Thursday, May 31, 2007

Looking For HUD Homes in Kansas City?

If you are looking for a HUD home in Kansas City you need not join a mailing service or pay money for a list of any kind. There is a website out there and the address is

First Preston has THE list of Kansas City area HUD homes - both for Kansas and Missouri. There are also a great many bank owned homes to be found on First Preston. You don't need a real estate agent to look through the list. You don't need to spend $9.95 on a list to be emailed to you daily. None of that stuff.

It's a free list. So take advantage. Now, you will need a licensed real estate agent to bid on a HUD home and they will have to be registered with HUD.

Gee...I just happen to be one.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Commercial Loans: Residential Income Property Investing

Q: Why would you need a commercial loan when you are purchasing a residential income property? It just doesn't seem to make sense.

A: Because the underwriting guidelines say that any residential property with 5 or more living units will require a commercial loan. That's why.

Take this 5 unit apartment pictured to the left here. Because it is over 4 residential units underwriting guidelines will not allow a residential mortgage. That goes for any investment property 5 units and above.

You may now be asking yourself what are the main differences between a "regular" mortgage and a commercial loan. Well, I'm not going to hit every point but I'm going to highlight some of the biggies.

  • Residential investment property loans may allow you to put only 5%, 10% or 15% down. It is very unusual for that to happen with a commercial loan. In fact, 20% is almost a mandatory minimum with 25% being even better.
  • You can decide how profitable a residential mortgage purchase needs to be but if a bank is getting involved with a commercial loan they are looking more at the qualifications of the apartment being purchased than they are looking at you. The commercial banks have minimum standards for what cap rates should be for commercial loans they are underwriting.
  • Regular mortgage loans can be amortized over 15, 20 or 30 years. Commercial loans are almost always a 20 year am, maximum. Although I have seen a movement towards 25 years on some more expensive apartment complexes.
  • Your closing costs will be exponentially higher. Points are usually higher. Appraisals will definitely be higher.
  • Experience matters when qualifying for a commercial loan.

Right off the top you can see that you had better not be considering any residential income property that has more than 4 units until you have the cash, credit, experience and banker to do so.

That's another great reason to begin your real estate investing career with easily manageable, easily affordable single family homes, duplexes and fourplexes. After you've been through a 1031 exchange cycle, or two, then you'll have the cash available to go after the commercial properties.

Fun Fact: I've got a 26 year old right now who owns 7 investment properties. He's on the fast track towards being a multi-millionaire who owns commercial properties by the time he's 40-42 years old. Now that's a way to build a retirement worth having.

Big Bubba's BBQ of Olathe, Kansas

Located on the east side of Olathe, Kansas is a BBQ that I really, really like called Big Bubba's Bar-b-q. Now let me just say right off the bat that the BBQ is 1000% better than the website. The website looks bad. But the bar-b-q is oh so good.

My family and I ate there last night and over ordered so that we can eat more tonight! One of the things about Big B's is that they don't add sauce to their meat. It's a big deal to them. So don't ask them to unless you want a dirty look. But there is sauce on the table. They aren't the best ribs in town but the brisket is to die for. Beans are very good. And the turkey is about as delicious as you'll get anywhere in the world.

Give it a try. You'll be glad you did.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Do You Have A Sinking Fund For Your Investments?

Sinking Fund: noun - fund accumulated and set aside by a corporation or government agency for the purpose of periodically redeeming bonds, debentures, and preferred stocks. The fund is accumulated from earnings, and payments into the fund may be based on either a fixed percentage of the outstanding debt or a fixed percentage of profits. Sinking funds are administered separately from…

Source: Encyclopedia Britannica

I use the term Sinking Fund a little bit differently. But the end results are the same.
If I am your agent during a transaction I will look for things that are going to cost you money down the road. Example: Sure, it's a great duplex with healthy cash flow, a new furnace and air, good structural soundness and a good many updates.
But did you notice that roof?
Your insurance agent, your inspector and I all agree that the roof has a shelf life of somewhere between 5-8 years left before it will need replacing. What do we think that is going to cost? Let's say for our example to replace that roof today would run right about $5,500. That's a complete tear-off and replacement. So let's just say that will easily be $6,000 grand in 6 years.
So here's what you do. $6,000 divided by 72 months is $83.33 per month. Now figure out how much of that monthly fee you want your property to pay for. All of it? Okay, take the cash flow you figured you were getting and subtract the $83.33 per month from it. Does the property still look good to you?
The point of this exercise is to get you to understand that unless you wish to be a slum lord and bleed the property dry (making sure you won't get top dollar when it is time to sell) you are going to have maintenance along the way that you need to account for.
And for me, well, I would rather have my rental homes pay for themselves. Rather than me writing a $6,000 check from my personal funds. Know what I mean?

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Pirates of the Carribean: At World's End

Okay, so I took my two boys to this movie last night. I figured it couldn't be as bad as the second one. And I was right. It was worse. The movie runs 2:45. So take along a pillow. I just kept looking at my watch thinking "it has to be over soon."

Friday, May 25, 2007

BBQ Heaven: The Great American BBQ Fesitval

I almost forgot to mention! Jeez. This weekend is The Great American Barbeque Festival. Click the link to learn more about this great BBQ, Blues and social event. Hope to see you there.

Coming Attraction: All Brick Overland Park Duplex For Sale

An all brick Overland Park duplex will be coming up for sale in the first week of June. Located in the heart of Overland Park the proven income property is low maintenance and high traffic. The price will be targeted right around the $175,000 mark and proven rents for this area are between $725 and $775 a side.

Each side contains two bedrooms and one bathroom. Fresh, professional paint will be found inside along with newly updated bathrooms. Gorgeous wood floors under carpeting. A garage for each side. Maybe I'm telling too much. Keep an eye out on my website for this one. Or drop me an email if you have interest.

Shoulda, Coulda, Woulda: The Investment Property That Got Away

I want to hear from you about the "one that got away." The rental house you shoulda bought. The income property you coulda kept. If you only woulda sold that investment property before all heck broke loose.

Pictured above is my old neighbor's house. He sold his a month after me for $3,500 more than I had sold mine. Six years later it is for sale for $193,000 more than he sold if for! If you look at the chocolate brown house to the right...that was mine.


I like to keep track of my old neighborhood in Germantown, Maryland. In late 1998 I bought a townhouse for $109,000 during one of Washington, DC's housing corrections in the Stoneridge subdivision of Germantown. When my life changed in 2001 and my wife and I decided to get out of DC to return to the Heartland I really wrestled as to whether to keep the house as a rental or to sell it and take my gains with me to help get me started in my new life.

To keep the house as an investment had upside. It was, after all, the Washington area and therefore real estate always does better there than just about every city in the country. Good jobs, great growth and everything. But the thing that kept coming back to me is that I might need those funds to help me re-establish myself and that 1,100 miles was a long way to be from a rental property that I owned.

So I put the house up for sale. I sold it in 4 days for $142,750. No house in our neighborhood had ever sold for that much and getting the appraiser to get on board was a challenge. But we did, I made $33,750 (before selling expenses) in just under 3 years. I was pretty proud of myself.

But I just had a nagging feeling about selling that house.

Even after the current housing correction that neighborhood is still selling in the $330,000 - $345,000 price range. At one point I believe it had gotten up to the $380's or slightly better. If I had kept that house and sold it during the peak (and I had a good feeling that was the peak for this go around of the housing cycle) I would have made an additional $232,000. That would have been $29,500 a year equity growth without even counting principal reduction, depreciation and cash flow before taxes.

What is your story on the "one that got away?"

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Do It Yourself Real Estate Investing

I have a confession. Regardless of the task the first thought that comes to my mind is “Hey, I can do that myself and save money!”

For the record, I’m usually wrong.

Take some wood rot and termite damage I needed to repair on my garage door frame. I went out, bought myself a reciprocating saw and tore into the house. After all, when I watch my contractors do it for my client houses they make it look so easy. Now it looks like a butcher got a hold of it! Then I tried fitting in the wood pieces to get ready for the trim pieces.

To make a long story short, I have a guy that does wood rot repairs for a living coming out next week to clean up my mess. He could barely contain his laughter when he walked up on the job I had been doing. And rightfully so, I might add.

*** *** *** *** ***

Sometimes people will take the time to read some blogs, read some books and attend a seminar or two to learn real estate investing. They say to themselves “Hey, I can do that and save myself some money!”

And I don’t blame them for feeling that way. But if they get something wrong, the consequences can be long lasting and disastrous. It is very hard work keeping up with neighborhood trends, rent values, tax codes and income property financing. Knowing what sells and what wont is as much an art as a science. Seeing where growth will occur is a skill that needs constant practice and fine tuning.

I know and understand the base feeling of wanting to accomplish something yourself to both establish your independence and to save/make money. But when it comes to purchasing and/or selling Kansas City income property I hope that you will call a professional.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Own Real Estate Within Your Self Directed IRA

Are you using a self directed IRA to purchase real estate investment property?

If not, you really need to hunker down and wade through this posting. It could be the difference between retirement and a retirement worth having.

Understanding Your Investment Dollar

Most people in America today have no real understanding of their financial situation. That's not insulting you. It's just the truth. And here is a perfect example.
Example: A fresh out of college graduate takes on his first job and immediately begins making more money than he has ever had before. He feels kinda guilty about spending all that money on just cars, music and entertainment so he pays heed to the guy sitting next to him in the office and sets up an IRA. Immediately he begins contributing to the IRA and maxes out his contributions each and every year. (Which for 2007 is $4,000.)
*** To finish reading this article click here. ***

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Reasonable Minds Can Disagree

Those of you that know me well know how much I am into college basketball. Long before the first tip-off of any given season I have worked myself into a frenzy preparing for and analyzing the upcoming season for not only my beloved Kansas Jayhawks but for the all the great teams of college basketball.

And concerning basketball, ESPN commentator/analyst Jay Bilas has a saying when he is discussing this great game and the athletes who play it with someone of a differing opinion.

"Reasonable minds can disagree."

That's a lot better than the "%*@# you!" that can get thrown around by less educated and far less diplomatic people.

Who To Listen To When Investing In Real Estate

I received a very complementary email from a gentleman in Los Angeles the other day. The long and the short of the email was giving me compliments on this blog and also to say that he was investing in a manner here in Kansas City that did not necessarily go along with everything I seem to espouse.

And isn't that great?

When I counsel newer or would be investors one of the common discouragements that they have to fight through is the so many different philosophies and beliefs about real estate investing. This guy says this. That guy says that. And, Chris, you say something altogether different.

The thing every income property owner in America needs to understand is that there is no one way to invest in real estate. For almost every rule one investor has about what not to do, or what price range to be in, there is someone "breaking" that rule making money doing the exact thing this guy never would do!

So what is the point of this entire post?

I have a proven track record for helping people to build wealth through buying and holding income property for the medium to long term. I have also assisted, on a selected basis, with helping people to purchase rehab type properties, improve them and then sell them for a handsome profit.

Therein lies my area of expertise. But to sit here and demean other forms of real estate investing is not my goal or intent. I have very good friends here in Kansas City and in Washington, DC that make money doing things inside the real estate investment field that make me uncomfortable within my personal feelings. So I don't do them. They aren't wrong. It just doesn't fit what I do.

If you are now asking yourself if I think everything within the field of real estate investing is okay...I do not. I still have strong feelings about taking counsel from gurus who don't know your personal situation and won't be around to help you when the stuff hits the fan. And I can name other pet peeves if you want me to respond to a specific email.

Just always know this. I am here to help you develop a retirement worth having. So always take my comments as constructive and mix them around in the bowl with your personal goals and convictions and see if my ideas blend. If they do...I'd love to work with you.

I hope, with all sincerity, that this helps.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Recipe for Disaster: A Quick Way to Burnout of Real Estate Investing

Every once in a while I get a desperation call from a real estate investor who has "just about had it". Maybe the tenants are not paying on time. Or at all. Maybe the property has just been torn up again. Maybe the local housing authority has given a long list of inspection items that need to be repaired.

And I want to share with you what a very large majority of these callers all have in common:

They almost all own lower priced properties that attract lower paying clients.

Generally, an investor just getting started out will have to wrestle with whether or not they are looking for Growth or Cash Flow. And the would be income property owner that is strictly looking for cash will almost always end up drifting down into the lower price ranges of Kansas City. I'm talking about the homes priced in the $30s, the $40s and the $50,000 price ranges.

(Of course, they may also not be able to afford any more at this particular time. So you may be "forced" into this situation rather than be patient and accumulate more savings.)

Yes, it is true that homes for sale in those price ranges are very much more affordable. (Is that proper English?) It is also true that if you can pick up a rental house for $45,000 and rent it out for $500 a month that you will instantly be in a cash flowing position!

If you can collect the rent.

This is not a condemnation on every tenant only able to afford $300 to $600 a month for rent. Most tenants in that price range are good, hardworking and responsible people. It's the ones that are not that get you in trouble. How good does that cash flow look when you have an eviction every 12 - 16 months? What about the cost of clean-up after a less than desirable person has finally vacated the property?

Turnover, for whatever reason, just seems to be a lot higher.

There are many real estate investors out there that focus on these lower priced homes as a strategy. And that strategy has served them well. But by in large, the calls I get suffering from Investor Burnout are almost always in the market described above.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Nothing To Do With Real Estate

  • Taco John's is now open in Olathe! I can taste the Tato-lays.
  • I have my Dad in town for a few days so this blog probably won't have anything earth shaking until Sunday.
  • My kids get out of school next Thursday for the summer. After that, when you call don't be suprised if you hear kids yelling in the background!
  • Did you know the City of Olathe will haul away just about anything for a bulk pick up fee of $20? It's a great service.
  • Sheridan's Frozen Custard is fantastic on a warm Friday night.
  • Anybody else notice the Royals are 5-5 in their last 10? Is that a World Series I'm smelling?

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Proof of Flipping Fraud: How Did It Take So Long?

Those of us that watch the show on A&E called Flip This House and work in the business of real estate investing have known for a while that there had to be a smoking gun out there somewhere on all these "flips" going on.

Cleaning up massive mold. Did you disclose it?

What about the massive water damage under the house? Disclose that?

All of this done in 14 days and everything is perfect AND you sold it in 4 hours? Are you serious?

Anyway, this link will take you to Broker's First Realty blog in Atlanta. From there you can watch a Fox News piece that will pretty much put the "flipper" in jail.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Now This Is A House That Needs Flipping!

There isn't a week that goes by without me hearing at least three times "Chris, what do you think about flipping houses?"

Personally, I think it's great. Professionally, I think it's great.


As a professional real estate agent specializing in investment property I am approached by almost everyone in the Kansas City area who has seen HGTV or been to a seminar or has a brother who works with a guy who is making a killing buying and selling houses.

There are plenty of gurus out there who will sell you books and tapes for anywhere from a few hundred to tens of thousands of dollars. On these tapes lie the secret to achieving your dreams. Or, more rather, the guru's dreams.

I have a very good friend who owns and operates Get Real KC. He is a real estate "flipper". (Mis-used word but that is a whole other post.) He is good at what he does. He enjoys it and works very hard. For that he is handsomely rewarded. He has spent years learning his craft from both his personal experiences and the experiences of others.

Employing several different strategies he has managed to make a good living at what he does. Check out his website. It will help you to see his business.

For most people out there, however, I do not recommend beginning a career as a "flipper" at this particular point in time. Here are some reasons that I hope you will consider;

  • Days On Market have drastically increased and therefore your holding costs have increased
  • Capital through traditional sources is quickly drying up so you better have deep pockets or private lenders at your beck and call
  • You have never had any experience estimating costs or time
  • You hear the words "can't miss" when looking at a property

Of course, there are other key factors to consider. But that should get you started.

Understand a few things here before you get upset with me;

  1. If you are currently a proven real estate rehabber I am not talking to you. In fact, it would be great if you would offer a mentoring program to someone looking to get started.
  2. No I'm not negative about rehabbing and selling real estate. I'm just negative about most people with no experience rehabbing and trying to sell real estate.
  3. As a professional real estate agent I am not able to point you to a bevy of homes that you will need to get you started. Homes with ARVs of $150,000 that need $30,000 worth of work and are for sale for $62,500 are few and far between. (Besides, don't you think either myself or the listing agent would like a crack at that before we pick up the phone to call you?) You'll need to find your own non-traditional sources to supply yourself with houses.
  4. To me, and this is a personal thing, rehabbing/selling is a job replacement, not real estate investing. Think about it. Investments work for you. They are supposed to grow over time and reward you on the back end.

A Strategy I Do Like When Buying Distressed Housing

Here is what you should be doing if you are thinking long term wealth growth and you can't get rid of that home improvement bug;

  • Buy a distressed house significantly below market.
  • Improve the home to good rental condition while leaving yourself a large cushion of equity.
  • Rent the home out for 4-8 years (depending on appreciation here in Kansas City) utilizing and realizing the 4 Benefits
  • After renting out the house for the prescribed period improve the house to pristine sales condition
  • Taking advantage of the IRC 1031 exchange rule you can now trade the home for a better position

One Last Question To Ask Yourself

I hear people all the time telling me about this great home they can pick up from a wholesaler for "X". The wholesaler loves the home but just doesn't have time to do the deal himself now so you can pick it up for a steal.

Does it make any sense to you that a professional real estate investor (the wholesaler) would pass up on such a profitable opportunity?

I suppose it can happen. But you know what? I hear that every week. No kidding.

Murder, Disaster, Deaths & Sacrafice in Kansas City - Got Your Attention?

I thought I would bring you this eclectic collection of Kansas City's history. Enjoy your reading.

The 1951 Flood

The Night The Sky Bridges Fell

National WWI Museum

The Kansas City Massacre

John Brown: Kansas anti-slavery fighter

Kansas City's Crime Bosses

Monday, May 14, 2007

Los Angeles v. Kansas City: Which City Is Better For Your Investment Dollar? Part 2

Yesterday I wrote a post comparing Kansas City income property to Los Angeles income property. Feel free to go back and read the article as it will help you to get a basis as to this discussion.

Where we left off was with Kansas City at a very slight advantage on cash flow...very slight...and a huge advantage over LA in the cash needed to invest category. I believe to get the said rental homes in LA to cash flow/break-even we needed to put down $294,995 while in KC the cash needed was $38,800.

I'm going to assume there are more investors out there with $40,000 than $300,000 in liquid investment capital. But if you have the capital you might be thinking..

"Chris. That's well and good. But you know darn good and well that the Los Angeles housing market is always going to be more desirable and appreciate more rapidly than Kansas City."

Of course, more desirable is always going to be open for discussion. But appreciation can definitely be measured. Kansas City has a historical appreciation rate of 5% over any given 10 years. Some years KC can be as high as 11%. Some years 1% - 2%. Los Angeles, on the other hand, can be prone to big surges and big drop offs. Timing the market in LA can lead to riches you will probably never reach in Kansas City.

How has timing the market worked out for you so far?

And that is only if you have the $300,000 to invest in the first place.

For our next measurement in the Kansas City versus Los Angeles investment property challenge I'm going to use the KC 5% historical appreciation rate for the City of Fountains. For the City of Angels, I am going to use a steady appreciation rate of 8.5%. I realize that LA is nowhere near that at the moment. But over most periods of time in history I can assume that LA's appreciation rate will be at least half again as good as Kansas City's.

We'll use 5 years as our holding period of time before looking to cash out or using the tax code to exchange into other investment property or properties.


The Los Angeles area duplex we looked at yesterday appreciating at 8.5% a year should now have a fair market value of right about $902,000. That is an increase of $302,000 to your asset sheet. (Not including, of course, the other 3 of the 4 Benefits of real estate investing or the sales costs.)


The Kansas City (Olathe) area duplex we looked at yesterday appreciating at 5.0% a year should now have a fair market value of right about $247,500. That is an increase of $53,500 to your asset sheet. (Same exclusions as above.)


Wait a minute before we start crowning LA king. We simply cannot forget that in Kansas City you had a cash savings of $256,195 on the initial down payment. With those remaining funds we can buy a minimum of 6 additional properties. Properly leveraged, perhaps even many more. But we'll just keep it at a cash invested to cash invested ratio and we'll save $23,395 that will go towards additional closing costs and taxes over the years.

So we'll add 6 more rental duplexes to the Kansas City real estate investor's portfolio. Now you have 7 properties appreciating $53,500 per property over the same 5 years for a total appreciation in Kansas City of $374,500.

Kansas City asset growth = $374,500
Los Angeles asset growth = $302,000

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Reading Worth Your Time: Time-Value of Money

How the Time-Value of Money Can Help You Sell Your House by the Real Estate Zebra.

Los Angeles v. Kansas City: Which City Is Better For Your Real Estate Investment Dollar?

A good deal of my clients come from the California, Washington and New York areas. And most of those come from the Los Angeles area. So I thought, for a little fun, I would point out to the folks here in Kansas City why the Los Angeles real estate investor likes this area for their dollar.

First, a few disclaimers. Finding LA comps to KC rental properties was not easy. After all, we in Kansas City have different style of architecture in our duplexes and let's face it, our area is much, much smaller than the Los Angeles area. So when you are reading below just know that for the Los Angeles numbers I did the best I could in diligent research trying to find a two bedroom duplex that had a garage and was in a "nicer" part of the Los Angeles suburbs. After I found one on craigslist (why don't more real estate agents in LA have user-friendly websites?) I then went to rentometer to find accurate rents.

So the long and the short of it is that I did the best I could on the Los Angeles numbers. If you feel I'm a little off here and there, feel free to adjust my findings accordingly. But I don't think I'll be too far off...

The goal is to get the rental homes in each city to "pay for themselves" when considering principal, interest, taxes, insurance and a 7.5% property management fee. No vacancies, reserves or other miscellaneous items have been figured in. So you know it's not real world but it will get the point made.


I found a duplex located on Vanowen Street in Lake Balboa, California. It appears to be in pretty good shape from the photos, has two bedrooms on each side, one car garage for each side (shared) and I don't know how many bedrooms. My research showed rents would be in the $1,300 per side range. It is being offered at $599,995. So let's do some math.

$2,600/mo rent collected
- $ 195/mo property management
- $ 300/mo taxes
- $ 175/mo insurance
= $1,930/mo available for P&I

Making a cash investment (not including closing costs) of $294,995 would leave you with a $305,000 mortgage at 6.5% interest amortized over 30 years. That's $1,928/mo. That's $24 a year cash flow.


On Friday I closed a duplex in Olathe, Kansas that was asking $199,950 that featured two bedrooms, one and one half baths and a private garage for each side. My Buyer payed $194,000 for the property. Both sides are rented with fresh one year leases totalling $1,475/mo.

$1,475/mo rent collected
- $ 110/mo property management
- $ 225/mo taxes
- $ 90/mo insurance
= $1,050/mo available for P&I

Making a cash investment (not including closing costs) of $38,800 (20%) would leave you with a $155,200 mortgage at 6.5% interest amortized over 30 years. That's $981/mo. That's $828 per year cash flow.


Early in the game it looks like Kansas City has taken the lead. By putting down only 13.2% of the money in Kansas City than you would in Los Angeles you have created break-even to very modest cash flow. In Kansas City you are committing much less money up front and committed to a bank for a much lower mortgage balance.

But we are only at half-time of this match. (Or the 7th inning stretch, whichever you prefer.) Tomorrow we'll discuss appreciation. Who do you suppose will win that battle? You might be surprised.

Real Estate Investing Return Rates

When you invest in real estate you are expecting a return. Otherwise, why bother? Right?

What concerns me is the amount of potential clients I speak with who are ready and willing to rush headlong into purchasing an income house without having any idea as to what the returns will be. Or even what returns they expect to get from their real estate investing. It sounds trite, but if you don't know what you are shooting for how do you know if you got it?

"I just want to make enough to cover my mortgages payments and to not have to put any of my own additional cash into the home to make it fly."

As your chosen real estate investment counselor I have to say that I still don't know what you mean.

Yes. I get what you mean. But really what is the goal we are trying to obtain? How many years do you have before you expect to retire? How much capital do you have for real estate investing at this point? What is your tolerance towards non-traditional 30 year loans? Are you after Growth or Income? How do you measure returns? Cap Rate? GRM? Cash on Cash? Overall return? What is the end amount of money we are trying to accomplish?

I'm not trying to over complicate this thing. Owning real estate for income purposes is really just like any other business. You need to understand, before beginning, what you will need to put into your business and what you expect to get from your business. This would be true if you were starting a flying school, a Quick Trip or a hamburger stand.

After getting these (and a few other) questions answered I can better help you to determine what needs to be done next.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Should A Real Estate Investor Get Their Real Estate License?

I received a question by email the other day that I get asked about 6-8 times per year.

"Should I, as a real estate investor, get my real estate license?"

Let me just begin this post by saying that I am not a substitute for sound legal advice. (Does that make you think the answer could really matter?) When you get your real estate license there are certain legal obligations you have to fulfill. So before making a final decision feel free to contact your real estate attorney.


  1. Certainly, as a real estate agent you can get first crack at quite a few properties. Once you learn how the MLS system works you can set up searches that allow you to monitor for homes that fit your criteria.
  2. People know you are "in the game."
  3. Access to Board approved real estate contracts.
  4. You can save or earn a commission on deals that would otherwise go to the agent involved.


  1. As a state licensed real estate agent you are now held to a "higher" standard. You have laws to comply with and the Code of Ethics to follow.
  2. You must notify any buyer and seller you are working with that you are a licensed real estate agent.
  3. If it ever went this far, who do you think a jury would side with? The person who ended up selling their home at a deep discount or the licensed real estate agent who knew the true value of that home that was for sale?

Generally, I tend to recommend to people to NOT get their real estate license if they are going to be a full time real estate investor. I believe the liabilities and compliance issues outweigh the benefit of saving the occasional commission.

Having said all of that, there is absolutely nothing wrong with being a real estate agent who also owns investment property. For instance, the investment property I own is for my security and my benefit. It is not, at this time anyway, my primary source of income. It is my nest egg and wealth growing vehicle.

So ask yourself: What will my point of emphasis be if I get my license?

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Real Estate Thoughts

Discrimination and Real Estate: What Do You Do? - Posted on my Active Rain blog.


Top 4 reasons to own income property:

  1. Cash flow before taxes
  2. Principal reduction
  3. Depreciation
  4. Appreciation

We've had so much rain in Kansas City that my basement flooded for the first time. That has been a real delight to deal with!


True story: I am helping some client buyers purchase a home. During escrow the home gets the air conditioner condenser coil stolen and the deal is falling apart because the seller says it's my buyer's responsibility! So I send over my AC guy and he finds out here are even more problems with the ac/heat than we were initially led to believe. And the seller wants us to pay for that, too! We're done.


Next 4 reasons to own investment property:
  1. Tried and true wealth building
  2. Secure a retirement worth having
  3. Provide safe/affordable housing
  4. Create a hedge against losing main source of income


If we have the technology and, in fact, the technology is in use...why isn't it more widespread? Natural gas powered cars are cleaner and cheaper to operate. Hmmm.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Recommended Reading Before Beginning Your Real Estate Investing Career

If you are on the fence about real estate investing you must read this. If you have bought a house you realize you shouldn't have, you must read this. If your real estate investment is eating you alive, you must read this. If you just now realized your real estate agent must not know anything about investment property, you must read this.

From my West Coast friend, Darth BawldGuy:

Monday, May 07, 2007

Do You Have Real Estate Questions?

Most of the time my blogs come from current events in my life and business. Sometimes, however, they come from emails you send or comments you leave. I would love to hear from you about a few topics you would like me to cover. Or cover in more detail. So I encourage you to leave me a comment or email me at
Anything is game from the seemingly easiest question concerning buying or selling your own home to something that deals with the very heart of real estate investing. I'd love to hear from you.
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A couple of items I have been reading:
thanks to LandChasers I found the article

Friday, May 04, 2007

Own a House vs. Rent a House: Let's Do the Math

Not everyone wants to be a real estate investor. For that matter, not everyone wants to own a home of any kind. And that is okay. Some people just don't want to be "tied down" or have to deal with a leaking water heater or have to take the chance on replacing a roof. I get that.

But for those of you who are still wavering between buying and renting and are wondering how the current market plays into that decision and whether or not it is worth it and...

Let's just lay it all out there for you so you can make up your own mind.

Here is our scenario: A house in Kansas City that costs about $140,000 will rent for about $985 in most of the area. Some areas will be higher, some lower, but those will be our numbers. The house is a 3 bedroom, 2 bath with a 1 car garage. In reasonable condition. And we are going to project that you will either rent there for 8 years or own there for 8 years. That seems to be about the average length of time a home owner stays put. Renters will move more often but will usually move into another rental house or finally buy a home. So those are the rules.


We'll start with the renter because the numbers are more simple. Starting rent will be $985/mo. We'll raise the rents approximately 5% every other year. Years 3-4 will be $1025/mo. Years 5-6 will be $1075/mo and years 6-8 will be $1125/mo. Sound reasonable?

At the end of the 8 years you will have paid to your landlord $101,040. And the good news is you didn't have to shell out any other expenses for repair type items.


Taking the $140,000 house we are going to say that you are going to get a 100% loan. (I'm not for these. I'd rather you have a minimum of 3% in the house, but in this case, a 100% loan.) The first 80% of the loan you will get at 6.5% amortized over 30 years. Your payment will be $708/mo P&I. The additional 20% you are amortizing over 15 years at 9.0%. Your payment will be $284/mo P&I. You do have to account for taxes and insurance. Both of those will rise over the 8 years. Averaging out what I think they will be you will have an additional $285/mo to T&I. Therefore, your monthly payment will be $1,277/mo. PITI.


Over that same 8 year period you will pay PITI of $122,592.

That is $21,552 more than if you rented.

Now we have additional factors we have to take into account. Over that 8 year period you will have paid in interest alone $72,170. Home interest is deductible on your Schedule A of your taxes. If you are at the 28% tax bracket you will have seen a tax savings of $20,207 over those 8 years.

Now the difference is still in RENT's favor, but only by $1,345 over the 8 years.

Another thing to think about is principal reduction. Over those 8 years each month you paid your mortgage some of that money (at first a very small amount) went towards reducing the amount of money you owe on the house. Using an amortization table you will find that the principal reduced adds up to $23,046.

The difference is now in OWN's favor by about $21,701 over the 8 years.

Still one more factor to take into account. Appreciation. There was a lot of talk about appreciation the last few years. Now the talk is about lack of appreciation. Here in Kansas City, we see neither the great ups, or downs. My zip code (66062) appreciated 6.6% last year while my best friend's zip code (66224) appreciated 9.3%. However, Waldo & Brookside (64114) depreciated 2.5% and where I grew up (66212) depreciated 1.9%. (Source is Kansas City Star.)

Historically, the Kansas City housing market appreciates at 5% a year. But for our purposes, we are going to use a yearly average appreciation of 3%. 8 years at 3% per year appreciation (on average) will make that $140,000 home sell for about $177,000. That is a $37,000 gain.

Now OWN's favor is by $58,701.

It is fair to say that after 8 years there will be deferred maintenance that will have to be caught up. So subtract from OWN $4,500 for carpeting, $1,000 for appliances, $5,000 for painting and $5,000 for miscellaneous.

You are still left with an advantage to OWN by about $43,201.

There are, obviously, multiple variable and unknowns. The market could go south like some gloom and doomers believe. It wouldn't surprise me at all if we stay flat this year and next. Real estate goes in 7 year cycles. Look it up. Some people would have had us believe the last stock market run-up of the '90's and the real estate boom of the 2000's wouldn't end. It did. Now we are to believe that the market will never rebound. We'll see. For all I know the market could really take off next year. Or remain the same. I don't really know. Neither does anyone else.

Another factor is lifestyle. As I stated before, perhaps you just don't want to own. I'm good with that. I've sold duplexes where the tenants have been there (I am not making this up) 30 years, 24 years, 17 years and 12 years. They liked what they had and didn't see any reason to do anything different.

The bottom line is, it is your individual decision. There is the math, if you are on the fence. Let me know if you have any questions.

Getting the Blues in Kansas City

Last night over at BB's Lawnside BBQ some friends and I met to eat good bar-b-q and listen to John Paul's Flying Circus sing the blues. I had heard from many different sources that John Paul's Flying Circus was a fun band to listen to, and talented too.

I had a great time watching and listening to them. John Paul can really play the harmonica and the rest of the band is tight. But I was blown away when the band featured a young guitarist by the name of Katie Guillen. I found out later that she was 21 years old and going to school and that she had been playing for years and years. And boy did it show! She could play unbelievable guitar and sing with a bluesy inflection and timing that was fun to listen to. She also had "it". Whatever that is. She enjoyed playing/singing and it showed.

Katie Guillen, you have a new fan. Can't wait to see you around town again.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Unconnected Thoughts About the Kansas City Real Estate Market

It is not good to have a deceased person in your house when trying to sell. See here.

Still trying to figure out whether or not to use Negative Amortization loans for your real estate investing purposes? Here is one of the best explanations I've ever seen by Jeff Brown of Bawld Guy Talking.

Another golf day is being rained out here in "Sunny" Kansas City.

The Royals won last night! The Royals won last night!

Inventories are still up on homes for sale. But the nicest homes, priced right, are still moving quickly.

I've located new construction townhouses on the Missouri side. Price: $109,000. Rent: $925-$950. Any takers?

Knowing what to do and doing it are two different things.

I had lunch today with a young man just beginning his real estate career. He had expressed a little dismay that none of the "top producers" in his office would share their secrets with him. Kind of silly, really. Why not share? There are plenty of houses out there. What we need are agents that know which way is up. I was glad to give him a few basic tips. Hopefully he will take them to heart and kick some rear end here in Overland Park and Olathe.

If you are looking to test the market and see if your home will sell, don't bother. Too much inventory. Stay off the market so that those who need to sell can.

I had another phone call from a gentleman who wants to sell a property in a questionable neighborhood. He was part of the whole buy low, fix it up, throw a Section 8 tenant in there and sell. Unfortunately, he is the one who bought. Guess who made the money?

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Life Worth Living, A Retirement Worth Having

Helping people to reach their economic goals is a very big part of what I do. As a residential real estate investment counselor I have had the chance to sit down with hundreds of individuals/couples and plan their financial future. The goal is almost uniformly a retirement worth having. What that means to different people can vary. And you will have your own take on what that means, as well.

But without trying to sound too "zen", we cannot forget that before a retirement worth having we need a life worth living.

As you may well imagine, in my line of work I am approached constantly with get rich quick ideas and clients that want it all and want it now. Sometimes they come with excitement. All too often I see desperation in their eyes. And my heart goes out. I've stood in the shoes in which they are now standing.

Life worth having has to start today. It starts with the realization that investing in real estate is not the answer to your happiness. It IS a vehicle to your reward at the end of the road. But the journey with your family or friends (preferably, both) is where you begin the life worth living.

Our American culture likes to use money as a measuring stick for success. It's easy to see (or make people think they see), but a very shallow measure of a man. For instance, if you have 4 duplexes with 8 tenants you have a lot of control of not only your life's quality but theirs as well. Raising their rents while ignoring upkeep and repairs is no way to build your fortune. You may have more money at the end but to me you will not be the success you could have been.

Always know that when you read my columns about real estate investing that the whole shebang is centered around my moral code, my core beliefs and my spiritual life. I talk a lot about money on this blog. That is because we need it to live. And we need quite a bit of it. But on this blog, at least, always know that you are going to learn how to do it right. Or I'm not going to participate.

Because I'm doing my best to live a life worth living to be able to enjoy a retirement worth having.