this may well not be a rental property.
I explain. This was originally meant to be a rental property. The real estate agent called me over “a beautiful property” that had just been listed, whose price was “clearly” below its actual worth. I was intrigued and I needed to see the property. When I had a look at it, I confirmed that it was listed way below its market price. That is why I decided to go all-in with my cash* and buy it. I truly believe the property is worth €75,000 if not more. BTW, as for going all-in with my cash: as I could not get a mortgage I had to ask my parents for a loan of €25,000. Continue to read to know how I plan to pay them back. I will add 25k to my liabilities, in the net worth reports, from here on.
If you follow my blog, you know that I am not a big fan of fix and flips. I understand that many investors prefer to go that route, because they think that flipping is more profitable than buying and holding, but I personally don’t. The discussion of buy and hold vs flipping is an old one. I would consider that the majority of investors prefers to fix and flip, but you can still find investors like me, who do not like to flip.
The reason why I am reluctant to call it a rental property is because it cannot be rented out without a major renovation. There was a big fire in the property a few years ago, and the roof caught fire. The owners never bothered to fix it – they are both over 90 years old! However, the property has a nice backyard and a garage, and the garage is already rented out! Yes! The garage is currently rented out for €190,00/mo, which means an annual net cash flow of €1,519.00. Although this is not particularly attractive (a net yield of 3%/yr), it is not a very bad investment per se. Plus, it allows me to hit practically €2,000.00/mo until the end of the year (as announced earlier):
As I also said last month, I am renovating the other half of RP#3 and I will rent it out to a sub-leasing company for €520-€540/mo, thus hitting the €2,000.00/mo until the end of the year. This also means an annual net cash flow of €11,182.70, the highest I achieved to this day.
All in all, this could be yet another rental property, which although more expensive than the other ones and yielding less money, could play a role in my portfolio. However, that is not my intent…
If you have been reading my blog, you know that I don’t particularly like fix-and-flips. I think in terms of cash-flow and every asset has to yield money at the end of the month, quarter or year. This is also why I don’t particularly like stocks that don’t pay dividends (LINK).
What really got me interested in this property was its potential to be flipped. It is one of the very few properties in downtown with a backyard, and this one is very nice and goes all around the property:
I don’t plan to renovate the property myself. As I know I bought it undervalue, I listed it right after I bought it, for €89,990. I hope to receive an offer of at least €70,000, which after the commission (€6,150) means €63,850. To this, I need to take out the closing costs (€1,400) and the capital gains (€1,800), thus resulting in a net profit of a little over €10,000, or 20%.
In fact, I am confident this will happen until the end of the year. For one, I know that €50,000 is well below its market price. For two, the real estate agent actually presented me this deal as one “I could flip without spending money”. He actually told me from the beginning that he could find clients willing to pay at least €65,000 for it… so if I bought and gave him the chance to sell it within 9 months.
The main reason why I accepted this is the loan I got from my parents. Holding onto this loan for a long time may not be a wise decision – or a least a comfortable one! I want to pay them back. Fast.
My rationale on the sale was quite simple: if he gets to sell it for €70,000, I will make a decent return on my investment and move onto the next deal (which right now can only be fix-and-flips as I prefer to hold onto cash because I can see a stock market correction happening soon). If he doesn’t sell it, I will renovate the property myself using part of my line of credit, make it a two-family property and sell each half for €150,000. This would also result in a monstrous return.
Either way, I am very happy with my purchase. I would prefer it to sell because it would be my first flip and one hell of a flip. The perfect flip (after all, it yield some money in the meantime and I didn’t have to spend a dime). It would also give me another €10,000 to play with in the next stock market correction. If I don’t get an offer at or above €70,000, I will renovate it myself in the future.
What do you think of this deal? Let me know in the comments down below.
Given that I’ve been very dizzy and unable to work in the past 3 months, I decided to invest most of my time thinking about how to accelerate my early retirement. This doesn’t mean that I started to rush all the time again (as I said in my net worth reports). Although I truly want to have a set of assets which will allow me to retire early, I will take my time to get there. I have achieved more in 28 years of life than most of my peers in 40. As I’ve been saying, enjoy your life, wanting everything now is going to kill you.
My rationale was actually pretty simple. I’ve been doing pretty well with my Real Estate investments, so I should increase my portfolio and gain scale. In my next book, about stuff I learned by interviewing millionaires, you’ll see that paying a lot principle every month is key to achieve real wealth. And this can only be achieved with scale; One has to create a lot of sustainable debt and leverage.
I’ve been approached by some readers, who asked me why I don’t leverage on my current portfolio to grow it.
For instance, many of my readers asked me “well if your Rental Property #3 is appraised at almost 200k and you only asked for 30k, why don’t you cash refinance and leverage on the equity you have?”. Well, Lin Portugal, cash refinancing is not possible.
This consumed me for almost one year (as, as you know, I wanted to run faster) until I found something that will be equivalent to cash refinance, but has the advantage to scale more and faster. I would like to share that – called lines of credit – with you.
As a real estate investor, you have many different ways to finance the acquisition of new properties. The most common include:
From these, some are easier to get than others, although most are hard (and time-consuming) and most importantly, not scalable! Recently, I found something that will be a game changer for me: lines of credit. Note that acquisition lines of credit are different from personal lines of credit, and unsecured lines of credit.
The whole point of real estate investing lines of credit is that the bank will lend you money if you provide them with a collateral. In my case, this is pretty straightforward: let me give them my properties (which were appraised high) and invest that money into more properties.
In the following, I will explain you the entire model.
The coolest thing about lines of credit with RE as collateral is that they are highly scalable if used correctly.
The key is to find properties that are appraised at way more than what you pay for them. This will allow you to achieve scalability. However, you must be confident you’ll be able to monetize the properties effectively, otherwise you’ll default much more quickly than with regular mortgages (because you scale much faster).
In the following example, I start with RP#3. Let’s assume that after some renovation works (which I’ve recently started), the property with the be worth 220k. As I can pull out 70% of this valuation, I can effectively pull out 150k in free cash.
As for the renovation of RP#3, I have secured a renovation budget of about 28k (for the 3 units that are yet to be renovated), and a leasing contract of €520/mo for the 3 units. This leasing contract possibility was offered by a sub-leasing company I work with, when I look for properties for investors.
I don’t have 28k in the bank right now because my 30k in interest accounts are frozen as I decided to buy another rental property. Next month, I will write a post on this… I will get this money from my RE company, a bonus from my job (5k) and savings from my salary. Probably, I will be able to draw 10-15k from my company, in the form of dividends.
After the renovation is done, I will appraise the home and settle the (presumably 180k-) credit line.
With 150k from the bank (because I need to pay off the current mortgage on RP#3), I will look for RP#5 and RP#6 (I may actually look for three properties). These properties have to abide by the following rules:
Of course that finding such properties is very hard, and having high guarantees that they will be always rented out is probably even harder. From my experience, these properties are big properties that cannot be rented as they are. I am sure I can find them over the course of a few months. Until July 2018, I hope to have bought all of them.
Now, the real trick: I will create a new LLC to hold these new rental properties so that I escalate even faster in the future. I want a fresh start with this money because this will allow me to get even more money from the bank. With the 150k I will get from the acquisition lines of credit, I will start the new LLC and buy rental properties putting down
With the 150k I will get from the acquisition lines of credit (after paying off the 30k mortgage currently on RP#3), I will start the new LLC and buy rental properties under this LLC. At first, I will try to put down only 50%, so that buy even more properties. If I can do that, I will buy 4 or 5 properties. If I have to buy the properties all cash (it is actually possible for the bank to turn me down, as I’ll have no credit history with the new LLC), I will finance new properties with lines of credit on the free-and-clear properties. Note that within an LLC, you can write off interest, so that is why I am so keen on creating debt there.
As for the future, this is the very minimum I expect to hit as far as my real estate portfolio:
Real Estate is definitely my primary way to retire early. I hope to lower my exposure to Real Estate by increasing my stock portfolio over time. BTW, I’ve been making some purchases, I need to update this soon. For now, I will escalate my Real Estate portfolio because I finally hit the sweet spot of creditworthiness. As for buying stocks to balance things out, I don’t think I will be buying much before 2018.
If you have any comments on my strategy, let me know down below!
So I’ve been thinking about ways to minimize my vacancies on my rental properties. Up until now, I’ve had almost 100% occupancy rates, so this hasn’t been a problem for me yet. However, a savvy landlord has a load of free advertising strategies ready to use, should he need them.
Advertise real estate for free can be quite tricky, so over the last months, I decided to come up with a few methods that can be used. Check out the following strategies…
As I said before, Facebook pages are free (at least until now) and they are a great way to reach a lot of people. A Facebook page is a great asset because it will also provide you stats on the people who liked the page. Therefore, you can have a lot of people around the area you want to advertise your rental properties.
To grow a facebook you can use a number of strategies:
I personally have more than 2500 people on my facebook pages to advertise my real estate. I am growing my pages whenever I can, either by asking my tenants to invite their friends and ask their friends to invite their friends as well. A good relationship with your tenants will pay off in the long run. Treat them well!
Most platforms like Craigslist are free to use because they make money with advertisement. This is great news for landlords because this is such a great way to advertise real estate for free!
The biggest trick with Craigslist and similar platforms is to promote your brand. Find a way to do it, in a non-spammy way and in a way that doesn’t violate the platform’s terms.
I like to put a logo of my brand (the same I use on my Facebook pages) in the pictures. This works nicely for me.
Check out more sites to advertise your real estate for free.
I had such a great idea pertaining to this…
I convinced a professional photographer to take pictures of my rental properties for free. Wait… for free? Yes! All I did was to put his name and company logo at the bottom of my pictures!
Makes sense for both! This is free advertising for him. Remember that I have pages with 2500 people? Well, that is one hell of an asset. See what it can do for me? Awesome, high-quality pictures for free!
Yes, I know. Awesome! 🙂
It is quite difficult to build a large list of e-mails if you don’t know what you are doing.
This comes down to internet marketing. Essentially, you can use a landing page platform to create a landing page that connects to MailChimp or any other e-mail list manager.
Of course that the biggest trick is to grow it for free. Well, at some point, everything ties in together. If you build a large Facebook page, building a large e-mail list is easy. I also recommend asking people to share your publication with the landing page, as I have experienced a tremendous growth when I did this.
I talk about SEO often on From cents to retirement because SEO is a real advantage for any business. In a Real Estate business, it is no different. If you build a site to promote your real estate, be prepared to do a lot of SEO on it.
The bad news is that SEO is not free (and not cheap, for that matter) if you don’t do it yourself.
The good news is that SEO-ing a website for a local market should be easy because there is little to no competition.
Learn SEO yourself and kill it. In the long run, this will pay off tremendously.
If you market your property in a very professional way, it will sell. Try to make something that is clearly “out-of-the-box”. Focus on things that your property has that are not common in most properties. Make a video about it. And share it. Share it everywhere.
I’ve done this with great success in the past.
The best thing about livestreams (for example on Facebook) is that people tend to be attracted to live events more than to past one.
Test it out. Once a property gets free, do a live stream and publish it on Facebook. In my opinion, this is a great way to advertise real estate for free.
Any other technique you guys use? Let me know in the comments down below!