Why Every Real Estate Investor Needs a Will

Do you really need a will? If so, how soon should you draft one after buying a home or starting in real estate investing, and how should you go about doing so?

Writing a will and last testament is often one of the last things on a new real estate investor’s mind. There is so much to do and there is already enough paperwork floating around to re-stock an Amazonian rain forest. However, not having a will often means putting your wealth and the future of your heirs into the hands of lady luck.

Without a written will, virtually anything could happen to your estate and assets if anything were to happen to you. This would mean all of your hustle and hard work could be for nothing. Not only could your family be left in the lurch, but you could be too if you are living but unable to manage your money yourself any longer.

For these reasons, having a written will is a must. However, most homeowners and real estate investors simply don’t feel they have the time to deal with the back and forth with an attorney or don’t want to pay out the big bucks. While the best choice is probably to hire the best (and often most expensive) estate attorney you can find to craft one for you, there are other options available.

There are now plenty of inexpensive options for fill-in-the-blank wills to be found online. If this is your desired route, just be sure to do your research, as there can be some issues with these due to variations between state laws and/or outdated information.

If you don’t think you have the time or energy to write your own, there are other online tools that can help you with the process. For example, LawDepot.com is a relatively cheap (under $100) option that guides you through the process in just 15 minutes.

Even the busiest and stingiest real estate investors can’t afford to be without a will. You don’t know for sure what’s in store for you the rest of today, let alone in the weeks ahead. Crafting your own right now even if rudimentary, is a smart start. It can always be updated and revised later, but at least your chances of seeing your desires executed will be a whole lot better.

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Does Is Make Sense To Refinance?

Mortgage interest rates have been all over the place in the past 30 days. One day they drop significantly and the next they are on the rise. If you lock in rates at just the right time, you may be able to time the market perfectly. Before you celebrate your interest rate reduction there are a few things to consider. A lower interest rate may not mean a lower monthly payment. While this sounds hard to believe it is often the case when you refinance. Getting the lowest possible interest rate is great but there are a few other items to consider. Before you start your refinance application here are some things you need to keep in mind.

  1. Appraisal Amount. A refinance for a primary residence and investment property are not the same. With a primary residence you may be able to get away with a loan amount at 80% of the appraisal amount. With an investment property your loan amount may need to be 70% depending on the type of loan you take. Even if property values are up in your area your home may not appraise for the value you think. The appraisal takes a snapshot of what is currently happening in the market. A sale from six months ago will not have the impact you think. The most accurate values come from sales under 90 days usually within a mile from the property. Getting your property to appraise at the value you are looking for is the biggest hurdle in your refinance.
  2. Closing Costs/Property Taxes. Perhaps the biggest difference with a refinance and a purchase is in how the closing costs are paid. In a purchase the closing costs are brought to the closing. With most refinances the closing costs are rolled into the new loan amount. You have the option of bringing the funds to the closing but most people do not. The closing costs are almost identical regardless of a purchase or refinance. The costliest item at the closing will be for the prepaid property taxes. The new lender will restart your escrow account and hold a significant amount of property taxes. Depending on when you close it can be as much as six months of taxes. Between your property taxes and closing costs your new loan will end up being thousands above the amount you currently owe.
  3. Decreased Equity. Your new loan amount will directly impact the amount of available equity. Even though equity may not seem important it gives you different options in a pinch. If you needed to sell in a moments notice equity will allow you to walk away without worrying about your bottom line. It also allows you to possibly refinance and pull cash out down the road. With a higher loan amount and decreased equity you may be more inclined to hang onto the property if the market shifts.
  4. Longer Term. The most common loan term is the 30 year fixed. As the name indicates this loan has set payments for the next 360 months. Before you refinance you should take note of how many years you have remaining on your current mortgage. In most cases you will be adding on years to your term and starting over. If you had 22 years left you essentially have nothing to show for the last eight years of payment. With the longer term you may be able to save money per month but at the expense of extra years. This isn’t to say that all 30 year terms are bad but you need to weigh the added years versus the monthly savings.
  5. Monthly savings. It is possible that a lower interest rate may not equal monthly savings. When you add in the closing costs and property taxes your new loan amount will increase. It is not uncommon for your new loan to be anywhere from $8,000-$10,000 higher depending on the annual property tax amount. The higher your loan amount the less change in interest rate needed to make an impact. A quarter point difference on a $500,000 loan will produce a greater savings than a full point change on a $100,000 loan. Any savings need to justify the increased term as well as the closing costs. You also need to weigh the savings with your long term plans for the property. If you plan on selling in the next few years the savings won’t have as great of an impact.
  6. Shorter term/higher payment. As popular as the 30 year fixed is there are other loan terms available. You may consider refinancing out of a 30 year into a 15 year. In doing this the first thing you will notice is how much lower the rate may be. The 15 year fixed works opposite of a 30. With a shorter term your payment will increase in spite of a reduction in rate. If you are not comfortable with the payment you will eventually run into trouble. One alternative to this is keeping the longer term but making one extra principal payment a year. This gives you the security of a more comfortable payment while still reducing your balance over time.

If you are considering a refinance there are a few initial steps you should take. The first is to find a mortgage calculator online and run the numbers. Add your closing costs to your loan amount to find your new monthly payments. You should use a conservative interest rate with your estimate. The next thing you should do is to get an idea of current property values. Keep in mind that you will need an increased value on an investment property. If the numbers make sense and you think the value is there now may be a great time to refinance.

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5 Ways To Improve Your Finances

As a real estate investor you often are forced to wear many different hats. Perhaps the most important hat that you wear is that of CFO (chief financial officer) of your business. Without a good grasp of all funds coming in and going out you won’t get very far. In this day and age of advanced technology it is easier than ever to find an app or a program that will help you stay on top of your finances. A couple of dollars here and there quickly adds up. If you don’t know where your money is going you will end up frustrated with your bottom line. Here are five tips to help improve your business and personal finances.

  1. Understand Expenses. When is that last time you took a hard look at your expenses? Almost everyone who runs a business or a household has at least some idea of what their monthly expenses are. Having some idea is not enough. To truly understand your finances you need to really dig into them. Start by obtaining a copy of your credit report or referencing last month’s bank statement. Write down every payment you made. In addition to the payment write down the current balance owed and the proposed payoff date. You also need to make note of monthly items that may not fixed such as gas, food and other periodic payments. Take a look at every expense you made over the last 30 days and note exactly what it was for. Doing this may open your eyes to how quickly money can go and how it is often spent on unnecessary items.
  2. Look For Ways To Save. After you are done with your expense report look for ways to cut some items out. If you eat lunch out four times a week you can consider either home or taking a lunch a few days. If one of your utility bills is high you can look for ways to lower it or possibly switch companies. The same should be done with any credit cards. There are always balance transfer promotions available. Some of these can make sense for certain cards. If you look hard enough you can probably cut your expenses by at least 10%, if not more. The problem is that very few people have the time or desire to make calls and put the work in to get good deals. 10% a month may not seem like much but prorated over the course of the year could equal hundreds of dollars to your bottom line. This is certainly worth whatever time it takes to lower your expenses.
  3. Make Financial Goals. Where do you want to be financially in six months? How about in two years? Have you thought about ten years from now? You make goals for your business and personal lives so why not make goals for your finances. The beauty about making goals is that they can be anything you like. You can try to eliminate one credit card in the next twelve months. Maybe you want to have a certain amount in savings by the start of the next year. Perhaps you want to purchase a property using exclusively your own capital on a future deal. Whatever your goals are you need to be patient. Your financial problems did not happen overnight and they will not be solved in that timeframe either. By taking small steps eventually you will get there. It is important that you make goals to give you something to strive for. Without goals in place it is easy to fall into the same traps over and over again.
  4. Develop A Routine. Having goals is a great start but you need to accompany this with a plan of attack. It is not enough to declare that you want to tackle your debts you need to map out a plan. Start by writing down all of your bills, the monthly payment and the due dates. If you need to put a giant poster where you work or plug something into your phone. From there you need to estimate when you have capital coming in and how much you are going to allocate to your bills. Knocking down debt often takes discipline and sacrifice. There will be times after you close a deal and pay off debt that there won’t be too much left over for yourself. Think of this as a small price to pay to achieve your goals. Ten years from now you won’t regret not going to dinner or skipping out on a vacation if you are set up financially.
  5. Start A Rainy Day Fund. One of the things that can quickly derail your business and cause stress to your life is unexpected emergencies. You never know when your furnace is going to go in a rental property. Your basement could flood or a tree could fall on your house at any time. While you can’t predict these issues you can prepare for them. On every deal you close you should put some money away in your rainy day fund. This should be used for emergencies only. These emergencies have a way of happening more than you may think. By preparing for them you can avoid the stress that comes with it. This will also prevent you from having to borrow funds to take care of the issue and plunging further into debt.

Dealing with finances and cleaning up issues is not an easy battle to face. However, it is an essential part of being a successful real estate investor. The more comfortable you are in your finances the easier your career, and life, will be.

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