Multifamily investment could be showing signs of slowing down heading into the back half of the year, as investors ease up on their appetite for garden-style properties, according to research from CBRE and Real Capital Analytics.

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Finding deals is becoming more and more of a challenge for many real estate investors today. Some seem to be stretching a little too far in order to stay active and keep up their volume. There are deals to be found—just make sure you are watching out for these red flags before you close.

6 Signs You’re Buying a Bad Deal

1. The deal doesn’t match your desired numbers.

Things do change. Hard rules of thumb that other investors were swearing by five years ago might not work in your market today. Sometimes you have to become more flexible and diligent in searching for properties to keep a balance of deal flow and minimize risk. Just make sure you aren’t ditching vital investment principles. Numbers don’t lie.   

2. It’s been sitting on the market for a while.

There can be some great gems among foreclosures and abandoned property that are working their way through the process, as well as stale or expired listings. Perhaps the sellers weren’t motivated enough previously, had a bad agent involved, or simply overpriced their property.

Still, if a property has been sitting vacant or on the MLS for years, there is probably something wrong with it. If not, someone else would have bought it already. It could be a deal—just make sure you know why it hasn’t sold and do some hard negotiating along with due diligence.


Related: Is it a Bad Idea to Buy an Apartment Building for My Very First Deal?

3. It seems too cheap.

Sometimes you may find really cheap deals that are solid. Properties may simply be far cheaper in that market, or the seller might be motivated. Still, prices tend to reflect value oftentimes. It could be that there are expensive structural repair issues under the surface, often including roofs or foundations. Or there could be zoning challenges or large past due property tax bills and association dues that the seller is expecting you to take on. Find out why it’s so cheap. Look at the value, and price any issues or unknowns into your offer.

4. It has high vacancy rates.

High vacancy rates in multifamily apartment buildings can be a sign of bigger issues. It’s possible that the previous management was completely inefficient. Or maybe there are some serious maintenance or neighborhood causes. Talk to tenants and neighbors to get a feel for this. Also, anticipate even more turnover when you take over. Some tenants are probably behind and will find it less expensive to leave than catch up. Others might not like your new management style. Factor these vacancy rates into your underwriting figures.

5. There are title issues.

Title issues can really wreak havoc on investments. You can spot some of these in advance by noticing oddities and gaps related who who is trying to sell the property and who is listed as owner in public records, as well as quit claim deeds that have been recorded. Sometimes the title is so uncertain that you can’t get title insurance. Your next buyer may not be able to either, and that puts your entire investment at risk. 


Related: 10 Rental Property Red Flags You Should Never Ignore

6. The market shows poor local fundamentals.

A good investment is as much about the location and local economy as it is about the individual property you are looking at buying. Are population and jobs growing, or are those on the decline? Check out this article for a list of some of the data points I look at before investing.


There are indeed good real estate deals out there. But they may be harder to find today and require more investigation and negotiation. Watch out for these six red flags and complete your due diligence before going to closing if you want to keep your returns in the green.

What signs do you look out for?

Let me know with a comment.

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According to a study by the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, America has yet to take back the ground it lost in the 2008 during the financial crisis. Bloomberg reports that gross domestic product remains below where its 2007 trend predicted the nation would be by now.

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The links to third-party products and services on this page are affiliate links, meaning that BiggerPockets may earn a commission (at no additional cost to you) if you click through and make a purchase.

As a consultant with Cole Realty Resource, I speak with investors on a routine basis. And the most successful investors are able to not only find the best deals, but also able to connect with sellers and close them.

Why Do You Invest in Real Estate?

Think about it.

If you’re like most of us, you invest because it provides financial stability in an unstable financial world. It helps you provide for yourself and your family. It makes you money.

What if, on your next sales pitch, you put yourself in the seller’s shoes?

As it turns out, you both want pretty much the same things.

Selling a home can provide an extraordinary amount of financial relief. If there is any equity in a property, it can be used to pay off debt, provide for a college fund or medical need, add to retirement, or even allow for further investments.

Despite this advantage, some homeowners may be unaware of the potential financial relief that is waiting for them in the sale of their home. You could be the messenger that saves the day.

Start with the kind of information that you’d want to discuss if it were your property.

Related: Buying Investment Property: Learn EXACTLY How It’s Done With This In-Depth Case Study!

1. What the Property is Worth vs. What is Owed

There is a reason marketers use “What is my home worth?” as a way to capture contact information on social media and across the web.  It works!

Home values can be confusing for homeowners since they aren’t experts in the market.  They may not know how the condition of their home or the activity of the market affects their home’s value.

2. Can a Cash Sale be a Financial Lifeline?

Credit ratings can be a quick way to get an idea of how a home sale may benefit a potential customer. If they have a particularly low rating, they may be struggling with credit card debt, having a difficult time paying their bills, or working to pay off a greater debt (like student loans or medical debt) while ignoring other loans.

These same people may also have a decent amount of equity build-up in their homes. A glance at the home value versus what is owed can tell you if they are good candidates for an all-cash sale. Sometimes, even just getting them out of a mortgage they can’t afford is help enough.

Presenting these customers with the financial freedom that can come from the sale of a home could be the message they’ve been waiting to hear.

3. There’s an Easier Way

Similar to financial relief, stress relief can be a big factor in accepting a cash offer. Chances are, if they are struggling to make ends meet, they will not be able to afford improvements that may need to be made to meet lender requirements or pay for the fees associated with listing the home with a real estate agent.

An all-cash sale will also avoid appraisal or inspector fees, saving them the time, money, and hassle associated with keeping a house staged for as long as it takes to make the sale (which could be days, weeks, or even months).

You can put the financial power back into their hands by showing them the benefits they could reap if they sell their home. You can turn the tables by giving them the same financial stability you seek when you purchase a property.

While a multi-faceted, customer-centric approach like this can seem like more work, if you have the right tools, it’s really not. For example, Cole Realty Resource has a laundry list of facts about any given property, and all you need is an address. You can check specs like how much a property is worth and how much is owed, but it also gives you some information that is a bit more difficult to come by — like the credit rating of the homeowner.

Related: Buying a House: The Ultimate Guide to Purchasing Your First Property

Using programs like CRR to access this rich information can help build your list of benefits to a point where it might become unreasonable not to accept a cash offer.

Putting yourself in the seller’s shoes is powerful because it helps them feel at ease. Instead of feeling like a target or like it’s a stepping stone for you, they can feel like you’re on the same team because you see them as human beings.

When you are the one that leads them to the realization that financial empowerment is right around the corner, you improve your chances of adding another satisfied customer to your client base.

Try turning the tables, and you might be surprised how quickly you find yourself with a sale in hand.

Cole Realty Resource has a 70-year history of providing contact information (including cell phones and emails) for a specific property or entire neighborhood, which means more meaningful conversations about buying and selling real estate. Because of your relationship with BiggerPockets, you can now get access to unlimited home phones, cell phones and emails—all tied to a specific address and all at a discounted rate. To start getting contact info within minutes, click here.

What about you? Have you sold a property recently?

Do you have tips for putting yourself in the seller’s shoes? Share below!

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Aging housing stock tells the tale of a construction industry that continues to fall behind in the number of new homes built each year. NAHB explained the aging trend is due primarily to the slight increases in residential construction over the past decade, and it’s giving rise to a new trend in the construction industry.

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As the prices of properties continue to soar in many areas, the question regarding whether to buy a newly built home or rehab an existing one has been popping up with increasing frequency.

For some, the lure of a freshly built single-family home that has never been inhabited is a no-brainer. Others prefer the perks that come with dated construction—prime locations, established neighborhoods, the character of old world construction, and so on.

There is also the small matter of cost, and although new builds are a percentage costlier than their existing counterparts, this disparity is fast washing away. What we are seeing in some markets is old single-family properties priced so high that it makes more sense to build or buy new.

Does the Charm of Old Construction Justify the Cost?

There are some things we just cannot take away from old single-family homes. Considering these properties were constructed way back when property prices were very low, they are more likely to sit in some of the most prime locations in town.

Typically, they tend to have larger yards and more mature trees and vegetation, and they are often located closer to downtown, entertainment, and restaurants.

As far as the houses themselves are concerned, there is no denying the fact that older construction was meticulously built, and the genuine craftsman is still hard to miss. After all, they have weathered the storms for decades; others centuries.

Older homes also have more character thanks to the interesting architecture dating centuries back. Popular styles include Victorian, Colonial, Tudor, and Greek Revival.


Related: New Construction vs. Older Homes: Which is the Better Investment?

Beyond this allure, though, older homes often come with a lot of baggage. A lot of this mostly boils down to one thing: cost.

There is always something that requires fixing. Chimneys may require tuck-pointing; so might stone foundations. Roofs may leak. Floors may slope.

While periodical maintenance is essential for every home, old or new, it is an inevitable, frequent undertaking in the case of older homes.

Replacing the wiring and plumbing is also an expensive affair with older single-family homes. Apparently, this is something that is bound to come up at some point.

Growing tree roots could, for instance, break up sewer pipes. If a property was constructed prior to the sewer system, there is a likelihood the cesspool will overflow into a sewer. Old galvanized pipes are also prone to rust.

In the case of electronics, the sensitive ones require grounded wiring. Aluminum wiring, common with older homes, is also a fire hazard. The list goes on.

There is also no overlooking the fact that many older homes might not be equipped with trendy installations. The HVAC system aside, this could also mean costly bathroom and kitchen remodeling jobs. Assuming this is all taken care of, then it will no doubt reflect on the listing price.

Speaking of listing price, despite their age, classic and vintage homes these days generally cost more than many new builds. This is not all to do with the obvious charm. They also tend to be within proximity of mass transit, schools, shopping, and urban amenities.

Why Buying New Makes More Sense

From an investment point of view, a newly constructed single-family home comes with a slew of benefits.

For one, there will be little to worry about in the case of repairs. All the major systems in the property, from the roof to the plumbing to the electrical and HVAC are in tip-top condition.

This not only means less overheads in the name of maintenance, but also better prediction of monthly homeownership cost. Warranties can also protect a new home for years before any major repairs are needed.

Related: 4 Vital Points to Consider BEFORE Getting Into New Construction

New homes are also likely to be more efficient when it comes to heating and cooling—one of their major selling points, actually—which means lower utility bills to contend with.

These types of properties are also smarter and healthier when it comes to integration of technology and building materials, as they often use paints and materials low or devoid of volatile organic compounds (VOC), which translates to better indoor air quality.

The other advantage a new home has over an old one is a more updated look that appeals to the modern-day renter or buyer. Newly constructed homes are coming with open concept floor plans (a big deal these days), granite counters, and other higher-end finishes.

Essentially, this means less or zero work to bring the property up to the standard that most renters or buyers expect, not to mention the potential for higher rental rates since tenants will fork out more for a newer home with all the nice finishes.

Do you prefer to buy older homes or new construction? Why?

Comment below!

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As a property manager and landlord, I have learned that screening can be the most important element in owning a rental property. Picking the right tenant on paper and in character sets the tone for the next 12-24 months for your investment. This means if you have a great tenant with a smooth system in place, you will have an easier relationship with your property manager, easier time self-managing, and/or you will stay motivated to continue to invest in more passive income generating properties.

In realizing how big the leasing/screening step is, we maximize our marketing efforts to make sure we have the exposure to reach the top tier tenants we want to attract. Once we get them through our units and they love our homes, we then swoop in with our screening process that sniffs out red flags and brings truths to the service to eliminate junk applicants fast.

Below is 10 key components to our screening process that we complete with every applicant.

10 Not-So-Obvious Ways to Thoroughly Screen Potential Tenants

1. Request cleared past rent checks.

Since applicants can put anyone down under their previous landlords contact, we came up with the idea to request the most recent three cleared rent checks, front and back. This is assuming they are currently renting.  These cleared check copies tells us the following:

  • Who they are writing their checks to.
  • If the amount matches what they say they are paying and if the amount is the same each month.
  • What day the checks are clearing in the bank. If they are clearing by the 5-8th each month, it is safe to say they paying on or close to the first.

In this day and age with paying through online tenant portals, we request an online payment history and the matching bank statements to line up.

When a tenant says they pay cash, that is a red flag and we request the bank statements that reflect the withdraws, which is usually the end of that applicant.

Related: The True Cost of a Bad Tenant: Why You CAN’T Afford Not to Screen

2. Check the tax records.

You can check the tax records to verify the records of landlord provided by the tenant. But if the tenant says that they have been writing checks, it should raise red flags.

3. Obtain an eviction report.

This is the best thing that has happened to landlords in the last decade when it comes to screening. With the help of most of the screening companies or online through the county you live in, it is now easy to see if an applicant has ever been filed on for eviction. You can find judgements on credit reports with this, but most landlords never take it that far, so that applicant’s next three landlords would not realize they were less than perfect tenants until it was too late.

4. Get pictures of pets.

Request recent, clear picture of all pets. This will prevent the 35 lb lab mix from becoming the 80 lb pit bull at move in. Pets are not always a bad thing, so seeing a picture of a pet can make you as the screener put your pet guard down a little and treat the deal fairly.

5. Obtain a copy of their driver’s license.

Requesting a clear, color copy of the applicant’s driver’s license will allow you to verify the address to check whether it matches all other documents from the application or not. It shows when the DL was issued and verifies the date of birth. It also allows you to match up the applicant online with social networking sites, such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter, to learn more about them if necessary. The picture will help you make sure you have the right guy.

6. Perform online research.

The Internet has done wonders for screening, and in the world we live in today, we can learn so much just from Facebook and LinkedIn. Facebook offers a huge insight, and LinkedIn can sometimes show you people you might have in common with the applicant. This allows you to reach out the common connection as another insight to the applicant’s character and verify they work where they say they do.

7. Collect application fees.

We take application fees ($50 per person over 18) not as a profit generator, but as a means to cover the costs associated with screening reports. More importantly, the fees serve as a level of commitment to the property.

I spent the first 6 years not taking an application fee, and multiple times per year an applicant would go through the 24-48 hour process, we would approve them, and they would be gone.  Maybe they found another rental or they just realized they didn’t like our unit. An application fee makes applicants think hard before they submit the application, and if they do pay the application fees and then back out, at least your costs are covered.

On the other hand, it is important not to treat it as a revenue stream because you don’t want to build a reputation of taking application fees and not accepting time and time over. We will often refund applicants’ fees if they are not selected, to be fair. We will keep them if they lie on their application or if they back out.

8. Aim for a quick turnaround.

Moving is stressful whether you are 21, 44 or 66. It is a lot of pressure to take everything you own and move it somewhere else — sometimes far, far away. In this renters’ market, it is also stressful as an applicant going up against sometimes 5 or 6 other applicants on the same property. When a tenant submits an application, make sure you inform them of your expectations of how long your underwriting will take. Try to get your questions back to the tenant within the first 24 hours and demand a quick turnaround from them as well.


9. Understand their reasons for moving.

It is important to understand why they are moving. Are they moving because their place is too small or their work is too far from where they are now? As a screener, it is important to make sure your unit is larger and considerably closer to their work. Otherwise, they will be out looking in 11 months again because they didn’t realize they were making the same mistake again.

Related: The Ultimate Comprehensive List of Tenant Red Flags

10. Provide verification of terms.

It is important that the tenant is on the same page with the terms you are expecting. Yes, all those terms will be in the lease, but people don’t always read leases, and you may miss something when you prepare the lease, so what we do is send out an email called “Rental Acceptance Term Email.” This email is a summary of the terms included, such as rent, deposit, term, who pays what utilities, parking, etc. In this email, we also attach the condo association rules and regulations and our tenant expectation handbook. We make the applicants reply to the email that they agree with the terms and the attachments. Even though it will all be in the lease, this email will prevent issues down the road.

Of course, there are a bunch of additional steps we take, like calling and verifying employment, calling previous landlords and looking up any other historical public records, but the 10 points above are processes that have changed our company and many others who have learned from our experience. The fact of the matter is creating passive income needs work. If you want your rental property to provide a constant cash flow, you will have to screen the tenants diligently or you might end up with a lousy tenant.

We’re republishing this article to help out our newer members.

Landlords: What above-and-beyond steps do you take to thoroughly screen your tenants?

Leave your tips below!

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The Community Reinvestment Act is important to provide fair access to credit and investment, and many financial institutions agree it’s an important tool in their business strategy. But current guidelines render it ineffective, and it’s time regulators institute much-needed change.

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I used to think that I knew what nightmares were. Then I became a landlord. I’ve seen so many types of nightmares since I began this landlording journey, things I did not even know could exist. I’ve seen mold so thick it even covered the spider webs. I have seen rotten floor joists holding up tubs and thought, if the tenant was only 10 pounds heavier, then crash! I have seen squirrels trapped in the walls and clumps of roaches coming out of refrigerators when you open them. But I have discovered that people create the biggest nightmares.

People can do some really crazy, nightmarish things, and most of the time, you would neither know nor care about what they are up to. But when it is your tenant in your property doing it, then it becomes, at least in part, your nightmare.

12 Tenant Nightmare Stories I Swear Are Actually True

Here are just some of the more memorable tenant nightmares I have had. I swear to you, every one of them is true. Even the mind of Steven King could not make some of this stuff up.

  1. A tenant was handing out flyers for porn parties at his apartment. “Bring your own video!” Another tenant saw it and informed us. That is not something you want your address associated with.
  2. A tenant constantly had loud arguments with her boyfriend. She tore every door in the house off its hinges by slamming them.
  3. A tenant installed a stripper pole in the living room. Screwed it right into the hardwood floor. But it was just for exercise.
  4. A tenant got blackout drunk, passed out, and left her kitchen sink running in an upstairs apartment. All that water eventually made its way downstairs.
  5. A tenant got blackout drunk, bumped his gas stove and accidentally turned the gas on before passing out. Another tenant in the building smelled it and called the utility company, which then turned off the gas to the whole building. That in turn created another sort of nightmare. Thankfully, he did not smoke. He was not supposed to be there, by the way. His mom had rented the place surreptitiously for him. I wonder why she wanted him out of the house.
  6. Speaking of smoking, one tenant burned my triplex down because he was sure the cigarette he placed in the trash can was out. Thankfully, no one got hurt—and at least he apologized.
  7. A few tenants were selling cars off the back lawn. “What do you mean we can’t do that?!”
  8. I once rented to a tenant who turned out to be a hoarder who abandoned the property in the middle of the night. They never leave any good stuff.
  9. A renter who turned out to be violent broke out all my windows after a Memorial Day bender and ended up in jail. You would think it would be easy to serve an eviction notice to someone in jail.
  10. One tenant neglected to call us when the heater went out. He just used his stove instead. “I did not want to bother you.”
  11. Another tenant was apparently having real nightmares and spent hours every night screaming as loud as she could. I think my other tenants in that building had a worse nightmare than me on this one. Thankfully, I think she ended up getting the help she needed, and I hope she is in a better place.
  12. Finally, there was the woman who was “just having fun” by shooting her pistol out of the back window of her apartment.

Still Want to Be a Landlord?

Here is the thing, though: We did not create most of these.

Many of these nightmares were not our own creation. By that, I mean that most of the nightmares I describe came with the property when we bought it. We inherited them. It was these nightmares that likely made the property a good deal to buy. The landlord wanted to get away from these nightmares by selling. The lesson here is this: Some folks say that a tenant is lying every time they open their mouth. I say the landlord who is selling is lying every time he opens his mouth. “They are all great tenants.” “Everyone pays on time.” “No problems at all.” Yeah, sure. Don’t take their word for it.

These nightmares are unfortunately part of the business. As you grow and buy properties, tenants who have not gone through your screening process come into your life. Sometimes you will know what you are getting into, and sometimes you will not. These tenants will eventually go away, but it can be nightmare in the meantime.

Some of the nightmares were our own creation. Sometimes you just have to learn the hard way. You have to learn from experience that there are red flags to look for during the tenant screening process—things like the long sleeves in the summer, the alcohol on the breath during a showing, and the parents who seem way too eager to get a place for their kid. These are all signs that perhaps something is not quite right.

If a nightmare gets passed you, all you can do is learn from it and move on. Change your lease, change your policies, or change your screening criteria to prevent the same from happening again—and remember that hindsight is 20/20 for a reason.

To close, let me say that we have had and continue to have many good tenants who we are very thankful for. In fact, most of our tenants have been decent, prompt, and respectful folks. But you always seem to remember the bad ones, don’t you?

We’re republishing this article to help out our newer readers.

So, let’s hear it. Do you have a story of a nightmarish (or conversely, awesome) tenant experience?

Share below!

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As housing becomes less affordable, the definition of homeownership just might become more flexible. Homeownership investment companies are popping up around the country, offering cash to homeowners for the opportunity to share in the appreciation of their property.

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