How to Sell Your Home to Family Without Making it Complicated

If you’re planning on selling your home, you might have a relative who might be showing interest in buying it off of you.

That could potentially make things a lot easier for you, considering the fact that there’s no need to market your property, and you can close the deal quickly.

Or, it could turn into an ugly mess that can leave you both on awkward terms with one another.

You want to make sure you get what your home is worth in the current market, but you also don’t want to compromise the relationship with the relative you’re selling to. When it comes to money, anything can happen.

Keep the following tips in mind when selling your house to a relative or close friend so you can keep the relationship intact while getting the most out of the sale.

Be Up Front About Your Relationship

If you or your relative don’t want to land in any hot water with the government, you’d be well-advised to disclose the nature of the relationship between the two of you with your lender. Anyone who fills out an application for mortgage insurance with the Federal Housing Authority will typically be asked to submit an Identity of Interest Certification form if there’s a relationship between the buyer and seller.

It’s not exactly common to have a mortgage denied as a result of family ties, but failure to reveal this information can point to mortgage fraud, which will lead to a denied loan application.

Make Sure Both Sides Are Getting a Good Deal

Your relative might confront you about taking your home off your hands with the intention of getting a hefty discount. And perhaps you might want to help them out in that way.

On the other hand, you might want to get the most out of the deal as possible. But if your relative can get a much better deal on the house down the block, there’s no sense in wheeling and dealing with you.

Either way, dealing with price points on a real estate sale between two parties who are close to each other can lead to major tension.

The best solution to this potentially sticky situation is to have a mutually agreed-upon appraiser come in and evaluate the home for both of you and provide an unbiased opinion of what the home is presently worth under today’s market conditions. That way no one is low-balling anybody, and only the fair price is being worked with.

If you do decide to offer a discount, make sure you’ve got an experienced real estate agent in your corner to help ensure that both parties benefit from the transaction.

Make Sure They Can Afford the House

Even after you and your relative agree on a price for the home, you still have to make sure they’ve got the finances to back up the purchase. It would be pretty awkward if you both go so far as to have a legal contract drafted up to complete the real estate transaction, only to find out shortly after that they can’t get approved for a mortgage.

Never assume that they’ll be able to find a lender who is willing to loan out the funds needed to finance a big purchase like this. Regardless of whether they’re buying off of someone they know, or a complete stranger, they’ll need to get approved for a mortgage.

If you fail to inquire about whether or not your relative is good for the cash before agreeing to sell to them, you could wind up back in square one if they fail to qualify for a loan.

Act as if you’re selling to any other buyer, and not just a relative, and ask for a pre-approval letter from their lender before you start negotiating on a price.

Get a Home Inspection

Even if the person buying from you has spent a ton of time in your home, that doesn’t necessarily mean they know all the nitty gritty about it, including any potential problems that may be lurking.

Maybe you aren’t even aware of some of the possible issues that might be hiding in your home. If any problems pop up after they’ve bought and moved into the home, it can cause some tension in the relationship.

To prevent that from happening, make sure you have your home inspected by a professional home inspector that you both agree to hire. That way any issues will be uncovered and laid out before the buyer. Not only will this help them make a more informed decision, it’ll also keep things kosher between the two of you.

Deal With Special Tax Issues

If you decide to arrange a seller take-back mortgage with the buyer, make sure you dot your “i’s” and cross your “t’s” with the IRS. That’s because they’ll calculate “imputed interest” when seller-backed mortgages for relatives are involved.

Even if no interest was charged on the mortgage, the IRS will consider interest to have been paid for tax reasons. They calculate imputed interest as a means of collecting tax revenues on mortgages that aren’t attached to any interest, or if the interest rate is extremely low.

Simply put, you could be subject to mortgage interest revenue if you carry a no-interest mortgage for your relatives, and they in turn could owe money in the form of capital gains taxes if the house is flipped for a quick profit.

While plans to sell to a family member have worked for many Americans, they’ve also turned out to be relationship killers for others. To make sure you’re part of the former group, make sure you seek the advice of a real estate agent and mortgage broker to protect both you and the buyer to avoid any problems in the near future.

Boost the Value of Your Property With These 10 Simple Home Improvement Tips

Want to boost the overall value of your home? It’s a lot easier than you might imagine. In fact, a few key updates and changes can really hike up your home’s value with minimal work and investment up front. Consider the following tasks to help increase the value of your property and build instant equity.

1. Clean Up the Landscaping

Talk to any real estate agent or home stager and they’ll tell you the same thing: curb appeal speaks volumes. And the first thing home buyers will see when they pull up to your home is its landscaping. A yard full of weeds, overgrown grass, and unkempt bushes aren’t going to cut it in the property value department.

Homeowners tend to focus more on their interiors when trying to make a good impression, whether or not they plan on selling. But what about the exterior? Landscaping is one of the top three investments that boost the highest returns. Even $500 spent in outside yard work can rake in $2,000 in property value when everything is said and done, so it’s worth the upfront cost.

2. Change Your Front Door

After homebuyers have made it past your landscaping, they’ll be greeted by your front door before they step foot across the threshold. But how exactly will they be greeted? Never underestimate the power of a front door when it comes to impressions and property value.

Within the first six seconds of entering a home, people will already have formed an impression. And the front door has a lot to do with it. A door that has peeling paint or rusted hinges can make the overall home look dingy. But the opposite is also true: a new, well-maintained, freshly painted door can make the home seem more inviting, and thereby add a little extra in its value.

3. Create More Space

Back in the day, it was customary to have a bunch of different, smaller rooms. But these days, sophisticated homebuyers – especially within the millennial age group – are looking for more space to use. That doesn’t necessarily mean they need more square footage; instead, what they’re essentially seeking is an open concept and optimal flow and functionality.

If your home is cornered off by a myriad of walls, consider knocking some of them down. Even if they’re load-bearing, you can still remove them and leave a decorative column post to retain support. Right now buyers want a wide open space, and kicking down a couple of walls can be an easy and affordable way to create it, and thereby add more value to your home.

4. Enhance the Lighting

Looking for a cheap and easy way to boost your ROI? Consider updating your home’s lighting, which will noticeably elevate your property’s appeal.

Anything from dimmer switches, to pot lights, to pendant lamps can make a massive difference in the look and feel of a home’s interior. Lighting of various types creates a sense of space and air, and also allows you to create a specific mood.

5. Make Minor Repairs

You’d be surprised at how much of a difference a few minor issues can make in the look and feel of a home. From leaky faucets, to chipped floor tiles, to scuff marks on the walls, these little flaws can make an otherwise nice home look tired. Before you even start thinking about more major upgrades like a kitchen renovation, address the more basic things first.

These little fixes can really go a long way towards property value. Even spending a few hundred bucks fixing small things around the house can increase the value of your property by a few thousand dollars.

6. Upgrade Your Flooring

One of the first things people see when they walk into a home is the flooring. What are they stepping on? Creaking hardwood? Uneven tiles? Dated carpeting? About 94% of professional real estate agents recommend investing a little money on floors when it comes to boosting property value. And you don’t have to blow the budget, either.

Depending on what you install, you can recoup twice as much in value compared to what you spend. If you are planning on installing a completely new floor, consider hardwood. It’s what the majority of homebuyers want, and have even come to expect when they’re on the prowl for a new home.

7. Up the Energy-Efficiency Factor

If the HVAC system in your home is aging terribly, and your utility bills are through the roof, it’s about high time you swap that system for an energy-efficient one. Sure, it might cost you a pretty penny up front, but the amount of money that it can save you in heating and cooling bills will all be worth it.

In fact, you can save as much as 40%. Recent studies have shown that energy savings add 20 times the yearly savings to the overall value of your home. Energy-saving systems and appliances make your home more desirable.

8. Tune Up the Bathroom

Just about every real estate broker says that sprucing up the bathroom is a sure-fire way to add some value to your property. But you need to be careful in how you upgrade it. Spending way too much money on unnecessary finishes and features could land you more in the hole than before you started.

Focus on the kinds of upgrades that the neighborhood calls for. Stick to the upgrades that are economical, easy, and fast. Simple things like adding a glass shower door or replacing an old pedestal sink for a more decorative vanity can go a long way in spiffing up the bathroom, and the overall impression of your home. Do it right, and you can expect a 62% ROI on a bathroom update.

9. Give Your Kitchen a Facelift

In much the same way as a buffed up bathroom can add value to a home, so too can the kitchen. In fact, this central space is probably the most important room in the home, so it only makes sense to give it the attention it deserves. Done properly, you can recoup anywhere from 75% up to as much as 100% on a kitchen remodel.

Just like with a bathroom remodel job, it’s important to keep your expenditures in check when it comes to the kitchen. For example, if the average home value in your neighborhood is $300,000 and you put in $70,000 into your kitchen remodel job, you’re essentially out-pricing your home. If your kitchen doesn’t warrant a total gut job, focus on smaller things that bring the most ROI, such as new countertops, appliances, cabinet doors, light fixtures, and handed and knobs.

10. Paint

Talk about maxing out your return on investment. The number one way to add value to your home with the least amount of money required is though a simple paint job. In fact, you can get back as much as 168% ROI with a simple paint job. Before you even think of listing your home for sale, look around and make a judgment call about whether or not the place could use a fresh coat of paint.

Any peeling, scuff marks or discoloration will warrant a new coat of paint. And if your walls are painted fuchsia pink or lime green, you might want to change it to something more neutral to attract more buyers, and thereby increase the value of your home.

Even if you have no intentions of moving any time in the near future, updating your home in various ways can do wonders to the value of your property. But before you take the hammer to nail, make sure you get some sound advice from a real estate agent or appraiser to find out exactly what features your neighborhood calls for, and the recommended amount that should be spent on each project to maximize the amount you can get back.

The Danger of Over-Leveraging in Real Estate Investments

Leveraging is one of the biggest advantages that real estate investors have at their disposal.

In fact, real estate investing is designed with leveraging in mind. It helps first-time investors get started in real estate investing when there’s little money from the get-go, and is a keen way to multiply initial investment capital to help build long-term wealth.

When leverage works the way it should, it can significantly boost returns, and help you gain equity a lot faster so that you can turn around and continue investing in other properties. It can afford you with appreciation on 100% of the property’s value while others pay it off so you can accumulate wealth much faster.

But over-leveraging is dangerous, and can put your entire financial profile at risk.

While debt can significantly multiply your reward, it can also just as easily multiply your risk.

Owing too much in a specific property compared to what it’s actually worth and the income it’s generating can put you in a negative leverage and equity position.

Negative leverage occurs when the return portion of the investment property is less than the interest rate on the loan.

Of course, it’s expected that real estate values will fluctuate over time. But if you’re teetering on the edge of profit versus loss based on the amount of leverage you’re holding, it could spell disaster. Any significant change in the value of your property at any given time can have a major impact on your investment.

When values drop or when interest rates increase on your debt, your equity will inevitably decline. Depending on how much you owe versus what you own, you could wind up with no equity – or negative equity.

If you invest in commercial real estate, your loan will generally last between 3 to 5 years. That means you haven’t got much time to play with when it comes to paying down the principal portion unless any returns are put back into the loan. With limited equity on the property, lenders will likely refinance the loan at a higher interest rate, making it even more expensive to hold the investment property.

And let’s not forget about all the other expenses that could pop up unexpectedly, including vacancies, repairs, and other factors that could affect your profits.

Over-leveraging to invest in a property that has no immediate returns or exit is quite frankly a bad idea. If the property is not yet rented, or there’s no immediate buyer lined up, over-leveraging is simply like walking the plank, especially if you’ve got no reserves to cover you.

Let’s say you’ve purchased a property for $500,000 with a $25,000 downpayment. If the value of the property declines by 30%, it’s now worth just $350,000, but you’re still stuck paying interest and principal on the full $475,000 loan. And if the amount that you collect in rent drops too, you could be at great risk of defaulting on the property.

If you were using the cash flow from that investment property to pay off your loan on other investment properties, you could wind up with a whole investment portfolio in foreclosure just because of one bad, over-leveraged loan and a lack of reserve capital to back you up.

How Much Leverage Should You Use?

Before you agree to a loan to make a purchase on an investment property, you’ll need to decide what would be a safe area to stay in when it comes to using leverage to boost returns and avoid being upside down on your loan. Here are a few considerations to keep in mind.

Don’t bet on steep rises in appreciation. Lots of real estate investors have lost a ton of capital because they assumed that recent history would repeat itself. Even if property values in the area have been appreciating at a 15% rate over the past few years, for example, it doesn’t mean this trend will continue into the near future. Betting on this is risky business, and can lead you to buy at higher prices and borrow more than what the property may realistically bring in for you.

Put in a hefty downpayment. The higher the down payment you put forth, the less your outstanding principal will be. Sure, you can put as little as 3% down on a real estate loan, but this leveraging will likely run you into trouble if the income that your investment property generates is close to the interest rate you’re paying on your loan. If the market happens to soften at some point, or you experience a higher vacancy rate than you anticipated, you could find it impossible to carry the loan for the property.

Meticulously – and realistically – calculate your cash flow. One of the biggest mistakes you can make when it comes to real estate investing is overestimating your cash flow and being naive about the financial fallbacks that could realistically creep up and affect your returns. Make sure you’ve accounted for every dollar and every possibility when calculating your cash flow. If the margin between rental income and mortgage costs and expenses is slim, you’re putting yourself at risk.

Keep your long-term investment goals clear. Understanding where you’d like to be in 5, 10 or even 20 years will help you decide how much you should leverage to buy a property. Not only should you be looking at the real returns of a property, you should also think about whether you’ll be using those returns to put back in the property to pay down the principal, or turn around and purchase another property.

The Bottom Line

Levering is obviously a necessity when it comes to investing in real estate and reaping the most rewards for the initial dollars invested. In fact, it’s leveraging that allows massive profits from real estate investments to be made.

But using it prudently and avoiding huge loan ratios that your current financial situation cannot support is critical. While leverage is a tool that can help you realize significant returns, it’s got to be used with a good dose of skill and expertise in order for you to avoid losing your shirt.