Most Expensive Real Estate Developments in the U.S.

Individuals who are looking for a nice home in a nice neighborhood are very familiar with the change in the landscape of American real estate. Developers are now investing massive quantities of money into properties that are high-end, luxury homes. If you’re a middle-class individual looking for a new home in a good part of town, then you’ll likely end up walking through several homes that are parts of a development. And if your price tag is in the upper six to seven figures, then you’ll find that the most incredible developments are ready to handle your needs. In this article, take a look at the most expensive real estate developments in the country.

Luxury Penthouses in New York City

Ads in the New York Times Magazine continuously boast about the most expensive real estate developments in Manhattan. It’s now possible to have your own private penthouse directly overlooking Central Park, right in the center of the most powerful city in the world.

The One57 Tower is an example of ultra-luxury real estate development. The signature penthouse of this property, which has more than 10,000 square feet and occupies the 89th and 90th floor of this building, was sold for $90 million. The tower is still under construction, and 50 percent of the real estate of the building is unclaimed, so if you have the cash (or stocks, or mutual funds, or oil fields…) then it’s not too late!

Sea-Side Resort-Style Living in Malibu

If you enjoy beach-side living next to the second-largest city in the United States, then you might want to consider real estate developments in Malibu. Just north of Los Angeles, Malibu is a city where many celebrities and other A-listers can be found. Of course, the property matches the status with a hefty price tag. The average home in Malibu has a price tag of $2.15 million. That same home in Cleveland, Ohio? Just $63,000.

Turn Millions into More Millions in Florida

Donald Trump knows a thing or two about expensive luxury real estate developments. The Donald purchased a home from a bankruptcy court in Palm Beach, Florida, for around $41 million in 2004. His selling price in 2008? $95 million. Not a bad return on investment, but then again, Mr. Trump is known to make millions turn into more millions with high-end real estate developments.

How Do Reverse Mortgages Work?

If you’re like most Americans, chances are you are well-educated with the in’s and out’s of home mortgages, but have you ever heard of a reverse mortgage? These are becoming quite a popular option for the over 65, senior citizen crowd. Is a reverse mortgage a good option for you? Or is it more risk than you are willing to take on in such a critical stage of your life? Read on for a look at everything you need to know about reverse mortgages and see if it is right for you.

What is a Reverse Mortgage?

A reverse mortgage is a feasible option to citizens age 62 and older who own their homes. A reverse mortgage can be used to finance a home repair and allows you to convert your home equity into monthly income. While a standard mortgage requires you to pay a certain amount per month on your home purchase, a reverse mortgage allows senior citizens to receive a monthly payment from their equity. Reverse mortgages are valid while you are living in your home. If you move or pass away, the bank considers the reverse mortgage paid.

Is This a Smart Option?

This is a very smart option for many senior citizens. Without a full time job, income can be hard to come by for seniors. A reverse mortgage is an excellent option if you plan to reside within your home for a while, and want to turn some of your equity into an additional source of income.

What Options Do I Have?

There are three different types of reverse mortgages available to choose from. Single purpose reverse mortgages are offered by some state and government agencies. Federally insured reverse mortgages are offered by the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development. Proprietary reverse mortgages are handled by private institutions. Each reverse mortgage has different terms and requirements, so you will want to shop around to make sure you are selecting the right one for you.

The Bottom Line

A reverse mortgage can be a smart option for seniors to earn back some of their equity to help meet monthly expenses, medical bills or even a home renovation project. It is important to weigh the pro’s and the con’s before taking the plunge into a reverse mortgage. Each person’s financial needs are different. Make sure that you are making the right choice for your home and your future.

If you want to learn more about managing your personal finances, click here.

How To Study for Real Estate Exams

There is a difference between being a good real estate agent or broker and being able to pass a test. Tests for real estate licenses are not unlike tests for other certifications or licenses. The objective is not to assess how good you are at your job, just that you have the basic understanding necessary to be successful. Chances are that, at entry level, you will have other brokers or mentors to help you hone your skills and learn the fine points of the job once you have one.

You will spend years gaining knowledge and building expertise. Your focus right now should be on figuring out what questions you are likely to be asked and knowing their answers. It may seem a simplistic way of looking at it, but even a road test doesn’t prove you are a good driver, it just proves you can control the car and you know the rules of the road. Becoming a good driver takes time. The same principle applies to your real estate exam: prove you know the rules and that you can handle the job. The rest will come later. Your focus right now should simply be passing the test. To accomplish that, there are a few things you are going to need to do.

1. Be careful of the advice you take

It isn’t really advisable to poll other agents about what they remember about the test, especially if they took it a while ago. The contents of the tests change often as do laws, rules and regulations that determine the answers to certain questions. If you need to take anyone’s advice, you are likely to get further talking to someone who took the test last month than you are polling someone who took it last year.

2. Don’t buy outdated training materials

Make sure any books you buy are current. If you are going to spend money on training aids, they should at least provide usable information. Used books, even if they are only a year old, could be outdated enough to provide you with misleading information and a good number of standardized tests will include last year’s answer as a choice just to see if your knowledge is up-to-date. Don’t be fooled. Make sure you are learning from relevant sources.

3. Be ready for test day

The best advice still holds true: get a good night’s rest before your test, get a decent breakfast and leave yourself plenty of time to arrive at your test site. Do not obsess over last-minute cramming and do NOT pull an all-nighter right before the test.

4. Either you know the answer or you don’t

On test day, don’t dwell on one question for too long. If you don’t know the answer at first, keep going. Sometimes the answer actually shows up in another question or the wording of another question will jog your memory. At that point, you can go back and answer the question and know you got it right.

To learn about effective study skills, click here.

Finding Safe Neighborhoods to Live

Choosing a place to live is arguably the most important decision you will ever make. In addition to being convenient for your lifestyle, you have to make sure the neighborhood is safe and relatively free of drug activity. While there is no such thing as a safe bet for avoiding a drug infested neighborhood, there are lots of signs and cues to look for when choosing at home.

central parkLocation, Location, Location

Generally speaking, neighborhoods located near emergency services and affluent areas have relatively few problems with drug related crime. Neighborhoods that have strong community watch programs are also less prone to drug crime.

Another clue that you have found a safe neighborhood is that it is filled with clean, orderly, and well-maintained homes. This is usually an indicator of homeowners to take pride in their neighborhood and their home – something that heavy drug users rarely care about.

Look at businesses, walls, parks, schools, street corners, curbs, and utility boxes around the neighborhood. If they are tagged with multiple graffiti tags, this is a sign of gang presence. Other obvious signs include; bars on the windows, boisterous partying at all hours the night, excessive traffic, and lots of idle young men hanging around.

Statistics

Thanks to the Internet, it is easy to look up a variety of crime statistics on any neighborhood in the country. When researching the crimes, pay attention to drug arrests, assaults, thefts, homicides, and rapes. If there are more than a couple of crimes over a couple years, there may be high drug use in the neighborhood. If crimes have increased in the last few months, this area is likely degrading quickly.

The trouble with drug use is that it will invite other forms of crime to the neighborhood. The biggest problems come from hard street drugs such as methamphetamine, heroin, and crank. Users and dealers of these drugs are often addicted, desperate for money, and care little about the world around them. Excessive drug use in the neighborhood gives addicts an excuse to be in your neighborhood, near your home.  Some people do not want to live near a treatment center feeling that it will attract the wrong people.  You can check locations of treatment centers in a major directory like http://www.drugrehabcomparison.com/dir/

Pay attention to the cues, and research the area before you decide to move in. Remember there is no safe bet, and drug use is everywhere.  The key point is to avoid it being a powerful presence that poses a risk to you and your family!

 

Foreclosures Fell in 2013

In today’s downtrodden economy, too many people have lost their homes. That is why it comes with a sense of relief when you review data from 2013 that show that foreclosures actually fell in 2013. While the economy still isn’t at the point it was prior to the 2008 “Great Recession” it has certainly made significant strides in improvement. Read on for a look at how the U.S. housing market stayed on top last year, and how significantly foreclosures fell in 2013.

Foreclosures Dropped to Pre-Housing Bust Levels

According to an article published by CNN, foreclosures in the United States fell to pre-housing bust levels. This is huge news since the country has struggled and fought to earn back stable ground. The record high for foreclosures occurred in September of 2010, when over 100,000 homes were foreclosed upon. In June of 2013, roughly 45,000 homes were foreclosed upon, which is a dramatic improvement. This is a seven year low which can be seen as evidence that the economy and housing market is recovering from the down fall of 2008.

Housing Markets Stabilizing

In 2013, the U.S. housing market showed continued signs of stabilization which gives renewed hope to Americans. Rising from the ashes of a soured economy where so many people lost their jobs, their houses and their sense of stability, news that the foreclosures fell back to normal rates is welcoming news to many people. While 40,000 foreclosures is still a very high number, it is still charted improvement upon past years.

A Promising Outlook for 2014

With the number of total foreclosures falling, it is giving many citizens renewed hope for a promising outlook in 2014. While only time will tell if the U.S. economy and housing markets can maintain this pattern, it certainly appears that the market is strengthening and we are getting closer to having our economy back to where it was.

The Bottom Line

If the total foreclosures can continue to drop, our housing market and overall economy could start to show signs of finally stabilizing. While many citizens are better off than they were in 2008, 2009 or 2010, many folks are still struggling. News like this brings a glimmer of hope to the struggling Americans who have lived paycheck to paycheck for years and hope to be able to secure their own piece of the American Dream once again.

Rick Davidson, guest contributor, covers financial and real estate markets for several top money magazines.  His work includes reviews of companies like Money Mutual, interviews with top CEOs, and in depth features on importance topics in personal finance.

Winter Home Renovation Projects

Winter is almost here and for many that can mean long, cold months stuck indoors.  Instead of counting down the days until the snow melts and warmer weather returns you can make the most of this time by completing some winter home renovation projects.  Just about any interior project can be completed during the winter but here are some ideas to get you started.

Freshen up any room in your house quickly and easily with a new coat of paint.  Darker colors are ideal for large rooms as they will make your room warmer and cozier.  Smaller rooms appear larger with lighter colors.  Crown molding, trim work, or an accent wall is a great way to give your room a more finished and dramatic affect.

Focus on renovating one room, like the kitchen or bathroom.  You can update and personalize your kitchen by adding a tile or metallic backsplash.  Home improvement stores offer hundreds of different options from basic tiles and colors to more complex metal sheets.    You can spruce up your bathroom with new fixtures, lighting and paint.  Of course new accessories are a must when updating any room of your house.

New lighting fixtures are easy to install and can transform your space.  Creating more light and adding your own unique style coupled with a new dining room set or living room furniture can give your interior a whole new feel.

Regions with hotter summers but milder winter climates can make the most of the cooler weather but replacing things like doors and windows.  These improvements can really make a difference in the look of your house as well as increase your property value.

With the holiday season nearing an end a home renovation project can be a great way to start the New Year—a great new look for a great new year.

Information on saving and borrowing money for renovation and other projects can be found on sites like this.

photo courtesy creative commons license

Flipping Houses and Making a Profit

There haven’t been many positive aspects of the recent recession—unemployment reaching record highs, many struggling to make ends meet, limited job prospects—and one of the hardest hit industries has been real estate.  But there have been some unintended blessings.  For those interested in flipping houses, now is the ideal time to get started since house prices are still low but the market is beginning to pick up.

The key to flipping houses is, of course, making a profit.  Being able to purchase a property, renovate it, and then resell it and end up on the plus side is what makes it all worthwhile.  Unfortunately, it’s not quite that simple to accomplish.

The amount to time, money and effort that goes into flipping a house depends largely on each individual house.  With so many houses in foreclosure or short sale there are a lot of great deals out there; however, there are many that require a lot of work.  Working closely with a realtor or property assessor can help you determine a reasonable price for the property and how you can invest in the property while still making a profit on the resale.

With any renovation having a budget and sticking to it is vital.  It is reasonable to assume that the more invasive the renovation—adding on, removing walls, or gutting the place completely—the more money it’s going to cost and the more likely you will be to find other problems that require even more time and money.  Allow space in your budget to cover unexpected expenses.  Prioritizing the changes you want to make can also help accomplish the things that you need to and help you know what to cut if the cost starts to cut too much into your profit.  There is also no guarantee of how much the house will sell for, although comps can give you a ballpark price range for the area, so be mindful of that when setting your budget.

Ultimately you want a house that looks great and sells quickly.  Don’t get too caught up in high end finishes or extremely unique architecture—although there is a niche market for those types of homes—that could leave your home on the market too long or take too much from your budget and negatively affect your profit.

 

Cole Ramsey contributes blog posts and articles on real estate, the housing market, and finance to websites like moneymutualadvertising.com.

Tribal Lending Entities under Attack from New York State

New York has taken steps to stop 35 online lenders from making loans to its residents.  The Financial Services office directed lenders to stop offering loans and called on over 110 banks to help “choke off” access by those lenders to the automated clearing house system that processes loan payments.

The order failed to differentiate between a regular lender and a tribal lending entity. By including the latter in the order, New York banking officials are interfering with the legal activities of Native American tribes.  These tribes have several hundred years of tribal sovereignty that makes them immune to the enforcement actions of individual states.

Following receipt of the order, the Native American Financial Services Association (NAFSA) issued a cease and desist order to the New York Superintendent of Financial Services. In the letter NAFSA Executive Director Barry Brandon called for an end to both the pressuring of banks and the infringement of tribal sovereignty. He also indicated that the sixteen tribal members of NAFSA were investigating future legal action against the state if the current state of affairs were to continue.

A recent Colorado court case addressing short-term loans and tribal lending found that tribes have immunity from enforcement actions as do non-Indian entities that assist them in their activities.  It is only one in a string of decisions that have upheld tribal immunity and established that tribes have sovereignty that state’s must respect.

The full text of the NAFSA letter can be found here:

The Importance of Accurate Accounting in Real Estate

houseReal estate can be a great investment and income provider.  However, it is important to keep accurate records and maintain proper accounting principles in all aspects of real estate transactions.

Keeping Detailed Records

Multiple expenses exist for investment properties and require careful tracking.  You must record all income generated from the property in the form of rent, plus you have to track all expenses to deduct.  You have the cost of utilities, property taxes, as well as maintenance and improvements on the property.  It is important to know what you can and cannot deduct to calculate your final profit.

Accurate records are important to provide information on accounts receivable in regards to who has paid rent and who has fallen behind.  For every month that someone doesn’t pay, the company sustains a loss on that property.  Proper accounting methods will bring this to light quickly for a better chance of collection.

In commercial properties, detailed records are essential when you use common area maintenance or CAM.  Each tenant is required to pay a portion of those expenses in relation to the percentage of overall space.  You must provide proof of these charges to collect the amount owed.  Any lost records can result in the company taking the loss.

Taxes on Investment Properties

With numerous costs throughout the year, it is important to maintain detailed, accurate records to claim deductions on your tax returns.  The profit on investment properties is a small percentage of the overall income received.  Accounting records can become very complex, especially for commercial properties.  Owners often pay expenses and then charge the tenant for a portion of the cost.  They must show each side of the transaction for their tax records.

For instance, the owner may pay the property tax on a shopping center.  The accounting department must then turn around and expense that out in percentage form to the tenants in the property.  Any unoccupied space will be charged as an expense to the tenant.  While the payment of the tax is money received, it is not income.  The proper records must be maintained to prove that when filing the tax return.  In fact, much of the income received by investment properties is associated with other costs and must be recorded accurately to reflect that.

Ongoing Records

There are numerous accounting transactions associated with real estate and record keeping can be complex.  The average amount of profit for residential rental properties is less than half while commercial properties tend to be more.  However, without the right documentation and record maintenance, you will have to show all income as profit.  Proper financial management can reduce the amount of tax you owe on your property to more accurately show the correct profit figures.

The importance of detailed, accurate accounting systems in real estate investments cannot be overstated.  They can protect your assets and keep you from paying taxes on money you didn’t receive as profit.  This requires an expert in real estate accounting to manage a company’s finances and ensure it makes a profit.

Amanda Johns is an accomplished journalist and blogger. She writes on topics such as accounting, real estate, and investments for a variety of news sites as well as contributing to blogs and sites like this that focuses on preventing workplace fraud.

Top 10 Real Estate Investment Strategies

Best-selling books and seminars offer advice on how to make millions through real estate investment. There are also countless websites, podcasts, and even old-fashioned radio programs that offer new investors guidance and information on how to enter the real estate market and make a profit. If you cull down all those various forms of advice, you will find a few simple strategies are at the core. Some are designed for the long-term investor while others are designed to provide an immediate profit or to create an alternative income stream rather than a future sale.

Here then, are the top ten strategies.

1. Flipping

This is still a popular form of investment, especially when combined with some of the other strategies, such as foreclosures and judgment purchases.  It boils down to buying a house or condo or office that is slightly — or completely — rundown at as cheap a price as possible, fixing or upgrading the property, and then selling it at a profit that takes into account not only the original purchase price, but the investment in rehabilitating or improving the property.

2. Foreclosures

Foreclosures are still a popular investment in many markets, depending on the backlog of properties in a given city or area.  With property values rising over the next few years, a home that was purchased through foreclosure will likely be more valuable in just a year or so, making a tidy profit for the savvy investor.

3. Judgment Purchases

This strategy is a little more complicated. It requires the purchase of liens or court judgments that are held by a plaintiff against a debtor.  While it is possible to buy a lien, and therefore a property, for pennies on the dollar, there is a lengthy legal process of locating liens and filing the appropriate paperwork through the court system.

4. Builder Auctions

When the housing market crashed in 2008, many builders were left with unsold properties as developments were abandoned.  This actually happens all the time; the market crash just increased the number of abandoned properties.  To try to recoup their losses, many builders are holding auctions to sell off the empty homes and offices.  With careful research of local markets and careful bidding strategies, it is possible to make a profit when combining this type of purchase with other strategies.

5. Long-term Holding

 

Traditionally, this was the most common form of investment. Individuals, families, and companies purchase a piece of land or a building and hold on to it for years or decades, before selling it for a profit.  In some cases this land just sits unused until some developer wants it. In others, the owners may rent out a home, lease office space, or live in the property themselves until they are ready to sell.

6. Lease Optioning

Another complicated strategy involving a contract for lease option.  The buyer leases the option to buy the property in the future.  They then improve the property and sell the option at a profit to a new buyer. This is risky strategy that requires careful research of market trends and legal requirements.

7. Landlording

The simple act of purchasing a property and renting it out to make a regular income. For this to work, the local market has to allow for rents that are higher than all the costs involved in purchasing and maintaining the property.

8. Speculation

Purchasing property with the assumption that its value will increase significantly in a short period of time.

9. Development

Purchasing land, abandoned property, or neglected structures with the plan of developing something new, such as apartment buildings, office structures, warehouses, or retail complexes.

10. Investment Groups

Rather than investing on your own, buy into or form an investment group with other individuals or entities. With a larger pool of capital it is possible to invest in larger projects and hire professionals to handle the day-to-day management and logistics.

John Maxwell is an investor and financial advisor who enjoys sharing his knowledge through articles and blog posts.  He has covered Warren Buffett, Money Mutual, the Great Recession, and other financial topics.