Coping With Real Estate Market Change
Like calling a nuclear-tipped missile the Peacemaker, real estate market buzz words "stabilizing market," "returning to normal" and "market softening" may send the wrong signal to consumers.
The housing market isn't likely to implode in a mushroom cloud, but words like "normal," "stable" and "soft" are more likely to produce complacent acquiescence when it's time for a more proactive approach to changes in the market.
Experts who have lived and worked through past market shifts take a
decidedly more robust "cover your assets" approach to today's real estate
market rather than trying to pigeon hole it as typical.
Also author of "The Real Guide to Making Millions Through Real Estate"
(Entrepreneur Press, $24.95) Vander is doing for real estate what Suze
Orman did for the stock market and personal investments -- leveling the
playing field for the first-time and small investor.
Real estate investors, including home buyers, are just as unrealistic about and unfamiliar with the real estate market as novice stock market investors were about the technology sector during the dot com era of sudden wealth and sudden losses.
"They are unfamiliar with the real estate market, especially when it decreases in value and does not appreciate at the tremendous rates that have been seen recently in some parts of the country. It can not be emphasized enough how this is not standard and is not how long-term investors should be calculating their numbers," Vander says.
The fundamentals apply -- realistic, conservative and well-diversified
investments over the long haul virtually always yield greater returns than
jumping on the wagons just as they are about to circle.
• Squirrel away equity. An equity line on your primary residence helps augment mortgage payments should you have to decrease rental income in declining markets. Get the equity line when the market is healthy and lenders can verify your employment and good credit. Don't wait until you lose your job or interest rates skyrocket.
• Don't squirrel away too much. Retain, unencumbered, at least 20 percent to 25 percent of your property equity should you have to sell to get access to cash. Over leverage property in a declining market and you could be holding the bag with an upside down mortgage -- where the balance is larger than the property's value. That could make a needed sale difficult, if not impossible.
• Know your mortgage. Examine the terms of your mortgage. Know the maximum the loan can adjust during each adjustment period and how that will affect your payment.
• Build loan bridges. Refinance with loans designed to get you through the market tightening. Loans tied to stable indexes that don't adjust too frequently are best.Property in high-value markets are better able to handle the risk of interest-only loans that don't pay down the principle or even add to the principle. Such loans keep payments reasonable while rents and values decrease during down times. Again, be careful when using such loans not to over leverage your property.
• Reduce rents slowly. Right now, rents in many regions are rising in your favor in response to the demand of a growing number of consumers who can't afford home prices. Nevertheless, check with your property manager or others in the area to learn historical trends for the past 10 years. Follow the market and follow suit if local rents drop. Be prepared to sustain your properties with a rental rate decrease as large as 10 to 15 percent. Do it slowly so you don't over shoot the need to squeeze. Work hard to please and keep your current tenants so you don't have to lower rates to attract new tenants. Offer improvements, amenities and other incentives to keep your current renter renting from you.
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