How To Get Your Exciting Real Estate License and What Does It Offer?

First to obtain your Real Estate license you will need to do a 63 hours pre licensing course. Many online educational sites offer this and can be done in the comfort of your home. If you are more of an In class person, your local community college might offer the course. When taken in actual class, the course may take 4 to 6 weeks due to their scheduling. Online classes you can do at your own pace. So if you want, you may do the entire course in one week.

Below are some requirements for the state of Florida to obtain your Real Estate License

General Requirements:

Must be 18 Years of age, have a high school diploma or GED to get your Real Estate License.

Educational Requirements:

Complete the 63 Hour pre licensing course and pass.

Exam and Application Requirements:

· Submit a completed real estate license application, submit your finger prints and pay any fees associated.

· Pass the Florida Real Estate Sales Associate state exam with at least a score of 75 points out of 100 points or pass the Florida Real Estate Law exam with a score of 30 points out of 40 points.

· Activate your license with a Real Estate Broker using the DBPR proper forms or may be activated online by your broker.

These are the basic steps needed to obtain your Real Estate license in Florida. How to get your Real Estate license sounds easy and to some extent, it is. However, the exam and amount of studying shall not be taken lightly. I would recommend searching online a bit more before you decide on a Real Estate license. If you want to make a career change, this is definitely a great one.

So How Do You Actually Start In Real Estate and What Does It Offer?

Firstly of course once you have obtained your License, activate it with a broker. This is where you have to decide what path you want in Real Estate. Different companies offer different options, splits, fees, training and so on. Let take for example:

Property Management: It is best to search for local property management companies. There are also national property management companies which you can join. Once you join them, through out your time in this field, you’ll gain knowledge and experience on all legal aspects of property management. There are a lot of them, from how to evict a tenant to how to post the notices on their door and within what time frames. Property management involves a lot of work and at the same time is rewarding. Many agents lean towards this field due to the steady stream of monthly income. Others don’t want to deal with the tenant headaches. Example, if you manage 150 units and average a 10% call rate, that would be 15 different issues to deal with during that month. These may be from A/C units not working, to plumbing issues; tenants locked out of their homes and need access, to tenants disturbing other neighbors. One the bright side that means 135 units won’t cause any issues. On average, the management companies charge around 10% of the monthly rent to owners (all Companies and State are different), in return, you as on agent might get a percentage of that. Since all companies offer different payments, let’s just average a monthly income for the company. Let’s say 150 Units rented for $1000 each monthly that would be 10% of $1000 which is $100 X 150 units ‘equals’ $15K monthly income. Now you see the steady income I mentioned above.

Luxury Real Estate: This also a very nice niche once you obtain your license. There are pros and cons as there is with Property Management. When speaking about Luxury Real Estate we are speaking about homes from 1M and up. The obvious benefit to this is the amount of money you earn on each transaction. Example, 1M sale at 3% commission gets you 30K income, now subtract your splits with your broker, let says 80/20 split, agent would receive $24k commission, do that 4 times a year and you are at 96K. Not bad at all for going to a pre licensing 65 hour course. Let’s point out the cons. It’s not as easy as it sounds or as seen on TV. This market is more of a referral based market. You can definitely do it without referral, but at some point, you need to have those buyers or sellers in your sphere. The cost to reach this price range is very costly upfront. We are talking about a marketing campaign in the range of 4k to 5k a month at least in advertising within those areas. After a few months of the campaign you might receive a few calls from sellers or buyers. There is a lot more to it than just mailing, it needs to be done the proper way. Thus a large investment is needed to start right of the bat in that price range.

Real Estate Agent: The two previous paths don’t appear to everyone, I would say 90% of agents go with the traditional Real Estate Agent path. This path in a sense leads to the two previous ones as well. As you are in the field, you’ll be learning from other agents, property managers and so on. Why so many agents go with the traditional Real Estate Agent is due to its training and perhaps quicker income earning. If you put in the work, you can earning income in as little as 30 days, while property management and Luxury Real Estate does take its time for the business to start coming in. The cons of this path is the amount of training, start up and hard work you will need to put upfront due to inexperience and mistakes you will make before have a steady and stable income (whatever stable means to you). Agents usually earn 3% of whatever the sale amount of the home is. Example, 200K home, commission would be 6K, let’s take the same split as before 80/20, agent receives $4,800 X 1 a month X 12, agent would earn $57,600 yearly. Not bad at all. Do keep in mind that some, the majority or most Real Estate companies do charge a transaction fee, desk if, yearly fee and so on.

All In all, the path when you obtain your Real Estate Licenses totally depends on you. Do note that whichever you decide on will require hard work, countless hours of training and possibly working Saturdays and Sundays. All of these have their pros and cons. There is a lot more to each of these then I described and you should research more shall you want a Real Estate Career.

5 Essential Features That Make Real Estate Investing Profitable

Every now and then persons trying to make up their minds where to put their money ask me if real estate ventures are more or less profitable, compared to other businesses opportunities around.

My response is always that apart from its potential for yielding significant profits, investing in real estate often confers long terms benefits.

I discuss five such advantages below:

1. You Can Refurbish (to Enhance the Value of) Real Estate
After you buy a stock, you hold it for a period of time and hopefully sell it for a profit. The success of the stock depends on company management and their corporate success, which is out of your control.

Unlike other conventional investment instruments, like stocks, for instance, whose rate of returns, depend on third parties (e.g. company management), real estate investments are directly under your control.

Even though you will not be able to control changes that may occur in demographic and economic aspects, or impact of nature induced changes, there are many other aspects that you can control, to boost the returns on your investment in it.

Examples include aspects relating to adding repairs, or improvements/enhancements to the physical property and tenants you allow to live in it.

If you do it right, the value of your investment will grow, resulting in increased wealth for you.

2. Real Estate Investing, When Done Right, is Proven to be Profitable Even During a Recession (like the one we’re in right now)
It has on several occasions, been used to effect a bail out, from financial setbacks, such as those that many have experienced during the economic downturn happening in Nigeria today.

A considerable number of clients have confided in me that due to the present economic situation, they are not sure of profitable channels to invest their money. Some of them are done with bonds and treasury bills, but are in dire need of a new investment.

We had extensive discussions, and based on my expertise as a real estate consultant, I recommended landed property investment, as the most suitable and secure alternative channel of investment.

This is because, even if all businesses crumble, land will always appreciate greatly. Then to drive my point home, I ended by sharing the following apt quote, by a former American president:

“Real estate can’t be lost, nor carried away, managed with reasonable care, it’s about the safest investment in the world” – Franklin Roosevelt.

Not surprisingly, the client chose to take my advice – and signed up: it was the obvious, common sense thing to do!

3. Real Estate Investments Are Immune to Inflation
In other words, investing your money in ownership of viable real estate can protect you from the harsh effects that inflation usually has on other conventional investments.

This is because the value of real estate generally tends to rise in positive correlation with inflationary pressures. This is why property values and rental rates go up with rising inflation.

The nature of real estate, therefore affords owners the unique advantage of being able to adjust the rates they offer, to match inflation.

Monthly rents for example can be raised to compensate for inflation – thus providing a cushion effect against inflation induced losses that other monetary investments suffer.

4. Real Estate is Uniquely for Being Universally Acceptable as Collateral, Towards Securing Funding from Banks
Today, real estate in form of either building or lands, with proper titles (i.e. Certificate of Occupancy – aka “C of O”) is the most recognized and accepted form of collateral in Nigeria – and some other parts of the world.

It has the unique feature of being able to protect the interests of both the borrower and the bank (that’s doing the lending), so that funds can be released i.e. after due verification, and terms and conditions are agreed.

This is one of the key advantages a private C of O has over the global C of O, because the former (i.e. private C of O) is what will be needed by the intending borrower, in the event of any future financial dealings with bank in Nigeria.

5. Real Estate Investing Allows Use of Other People’s Money
In other words, you can do it even if you do not have enough money. You just need to know how.

This is possible because real estate is physical property or what is called a hard asset. That is an attribute that makes it attractive to financiers i.e. people with money to invest.

This is why many times real estate products are bought with debt – unlike conventional investment products like stocks which are NOT tangible, and therefore perceived as being more risky to invest in.

So real estate investment can be done using cash or mortgage financing. In the latter case, payments can be so arranged to allow payment of low initial sums, provided by you or a willing third party.

Those payments will be happening on landed property which will continue increasing in value throughout the duration of such payments – and indeed beyond. That further inspires confidence in the minds of those financing the acquisition, that their investment is safe.

Little wonder that real estate investing has continued to prosper for so long!

[A WORD OF CAUTION] The listed benefits notwithstanding, I still tell prospective investors that due diligence is a crucial requirement for succeeding.

Whether you do everything yourself or use industry professionals like me, it is imperative that you exercise caution and arm yourself with relevant information and education.

This is something I advice my clients to do all the time, so they can make good decisions in investing.

The importance of the above cannot be overstated, especially in Lagos where quite a number of individuals, have had their fingers badly burnt, because they failed to take the needed precautions.

My purpose is to help clients avoid having such horrible experiences, by bringing my years of experience in this field to bear in serving them.

The Top 5 Key Benefits of Purchasing and Owning Investment Real Estate

So… You may ask yourself, why should you buy or invest in real estate in the First Place? Because it’s the IDEAL investment! Let’s take a moment to address the reasons why people should have investment real estate in the first place. The easiest answer is a well-known acronym that addresses the key benefits for all investment real estate. Put simply, Investment Real Estate is an IDEAL investment. The IDEAL stands for:

• I – Income
• D – Depreciation
• E – Expenses
• A – Appreciation
• L – Leverage

Real estate is the IDEAL investment compared to all others. I’ll explain each benefit in depth.

The “I” in IDEAL stands for Income. (a.k.a. positive cash flow) Does it even generate income? Your investment property should be generating income from rents received each month. Of course, there will be months where you may experience a vacancy, but for the most part your investment will be producing an income. Be careful because many times beginning investors exaggerate their assumptions and don’t take into account all potential costs. The investor should know going into the purchase that the property will COST money each month (otherwise known as negative cash flow). This scenario, although not ideal, may be OK, only in specific instances that we will discuss later. It boils down to the risk tolerance and ability for the owner to fund and pay for a negative producing asset. In the boom years of real estate, prices were sky high and the rents didn’t increase proportionately with many residential real estate investment properties. Many naïve investors purchased properties with the assumption that the appreciation in prices would more than compensate for the fact that the high balance mortgage would be a significant negative impact on the funds each month. Be aware of this and do your best to forecast a positive cash flow scenario, so that you can actually realize the INCOME part of the IDEAL equation.

Often times, it may require a higher down payment (therefore lesser amount being mortgaged) so that your cash flow is acceptable each month. Ideally, you eventually pay off the mortgage so there is no question that cash flow will be coming in each month, and substantially so. This ought to be a vital component to one’s retirement plan. Do this a few times and you won’t have to worry about money later on down the road, which is the main goal as well as the reward for taking the risk in purchasing investment property in the first place.

The “D” in IDEAL Stands for Depreciation. With investment real estate, you are able to utilize its depreciation for your own tax benefit. What is depreciation anyway? It’s a non-cost accounting method to take into account the overall financial burden incurred through real estate investment. Look at this another way, when you buy a brand new car, the minute you drive off the lot, that car has depreciated in value. When it comes to your investment real estate property, the IRS allows you to deduct this amount yearly against your taxes. Please note: I am not a tax professional, so this is not meant to be a lesson in taxation policy or to be construed as tax advice.

With that said, the depreciation of a real estate investment property is determined by the overall value of the structure of the property and the length of time (recovery period based on the property type-either residential or commercial). If you have ever gotten a property tax bill, they usually break your property’s assessed value into two categories: one for the value of the land, and the other for the value of the structure. Both of these values added up equals your total “basis” for property taxation. When it comes to depreciation, you can deduct against your taxes on the original base value of the structure only; the IRS doesn’t allow you to depreciate land value (because land is typically only APPRECIATING). Just like your new car driving off the lot, it’s the structure on the property that is getting less and less valuable every year as its effective age gets older and older. And you can use this to your tax advantage.

The best example of the benefit regarding this concept is through depreciation, you can actually turn a property that creates a positive cash flow into one that shows a loss (on paper) when dealing with taxes and the IRS. And by doing so, that (paper) loss is deductible against your income for tax purposes. Therefore, it’s a great benefit for people that are specifically looking for a “tax-shelter” of sorts for their real estate investments.

For example, and without getting too technical, assume that you are able to depreciate $15,000 a year from a $500,000 residential investment property that you own. Let’s say that you are cash-flowing $1,000 a month (meaning that after all expenses, you are net-positive $1000 each month), so you have $12,000 total annual income for the year from this property’s rental income. Although you took in $12,000, you can show through your accountancy with the depreciation of the investment real estate that you actually lost $3,000 on paper, which is used against any income taxes that you may owe. From the standpoint of IRS, this property realized a loss of $3,000 after the “expense” of the $15,000 depreciation amount was taken into account. Not only are there no taxes due on that rental income, you can utilize the paper loss of $3,000 against your other regular taxable income from your day-job. Investment property at higher price points will have proportionally higher tax-shelter qualities. Investors use this to their benefit in being able to deduct as much against their taxable amount owed each year through the benefit of depreciation with their underlying real estate investment.

Although this is a vastly important benefit to owning investment real estate, the subject is not well understood. Because depreciation is a somewhat complicated tax subject, the above explanation was meant to be cursory in nature. When it comes to issues involving taxes and depreciation, make sure you have a tax professional that can advise you appropriately so you know where you stand.

The “E” in IDEAL is for Expenses – Generally, all expenses incurred relating to the property are deductible when it comes to your investment property. The cost for utilities, the cost for insurance, the mortgage, and the interest and property taxes you pay. If you use a property manager or if you’re repairing or improving the property itself, all of this is deductible. Real estate investment comes with a lot of expenses, duties, and responsibilities to ensure the investment property itself performs to its highest capability. Because of this, contemporary tax law generally allows that all of these related expenses are deductible to the benefit of the investment real estate landowner. If you were to ever take a loss, or purposefully took a loss on a business investment or investment property, that loss (expense) can carry over for multiple years against your income taxes. For some people, this is an aggressive and technical strategy. Yet it’s another potential benefit of investment real estate.

The “A” in IDEAL is for Appreciation – Appreciation means the growth of value of the underlying investment. It’s one of the main reasons that we invest in the first place, and it’s a powerful way to grow your net worth. Many homes in the city of San Francisco are several million dollars in today’s market, but back in the 1960s, the same property was worth about the cost of the car you are currently driving (probably even less!). Throughout the years, the area became more popular and the demand that ensued caused the real estate prices in the city to grow exponentially compared to where they were a few decades ago. People that were lucky enough to recognize this, or who were just in the right place at the right time and continued to live in their home have realized an investment return in the 1000’s of percent. Now that’s what appreciation is all about. What other investment can make you this kind of return without drastically increased risk? The best part about investment real estate is that someone is paying you to live in your property, paying off your mortgage, and creating an income (positive cash flow) to you each month along the way throughout your course of ownership.

The “L” in IDEAL stands for Leverage – A lot of people refer to this as “OPM” (other people’s money). This is when you are using a small amount of your money to control a much more expensive asset. You are essentially leveraging your down payment and gaining control of an asset that you would normally not be able to purchase without the loan itself. Leverage is much more acceptable in the real estate world and inherently less risky than leverage in the stock world (where this is done through means of options or buying “on Margin”). Leverage is common in real estate. Otherwise, people would only buy property when they had 100% of the cash to do so. Over a third of all purchase transactions are all-cash transactions as our recovery continues. Still, about 2/3 of all purchases are done with some level of financing, so the majority of buyers in the market enjoy the power that leverage can offer when it comes to investment real estate.

For example, if a real estate investor was to buy a house that costs $100,000 with 10% down payment, they are leveraging the remaining 90% through the use of the associated mortgage. Let’s say the local market improves by 20% over the next year, and therefore the actual property is now worth $120,000. When it comes to leverage, from the standpoint of this property, its value increased by 20%. But compared to the investor’s actual down payment (the “skin in the game”) of $10,000- this increase in property value of 20% really means the investor doubled their return on the investment actually made-also known as the “cash on cash” return. In this case, that is 200%-because the $10,000 is now responsible and entitled to a $20,000 increase in overall value and the overall potential profit.

Although leverage is considered a benefit, like everything else, there can always be too much of a good thing. In 2007, when the real estate market took a turn for the worst, many investors were over-leveraged and fared the worst. They could not weather the storm of a correcting economy. Exercising caution with every investment made will help to ensure that you can purchase, retain, pay-off debt, and grow your wealth from the investment decisions made as opposed to being at the mercy and whim of the overall market fluctuations. Surely there will be future booms and busts as the past would dictate as we continue to move forward. More planning and preparing while building net worth will help prevent getting bruised and battered by the side effects of whatever market we find ourselves in.

Many people think that investment real estate is only about cash flow and appreciation, but it’s so much more than that. As mentioned above, you can realize several benefits through each real estate investment property you purchase. The challenge is to maximize the benefits through every investment.

Furthermore, the IDEAL acronym is not just a reminder of the benefits of investment real estate; it’s also here to serve as a guide for every investment property you will consider purchasing in the future. Any property you purchase should conform to all of the letters that represent the IDEAL acronym. The underlying property should have a good reason for not fitting all the guidelines. And in almost every case, if there is an investment you are considering that doesn’t hit all the guidelines, by most accounts you should probably PASS on it!

Take for example a story of my own, regarding a property that I purchased early on in my real estate career. To this day, it’s the biggest investment mistake that I’ve made, and it’s precisely because I didn’t follow the IDEAL guidelines that you are reading and learning about now. I was naïve and my experience was not yet fully developed. The property I purchased was a vacant lot in a gated community development. The property already had an HOA (a monthly maintenance fee) because of the nice amenity facilities that were built for it, and in anticipation of would-be-built homes. There were high expectations for the future appreciation potential-but then the market turned for the worse as we headed into the great recession that lasted from 2007-2012. Can you see what parts of the IDEAL guidelines I missed on completely?

Let’s start with “I”. The vacant lot made no income! Sometimes this can be acceptable, if the deal is something that cannot be missed. But for the most part this deal was nothing special. In all honesty, I’ve considered selling the trees that are currently on the vacant lot to the local wood mill for some actual income, or putting up a camping spot ad on the local Craigslist; but unfortunately the lumber isn’t worth enough and there are better spots to camp! My expectations and desire for price appreciation blocked the rational and logical questions that needed to be asked. So, when it came to the income aspect of the IDEAL guidelines for a real estate investment, I paid no attention to it. And I paid the price for my hubris. Furthermore, this investment failed to realize the benefit of depreciation as you cannot depreciate land! So, we are zero for two so far, with the IDEAL guideline to real estate investing. All I can do is hope the land appreciates to a point where it can be sold one day. Let’s call it an expensive learning lesson. You too will have these “learning lessons”; just try to have as few of them as possible and you will be better off.

Investing In Real Estate Investors

With the never-ending changes in our Real Estate Markets real estate professionals are starting to pay attention to the sound of new commission streams of income. Some realtors have either shied away or ran-away from such terms as “Cap Rate,” & “Cash-on-Cash Returns.” Terms that only the ‘smart’ and ‘numbers-oriented people use to determine if a Real Estate purchase is a “Good Deal”, or not. A majority of the realtor brethren attended real estate school because they are excited and passionate about the promise of selling real estate and making a fantastic living. That being said “Times are a Changing.” Even if you live in a Hot Market where residential real estate sells in 2-3 days there is an old approach to real estate that is growing faster by the day…..Residential Real Estate Investors.

This deft group of real estate investors is taking real estate and the real estate investment world into a new era! No longer accepting the crazy volatility of the Dow Jones and NASDAQ families. Unwilling to accept the investment practices of their fore-fathers these Investors throw caution to the wind for returns above the traditional 5-6% in their Roth or IRA accounts. These Investors are bold and oftentimes aggressive. Today’s Real Estate Investors are all about the fast fix-n-flip, high appreciation, and rock solid monthly cash-flows. Cutting their teeth on investment in their own home-towns is only the beginning as the Serious Investors turn to points outside their own back-yards to other regions that demonstrate greater promise and higher returns. You may say well how does this older adult view their investment opportunities? For starters the age of these stealth hunters ranges from 28 to 68. From “Rich Dad-Poor Dad” book series to Trumps magical presence on “The Apprentice,” the young real estate entrepreneurs are making their dreams happen to the tune of 3-5 acquisitions a year! Got your attention now? The typical Investor has good to great credit scores. Excellent cash reserves or hidden resources of partners with cash, and a willingness to make the deal happen at nearly any cost. The best kept secret of all is that these investing beasts travel in packs. Where you see one another is very close behind. In other words they know the people that you need to know to grow your investor database even larger. If the real estate professional does a good job the happy clients are likely to refer many of their fellow-investors. Not just investor clients but their regular every-day real estate business. Face it, if you can demonstrate to your clients how adept you are with their largest personal purchase of real estate, then wouldn’t you suppose they will be over their “trusted real estate advisors” opinion on buying a basic home, condo or beach house?

So what if you haven’t been focused in the real estate investment sector. And you are thinking this all sounds pretty good, let’s give it a try. First question to ask yourself is who have your clients been working with or exploring their options of real estate investing with over the past 3-4 months. Statistically 6 out of 10 clients have considered investing in real estate or have already begun doing so before their realtor even has a chance to blink an eye. Got your attention now? How about the fact that in less than one year I increased my annual commissions by 30% by just positioning myself within my primary data-base of clients. All I did was let them know that I was ready, willing and able to begin assisting them with their “Investment Realty” needs. What I learned during the first year was that if I could create an environment for my clients to learn more about real estate investing that they would thank me in a variety of ways….Most importantly they would call me before writing a contract and would make sure that I was involved in every contract that wanted to make a real estate purchase. Before long 30% went up to 45% and further. Even if you aren’t interested in expanding your client database, at least consider protecting the turf you have for so long spent tireless amounts of time and financial resources to maintain their allegiance. On the other hand if you are looking at your real estate career and are wondering how to reposition yourself for market growth certainly to go well into 2025, here are a few known facts about how real estate investors can improve your business.

1. Real Estate Investors are literally everywhere. Successfully tapping into your current database could increase your annual commissions by 20-30%.

2. Real Estate Investors will be loyal to the professional that helps fill the gap of their investment education. Workshops, mentoring groups, finding the “golden deals” in your market makes a huge impact!

3. Investing in Real Estate Investors doesn’t have to mean that you lose your “typical” residential realtor position. Being a real estate investment specialist means you are smarter than the average realtor in the market.

4. Mortgage professionals are struggling to provide real estate investors with property deals, so when you can place an investor into a good deal the referrals will begin to flow even more.

5. Real Estate Investors tend to be more conscientious about your personal time away. Investors also like to shop Monday-Friday for their deals before the “Weekend Warrior” investors get out into the competition. This translates into more normal hours and days of operation for you and your business.

6. Real Estate Investors buy-sell cycles are shorter than primary home purchasers resulting in more transactions in shorter time-frames.

If any of these points are encouraging you to seek new options in your business then make sure to sign up for the monthly “Grow your Real Estate Investment business” e-mail newsletter from http://www.InvestorLoft.com additionally, other excellent tools to improve and expand your real estate business can be explored at the InvestorLoft’s educational Shoppe.

By John E. Roush, Broker-Owner Atrium Real Estate Investments. John is a full-time real estate agent specializing in real estate investment and real estate investment education. To contact John send all correspondence to [email protected]

Reinventing Real Estate, Part 2: Online and Empowered Consumers Are Taking Charge and Paying Less

Demanding consumers

“Internet buyers tend to be better informed on market conditions and better prepared to act on the home they want when they start working with a realtor. Luckily for realtors, these changes don’t necessarily hurt, as long as they are able to adjust to the new relationship and realize that the new-style buyers value speed and efficiency over guidance when finding a home.”

– E-marketer, Internet Home Buyers Changing the House Rules

Thanks to the Internet and other technological innovations, more real estate information is freely available than ever before. As a result, consumers are demanding new choices, improved services, faster transactions and lower prices. According to a recent NAR survey, the number of sellers stating that they didn’t want to pay a sales commission fee rose from 46 percent in 2003 to 61 percent in 2004. In 2004, 23 percent of Florida home sellers opted to sell independently without an agent, up from 14 percent in 2003 and nearly double the 14 percent national average, according to Planet Realtor.

And Web-enabled consumers are demanding a high digital IQ when working with real estate professionals. In addition to being well-versed on their own industry-specific technology, real estate professionals now are expected to utilize laptops, mobile phones, digital cameras, personal digital assistants and global positioning systems to keep pace with Internet buyers and sellers.

Downward pressure

“If consumers are going to do their own home-shopping online, they expect to save some money, just as they would for using the self-service lane. That’s why they are susceptible to online discount brokers and the new affinity companies that are promoting lower commissions if only the consumers will use their agents. These business models promote the idea to consumers that they ought to be paying less money in commissions.”

Realty Times Columnist Blanche Evans

Traditional real estate commissions, typically around six percent of a home’s selling price, are facing downward pressure from consumers and competition. Some consumers claim traditional real estate commissions don’t reflect:

– Today’s home prices. Years ago, when median-priced homes sold for $25,000, real estate commissions were typically five percent, or $1,250. Today, with South Florida median home prices around $300,000, the cost of a six percent full-service real estate commission becomes $18,000. Some brokers even charge additional fees to cover administrative costs. When you consider that today’s average homeowner sells a home every five to seven years, real estate commissions can dramatically impact your personal savings and net worth.

– Owner equity. When selling properties, most homeowners calculate the cost of selling as a portion of sales price, though the commissions are paid out of owner equity. (Equity is the difference between the value of your property and amount of mortgages owed.) Consider this example: You decide to sell a property for $250,000 in which you hold 10 percent equity, or $25,000. After paying a six percent commission of $15,000, you are left with $10,000 before any applicable closing costs. In this example, the $15,000 commission is six percent of the selling price, but 60 percent of the $25,000 equity.

– Services performed. Under today’s commission structure, selling a $100,000 house at six percent typically costs $6,000, while selling a $500,000 house costs $30,000. Does selling the more expensive home really require five times more effort? Your cost is the same whether the agent spends one hour or 100 hours marketing your home. This is one reason many real estate consumers find fee-for-service real estate so appealing.
Developing alternatives

“Consumers want what they want, when they want it and will gravitate to the most cost-effective source to obtain it. Why? Because our “one-size-fits-all” approach to working with sellers and buyers is archaic and won’t allow consumers to access various segments of help they need in a timely fashion. That’s why .com Web start-ups are finding a receptive audience in real estate consumers and why for-sale-by-owners are burgeoning.”

Julie Garton-Good, Author of “Real Estate a la Carte: Selecting the Services You Need, Paying What They’re Worth”

Until recently, you have had few practical alternatives to the traditional full-service, full-commission real estate transaction with a broker. Most sellers paid a single commission fee for a full range of real estate services, whether they needed them or not. Now traditional real estate agencies face the challenge of identifying new services that have value to today’s sophisticated online and empowered consumers.

One result is an “unbundling” of traditional one-size-fits-all real estate services for consumers who want more control over real estate transactions and their associated costs. If you’re willing to take on some tasks traditionally performed by agents and brokers, you could receive lower transaction costs. You might benefit from the following emerging alternatives:

Fee-for-services

“Consumers want assistance from real estate professionals, but don’t want to pay for it in the form of traditional commissions,” says a la Carte real estate Pioneer Julie Garton-Good. Garton-Good has been preaching the fee-for-services gospel for more than 20 years. As the name implies, you can choose which tasks you feel comfortable performing and hire qualified real estate professionals to do the rest. Many traditional real estate brokerages are beginning to offer a more menu-based service plan. For example, you may not mind listing your home and holding open houses, but you may want assistance with contracts and closings.

One-stop shopping

In response to dwindling margins and the rising costs of technology and lead generation, some real estate companies are attempting to combine traditional and Web-based services to provide consumers a single source for all their real estate needs. One-stop shopping sites generally provide or partner with lenders, insurers, title companies, real estate attorneys and others to facilitate all aspects of buying and selling. In addition, some sites are adding home-improvement and related services to stay in touch with consumers between buying and selling transactions.

Web-based discounters

Although many Web-based real estate companies flamed out in the dotcom era, scores of new companies have emerged to take their place. By offering targeted services such as flat-fee MLS listings, buyer rebates and AVM tools, these sites are appealing to independent buyers and sellers who prefer to take a more active role in transactions. In addition to listings, some sites also offer how-to articles and advice for those who choose to go it alone.
Tradition + technology + turbulence = opportunities

So, given the trends, changes and ongoing industry evolution, what can independent buyers, sellers and investors expect in this new era of real estate?

o The Web and other technologies will continue to evolve and transform the $1.3 trillion real-estate industry. Technology will continue to reduce the time, expense and complexity of manual processes, and increasingly sophisticated search and valuation tools will play a more strategic role.

o Free and low-cost real estate resources will continue to be available and even multiply on the Web. In real estate, knowledge truly is power. Consumers will try to use their power to gain more control of the real estate process and subsequently expect to be compensated in the form of reduced and fee-for-service commissions.

o The role of traditional real estate brokerages will evolve as Web-enabled consumers become more knowledgeable. This likely will trigger some restructuring and consolidation of traditional brokerages, but will also drive the development of innovative new practices targeting online and empowered consumers. Real estate professionals will focus more on promoting their local knowledge and industry expertise, while consumers will perform some buying and selling tasks on their own.

o Traditional real estate commissions and profitability levels will continue to face downward pressure from various sources. The future will be profitable for brokerages that are able to extend their core expertise of neighborhood and industry knowledge into flexible new consumer-centric offerings.

o The traditional high-touch, full-service real estate agency is evolving, not disappearing. Real estate professionals who provide exceptional service and value to their customers will always be in demand.

You now can find more real estate knowledge, tools and resources on the Web than ever before, enabling you to buy and sell with increased confidence. For real estate professionals, reinventing the industry means making hard decisions, changing processes and managing new opportunities. But for consumers, reinvention in real estate is a winner, hands-down.

Reinventing Real Estate, Part 1: Online and Empowered Consumers Are Taking Charge and Paying Less

For decades, the real estate world turned in a predictable manner. The roles of buyers, sellers and real estate professionals were fairly well defined and transactions followed a predictable path of yard signs, newspaper ads, open houses and miles of paperwork.

Recently, online and empowered consumers have changed the game. Real estate professionals now face issues similar to the ones that have transformed the retail, personal finance and travel planning industries. As technology advances and new business models evolve, the real estate industry has begun to transform itself from providing traditional, carefully controlled “agent-centric” transactions to new “consumer-centric” practices. The following is a look at some of the recent industry trends and how buyers, sellers and investors can expect to benefit. The “Five Ds” that are driving change in real estate are:

1. Disruption – Over the past 10 years, the Internet has matured into a powerful platform for delivering real estate information, forever changing the interaction between buyers, sellers and real estate professionals.

2. Displacement – The popularity and acceptance of self-service and consumer-direct business models is being felt by real estate professionals, who are striving to develop attractive new offerings for Web-savvy consumers.

3. Demanding consumers – You now have more real estate knowledge, tools and resources at your fingertips than ever before. More savvy consumers tend to be more independent and demanding.

4. Downward pressure – Traditional real estate commissions of 5-6 percent of a property’s sales price are facing downward pressure.

5. Developing alternatives – The real estate industry is transforming itself to provide targeted services and exciting new options that add value for consumers.
Disruption

“We are going to see our industry go through dramatic transformation via the Internet and consolidation of agents and companies.” – eRealty Times Columnist Dirk Zeller

Some industry observers have adopted Harvard Business School professor Clayton Christensen’s term “disruptive technology” to explain recent developments in real estate. Though it’s easy to point to the World Wide Web and advancing technology as the main changes in real estate, that’s only part of what’s shaking things up. Essentially, the real cause of disruption is not just technology, but technology-enabled real estate consumers.

Web-enabled consumers

According to the National Association of Realtors (NAR), more than 72 percent of homebuyers now begin their home search online. The popularity of online real estate ads surpassed newspaper property listings back in 2001, and the gap is widening. Less than one percent of buyers first learned about the home they purchased on the Internet in 1995, while in 2004, that number passed 20 percent.

According to a California Association of Realtors (CAR) survey, 97 percent of respondents said the Web helped them understand the buying process better and 100 percent said using the Web helped them understand home values better. Web-enabled homebuyers like you are taking a more active role in researching homes and neighborhoods. You also now spend less time with real estate professionals once you have completed your research. Internet homebuyers also used the Web effectively to filter out properties that did not interest them, visiting 6.1 homes on average versus 15.4 for traditional buyers.

Today, you can view photos and detailed information for hundreds of properties in the time it used to take to visit a single one. And the Web provides much more opportunity than simply moving print listings online. The growing availability of residential high-speed Internet connections has boosted the popularity of virtual tours and interactive maps, providing consumers with powerful and flexible visual search tools.

In addition to making home searches easier, automated valuation model (AVM) software is making a big impact in how properties are evaluated. AVMs, which generate valuation estimates by analyzing and comparing property information data, are becoming increasingly sophisticated and accurate. While not considered a substitute for human appraisals, AVMs are gaining popularity because they are inexpensive, easy to use and produce valuation estimates in minutes. Now AVMs, used extensively in electronic mortgage approval processing during the recent refinancing boom, are becoming available on real-estate Websites aimed at consumers. This is a significant development for independent sellers, who often find it challenging to price their properties correctly when selling on their own.

The MLS goes public

“In real estate, MLS data sits at the apex of the change, specifically the MLS information that is pushed to the Internet every minute of the day.” – Bradley Inman, Publisher of Inman News

Once an exclusive tool for real estate professionals, the multiple listing service (MLS) has in recent years become a very public platform for real estate listings. The MLS is the nation’s most comprehensive database of properties for sale – four out of five homes sold in the United States are listed on the MLS.
MLS properties are available to agents and brokers worldwide, and are now accessible via consumer Web sites such as Realtor.com, WSJ.com, Excite, Netscape, AOL and MSN. MLS listings also appear on local, regional and national brokerage Websites through Internet Data Exchange (IDX) agreements that allow participating Realtors to share listings and display them to consumers. Even though only licensed realtors can list property on the MLS, the system has begun to figure prominently for the $110 billion independent seller (for-sale-by-owner or FSBO) market. About 13 percent of real estate sales are now FSBO, conducted without a broker’s assistance.

Type “flat fee MLS” into any major search engine, and you’ll see dozens of real estate professionals willing to list your property in the MLS for a fee. If you are willing to pay a commission of 2-3 percent, you can attract the attention of thousands of agents who will show your property to prospective buyers. You can then reduce the cost of the sale to about half a traditional 5-6 percent sales commission, plus the cost of the MLS listing. If you find an independent buyer working without an agent, you could make a sale with no commission at all and pay only an MLS listing flat fee.
Displacement

Currently, about 2.4 million real estate licensees operate nationally, according to the Association of Real Estate License Law officials. The NAR has more than one million members, up from about 760,000 members five years ago. Many real estate professionals and industry observers expect a significant decline in this number because some tasks traditionally performed by agents and brokers can now be done more quickly and easily by Web-enabled consumers.

“Historically the fundamental driver of the real estate industry was the control of information. The real estate agent and the real estate office were the only sources of comprehensive information on which properties were for sale and those who might be interested in buying them. With this control revenues were practically guaranteed.

Moreover, because this exclusive control was akin to a monopoly by virtue of the multiple listing service (MLS) any firm of any size could serve the customer equally well. As a result, the number of real estate companies grew without regard to market efficiencies.

Simply put, the traditional model is too inflexible. Consumers are seriously questioning the value of a real estate agent. They frequently feel that many of the traditional tasks undertaken by the agents are now either no longer required or can be done by the consumer themselves.”

– Swanepoel & Tuccillo, Real Estate Confronts Profitability

The quotes above, from a popular report on emerging real estate business models and dwindling profit margins, highlight a number of issues traditional real estate professionals are now facing. And if the real estate industry has grown historically without regard to market efficiencies, the issue has only been compounded since 2001, as new agents signed on in droves, lured by low interest rates and skyrocketing home prices in many areas. It’s likely that the number of traditional real estate agents will decline, while new types of real estate jobs will be created to deliver value to Web-savvy customers.

5 Great Restaurants on Siesta Key, Florida

Siesta Key is a gorgeous barrier island off the coast of Sarasota, Florida. People flock to the island every year because they love the very relaxed, bohemian, old Florida beach feel. Siesta Key beach is known for its white sand that is 99 percent quartz. Even on hot summer days the sand feels cool and refreshing on under your feet. Other exciting activities include fishing, walking the beach, swimming, snorkeling, boating, jet skiing, parasailing and dining out.

Here are 5 great restaurants that I enjoy on Siesta Key:

1. Anna’s Deli and Sandwich Shop

Anna’s has been around since 1971. I love their sandwiches. My favorite sandwich is the Surfer. It is made up of ham, turkey, swiss, cucumber and Anna’s famous sauce. If you are looking for a casual and affordable place give them a try. You won’t be disappointed.

2. The Broken Egg

I took some clients to the Broken Egg a few weeks ago and they loved it. Established in 1984 the Broken Egg has been an island tradition for many years. It is really popular as a breakfast and lunch spot in the Siesta Key village. A few of the items they serve for breakfast is deep dish quiche du jour, norwegian smoked salmon & bagel and mexican skillet. A few weeks ago I ate the smoked salmon and bagel and it was scrumptious. For lunch you can always order the Dickie V Burger named after one a frequent customer Dick Vitale.

3. Daiquiri Deck

Here is another popular dining and drinking destination on Siesta Key. It is a great place to enjoy a casual meal or some cocktails in your bathing suit. Located in the middle of the village this place is always happening. People from every age group can enjoy this fun restaurant. A few of their dishes include raw oysters, caribbean chicken cobb salad, mahi-mahi wrap, snapper wrapper, pepper-crusted tuna and coconut crusted tilapia. If you are looking for a relaxed, fun and outdoor place to eat try the Daiquiri Deck.

4. Midnight Pass Pub Restaurant

Located on the south end of the island this restaurant offers a good casual dining experience. It is right across the street from Turtle beach so you are likely to see people sandy and in their bathing suits. I took some clients to eat there recently and they loved the grouper salad. Since it is located on the south end of the island and away from SK village is a little quieter. Yet, it is still a great place to eat.

5. Ophelia’s on the Bay

If you want to impress someone take them to Ophelia’s on the Bay. This is one of the nicest restaurants in Sarasota. Located on the south end of Siesta Key and directly on the bay it provides a fabulous dining experience while you overlook the gorgeous views of the Sarasota bay. Ophelia’s is now in its 22nd season. It has an old Florida feel, without glitz, just a grand view of an unfettered sweep of water, mangroves, seabirds, and an occasional boat or dolphin gliding by. The restaurant is known for its evolving American cuisine style that is creatively combined with other world cuisines. Combining fresh seafood and fine meats with Florida grown produce, Ophelia’s offers a menu with a New World flare that changes frequently.

I have eaten at all of these Siesta Key restaurants and recommend them. They are all unique in their own way and I don’t think you will be disappointed. If you are visiting Siesta Key, Florida give them a try.

Top 10 Overseas Property Investments in 2010

1. Brazil

The Brazilian property market has got a lot going for it. The country is attracting a lot of inward investment, has one of the world’s fastest growing economies, a rapidly emerging mortgage market, a general shortage of quality homes, and has been selected to host the 2014 football World Cup and 2016 Olympic Games. This will lead to the construction of new and improved infrastructures and homes across Brazil.

Property investors from around the world are flocking to Brazilian shores with a view to snapping up real estate, in anticipation of future capital growth.

One local expect projects Brazilian property prices could appreciate by up to 200% over the next decade, driven by the country’s burgeoning economy, and the pending introduction of mortgages to overseas nationals.

Investment banking firm Goldman Sachs believes that Brazil’s economic growth could outstrip that of the other BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India and China) member nations over the next few years.

Brazil’s economy is widely expected to become the fifth largest in the world by the time the Olympic Games kicks off in 2016, and yet Brazil property and land prices still remain a fraction of those found in more developed nations.

The Brazilian president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva has already pledged to spend up to £11.5bn on building a million new homes in Brazil between now and 2011.

However, potential high property investment rewards are not with out their risks, as crime and corruption still remains widespread in Brazil.

2. France

In stark contrast to the relatively high risk, high return nature of investing in Brazil, the risks associated with investing in French property are far lower.

France has traditionally always been a rather safe haven for property investors. The nation was the first European country to come out of recession in 2009, reflecting the fact that the global credit crunch had much less of an impact, compared to other European counterparts.

France’s strong economy is having a positive impact on its property market, which now appears to be on the road to recovery.

Increasing property and mortgage transactions are boosting residential values, with the latest FNAIM data revealing that the average price of a French property appreciated by 2.8% between April and September 2009.

Although average prices remain down 7.8% year-on-year, the market is generally expected to improve further, due to France’s prudent attitude to mortgage lending.

Anyone taking out a mortgage in France is generally only permitted to borrow one third of their total gross monthly income. This has ensured that mortgages remain readily available, with 100% loan-to-value home loans available at competitive borrowing rates.

Consequently, mortgage lending in France is soaring. French mortgage broker Athena Mortgages reports that there was a 21% rise in mortgage enquiries in Q3 2009 compared with the previous quarter.

The buy-to-let and leaseback sectors are reportedly attracting particular interest from investors, due to improved yields across the country.

The capital city of Paris has long been identified as one of the most attractive European cities for investment, and is typically the most popular place to buy a home in France, along with Cannes, Marseille and Nice, which are all located along the southern Mediterranean coast.

3. USA

The USA property market may be showing tentative signs of improvement, following one of the worst economic and property crashes in living memory, but the downturn has come at a cost to many US homeowners.

Data from RealtyTrac shows that a record high of 938,000 US homes foreclosed in the third quarter of 2009. If this trend continues, foreclosures would reach around 3.5m by the end of 2009, up from around 2.3m properties last year.

Properties in Nevada had the highest foreclosures rates in Q3, followed by homes in Arizona, California, Florida, Idaho, Utah, Georgia, Michigan, Colorado and Illinois.
Rising unemployment levels – currently at a 26-year high of 9.8% – was cited as the main reason for the increase in foreclosure levels. Yet, there may be worst to come, as the unemployment rate is not expected to peak until mid-2010.

Unfortunately, one person’s misfortune is another’s gain. With around 7m properties currently in the foreclosure process, compared with 1.3m for the same period in 2005, predatory investors are buying up distressed, abandoned and repossessed homes at bargain-basement prices, as now appears to be the ideal time to fill your boots.

Although the sub-prime mortgage crisis started in the USA, there are growing signs that the property market may now be at or near the bottom of the cyclical downturn. Various indices reveal that average residential prices started to rise, albeit marginally, during the second quarter of 2009.

4. Norway

Sales in Norway have nosedived over the past year or so, as residential values have cooled.

However, the Norwegian property market downturn, which has not been anywhere near as severe as in other neighbouring countries, appears to have already bottomed out, and looks ready to lead the Scandinavian property market recovery.

The key to the Norwegian property market is the strength of the country’s economy, which has made it one of the wealthiest in the world, while new housing output has dropped below average, which could fall short of demand next year.

Norway is rich in both gas and oil and this helps to support the country’s economy and ensure that its currency also stays strong – both alluring to property investors.

The country’s population is estimated to increase by 23% – approximately one million people – over the next 40 years, which should make sure that long-term residential demand is robust.

Another positive is the fact that unemployment is extremely low – approximately 3% – compared to its European counterparts.

Almost half of the Norwegian population resides in the counties of Oslo, Rogaland, Akershus and Hordaland, and so this is where property investors should focus their attentions. Property prices in these places remain relatively cheap compared to wages in Norway.

5. Switzerland

Many of the high earners currently living in Britain look set to quit the UK in droves ahead of the introduction of a 50% top tax rate in April 2010, and escape to more tax-friendly shores, such as Switzerland.

The Swiss authorities are actively lobbying to attract many of these disillusioned high-net worth individuals, who are being tempted by assurances that they will be allowed to steer clear of European Union regulation and Britain’s Financial Services Authority.

It is estimated that hedge funds managing in the region of £10 billion in assets have already moved to Switzerland in the past year alone. This has increased demand for homes to rent and buy.

Due to canton restrictions, it has previously been difficult for foreigners to buy property in Switzerland. However, the country has now eased its strict property buying regulations, and opened its doors to more international buyers, partly through the introduction of ‘residence de tourisme’ style investments, which is similar to the ever-popular ‘leaseback’ formula in France.

Switzerland, one of the richest nations in the world, is of course a tax haven.
Anyone who sets up permanent residency in Switzerland would be entitled to take advantage of the country’s favourable tax law, including the lump sum taxation, which charges a levy based on people’s lifestyle and spending habits.

Given that one’s taxable income is charged at just five times their annual rent or rental value of their property, and the fact that assets outside Switzerland remain tax-free, should ensure demand for Swiss properties – to rent and buy – remains strong for years to come.

Historically, Swiss property values have typically appreciated in line with inflation. Properties located at the top end of the market, in cantons like Valais and Vaud, have reportedly increased by up to 20% in the past year.

6. Australia

The Australian economic and property market recovery has been swifter than the other leading nations around the world.

It has been claimed that the revival in the country’s property market and economy is as much as 12 months ahead of the other developed countries in the economic cycle.

Unemployment peaked in September 2009, in stark contrast to Britain and the USA, while increasing commodity demand from China has forced the Australian Central Bank to raise benchmark interest rates. Yet this has failed to cool strong residential demand, which coupled with a general housing shortage, is forcing property values higher.

The latest Australian Bureau of Statistics house price index shows that the average price of a residential property in Australia appreciated by 4.2% in the third quarter of 2009, which means that in the year to September, residential prices increased 6.2%.

Australia could be set for a residential property price boom over the next few years, as the country’s economy continues to show genuine signs of recovery.

A recent Australia property report projected that average residential prices in nearly all capital cities would increase by between 11% and 19% by 2012, with the greatest property price rises expected to be recorded in Sydney, Adelaide and Melbourne.

7. Malaysia

I tipped Malaysia to be the number one place to invest in property in 2009, due to the country’s robust property ownership laws, lack of capital gains tax and attractive mortgage rates.

However, residential sales were sluggish during the early half of the year, as the market struggled as a direct consequence of the global credit crunch, while there are some political uncertainties emerging.

But with consumer sentiment improving, the recent positive market recovery, supported by the construction of new residential schemes across the country, should continue in 2010.

While property prices race ahead across much of Asia – in countries like China, Vietnam and Singapore – which has led to heightened fears of budding property bubbles, the Malaysian property market has merely stabilised, making it suited to more balanced investors.

With an extremely young and well-educated population, long-term demand for property in Malaysia looks set to grow.

Domestically, an increasing number of people are moving from the countryside into the larger cities, while internationally Malaysia looks set to cross a demographic landmark of huge social and economic importance.

Malaysia’s population is growing by around 2%, or an extra 500,000 people, every year. The World Bank projects the country’s population will grow annually by 1% until 2050, which will place further pent-up demand on property values.

Malaysia’s property prices are still lower than they were in 1997, due partly to the Asian financial crisis in the late 1990’s, suggesting very real room for growth.

8. Abu Dhabi

The recent property price falls in the fast growing UAE capital of Abu Dhabi, the richest and largest of all the seven UAE states, have been nowhere near as severe as in neighbouring Dubai.

The tax-efficient emirate has the largest fossil fuel reserve in the UAE, is the fourth biggest natural gas producer in the world, has the world’s highest income per capita, is home to almost all of the Arabic Fortune 500 companies, and is currently sitting on over 88 billion barrels of proven oil reserves.

Yet Abu Dhabi is now actively trying to reduce its reliance on oil, and is diversify its economy into the financial services and tourism sectors. Billions of pounds have been allocated for infrastructure projects and the development of residential, leisure and cultural schemes across the oil-rich emirate. The plans are truly remarkable.

Nevertheless, investors seeking out bargain deals will find some of the best opportunities for distressed property investments in the Gulf region in Abu Dhabi.

The recent slowdown in the property market means that just 45,000 are anticipated to be completed in the capital in the next four years, augmenting the exiting housing shortage.

The supply of housing stock remains scant, partly because Abu Dhabi is not part of a community master-plan like those pioneered by Emaar and Nakheel in Dubai.

The housing shortfall in the capital is expected to stand at around 15,000 homes next year, which could mean that property prices and rents are forced up, while residential demand – domestic and international – is expected to increase.

Because Abu Dhabi does not have the same high level of exposure to the global financial crisis, compared with other UAE emirates, mortgages for non-residents – at up to 75% loan-to-value – are readily available again. This is likely to appeal to buy-to-let investors, as well as those people seeking equity release and to remortgage their properties in Abu Dhabi.

9. Oman

The relaxed Arabian state of Oman, voted ‘destination of the year 2008’ by Vogue magazine, has long been a popular holidaying destination for people living within the GCC.

With a population of around 2.3m, Oman is being modernised and liberalised culturally and economically by hereditary Sultan, Qaboos Bin Said Al-Said, a forward-thinking leader.

Sultan Qaboos strategy for economic growth – Vision 2020 – aims to diversify Oman’s economic dependency on oil, and focus on other industries, such as property and tourism.

Demand for property in Oman is primarily being driven by the Sultan’s decision to introduce legislation in 2004 – ratified in 2006 – permitting foreigners to buy freehold property and land in designated tourist areas, most notably Muscat. These projects are referred to as Integrated Tourism Complexes (ITC). Furthermore, foreign homeowners can now apply for residency visas.

A number of luxurious developments are being erected across Oman including, The Chedi, Azaiba, Wadi Kabi, The Wave, Barr Al Jissah Residences, Jebel Sifah, Salalah Beach, The Malkai, Muscat Hills, Al Madina A’Zarqa, Jebel Sifah, and Salalah Beach.

The fact that Oman appeals to end-users – not just investors – means that the medium to long-term prospect for Omani property market growth looks good.

10. South Africa

South African property market conditions look ripe for investment, as the country starts to come out of recession. Recent property price falls appear to be bottoming out, while FIFA’s 2010 football World Cup fast approaches.

From the moment world football’s governing body, FIFA, awarded South Africa the rights to host the World Cup in 2010, shrewd property investors from around the globe have been looking on with great interest, with one eye firmly on cashing in on the sport’s popularity.

The first ever FIFA World Cup to be hosted on African soil has the potential to be the biggest sporting event of all time.

The tournament is expected to attract around 350,000 football fans for a month of football mayhem, starting on 11 June 2010, which is tipped to contribute around £1.5bn to South Africa’s gross domestic product and generate another £500m in government taxes.

South Africa property prices haven softened over the past year or so, due to a fall in residential demand, caused by reduced housing affordability, higher inflation and interest rates.

But residential prices could soon experience growth, on the back of what should be a reinvigorated economy, spurred by the football tournament.

While the odds may be stacked up against the South African football winning the World Cup in 2010, it is not too far fetched to assume that the country’s housing market could prove to be the real winner of the tournament, generating significant returns for property investors in the process.

Architectural Masterpiece Versus Just Another Building: Unlocking Real Estate Value Through Design

An architectural masterpiece is a building that has been carefully designed by the architect to bring out a particular uniqueness.

Buildings such as the Sydney Opera House constructed between 1957 and 1973 and designed by Architect Jorn Utzon from Denmark are masterpieces that will forever become major landmarks due to their unique designs.

An example in Kenya is the Kenyatta International Conference Centre which has graced the covers of postcards for years since it was constructed.

From Rahimtulla natural stone finishes

The KICC building was designed by Norwegian Architect Karl Henric Nostoric in 1967. The architect was inspired by the traditional African architecture, mainly the hut. The late president Jomo Kenyatta was also instrumental in guiding the architect regarding the African concept.

This brought out a unique Architectural masterpiece which has unanimously won the hearts and eyes of many Kenyans to be the best designed high-rise building in Nairobi.

The use of just one colour and rough texture on the exterior that looks close to the traditional African adobe house increases the aesthetic appeal in that its comfortable to look at-it does not look too ‘busy’ like other high rise buildings that have multi colours and textures on the exterior.

The perfect balance achieved through the shape of the tall structure versus the pyramid also helps in creating the aesthetic appeal.

No other building in Nairobi CDB can hold a candle to KICC.

UNLOCKING VALUE

Buildings that have been designed to be unique usually give better returns to their owners in terms of rents.

Since the buildings are attractive, they will always have a higher demand for rent hence the rent shoots up. Most well-to-do institutions require such buildings which are landmarks in themselves. This helps in their marketing since their customers can easily relate their location hence more business. It in turn works out as a win-win situation between the land lord and the tenants in that the land lord charges a higher rent while the tenants have more customers due to their prestigious and conspicuous physical address.

ENHANCING PROPERTY VALUE

Developers who acquire land in an area that is generally viewed as undesirable can use architectural design to enhance the value of their real estate.

A good example is the Motor World Centre at the Jogoo road/Landhies road roundabout. The area has several unkempt buildings that would not fetch competitive rents in the market place. The Motor World Centre has been uniquely designed to be very attractive therefore its true potential is realized even though its surrounded by the un-maintained buildings.

RESIDENTIAL REAL ESTATE

Residential buildings designed uniquely always attract more tenants than the ordinary ones. In Kenya, unfortunately, the housing deficit is approximately 100,000 units per year.This means that even poorly designed buildings will attract tenants. In other countries such as South Africa where the housing deficit is not high, its design that sells. The well-designed houses will sell faster than the badly designed ones. Therefore, most developers in these countries usually put a lot of emphasis on design to be able to attract buyers and tenants.

Since buildings last for tens of years, its advisable for a developer to request their architect to come up with a unique design since as time passes by, the housing deficit keeps reducing so there will come a time where the design will be the single most important factor in attracting good rents.

How to Get the Best Stateroom on a Cruise Ship

Pimp Up My Stateroom Selection, please…

How to Choose the Best Category

How to Choose the Best Location

How to Get Free Upgrades

How to choose the best category –

Stateroom fundamentals are easily mastered by simply answering the following questions truthfully and to the best of your predictive ability.

1. Are you the party-all-night-every-night type and tend to get up at the crack of noon each day?

2. Are you allergic to sunlight?

3. Are you a vampire?

4. Is your idea of fun curling up with a good book or in-room movie and ordering room service?

5. Are you a shutter bug who just has to jump up and take a hundred pictures of every sunrise, sunset and seagull – even at 3am in a Norwegian Fjord?

6. Do you find it intoxicating to have fresh sea breezes blowing across your bed during the night – or does your snoring spouse satisfy that need?

7. Do you enjoy sunlight and expansive vistas – but the very idea of fresh air makes you nauseous?

8. Do you want your own private escape route in case of flooding, fire or Somali pirates?

If you answered “Yes” to questions 1, 2 & 3 – then best to save your money on the more expensive cabins and go for the least expensive inside cabin (a cabin on the interior of the ship, having no window, porthole or balcony – but definitely a door – one door – you’ll want at least one door for coming and going from your cabin).

If you answered “Yes” to questions 4 & 7 – your best bet will be an Ocean View cabin – one with a window or porthole.

If you answered “Yes” to questions 5, 6 & 8 – you will want a Private Balcony Cabin – or sometimes referred to as a Veranda Cabin.

In spite of the fact that the cruise line will attempt to confuse you with 47 different room categories on any one ship – there are really only a total of five – Penthouses, Suites, Balcony or Veranda Cabins, Ocean View and Inside. The additional category distinctions are really just a function of location within the ship – not size or amenities.

Penthouses- and top end Penthouses called “Owners Suites” – can be from 900 to 3,000 square feet in size. Almost always with a private balcony or two – they are located on the top most decks of the ship. There are usually only a handful of these type of staterooms on the ship – a half dozen, max.

Suites- a bathroom, bedroom area and separate sitting area usually offering 50 to 150 square feet more space than a Veranda cabin and with a larger than normal private balcony.

Veranda or Balcony Staterooms – pretty much the same as Ocean View staterooms only slightly larger and with a private balcony/veranda – one just big enough for a couple of small plastic chairs and a cocktail table.

Ocean View – Just what it says – a stateroom with a window or porthole – neither of which can be opened.

Inside Cabin – A cabin that, due to its location in the interior section of the ship, does not offer a window, porthole or balcony.

Hot Tip #1 – When attempting to save money by stuffing four or five people in a stateroom – just remember, you will all be using the same bathroom. Thus, the money saved may not be worth the aggravation if you are traveling with teenagers and/or high maintenance women.

How to choose the best location –

“Location, location, location” is the mantra of real estate agents on shore. But to cruise passengers, it is not that big of a deal.

All cabins within any random category tend to be the same size with the same amenities regardless of placement within the ship. The perceived value among the cruise buying public is that the higher up in the ship the more desirable, hence the more valuable the cabin. The cruise lines take full advantage of this misconception via premium pricing for cabins on the upper decks. But here’s the skinny. If it is stability you want you should get a cabin as close to dead center of the ship as possible – not too high up, not too low down, not to close to the bow (the pointy end) or stern (the rounded end). Cabins in this Middle Kingdom area will experience less motion.

Additionally, take a close look at the schematic diagrams of each deck – found in brochures as well as online. Look for proximity to elevators, the dining room, the pool deck, the main lobby and late night venues such as the disco. Closeness to these facilities may or may not be desirable depending on your mobility, tolerance for noise, desire to be close to most frequented services and activities, etc.

Hot Tip #2 – If you go to bed at a reasonable hour, watch out for cabins next to elevators or late evening venues such as the disco – it can be very noisy late into the night.

How to get free upgrades –

Here are the two magic words – whip them on your cruise agent – say you want a”Category Guarantee”. Just like airlines who over-book flights – cruise lines will frequently over book certain cabin categories. Therefore, they will often reward flexible passengers with a “category guarantee”. This simply means that – at time of reservation – if you are willing to forego immediate confirmation of a particular cabin – the cruise line will guarantee a cabin in the category that you have reserved or higher. Often this will lead to an upgrade to the next higher category at no additional cost. Unless you need a stateroom in close proximity to friends or family members; accepting a category guarantee is always worth the gamble – at least in our experience.

Being part of a group or availing one’s self of a special promotion can often get an upgrade of one or two categories. Today, cruise groups rarely get discounts off the base fare, but they do get some nice perks over those booking individually – such as free upgrades. And, you need only be a part of the group on paper, not in reality. Your travel agent should know how to work that magic.

Lastly, it is a rare occurrence – but never let any opportunity go unexploited. If the cruise line reservations department messes up your booking for one reason or another – no matter how small – respond with kindness and sympathy in your heart – saying something to the effect “We understand and forgive you and hold no grudges…but how about a free upgrade as compensation, Fumble Fingers!”