• Category Archives Huntdale
  • Inflated Property Returns

    I was talking to someone recently about our property in Florida, and was saying how the expenses were higher than we first imagined, and in turn our return is a bit less than what we were hoping for. Initially I was hoping for a net yield of around 8.00%, I thought this might be a bit optimistic but going through the numbers before purchasing a property, it seemed like a realistic value.

    But after obtaining our property in Florida and seeing first hand the expenses, it seems that despite being fairly conservative in our initial assumptions, the return is still less than what we initially hoped for. However, if you rearrange the numbers a little, the investment looks better and perhaps even a bit more realistic as well. See below for the initial and subsequent calculations which show net yield returns.

    Initial Calculations

    The Net Yield of 0.56% is less than desirable, and if we were told we would be getting this return then I don’t know if we would have taken the leap to invest in the US as the hassle would just not be worth it. Although I did not include any capital gains on the property (as our plan is for cash flow) this can be  disregarded as the cash flow target simply has not been met.

    But by making some adjustments to the calculations, like shifting some of the expenses to the capital (moving the cost of the A/C unit and the whitegoods under capital expenditure), the numbers start to look much better. This is realistic as these expenses are not a yearly expense and you would hope that a new A/C unit would last a few years at least, the same with the white goods. Further, you can remove the cost of PI  insurance (as this expense is not dedicated to this single property and will cover all properties under the LLC) and include it as part of the LLC’s general overheads.

    Adjusted Calculations

    As you can see by adjusting the calculations to perhaps more realistic figures, we have now obtained our 8.00% Net Yield that we were hoping. It is important to note that both situations are essentially identical with all expenses included in both examples (with the exception of PI Insurance), yet it is simply a different way of
    calculating that gives you a very different result.

    I think this is a good sign to be careful when seeing advertisements purporting unbelievable returns. You should always look through the numbers yourself and satisfy yourself that what is being advertised is achievable. You should also always check whether the returns are ‘gross’ or ‘net’ yield and what expenses have been considered.

  • Renovations in Huntdale

    Over the last couple of weeks, we have had quite an interesting moments with our property on Huntdale Street in Florida. After losing our first tenant, the property was left vacant for about six weeks, it was getting pretty disappointing and our worst fears seemed to be coming true. We were always worried that our property would simply remain vacant for months, even years and not provide us the income we desired.We received an email from our property manager on an early Sunday morning after another disappointing day of prospective tenants looking at our property. She basically listed a few items that needed to be rectified to improve the profile of the property. All of the recommendations were simple and cheap, basically just repaint some of the worn areas in the house, repair some doors, put up some covers on the AC unit and a few other items like that. It was only going to cost us about $600 for everything, so we figured it would be worth the investment. Not only would it most likely allow us to get a tenant a lot quicker than normal, there is also the possibility of receiving a higher rental return, not to mention the higher value of the property itself. All in all it was a good decision to provide the necessary renovations to the property.

    So after reading this email, we received another one from our property manager, not more than two hours after the first one, saying she had some prospective tenants who wanted to move in on the 1st November, and have already covered the moving costs to get into the property. So everything sounded great for us, however they did mention there were some requirements that we had to cover as the landlord to get these people into our property. Not only were we required to rectify the items our property manager had covered previously, but also a couple of additional requirements. The main one being was to replace the carpet in the living room and one of the bedrooms with tiles. If you have read our previous posts, you will see that this was brought up as an option earlier on in the piece, when we were first renovating the property, the carpet was worn and well past it’s prime so we did look at replacing with tiles, but in the end we just stuck with giving it a good clean.

    Cleaning the carpet was apparently good enough for the first tenant we had, although they did have a couple complaints about it over the couple of months they were there. But we knew not to make the same mistake twice, and this time we immediately agreed to get the tiles into the property. Not only will it make the property immediately more appealing, it will also be easier to maintain in the future so it should allow us to save costs in the long run. Also again there will be the increased capital value of the property immediately.

    After all the renovations, the final cost was only $1,600, I could not believe it was so cheap for the amount of work that was done, but it only took a week to perform the changes, and by looking at the photos, the place really does look amazing. And what is most important, the tenant is very happy with the changes.

    So in the space of a couple hours, we were looking very disheartened and disappointed, and that soon turned to almost jubilation and now we have a really good feeling that this tenant will be just what we are looking for, a nice reliable, and most importantly, long term tenant.

    Disclaimer: By viewing this website, you acknowledge that it is for informational purposes only and does not imply any contractual agreement, promises of returns or legal expertise. All investors should consult with legal representation and appropriate accountants before making any investment and should ensure that individual due diligence is done. Any information provided here is for educational purposes only and should not be taken as financial advice.

  • The End Of Our First Tenant

    We got the news the other day that our tenant at our first US property has left. They had signed a 12 month lease, and yet they have vacated the property after little over 3 months.

    According to our property manager, the husband’s grandmother had fallen sick, and the family moved to a different state to be by her side and help her out. It is unfortunate for us because not only have we lost our tenant that had so far been quite good to us, they also left in such a hurry, that the property was left with a lot of rubbish and a lot of cleaning required. I was hoping to be able to get some photos of the state the property was left in, because one person’s definition of trashed could be another person’s definition of perfectly acceptable.

    Regardless of the condition of the property, we have had cleaners go in and fix up the property, and it is back on the market and hopefully we will be able to find a new tenant in the coming weeks. The tenant did pay a bond of one month’s rent, so this should more than cover the cleaning bill required, but there are still other costs that leave us out of pocket.

    Firstly, the tenant had not paid rent for the month of September, and they had left halfway through, so we are out of pocket a couple weeks’ rent there. Also, the property management we have, charge a fee of one month’s rent for finding a new tenant.

    Sometimes there is a benefit of a tenant leaving in that you can justify in raising the rent for the next tenant, which can sometimes be a little difficult with an existing tenant. But unfortunately, in this situation, the market has not really moved significantly enough and it looks like we will have to stick with aiming to get a tenant in there paying $700 per month.

    So at the end of the day, this is the the end of our first tenant, I am sure it could have gone a lot worse but also it could have gone a lot better. Hopefully our next one will be able to stay on to at least fulfil the end of the lease they sign on for.

  • Placing an Offer

    When we first started looking at properties in the US, our first reaction was of amazement, simply due to the amount of properties that were for sale. Not only just by the sheer bulk of properties, but the amount of properties available under $50,000. Even though we had narrowed our search down to Lee County area in Florida, which includes Fort Myers, Lehigh Acres and Cape Coral, there were still hundreds of properties listed for sale.Looking at information on Lee County, the population is approximately 620,000. Yet there is more houses for sale in this area than there is in the whole of Sydney, which has a population closer to 4,000,000. I guess when we saw data like this, it just shows the crisis the area was in.

    So our initial thoughts would be that finding a property would not be a problem at all, there almost seems like there is an unlimited supply of houses, so when we are ready we can simply go in, put an offer in, get accepted and be done with the search and start investing. I think I was also falsely optimistic when I purchased my first house in Sydney. I only really looked for a couple weekends, went to approximately 6 open inspections of houses, submitted one offer and it was accepted. So I started to think that there was nothing stressful at all about trying to find a house.

    Once we started to dig a little deeper in the Lee County houses, we soon found why there were so many houses listed for sale, basically 90% of them were just not worth the money, even for $50,000 they were just dead investments, either they had Chinese dry wall issues all throughout, or they were trashed inside by the previous owners leaving the property needing tens of thousands of remedial works. Quite often houses had termite damage, or simply the properties were just too far away for anyone to want to live there. A lot of the properties were also in undesirable areas, such as areas with a strong gang presence, typically Mexican gangs in this area.

    So here we are now, looking at hundreds and hundreds of houses, where only 10% are of any good, still sound like there is not much of a problem. With discussion between the property manager and ourselves, we can find out if a house is worth it or not. Unfortunately, as I have discussed in a different post, there is a difficulty with communicating with our property manager in Florida, with the time zones making it very hard to have an effective and efficient talk. These delays meant that the properties we saw that met our desired criteria had just about always been sold before we had the chance of putting an offer in. The good properties seem to get snapped up very quickly, normally within hours of being put up for listing, seems professional investors keep a very close eye on new listings, and are ready to act fast. It made it very hard to compete with people like this, I imagine it would have been a lot easier if we had been in Florida in person and been able to work physically together with our property manager when trying to find a property.

    As you can see, with things going very fast, it is important that you have everything ready when you start placing offers on houses, this turned out to be quite annoying for us, as we had $40,000 sitting in our Interactive Brokers account, in US Dollars, waiting to be used to buy a house. This would have been fine, except we initially put the money into the account in December 2011, we did not end up purchasing a property late April 2012, so there was effectively 5 months of money doing nothing for us. This money was taken out of my home loan offset account, which meant I was forced to pay extra interest. At a 7% interest rate, this equated to an extra $1,200 or so, a significant amount.

    So although we did not end up getting a property until April 2012, we did start putting offers in on properties from December 2011, at first we were very hesitant and thorough, making sure we read through all the offer documents and making sure we understood everything, over time we were able to trust our property manager more and in the end we almost signed the offer papers without even reading them. There is a cooling out period in the offers, typically 10 days, so we were able to withdraw the offers if they were accepted, and we had a better chance to be able to look through the property.

    At the start, we also only made sure we had one offer in at any one time, if we submitted offers on more than one property, if they were both accepted, we would be responsible to purchase the properties, well actually I guess we could cancel one of them during the cooling off period, but it was still dangerous to offer on more than one property just in case. But soon we found that the waiting time between submitting an offer and being notified if you were successful or not, was weeks, so it was just wasting our time. So we ended up quite often having offers on up to 5 properties concurrently. We also found that short sales tended to be even slower, and would quite often sit with the banks for months before they accepted or rejected the offer.

    In the end the property we purchased ended up being a short sale. I cannot remember the exact timeline of how everything went, but from memory it was something like this –

    January 5th 2012 – Initial offer submitted at $42,900
    January 10th 2012 – Offer accepted by owner of the house
    January 20th 2012 – Bank counteroffers with $44,000
    January 31st 2012 – We re-offer the asking price of $44,000
    March 10th 2012 – Bank reject our offer for the property
    March 25th 2012 – Bank changes decision and says offer is back on the table
    April 3rd 2012 – Bank accepts offer for $44,000
    April 28th 2012 – Money transferred into title account, house is officially ours!

    As you can see from the above, there were a couple of months between initial submission of the offer, and the final purchase of the property. Being a short sale, the bank seems to slow down the process to a snail’s pace. Which to be honest I do not understand, you would think a bank is trying to get as much money as they can, and although they are accepting a loss on the property as the sale price would not match the existing loan, it is still better than holding on to the property.

    Anyway, in summary, I believe we submitted offers on about 20 properties, and approximately 16 of those were rejected by the owner or the bank, 3 or so would have been withdrawn by us due to issues found during a more stringent inspection, and lucky last was accepted and is now officially ours. 

  • Why we chose Fort Myers

    Where to invest in USA

    When we first started looking at investing in the US, there seemed to be almost unlimited amounts of opportunities. The opportunities were not limited to a specific area; they were literally all over the country. We would read stories about one investor who made money flipping properties in Las Vegas, another who purchased unit blocks in Detroit, others who invested in Atlanta, etc. Basically it seemed like we could find good properties in a number of places, all of which had advantages and disadvantages. At the end of the day, when we finally picked a place, we made it based on a hunch, I believe that you could invest in a number of areas and be successful, but by selecting Florida as a state, it at least meant one decision was finished and we could focus on the next steps.

    So why did we choose Florida?

    As I said before, we really only chose Florida as a necessity to make a decision, where the result of the decision was not that important, but it was essential that a decision was made. One of the reasons we chose Florida is that the properties there seemed to experience the biggest gain in value during the real estate boom, and subsequently experienced just about the biggest loss since the bust. For example, the property we purchased for $44,000 in 2012 was sold for $133,000 in 2007 and $110,000 in 2004. So although the value of the house in 2007 was undoubtedly too high for what it is worth, we believe the house is still worth significantly more what we paid for it. And this was a similar situation all across the state, where property values had dropped by upwards of 75% of its value from just a couple of years ago. So expectation of capital gains was a big factor for us, if the value of our property reaches half of what it was in 2007, then that is a 50% capital gain of what we paid for it.

    Another factor for us was the properties in Florida seemed to be relatively newer compared to other places we were looking. One option for us was Rochester in New York State, where many properties had very high rental yields, but it was very common for the properties to be nearly 100 years old, and although maintained all those years, still showing significant signs of wear and tear. Whereas in Florida, and typically in the Fort Myers area, there were thousands of houses that were built during the boom, which are now for sale, so there was a good opportunity to get a house that is less than 10 years old and still in as new condition. Actually there were several properties that had never been lived in before. However it should be noted that there are many instances of defective drywall in newer properties called “Chinese Drywall” which should be avoided at all costs. So age of property was a big factor for us, although in the end, we ended up purchasing a house that was built in 1966, so one of the factors that drew us to Florida, we did not really adhere to in the end.

    We also knew that tourism is a big industry for Florida, and since there will almost always be tourists of some nature, there would always be associated business that would aid in the economy of the local area. So while several areas seemed to have dying industry (Detroit being a big one), we believed Florida to at least be able to maintain the tourism industry. Part of the tourism aspect is the fact that Florida is a popular retirement area of the US, with a lot of senior citizens looking to escape the cold northern states and into the tropical Florida climate, with an ageing population, we believed that in the future, Florida’s population would only increase and there will always be some demand to live in this area.

    There are many other positive aspects, and it should be noted there are also a lot of other negative aspects with Florida compared to other areas in the US. I have not been able to go into them, but above I have outlined our main reasons for investing in Florida, at the end of the day, choosing an area to invest in, when there is so much choice, is just a personal preference and you need to make a decision that you are comfortable with.

    Why do we choose Fort Myers?

    Again narrowing down a state to a certain area was no easy task, there seemed to almost be unlimited areas where we could obtain the results we wanted. One of the biggest factors was that we knew a fellow successful property investor, Steve McKnight, was investing in the area. Being a very successful and astute investor, we believed that he would have put careful consideration in selecting an area to invest in, so in a way we took that as a reason that it would be a good area to invest in. In a similar way, if you see McDonalds is building a new restaurant somewhere, then it is typically a good place to invest in property too, as the people at McDonalds would have put significant effort in choosing a location, and it is not common that they get these things wrong.

    Another factor in choosing a specific area was we found a property manager we really trusted and wanted to work with. Our agent is originally from Australia but now works out of Florida, so she understands our position and knows the issues that we will run into before we experience them ourselves. So as I have said before, rather than finding an agent in a place, sometimes it can be effective to just find an agent and invest in where they operate, as a good agent is worth their weight in gold at the end of the day.
    So these are the reasons why we selected the area we ended up investing in, like I said at the start, there seems to be an opportunity everywhere. So it is not always important what decision you make, just as long as you make the decision.

    If you want any more information on how we came to select our location, or anything else you wish to ask us, feel free to email us at streamlineinevesting@gmail.com