Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Women Breaking New Ground as Real Estate Investors

Ethan Roberts is a real estate writer, editor and investor. He's a frequent contributor to InvestorPlace.com, and his work has been featured on Money.msn.com and Reuters.com. He was one of five contributing editors to TheTycoonReport.com and has also written for MarketGreenhouse.com and SeekingAlpha.com. He's been investing in real estate since 1995 and a Realtor since 1998. This post is the first in Roberts' ongoing series about women in real estate.

Since the early 1990s, real estate investing has become more and more popular as a way for average Americans to gradually build wealth over time. For many years, this type of investing was almost exclusively the domain of men.

But in recent years, women are being drawn toward real estate investing as a viable way to ensure that they will have income or appreciating assets in retirement. Today there are even online investing clubs devoted exclusively to female real estate investors.

Women have a lot to gain. Real estate investing, with its potentially high returns, offers them an excellent way to boost their income streams throughout their lives. This can be especially important in retirement, considering women are at a greater risk of outliving their savings due to their longer life expectancy, fewer years in the workforce and historically smaller paychecks.

Flipping vs. Retailing
Some female real estate investors are making money on "flipping," where they buy homes in distressed condition and then resell them within a short period of time. One way to do this is to buy an inexpensive property in foreclosure or through a county auction and then "wholesale" it to another investor at a bargain price without making any repairs or improvements.

If one's goal is simply to earn a monthly profit on each wholesale flip, this is a great way to add to one's wealth or create an excellent cash flow for retirement years.

However, increasing numbers of women now "retail" the home — referring to the practice of repairing or improving the home's structural and cosmetic flaws in order to sell it as a primary residence for full market value. This takes longer and the process is more involved, but the profit potential greatly exceeds wholesaling. Profits on a retail flip may range from $15,000 to $50,000 or more, depending on the price paid, amount of work needed and the ultimate selling price.

Start-to-Sold Strategy
One woman leveraging this strategy is Leticia, a 53-year-old divorcee who lives in Jacksonville, Florida, with her two children, one in college and the other in high school. She started flipping homes in 2004 as a way to make extra money. Her first project was moving mobile homes away from an area being taken over by an airport under eminent domain.

When she first began, she knew nothing about the process. But slowly, over time, Leticia has learned much more, to the point where she's able to project manage the entire flip.

To date, Leticia has owned and sold six primary residences. She helped design two of them and managed the contractors performing the work. She also does some of the work herself on flips, such as painting and landscaping, as well as ordering and buying materials.

Flipping homes isn't just a hobby for her — it's her full-time job, and she uses a "hard money" lender to finance the deals. A hard money loan is a short-term, very-high-interest loan (12 to 15 percent), in which the lender provides about 65 to 70 percent of the after-repaired value (ARM) of the home to the borrower. For example, if a foreclosed home is worth $150,000 after repairs and is selling for only $100,000, a hard money loan would finance perhaps 70 percent of the $150,000, or $105,000.

While the investor might have to pay for materials and labor out of pocket, they use hard money loans so they don't have to come up with a 20 percent down payment, as is usually required with other types of conventional loans. The idea is to fix up and sell the home fast so the high-interest loan can be paid back as quickly as possible.

Leticia's long-term goal is to achieve financial independence so she doesn't have to return to a 9-to-5 job. She hopes to flip five to six homes per year, and make a $20,000 minimum net profit on each. That can be challenge in itself, given the nature of the property she's buying. For example, hidden plumbing problems have caused her to go over budget on her most recent project, a 1,500-square-foot ranch home in Florida that was a bank foreclosure.

"Luckily, I was able to find some great deals on cabinets and granite countertops," she says. "And home values have risen since I bought the home." In fact, within three days of listing the home on the Multiple Listing Service, Leticia received a contract for sale. With a fast contract in hand on this home, Leticia is already looking forward to searching for the next potentially profitable "flip."

Leticia suggests that anyone interested in real estate investing "shadow" other investors to see what they do. "Also, read books and have a keen interest in learning everything you can about real estate," she counsels.

Next up: Women Build Long-Term Wealth as Landlords

This information was originally published on Auction.com, LLC, the nation's leading online real estate marketplace. Founded in 2008, the company has sold nearly $20 billion in assets since 2010. Auction.com has more than 900 employees and offices in Irvine and Silicon Valley, California as well as offices in Atlanta, Austin, Denver, Miami and Newport Beach. Visit us at www.auction.com, or on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.

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