Category Archives: Real Estate
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The market will give you innumerable options of varied ranges. The whole point of setting a fixed budget is to know your search zone. Speaking of zone, the area where you plan to live plays a crucial role in determining your budget. Other factors, such as the kind of property you need, the amenities and facilities you seek, and the duration of stay, should also be taken into consideration. All these points, and more, are discussed in the following sections to ensure that you get the best within your decided monetary range.
Some Useful Advice for Finding an Affordable Rental
Note that the points mentioned below are suggested while keeping the budgetary limitations in mind; however, understand that budget should not be the only factor that determines your selection. The following points will make this statement clear.
Area of Living
Do you want to stay in the same area, or are you planning to move to an all-new locality? The advantage you have for living in a familiar area is that you would most likely be aware of the local real estate agents who will be able to help you. Also, because you aren’t a newbie in the locality, chances are that you’ll be aware of the people, amenities, rent rates, and legal taxes that apply there. If you are moving to a new locality, ensure that it is not an isolated one. Meaning, it should have necessary amenities such as shopping center, local market, schools, hospitals, banks, gas stations, train stations, bus stops, and the like, within reach. Not to mention, your workplace shouldn’t be so far that commuting becomes tiring.
Another facet to this point is to also scrutinize the crime rates in the locality. There is no point in getting a cheap rental, only to find out that your safety is at risk. In that case, even if you need to pay a few dollars extra for a safe neighborhood, you will still be a winner. If you are a bachelor and don’t mind the distance, then being flexible about the area of stay may help you cut some costs on the rent, which we think, will be used up by the commuting expenses.
Kind of Property
What kind of property do you need? A shared room, a full apartment, or a condo? The nature of accommodation and its size, along with the facilities you seek―parking space, indoor swimming pool, backyard, furnishings, etc.,―would know how much funds you’ll need to pool. If you are not rigid when it comes to the additional facilities, you may be able to save some dollars. For instance, take the parking space, instead of opting for personal car parking space, check if you can park your car in the surroundings without any potential risk. Also, it would be pointless to go for a furnished flat if you have your own furniture. However, if you don’t, opting for a furnished house would save you the hassle and the money to invest in furniture and household appliances. Therefore, analyze all your options, and make possible adjustments if you can.
Strategies for Search
After careful analysis of the aforementioned factors, comes the time to finally begin your search. The fastest and the easiest way is to start online. There are various websites including Rent, Realtor, and Craigslist, that allow you to perform a custom search for properties. Filters including the area, kind of property, and budget range, make it easier for users to browse through the various options. To check if the rent demanded is feasible or a total rip off, you can access another website called Rentometer. This website matches the rent of the questioned property with other similar holdings and gives you a fair idea―whether you’re paying too much or too less. Either ways, you should be cautious. Too low a rent may signify a potential problem with the space. Signing up for email alerts of these domains will help you keep a track of the new options, before others get a chance to grab them.
You can also use the print media to advertise your needs. Placing ads in local newspapers, and getting in touch with local realty agents who can offer their services and look for a suitable place, can be considered. Try going social with this news. Post your needs on Facebook and Twitter. Try telling your friends, family, and neighbors to see if they could give you some helpful contacts.
Examination of Property
When it comes to examining the properties that seem to be worth a visit, ensure that you visit them more than once! The agents or the property owners usually try to rush the process of showing potential renters the living space. What seems to be perfect from the outside may have hidden flaws. You must ensure that you examine the property carefully and take your own time; no one can stop you from doing so. Test the flooring, taps, windows, flushes, fixtures and fittings, appliances (if any), and the like. Ask if the house has problems related to leakage, mold, or any other thing that you should be aware of. It would be advisable to see if all the facilities given―washing machine, fans, air conditioner, lights, doorbell, etc.,―are in working condition. If you feel that some area(s) need to be repaired, inform the owner/agent beforehand. The last thing you want is to find these flaws after you’ve moved in, with the burden to bear the expenses for repair work. Try to pay attention to details. If need be, visit more than once, at different times of the day to analyze the property. Try to explore the neighborhood as well, and see if you get a positive vibe about it.
Terms and Conditions of Contract
Before signing the contract, it is imperative to discuss with the owner of the property regarding certain aspects of the agreement. An example for the same would be to directly ask the owner if there are any additional costs you should be aware about. Also, what would be his take on the deposit amount? Would everything be refunded at the end of the contract, or would there be any deductions? Would the house be clean and fully repaired before you move in? What are the policies if the contract was to be terminated, in case you had to leave the place due to any reason? If your lease agreement is for a couple of years, understand the policies for rent increment―would the owner be increasing it every year? If yes, then at what rate?
Ask as many questions as you’d like. If you have pets in the house, inform the owner beforehand to know his take on this. Many homeowners do not entertain tenants with pets. All that has been discussed, and which seems to be of crucial importance, should be clearly mentioned in the contract. Consider this document to be a supportive evidence if (God forbid) any conflict takes place during the tenancy. Therefore, make sure that all the parties involved are on the same page, and everything mentioned in the contact is in the best interest of those involved.
If you wish, you can also try to negotiate the rent rates with the landlord. Though it is unlikely that he or she would agree to it, but if you are confident of your negotiating skills and charm, you may give it a shot. A reduction of even 10 or 20 dollars would save quite an amount in the long run.
Purchasing a property overseas is exciting, but only after you are clear about one rule – the heart should never rule the head where money is concerned. Also, it is essential that you follow the right procedure, and avoid using any unfair means in securing real estate. Consider doing all the things you would do if you were buying real estate in your homeland. Here are some tips that you can follow.
Know the Market Thoroughly
Be aware of rising and falling trends of the market. Knowledge about the rates can be helpful if you want to buy when prices are down, and sell as soon as the market sees an upward trend. Also, some countries have strict rules that prevent or limit property ownership to foreigners. Hence, it is good to know whether or not you have the legal right to purchase property in that country, to avoid any scams or disappointment. It is important to do your homework before stepping in the market of an alien country.
Beware of Impostors
The global real estate market is filled with impostors who con people, and often get them involved in a financial and legal mess. Even so, this doesn’t mean that everyone you come across is a thug, but being aware of what is right and wrong is a smart move. If you are dealing with a real estate agent who does not carry business cards, and does not have an office, he/she is probably someone you should avoid. Also, there are certain countries that don’t regulate their real estate industry; hence, agents don’t even require a valid license. Be extremely careful here, and proceed only after doing thorough research.
Only Purchase What You See
Real estate agents are idealists. They will make you dream about well-built roads, world-class amenities, and other facilities that are nowhere in plain sight. The catch here is, once you have signed the contract, you are the owner of the area and the illusions surrounding it. I have nothing against agents here, but it sounds risky to invest your hard-earned money for just barren land. Consider all the things that can go wrong here. Hence, only buy what you see.
Always Seek Professional Assistance
Great deals at an affordable price can be achieved if you buy a property directly from the owner. Nevertheless, don’t forget that you are in a foreign land, and taking the help of a reliable professional can be useful to avoid various pitfalls when buying property in a foreign land.
Signing a Contract
Never sign a contract that you don’t understand. Always ask for two versions of the contract – one in English, and the other in the local language. Bring along your legal adviser to confirm that the English version is a true translation, and does not contain any errors, extras, or omissions. Read the contract thoroughly, and ensure that you and the seller both agree to the different terms and conditions decided.
Try to Pay Cash
If you really like the property and know that this is the final deal, try paying the owner cash. It is a tough decision to take, but it is important to understand that financing mechanisms, like mortgages, aren’t as stable in foreign countries as they are in the US. In most European vacation spots, property transfers are mostly done in cash. For those who can’t do without a mortgage, seek the help of your real estate agent and lawyer to know more about such destinations.
Verify the Title
In the US, if you acquire a property you get a warranty title that states you are the legal owner. However, in countries outside the States, this title can create quite a problem. This is highly possible in European countries. You see, World War II had created many boundaries in the world, and it is quite possible that once you purchase the property, a recent descendant of the family can suddenly appear to claim his/her property. The situation sounds dramatic, but it can surely happen. This crisis can be avoided by taking the help of a notary. A notary can help verify legal documents, and also ensure that there are no gaps in the property’s history, and you are the rightful owner.
Knowing the Native Language
Relocating to a country without knowing its native language can get quite difficult. The best thing to do is to join a language course, and get things in motion soon. However, if you are not up for this challenge, a better idea would be choosing a country where English is spoken in large numbers.
Valuating the Property
Property valuation is an important step, especially in a foreign land. You need to know all the pros and cons of the property before signing the papers. Hence, ensure that an independent valuation of the property is carried out in your presence.
A Local Bank Account is Necessary
You will have to open a bank account in the country where you have chosen to live, and apply for a Certificate of Importation, so that bringing in money from your home country won’t be a problem. Also inquire about online money transfer facilities, so that you can pay the bills and taxes associated with the house from time to time.
Try to bargain if you are good at it; chances are you might get a great deal at a low price. Also, don’t shy away from seeking professional services that can ensure a smooth transaction overseas.
However, every investment has two sides to it, and an apartment is no different. Let us have a look at the major drawbacks of renting out an apartment.
It’s important to know that apartments are sold as a whole, which means quite a big amount needs to be invested. Add to it the fact that, lenders and financial institutions are not very eager to sanction loans for commercial properties, and financing the property can prove to be difficult. Financial institutions offer mortgage loans (albeit at high interest rates) once you have paid at least 20% of the value as down payment. However, the monthly mortgage payments are quite high, and can dig a hole in your pocket if you don’t find tenants sooner than later. To avoid such hassles, investors choose to invest in a group and share the expenses and liabilities.
Most investors who invest in apartments find it difficult to manage the property. An apartment can have several issues, including maintenance issues, repairs, etc. So, investors hire a third party or a property manager to manage the administration and maintenance of the apartment. While tenants collectively bear the monthly maintenance cost for the apartment, unexpected expenses can come up once in a while, and then it is the owner who has to pay up. Also, if you’re on a tight budget, the additional cost of hiring a property manager may discourage you from seeing it as a feasible option.
If you’re lucky, you’ll have clients who pay the rent on time, and are more than willing to follow the terms and conditions mentioned in the rental/lease agreement. However, almost every investor has had an experience with a difficult client in their careers. Add to it, the current economic condition, and you know what to expect! If the tenant fails to pay the rent for a particular month, it means additional expenditure from your end towards payment of mortgage. Also, eviction of the tenant can be troublesome in certain cases, when the tenant simply refuses to move out of your apartment. In such a scenario, the only option left before you is to take legal action against the tenant, and it can take some time for the court to pass a judgment.
A liquid investment is something that you can sell easily, whenever you’re in need of money, and an apartment is certainly not one. While this is a common drawback of investing in any form of property, it can be a major disadvantage when it comes to apartment investing, because it means that a large amount of your money remains ‘blocked’ for a long period of time. In times of emergency, such an investment can hardly be of any help. Thus, it is recommended that you always include some liquid investments in your portfolio, and not invest all of your money in real estate only.
The following section contains some helpful information regarding the necessary steps you would need to take, in order to attract and select an appropriate tenant for your property.
Ways to Find a Good Tenant
The first step of the process would be to start researching about the laws related to the process. It would be extremely beneficial to acquaint yourself with the basic rules and code of conduct. For example, it is against the law to refuse a prospect due to their sex, color, race, religion, nationality, and other factors covered under the Fair Housing Act. Each state has its own set of rights. A detailed information about the same can be accessed by visiting the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development site online. Make sure that you go through these guidelines before starting the process.
In order to attract the right tenants, you must also advertise your rental property in the right manner. The word of mouth is not enough, you need a planned and systematic approach. Start by cleaning or, if needed, renovating the property to make it look like a tenant’s dream. Use a quality camera (and not your cell phone) to click some high-definition pictures of the different sections of the property, with a description highlighting the plus points of the area. Post this information online on trustworthy websites such as, Rentals and rentalhomesplus, as suggested by the United Services Automobile Association (USAA). You will have to pay a nominal fees to post your advertisement on these sites, but they will save you from scammers who tend to haunt the free sites. You may also use print media, and publish your advertisement in the local newspaper or use fliers. Letting out the word on social networking websites such as Facebook and Twitter would also be worth the effort.
Rental Policy Sheet
It would be wise to prepare a rental policy sheet beforehand that clearly states the terms and conditions set by you for the tenants. For example, if you don’t want pets in the house, or have a minimum lease term, then it would be best to mention it before applicants get in touch with you. Also, it would be worth mentioning in the sheet regarding the renters’ insurance, which would be helpful in case of any property damage.
Rental Application Form
A good way to narrow down your search would be to use the rental application. It is a form that contains all the necessary details that you would need to determine if meeting the applicants would be worth your time; let’s agree to it, we all tend to use our first-impression based intuition to choose and not choose between options, don’t we?
This form requires the potential tenants to fill important information such as, previous addresses, income sources and figures, social security numbers, employer’s information, references that do not include family members, and so on. The templates for the same are available in plenty online. Just go through the templates, and print the ones that seem to be most appropriate for you. There is usually a non-refundable processing fee ranging from USD 20 to USD 40, depending upon your state. The applicant must be willing to pay it, even if their application is rejected in the future. The party unwilling to do so is not worth consideration.
This is the most essential step in the process. The only way you’ll be able to differentiate the suited prospects from the rest is through a thorough background check. You may either ask your real estate agent to do it for you, or get in touch with various organizations that provide these services at a certain cost. There are many online sources, such as Credit Investigators USA that will help you in the complete screening process. This will include checking for criminal records, bad credit history, previous addresses, employer’s information, verification of the current income, and so on. It is best to go for tenants with a stable job and income. Those who hop from one job to another are not the most reliable options for renting out your property. Don’t forget to speak with the previous landlord(s) to get a glimpse of what it would be like to be in their shoes.
After you have verified the authenticity of the information provided by the prospective applicants, it is time to meet the party and get the lease agreement signed. However, experts in this area suggest to take a deposit check from the shortlisted tenant beforehand, and wait for it to clear. Delay the signing of the agreement till that time. It is suggested to take an amount higher than the decided rent as the deposit amount, to avoid any sort of confusion for the tenants. Make sure that the lease agreement has all the details about the terms and conditions, payment details, eviction policies, and so on. Like the rental application and policy sheets, templates of lease agreements are easily available online.
As a property owner, your responsibility doesn’t end here. Remember, at the end of the day, we are dealing with humans with different mentalities and perceptions. While you have done your best to find out the most suitable tenant, it is strictly advisable to visit the property at regular intervals―probably to collect your monthly rent―to see how the space is being kept. This ‘somewhat-bothersome’ step could save you a lot of money, as there have been many instances wherein landlords have found out significant property damage over the months passed, and had to incur additional expenditure due to the same.