Real Estate Agents and the Internet – How to Buy and Sell Real Estate Today

Then and Now

Ten years ago, a search for real estate would have started in the office of a local real estate agent or by just driving around town. At the agent’s office, you would spend an afternoon flipping through pages of active property listings from the local Multiple Listing Service (MLS). After choosing properties of interest, you would spend many weeks touring each property until you found the right one. Finding market data to enable you to assess the asking price would take more time and a lot more driving, and you still might not be able to find all of the information you needed to get really comfortable with a fair market value.

Today, most property searches start on the Internet. A quick keyword search on Google by location will likely get you thousands of results. If you spot a property of interest on a real estate web site, you can typically view photos online and maybe even take a virtual tour. You can then check other Web sites, such as the local county assessor, to get an idea of the property’s value, see what the current owner paid for the property, check the real estate taxes, get census data, school information, and even check out what shops are within walking distance-all without leaving your house!

While the resources on the Internet are convenient and helpful, using them properly can be a challenge because of the volume of information and the difficulty in verifying its accuracy. At the time of writing, a search of “Denver real estate” returned 2,670,000 Web sites. Even a neighborhood specific search for real estate can easily return thousands of Web sites. With so many resources online how does an investor effectively use them without getting bogged down or winding up with incomplete or bad information? Believe it or not, understanding how the business of real estate works offline makes it easier to understand online real estate information and strategies.

The Business of Real Estate

Real estate is typically bought and sold either through a licensed real estate agent or directly by the owner. The vast majority is bought and sold through real estate brokers. (We use “agent” and “broker” to refer to the same professional.) This is due to their real estate knowledge and experience and, at least historically, their exclusive access to a database of active properties for sale. Access to this database of property listings provided the most efficient way to search for properties.

The MLS (and CIE)

The database of residential, land, and smaller income producing properties (including some commercial properties) is commonly referred to as a multiple listing service (MLS). In most cases, only properties listed by member real estate agents can be added to an MLS. The primary purpose of an MLS is to enable the member real estate agents to make offers of compensation to other member agents if they find a buyer for a property.

This purposes did not include enabling the direct publishing of the MLS information to the public; times change. Today, most MLS information is directly accessible to the public over the Internet in many different forms.

Commercial property listings are also displayed online but aggregated commercial property information is more elusive. Larger MLSs often operate a commercial information exchange (CIE). A CIE is similar to an MLS but the agents adding the listings to the database are not required to offer any specific type of compensation to the other members. Compensation is negotiated outside the CIE.

In most cases, for-sale-by-owner properties cannot be directly added to an MLS and CIE, which are typically maintained by REALTOR associations. The lack of a managed centralized database can make these properties more difficult to locate. Traditionally, these properties are found by driving around or looking for ads in the local newspaper’s real estate listings. A more efficient way to locate for-sale-by-owner properties is to search for a for-sale-by-owner Web site in the geographic area.

What is a REALTOR? Sometimes the terms real estate agent and REALTOR are used interchangeably; however, they are not the same. A REALTOR is a licensed real estate agent who is also a member of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS. REALTORS are required to comply with a strict code of ethics and conduct.

MLS and CIE property listing information was historically only available in hard copy, and as we mentioned, only directly available to real estate agents members of an MLS or CIE. About ten years ago, this valuable property information started to trickle out to the Internet. This trickle is now a flood!

One reason is that most of the 1 million or so REALTORS have Web sites, and most of those Web sites have varying amounts of the local MLS or CIE property information displayed on them. Another reason is that there are many non-real estate agent Web sites that also offer real estate information, including, for-sale-by-owner sites, foreclosure sites, regional and international listing sites, County assessor sites, and valuation and market information sites. The flood of real estate information to the Internet definitely makes the information more accessible but also more confusing and subject to misunderstanding and misuse.

Real Estate Agents

Despite the flood of real estate information on the Internet, most properties are still sold directly through real estate agents listing properties in the local MLS or CIE. However, those property listings do not stay local anymore. By its nature, the Internet is a global marketplace and local MLS and CIE listings are normally disseminated for display on many different Web sites. For example, many go to the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS Web site, and to the local real estate agent’s Web site. In addition, the listing may be displayed on the Web site of a local newspaper. In essence, the Internet is just another form of marketing offered by today’s real estate agent, but it has a much broader reach than the old print advertising.

In addition to Internet marketing, listing agents may also help the seller establish a price, hold open houses, keep the seller informed of interested buyers and offers, negotiate the contract and help with closing. When an agent provides all of these services it is referred to as being a full service listing arrangement. While full service listing arrangements are the most common type of listing arrangement, they are not the only option anymore.

Changes in the technology behind the real estate business have caused many agents to change the way they do business. In large part, this is due to the instant access most consumers now have to property listings and other real estate information. In addition, the Internet and other technologies have automated much of the marketing and initial searching process for real estate. For example, consumers can view properties online and make inquires via email. Brokers can use automated programs to send listings to consumers that match their property criteria. So, some agents now limit the services they offer and change their fees accordingly. An agent may offer to advertise the property in the MLS but only provide limited additional services. In the future, some real estate agents may offer services in more of an ala carte fashion.

Because of the volume of real estate information on the Internet, when people hire a real estate agent today they should look at the particular services offered by the agent and the depth of their experience and knowledge in the relevant property sector. It is no longer just about access to property listing information. Buyers and sellers historically found agents by referrals from friends and family. The Internet now provides ways to directly find qualified agents or to research the biography of an agent referred to you offline. One such site, AgentWorld.com, is quickly becoming the LinkedIn or Facebook for real estate agents. On this site an agent can personalize their profile, start a blog, post photos and videos and even create a link to their web site for free. Once unique content is added to their profile page the search engines notice!

Some have argued that the Internet makes REALTORS and the MLS less relevant. We believe this will be false in the long run. It may change the role of the agent but will make knowledgeable, qualified, and professional REALTORS more relevant than ever. In fact, the number of real estate agents has risen significantly in recent years. No wonder, the Internet has made local real estate a global business. Besides, Internet or not, the simple fact remains that the purchase of real property is the largest single purchase most people make in their life (or, for many investors, the largest multiple purchases over a lifetime) and they want expert help. As for the MLS, it remains the most reliable source of real estate listing and sold information available and continues to enable efficient marketing of properties. So, what is the function of all the online real estate information?

Online real estate information is a great research tool for buyers and sellers and a marketing tool for sellers. When used properly, buyers can save time by quickly researching properties and, ultimately, make better investment decisions. Sellers can efficiently research the market and make informed decisions about hiring an agent and marketing their properties online. The next step is to know where to look online for some of the best resources.
Internet Strategies

In the sections that follow, we provide strategies and tips on how to use the Internet to locate properties for sale and research information relevant to your decision to purchase the property. There are many real estate Web sites from which to choose and although we do not mean to endorse any particular Web site, we have found the ones listed here to be good resources in most cases or to be so popular that they need mention. One way to test a Web site’s accuracy is to search for information about a property you already own.

Finding Real Estate for Sale

Despite the widely available access to real estate listings, many believe that MLS databases continue to offer the most complete and accurate source of real estate information. Most MLSs now distribute content to other Web sites (primarily operated by real estate agents). An excellent starting point for MLS originated content is the national NAR Web site, realtor.com, which is also the most popular web site for searching real estate listings. Virtually all local and regional MLSs have an agreement with realtor.com to display much of their active listing inventory.

Some local and regional MLS systems also have a publicly accessible Web site. However, to get complete information you will most likely still need to find a qualified local REALTOR. Many local real estate agents will also provide their customers (via email) new listings that are input into the MLS that match their predefined criteria. This can be very helpful to a busy buyer.

There are also many Web sites that display both real estate agent listed and for-sale-by-owner properties. Some of the more popular Web sites include zillow.com and trulia.com. These sites offer other services too. For example, zillow.com is best known for its instantaneous property valuation function and trulia.com for providing historical information. Another source of properties for sale is the state, regional, and local Web sites associated with brokerage companies; for example, remax.com or prudential.com. Search engines like yahoo.com and classified advertising sites like craigslist.com also have a large number of active real estate listings.

One key difference between these sites is how much information you can access anonymously. For example, at trulia.com you can shop anonymously up to a point but then you will need to click through to the agent’s Web site for more information. Many new real estate search engines allow you to sift through listings without having to fill out a form. The best strategy is to browse a few of the sites listed above to find geographic areas or price ranges that are interesting. Once you get serious about a property, then that is the time to find a qualified REALTOR of your choice to conduct a complete search in the local MLS.

It also never hurts to search the old-fashioned way by driving through the neighborhoods that interest you. There is no substitute for physically, not virtually, walking the block when you are making a serious investment decision. In this sense, real estate is still a very local business and standing in front of the property can lead to a much different decision than viewing a Web page printout.

Valuing Real Estate

As we mentioned, one of the most popular real estate tools is zillow.com’s instant property valuation. Just type in an address and in and you get a property value. It even charts the price ups and downs, and shows the last date sold (including price) and the property taxes. There are other sites that provide similar tools such as housevalues. Unfortunately, many people use these estimated values alone to justify sales prices, offers and counteroffers. However, these are only rough estimates based on a formula that incorporates the local county sales information. These estimates can swing wildly over a short period of time and do not appear to always track actual market changes, which are normally more gradual. In addition, these estimates do not automatically take into account property remodels or renovations or other property specific or local changes. This is not to say these sites are not useful. In fact, they are great starting points and can provide a good ball-park value in many cases.

When it comes to getting a more accurate value for a particular property, there are other strategies that are more trustworthy. One is to go directly to your county’s Web site. More often than not the county assessor’s area of the Web site provides sales and tax information for all properties in the county. If you want to research a particular property or compare sales prices of comparable properties, the local assessor’s sites are really helpful. When you visit a county’s Web site you are getting information straight from the source. Most counties today publish property information on their Web sites. Many times you cannot only see the price a previous owner paid, but the assessed value, property taxes, and maps. Some county assessors are now adding a market and property valuation tools too.

Given the importance of valuation to investing, we are also going to remind you of the two most important (non-Internet) valuation methods: real estate agents and appraisers. Working with a local REALTOR is an accurate and efficient way to get value information for a property. While one of the primary purposes of the MLS is to market the active property listings of its members, the system also collects sales information for those listings. REALTOR members can pull this sales information and produce comparable market analyses (sometimes called CMAs) that provide an excellent snapshot of a particular property’s value for the market in a particular area.

Finally, the most accurate way to value a property is by having a certified appraiser produce an appraisal. An appraiser will typically review both the sold information in the MLS system as well as county information and then analyze the information to produce a valuation for the property based on one or more approved methods of valuation. These methods of valuation can include a comparison of similar properties adjusted for differences between the properties, determine the cost to replace the property, or, with an income producing property, determine a value based on the income generated from the property.

The Neighborhood

There are many ways the Internet can help you get the scoop on a particular neighborhood. For example, census data can be found at census.gov. You can also check out the neighborhood scoop at sites like outside.in or review local blogs. A blog is a Web site where people discuss topics by posting and responding to messages. Start by looking at placeblogger.com and kcnn.org/citymediasites.com for a directory of blogs. Trulia.com has a “Heat Map” that shows how hot or cold each neighborhood is based on prices, sales, or popularity among the sites users.

Schools

When it comes to selling residential property or rental properties that cater to families, the quality of the area school district makes a huge difference. There are many Web sites devoted to school information. Check out greatschools.net or schoolmatters.com. Most local school districts also have their own Web site. These sites contain a variety of information about the public schools and the school district, including its district demographics, test scores, and parent reviews.

Finding the Right Real Estate Agent

A recent addition to the Internet boom in real estate information is Web sites that let real estate agents market their expertise and local knowledge by displaying their professional profiles and socially networking with blogs. You can search to find an agent with a particular expertise, geographic area of specialization, or an agent offering specific services. The web site AgentWorld.com lets users quickly and easily find an agent with the right expertise using keyword searches and clean and simple agent profiles. AgentWorld.com also enables agents to post personalized blogs, photos and videos to help consumers find the best agent for their needs. Plus, many agent profiles include a direct link to the agent’s web site where you will likely find the local MLS listings.

Maps and Other Tools

The Internet has made mapping and locating properties much easier. To get an aerial view or satellite image of a property or neighborhood, go to maps.live.com or maps.google.com or visit walkscore.com to see how walk-able a particular property is. These sites can give you an idea of the neighborhood characteristics and the types of entertainment, restaurants, and other facilities that are within walking distance of the property. Maps.Live.com provides a view at an angle so you can see the sides of houses and Maps.Google even gives you a 360 degree street-level view for certain neighborhoods. If you have not tried one of these satellite map Web sites, you really should if only for amusement.

Final Thoughts on Internet Strategies

The Internet is a very effective research and marketing tool for real estate investors but is not a replacement for a knowledgeable experienced real estate professional. The Internet can save you time and money by enabling quick and easy property research and marketing options. Sites like AgentWorld.com also help you efficiently find a REALTOR who fits your buying or selling needs.

Always remember, when it comes to Internet strategies for real estate: More knowledge is better. You need to use the Internet to build your knowledge base on a target property or to find a real estate agent with expertise you need. However, the big caution here is that the Internet should not replace human judgment and perspective, expert advice or physical due diligence-keys to successful investing.

Advantages of Real Estate Investing

Investing in real estate is as advantageous and as attractive as investing in the stock market. I would say it has three times more prospects of making money than any other business. But, But, But… since, it is equally guided by the market forces; you cannot undermine the constant risks involved in the real estate. Let me begin discussing with you the advantages of real estate investments. I found the advantages as most suited and really practical.

Advantages

Real Estate Investments are Less Risky

As compared to other investments, less of misadventure is involved in a real estate property. I will not get away from the fact that just like any investment you make; you have the risk of losing it. Real estate investments are traditionally considered a stable and rich gainer, provided if one takes it seriously and with full sagacity. The reasons for the real estate investments becoming less risky adventure primarily relate to various socio-economic factors, location, market behavior, the population density of an area; mortgage interest rate stability; good history of land appreciation, less of inflation and many more. As a rule of thumb, if you have a geographical area where there are plenty of resources available and low stable mortgage rates, you have good reason for investing in the real estate market of such a region. On the contrary, if you have the condo in a place, which is burgeoning under the high inflation, it is far-fetched to even think of investing in its real estate market.

No Need for Huge Starting Capital

A real estate property in Canada can be procured for an initial amount as low as $8,000 to $ 15,000, and the remaining amount can be taken on holding the property as security. This is what you call High Ratio Financing. If you don’t have the idea as to how it works, then let me explain you with the help of an example. Remember that saying… Examples are better than percepts!

Supposing, you buy a condo worth $200,000, then you have to just pay the initial capital amount say 10% of $200,000. The remaining amount (which is 90%) can be financed, against your condo. It means that in a High Ratio financing, the ratio between the debt (here in the example it is 90% Mortgage) and the equity (here in the example it is 10% down payment) is very high. It is also important to calculate high ratio mortgage insurance with the help of Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC). If needed, you can also purchase the condo on 100% mortgage price.

Honing Investment Skills

A real estate investment, especially when you buy a condo for yourself, will be a pleasurable learning experience. It gives you the opportunity to learn and when I went ahead with my first real estate property, I was totally a dump man. Ask me now, and I can tell you everything, from A to Z. Necessity is the mother of all inventions. I had the necessity to buy the property and so I tried with it, and I was successful. I acquired all the knowledge and skills through experience of selling and purchasing the residential property. Thanks to my job. It gave me the experience to become an investor.

Not a time taking Adventure

Real estate investment will not take out all your energies, until you are prepared and foresighted to take the adventure in full swing. You can save hell lot of time, if you are vigilant enough to know the techniques of making a judicious investment in the right time and when there are good market conditions prevailing at that point of time.

You should be prepared to time yourself. Take some time out, and do market research. Initiate small adventures that involve negotiating real estate deals, buying a property, managing it and then selling it off. Calculate the time invested in your real estate negotiation. If the time was less than the optimum time, you have done it right. And if you end up investing more time, then you need to work it out again, and make some real correction for consummating next deals. You have various ways and methodologies, called the Real Estate Strategies that can make it happen for you in the right manner.

Leverage is the Right Way

The concept of leverage in real estate is not a new one. It implies investing a part of your money and borrowing the rest from other sources, like banks, investment companies, finance companies, or other people’s money (OPM). There have been many instances where people have become rich by practically applying OPM Leverage Principal. As I had discussed under the sub head – No Need for Huge Starting Capital, the high ratio financing scheme gives an opportunity of no risk to the lenders, as the property becomes the security. Moreover, in case the lender is interested in selling the property, the net proceeds resulting from the sale of the property should comfortably cover the mortgage amount.

Now consider a situation, where the lender leverages the property at too high ratio debt say 98% or even more, and all of the sudden the market shows a down turn, then both the investor as well as the lender. Hence, greater is the mortgage debt, more is the lender’s risk, and it is therefore necessary that lender pays higher interest rates. The only way out to ease the risk from lender’s head is to get the mortgage insured. Two companies authorized to insure your high-ratio mortgage debts are CMHC, and GE mortgage Insurance Canada.

Letme explain you with the help of an example… supposing, you are buying a real estate property worth $ 200,000 at three mortgages, with the first one of $100,000, the second of $75,000 and the third one of $25,000. Possible percentage of interest rates charged can be 3%, 5% and 7%. The last mortgage amount of $25,000 will be accounted, as riskiest; as it would relatively be the last mortgage that you will pay when you finally make a selling deal.

On the contrary, if the first mortgage representing almost 90% of your property price is insured against getting default or as high ratio mortgage, then in the above example, the basic interest rate would be 3%.

Let me explain you the leveraging concept by taking another example.

Supposing, you are buying a real estate property worth $200,000, and made down payment of 10%, equitable to $20,000, while financed the rest amount of $1,80,000. Over the year’s time, the value of your property appreciates by 10%. In this case, what would be the total return that you’d incur on your down payment of $20,000? It would be 200%. Yes 200%. Putting in simpler words, the down payment of $20,000 made by you has an appreciation of 10% over it, i.e. (10% increase of original home price of $ 200,000), 200% return on your down payment investment of $20,000.

On the contrary if you invest all the money in buying the property of $200,000, and in wake of appreciation of 10% over the year ($20,0000 would then be accrued to as 20%.

Synonymous with leveraging is pyramiding, where you borrow on the appreciated value of your existing property. Pyramiding applies the principal of leverage that enables you to purchase even more properties. This appreciated value over the real estate property in some selected areas results in accumulation of rich financial virtues.

Real Estate Appreciation

An appreciation is an average increase in the property value over original capital investment, taking place over a period. There are some neglected real estate properties that have an appreciation below the average mark, whereas, some of the properties located in maintained geographical areas, showing high demand, have an above average appreciation. In such centrally located and high demand areas, the average appreciation can reach up to 25% in a year. I will discuss appreciation in the chapter on real estate cycles. For now, for general understanding, appreciation is what goes up.

You Make Your Equity

As you gradually pay your mortgage debts, you are creating your equity. In other words, you would be reaching to original house price on which you have no debt. Your equity is absolutely free of percentage increase in appreciation. From the investor’s perspective, in real estate market, equity is the amount that is free of debt and it is the amount that an investor holds. When you sale your property, then the net money you get, after paying all the commissions and closing costs, becomes your equity. Lenders don’t want to take risk by allowing a loan on over 90% of equity. Therefore, in this manner, the lenders take the safety measures in wake of their loan being defaulted.

The Federal Bankruptcy act says that all the first mortgages of over 75% of the appraised or purchase value must be covered under high-ratio insurance schemes. However, there are certain conditions, wherein, CMHC offers the purchasers of real estate property qualifying the insurance, a mortgage of up to 100% of purchase price over your principal house value. In the wake of an event where borrowers want more money from the lenders, they would ideally settle for second and the third mortgages.

Low Inflation

Inflation is the rise in the prices of the products, commodities and services, or putting it another way, it is the decrease in your capacity to buy or hire the services. Supposing, a commodity was worth $10 a decade back, will now cost $ 100 as the result of inflation. For people who have fixed salaries feel the real brunt of the dollar, as the inflation rises. In Canada, the inflation rate varies and it varies every year. There was a time when Canada had a double-digit, but it was controlled to single digit, after the regulation of policy.

If we analyze closely, the land appreciation value for the residential real estate is 4% to 5% higher than inflation rate. Therefore, when you invest in real estate, then you are paying mortgage debts in high dollar value. Now as you are getting more, salary to pay less amount than the amount that you had paid in the original mortgage.

Tax Exemptions

You get various tax exemptions on your principal and investment income property. The tax exemptions available in real estate property investment are more than available in any other investment. In other investments, you lose terribly on the investments in your bank in the form of inflation and high taxes therein, but in real estate; you don’t actually have such hindrances.

Various tax exemptions available are:
•The interest receivable from your bank account, term deposit or guaranteed Investment Certificate (GIC) is completely taxable as income. A little math here will do the magic work for you. Supposing, if you get an interest of 8% on the deposit, and the on going inflation rate is 5%, the Real Return Rate will come out to be settled at 2%.
•You get completely tax-free capital gain on principal amount of your residential real estate property.
•You have the opportunity to ward off principal amount of your residential real estate property against the home expenses incurred by you.
•You can easily ward off the property depreciation against your income.
•You can cut the expenses incurred in real estate property investment through your income
•Tax rate reduced to approx. 50% of the capital gain.
•And many more

Net Positive and High Income is Generated

If taken in right direction and played seriously, a real estate investment can be your virtue making endeavor now and in times to come. You will not only be having additional assets building in your favor, but also with positive cash flow, your real estate property value will increase automatically.

High Return on Investments (ROIs)

Real estate investment gives you potentially high ROIs before and after the taxes levied on your income. In fact, investing in real estate gives you high ROIs after the taxes.

Demand for the Real Estate Increases

As a natural instance, when the population of a region increases, the total usable land decreases, and this provides the impetus for high real estate prices. There are many communities that can or cannot have growth and development regulations, thereby, resulting in limited land available for use. Therefore, the real estate prices of the area shoot up. Remember housing is the necessity of an individual and therefore it is much in demand than any other single commodity taken. Furthermore, there are people who purchase additional houses for their recreation, recluse or as a past time. This in turn increases the demand for land.

How a Foreign National Can Buy Real Estate in America

Opportunities for real estate investment for foreigners is wide and varied in the United States. It doesn’t matter where you’re from and what currency you’d be using to purchase a property, you have a property waiting for you.

There are generally three kinds of real estate investment available to foreigners. These investments include the commercial estate investment and residential property investment. Residential properties are further classified into single family properties, apartments or condominiums and recreational properties. Regardless of what kind of real estate you are interested in, there are all sorts of tax ramifications, financing options and legal requirements that you have to deal with.

Why Should You Invest in the U.S. Real Estate Market?

You’ve probably heard of the increasing number of foreign real estate investments in the United States. This is not surprising. With the troubles that the real estate investment market is facing in the United States, greater opportunities in real estate investment were opened to foreign investors.

With the dollar’s value in its all time low, foreign investors are finding real estate bargains all over the United States. There are no shortages of deals in this market. More and more distressed properties are being sold everywhere and foreigners are pouring in millions buying these foreclosed or distressed properties. The United States real estate has become a fairly attractive long-term investment for foreign investors.

In November of 2006, the National Association of Realtors released a report entitled “Foreign Investments in U.S Real Estate: Current Trends and Historical Perspective”. The report showed that there has been a steady increase in foreign real estate investment in the United States. This is especially after the euro and the loonie became stronger in the face of the continuous devaluation of the US dollar. Prime bargains were opened to foreigners. Many foreigners have now looked into the possibility of retiring or settling in the United States.

If you’re a foreigner, you would find a lot of reasons why you should invest in the United States real estate market. Aside from the fact that the floating exchange rate has given you a lot of leverage over the bargaining table, the financial market is a pretty good reason why you should invest in the US real estate.

The financial market in the United States in relation to the real estate market is quite liberal and the restrictions against foreign investors are pretty reasonable. This is ideal for foreign companies that are seeking to invest in the real estate market in the United States in order to avoid tariff restrictions and are considering setting up an office or a company in the United States.

Furthermore, despite the devaluation of the US dollar and the wide foreclosures of a lot of property, the real estate market remains to be stable, though slightly shaky, due to foreign investors’ capital appreciation. Domestic real estate buyers may not necessarily share the same opinion, but the market has remained to be strong for foreign real estate buyers. This may be largely credited to the fact that there is minimal risk for them.

Why are Foreign Real Estate Investments Safe and Profitable?

There are a lot of investments you can make, but the safest you can make right now is investing your money in real properties. This is another good reason aside from the fact that you can make a pretty nifty profit, if you like, particularly now with the widespread property foreclosures and seemingly continuous US dollar devaluation. This is especially true if you are going to use the euro or the loonie when making your investment.

But why is US real estate investment safe for foreigners?

It is undeniable that stock investments are not a safe avenue at this point. The recession has not only affected the US economy; the same recession has greatly affected worldwide stock investments. Stocks values are dropping. It is also a fact that even without the current economic situation, stock values fluctuates.

On the other hand, real estate investments are pretty stable if you would compare it to stock investments – or even bond or mutual fund investments. With real estate investment, you’d be putting your money in an investment that would grow in value as years go by.

What are the Benefits of Foreign Real Estate Investment?

US state government supports foreign investments and along this line has formulated various tax breaks to encourage foreign investment on real estate. Many of these tax breaks are not available in many countries. In fact, most countries would frown at foreigners owning real properties within their territory.

Foreign real estate investment in the United States is open to everyone. As long as you can afford to buy the property or at least comply with the mortgage requirements and payments, you can secure for yourself a pretty good property in the United States. Again, with the current economic situation of the United States, this is the perfect chance for you to make an investment.

Another great benefit that you can take advantage of is the availability of mortgage financing. Lenders have opened their doors to foreign investors who are looking into purchasing a property. So, you don’t have to actually deplete your bank account. You can actually secure a mortgage loan and gradually pay it off.

I’m Canadian, What Are My Financing Options?

There is a steady increasing rate of Canadian real estate investors in the United States; and accordingly, the government has made certain that they have attractive financing options available to them.

If you’re Canadian – or if you’re a foreigner – you’d find a lot of reasons why you should buy a piece of real property in the United States. For Canadians, the parity of the currencies or the apparent devaluation of the US dollar is a pretty good reason itself. But how do you finance your purchase?

There are various financing options available to you depending on which state you are in. In Arizona, for instance, you’d get favorable financing terms if you are purchasing a property for recreational purposes, that is, you do not derive any income or benefit from your purchase or ownership. You will be required, however, to sign up a disclosure agreement and give a 30% down payment for your loan. To qualify though for a loan, you may be required to show availability of liquid reserves for a period of three to six months. You may also be required to present a minimum of 3-month bank statement.

If you are purchasing a property for investment, you’d probably meet stricter terms. Requirements may be more stringent. For instance, you could be required to give a down payment of more than 30% and you may be required to show one year worth of liquidity reserves.

Regardless of your reasons, if you feel like you can fulfill the requirements of a financing loan, you can then proceed to actually applying for a mortgage loan. Also, keeping yourself updated with the financing terms flux may be a wise idea.

Understanding the Tax Ramifications of Real Estate Investment

The first foreigner to have ever bought a real estate property in the United States was Peter Minuit. This opened the doors to foreign real estate investors. After a couple of centuries later, foreign real estate investment has grown into huge proportions, accounting for billion-of-dollar worth of industry.

The low risk attached to US real estate market, the availability of countless properties, and the steady market liquidity attract foreign investors in droves. The initial snag, however, is the process of understanding the legal ramifications of foreign real estate investment.

What you have to understand is that foreign investment in the United States can take a lot of forms. A foreigner has various options. He can acquire direct interest. He can acquire an interest in the real estate through a partnership, a corporation, or a limited liability company. The latter is the typical structure used by foreign investors.

Limited partnership or Limited Liability Company offers financial protection or indirect asset protection, especially in cases of bankruptcy, law suits and taxes. Foreign investors are generally taxed on the property as if they hold the property in direct interest.

Ideally, you should secure the services of a real estate accountant to help you out with the tax ramifications, but it would help if you, at least, know the basics before you actually talk to an accountant.

There are tax consequences that you have to deal with when you buy a real estate in the United States. You would need an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number which you will use with all your tax transactions. Your investment in real estates can be treated as a portfolio investment and will be accounted for as an investment income which can either be fixed or a periodic income. This is typically taxed at 30% on gross revenues. This tax though does not apply though to all foreign investors. Tax rates would vary depending on the tax personality the foreign investor opted for. For instance, a corporation would be taxed differently.

Other things that you should take note of are availability and requirements of tax refunds and state tax laws on real estate properties as they may differ from federal laws, among other things.

By knowing all these things, you may save yourself from a lot of hassles when you finally approach a real estate accountant. You’d be in same wavelength when you finally get down to talking business. It is, however, very important that you secure the services of an accountant. You’d have an easier time dealing with the taxes ramifications. You’d also have assistance ensuring that you comply with all the accounting aspect of your investment. This is especially true if you are purchasing a real property for investment purposes.

Do You Need to Secure the Service of a Real Estate Lawyer?

If you are considering buying a property in the United States, you need to secure the services of a real estate attorney – someone who could help you with the legal issues concerning your purchase. It is tempting to forego securing the service of a lawyer to save money, but this could cost you a lot of money in the long run. Make sure that you have an experienced and trustworthy lawyer to help you out. Make sure that you have thoroughly checked out his credentials, profile, history of successful cases handled by him, and other factors that would influence your decision. You could check online and look for a lawyer working within the state where you are considering purchasing a property.

Functions of a Real Estate Lawyer

There is no actual distinctive function for a lawyer in a real estate case. However, you would really need the assistance of a lawyer for various tasks. A real estate lawyer would review the sales contract for you. He would also check on the title and other documents relating to the property. A lawyer would also review your mortgage contract and make the necessary adjustments or corrections. You could also get him to review with you the legal and tax issues concerning the purchase. A real estate attorney could also make the necessary adjustments relating to various expenses and costs involved in the purchase. He would assess your eligibility for tax refunds and draft the documents and statements relating to this.

Putting it simply, a real estate lawyer will be your watchdog. He would guide you through the whole process of purchasing a real estate in the United States in order to make sure that you will be legally protected. You will have a capable and trustworthy liaison to help you out with the contract. He will also face legal disputes if any arise.

Tips on How to Invest in Real Estate Successfully

Now, if you’ve fully bought into the idea of real estate investing in the United States, you might just want to know how to go about investing in real estate successfully. If you want to be successful in this venture, the first thing that you have to avoid is overanalyzing. Of course, it is a good idea to carefully think through your actions but it is a bad idea to overanalyze your investment to nonexistence. You might lose a great opportunity.

Before you purchase the property though, it might be wise to check the property value. If it sits well with you and you can reasonably afford the property, go ahead and make the purchase.

If you are considering the property for a quick flip, make sure that the property is in perfect condition and in good area. This is to ensure that you could double or actually triple your return of investment. If you can inspect the property yourself, do so. If not, a good and trustworthy agent can help you with this task.

Another important thing to remember when you’re buying real estate is good financing. You should take your time to carefully consider all your financing options. Foreign investors can email in their queries to various lending institutions. It is a good idea to make sure that you’ve had their terms and rates on paper because they tend to change these terms and charge you with a lot of junk. Your real estate agent can help you with reviewing the escrow charges.

The bottom line, however, is that it is very important that you do your homework before you actually buy a real property. Investing in real properties in the United States can be profitable especially during these times. In fact, it may be the wisest and most perfect investment you can make right now.