The Bubonic Plague of housing is know by another name, Condos! Foreclosures abound, associations running deficits, folks leaving units abandon in droves! The daily news stories are plentiful on all the reasons why NOT to purchase a condo in this market. In fact, the Tampa real estate condo market has taken its own share of bloodletting, with more condo’s going to REO’s or short sales each day. So why with a market in such frantic free fall would anyone in their right mind purchase a condo property? It’s simple, “investment opportunity”!
I am sure there are a number of naysayers rolling their eyes. They are probably thinking to themselves “He is just another real estate agent pumping up properties to get a sale”. The reality however is that the proof is in the pudding or in this case the numbers. Now, before the critics speak up lets get something straight. I am not suggesting that folks find any condo and things will be great, this would be insanity. What I am suggesting is like with ever other investment opportunity you have to run the numbers and look at the facts.
There are three specific criteria I look for when evaluating potential condo investments; the financials, the location and the construction or F.L.C.
Do the property numbers make sense? I immediately look at two specific numbers hoa fees and rental rate potential. High hoa fees can be a killer for making a profitable investment and low current or future potential rental rates in the area are a nonstarter. Next, take a look at the amount of reserves the association has set aside for future capital improvements and their reserve roll estimates for these capital expenditures. If these look good next review the associations allowance for bad debt on hoa fees and unpaid unit hoa fees, these numbers should be low. A high bad debt number can mean financial ruin for the complex. Next, are there any special assessments coming down the pipe. Nothing can be worst then purchasing a unit, only to find you need to pony up another $10K to cover repairs. Finally, can the unit be cash flowed and garner a strong return on investment. Cash flow is critical, if you can not generate a positive cash flow you need to walk away and keep looking.
As with any real estate purchase, location is critical. Finding the right location can mean the difference between success or failure in your investment. One positive note is that in certain markets condo developments were built in areas that were being revitalized. If the revitalization takes hold your investment can certain increase in value over time, if not you could be in for some difficult times. A good way to help assess the strength of the revitalization process is to understand the continued commitment by city or county governments to further invest in the area. Other important considerations are the emergence of bulk distressed buyers and the strength of the neighborhood associations.
During the days of condo gluttony, it was less about the construction of the property and more on how fast the units could be built. In many markets frame/stucco or frame/siding became common place; however there were many complexes which were built with concrete block or brick. I am of the opinion that concrete block/brick construction is the smartest move for condo investors. First, in my opinion these complexes hold up better to external wear and tear, thus reducing future exterior improvement costs. Second, they tend to be more desirable for renters; with strong unit noise insulation as well as being built in desirable urban dwelling locations.
One final note, in this real estate market many lenders will not even finance condo purchases, so cash is king. The benefit of this is that banks holding these REO or short sale condos are taking substantial discounts to get the units off their books.
About the Author
Cristan owner of Fadal Realty Group of Century 21 Fisher & Associates, a real estate firm in South Tampa. He works with buyers, sellers and investors in the real estate market and can be reached at www.dwellintampa.com
TAMPA, FL, April 17, 2009 – Cristan Fadal, Senior Associate with CENTURY 21® Fisher & Associates in Tampa, provides three key strategic steps all buyers should consider when preparing for a new home purchase in this market.
“Many of the clients we work with are initially unprepared for the entire buying process and it takes some education and time to really help them understand and prepare for what lays ahead” states Fadal.
Fadal suggests the first step is establishing your purchasing power. “One of the worst situations for any buyer is finding the perfect house only to learn they can not secure the necessary financing” states Fadal. If you have not done so already, locate a lender to at least get pre-qualified, if not pre-approved. A pre-approval letter goes much farther in this market than just an offer. Also there is greater due diligence taken by lenders in this market, so the underwriting process can take much longer than in the past, start the process early.
“Helping our buyers clarify their “wants and needs” is the second critical step to finding the right property in the least amount of time” says Fadal. He suggests that buyers write down specifics such as square footage, lot size, bedrooms/baths, amenities and location to name a few. This list can then be utilized to do more refined market scans, thus reducing the search process. “With the vast inventories in today’s market, the selections are endless, the more specifics we have the easier the process will be for buyers in the long run” states Fadal
Finally, Fadal recommends utilizing an experienced Real Estate Agent that is knowledgeable about the locations and property types a buyer is most interested in. “While some buyers may believe they can do it all online, using an Agent can cut their search time in half as well as keep them in the know before the masses find out” says Fadal. Additionally, it is more likely than not that your Agent has already seen the property you might find online, thus giving you an added perspective before time is wasted going to see the property in person.
TAMPA, FL, April 7, 2009 –Cristan Fadal, Senior Associate with CENTURY 21® Fisher & Associates in Tampa, sees all the elements of a Residential Real Estate bottom in the South Tampa Market.
“With the convergence of historically low interest rates, a massive drop in prices and plenty of availability, it has become a buyer’s perfect storm” states Fadal “At the beginning of the year we saw a nice increase in inquiries, but the telling sign has been the conversion of these inquiries into actual offers and contracts” states Fadal.
The CENTURY 21 Fisher & Associates office is located on Davis Islands in the heart of South Tampa. While in the past it was rare to even see one home available for under $300K on Davis Islands, at the present time there are around a dozen. This being said the properties are getting scooped up about as fast as they are placed on the market.
“One thing which we have also seen is sellers basically throwing in the towel and reducing their price to just get the property sold” says Fadal. “What many sellers have finally realized is that while they may try to hold out for a slightly higher price on their existing home, they themselves are missing out on opportunities to buy their next home at these reduced prices, while at the same time locking in an unusually low fixed rate mortgage.”
CENTURY 21 Fisher & Associates works with a variety of mortgage lenders which are assisting their clients in evaluating their current financial situation including; current mortgage rates, future trends of rates and overall opportunity costs.
“While prices in this market can always fall a bit further, for them to drop another 20 or 30% is unrealistic” says Fadal. “The savvy buyer is working with a skilled agent and taking a strong proactive approach to negotiating the best deal possible”.
Century 21 Real Estate LLC (www.century21.com) is the franchisor of the world’s largest residential real estate sales organization, providing comprehensive training, management, administrative and marketing support for the CENTURY 21 System. The System is comprised of more than 8,300 independently owned and operated franchised broker offices in 56 countries and territories worldwide.