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rental property renovation
Daily life, Planning, Real Estate,

Renovation of RP#3: the second phase has begun!

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.

Property specs

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:

6 unit building

Sketch of my 6-unit building.

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.

Renovation Costs

First, the costs:

  • Labor: €24,000.00 (this includes renovating the facade, the electric part, plumbing and all the material for the walls and ceilings);
  • Tiles, tubs, taps, vanities and what not: about €4,000.00;
  • Kitchen cabinets and countertops: about €3,300.00;
  • Windows and outdoors: about €2,000.00;

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! 🙂

The deal

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.

How much I spent so far

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:

  • Closing costs summed up to €3,900. These were especially high, as closing costs in Portugal tend to be lower, especially if you’re 100% financed.
  • Renovation cost to this day €26,600. Keep in mind I do clever renovations.
  • Appliances and equipment €500.
  • Total mortgage costs paid to this day €1,700.

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. 

Yield

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. 🙂

Aspects of the renovation

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:

renovation of rental property guttered portugal

As well as part of the 4th unit in the picture above:

rental property #3 renovation

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!

new rental property fix and flip
Planning, Real Estate,

The perfect flip?

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.

Wait… no?

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):

rental properties net worth income appraisal cash flow

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…

My first flip – the perfect flip

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:

new rental property's backyard

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.

lines of credit real estate investing
Planning, Real Estate,

Acquisition lines of credit – jumping to the next level

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.

Ways to finance your portfolio growth

As a real estate investor, you have many different ways to finance the acquisition of new properties. The most common include:

  • Common mortgages
  • Seller financing
  • Private investors
  • Partnerships
  • IRA funds
  • RE equity (cash refinance)
  • Hard money loans
  • Credit card debt

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.

How can I take advantage of lines of credit – and scale my business

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.

How I will escalate my real estate portfolio

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:

  1. They are worth (before the bank) at least twice more than what I pay for them. Let us assume I pay 70k for each property and use the remaining 10k for closing costs with the properties. This means that each property should be worth 140k. Assuming I can pull out 65% of the appraisals (which is typically the case after the 1st line of credit), I could get a second line of credit of 180k.
  2. RP#5 and RP#6 (or any other property I can close on with the line of credit) should generate enough money (with a very strong guarantee) to pay for the installments of the 180k line of credit. A strong guarantee of yield/occupancy rate is easily achieved if I lease the properties to the sub-leasing company, however, these are typically must lower rents than renting directly to the public. At the same time, it becomes a hands-off investment, as they run the entire show for me.
  3. There should be no limitation whatsoever to replicate the process.

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 portfolio projection

Making sure I get a balanced 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!

Ben

advertise real estate for free
Real Estate, Tricks,

Real estate free advertising… a crucial tool for landlords

Hi guys!

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…

Create a facebook page

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:

  1. Invite your friends to like it;
  2. Ask your friends to invite their friends to like it;
  3. Share posts/images within the page in Facebook groups.

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!

Use Craigslist (or a Craigslist-alike platform)

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.

Use pictures taken by a pro (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!

high quality picture advertise real estate for free

Yes, I know. Awesome! 🙂

Build a list of local e-mails

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.

Build a site and SEO-it!

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.

Make a viral video and share it everywhere

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.

Livestream within your rentals

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.

 

If you want more tips on how to promote and advertise real estate for free, check out the free books section and check out these hacks.

Any other technique you guys use? Let me know in the comments down below!

Ben

listing properties to sell
Daily life, Real Estate,

I am listing two of my properties!

Hi fellas,

Last week I decided to list two of my properties: Rental Property #1 and Rental Property #2. I want to keep you posted regarding why I did this.

Rental Property 1 – my first rental ever!

First, RP#1. I moved to this property this month, and I love living in it. My tenants left the property in a perfect shape (pretty much how I handed it to them) and it looks lovely. Here is the data as of today:

  • Acquisition cost and remodeling = €31,500.
  • Balance on the property (deducting net rents) = €28,000.
  • Current property value = about €50,000.
  • Listing price = €54,000.
  • Commission to sell = €5,000 + VAT = €6,150.

This means that if I sell at market value (€50,000) and I have to pay a 5k+VAT commission, I will end up with €43,850. From this, I gotta pay 28% on capital gains. This property VPT is almost €40,000, so there is no actual profit until €40k. If I sell for €50k, I can write off the 5k+VAT commission and therefore end up with a taxable capital gain of about 4k. From this, I can write off about 1k in expenses, including property transfer taxes (when I bought it). This means that the final taxable capital gain is about 3k and I need to pay 28% of that, which is about €850.

So, if I do sell for €50,000, I end up with €43,000. The Real Estate agent (I’ll explain in a bit why I am not selling this property through my own company), however, told me we may sell for €52k or even €53k. This sweetens the numbers up. In the worst case scenario, though, I will end up with a net profit of about €15,000 on this property. Not bad for a €31,500 – I’ll end up very close to a 50% cash on cash return!

Why sell?

…especially if I just moved in? I realized that with this kind of money, I can buy another property for myself (hopefully a 2-unit property, so that I live in one and rent the other out), remodeling it, and put €10k to work! This stroke me when I recently found a very nice condo for less than €20,000. I am not sure yet where I would put the €10,000 to work, but I’d probably split them between P2P, bonds, and stocks (a third each). More than the €10,000, I am particularly eager to buy a 2-unit property. This is the last proof that I have an investing-tailored mind: even my primary home has to return something financially.

Rental Property 2 – a great buy and hold

OK, RP#2 is a totally different ball game. When I mentioned the agent that I wanted to sell RP#1, he told me “don’t you want to sell RP#2 too? I may have a buyer for around €80k”.

RP#2 is one the best deals of my life. It generates almost €6,200 per year, and generates extra cash after I pay the mortgage off. Plus, it is a nice 3-unit property that I bought for less than €40,000. Because I got a mortgage on this property, I only had to put in about €9,000 so far (because I pre-payed 3k of the mortgage!), and I’ve collected about €6,500.

If I sell for €80k, I need to pay a €5,000 + VAT commission, which leaves me with €73,850. Then, I need to pay the mortgage off (currently at €34,500 with a 2% pre-payment penalty). This leaves me with €73,850 – €35,200 = €38,650. I also need to pay high capital gains, because I only have tax-free gains up to €64,000. This leaves me with a taxable tax gain of about €10,000, from which I can only write off about €1,000. On the €9,000 I need to pay about €2,500 on property taxes. So, at the end, selling for €80,000, I’ll end up with about €36,000, with is a 400% cash on cash return. Selling for €75,000 calculates into great numbers still, so I do hope this deal goes through.

I am not yet sure what I will do with the €30k+ that I will net from this property, should I sell it. Most likely, I will find a fix and flip deal and put the money to work there, or find another buy and hold that I buy with this money exclusively. I don’t mind making about €250/mo (vs €500+ I am making with this property), if I lower my liabilities (before the bank) AND I go after a deep value deal (meaning I buy for €30k+ but the property is worth at least €45k+). Ideally, I want to put the money to work fast and extract a high return until the end of the year.

Changing strategy?

As a buy and hold preacher, am I changing my strategy? No. I simply acknowledged that I can make quick money this way, and I believe that in the long run, I will achieve higher volumes of rent this way.

Why not selling through my company?

If I have a RE company, why not selling these properties through my own company? RP#1 is not adequate – I only have investors as buyers and RP#2 may fall short in terms of ROI. Note that if I sell for €80,000, that will mean a gross annual return of less than 8%. After taxes and property taxes that may mean about 4,5%.Also, this is an old property and renovation may be needed at any time.

To investors that look for our company, we usually propose properties that can are distressed and needed to be entirely rehabbed or properties that expectantly won’t need much maintenance over the next years. This property can actually be attractive before the local market, for investors that are happy with moderate returns. At the same time, I don’t lose anything to list it – there are absolutely no costs and it will continue to be rented in the next years.

how to set up a real estate business
Lifestyle, Planning, Real Estate,

How to set up a Real Estate business

Many people ask me how the can set up a Real Estate business as I did. Just to be clear, I am not talking about my Real Estate company or my consultancy business; I am talking about a Real Estate business composed of many properties that you buy and rent out (typically kept under an LLC). This is comparable to your own Real Estate Trust. Currently, my Real Estate includes 10 units and generates about $1400 in passive income every month.

How to set up a Real Estate business

You can certainly set up a Real Estate business in many different ways. However, what I explain in the following is the way I used to set up my own business. Not only my business is working fine, as I also witnessed at least one of my clients to experience the same degree of success. So, without further due, let us get to it.

Step 1: Save some money

I would attract way more viewers from Google if I wrote: “buy Real Estate without any money down” or “invest in real estate without money”. However, I will be pretty honest with you… You’ll need some money to set up a real estate business as I did. I personally bought my first property (a condo) all cash, after liquidating my stock portfolio. It was about 35K for me. However, I invest in Portugal, where properties are cheap (especially if you compare them to most markets in the US).

Say you don’t have a good pay and you really have to struggle to save some money. Well, I am not going to lie to you, this may be time-consuming. If your salary is low, you need to find other ways to increase your income and save money aggressively.

If your salary is high enough, you’re all set. Simply throw money to a savings account every single month. The minimum you need to spend is 20% of your first property (for the down-payment to the bank, assuming you need 20% down) plus the closing costs on the property. Those you need to check from property to property.

Step 2: Get credit approval first

I’ve seen a lot of people making this mistake: going out for shopping without credit approval. This is a big mistake because you may never get approval, which means that the entire period you were looking for a property is wasted. It may also mean that you submit an offer for a property which you don’t have enough money to back up.

Don’t waste time, or even worse… get yourself into trouble. Simply get your letter of approval from the bank before anything else.

Important note: in many countries like Portugal, you must have a property under contract before the bank gives you approval. Talk to me if you have questions about this process.

Step 3: Find great, honest contractors

I always invest in distressed properties because typically rehab costs are not priced correctly in distressed properties.

As such, I need to surround myself with great contractors. I always get to know if contractors are legit and honest. The truth of the matter is, there are many dishonest contractors. Their job is simply favorable to report extra hours or extra materials: nobody is there to really check how long they worked and what materials were in fact used.

My recommendation is not to go shopping without getting to know two different contractors. Here are some great tips to hiring contractors.

Step 4: Make friends with proactive Real Estate agents

I can’t stress this enough.

Unlike the stock market, where pricing rules don’t really depend on the brokers you know, Real Estate is not like that. Real Estate is a much more personal business, and most of the aspects of your deal depend on other people. But it doesn’t end with the tenants…

Knowing proactive Real Estate agents is the key to finding great deals. At least it has been for me. I made sure I got to know many real estate agents and became friends with them. Eventually, I was offered many deals before they were actually released to the public. I highly recommend you to check local legislation and check whether this is legal in your state or country. This is absolutely fine in my markets, according to the local legislation. Make sure you don’t get yourself into legal problems.

Step 5: Find deep value deals

This is probably the hardest step to accomplish. It also shows why you need to be good friends with Real Estate agents: this will accelerate and make the process a lot simpler.

If you check my real estate and previous posts, you’ll see that I focus on multi-units that I can buy at a huge discount. For instance, I explained my strategy to find awesome multi-units for low prices. I am not saying you should necessarily go for multi-units. I am simply saying that for me, they are like a sweet spot in my markets. Maybe they won’t be the sweet spot for you, I don’t know. But my point is… come up with a sound strategy and test the market until you find your sweet spot. Your corner. Once you do, stick to it.

Regardless of what corner you choose, make sure you always go for the deep value deals. What is the most effective way to make money through Real Estate. I always buy properties that are worth 2-4 times more. How can I possibly lose money that way?

The trick to finding deep value deals? Seeing value where nobody does. A distressed property that looks like the last place where you want to live is likely to be undervalued. The reason for that is because people look at Real Estate emotionally. They wouldn’t live there, so it is must be worth little… they won’t do the math and sum whatever they would have to spend to make it look good.

You, as a Real Estate investor, have that ability. Just find those properties. Instruct the agents you work with you to find them. Look for them yourself. Relentlessly. That is the secret.

Step 6: Always inspect the properties before closing

Remember I advised to get to know good, honest contractors? They will come in handy in this step: just call them up and let them know you are considering a property. Asked them to visit the property with you and estimate rehab costs. They may be wrong because contractors won’t be able to accurately estimate the costs unless they usually check the foundation (which is not always checkable without damaging the property). However, this will give you an idea of how much you should look at. My advice? Increase the estimate by at least 20%. Play safe, no surprises.

OK – you’ve got the numbers. Run them. Is it a good property (I use the 7-year rule to check that)? Close, then!

Step 7: Remodel the properties… intelligently

Renovating a rental is a heck of a whole new topic. You can simply remodel the property and throw a lot of cash into it, or you can do things intelligently. The truth of the matter is that you can rehab one property in various different ways with the same budget, but some make it look much better. I provided several examples on a different post, which show that 10 dollars worth of tiles can make a bathroom look way better:

kitchen remodel kitchen design home renovation costs

I also suggested having a look at magazines to have ideas for your remodeling!

Make sure to track the expenses on the property since day one, too!

Step 8: Monetize!

Any investment has to yield a return. Unlike stocks and bonds, in Real Estate, it is up to you to monetize it. Your properties won’t return any money unless you monetize them, that is the cold hard truth. There are some tricks to monetization, though.

The first thing I recommend is to use craigslist (and craigslists competitors) to advertise your properties. Note that there are many housing scams on craigslist, so do not strange if people ask too many questions and double check data often. I like to use facebook pages. The big advantage to Facebook pages is that you can invite your friends to like it and you can ask your friends to invite their friends. I talked about this in my series of tips to Real Estate investors).

The key trick is to have as much exposure as possible. If a lot of people see your property listed for renting, you’ll rent it out eventually. This is not rocket science.

Remember… always create value!

If you follow my blog you already know my philosophy, when it comes to Real Estate investing… above-average quality for below-average prices. In fact, that is my philosophy for every single one of my businesses, including my consultancy business.

The truth of the matter is that if you want to buy and rent one home, you don’t have to be concerned with value markets. However, if you set up a business, you’ll have to make sure that you know the market numbers and you pay with them. Setting above-average quality to below-average price is really how great businesses are built. If you wonder why this is sustainable, be aware that I recommend you to find deep value deals. That means that you will have huge margins to play with. And what I suggest is to leverage those margins to offer great products at great prices. This will not only make you find tenants quicker – it will also make you have tenants for longer periods. And vacancies must be taken into account when calculating ROIs too!

There are a few other things that you should consider when starting a Real Estate business, including insurance and a solid business plan for real estate investing.

Is there anything missing in this strategy, in your opinion? Let me know, I will cover that too!

tips for real estate investors
Real Estate,

The best real estate investing tips for beginners – my experience

10 real estate investing tips for beginners

1 – Market research

May sound obvious but this is the number one mistake I’ve seen from real estate investors. Many people buy properties because they look like a bargain to them. Yes, but what if it doesn’t rent out? The very first thing that I recommend my investors to do is to make sure they are considering properties with a high likelihood of being rented out.

2 – Conduct a property inspection before buying the property

Mistake number two. I’ve seen so many investors buying properties without inspections because “they looked OK” and suffered from that. First, chances are that the repairs may end up costing A LOT more than you imagined. In some cases, they can cost more than the actual property (especially if there is something wrong with the foundation). Second, you can actually get real numbers to put a proforma together and decide whether the deal makes sense.

Do not get caught off guard!

3 – Track your expenses from day one

Mistake number three. I just published an article on tracking your expenses. So many investors fail at keeping track of their expenses because “they pay for them with their checking accounts”. I do that myself, but it doesn’t mean that we should not track those expenses. The main reason to track expenses has to do with knowing your numbers. If you don’t know whether you’re making money on your property, how should you expect to scale your business?

4 – Know a lot of contractors

A fundamental part of a good REI business. Knowing multiple contractors means that your flips won’t ever stop, you’ll always have somebody to inspect a home you gotta close fast, and so on.

I typically ask for a few quotes on each renovation I do. This allows me to have the best of the best deals. It also happens that one specific contractor may charge you more on a specific location (because they are located far from that location). Always keep a bunch of contractors in your contact list!

5 – Grow free platforms to advertise your homes

This is an awesome idea because Real Estate companies charge a lot to rent out your homes. I like to grow my own platforms to advertise my homes and cut down on fees.

I personally like Facebook a lot. Create a page, and invite your friends to like it and invite their friends to like it too. Run a few contests and ads, if need be. My Facebook pages for my Real Estate properties have a total of 5000 likes. It has been a successful way to generate leads and get prospective tenants to visit and rent out my properties.

Facebook is yet another way to do it. You can use Craigslist (be aware that there are many Craigslist rental scams, so don’t take it personally if people don’t trust your ad right away) or even grow your own e-mail list. The latter has been very effective for a very good friend of mine, but I haven’t tapped into that yet.

6 – Create a limited liability company to hold your rental properties

This one you should discuss with a lawyer and this is by no means legal advice. For risk management reasons you should consider setting up a limited liability company to hold your real estate investments.

There are a gazillion reasons why you could be sued. If you protect your personal assets (creating an LLC to hold your rental properties). If you are sued, you’ll at most lose your investment, but your other assets stay out of reach.

7 – Get to know a lot of real estate agents

This is really how the best deals are done. If you know and become friends with many real estate agents, you should expect to be offered a lot of deals before they reach the public (if you show them you are a recurrent, serious buyer).

8 – Understand intelligent remodeling

I’ve written before on intelligent remodeling, i.e. ways that you have to maximize your remodeling value, but keep your costs low. I am fortunate I got to stay at marvelous hotels throughout the world, due to traveling a lot in work. This allowed me to see many renovations and get a lot of ideas from these places, which I use to this day.

9 – Get ideas from magazines

Not long ago, I was featured on Home and Beauty, and I decided to explore their page. Boy, I got so many ideas from that! If you understand that intelligent remodeling is the key to maximize value and minimize cost, you’ll immediately understand why this is so important.

10 – Create value, but don’t sell yourself short

The philosophy I use to run my Real Estate business is to create a lot of value. I want people to come to my homes and be astonished by the remodeling I do and the rents I ask for. I try to create as much value as I can (that is my philosophy in business, really). However, there is a limit where you start selling yourself short. Do not do that! Charge reasonably, slightly below-market rents for high-quality homes, but don’t decrease rent just to get a tenant!

tracking expenses rental properties
Real Estate,

Tracking rental property expenses – can be hard, but there are tricks!

I thought that every real estate investor out there was tracking rental property expenses the same way. Until, one of my clients who bought a property two months ago, confessed me something surprising: he paid for the renovation of the property from his personal account and didn’t record any of the expenses. We had a session last week and I wanted to run some numbers. Turns out he didn’t have any idea of how much money he spent. Please, if you are a real estate investor, please use a better way to track rental property expenses!

How To Track Your Rental Property Expenses for free

If you are investing in real estate, you must know your numbers. Otherwise, it is tough to say whether you’re making money or not! This is a problem if you want to replicate the deals. You gotta know your numbers!

OK, so if you thought I was going to propose you to use some expensive software for real estate investors, you’re mistaken. 🙂 Frugality is still a must at From Cents to Retirement…

Here’s what I do:

  • I record every single transaction on the day it occurred, in a spreadsheet (see below). 
  • I don’t care if we are talking about 20 cents or 20 bucks. Every transaction means every transaction.
  • If I drive to the property, I also record how many kilometers I drove.
  • I also record when I collect rents, including the amount paid, the date and the form of payment (rents are mostly wired these days).

The main advantages of doing this, include:

  • You’ll know your numbers. Good investors know their numbers.
  • This works beautifully for tax deductions. You’ll know exactly the expenses you can write off!

Again, I’ll stress this: if you record your transactions whenever they take place this process becomes much easier. I’ve found it very stressful to try to remember all the expenses – plus if I didn’t, I’d get frustrated.

So, the spreadsheet you should be using should capture ALL your expenses, and then aggregate everything in a very readable way. In particular:

  • Capture all expenses with a timestamp.
  • Automatically sum up the expenses, per property and per month.
  • Provide a clear summary, per property and per month, of the breakdown of the expenses you had.

You can do a spreadsheet yourself, or download one from a reputable Real Estate site. I recommend the following ones:

In particular, I like the second one, from Fast business plan:

Rental Income and Expenses Spreadsheet

Not only it describes the macro and micro information, as it also gives you an awesome monthly view:

Rental Income and Expenses free Spreadsheet from fast business plan
(the images were taken from Fastbusinessplan.com)

Either way, test all of them and choose the one that helps you the most. If you’re looking for a Real Estate pro forma, have a look at this one.

rental home renovation costs
Real Estate,

Rental Home Renovation Costs: my experience with RP#3 in Portugal

After spending lots of money on the renovation of my third rental property (RP#3), I had to do a post on rental home renovation costs, as this is the second property that I remodel. I will try to go over the kitchen design and remodel, bathroom remodel and remodeling cost in general. If you are looking on information on house renovation, I hope this post helps you. I will use one of the 6 units of the property as the reference.

Property specs

RP#3 is a 6-unit property that I bought for a very low price. It was clear from the beginning that I had to spend a lot of money towards remodeling this property, but as I said before, I have underestimated this rental home renovation costs twice. Because the property is in the city center, there are no garages and my main target tenants are students and millennials who do not own a car.

The property is divided into two different parts. The first part is a three-story house, where each story is one rental unit. There is a small common area which gives access to the three units. The other three units have independent accesses.

When I bought this property, I knew that it needed a full renovation and no units could be rented out as they were. Surprisingly, I’ve had tenants asking me for surprisingly low rents, and I ended up renting them one unit before remodeling it. I rented this unit for €150/mo, which increases automatically to €200/mo in September 2017. I have also rented one of the renovated units for €275/mo. For this first part of the renovation, I renewed two units entirely and the common area that they share.

Kitchen design and kitchen remodel

We all know that the kitchen sells the house. In rental properties, I’ve learned that the kitchen is also the most important element for tenants. Therefore, I typically spend more bucks towards the kitchen than any other room in the property. As the picture shows, I’ve chosen special tiles for both the wall and the floor. These tiles come out roughly at €20 every 11ft². There are way cheaper options (especially if we are talking about rental units), but I’ve accepted the fact that beautiful tiles do improve the chances of attracting great tenants and so I use them. Either way, the most expensive part of renovating homes is the man labor and so it does make sense to use medium end materials.

kitchen remodel kitchen design

As you can also see, I applied stone countertops (black granite is also way more expensive than the rest and although Quartz is commonly preffered to granite, it is not Popular in Portugal) as I think that it is way better than any other material. Polished black granite is my favorite. This stone you see in the picture came out at €400. An equivalent laminate countertop would cost about €180. Still, stone countertops are way more beautiful and last way longer. That is, in fact, my first reason to choose stone over laminate or wood.

The second unit

The countertop I applied on the second unit is made out of regular polished granite:

kitchen remodel kitchen design home renovation costs

Not as beautiful but way cheaper. This baby came out at €400, but it is way bigger than the countertop of the other unit. As you can see, the cabinets are identical to those in the other kitchen. The cabinets are made out of wood (real wood) and each kitchen cost about €700 – I know how to negotiate if you’re wondering…

I didn’t like these tiles, but it was too late to change when I saw them on. Lesson learned: I will never choose yellow or close-to-yellow tiles for a kitchen. I think that my first choice will primarily be black and white tiles as those I used for the kitchen above, or while all along.

It is very difficult to explain how these kitchens were before the renovation. They were in absolute bad shape and I am pretty positive nobody in this world would like to live there. Now, they look two modern, decent kitchens. I am very happy with the final result – except for the tiles of the second kitchen.

Bathroom remodel

Another big chRental Home Renovation Costs bathroom remodeling Bathroom remodelunk of any home renovation costs is remodeling the bathroom. I personally think that we can renovate bathrooms with style without spending that much money. Unlike kitchens, bathrooms have more to do with how materials are used than what materials are used. For instance, have a look at this “tile window” in the shower, as you can see in the picture.

This is one of the advantages of having traveled so much and stayed at so many nice hotels. I got to see many 5 and 4 star hotels in my life and I copy several ideas. They will be usefull in my goal of owning 100 homes. 🙂

Another thing that helps with the looks in the fancy rubber-tile you see in the window. It is certainly expensive, but I try to buy it from contractors who bought too much for their own renovations. The one you see in the picture cost me about €10.

Lastly, I definitely recommend a fancy shower like the one in the picture. That cost me about €30.

Bedrooms

kitchen remodel kitchen design home renovation costsBedrooms were, by far, the lowest portion of the home renovation costs. I typically use pergo for the bedrooms as pergo is warmer and cozier than tiles. From now on, I will apply the same style for every bedroom I renovate. That is, gray pergo, gray walls and white skirting. I like this combination a lot. The picture on the right side shows just that.

Summary

I didn’t go over the renovation of the property in full detail, as it is impractical to do that in 1000 words. However, I highlighted the main points of this renovation, which was the biggest I’ve ever made. Although the property is very optimized in terms of units, there was a lot of money to be spent on extra-unit parts of the property. For example, the common area of the first three units cost more than €4000.

There is a lot to say about rental home renovation costs, and I feel that I have acquired substantial knowledge of this subject over the past two years. Maybe there is enough content to write a book about it.

best free real estate books pdf
Books, Real Estate,

The best free Real Estate Investing books (update)

As I promised before, this blog will talk more about Real Estate investing than any other type of investment. This post brings you free real estate books that you can download and read right away. These free real estate investing books are the best real estate books I personally know for free. If you have suggestions of more free real estate books or real estate investing books that one can download in PDF or to the Kindle app, please send me an e-mail with them. Note that the real estate books I report on this page may at some point become paid books, so always check if the final price is $0. Even if they are not, I will keep them here, because there is always the chance of them becoming free again. I will update this page as time often, with more books. Last update: April 14th, 2017

As a real estate investor, I understand that some basic questions for experienced landlords may be a true hustle for beginners in real estate investing. For example, when I bought my very first home, I didn’t know where I could dump a couch or where to get rid of an old mattress. Fortunately, I read a free book explaining where to haul stuff, from couches to mattresses. This may sound like real basic knowledge to you, but believe me, it can be a pain in the ass if it is the first time you do that.

The good news is that there is a ton of free information and real estate books online these days, so there is no need to be scammed anymore. Plus, most real estate books focus on the underlying principles of Real Estate Investing, so you can learn from them regardless where you invest. I have compiled great FREE real estate investing books. You may need a Kindle app to read them, which you can download from here. You can also download these books in PDF and read them on your reader. With the Kindle app, you can read books on your desktop or smartphone.

While my own book also revolves around Real Estate, it is not free. I decided to compile these real estate books and real estate investing books so you can start learning for free. Download the PDFs and start learning!

In the following, I compile a few FREE amazon real estate books and real estate investing books you should get your hands on…

 

  • free real estate book cover 1How to be a Real Estate Investor, by Phil Pustejovsky (Affiliate link). Phil was really one of inspiration sources when I started to invest in Real Estate. I probably watched every single video on his Youtube channel. You can check him out here. In this book, Phil provides a general overview of real estate investing, and excellent guidelines to start investing in Real Estate. It also covers the pros and cons of real estate investing, according to Phil’s personal experience. This book costs $9.97 on Amazon (as of March 2017), but Phil is giving it away for free through a website of his, Freedom Mentor. Just request your copy on this web page.

    free real estate book cover 2

  • Hip Hop 2 Homeowners, by Jay Morrison (Affiliate link). Jay is another of my references when it comes to Real Estate Investing. In this book, Jay reports a fantastic journey, from a criminal career to a Real Estate mogul. He also comments on fixing credit and legal ways to increase your credit score super fast. Throughout the book, Jay reports on his rise, fall and rebirth into the expert he became. His book sells for $12.95 on Amazon (as of March 2017) but Jay is or has offered his book for free from his website. Jay Morrison also has a (very inspiring) YouTube channel, which I also recommend for anyone interested in pursuing a career in real estate.

  • The Ultimate Beginner’s Guide to Real Estate Investing, by Joshua Dorkin and Brandon Turnerfree real estate book cover 3 from BiggerPockets (Affiliate link). This book provides a few rules of thumb to follow when investing in Real Estate. Although it is a pitch for you to get on the Bigger Pockets forum – in my opinion the best forum on REI out there – it does a great job of introducing you to REI. It touches on several different topics of REI, although it is based on high level (not in-depth) topics. There are a lot of references to BiggerPockets, the authors’ site, which complement the information provided by the book. For me, it was too focused on single family homes, as I like to invest in multi-units, which is the core of my real estate investment strategy.

    free real estate book cover 4

  • Realty Riches for Cowards (Affiliate link). I like this book because it offers a very concise way to start investing in real estate. Ryan Scott actually comes from a very poor upbringing and supported his college costs by investing and managing real estate. Ryan has over fifty years of experience in owning and managing real estate, so this book can be great for you if you follow this very same route. He walks you through the entire process, from selecting the area to invest in and manage the property. This is all presented under a philosophy of investing and making money with real estate.

  • free real estate book cover 5Instant Experience For Real Estate Agents (Affiliate link). I chose this book because of two reasons. First, it is one of the longest books you can find for free (since it has over 70k words!). Secondly, it has more to do with Real Estate agents, which are, in my view, actually a crucial part of Real Estate investing; you gotta be good friends with agents to get good deals, that’s my experience. I learned a lot from the great lessons and the true stories of this book, which I immediately used to my favor to close deals.

 



  • Real Estate Investing: How to Find Cash Buyers and Motivated Sellersfree book find cash buyers and motivated sellers (Affiliate link).
    Speaking of how to find motivated sellers, there you go: a book on that. It also does a good job defining ideal cash buyers, which may be good if you’re looking to flip and sell. I also liked the fact that it goes over the section 8 landlord topic and goes heavy into marketing, which I liked a lot. It is not a book for experienced in investors, in my opinion, but I must say that I learned a lot of different buying and selling scenarios that I didn’t know prior to reading this book.


  • No BS Real Estate Investing, by Preston Ely (Affiliate link). This book revolves around how to wholesale, as the author explains the methods he uses himself to wholesale. I like books that go through strategies that the author uses himself, like this one. As these are a little but unconventional approaches, in my option, it is certainly read also because of that.

  • free real estate book simple secrets happy investor50 Simple Secrets To Be A Happy Real Estate Investor, by John Fedro (Affiliate
    link). Very digestible book that is valuable for any person who wants to start investing in Real Estate. I would call this a mindset book, because it teaches more about how to fame your mind that actually the technical details of real estate investing. I think that Fedro has done a nice wrap up, in the sense that you can thumb through the book and still get the main points and ideas. Took me less than an hour to read this one.

  • The Ultimate Real Estate Investing Blueprint: How to Quit Your Job in 19 Weeks or Less, by eBookIt (Affiliate link).quit your job Short read on the “Blueprint” to REI, as defined by the author. While certainly enough for you to get started with REI, it is another book that you should read, given that it is free. There are a few terms that you should be used to, so I won’t recommend this to be your first REI book, but rather one of the latest free books you read. It does a great job explaining how one can connect and profit from connecting buyers and sellers together. You should expect to learn a few methods including investing in real estate with no money down. I won’t say it is a great book, but if you’re looking for free options you may indeed learn something from it, and therefore it is worth a try.

  • Real Estate Investing Made Easy by Brian Haskins (Affiliate link). real estate investing made easy free bookThis book is a great read for people looking to start wholesaling on the side. It does a good job providing info on wholesaling as general tips to become a better investor. I have followed Brian’s podcasts and I’ve learned a great deal from them, so I decided to read the book. I think that there are many interesting actionable tips for everyone trying to start in REI.

 

I am a classic, aggressive buy and hold real estate investor. To this day, I have read about a myriad of strategies of and information about real estate investing. I understand that, for the majority of people out there, it is very difficult to get started. In my opinion, if you are serious about investing in Real Estate, your best option is to read a lot. Just read as much as you can about investing in real estate. My absolute first recommendation is free real estate books and real estate investing books.

When I started with real estate investing (REI), I felt for some “guru courses” which cost me a lot of money and didn’t really helped me much. What I think its important is to understand the principles behind real estate and real estate investing, other than the specifics of a given market. I invest in Portugal, and having learned the specifics of mortgages and taxes didn’t really help me much when investing in Portugal. Real estate investing books can be great for you to read regardless where you invest, but be cautious to filter out the information depending where and how you invest.

Let me know what you think of these real estate books if you ever read them. I am also eager to know more free real estate books and real estate investing books, to add to this list (other than these, which I already know), or other types of investing. If you shoot me a message with such books (please let me know, for any books you send, whether they are available for free in PDF), I can publish new lists just like this one. In fact, I am looking for free books on stock investing right now. You may also want to check out the section of paid books, which I remodeled this month, and my own book, which I published this month.