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Investing in Real Estate

You've probably heard a lot of opposing information about this, which is completely annoying! The straight forward fact about Real Estate is that it is probably the best and safest investment you'll ever make, especially if you live in it, and that you are far more likely to make money in this market than with any other type of investing. The chances are very slim that you'll wake up one morning and the housing market will have dropped by 40%. Egads! That ain't good!

For the most part, Real Estate values always go up. You can make more money in Real Estate than practically anything else, so good to get involved in it! There are some Apartments in Calgary (Alberta, Canada) that I wanted my husband to buy (he wouldn't, but that didn't stop me from asking!) about five years ago. Back then, the Apartments were selling for $96,500.00 for a Two Bedroom place, and now that same unit is selling for over $150,000.00. Quite an increase in value, eh? (You're learning how to speak 'Canadian', too!) That's over $50,000.00 in gross profit, for the mathematically challenged (me included!). We sure didn't make that kind of profit in the Stock Market in that span of time.

Now, if that were your Primary Residence (the place you actually live), and you had lived there all that time, you would make that profit tax free. The same profit made on the Stock Market would be subject to regular taxes, which totally sucks, since you were the one to invest in the first place, and you were the one to take the chances, but, them's the laws of the land - what are you gonna do?? That's right, buy Real Estate! Ha,ha!

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Buy Apartments or Condos

One of the best bits of financial investment ideas that I ever got was from an old friend of mine, Ben Johnson, the Olympic Runner. (Remember him? Turns out, great guy, bad rap, punished more than any real criminal, very wise business man - funny how the press doesn't focus on that…) Anyway, his idea was to buy 15 apartments and rent them at approximately $1000./month (he lives in Toronto, Canada where the rents are high, if that seems exorbitant to you, or low, if you live in New York, and that seems waaay too cheap! ha,ha!). That would give him a regular 'income' of about $15,000./month, provided that the properties are owned outright. Good idea, eh?

Now, we can't afford that many rental properties, yet, but the idea is a good one. I don't know if he ever actually did that, but he planted a seed in my mind that will allow my husband (Dwight) and I to build a solid foundation for a comfortable retirement.

I happen to be partial to the idea of buying new apartments in a regular Apartment Building as opposed to Town Houses, Duplexes or Single Family Homes, because you don't have to worry about serious repair problems, like a new roof or furnace! Those problems can add up to some serious bills for the Property Owner.

New or well-cared for buildings are unlikely to require repairs within the first five years, and if you purchase in a Condo Development, your renter can pay the Condo Fees, which will cover any major building repairs. You will, of course, be responsible for general up-keep, but even that will be minimal if you have good renters and start with good stuff. If you are reluctant to get into the 'Landlord' game because of the whole 'collecting the rent' thing, you can always hire a Property Management Company. They'll handle everything for you for a relatively small fee.

When you're first looking at Rental Properties, Apartments specifically, try to find one that is relatively inexpensive, and make sure that you are in a financial position to carry all the costs involved if you don't have a renter.

Be careful not to pick up a 'real steal' that needs a huge amount of work - you won't save any money on this one - it could ruin you, financially, too, if there are too many complications in the deal. Again, I prefer new, but an apartment in good repair is fine, too. Only you will know how much you can take on.

Also, check with your Banker or Broker to ensure that you qualify to carry a mortgage on the new property. The Interest Rates are particularly low, right now, so this is a great time to invest in property. The great thing about having rental properties is that not only will you be gaining a perpetual monthly income (the difference between the costs of operation and the rental fee), when you are ready to sell the property, you'll get back all of your initial investment and you'll have the equity spread as well.

If you happen to live in the Property for a couple of years, or so, yourself, then any profit you've made will be tax-free, since it will have been your Primary Residence. Always check with your Accountant to comply with local tax laws. Also, you may be able to hand the property down to your children. Amazingly enough, this is no longer a basic right of a parent in certain countries without some one paying massive amounts of taxes, making it virtually impossible… Man, can't wait to live in the States, again!

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My own plan is to pay off our Mortgage on our Primary Residence, then use the money that we would normally put toward the Mortgage Payment to get a mortgage on a Rental Property - an Apartment. (Quick note forn Ailsa -- I'm not married, now, so this plan is temporarily on hold until a later date... so-to-speak! haha! Still a great plan, though!)

I like the idea of purchasing a number of apartments on the same floor of an Apartment Building, or at the very least, picking up another apartment in the same building. It seems to me that it would be waaay easier to manage properties if they're close together.

Also, we'd like to have an apartment available for each of our children when they are old enough to move out on their own. They could have the choice of having a room mate, themselves, who would pay them directly for their share of the rent. That way, our children could learn first-hand how to be landlords (Man, I really don't care for that term!) and we wouldn't have to worry about where they're living and whether they have any money for groceries! Scoooore!

The other thing that is key to a comfortable retirement is that the properties you acquire before you retire may be paid off before your actual retirement date, if you have one. If you're living well on your regular income (not including the rental income), then you can put a larger portion of the rental income directly on the Principle of the rental property mortgage. This will give you a higher monthly 'income' later.

(I thought this Ad was really funny!! Of course, It's Great to Be A Landlord, so you can still shoot for that!! ha,ha,ha!)

Buying Your First Home

This isn't nearly as complicated as some folks make it out to be. Your first step should probably be to contact a Mortgage Broker (have a wee look at the on-line Mortgage Companies on my Site -- they're a great way to quickly find out how much you qualify for, and they often have better rates than the standard Banks...). or your Banker to Pre-qualify for a Mortgage.

I happen to prefer Brokers because they are waaay more likely to actually get you a mortgage! Many banks have created an environment that severely limits most people's ability to get a loan, these days. If you've gone to your bank and they've flatly turned you down, don't give up. Contact a broker and make an appointment to go over your financial information (for God's Sake, be honest - never embellish information with any financial institution).

At the very least, you'll find out how much you can afford to pay for a property, or you will find out what you have to do in order to become qualified.

I have heard some bankers tell potential buyers that what they really need to do is buy lots of Retirement Savings Bonds (the banks have special names for them that you are most likely familiar with), which they happen to be selling that daythen the person can re-apply for a mortgage after their huge purchase of said banking product. Of course, now the potential home owner has no money left for a Down Payment. Much better to save your money in a safe Money Market Account at the bank (see, they're still making money!), or in a regular Savings Account that you don't regularly dip into.

You'll need a Realtor to Find a nice Lot to Build on, too -- they always have the best connections. If you are new to an Area, they can provide information about your new Neighborhood, and if you are doing the Buy-Renovate-Sell thing, Realtors can let you know which Areas Sell well ... and that's critical to know!

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Saving for a Down Payment

Saving for a Down Payment is hard work, so it's a good idea to really want to own your own home by the time you begin your Savings Account. It's difficult to turn down a weekend in the Bahamas (or Downtown at the Clubs!) when you don't have a definite goal.

Step One: Get a Job! This will definitely help you to find the money to save! ha,ha!

Step Two: Keep the Job -- longevity on the Job is a major factor the Financial Institutions look for when your trying to qualify for a Mortgage.

Step Three: Go over your spending habits with a fine tooth comb. (Please, this is strictly figurative! No yucky combs on your Financial Papers!) Ask yourself some very serious questions -- Do you really need to spend $5.00 for a cup of coffee five times a day? Even though it's fabulously delicious?? Even one cup at $3.25/day is $1186.25 a year. Five cups at price per day would be $5931,25. That's a lot of money, and often enough for a Down Payment.

It's a good idea to right down everything you actually purchase -- lottery tickets, coffee, lunches, snacks, clothes you don't really need -- it's the 'little incidentals' that really add up.

Step Four: Start a separate Bank Account, just for your 'house-to-be'. Anything you can put in there is good -- if you can manage $25.00/week, that's $1300. a year; $50./week gets you $2,600. a year, and if you can swing a $100./week, that's $5200. in a year.

You'll be shocked at how easy it is to piddle away $100. on all sorts of little things -- when you make the big decision to Buy Your Own Place, all of a sudden, you'll find yourself prioritizing...and that doesn't mean you have to slap your own hand to stop yourself from frivilous spending (which, sadly enough, happens to be the most fun type of spending! ha,ha!). You'll just make the decision one day that you need to Own Your Own Home so you can 1) Make Money, 2) Not hand over your money and have nothing to show for it at the end of the day -- say, Monday...yuff, yuff! 3) Secure your Future.

Step Five: Find out how much you can borrow for your new place. Click on-line so you can quickly determine this info. Especially if you're new to the Real Estate game, it's less stressful than heading in to the Bank, plus you don't have to make a special appointment!

Step Six: Start Looking for Your New Place! Check out the great new Condos that are all over the place, now. They have really good Payment Plans, and if you make your Purchase before they're built, you'll score a great deal.

Contact a Realtor to find out what's available in your Price Range -- they're there to help you, and can really help to narrow down the field and get you into something you can afford and love.

Remember that you don't have to live anywhere forever -- a lot of people fall into the trap that they can't buy because they're not sure where they'll be 5 or 10 years from now... even if you only have a year that you're sure about, go ahead and Buy. You can always sell it, and you won't lose money on Real Estate -- maybe you'll walk away with an extra $10,000. - $50,000. from the Property Values going up! Now, that ain't bad! Not bad at all!

Here's a little Tip for Women: You know, it's more common than you might think that a lot of women are 'waiting for a man' before they even start to think about buying a place. Forget that! Men, Schmen! Go get it yourself, Girl! And keep it until you're sure you really like him... In the 'olden days', like when I was in my twenties in the early 80's (!), there was a weird thing that if a woman had her own place, then she was putting out a message that 'she didn't need a man'..., and so a lot of women would wait until marriage before attempting to purchase a home.

Thank God those days are gone! Puh-leeease! It's always nice to have a man, but women don't technically need them ... for any length of time, anyway... and you can go ahead and get your own place without waiting for anyone. You can be comfy and cozy on your own no matter who you are... you can always sell it later and buy something different together, which is a healthier to do for a new relationship, anyway, right??

Shop for Mortgages! (A Great Way to Get the Info You Need!)

Mortgage Information You Can Understand that Won't Put You to Sleep!

Set your sights on something that is realistic. Don't go looking at all the 10,000 foot Mansions when you haven't started saving your money for a Downpayment, yet... Start with a Condo or Smaller Home, or head out of the City to nearby Towns to see what kind of Market Prices are out there. Usually, it's way less expensive to live outside of the city, with the exception of Estate Areas, which are a lot more expensive, given that they'll have Architectural Controls to allow only very large homes.

Don't worry about the whole "I can't live in the Suburbs..." . Better to think of it as a place of your own that you own -- Own Your Own Home! Your friends can laugh at a HOMEOWNER -- who's laughing now?? hmmmm? And 2 - 10 years from now when you're ready to move on, you'll have sooo much more money to invest in your next home, and you probably won't be hanging with those crazy friends, anyway! Although it would be fun to invite them for cocktails at your new Mansion, 'cause your early investment really paid off, and now you've just finished building it! ha,ha,ha! You can laugh yourself silly, and just blame it on the drinks!

Try to buy as new as you can, since Mortgage Rates are cheap, right now, and it's easier to come up with a monthly mortgage payment that is reasonable than to find the cash to fix major repairs in an older home. A house that is in very good repair is a good choice, too - it's the traditional 'fixer-upper' that used to be considered a good deal that is actually far more expensive in the long run.

Make sure to find out what the Condo Fees are, if the property you're looking at has a Condo Association. Check out the house taxes, too. Some smaller towns actually have higher tax rates than larger cities. If it's a pre-owned home, you can find out the general heating/cooling costs. The important thing is not to get in over your head. Stay moderate, never go beyond your means. Remember that Brand New Homes also come with huge costs that will not be included in your Mortgage. Little things, like grass, curtains, and perhaps a fridge… weigh out the total costs to see where you'll find the easiest place to start.

Now, it's true that the financial institutions have different Mortgage Rates depending on the percentage of the value of the property that you have for a Down Payment. If you put 5% down, your Rate will probably be higher than a Borrower who is putting 25% or more down on a property. It's based on the risk factors involved for each person borrowing from the institution. The Lenders always have to protect themselves. The important thing is just to get into a home as soon as you can. Don't wait until you have 20% to put down - just get into a property as soon as you can while these rates are so remarkably low.

You can always live there for a few years, sell it for a profit (always good!), and then make your move up. At the very least, you'll be investing the $6,000.00 (and waaay up, since that number is based on $500/month rent) a year in your own property.

If you are currently renting, the chances are really high that you could be paying less money per month on a Mortgage than you are paying for rent. This is because the Mortgage Rates are so incredibly low.

Make it a point to start taking note of the rates in your area. Start reading the Real Estate Papers, the classified ads in your local paper, and checking out Real Estate On-Line. Get a handle on what's out there that you like and can afford.

Start visiting Show Suites in Apartment Buildings and regular Show Homes. You may be surprised at the deals that are out there, these days. Go for a drive to see if there are properties For Sale in neighbourhoods that you like that are within a reasonable driving distance to your place of employment. Don't forget to add Traffic Time, if you are in a busy city! Bring a notepad and pens so you can jot down the Realtor's name and number. Often, there will be a web address, and you can check out the house on-line.

We sell our houses ourselves, so there's no reason to be wary of a 'Home For Sale By Owner'. Chances are high they've sold before and know the ropes. If you're on a time crunch, or you're new to the area, you can contact a local Realtor and tell them what you're looking for, and your price range. Again, if you're pre-qualified with a financial institution, this will be much easier. Looks can be deceiving - don't make judgements on a property until you've had a look inside. If you can imagine yourself living there, you've probably found the right place.

Write up an offer and contact a lawyer, Martha, we're buyin' a house!

Real Estate Law is pretty straight forward. If ever there was an easy consultation with a lawyer, this should be it! Your lawyer will lead you through the paperwork -- you just have to listen carefully, sign on the appropriate lines, provide any necessary documents the lawyer may require, and generally be polite! Sounds easy, eh?

You can even share a lawyer (the buyer and seller use the same lawyer when it's a nice, clean deal, with no nut cases involved…this is more common in a private sale), but chances are high you'll have your own. Make sure you have funds set aside to cover the Legal Fees (shop around - you may be surprised how these fees can vary), if they're not included in the deal. Some Builders include Legal Fees with their New Houses.

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