First Time Investors you can’t get rich quick

I’ve personally invested in real estate.  I love real estate as a tool to invest long term and/or build a cash flow business.  What I hate about real estate as an investment is when first time investors read a book or see an informercial where you can get rich quick flipping houses using other people’s money and blindly take a huge risk.  Yes, some get lucky but most learn the hard way that the risk is too high.

Here is the point of this blog and feel free to read further for explanation:  It’s very risky to use other people’s money to flip properties.  In great/low inventory/seller’s market areas the return is too low because you can’t get good deals when you purchase.  In riskier/high inventory/buyer’s market areas the deal will be there when you buy but then after 3-6 months of rehab the buyers have dried up and you have to take a loss or break even to get it sold.

I get many phone calls from first time investors.  They call and ask me to send them good properties that are great for investment.  For the inexperienced investor that wants to flip a house in the suburbs of Philly it is difficult for me to tell them the truth:  You’ll be lucky to make a 10-15% return on your money on a flip.  That is assuming you are using your own cash for down payment and fix up costs.  If you are not using your own money then that return goes down more.

So, how do you get the best return on a flip?   You make your money when you buy.

  1.  Cash is king.  Investors who get the highest returns on flipping property in this area pay with cash and buy homes that are so bad that the average homeowner won’t touch them.  Banks trying to unload foreclosures and distressed properties know how difficult and time consuming the bank loan process is.  Banks will sell a foreclosure at a lower price to a cash buyer over a higher priced offer that is contingent on a loan.  (I can set you up on a search where foreclosures and bank owned properties are emailed directly to you as soon as they hit the market)
  2. Buy at auction or on the court auctions.  Getting deals at auctions with all cash purchases can be really good deals.  Unfortunately, real estate agents do not have access to these so it is a process that needs to be researched on your own.
  3. Buy when everyone else is not.  Winter is the best time to buy as an investor.  There are much less buyers out looking due to holidays and cold weather.
  4. Find contractors that are fast and good prices.  Velocity of money is important here.  Get the rehab work done fast and for a low cost.  If you have time do some of the work yourself then do it!
  5. Sell in the spring market.  That’s when you have the most buyers looking for homes.
  6. Stay up on the latest trends and technology.  Know what the buyers need and want in that price range when you fix up houses.
  7. Be sure not to overimprove for the neighborhood.  Don’t take a split level home in a neighborhood with all split level homes and put $100,000 into it trying to sell it for $500,000.  It won’t happen.  You’ve overimproved it.
  8. Buy the worst property on the street.  These have the most chance of making money because the nicer homes will pull it’s value up higher once the rehab is complete.
  9. The house needs to be in a neighborhood and not on a busy street or anything nearby that will pull the value down like a sewer treatment plant.  Also, the better rated the school district the better chance you have of selling it for a higher price and selling it fast.

Is there another way to make money investing in real estate?  Yes!  Cash flow properties but again you need cash.

  1.  Buy fixer uppers and rent them out.  Buy a foreclosure with at least a 10% down payment but 20% is better to avoid PMI.  Cash is better to increase cash flow.
  2. When you buy a fixer upper to rent just clean it up, paint, carpet and make sure everything is in working condition.  Don’t fix it up too much until you are ready to sell it.
  3. If you buy and hold then assuming you buy in a great area you will also have appreciation.  So when you go to sell it or if you decide to hold it long term and refinance out some cash to buy more investments then that equity will be there.
  4. You don’t want to be a landlord?  Then hire a management company to manage it and watch the rent checks come in.  Lower cash flow but more time to research more investment properties to buy.
  5. Depreciation.  You can depreciate your rental properties for more tax savings and that provides an increase in cash flow.
  6. Research the rental rates for the investment as well as the resale value when you analyze investment properties.  You want to make sure you are making the most cash flow per month as well when you need to sell that it can sell quickly and hopefully for a profit.
  7. Did you know for a married couple that $500,000 of capital gains is tax free ($250,000 if not married).  Here’s IRS info on it:  If you buy a foreclosure, fix it up, live in it for at least 2 years of the past 5 when you go to sell it then the money you make is tax free.  Do that!  Fix it up enough to live in it then slowly fix it up over 2 years if you are low on cash.  Do that every 2 years until you hit the maximum.  Climb that property ladder.

Those are some quick tips and thoughts on investing.  Feel free to reach out to me if you have any questions.  Laura Laws or 484-985-5222.

Where to find Foreclosures

Fannie Mae (Homepath) Foreclosures

If you will be financing a foreclosure I think the best deals out there are Fannie Mae foreclosures. You can find them at
Why are they such a good deal? They only require 5% down (It used to be 3% but they increased it last November). There is no mortgage insurance. The savings on mortgage insurance for a $300,000 house could be about $300 month. Also, they have special mortgage financing where you can roll up to $35,000 of a renovation loan into your mortgage.  The buyer is required to pay the entire transfer tax amount which is 2% in this area (some townships are higher).

HUD homes

In my experience HUD homes usually need a lot of work and are better for cash buyers and conventional financing (usually 20% down).  You can find more info at their website  These are foreclosures from the government Department of Housing and Urban Development.  They have special buying programs for non profits, teachers, firefighters, law enforcement officers and emergency medical technicians.  They even have homes for $1.  Crazy.  Check out their website.

Making an offer on a Hud home is pretty simple.  It’s an online bidding system and you need a registered real estate agent to submit the bid.  You will need a copy of a photo ID, copy of a social security card and proof of funds if paying by cash or a preapproval if you are getting a loan.  If your bid is accepted then we have 2 days to submit all of the paperwork and the earnest money deposit.  The buyer is required to pay the entire transfer tax amount.  In most real estate transactions in this area it is split between the buyer and seller.  Also, seller assist with closing costs are limited to 3% of purchase price.

Freddie Mac (Homesteps)

Freddie Mac foreclosures are typically taken care of compared to all the other bank owned properties.  They have a commitment to securing the home (squatters can be a problem), removing trash and debris and keeping the property clean.  You can find more information at

They only offer special financing and deals in certain states.  Unfortunately, Pennsylvania is not one of them.

Private Banks

I have seen many foreclosures by private banks.  They typically put a little more effort into fixing up the homes and remediating mold or moisture issues.

Auction Sites

I have been the agent on an auction bid for a HUD home.  When the foreclosure doesn’t sell through the MLS many times the bank or the government agency will put them on an auction site where you can bid on them.  However, many of the auction properties are non financeable and you need to buy them with cash.

Here are some sites I have seen:

Foreclosures are great deals but not many hit the market in top rated school districts in this area.  So if you are interested it is very important to either have proof of funds ready or to have your financing lined up with a preapproval so you can move quickly on submitting a bid.

If you are interested in foreclosures contact me and I can set you up on an automatic search so you get an email as soon as they hit the market.

5 Least Expensive Sales in 2013

Let’s take a look back at the least expensive sales in 2013.  They were all located in Delaware county and were not surprisingly all distressed properties that were bought with cash.  These are the 5 least expensive sales in Chester, Delaware and Montgomery counties.  Let’s take a peek:

840 Guenther Ave 271

840 Guenther Ave 271

This is a 1 bedroom 1 bathroom condo in Lansdowne.  It was a Freddie Mac foreclosure that sold for $2,000.  It was originally listed for $29,900.  It’s pretty crazy that it sold for less than it’s annual property tax of $2043.

300 Fern St.

300 Fern St.

This 2 bedroom 1 bathroom rowhome in Darby boro sold for $3500.  It was a foreclosure that eventually was sold at auction.

408 Darby Terr

408 Darby Terr

This is a 3 bedroom 1 bathroom rowhome in Darby boro and it sold for $3889.  This was another foreclosure.

108 Highland Ave

108 Highland Ave

This 3 bedroom 1 bathroom rowhome is located in the city of Chester and it was a Freddie Mac foreclosure that sold for $4373.

1112 Remington St

1112 Remington St

This 3 bedroom 1 bathroom twin located in the city of Chester was a short sale that sold for $4500.

Foreclosure in West Chester Boro for $170,000

I recently toured a foreclosure that just hit the market.  It’s a great price at $170,000 and is located in the borough of West Chester with a good sized yard and a one car garage in the alley.  Like most foreclosures, it needs a lot of work but it is a great location just a few 20130919-165943.jpgblocks to all of the shops and restaurants in the boro.

This is a great deal for homebuyers who are willing to do some work to fix up a house and it has a great lending program attached to it.  It is a government foreclosure from Fannie Mae & for owner occupants they offer 3% down loans and they waive the mortgage insurance associated with most low money down loans.  On a $170,000 loan that will save you a lot of money up front and on your monthly costs.  The other advantage to Fannie Mae foreclosures is they offer a Homepath renovation mortgage on some properties and this is one of them.  As long as you qualify, you are able to borrow and finance the amount needed to fix up the property all in one loan.  The renovation mortgage is offered to not only owner occupants but investors as well.  You can check out other Fannie Mae properties and get more information about their loans at

Call me if you are interested in seeing this property.  Check out more pictures below.

20130919-170007.jpg 20130919-170020.jpg  20130919-170034.jpg  20130919-170047.jpg  20130919-170057.jpg  20130919-170108.jpg

20130919-170117.jpg  20130919-170128.jpg  20130919-170140.jpg

Is now a good time to flip houses?

Home flippers made an average gross profit of $18,400 on single-family home flips, representing a 9 percent return on the initial purchase prices

Interesting article here about the increase of investors and first time investors.  If you consider that 50% of buyers in today’s market buy with cash (see here) and that banks & our government are keeping their foreclosures on their books and not releasing them for sale (see here) I think now is a great time to get into real estate investing.

With the increase of investors it is harder to low ball and get good deals but we have a stable market in this area with inventory levels at 6 months and a low inventory of fixed up homes so it will be easier to sell and sell quickly once a house is fixed up.  Of course, you need to control your labor and material costs on your flips but a 9% return for a 4-5 month flip seems reasonable.  Also, as foreclosures are released for sale by the banks and our government there will be more supply and flippers will be able to get better deals on the buy.

If you are interested in finding great deals in Chester, Delaware and Montgomery counties give me a call at 484-985-5222.

New Bank Owned Properties

Here are the foreclosures that have hit the market in the past 12 days in Chester, Montgomery and Delaware counties.  Bank Owned properties are typically good deals but usually require a lot of TLC.  Email me at or call 484-985-5222 if you’d like a listing directly emailed to you or if you’d like to set up a private tour.  Click on the pictures below to enlarge them.

Chester County Foreclosures

Chesco 8-29

Montgomery County Foreclosures

MontgCo 8-29

Delaware County Foreclosures

Delco 8-29

New Bank Owned Properties

Here are the foreclosures that hit the market in the past 10 days in Chester, Montgomery and Delaware counties.  Bank Owned properties are typically good deals but usually require a lot of TLC.  Email me at or call 484-985-5222 if you’d like a listing directly emailed to you or if you’d like to set up a private tour.  Click on the pictures below to enlarge them.

Chester County Foreclosures

ChestCo 8-17

Montgomery County Foreclosures

MontgCo 8-17

Delaware County Foreclosures

DelCo 8-17