Monday, February 28, 2011

Why 2011 May Be the End of the Housing Crash

Please Contact Payam Raouf at 888-777-6664 ext 111 to purchase investment properties in Phoenix Metro Area.

Why 2011 May Be the End of the Housing Crash
by Simon Constable
Monday, February 28, 2011
The Wall Street Journal

There might finally be some good news this year about the nation's dismal housing market. Or, at least, the bad news could stop.

Either way, it will be welcome relief for current homeowners as well as for potential real-estate investors. Reasons to be optimistic have been sadly lacking since the housing bubble burst in 2006.

For sure, last week we learned the widely watched S&P/Case-Shiller home-price index fell 1% in December, its fifth straight decline. The index tracks 20 major markets.

But that figure belies real reasons to be optimistic, according to some experts. If they are right, it might make sense to jump into real estate. The trick is avoiding getting burned again, and it doesn't necessarily mean owning a home.

First, let's recap the economic signs a bottom is close.

Houses Are a Good Deal

Housing is the most affordable it has been in decades, according to analysts at Moody's Analytics. They don't just look at house prices. They also look at incomes.

Nationally, the cost of a house is the equivalent of about 19 months of total pay for an average family, the lowest level in 35 years. Prices usually average close to two years' pay, although that varies nationally.

At the peak, midway through the last decade, a home in Los Angeles cost the equivalent of 4.5 years' pay. The average price has since fallen to just over two years' income now. That's well below its pre-bubble average of 2.6 years. This means average Los Angeles homes are cheaper in "real terms" than they were typically during the period 1989 through 2003.

The opposite is true around the Washington beltway, where it will take 26 months of pay to buy a home, versus the historical norm of 22 months.

In the end, it will be affordability that will drive people to buy homes.

"Pricing is down so much in some markets that when you analyze renting versus owning it makes much more sense to own," says Michael Larson, a real-estate analyst at Weiss Research in Jupiter, Fla.

It is definitely bullish. But what about timing?

"Housing prices will probably bottom in 2011," says Scott Simon, a managing director at money-management firm Pimco in Newport Beach, Calif. He foresaw the housing crash, helping his firm dodge losses that plagued Wall Street.

Mr. Simon says prices might dip another 5%. Still, in the scheme of things, that's small. Consider this: In some markets, home prices have fallen by half or more since 2006.

For instance, in once-hot Miami you can snap up an average house for under $166,000, according to recent data from the National Association of Realtors. That's down from $371,000 in 2006. Another 5% drop would take it to $158,000.

Investors Stepping Up

Here's another sign the market is nearing a bottom: Investors have started to buy up houses and condos, in some instances paying entirely in cash. That's a far cry from the heady bubble days when borrowed money seemed the key to riches. The bubble-era speculators who got burned tended to buy at the peak and borrowed heavily to do so. When the crash came, they quickly saw their wealth erased.

Take Miami again. Last year, more than half of all transactions were made entirely in cash, according to a recent report in The Wall Street Journal. That compares with 13% of deals in the last quarter of 2006, the height of the bubble. Similarly, in Phoenix 42% of sales in 2010 went to all-cash buyers, up threefold since 2008.

It's a sign that these investors are betting on a rebound. Investors buying at current prices are looking for deals, or so-called bottom fishing. They typically like to pay entirely in cash (or with a relatively small loan) to speed up transactions. That can be vital for an investor wishing to lock in a deal fast.

If this is a turn in the market, then it might make sense to go out and buy a home. But, warns Pimco's Mr. Simon, "buy in areas you really know."

Plan to Stay Put

Buy and hold. While the good news is that the worst of the housing crash might be over, the bad news is that the fast gains of the glory days of 2005 and 2006 won't be back any time soon. So to cover the costs of buying and selling, and what could be a prolonged recovery, plan to own for more than 10 years, explains Jack Ablin, chief investment officer at Chicago-based Harris Bank.

Also remember that borrowing money to buy a house can still be risky. If you pay for a $100,000 property with $20,000 cash and borrow the rest, a dip in the value of $20,000 would leave you with zero equity. On top of that, you'd have to pay to maintain and repair the property, something not necessary when renting.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Should You Rent Out Your House or Sell It?

Contact Payam Raouf, Owner and Associate Broker of Arizona Property Management and Investments for a free consultation at 623-776-5774. Thank you.

Real Estate by Aleksandra Todorova (Author Archive)
Should You Rent Out Your House or Sell It?

In most cases, moving means selling one's home. After all, it's usually a necessary step in affording a new home.

But for various reasons some people choose to rent out their homes instead. In some instances, people know that they'll be leaving only for a year or two — perhaps while they pursue a graduate degree or take on a specific project at work. Sometimes the would-be seller simply can't sell at a price deemed acceptable, so he or she chooses to hang on until the market picks up. Or, if property values are rising, an owner may want to wait to be able to ask for a higher price later.

Whatever the reason, it's important to have a healthy grasp of the financial issues at play when weighing this decision. Here's what you need to consider.


The Tax Issues When You Sell


As you probably know, Uncle Sam provides a generous tax break for those who've lived in their home for at least two of the past five years. Married couples who file jointly can earn up to $500,000 in capital gains tax-free, while singles can enjoy $250,000 in tax-free gains. (For more on this, including exceptions to this rule, click here.)

Good news: Those who are planning on renting out their home for just a year or two will still be eligible for these breaks (provided they've lived in their home for at least two of the past five years). Should they sell more than three years later, however, they forgo the tax exemption, meaning their gain would be taxed as a capital gain.

Consequently, for those whose renting plans would turn a tax-free gain into a taxable one, it is probably wise to sell. The rule of thumb is if you have a large gain on your personal residence, you don't want to rent it out. There is an exception, however: If you're willing to move back into the house and live there for two years before you sell, you'll requalify for the exemption.


The Tax Issues When You Rent Out

Becoming a landlord also offers some handsome tax perks. While rental income is taxed as ordinary income, your tax bill could easily be eliminated thanks to the numerous deductions on expenses and depreciation. There is, however, one major exception: If you eventually sell the house and qualify for the capital-gains tax exemption discussed earlier, you'll be taxed on the amount you depreciate, which could make renting out your home considerably less attractive.

Let's talk expenses first. You can deduct pretty much any out-of-pocket expenses related to owning and managing the property. This includes your mortgage interest payments and property taxes (same as if this were your primary residence). It also includes other expenses, like advertising or broker fees, the costs of repairs to the property, maintenance expenses such as cleaning services, utilities and management company fees, the cost of fire and liability insurance, and even travel and local transportation expenses incurred for the maintenance of the property and collection of rent.

Then there's the "phantom deduction" called depreciation. Just divide the fair market value of the property at the time you start renting it out (excluding the cost of land) by its recovery period — which is 27.5 years for residential rental property. Bingo! There's your annual depreciation. For example, if the home is worth $550,000, you divide that by 27.5 and get a $20,000 annual deduction. If you have another $10,000 in out-of-pocket expenses, which are also deductible, you can get $30,000 in rent tax-free.

Improvements can't be deducted, but you recover their cost by depreciation. The good news is, you typically depreciate the cost of any appliances, carpeting, furniture or plumbing over only five years. So if you buy a new $1,000 dishwasher for your rental, you can deduct $200 a year from your rental income for five years. (This is pretty complicated stuff, so be sure to talk with a CPA before you file your returns.)

Renting Out

Pros
• Keep property as it appreciates
• Tax-breaks could offset income tax on rent
• Rent income covers mortgage, taxes and insurance payments

Cons
• Possible damages to property
• Could be taxed on the whole profit if you sell
• Potential legal or financial problems with tenants


Selling


Pros
· Likely tax-free capital gain
· Frees up equity that could be invested or rolled into new home
· Simplicity: Only one house to maintain

Cons

· Could be priced out of market if you want to return
· Lose potential property appreciation
· Could have to sell at a bad time for real-estate market in your area

Can You Afford to Rent?

For many homeowners, renting out a home is simply not a viable option; they need to sell in order to raise the capital necessary to buy their next home. And owning two homes requires deep cash reserves. Consider, for example, that there may be periods in which you have no renter or when a tenant may skip one or two months of rent. You have to figure out whether you will be able to make mortgage payments anyway.

There's also the risk that a tenant could damage your property or cause problems that lead to an expensive eviction process. Frighteningly, an eviction could cost you several thousands of dollars, or more, and could last as long as 18 months, during which time the tenant is likely to refuse to pay rent. So you need to be financially prepared for the worst.Is the House Likely to Appreciate?

If you expect prices in your area to soar markedly over a three-year time span, you may want to rent it out. But keep in mind that, historically speaking, real estate tends to appreciate at the rate of inflation (roughly 3% annually), so even when property values are in an upswing, that doesn't mean they'll continue to be.Look at the house as an investment, and think of it as part of your overall portfolio. Ask yourself: Am I diversified enough? If the majority of your net worth would be tied up in your two houses, you need more diversification, and you could be better off selling the house and investing the profit.Is It a Hot Rental Market or a Hot Sales Market?

Sometimes the market is better for sellers than for landlords. Call your local board of Realtors or a real estate agent and have them appraise the house; get the numbers for the rental and the numbers for the sale. Generally speaking, it will make sense to rent the house out only if it's in a relatively stable market and the income from rent will cover your mortgage and other related expenses.Do You Ever Plan to Come Back to the Same Area?

If you want to return to the same area years from now, you could be priced out of the market if you sell your house. It would therefore make sense to rent it out.Strangers in Your Home

Consider how comfortable you are with tenants living in your home. If you have a deep personal connection with the property, you may see it as an invasion of your space. If you set out to rent it, you must be prepared to handle the process in a businesslike manner.
Are You Cut Out to Be a Landlord?

Becoming a landlord isn't for the faint of heart. What happens if a pipe breaks and you're out of state on vacation? Being an absentee landlord is impossibly difficult unless you have someone to oversee the property. If you're willing to part with 10% of the monthly rent, you could hire a property-management company to do it. Depending on your agreement, it could take care of everything related to the property — from putting it on the market and screening your tenants to collecting rent, maintaining the property and even taking care of your mortgage.

Should you decide to seek the services of a management company, go through your local chapter of the National Association for Residential Property Managers, which represents managers of single-family homes, or through your state's or city's apartment owners association if you own an apartment.

Contact Payam Raouf, Owner and Associate Broker of Arizona Property Management and Investments for a free consultation at 623-776-5774. Thank you.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Former homeowners flooding rental market.

Cheaper to buy than to rent in 72% of largest U.S. cities
Trulia: Former homeowners flooding rental market
BY INMAN NEWS, MONDAY, JANUARY 24, 2011.
Inman News™

Despite the rising number of renters across the country, it is cheaper to buy a home rather than rent one in 72 percent of the 50 largest cities in the U.S., according to an index released by real estate search and marketing site Trulia.

"Since the start of the 'Great Recession,' many former homeowners have flooded the rental market. Following the principles of supply and demand, renting has become relatively more expensive than buying in most markets," said Pete Flint, CEO and co-founder of Trulia, in a statement.

"Though necessary for achieving true economic recovery, stricter bank lending practices have also further aggravated the struggling housing market in the short term. Even highly qualified homebuyers face intense scrutiny on their income, savings, existing debt and credit history before they can get a mortgage loan."
Trulia's rent vs. buy index compares the median list price with the median rent on two-bedroom apartments, condominiums and townhomes listed on Trulia.com as of Jan. 10, 2011.

A price-to-rent ratio of 1 to 15 means that it's much cheaper to buy than to rent in a particular city. A ratio between 16 and 20 means that it's more expensive to rent than to buy, but, depending on the family's situation, buying could "make financial sense," the site said. Any ratio above 20 indicates that owning is much more costly than renting in a city.

In 36 out of 50 of the country's most populous cities, buying a two-bedroom home is less expensive than renting one. These cities include many areas that have been hit hard by foreclosures, such as Las Vegas, Phoenix and Fresno, Calif.
Top 10 cities to buy vs. rent:
Rank City State Price to Rent Ratio
1. Miami Fla. 6
2. Las Vegas Nev. 6
3. Arlington Texas 7
4. Mesa Ariz. 8
5. Phoenix Ariz. 8
6. Jacksonville Fla. 8
7. Sacramento Calif. 10
8. San Antonio Texas 11
9. Fresno Calif. 11
10. El Paso Texas 11
Source: Trulia

In 10 cities, renting is cheaper, but buying might make more financial sense, according to Trulia. These cities include Los Angeles, Boston, and Fort Worth, Texas.
The index considers the total cost of homeownership compared to the total cost of renting. Calculations for the total cost of homeownership include mortgage principal and interest, property taxes, hazard insurance, closing costs at time of purchase, homeowner’s association dues, and private mortgage insurance. The homeownership cost calculation also includes tax advantages from mortgage interest, property tax and closing-cost deductions.

Calculations for total rental cost include rent and renters insurance.
The total cost of homeownership was highest, compared to the cost to rent, in New York; Seattle; Kansas City, Mo.; and San Francisco.

Top 10 cities to rent vs. buy:
Rank City State Price:Rent Ratio
1. New York N.Y. 31
2. Seattle Wash. 24
3. Kansas City Mo. 21
4. San Francisco Calif. 21
5. Memphis Tenn. 20
6. Los Angeles Calif. 20
7. Fort Worth Texas 19
8. Oakland Calif. 18
9. Portland Ore. 18
10. Albuquerque N.M. 18
Source: Trulia

"Although owning a home is relatively more affordable in most cities, market conditions have caused an interesting demographic swap between traditional renters and buyers," said Tara-Nicholle Nelson, consumer educator for Trulia, in a statement. Nelson is also an Inman news columnist.

"For example, lifelong renters are seizing the opportunity to become homeowners while affordability is high. At the same time, a growing number of longtime homeowners are finding themselves tenants -- some by choice and others by necessity."

Through newly acquired startup Movity, Trulia created interactive maps comparing each city's population, projected job growth, and unemployment and foreclosure rates.