fix and flip

Jan Brzeski Featured in Reuters Discussing The Luxury Flip Market in California

On Sunday August 11, Arixa Capital's Jan Brzeski was featured in a Reuters news article about the resurgence in the luxury home fix-and-flip business. Arixa Capital is a private lender that provides financing to developers in California who are purchasing luxury homes to renovate and resell.

Read the full article

The following are excerpts from the article.

Brzeski said he had originally been wary of the high-end market, because of the much bigger sums involved and thus greater risk. But then in 2011 he financed the purchase of a house in West Hollywood for $1.425 million. Another $1.175 million was spent on a total refurbishment.

"When the developer put it on the market, they had multiple, all-cash offers," he said. "There was a line out the door to buy it. It sold for $3.5 million. This was an incredibly profitable project. This really opened my eyes."

Brzeski's business model is simple. Using a fund of investor money he lends 75 percent of a project's "hard costs" - that is money used for the purchase and refurbishment - and collects interest at an annual rate of approximately 10 percent.

"Almost all our homes in these A and A-plus neighborhoods have something in common. You look at the appliances in the kitchen. If they are from the 1960s or 1970s, that's the house to flip," Brzeski said.

"The market has gone through the roof. You see people buying properties one year ago and selling them at 20, 30 percent profit. Some of these are no more than paint jobs. The ones that are doing big rehabs are making huge profits."

Jan's New Article Appears on Seeking Alpha

Jan published a new article on Seeking Alpha last week, entitled "Apartments—A Contrarian View." The article analyzes a recent prediction by Moody's Investor Services that apartment values will increase substantially in the next few years. While Jan is not bearish on apartment values, he believes that the projections reveal a substantial misunderstanding of the market and that the projections are very unlikely to prove accurate. To read the article, please click here.

"Gotcha" Issues with Income Property

This podcast presents a list of "gotchas"--things that can make what appears to be a good investment actually turn out to be a bad investment, because the income stream ends up being less than what it appears to be. The podcast also presents a critical and at the same time enjoyable step in the process of researching an investment, namely, visiting the property and driving around the property in concentric circles to get a feel for the neighborhood.

The Case for Single Family Homes (Part 2)

Jan Brzeski is a contributor to Seeking Alpha. The article below is a copy of what he posted on August 30, 2011. To access his article on Seeking Alpha, please click here. In the first article in this series, we explored how "replacement cost" analysis suggests that single family homes in Phoenix are undervalued, and why they are much more likley to go up in value in coming years, rather than moving down.

In this article, we explore a second, independent, strong signal that single family housing in some areas is undervalued. For this article, we will switch to inland Southern California rather than Phoenix, since I know the rental economics better in this area.

Single Family Rental Economics Below is a home about an hour from Los Angeles that was purchased for a little over $100,000 in early 2010.

The buyers of this home are a father and son team who have purchased about 100 homes in the same area in the past two years. They have sold about sixty homes after rehabilitating them, and they have held onto the other 40 homes to create rental income.

They spent about $13,000 rehabilitating this property, so their total cost basis is about $115,000. Today, the house is rented for $1,450 per month. Assuming one month of vacancy each year, rental income is about $16,000 per year. Operating expenses are about $5,000 per year. Net income is about $11,000 per year. On their cost basis, the owners are getting about a 9.6% cash-on-cash return ($11,000/$115,000).

If they bought a similar home today, in need of repairs, direct from a bank, the market is more competitive and they would pay more--probably $130,000 instead of $100,000. Even so, they would still have well over a 7% cash on cash return. Once rehabbed, the property would be worth in the high $100s. This property is appraised at a retail value of $195,000 today.

A Quick Look At Multifamily Rental Economics Let's compare the single family home "fix-and-rent" strategy with buying apartments.

If one were to buy a 100 unit "Class B" apartment building in the same area as this home, it would trade at a capitalization rate of about 6.5%. That is, the income before debt service would represent a yield of about 6.5% as compared to the purchase price.

Given today's low interest rates on multifamily properties courtesy of Fannie Mae (currently under 5% for a 10-year maturity), the cash-on-cash return would be okay from the apartment property--probably about 5% after accounting for principal payments required by the mortgage, reserves and other factors.

However, if interest rates go up, or Fannie Mae stops subsidizing the apartment market by providing such low rates for apartment owners, the value of such assets could easily drop. Investors look at their cash-on-cash returns after debt service, and apartment values have been driven up by very low interest rates for apartment loans. If these rates were to go higher, apartment values would drop, just like bond values.

The Risk Of Buying Apartments Today The bottom line for apartment investors is, they can enjoy low single digit cash-on-cash returns. However, in my view, there is a substantial chance of capital loss, even if rents keep going up, because higher interest rates will lead to higher capitalization rates which means lower values.

For example, suppose we have a change in cap rates from 6.5% to 7.5% (which is historically a more typical cap rate for Class B apartments in secondary markets). A property with annual cash flow before debt service of $300,000 drops in value from $4.6 million to $4.0 million--a 13% drop in value. Now suppose that the property has a loan of $2.3 million. The $600,000 drop in value now equates to a reduction in equity from $2.3 million to $1.7 million, or a 26% drop in equity.

Apartments are currently a favorite asset class for real estate investors, but as the numbers show, there is real risk for apartment buyers when cap rates are at historic lows, as they are now.

Apartments vs. Single Family Home Rentals If, instead of buying a 100 unit apartment building, one were to purchase, say, 60 homes in the same area, there would be certain advantages and disadvantages.

The apartments would be much easier to manage, since they are all grouped together and there are economies of scale. Also, it is easy to get financing to buy apartments, while financing to buy single family homes as an investment is difficult to find and expensive.

The single family homes have the advantage that the current yield (cap rate) is a little higher than the current yield on apartments. Say, 8% vs. 6.5%. They also have one other important advantage. The homes can be sold individually, and if they are purchased from a bank by an experienced operator, they can be bought at "wholesale" prices.

As a result, a home bought for $130,000 and rehabbed for $15,000, for a total cost basis of $145,000, might be worth $185,000 once it is fixed up, because it can then be purchased by a family and once fixed up, the home will qualify for Fannie Mae or HUD financing (which increases the affordability for families substantially). After accounting for broker fees, there is still maybe $25,000 or $30,000 of equity created in the home, by virtue of a favorable purchase and an efficient rehabilitation, both of which create real value.

By contrast, there is almost no way to purchase apartments at "wholesale cost", at least not within an hour's drive of Los Angeles. Anything worth owning will become a competitive auction led by the large number of opportunistic investors who have been trying to buy apartments since the downturn began. The most common complaint from these savvy investors is that there is too much competition, and not enough product available to buy.

Conclusion Most members of the Seeking Alpha community have no interest in being landlords, let alone being landlords for a portfolio of single family homes. The point of this article is two-fold:

The attractive economics of the "fix-and-rent" market today, as compared with the apartment investment market, suggests that home values are near a floor in the most beaten down areas of the Southwestern U.S. It is hard to see values falling much further when already the numbers are compelling for investors to purchase these properties at current prices, given current rents; and The "fix-and-rent" strategy outlined in this article can be accessed by passive investors as well, but only if they know the right people. The key is to find trustworthy operators with a demonstrated track record, and to be able to structure a mutually favorable program to deliver cash flow and a portion of any equity created to the investors. And to insist that the operators have real "skin in the game" in the form of capital alongside the non-operator investors. The Best Of Times For Single Family Home Investors Who Can Execute

For those seeking to gain exposure to real estate intelligently, "small is beatiful." In other words, unglamorous investments like a portfolio of single family homes in a blue collar neighborhood trumps "trophy properties" like pricy Manhattan office buildings--if one is looking for current cash flow and solid risk-adjusted returns.

Several years from now, many investors will look back at the investments that are being made today by obscure but hard-working teams like the father and son team that bought the property pictured above, and they might ask themselves, "why didn't I put some money into that?"

The answer is, this is a truly contrarian strategy and it is non-scalable, so you won't hear about it from any mainstream firms who need to invest on a large scale.

The Case For Single Family Homes

Jan Brzeski is a contributor to Seeking Alpha. The article below is a copy of what he posted on August 22, 2011. To access his article on Seeking Alpha, please click here.

I recently spoke to another Seeking Alpha contributor who expressed concern that home prices could drop significantly from their current levels. This article explains why that is very unlikely to happen.

Case Study: Phoenix I am a real estate receiver for a shopping center in northwest Phoenix. When visiting the property recently, I drove around the neighborhood surrounding shopping center, which featured 1970s-built ranch houses that would be familiar to many people who grew up in the western U.S. I was struck by two things: (1) many of the recent sales in the neighborhood were well under $100,000. Some were as low as $50,000; and (2) the other shopping centers nearby were not filled only with 99 Cent Only stores and check cashing shops. In fact, the closest grocery stores were upscale, with hardwood floors and expensive lighting in the produce area, as well as other upgrades.

Replacement Cost and Why It Matters The cost to build a new home similar to the ones I saw in Phoenix is at least $130,000. This includes land development costs such as streets, curbs, gutters and utilities, as well as city and county impact fees, plus hard constructions costs. I am assuming that the land is free -- with land costs of just $20,000 per lot the total cost is likely in excess of $150,000.

Now let's look at the historical population growth rate of Phoenix. Below is a chart, courtesy of Arizona State University's Water Simulation project.

If Phoenix is going to continue grow, even at half the projected growth rate, then home builders will eventually need to start building homes there again. However, the only place with vacant land to build homes is on the outskirts of the city, far from jobs, which tend to be closer to the core.

Granted, some people may prefer to live in a new home for $160,000 in the distant suburbs (this is about the lowest price at which homes can be built and sold profitably). However, others will prefer a 1970s house for $125,000 -- in a neighborhood with upscale grocery stores and a much shorter commute to work.

The bottom line is, home values in places like Phoenix are much more likely to go up in the coming years than to go down. In all likelihood, we are looking at a bottom right now. Values reflect the supply-demand imbalance brought about by the foreclosure crisis. But replacement value is a more fundamental driver of stabilized value. And replacement value dictates homes such as these are undervalued currently.

One More Data Point: Price History Past value is certainly no indication of future value in real estate. Still the table below showing the history of sales of a home in northwest Phoenix, which I chose more or less at random from website trulia.com, is remarkable. This home fell by 77% in six years. It recently sold for half of what it was worth 17 years ago, in 1994.

Note: this article does not purport to say anything about the near-term direction of the stock prices of home builders such as KBR or Beazer Homes. It only argues that at some point, their services will be needed once again and before that can happen, values of existing homes need to move up significantly.

WSJ: Home Market Takes a Tumble

This article details that house prices continue to drop in the U.S., down 3% in the past year on average. Standard Capital is a bridge lender to builders who buy homes from banks and rehabilitate the homes before re-selling them for a profit to families that occupy the houses. The drop in home values means lower profits for our borrowers. We see affordability becoming attractive which should help create a floor for home values even as prices continue to ease in the next 12 months or so. In our view, as long as the Federal government continues its policy of providing low-cost mortgages, the market is unlikely to drop dramatically from current values. Click here to access the article on the Wall Street Journal website. -or- To access a PDF of the article, please click here: WSJ_Home Market Takes a Tumble

Jan Brzeski Featured in Pensco Webinar in September of 2010

In late 2010, Jan Brzeski of Arixa Capital Advisors, LLC, (formerly known as Standard Capital, LLC) was a featured speaker in Pensco Trust's webinar series for self-directed IRA investors. Using the links below, you can access the audio file of that webinar as well as the presentation that was distributed to the more than 250 participants in the webinar. As of the time of this posting, Standard Capital has invested successfully in dozens of new loans beyond those that were held at the time of the webinar. In addition, all of the loans we held at the time of the webinar have paid off profitably. To listen to the audio of the webinar, please click here. Please click here to download the webinar's power point and follow along.

Home Prices are Still to High: Wall Street Journal

This article makes the argument that home prices are still overvalued relative to their 100-year trend of 3.35% price increases per year. If Federal support for the market were removed (e.g. home mortgage interest deduction and government guarantees of mortgages backed bonds from Fannie Mae), prices might drop 20%. Of course the U.S. Government is very unlikely to destabilize the market currently by removing support for the market given current conditions. That being said, investors in residential real estate need to be cautious and should not assume a return to rapidly rising prices.

Access the article on Wall Street Journal online here: Home Prices Are Still Too High

OR, if you are unable to access WSJ online, I've created a pdf of the article for you to read here: Peter Schiff_ Home Prices Are Still Too High - WSJ

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