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How to Use Your Retirement Funds for Real Estate

In this articles, we will examine how one can use the tax-deferred money in their retirement plans to take advantage of real estate investing opportunities. This article explains how you can use your 401(k) funds to diversify your portfolio mix into real property.

The 401(k) Plan

First, it is important to understand some basic features of a 401(k) program. The 401(k) is a subsection of the Profit Sharing Plan section of the Internal Revenue Code. It allows for employee deferrals on a pre-tax basis. Employers may make this type of plan available to their employees by adopting an acceptable format forsuch a plan. There are limits of how much an employee can contribute. Adoption of such a plan also permits the employer to match employee contributions and to make profit sharing contributions (at the employer’s discretion).

An individual employee may contribute up to about 20% of annual compensation, to a maximum of $9,500 per year. Employers may make matching contributions (such as 25 cents on the dollar) up to 8% of total compensation for each employee. Sometimes profit sharing contributions may also be made and, under certain circumstances, one may have a combined package of 401(k), match and profit sharing/money purchase up to $30,000 in a given year. All of this is variable, and one rule does not apply for all cases.

If you are an employer, you can design the features of the plan and provide the investment alternatives for yourself and your employees. If you are an employee (not defined as an employer), you are permitted to operate your deferrals and investments as established by your employer. If some of the features we discuss here are not available to you as an employee, you may wish to discuss them with your employer to determine whether they can be adopted by your 401(k) plan. If your present plan does not permit the flexibility we are about to discuss, remember any plan may be amended and restated to make such capabilities available.

How to Use the 401(k) for Real Estate and Notes

After all this, how can the funds in your 401(k) plan be used for real estate transactions? Once you have found out that your 401(k) plan funds can be used for real self direction, and the trustee of the plan also permits such transactions, the rules are simple:

You can purchase assets into your plan which are not prohibited. Real estate is not prohibited. You may not deal with yourself or members of your family (other than siblings).

All Transactions Must Be Arm’s Length

This means that you can purchase mortgages with your plan assets. This means you may purchase real property in your plan for income purposes. While debt-financed properties may be subject to unrelated business income taxes, in almost all investment cases we are aware of this has not applied.

How It Works

How does it work? First, you find the property or note. These are self-directed plans, and no one is going to give you a list of real property to chose from. It’s all up to you. Remember, you take all of the risks and receive all the benefits. Neither the employer or the plan trustee has any obligation to you in a properly designed plan. Second, you request that the administrator of the plan ask the trustee of the plan to purchase the asset you have selected for your benefit in your plan. All this is performed through written documents. Third, the security interest in the asset you have asked to be purchased is perfected for the benefit of your plan account. Income and expenses are allocated to your account.

How Often Can You Do This?

As often as you like. Some people like to buy distressed properties, fix them up, and then sell them. Others buy discounted notes. Some purchase income streams. There are as many options as one can think of, provided you follow the rules.

Typically, employers will use the completely self-directed option for compliance with 404(c) of the code for self trusteeship safe harbor. Some combine the complete self direction along with a number of mutual fund choices, making complete self direction available on a non-discriminatory basis to all employees. There is a cost associated with this.

As can be imagined, the process of purchasing notes and real property is a labor intensive process; the process of purchasing mutual funds in a daily valuation environment is almost fully automated. Your 401(k) administrator can provide you with the costs. If your administrator doesn’t handle complete self direction, there are some that will. It’s up to you, as an employer or employee to ask. You may be surprised at the answer.

Position Realty
Office: 480-213-5251

Top 10 Buying Rules & Mobile Applications For Commercial Investing

These 10 rules might seem elementary at first glance, but you’d be surprised at how many of the 10 rules are REGULARLY broken by real estate investors every day. With the, so called, gurus around the country preaching “more”, “bigger” and “quicker”, new real estate investors have gotten themselves into trouble by not following sound business principles outlined in this tip.

Top 10 Rules to Buying a Great Commercial Deal

1. Find a property to which you can add or create value that solves a problem

2. Don’t fall in love with the property

3. Research everything about the market and property

4. Crunch the numbers using a realistic financial model

5. Plan for unexpected happenings

6. Create a business plan with investment goals

7. Purchase with 20% or more equity to keep debt load down (Raise equity from investors)

8. Have more than adequate capital reserves

9. Have a good team in place

10. Be flexible to change

Commercial Mobile Apps For Investors

With commercial real estate professionals always on the go, the advancement in mobile apps has helped many professionals meet more people and close more deals. While new mobile apps have been slow to reach the commercial real estate industry, it has really taken off in the last year or so.

As Smart phones and computer tablets have grown in popularity, mobile apps have been a huge driving force for busy and active commercial real estate professionals. These mobile apps helped commercial real estate professionals in many areas of their business such as:

—->Contact Management —->Document Management

—->Financial —->Listing Search

—->Mapping —->Marketing

—->Photography —->Research

—->Surveys —->Virtual Assistant

Recently, I came across a website, run by top commercial real estate professionals, that has reviews on the most popular commercial real estate mobile apps. The name of the site is CRE Apps. You can check out their website by going to cre-apps.com.

CRE Apps is a great place to learn about all the new CRE apps that are helping people like you and me to make their business easier and more convenient. Here’s where you can find out the most popular CRE Apps: www.cre-apps.com/2012/04/most-used-cre-apps/.

Here’s just a small sample of the types of mobile apps you can use in your commercial real estate investing business:

Loopnet: www.loopnet.com/mobile

Yardi: www.yardi.com/product/MobileApps.aspx

Costar: www.costargo.com

Argus: www.angus-systems.com/?q=products/mobile

REOptimizer: www.reoptimizer.com/solutions/web-app
These real estate investing mobile apps are great in helping you find and close profitable commercial real estate deals. I’ve created a Top 10 list to use as a guide when researching properties on these mobile apps.

The Commercial End Game

Real estate investing is a long term game. Make good business decisions using these 10 rules as a guideline so that you can have long term success with your investment business. Focus on buying GREAT deals not big deals.With time, big deals will come.

Whether you are a real estate investor, broker, manager, lender, consultant or contractor, you should spend some time learning about new technology that can help grow your business, and, make life a little bit easier. I hope this tip serves you. I look forward to it helping you reach finding and buying great commercial deals.

Position Realty
Office: 480-213-5251

How to Get Your Renters to Think Like Home Buyers

Most rental residents treat their dwellings like renters, not home buyers. That’s because rental residents “think” like they are renters, in almost all cases. However, I’ve found it is to the landlord’s advantage if tenants think like “future home buyers.”

Residents who think like home buyers act in the following manner:
Take better care of property than average tenants.

  • Pay rent on time and fulfill other obligations.
  • Handle minor repairs and needed maintenance.
  • Add upgrades/improvements to the property.

Therefore, from the very first month a rental resident moves in, one of you major management objectives is to change their mindset from renter to future home buyer. In fact, your opening letter of introduction, or cover letter, to announce your rental policies starts off: “Welcome Future Home Buyer”.

The process to change a resident’s mindset from renter to future home buyer is not instantaneous, but can be gradual yet continual and very effective. Here’s how I suggest you start the transformation.

WELCOME “FUTURE HOME BUYER”

In the first month, welcome the resident as a “future home buyer” and use that term in both oral and written communication.

Give on-time thank you vouchers.

At the start of the second month, after the resident pays the rent on time, send your resident an On-Time Thank You Voucher – valued at either $25 or $50 good toward the purchase of the home they are living in (or toward any one of your homes if that is an option you would consider).

The first time your residents receive this voucher, they will probably not call you up in immediate urgency to buy your home. But this strategy will start their minds thinking a little about the possibility of buying.

Oh, I almost forgot to mention, one small but significant point about how the on-time thank you vouchers system works. If a resident is ever late, any vouchers received up to that point are considered null and void. This point is spelled out on each voucher as a reminder to residents.

This is significant because when residents first start receiving the vouchers, it effects them. Even though they may not be sure if they will ever buy something; most people don’t want to lose out on something of high perceived value that they can receive. Residents will keep paying you on time so they can keep getting the $25 or $50 vouchers.

The vouchers begin to add up to significant amounts after several months, up to $600 in a year. Residents don’t want to simply throw that much money away or lose it. Some owners offer a one-time only, or once a year only, late payment without complete loss of accrued voucher total. With a late payment, owners deduct a penalty of 25% or 50% off accrued total instead of penalizing the full amount. Whatever method you utilize, the penalty should be significant to be effective.

Your residents will do everything within their power to be able to keep paying the rent on time each month, to keep from losing the possibility of using the vouchers. Don’t be surprised if the residents begin paying a week to ten days early to insure they don’t come close to missing out.

HOLD HOME-BUYING DISCUSSIONS

By the middle of their first rental year, you will want to ask the resident if you can have a home-buying discussion with them.

Hold home-buying discussions twice a year. They are an important part of the transformation process. During home-buying discussions, you share with your resident the buying possibilities, outright purchase, lease option, land contract, etc. As the owner, you should also mention your criteria for choosing whom you would sell the home to under favorable terms. Home buyer criteria should include someone with good payment history and good maintenance and upkeep history.

As the transformation from renter to future home buyer continues because of your home-buying discussions, your resident will take excellent care of your property.

It’s important that you understand that the objective of changing the resident’s mindset is to get residents to “start” to think of themselves as future home buyers, but it is not necessary that they actually buy a home. In fact, please note that you do not allow residents to cash in on their vouchers until an actual closing to buy the house takes place. Even though you are starting to change the resident’s mindset, in most cases you will not see the final transformation from renter to future home buyer to actual home buyer.

However, just getting residents to think differently of themselves, as future home buyers, during their stay in your rental, will cause them to perform differently. Even if they end up not buying one of your homes, and rents or buys elsewhere, the steps I’ve suggested you follow to start the transformation from renter to buyer, will greatly benefit you the rental owner. You will get rents on time, residents will take care of all minor repairs and maintenance headaches for you, because you are not dealing with a renter, you are working with a future home buyer, whose performance is determining whether he or she will be able to buy.

Stay in control and make the most of your assets.

Why Seller Financing Is A Win / Win For Both Buyers and Sellers

There are many benefits for doing an owner-carry installment sale as opposed to conventional financing for both the buyer and seller. Sometimes the advantages inure to the benefit of one or the other, but in most cases the transaction is “Win/Win” for both parties.

Benefits for the Seller

Most sellers of real property insist on the highest price and all cash. Sellers want a fast closing with little hassle. Sellers also want to pay as little taxes as possible on the gains incurred. In many cases, the seller can have most of his needs satisfied by an installment sale rather than a traditional cash sale. Let’s look at these needs one by one.

Highest Price

There is no doubt that a seller can insist on and receive the highest price when offering flexible owner-finance terms. In many cases, the seller can receive more than the fair market value of the property by offering these “soft” terms. People are always willing to pay a premium for non-qualifying financing.

Cash

Nearly ever seller says he wants all cash, but few need it. What the typical seller wants is the most net cash from the deal. Often, the seller has to pay closing costs, title insurance, broker fees and the balance of the existing financing. In addition, there may be capital gains tax due to Uncle Sam. In many cases, the sale of a property by an installment sale (particularly a “wraparound”) will net the seller more future yield than any source from which the cash proceeds were reinvested.

Fast Closing

Nothing holds up a sale more than new lender financing. In some areas of the country, it can take months for a buyer to qualify and close a new loan to purchase your property. Since most standard real estate contracts contain a financing contingency, you may end up back at square one if your buyer does not qualify. Furthermore, if your house is not particularly nice or unique, it may take you some time to even find an interested buyer. Since you are competing with all of the other houses for sale, you may need to spend thousands of dollars in paint, new carpet and landscaping just getting the house ready for the market. There are very few “assumable” loans and few sellers are offering “soft terms.” Thus, an owner-carry sale makes your house unique. Furthermore, an owner-carry transaction can be consummated in a matter of days, since there is no appraisal, underwriting, survey or other nonsense involved. In many cases, you will be able to sell the property yourself, saving thousands in real estate broker’s fees.

Tax Savings

On an installment sale, so you only pay gains to the extent you receive payments each year. This can be particularly advantageous if you have owned the property for several years. Furthermore, you can combine the installment sale with an I.R.C. §1031 Tax-Deferred Exchange for further savings. As you can see, the installment sale provides many advantages to the seller of real property. Let us now turn to the advantages for the buyer.

Advantages for the Buyer

Easy Qualification

The buyer, in many cases, prefers an installment sale to conventional financing because it does not require traditional bank income and credit approval. The buyer may have poor credit because of a divorce or recent bankruptcy. He may be self-employed and cannot prove income. He may be new to his job and cannot meet strict lender guidelines. Even if he could qualify for a loan, the rate will be astronomical if he has poor credit. Furthermore, few conventional lenders offer fixed interest rate loans to people with a poor credit rating. As you can see, there are dozens of reasons why a buyer cannot (or will not) qualify for a conventional bank loan. The installment sale becomes the perfect solution for him.

Credit Rating

An installment sale may give the buyer a chance to improve his credit rating by owning a home and making payments timely.

No Loan Costs

One of the biggest benefits for the buyer is not having to pay the costs associated with conventional loans. Points, origination fees, underwriting charges, appraisal, credit reports, title insurance and the plethora of other “junk” fees charged by conventional lenders can amount to thousands of dollars at closing. The buyer is free from these with an owner-carry installment sale.

Fast Closing

A buyer can close and move into a property within days, since there is no third party lender holding up the transaction. Despite the elevated purchase price and interest rate, there are many benefits to a buyer who engages in an installment sale transaction.

Position Realty
Office: 480-213-5251

Rental House Investments Beats Investing In Stocks

After seeing the stock market and real estate market decline so significantly the past few years, many investors are wondering whether now is a better time to buy stocks or invest in real estate and which would be a better investment?

Real Estate Investing vs. Stock Market Investing

Consider the following facts about a recent rental house purchase which was purchased a few weeks ago. The house in question was purchased in Port St Lucie, Florida and was a bank owned REO property which was purchased directly from the bank.

Purchase Price _________________$47,500
Monthly Rental _________________$800

Annual Rental Income____________$9,600
Less Annual Insurance___________$1,045
Less Property Taxes_____________$1,300
Less Vacancies_________________$800
Less Repairs __________________$800

Net Annual Income (NOI)_______$5,655

Cash on Cash Return__________$11.9%

If we assume that the property is vacant 1 month out of every twelve and that we spend another 1 months rent on repairs, we would still net a very healthy 11.9% return. Where else can you get almost 12% on your money with very little risk? This house previously sold for almost $200,000 and buying it at less than 1/4 of that price has obviously significantly reduced the downside risk.

The Real Value of Your Rental Property

The current market value of this property is around $77,000. So while this investment yields a current yield of 11.9% I have the added luxury of knowing that there is around $30,000 worth of equity in this property. And considering that historically most rental property in Florida sells at around 140 times rent (this number changes based on market conditions), the fair market value for this property could be somewhere around $112,000. That is how much I would sell this property for if I were to sell it to a Rent to Own Buyer with an FHA mortgage.

Zillow estimates the value of the property at $124,000. The insurance company has the property estimated at $125 per square foot replacement cost. Since the property is 1,176 square feet that puts the valuation at $147,000. I think the property is worth around $77,000. The fact that properties are selling at such a discount to replacement cost should be a huge red flag. That is the builder’s way of letting you know that you should be buying real estate now.

The real replacement cost is around $75 per square foot which would put the properties value at $88,200 which is probably fairly accurate. However this is the value if the house was constructed new and without the land. The lot is worth $25,000 so the house built new would cost around $113,200 to build. Existing homes need to be depreciated since obviously they are worth less than new homes so the $77,000 to $88,000 is probably a healthy range for what the house is really worth. If we are conservative and assume $77,000 that is still a definite $30,000 in equity.

Return on Investment For Rentals

At a purchase price of $47,000 that represents 63.82% return on my money when I purchase ($30,000/$47,000). In addition to this $30,000 in instant equity I also receive almost 12% annually as mentioned previously. And this is all without utilizing any leverage whatsoever.

Imagine what the return would be if I borrowed 90% of the purchase price ($42,750) at 7% on a 30 year fixed mortgage. My monthly payment would then be $281.09 for both principal and interest which adds up to a total of $3,373.08 for the year.

If I deduct this $3,373.08 from the $5,655 net operating income above then I would be left with a net annual income of $2,281.92. Consider that if you put down 10% ($4,750) that would work out to be a “cash on cash” return of 48%. Where else can you get this kind of return?

Less Risk Investing In Rentals

There is no other investment that can do this with any certainty. Keep in mind that in these calculations I am still factoring in all the expenses of owning property including vacancies, maintenance, taxes, insurance and repairs. I have not factored in the “headache” factor which is basically the headache that comes along with being a landlord.

The “headache” factor is without a doubt the biggest downside to being a landlord. Being a landlord is a lot more hands on that looking at your monthly mutual fund statement. In my opinion that is the biggest issue that a potential landlord should consider before investing in rental properties.

Going back to the example of the $47,000 house, investing this same $47,000 into stocks would be a much less secure way to invest your retirement money. I should know. I spent fifteen years as a stockbroker and money manager before becoming a distressed real estate investor. And I am here to tell you what many other real estate investors and landlords like me already know. The best place to invest your money is in single family rental properties.

Why Investing In Rental Properties Beats Stocks?

Any landlord will tell you that being a landlord can be a headache too. Chasing after dead beat tenants, lost rent, damage to properties, maintenance and repairs are all part of being a landlord so you need to make sure that you have the time, desire, inclination and patience to become a landlord. But if you do and you hold for the long term you will be rewarded very well.

Unless your name ends in Buffet or Soros you are probably much better off investing in single family rental properties than you are investing in the stock market. Investing is about getting as much cash flow or yield as possible, without risking your nest egg and doing so in the most secure way.

Anything else is not investing. It is speculating. And speculating is anyone’s guess. If you are looking for a sure thing then you should go out and find a single family rental house that is way below current market value and you should buy it, fix it up and rent it out. If you hold that house until the mortgage is paid off you will have a good investment.

Position Realty
Office: 480-213-5251

Strategies To Increase Apartment Investing Cash Flow

Want to increase your real estate investing properties cash flow? Have any apartment buildings you would like to improve? I’m going to show you how to increase your monthly cash without spending a dime and start putting more money into your bank account each and every month.

You can do this by uncovering hidden marketing assets within your properties. Once you learn where to find these assets and how to use them, you will be able to increase your sales and cash flow by 10%, 20%, 30% or more.

Step back and look at all the possibilities your property offers its residents and marketplace. These strategies will help you optimize and leverage your marketing assets so that you have a stronger operating property. Here are few areas for you to find hidden assets:

Get Inside Your Property

That’s easier then you think. Take an hour and contemplate on the following:

•Uncover hidden assets
•Reveal over-looked opportunities
•Find under-valued relationships
•Expose under-performing activities

What did you come up with? Most investors, does not matter the size of the property will be able to think of a least one example for each.

Areas To Optimize & Leverage Hidden Assets

Now that we’ve identified a hidden asset of your apartment building or cash flow investing property, the following examples are great ways to put the asset in play:

•Past residents
•Current residents
•Under-promoted property competitive advantage
•Unique service or amenity
•Sub-par leasing performance
•Relationships with other business
•Big property strengths
•Current sales & marketing process
•Up-selling additional services
•Lifestyle promotion
•Resident retention
•Community relationships

4 Strategies to Optimize and Leverage Your Assets

1. Differentiate Your Property: What makes your property unique? Find your properties uniqueness by conducting a property and market assessment. There’s a great book out that you should read. It’s called “Differentiate or Die” by Jack Trout.

That’s exactly what landlords need to do with their properties to be successful. We have to differentiate your property so that you stand out among your competition.

2. Optimize Your Current Marketing: Optimize your current marketing by integrating the competitive advantage that makes your property different into all of your marketing.

3. Optimize Your Current Customer Base: Build a solid customer relationship marketing program. This program will be centered on building a consistent resident referral system. If you are successful at implementing the first two steps, building a solid and consistent resident referral program will be the very bedrock of your financial success and generating more cash flow.

4. Building Marketing Alliances: There are many ways for your property to partner-up with local businesses. Think about it. People that live, work, shop and play in your local market stay within that market. Building alliances within that market will help you get referrals. And guess what? Referrals are as good as gold because there’s very little selling when they come to your property to rent.

Start optimizing and leveraging you properties hidden marketing assets so that you can increase your occupancy, reduce unit turnover, and reduce concessions. These four strategies will help you drive more cash flow to your bottom line.

I hope this tip serves you. I look forward to helping you reach for the stars!

Position Realty
Office: (480) 213-5251

7 Steps For A Successful 1031 Tax Deferred Exchange

A 1031 exchange is a tax-deferred exchange which allows an owner of business or investment property to exchange that property for new property without incurring income tax on the gain.

The 1031 Exchange Process

Prior to closing on the sale of the sold property:

Step 1: Consult with your tax advisor for a 1031 tax exchange

Step 2: The Agreement
Contact an 1031 exchange intermediary to reserve an account number to use on all the exchange documents. The owner of the property (“the Owner”) should complete both an Exchange Agreement and a Qualified Exchange Trust Agreement.

Step 3: Assigning the Sold Property Contract
The Owner assigns rights but not obligations under the Sale Contract to a Qualified Intermediary and provides notice of the assignment to the Buyer. At the closing, title for the sold property is transferred directly from the Owner to the Buyer (known as direct deeding). A copy of the completed Assignment of sold property Contract and a copy of the Sale Contract should be sent to your intermediary.

Step 4: Net Proceeds
Net proceeds from the sale must be payable to the Qualified Intermediary. Payment may be in the form of a check payable to them or a wire transfer. It is important that the Owner never have actual or constructive receipt of the funds from the sale. Once proceeds are received by them, they are invested for the benefit of the Owner.

Within 45 days following the sale and transfer of the sold property:

Step 5: Identifying Replacement Property
The Owner completes the Identification of Replacement Property form. Replacement property must be specifically and unambiguously identified. For real estate, this could be a valid street address or a legal description. Identification requirements for personal property may vary depending on the item, but make, model and year are usually sufficient. Delivery of the Notice to the intermediary may be by hand, fax, mail, or over-night courier and must be postmarked by or received by 11:59 p.m. on the 45th day. Prior to midnight on the 45th day, the Identification may be amended or revoked, but after the 45th day, no changes in the Identification will be accepted.

Within 180 days following the sale and transfer of the sold property:

Step 6: Assigning the Replacement Property Contract
The Owner assigns rights but not obligations under the Purchase Contract to the Qualified Intermediary and provides notice of the assignment to the Seller. A copy of the completed Assignment of Replacement Property Contract and a copy of the Purchase Contract should be sent to the intermediary.

Step 7: Disbursements
Owner sends a Direction to Disburse Funds from the Exchange Account. Funds are made payable to the Seller of the Replacement Property or to the Seller’s agent. At the closing, title to the replacement property is transferred directly from the Seller to the Owner (direct deeding).

8 Best Markets for Flipping Houses

More investors are rehabilitating homes and looking to sell them for profit, a move known as flipping. RealtyTrac recently evaluated more than 600 metro areas to find where flipping single-family homes offers some of the highest returns based on the investor’s gross profit. The top eight metros for house-flipping are:

Orlando
Average purchase price: $103,701
Average flipped price: $168,677
Gross profit percent: 63 percent

Las Vegas
Average purchase price: $133,198
Average flipped price: $203,945
Gross profit percent: 53 percent

Phoenix
Average purchase price: $146,528
Average flipped price: $210,290
Gross profit percent: 44 percent

Tampa, Fla.
Average purchase price: $79,538
Average flipped price: $113,676
Gross profit percent: 43 percent

Memphis, Tenn.
Average purchase price: $68,318
Average flipped price: $96,870
Gross profit percent: 42 percent

Miami
Average purchase price: $138,064
Average flipped price: $189,291
Gross profit percent: 37 percent

Lakeland, Fla.
Average purchase price: $68,444
Average flipped price: $93,715
Gross profit percent: 37 percent

Nashville, Tenn.
Average purchase price: $108,851
Average flipped price: $146,872
Gross profit percent: 35 percent

PositionRealty.com
Office: 480-213-5251

How to Use Your Retirement Funds for Real Estate

In this articles, we will examine how one can use the tax-deferred money in their retirement plans to take advantage of real estate investing opportunities. This article explains how you can use your 401(k) funds to diversify your portfolio mix into real property.

The 401(k) Plan

First, it is important to understand some basic features of a 401(k) program. The 401(k) is a subsection of the Profit Sharing Plan section of the Internal Revenue Code. It allows for employee deferrals on a pre-tax basis. Employers may make this type of plan available to their employees by adopting an acceptable format forsuch a plan. There are limits of how much an employee can contribute. Adoption of such a plan also permits the employer to match employee contributions and to make profit sharing contributions (at the employer’s discretion).

An individual employee may contribute up to about 20% of annual compensation, to a maximum of $9,500 per year. Employers may make matching contributions (such as 25 cents on the dollar) up to 8% of total compensation for each employee. Sometimes profit sharing contributions may also be made and, under certain circumstances, one may have a combined package of 401(k), match and profit sharing/money purchase up to $30,000 in a given year. All of this is variable, and one rule does not apply for all cases.

If you are an employer, you can design the features of the plan and provide the investment alternatives for yourself and your employees. If you are an employee (not defined as an employer), you are permitted to operate your deferrals and investments as established by your employer. If some of the features we discuss here are not available to you as an employee, you may wish to discuss them with your employer to determine whether they can be adopted by your 401(k) plan. If your present plan does not permit the flexibility we are about to discuss, remember any plan may be amended and restated to make such capabilities available.

How to Use the 401(k) for Real Estate and Notes

After all this, how can the funds in your 401(k) plan be used for real estate transactions? Once you have found out that your 401(k) plan funds can be used for real self direction, and the trustee of the plan also permits such transactions, the rules are simple:

You can purchase assets into your plan which are not prohibited. Real estate is not prohibited. You may not deal with yourself or members of your family (other than siblings).

All Transactions Must Be Arm’s Length

This means that you can purchase mortgages with your plan assets. This means you may purchase real property in your plan for income purposes. While debt-financed properties may be subject to unrelated business income taxes, in almost all investment cases we are aware of this has not applied.

How It Works

How does it work? First, you find the property or note. These are self-directed plans, and no one is going to give you a list of real property to chose from. It’s all up to you. Remember, you take all of the risks and receive all the benefits. Neither the employer or the plan trustee has any obligation to you in a properly designed plan. Second, you request that the administrator of the plan ask the trustee of the plan to purchase the asset you have selected for your benefit in your plan. All this is performed through written documents. Third, the security interest in the asset you have asked to be purchased is perfected for the benefit of your plan account. Income and expenses are allocated to your account.

How Often Can You Do This?

As often as you like. Some people like to buy distressed properties, fix them up, and then sell them. Others buy discounted notes. Some purchase income streams. There are as many options as one can think of, provided you follow the rules.

Typically, employers will use the completely self-directed option for compliance with 404(c) of the code for self trusteeship safe harbor. Some combine the complete self direction along with a number of mutual fund choices, making complete self direction available on a non-discriminatory basis to all employees. There is a cost associated with this.

As can be imagined, the process of purchasing notes and real property is a labor intensive process; the process of purchasing mutual funds in a daily valuation environment is almost fully automated. Your 401(k) administrator can provide you with the costs. If your administrator doesn’t handle complete self direction, there are some that will. It’s up to you, as an employer or employee to ask. You may be surprised at the answer.

Position Realty
Office: 480-213-5251

Property Zoning Is The Second Most Important Component In Real Estate

After location, zoning is probably the most important characteristic of any type of real estate. It is the obvious starting point for evaluating a parcel’s potential for development because it spells out what you can do with the property. Zoning is a critical piece of the puzzle particularly if you want to be a land developer, an investor or work with a builder in some way. Save yourself much time, energy and frustration by checking out the zoning first, not last.

Local governments enact zoning ordinances and adopt the maps that show the physical boundaries of the zoning districts, and these are modified periodically. To determine the current zoning of a particular property, you would first look at the zoning map to see what district it falls in and then consult the current zoning ordinance. Both of these documents are available for review online or purchase at the municipal building. What will you find in the ordinance?

ZONING MAP EXAMPLE

It tells you what land uses are permitted in each district or classification. These classifications generally include residential, mixed residential, mobile home, commercial, shopping center industrial, office, and conservation. The ordinance also lays out other standards and requirements, such as the minimum lot size, minimum lot width, dimension of setbacks, height restrictions and building coverage. It contains definitions that help you understand the terminology used throughout the ordinance. There are general provisions that apply to every zoning district, and these deal with issues like non-conforming properties and uses, accessory structures and uses, flag lots, fencing, signage and minimum lot frontage requirements.

Provisions for a specific zoning district can often include both “by right” and “conditional” uses. For example, single-family detached dwellings, agricultural uses and governmental recreation areas may be permitted in a district. A privately-owned riding academy, stable for horses, public or private day schools, 18 hole golf courses, places of worship and day care facilities are permitted in that district only when authorized by the municipal Zoning Hearing Board as a special exception. This latter group of uses is not permitted automatically, and to get a special exception, you would have to demonstrate that your use falls within those defined in the ordinance and also complies with any requirements, such as minimum site area, building and paving coverage, and buffering, specific to that conditional use.

Key Points About Zoning

It would be helpful to remember some key points about zoning. Land use and regulation laws vary from state to state. Terminology and nomenclature vary from municipality to municipality, even within the same county in the same state. For instance, the “R-2” zoning classification in one municipality may mean that single-family detached housing is permitted on a minimum lot area of 35,000 sq. ft., with a lot width of at least 125 feet, and front, side and rear setbacks (yards measured from the parcel boundaries to define the area where a structure can be built) of 60, 20 and 80 feet, respectively. Go to another municipality, and you could find that the R-2 District permits single-family detached housing on 43,560 sq. ft. lots 150 ft. wide with front, side and rear setbacks of 60, 25 and 80 feet. You should not assume that the same name used for a classification in different municipalities means the same thing and when marketing land to potential buyers, be sure to include information on the permitted use and requirements for minimum lot size and width. Describing the zoning of the property only as “R-5”, “MR-1” or “C-2” is meaningless.

Finally, some words of caution. Zoning and other types of ordinances are available online. Do not, I repeat, do not rely exclusively on online ordinance information. Go to the primary source (the municipality that enacted the ordinance) and check it out to be sure you have the most current and accurate information. Always page through the entire ordinance because municipalities often enact amendments that can be printed in the back of the original ordinance (without cross-referencing the original provisions that have been amended). If the provision is somewhere in the ordinance, it applied. Just because you didn’t see it doesn’t mean that it doesn’t apply.

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