First and foremost, this article is for investors. As an investor, you should not (must not) have any emotional ties to any of your properties. You are in this business to make a fair and honest profit, and you will sell your home(s) when it makes sense to do so. Your goals should be to buy low and sell high, generate a positive cash flow while you own the house and use as little of your own money as possible. OK, so now how should you go about buying a house for your rent to own inventory of homes?
Location: Stay in your comfort zone. If you are not familiar with the laws and regulations in other states, stay in your home state. If you must “touch and feel” (see) your properties, stay within a comfortable driving range. If you are not comfortable with certain types of neighborhoods, whether it be an urban blight area or upscale posh area, don’t go there. There are plenty of opportunities in your comfort zone. All you have to do is find them and BE PATIENT.
Buy low: The best way to do this is to find a motivated seller. Here are some obvious (and some not so obvious) ways to find that seller:
1. Search the MLS listings in your preferred location(s) for properties that have been listed for more than 90 days.
2. Check public records for foreclosures and/or tax delinquencies.
3. Read the obituaries in your preferred location(s). There might be a house in the estate that must be sold.
4. Check public records for divorce filings. Many times a house must be sold to satisfy a Judgment.
5. Advertise in local newspapers and on the web (for example, place a free wanted ad on JSC Rent To Own Homes).
6. Look for a high growth area where builders are extremely active. You will discover there will be people who are unable to sell their home because the builder incentives are capturing all the qualified buyers. These neighborhoods are usually very desirable, and there are motivated sellers unable to sell. That sounds like an opportunity, doesn’t it? Here is your advantage. The person that you will try to find to rent the house after you buy it probably is not a qualified buyer to the builder. Builders want bank qualified buyers. Typically, people who are seeking a rent to own opportunity do not qualify for a mortgage with a bank. All you have to do is have a good renter/buyer lined up to move in to that desirable neighborhood.
7. Let your good renter/buyers find their own rent to own home. If you have a good prospective renter/buyer that is asking for your help (and you will if you do your job properly), give them the opportunity to find their own rent to own home. You have to set the ground rules, and they will think you walk on water. It is strongly suggested you develop a relationship with a good realtor who will follow your ground rules, take your renter/buyers on showings (most homes are listed anyway) and save you the time of doing this yourself.
Bottom line – If you find a motivated seller, you should be able to buy the property below appraised value.
Sell high: In this scenario, sell high refers to the option price you will set with your renter/buyer. Keep this in mind – If your renter/buyer was able to qualify for a mortgage today, he/she would probably not be your renter/buyer. He/she would simply buy a house without your help. Furthermore, the renter/buyer is probably a frustrated renter who wants to be a buyer. In other words, you have a motivated prospect, and that prospect should understand that you are a business person who is entitled to a FAIR profit in exchange for the risk you will take to help them. Bottom line – your prospect is probably not very price sensitive, and he/she will probably accept any fair number. In my opinion, a fair option price should be the current appraised value (not necessarily what you paid for the property) plus an amount equal to the average annual rate of increase compounded annually for each year of the option term. Allow me to explain by way of example:
First, try to keep all of your option terms to one year. It’s to the seller/landlord’s advantage. So, assume you own a house with an appraised value of $150,000 and prices have been increasing an average of 8%. For a one year contract, you should set your purchase price at $162,000 ($150,000 + 8% of $150,000 or $12,000); a two year contract, $175,000 ($162,000 x 1.08 = $174,960).
Positive cash flow: Cash flow is defined as the amount of money you receive per month minus the amount of money you spend per month. Obviously you want that to be a positive number.
1. First let’s look at how to minimize the amount of money you spend per month:
Your mortgage loan: You could put a large amount down to minimize your monthly payments, but that would not be wise. The best thing you can do is find a good lender who is willing to work with you. They are out there. A good lender will realize that you will bring in many deals, and most up front fees should be greatly reduced if not eliminated. Ideally you should be able to borrow up to 90% LTV amortized over 30 years without having to purchase mortgage insurance. You should avoid high interest fixed rate loans. You plan to sell the house in a short period of time so a 30 year variable rate loan with a fixed interest rate period of 3 or 5 years will be much better. In our example, we borrow $135,000 at 5% amortized over 30 years. That is approximately $725 per month (principle and interest) Furthermore we use an additional $300 per month for taxes and property insurance.
The lease: Your tenant is not just a lessor. Contractually he/she has the right to become the owner of the home. As such the tenant should develop a "pride of ownership" attitude and be responsible for most of the minor maintenance issues that arise with any home.
Ownership: Get a good real estate attorney and an accountant. They should be able to explain the advantages/disadvantages of personal versus LLC ownership including liability issues. This will help you determine the extent (and cost) of insurance you will want to have.
2. Now, let’s look at how to increase the amount of money you receive every month:
Here’s a little known fact – Over 90% of all people who enter into a rent to own agreement fail to exercise their option after one year! Do you remember I said to try to keep all of your contracts to one year? Besides maintaining better control of your investments, this little known fact can be hugely advantageous to you, the business person. Now, PLEASE keep this in mind; if you have a GOOD tenant who is unable to exercise his/her option, WORK WITH THEM. You should renegotiate a second year to your advantage, but not one that would force a good tenant to leave.
OK, here’s what you should consider (by way of example).
Using the above example, a reasonable contract might stipulate an option consideration of $8,000 (to be fully applied toward the down payment upon exercising the option) and a monthly rent of $1,100 per month of which $100 will be applied toward the down payment providing that monthly rent payment was made on time. After one year, assuming all rent payments were made on time, the tenant/buyer will have accumulated $9,200 in credits ($8,000 plus $100 per month). One can view the actual monthly rent as $1,000 assuming the option is exercised. If the tenant/buyer fails to exercise the option for any reason, That $9,200 is forfeited by terms of the contract.
To increase your cash flow, offer the tenant/buyer greater credits in exchange for a higher monthly rent. For example, in exchange for $1,300 per month, offer the tenant a $400 rent credit for every on-time payment received. Now, it can be viewed as a monthly net rent cost of $900, and the total equity built would be $12,800. If you present this properly, you can let the tenant negotiate for higher rent payments! You will have a much better cash flow, and there will still be a nice profit if the option is exercised provided you properly purchase the house. If the option is not exercised (90%+ odds it won’t be exercised), you keep all the rent monies paid. But, again, PLEASE keep this in mind; if you have a GOOD tenant who is unable to exercise his/her option, WORK WITH THEM. You should renegotiate a second year to your advantage, but not one that would force a good tenant to leave.
Use as little of your own money as possible: With diligence and patience, you will be able to buy a home for less than appraised value.