Tag Archives: Real Estate

Harsh Lessons In Modern Con Art

There have been a lot of articles about the fact that Seniors are often the subject of financial fraud, and it’s true.  But you don’t have to be old to get scammed.  Most of Bernie Madoff’s victims were rich, successful and relatively sophisticated.

Here is the story of financial writer, public speaker and financial thought leader, Mitch Anthony, who was scammed out of $1 million and whose mother lost her life savings.  It’s an object lesson.

As I sit down to write this article, I know it will likely be the most difficult composition of my writing career—difficult because it dredges up a miasma of regret, embarrassment, sadness and anger like nothing else I’ve experienced in life. I was conned out of almost a million dollars.

I will survive. But my mother was also conned—out of every penny she had. Her journey would prove much more difficult. The recollection of what I’m about to detail makes me feel stupid and gullible, like a sucker who should have known better. Then there’s the exasperation and indignation of watching someone skirt justice for one simple reason: There wasn’t ample time to hold him accountable for the fortunes he destroyed and the lives he crushed.

The federal statute of limitations on financial crimes is five years. Once you discover you have been defrauded, very likely two to three years have passed. Legal proceedings will chew up a year or two. By the time prosecutors decide there is merit in proceeding, the time has almost run out, and they will cease their efforts knowing they are up against the statute. This was our exact experience. By the time I brought the fraud to the attention of the FBI, they informed me that the perpetrator was already “on their radar”—but at this point, there wasn’t enough time left to do anything, and they couldn’t afford the time and resources to waste their efforts.

The man’s name is Wendell Corey, and he touted himself as a “developer.” Continue reading

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Buy a Paper Mill Heiress’s Greenwich Mansion for $5.5 Million

The seven-bedroom house sits on 10 acres.

 

Having recently inherited her mother’s house in the same community, Zelinsky is selling her old home for $5.495 million. The buyer of the 6,100-square-foot house (that measurement doesn’t include a partially finished basement) will benefit from Zelinsky’s family’s connection to the property and its surroundings.

 

Just in case you wanted to know what you could get if you had the money.  The grounds need some work.

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Should you own real estate?

Old house Stock Photo

We visit Nerdwallet from time to time to answer questions from readers looking for financial advice.  One recent question was from a single mom who’s buying a new house and is thinking of keeping her old house as a rental property.  She wanted to know if it was a good idea to sell most of her stocks and use the proceeds to buy the new house rather than selling the old one.

This question is not uncommon.  We have a number of clients who have invested in rental real estate.  The answer is not clear-cut and depends to a large extent on the individual.  Are you are a handyman and love to work on carpentry projects?  Or are you a single mom who’s disappointed with her stock market investments?

In the run-up to the Great Recession, lots of people got into real estate, flipping houses for a quick profit.   For many people that experience ended in grief when housing prices collapsed.  However, many people view real estate as an investment rather than a place to live.

So what are the issues involved?  Here’s part of my answer (edited):

You have to take taxes, liquidity and return on equity into consideration.  First, when you sell your stocks you will have to pay capital gains taxes on any profit.

The second issue is the fact that while stocks are liquid (easy to sell) a house is not liquid in case you have to sell to meet a financial emergency.

The third thing to consider is what the return will be on the equity on your rental property.  The rent you receive is not all profit.  From this you have to deduct taxes and maintenance.  Then there’s the problem of actually collecting your rent: some tenants won’t pay on time – or at all – and how do you evict them?  And when people move you will have to repair and paint to get it ready for the next tenant.   Unless you’re handy you may have to pay a company to manage the property for you, which reduces your income.  Finally the return on real estate has actually been lower than the return on stocks over long periods of time.

On the plus side, you can view free cash flow from rents as similar to dividends from stocks.  And there are tax benefits from deprecation on rental property.

The bottom line, there are benefits to owning commercial real estate, but there are also drawbacks. Once you make a commitment to owning rental property, there’s no easy way out.  People should think long and hard before plunging into this market.

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Living like the Earls of Downton Abbey

Want to live in grand country house in the English country side?

Some of these homes have been divided in apartments.  Here’s Apley Park.

 

 

Mr. Wentworth’s six-bedroom apartment, set over three south-facing floors, is one of 17 units on the property and located in the main building, called Library House.

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Buy an Irish Castle for $7 million

It’s fun every once in a while to think about what it would be like if money was no object.  For today’s thought experiment we went to Ireland and found a storied castle for sale.

It’s Glin Castle, 700 years old, which was the ancestral home to the FitzGerald clan.  Think of it as Downton Abbey set in Ireland.  Located in west County Limerick, it sits on 380 acres, 23 of which are “pleasure grounds”—the woodland walks and gardens, both landscaped and informal, that surround the building. It’s been upgraded and operated for a time as a luxury bed-and-breakfast.  The furnishings are extra.  See HERE for more views.

... of <b>Glin</b>, who gave me a private tour of her residence, <b>Glin Castle</b>

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Rent or Buy?

Should you rent or buy a house? That’s a question often asked by young couples, recent divorcees and people who are undergoing life changes. The main reason that people want to buy rather than rent is because they view renting as throwing money away. In addition, buying a home provides a feeling of stability.

However, there are downsides to buying. Buying a house locks you into a situation. If your life changes, you lose your job, or wish to move, selling a home can be difficult and expensive. Owning a home means that you have upkeep and maintenance costs. If you rent they are borne by the landlord. The cost of rent is often less than the costs associated with home ownership; mortgage payments, real estate taxes, insurance and all the other costs that a home owner faces.

Over the long term, home ownership has been a good investment for many families. But the last decade has clearly shown that the assumption that a home will always go up in value is not true. Just ask the people whose homes are on the market as “short sales.”

If you are an individual who is contemplating whether to rent or buy, keep these issues in mind. If you’re not sure, get the advice of a financial planner who can run the numbers for you and help you make the right decision.

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Homes for the Super-rich are Springing Up Like Mushrooms After Rain

exterior_53w53

“Private Wealth” reports that the newest condo for multimillionaires and billionaires – 53W53 – is almost ready to open its doors.  Located next to the Museum of Modern Art in Manhattan, prices start at $3 million but if you want a 6,643-square-foot duplex you’ll have to come up with more than $70 million.  For the engineers among us, the small condos go for about $2000 per square foot, the duplex for about $10,000 per square foot.

For that you’ll get access to a movie theater, private dining room and a temperature controlled wine vault.  Of course if you have that kind of money you will want your household staff nearby.  Residents can buy studio apartments on the 14th through 16th floors for their servants.

The project was stalled for years after the real estate bubble burst in 2008.  But the interval since then has created a whole host of people with extraordinary amounts of cash.  Billionaires don’t keep their money in cash.  The part that does not go into stocks and bonds goes into real estate, art, sports teams,  and “toys” like yachts and airplanes.  This explains, in part, the reasons that art auctions are reaching extraordinary heights and the very wealthy are buying properties which they may not ever live in.

The people buying these properties come from all corners of the world.  In many cases, they are seeking diversification, not just in the kind of assets they own, but also as a refuge in case they need to flee their home countries.  For some, a place in Manhattan may be just the ticket.

Image courtesy of 53w53.

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The lure and risks of “alternative investments.”

The financial world has been deluged marketing offers from investment firms offering “alternative investments.” “Alts” are non-traditional investments.  They include non-traded REITs, hedge funds and private equity.

The lure of “alts” is summarized in a quote from Financial IQ:

“The 2008 financial crisis scarred investors enough that they’re still seeking new ways to diversify out of stocks and bonds. Meanwhile, investors also are hungry for yield amid persistently low interest rates.”

The problem with “alts” is that they are not well understood.

Many are not liquid – in other words they cannot be sold at a moment’s notice.

In addition, most are not transparent – you can’t always tell what you own because the “alts” managers are secretive, unwilling to reveal their strategy in detail.

Third, the fees charged by “alts” managers are often much higher than those charged by traditional managers.

Many of the “alts” use derivatives which are difficult to understand and can lead to risks that are not obvious. An example are the “guaranteed” structured notes created prior to 2008. When Lehman Brothers collapsed it was revealed that the “guaranteed” notes issued by Lehman were backed by the claims paying ability of a bankrupt company.  People lost millions and learned a painful lesson.

Our philosophy is to invest our money in securities we understand. We always want to know: what’s the worst thing that can happen? If we don’t understand the risk, we don’t invest.  It’s a lesson learned over the years as we keep in mind the first rule of making money:  don’t lose it.

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Benchmarking Inverts the Basics of Investing

The problem with “benchmarking”  – that is measuring your investment performance against market indexes (known as “benchmarks”) – is that it often leads to buying into asset bubbles.

During the tech boom of the last 20th century, billions of dollars went into internet stocks whose values became wildly inflated.  People who participated in this as a way of reaching for high rates of return, found that no one rang a bell when the party was over.  Many lost their retirement savings and saw their 401(k)s devastated.

Certain stocks become wildly popular, industries become wildly popular and investing styles become wildly popular, all of which leads to wildly inflated values.  This almost inevitably leads to financial pain.

But this does not only happen in the stock market.  In the first decade of the 21st century, real estate seemed to be a way of making outsized profits.  Of course, when the housing bubble collapsed, many not only lost money, but their homes.

The focus of serious investors is to align your portfolio with your personal objectives.  The focus should be on long-term – multi-year – performance.  The only benchmark that should concern you is the one you set for yourself.

At Korving & Company we keep our clients grounded and work with them to meet their personal benchmarks.  Contact us to do the same for you.

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Buying a Retirement Home

After the children have gone the old home may be too big.  The yard may be too much to take care of.  What should retired people look for under these conditions?  If moving into Senior Housing is not on the immediate agenda, many people may decide to move to a smaller home or move closer to their children.  But there are pitfalls in this process.

A retired couple may not care about the school system serving their neighborhood, but it could be very important when the house goes on the market again and young couples don’t want to buy because the schools have a bad reputation.  Another consideration is the financial strength of the city or town they live in.

In Allentown, Pa., weak property values are starving the city of a primary source of cash. Springfield, Ill., has seen pension costs nearly triple in the past decade. Providence, R.I., raised taxes and fees and cut benefits to offset losses in state aid. Fresno, Calif., has so little available cash that officials worry one unforeseen event could reverse nascent improvements.

Living in a community that’s forced to cut back on police and fire protection may not be an attractive place to live.  People in Detroit have seen property values drop so low that they many can’t sell at any price.

When buying a home, whether it’s your first or your last, keep in mind what the next buyer will consider and buy with an eye toward resale.  You know that your home will go up for sale at some point and it could well be your single biggest investment. As we learned in 2008, real estate can go down as well as up in value.  When buying a home always consider what the next buyer will want.

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