Real Estate Information Archive


Displaying blog entries 1-10 of 42

Guide to Successful Real Estate Bookkeeping

by Harold Powell

The goal of bookkeeping is to have an accurate record of all the money going in and out of your business. Also known as “doing the books,” bookkeeping is a vital task in your rental property business and something that is not optional, but required. There are several benefits to being organized in this way, such as freedom, legality, and profitability. When you know exactly how your business is doing at any given time, you are able to make better decisions and sleep more easily at night.

1. Keep things separate.

The first rule of bookkeeping for your real estate business is to make sure you keep your personal expenses 100 percent separate from your business expenses. Not only does this make the bookkeeping easier, but also from a legal standpoint it’s a bad idea to commingle personal and business funds, especially if you are using (or plan to use) an LLC or other legal entity. So set up a separate account for your real estate investments; this includes a separate bank account,

When itemizing the income and expenses, the best to categorize them in the same categories that the IRS lists on Schedule E, the form you’ll need to fill out each year at tax time. The expense categories that the IRS defines are:

  • Advertising
  • Auto and Travel Expenses
  • Cleaning and Maintenance
  • Commissions
  • Insurance
  • Legal and Other Professional Fees
  • Management Fees
  • Mortgage Interest Paid to Banks, etc.
  • Other Interest
  • Repairs
  • Supplies
  • Taxes
  • Utilities
  • Depreciation Expense or Depletion (we call this Capital Improvements)
  • Other

Therefore, we try to place every expense into one of these categories.

Of course, there is the “other” category if something just doesn’t seem to fit, but we seldom use this. It’s just easier to make it fit within one of the other listed categories.

Rental Property Numbers You Can Calculate on a Napkin

by Harold Powell

The numbers. In this industry, you must love the numbers. Love them like they are part of you.

What numbers do you run? Well, what should any investor care most about? Cash flow. What determines cash flow? Income and expenses. Simple. People make running numbers out to be so complicated sometimes it’s a no wonder more people aren’t involved in real estate. In fact, the numbers can be one of the easiest parts of shopping for a property. Unless you are a trained psychic on the crystal ball, then predicting appreciation may be easier for you than estimating cash flow.

1. Figure out the Monthly Income (Gross Income): This will either be rent the current tenants are paying, the asking rent (confirm this number is realistic), or if you have neither of those you can talk to a local property manager or realtor  who can give you a market rent value for the property.

2. Calculate the Monthly Expenses: These include property taxes, insurance, property management fee (if applicable), mortgage or financing (if applicable), homeowner’s association fee (HOA) (if applicable), vacancy and repairs. Don’t forget vacancy and repairs! They are a real part of any property investment and they can drastically affect the cash flow. Yet so many people don’t think to include them in the expenses.

  • Property Taxes– Look on Zillow or another online source for the most recent annual tax amount and divide by 12.
  • Insurance– Get a quote from an insurance provider.
  • Property Management Fee– Usually around 8-9% of the monthly rent.
  • Mortgage -Use an online mortgage calculator to calculate the monthly payment. Confirm with your lender what your down payment and interest on the loan will be to ensure you are using accurate numbers for your calculations.
  • HOA- Don’t skip out on finding out what the actual HOA is! The HOA can absolutely kill a property’s cash flow.
  • Vacancy– I conservatively estimate 5-10% of the monthly rent towards vacancy expenses. In situations where you have a rockstar property manager or your tenants are under a lease option, the actual % should be much less
  • Repairs– Again an estimate but should not be left out. Just like with vacancy, I err on the side of conservative. If a house is a turnkey property or recently rehabbed and gets a good report from the inspector, I use 5% of the monthly rent. If the property is not in top shape, conservative could mean closer to 25%.

3. Subtract the Monthly Expenses from the Monthly Rent (= Net Income): This is your monthly cash flow. Yay! Hopefully it’s positive. If it’s not positive, run.

4. Calculate the Returns: Two numbers I want to see on any property I evaluate are the Cap Rate and the Cash-on-Cash Return.

  • Cap Rate– This gives you an idea if you are buying the property at a good deal. It basically compares the return on investment (ROI) to the purchase price.

The Cap Rate equation:

Net Annual Income / Purchase Price = Cap Rate

NOTE: I don’t include the mortgage payment in this calculation.

  • Cash-on-Cash Return- This number is how much return you are getting on the money you invest. If you pay all cash for a property, this number will be the same as the Cap Rate. If you are financing, this number is the most accurate way to see the actual return you are getting on your cash-in and the leverage. Here is the equation, and remember to include the mortgage payment since this one is totally focused on financing:

Net Annual Income / Total Cash Invested = Cash-on-Cash Return

Understand the difference? One is a measure of how good of a deal you are getting on the purchase price and the other tells you the exact return on your money you are getting. They are the same for an all-cash buy but can be very different for a leveraged purchase.

If you compare the Cash-on-Cash Returns of an all-cash buy versus a financed buy. You may quickly see the benefit of leveraging! Way more bang for your buck! Try it out on a napkin sometime.

2018 Tax Revisions

by Harold Powell

RE/MAX Recap

by Harold Powell

Our office had an amazing 2016. One of the benefits of working with a company of highly successful agents is the amazing production. As an office that services the West County of Ventura we were just shy of 1 billion in sales volume. That’s a lot of real estate especially when you look at how we compared to other local offices. We look forward to another good year in 2017.

How Much House Can I Afford?

by Harold Powell

Purchasing a home is a huge investment and a big decision! One of the questions I get asked often is, “How much house do you think I can afford?”

Your buying power is generally based on:

• Income

• Current debt

• Credit score

• How much you have for a down payment

• What kind of property you’re interested in

• The area you’re looking in

That’s a lot of different factors! To get you on the road to figuring out how much you can really afford in Ventura County, here are some helpful tips and tools:

Set A Realistic Monthly Budget

The percentage can vary, but most experts agree that you should spend no more than 20-30% of your total monthly income on mortgage costs. That leaves you well balanced for other expenses such as a car payment, necessities, utilities, other debt, savings, and, don’t forget… maintaining the home when things need fixing!

To get an idea of how much you can afford, try our lender

affiliate  “Get Pre-Approved” tool.


Determine Your Down Payment

Generally speaking, the bigger the down payment, the more home you can afford. You’ll need to consider whether you’ve saved a chunk of money for the down payment or if you’ll use money from the sale of another home. Ideally, you will put down 20% of the cost of the home to avoid paying additional insurance premiums. But there are plenty of loan options out there that can help those with little down payment amounts too.

Figure Out the Maximum House Price For Your Budget

Now that you know the maximum monthly amount you can set aside for a mortgage and how much you have for a down payment, start crunching some numbers. By using our lender affiliate mortgage calculator, you can start getting an idea of the loan amount you can afford.

Hire the Pros

After getting an estimate of your buying power, it is time to start getting serious about finding a new home! You’ll need a strong team of real estate agent and loan officer for the buyer’s advantage. If you’re ready to get started, talk to one of our lenders for a free consultation.

I’ll be happy to crunch the numbers for you and work with you along the way to your new home.

The Bottom Line on 1031 Exchanges

by Harold Powell

Real estate exchanges are alive and well!

 Real estate investors have been holding steady over the past few years watching the values of their investment properties diminish with the hopes that prices would come back.  Well that time has come; with limited inventory and pent up buyer demand property values are on the rise. With increased values many investors are ready to exchange their properties for a multitude of reasons which include: consolidation, diversification, relocation, cash flow or leverage.  Below is a bottom line review of the basic requirements for successful tax deferral under Section 1031.

  • PURPOSE - Defer payment of capital gains taxes

  • PROPERTY THAT CAN BE EXCHANGED - Real property or personal property such as aircraft, vessels, equipment, or art

  • LIKE-KIND REQUIREMENT - Properties must be like-kind (e.g. real estate for real estate, aircraft for aircraft)

  • INVESTMENT REQUIREMENT - Properties must be held for investment or in connection with a trade or business but do not have to be similar use (e.g., exchange raw land for an apartment building)

  • EXCHANGE TRANSACTION - There are two parts to the transaction: “transfer” of relinquished property and “acquisition” of replacement property

  • FULLY DEFERRED EXCHANGE - Many criteria must be met in order to have a fully deferred exchange.  Generally:

    • Taxpayer must buy replacement property(ies) of greater or equal value

    • Taxpayer must reinvest all proceeds from the sale of the relinquished property(ies)

    • Taxpayer must re-acquire debt equal or greater to debt paid off from the relinquished property (or replace the debt with additional cash)

  • DEADLINES - There are two deadlines, both of which begin on the date of transfer of the first relinquished property:

    • Replacement property(ies) must be identified within 45 days  

    • The exchange must be completed by the earlier of:

      • 180 days from the date of the first relinquished property closing; or  

      • The due date of the taxpayer’s federal income tax return, together with all extensions

  • IDENTIFICATION RULES -  Replacement property must be unambiguously described, made in writing, and signed by the taxpayer.  The two most common identification rules are:

    • 3-Property Rule—up to three (3) properties can be identified without regard to their fair market value

    • 200% Rule—any number of properties can be identified, as long as their combined fair marketing value does not exceed 200% of the fair market value of all relinquished property 

  • SAME TAXPAYER REQUIREMENT - The Taxpayer must acquire title to the replacement property in the same manner as title was held in the relinquished property. There are some exceptions to this rule such as entities that are disregarded for tax purposes

Tax Free money

by Harold Powell

Since everyone loves tax free money, I thought I would share one of the few tax free options in real estate. The homeowner’s principal residence tax exemption is one of the few places in the IRS code that an owner can qualify for tax free sale. Understanding who and when you can qualify for the $250,000 or the $500,000 homeowners exemption is always a part of the selling process.

Helping to answer some of those real estate tax related questions is longtime CPA Don Pyne. Today’s video tackles the questions such as when and who qualifies for the tax exemption? How does the surviving spouse rule work? How long you can rent your property for before you would lose your exemption?


Are you ready for the Selling Season

by Harold Powell

Are you ready for the Selling Season

Since it’s that time of year when sellers are getting their home ready for the Spring market, a lot of clients ask me about what they need to do to get their home ready. To best answer this question it’s important to understand what things affect a  buyer’s decision on whether they want the home and how much to pay.  As a seller it can be money and time well spent that nets you a better price.

Also worth mentioning that over 90%+ of today’s buyers look online which means how your home looks online will have an affect of whether buyers will consider viewing your property.  Watch today’s video for preparing your home for  showings and online exposure.

NAR Generational study

The 2015 National Association of Realtors® Home Buyer and Seller Generational Trends study offers some interesting insights. Despite the economic and financial head winds young adults have faced since the recession, the millennial generation represented the largest share of recent buyers, according to the 2015 National Association of Realtors® Home Buyer and Seller Generational Trends study.

Interestingly, the survey discovered that a strong majority of buyers search for homes online and then buy their home through a real estate agent, with millennials using agents the most. For the second year in a row, NAR’s study found that the most sizable group of recent buyers were millennials, those 34 and younger, who comprised 32 percent of all buyers (31 percent in 2013).

Generation X, those age 35-49, were next with a 27 percent share. Millennial buyers represented more than twice the amount of younger boomers (ages 50-59) and older boomer (60-68) homebuyers at 31 percent. The Silent Generation (ages 69-89) made up 10 percent of buyers in the past year.

Here are a few takeaways from NAR's Generational Trends study:

  • Gen Y comprises the largest share of home buyers at 32 percent, which is larger than all Baby Boomers combined.
  • Gen Y also has the largest share of first-time buyers at 68 percent.
  • At least 80 percent of buyers who are aged 59 and younger bought a detached single- family home; it is increasingly common for buyers over 59 to purchase townhouses and condos.
  • Among all generations of home buyers, the first step in the home buying process is looking online for properties for sale. Younger generations of buyers typically find the home they purchase through the internet, while older generations of buyers first found the home they purchased through their real estate agent.


Sellers, you have an excellent opportunity to sell your home this season, if you have the right pricing strategy in place from the start! Studies show that the longer a property stays on the market, the less the seller will net upon the sale. It is very important to price your property at a competitive market value at the signing of your listing contract. The market is so competitive that even over-pricing by a few thousand dollars could mean that your house will not sell.

An Overpriced Home:
· Minimizes offers
· Decreases agents response
· Limits qualified buyers
· Decreases showings
· Decreases prospects
· Limits financing
· Nets less for the seller

When you are ready, contact us today for a personal market value analysis of your home. No hassles or obligation - just honest advice on how to get top dollar for your home!

Harold Powell - On Location What can we expect for 2015

by Harold Powell

Now the 2015 is well under way, many buyers and sellers are wondering what 2015 has in store.   With rates holding steady at this point we can take a look at some current trends such as the supply of homes coming on the market since the beginning of the year compared to last year.  In the meantime the demand for housing continues to remain strong.  Todays’ video update will look at a couple of today’s trends for the market.

Save $7000 on your Calif. tax via the Homeowner’s exemption

by Harold Powell

What is a homeowner’s exemption?  A homeowner’s exemption is just a property tax exemption.  The California state constitution provides for the exemption of up to $7,000 in assessed value from property tax assessment of any property owned and occupied as the owner’s principal place of residence.  This means that the exemption removes up to $70 from your annual property tax bill.  There’s no reason to forgo the benefit.

Watch today’s video to understand who qualifies for the tax exemption.  It’s important to note that the full exemption for the year is available if the form is filed by Feb 15th after that a date a percentage of the exemption is available for that year.

Displaying blog entries 1-10 of 42

Contact Information

Photo of Harold Powell Real Estate
Harold Powell
RE/MAX Gold Coast Realtors
5720 Ralston St. Ste. 100
Ventura CA 93003
(805) 339-3516