BusinessWeek’s 10 Best Places To Own Property

Honolulu, HI

Honolulu, HI

BusinessWeek

comes out with a Top 10 list of best places to buy vs. rent.  This is their formulation in their words:

“To create a fair match-up between owning and renting, we calculated ownership costs assuming a fixed 30-year loan for 100% of the purchase price with no down payment. If they had instead decided to factor in a 20% down payment, owning would have been the cheaper option for the top 10 metros on our list.”

The problem I have with this list is that I don’t see the words “Honolulu”, “Newport Beach,” “Malibu”, “San Francisco”, or “Paradise”! Everywhere one wants to live is expensive, and everywhere one doesn’t really prefer to live is cheap. Things are cheap for a reason, and real estate is no different.

Think about prime real estate sitting a top a triangle. The triangle’s base always gets wider as demand continues to grow.  Meanwhile there’s only one prime location.  Is it no wonder why Realtors always talk about “location, location, location”?  You can also think of your sub-prime location as an inverted triangle ready to topple over.  Only a very few want to buy, and the supply is overwhelming.

During this real estate correction, you’ve seen expensive areas such as San Francisco correct 15-20% from the peak, however, drive out 1 hour east and places such as Antioch and Pittsburgh have gotten crushed by 40-60%.  If you’re an investor, focus on places where you’d actually see yourself willing to live in.  After all, if you wouldn’t want to live in your property, why would someone else?

A similar purchasing analogy can be made with cars.  You may think that someone buying a limited production Lamborghini Gallardo Spyder for $210,000 is foolish with his money.  But, after one year later, he’ll sell that Lambo for more, or at the least recoup more than if he had bought a brand new Ford Expedition for $48,000.  Obviously this example is extreme here, given most don’t have $200K to splurge on a car, but you get my point.

Things are cheap for a reason. Only if you have the financial means, and are already living in one of these 10 cities should you consider buying.  Otherwise, just focus on buying or renting in that tropical paradise in the best location possible.

Read more to see what paradise cities lie in BusinessWeek’s Top 10 list!

Note To Self: Buy More Rental Property!

If there’s one thing I know I will regret 15 years from now, it’s not buying property over the next 12 months.  Last Friday’s 7.6% YoY jump in existing home sales was a big shocker that helped propel the stock market to new highs.  What’s exciting though, is that the property markets have lagged, creating what I think is a golden opportunity to pick up some rentals for one’s retirement.

If you look around the world, from the UK to Hong Kong, property prices have rebounded double digits this year. Yet, the US is slowly but surely coming out of price declines largely because of still massive consumer debt overhang.  Volume growth generally always supersedes price growth.  Who knows exactly when the property market will bottom, but what we do know is how to calculate simple math to make proper purchasing decisions.

Go Broke To Win Big HELOC Edition – Maximize Your Home Equity

Some of you have asked me to write about property, a topic still dear to me despite the correction. First and foremost, I believe a property is not so much an investment but a lifestyle decision. When we choose to buy property, we’re choosing to plant roots in a neighborhood we love, and build our lives accordingly. Not to say you can’t do the same renting. When you have a large financial commitment to your abode, you tend to be less transient, all with a heightened sense of awareness that your home brings you great pleasure but also great financial responsibility.

When people get in the mindset of buying a property to flip, things can go seriously wrong due to the illiquid nature of the asset and the high transaction costs. Although the hurt in property has been broadcast everyday in every media outlet for the past year, less than 3% of the housing stock trades a year. In other words, the large majority of property owners shouldn’t be affected unless they just had to sell today. This is not a post about the merits of owning vs. renting, a topic which we can get into later.

Buying property is relatively straightforward. Your high tax bracket is killing you, you have at least 30% of the properties’ value in cash so that you can put 20% down and have a 10% buffer, you believe you’ll live in the place for 5-7 years, the rental yield compares favorably with the current gov’t 10 yr risk free rate, the place is nicer than anything available in the rental stock, and the location is good, so you buy. Let’s assume you own a piece of property, and you’ve got a nice big fat juicy Home Equity Line of Credit (HELOC). You’ve noticed the HELOC rate drop to an outrageously low interest rate equal to Prime, or 3.25%. What do you do with it?