So, you’ve finally decided to purchase a home. After years of contemplating if you should buy or rent, then saving, building your credit etc, it’s now time to dive in and get it.
Purchasing a home is exciting. After years of dreaming, you’re finally getting a place that you can call your own.
It’s really easy to get caught up in the excitement making you forget to ask one crucial question – how much “home” can you really afford?
…and, once you decide how much you can afford, you should stick to it. It’s all too easy to decide on a price, then find the home of your dreams is only $25,000 more. Then you start thinking, “we can make this work…” But, can you really?
According to statistics, the median monthly mortgage payment for homeowners in the U.S. is $1,030. That’s a lot of money.
While you may love the fabulous kitchen or huge backyard one house offers – if you can’t pay the mortgage every month or get the cash to fix what’s broken, your home’s never going to be a blessing.
The good news is, determining how much ‘house’ you can afford isn’t rocket science. You can use the four tips here and utilize online tools to help you figure things out.
Build a Solid Foundation
There are countless people who have gone broke by buying a house simply because they believe it’s the “grown-up” thing to do. However, life events such as having a baby or getting married aren’t reasons to buy a house.
The time will be right when the money is right. Before trying to figure out how much house you can afford, be sure you are financially ready to purchase a home.
To do this, ask yourself the following questions:
- Are you debt free and have an emergency fund of three to six months put back
- Do you have enough cash to cover moving expenses and closing costs?
- Can you afford a 15-year-fixed-rate mortgage?
- Can you make a 10 to 20 percent down payment?
- Do you have enough money to set aside each month into passive investments above and beyond your mortgage?
If you answered “no” to any of the questions above, it may not be the right time to purchase a home. Wait until you have a better financial foundation.
If you are currently financially stable, then move on to the next tip.
Maximize Your Down Payment
One of the biggest costs in a new mortgage is PMI or MIP. Both of these are different ways of saying that you need to pay an extra fee every month because you didn’t put enough down.
If you can get to 20% or more, then you won’t have to pay mortgage insurance for the lender. This can save you hundreds of dollars per month.
When buying a home, remember – the more money you can put down, the better. Higher down payments mean lower mortgage payments every month and the ability to pay your home off faster.
While the best option is to pay 100 percent of the home cost in cash, this isn’t viable for most. If this is the case, then try to put down at least 20 percent. By doing this, you can avoid paying for private mortgage insurance.
Calculate the Costs
All you need to do to figure out what you can afford when it comes to buying a home is to crunch a few numbers. If you need help with this, consider using a mortgage calculator with down payment, which will help you figure things out.
If you want to do things manually, consider the following:
- Add up all the income you bring in every month. If you bring home $2,000 per month, and your spouse makes $3,000, then your total monthly take-home pay is $5,000.
- Multiply your total monthly take-home pay by 25 percent to determine your maximum mortgage payment.If you are bringing home $5,000 per month, then it means that your mortgage payment should not be over $1,250 each month, including insurance and taxes.
Remember, your bank or lender will tell you that you can afford WAY more than that. In fact, some loans allow you to get to 40% or even 50% of your income going toward loans. While they may allow it, it isn’t financially smart to borrow every dollar you can afford.
Don’t Forget About Maintenance and Capital Expenditures
When comparing if you should rent or buy, most people look at the total rent, compare it to the mortgage, and say it’s better to buy a house.
What you are forgetting is that rent includes all the maintenance costs in a home whereas a mortgage does not.
As a general rule of thumb, it’s good to plan on spending around 1% – 2% of the total home value every year in maintenance and CapEx.
Major capital expenses are things like a roof or HVAC that last for several years. Even though you might have 10 years left on your roof, you should start saving for it now, along with the dozens of other major items that will not last forever.
So, if your home is $200,000, you should think about adding another $2,000-$4,000 per year in maintenance and capex. You definitely won’t be spending this much every year, but what you don’t spend now will be spent in a year or two when you have to replace a $12,000 roof, replace a garage door, etc.
If you have higher end appliances and fixtures, you should be more toward the 2% whereas standard grade homes can be closer to the 1% mark.
When you know your numbers, you will be able to shop for a mortgage and a home with confidence. Trying to determine what you can afford without considering the tips here may leave you with a home that’s going to cause you financial hardship in the future.
Remember, buying a home is not an investment, it is an emotional decision. Once you recognize that, you can begin to take it seriously and make decisions based on actual facts, rather than be driven entirely by your desires. If you base everything on the emotions involved with buying a home, you’ll dive right into a mortgage that you can’t really afford.
Vacation Rentals: How Profitable Are They?
In the past, vacation rental owners had to perform the necessary maintenance tasks and market the properties to find guests or pay someone in the locality to do so on their behalf.
Bookings were low and the cost of maintaining the vacation homes was high. Thankfully, the firms that manage vacation rentals are using new technologies to eliminate these issues and deliver a comprehensive service on a high level that the vacation rental industry has not seen.
Many travelers are avoiding staying in hotels in favor of vacation rentals.
Why Vacation Rentals?
Some of the benefits of vacation rentals include:
- Variety – Vacation rentals offer different decor, amenities and views among other things. Travelers select their own vacation rentals and preferences based on their budget and how they want to define their vacation such as close to the beach or a golf course among other locations.
- Additional space – Vacation rentals are more spacious than hotels and are therefore popular with people traveling with their families.
- Comforts of home – Vacation rentals provide the comforts of home and some of the things that a typical home does not have. There are multiple bedrooms, comfortable living rooms and adequate space to sprawl out. Vacation rentals are more comfortable than staying in the bedroom of another person like with Airbnb.
- Privacy – Vacation rentals have private entrances and private balconies. Therefore, patrons do not have to walk through the lobby after returning to their unit.
- Cost effective – Since vacation rentals are spacious, families often rent them together. This makes the homes more cost effective than hotels.
- Easy booking and check out – Technology such as online payment platforms enable guests to save time. They do not have to wait in line to check in or out.
Improving Vacation Rental Technology
Technology has played a huge part in making the short-term rental market grow. Online listing firms such as Airbnb make it easier for guests to book the home they want to stay in.
With this software, you can manage rental channels. These include HomeAway, Expedia, and Airbnb using one app or platform to reduce management time and increase profits. This means that you can manage your property without having to enlist the services of a professional management firm.
Are Vacation Rentals Really Profitable?
Investing in vacation rentals is an excellent way to earn passive income.
A survey done by HomeAway, which is a short-term rental marketplace, found something interesting. People who rent out second homes earn more than 33,000 dollars annually in rental revenue. On the other hand, at Airbnb, the average vacation rental owner collects yearly rental revenue of about 11,000 dollars.
Most of the vacation rental owners using the Airbnb platform don’t perform as well. They may only rent out only a single bedroom or rent out their homes irregularly. They do not treat their homes as true vacation rentals.
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Do the Math
It is not that straightforward to figure out the amount of money your vacation home can bring in. However, online tools can enable you to calculate the potential cash flow to your property.
You can use these tools to calculate the average daily rental rates, revenue, and occupancy rates. By using these projections, you can then subtract items such as interest, PITI, management fees and maintenance expenses. Then you’ll get a cash flow forecast.
Evaluate the Location
The other factor that will determine the amount you will earn as rental revenue is the location. If you buy a vacation home, which is close to a popular destination like a ski resort or beach community, then it is likely that it will bring in a higher rental income. An excellent location close to a major airport or a vacation spot that people visit year round will have the best impact.
Assess the Scene
Apart from the accessibility and popularity of a destination, you also need to consider the setting. For instance, it is more cost effective to invest in a vacation home located in the mountains compared to a beachfront vacation home. However, such a home is not likely to bring in as much income as a beachfront property can.
The peak season for vacation rentals lasts about 12 weeks.
The trick is trying to rent the vacation home during the off-peak periods or when you do not want to live in the house. Try your best to keep your vacation home occupied by advertising it on platforms like HomeAway and Airbnb. You can even seek advice on the best ways to keep a property occupied from a property management firm that manages vacation homes.
Set the Price Right
To maximize occupancy, you should price your vacation home well. You can price your propertyslightly lower than similar properties so that it will be occupied more frequently. Furthermore, you should keep an eye on events like festivals and conventions that occur close to the location of your vacation home. When the demand is high, take advantage of it and adjust your rental charges accordingly so that you will not miss out on revenue.
Vacation homes are unique in that they are both an investment and a lifestyle upgrade. While they perform equally as well as conventional rental properties, they offer the benefit of having a place to stay for your own vacations.
A vacation home can bring in a good return on investment if you can keep it rented out most of the year. If you hold the vacation rental for many years, then you will make a return, which is comparable to or greater than you would have made if you had invested in stocks.
What is Debt Service Coverage Ratio and Why it’s Important?
There are few numbers more important in commercial real estate than the debt service coverage ratio.
It’s one of the first things and one of the last things that any commercial lender or broker will talk about. It’s first and last because it’s simply that important!
A lot of people toss this term around without explaining it while others are using it without fully understanding it. It’s a lot more than just a simple formula and when you understand the debt coverage ratio, you’ll be able to control it to get maximum financing.
Let’s dive into it.
Why the DSCR is Important
Imagine finding a commercial property worth $400,000 and you need to put 25% down.
You think, “alright, I can afford that!” and move forward with the deal, expecting $300,000 in loan proceeds.
As you approach closing, your mortgage lender calls you to say “The maximum loan we can give you is $225,000 because the debt coverage ratio is too low.”
Now what do you do?
This is real and happens every day. To avoid a situation like this, you need to fully understand the debt service coverage ratio before you make offers.
The fact is that it’s regularly used by banks and loan officers to determine if a loan should be made and what the maximum loan should be. If you don’t have the extra money laying around, you won’t be able to close the deal and you’ll lose a lot of money.
Debt Service Coverage Ratio Defined
The debt coverage ratio is a simple ratio that tells a lender how much of your cash flow is use to cover the mortgage payment. It’s known as the debt service coverage ratio, debt coverage ratio, DSCR, or DCR.
Debt Service Coverage Ratio Calculation
In general, it’s calculated as:
Net Operating Income = Gross Income – Total Operating Costs
Debt Service = Principal + Interest
To calculate the debt coverage ratio of a property, first, you need to calculate the NOI. To do this, take the total income, subtract any vacancy, and also deduct all operating costs.
Remember, operating costs do not include debt service (principal and interest), or capital expenditures. Insurance and taxes are operating costs, so don’t forget to include them.
Next, take the Net Operating Income and divide it by the annual debt service, which is the sum of all principal and interest payments during the year.
To do this you must take the entity’s total income and deduct any vacancy amounts and all operating expenses. Then take the net operating income and divide it by the property’s annual debt service, which is the total amount of all interest and principal paid on all of the property’s loans throughout the year.
How The Debt Ratio is Used
A Debt Coverage Ratio below 1 means the property does not generate enough revenue to cover the debt service while a debt ratio over 1 means the property should, in theory, generate enough revenue to pay all debts.
It’s very common for lenders to require a 1.2 DSCR, give or take.
If your debt coverage ratio is too low, the only way to make it work out better is to reduce the loan balance. Your NOI is the same but now your principal an interest decreases, making the ratio go up.
And that’s how you can get your loan proceeds cut dramatically.
Debt Coverage Ratio Example
Let’s say there is a property that generates $10,000 in revenue, has total operating costs of $4,800, and yearly debt service of $4,000
NOI = $10,000 – $4,800 = $5,200
In this example, the debt coverage ratio is above 1.2, so this would be a good risk for the bank and they’d likely give the loan.
Let’s say that interest rates change and the bank gives a slightly higher rate, causing a new debt service of $4,500.
Notice how a small change can suddenly change everything!
The Bank Will Reduce Your Loan
In this situation, the bank probably won’t reject the loan. Instead, they will reduce the loan balance until the payment comes in line with their minimum DSCR requirements.
In this situation, the lender will simply reverse the formula and determine what the maximum debt service can be. We can plug in the variables we know to solve for the allowable debt service
1.2 = $5,200 / Max Debt Service
Max Debt Service = $5,200 / 1.2
So, the maximum debt service can be $4,333. Now they just need to figure out what loan balance that will be based on their interest rate and loan term.
…and you’ll be stuck trying to squeeze some quarters out of your couch to pay for the extra down payment.
How the Debt Ratio Affects Returns
In the example above I showed how a loan can be adjusted down before the lender will give the loan. This can significantly reduce your cash on cash returns.
Let’s say you are buying a property in the example above costs $100,000 and requires a down payment of $25,000.
Let’s also say that it generates $10,000 in cash each year and has an NOI of $5,200.
Originally the debt service was supposed to be $4,000 per year, leaving $1,200 in total cash flow.
Now, let’s calculate our cash on cash return. We know that it’s calculated as:
Cash on Cash Return = Total Cash Flow / Total Cash Invested
CoC = $1,200 / $25,000 = 4.8%
This means that for every $100 you invested, you get back $4.8 every year, cash in the bank. This is not to be confused with the overall return on investment.
But due to some fluke, the terms changed and now the debt service will increase. Let’s say that the interest rates increase so your $75,000 loan is at 4.5% now and your debt service goes up from $4,000 per year to roughly $4,560/year. You can see that the new debt service coverage ratio is well below the 1.2 minimum.
I’ll spare you the math, but when I punch it into a calculator I find that the maximum loan value is now roughly $71,000. This creates a yearly debt service of $4,320, bringing you back to 1.2
Comparing The Two Scenarios
Since you’re loan has gone down, you will need to invest an extra $4,000. You’ll also have a lower cash flow because of the higher debt service.
Cash Flow = $5,200 – $4,320 = 880.
Now let’s compare two scenarios. Imagine if you were still able to get 25% down, your cash on cash would look like:
CoC = $880 / $25,000 = 3.5%
Not very good, right? But, that’s because of the increased interest rates.
Now, let’s see how the change in the loan amount affects your return. Remember, your down payment is no longer $25k because it became $29k.
CoC = $880 / $29,000 = 3.03%
Never Neglect the Debt Coverage Ratio
You can see how important this simple ratio is to banks. It can change your returns, your down payment requirements, and it can even kill your deal.
How To Put That Extra Space In Your Property To Good Use
A lot of investment properties have something we call bonus space.
It’s space that isn’t quite a bedroom, maybe not really living space, but doesn’t have any one specific use.
So, how do you use this space to create value for your investment property?
Well, that depends…
Can It Become A Bedroom?
A bedroom is almost always going to be the highest value use of any bonus area, so let’s try that first. So, it’s time to look up your local health/building codes to determine the requirements for a bedroom.
The International Residential Code, which most states follow, has several requirements to be considered a bedroom. States and municipalities are free to add on top of this, and some areas don’t use the IRC as their code.
Most places have a square footage requirement and also require a window and a closet. But, different states/municipalities may have different requirements so look them up.
Note About Egresses
Basements and Attics are notoriously bad places to be during a fire. There may be requirements for additional egresses for any living space that is in these two areas. Make sure you know all of the requirements before trying to make a bedroom.
Once you know the requirements, you can determine if a simple project can convert this random bonus space can be used as a bedroom.
For example, if it just needs a larger window, simply hire someone to install it. If you need a closet, get one put in.
It becomes more challenging if you need another egress added to a basement though.