2012 — Year of teh Successful Entrepreneur

There is a silver lining to sustained levels of high unemployment and a systemically damaged economy:  it is the impetus to do more with less; to make every dollar count; and to reorder priorities.  The survivors will be those who successfully find the right balance between independence and community.  Freelancers Union projects some 42 million Americans – 30% of the workforce — make their living independently.   But in truth, they can”t make it alone.  Beneath the surface of the stories of thousands of laid-off workers applying for jobs are many who have made the decision to strike out on their own — to make a future for themselves — to become entrepreneurs and masters of their own destiny.  The paradox is that they cannot succeed by themselves.  But perhaps never have there been so many tools and opportunities for the entrepreneur to succeed.

To be successful, an entrepreneur needs vision, opportunity, and guts.  On a practical level, the entrepreneur needs a functional structure,  access to resources, and funding.  For legal and tax reasons, today”s entrepreneur needs to give serious consideration to the right type of entity within which to operate, and it is relatively simple to set up a corporation or limited liability company (LLC).  Thanks to the ever-evolving social media (SM) tools available through the Internet, such as Google , Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, and Linkedin, not to mention the speed and ease of access provided by smart phones, tablets, and laptops connected by broadband and WiFi practically everywhere, today”s entrepreneur can quickly and easily get essential marketing and technical support, build customer bases, and with just a little effort, reach millions in moments as never before.  Third, with banking institutions stuck in neutral, many investors are discovering the treasure trove of privately held funds looking for an alternative to the roller coaster ride of Wall Street”s offerings, and with an estimated $94 billion in self-directed IRAs, there is plenty of opportunity to go around.

1.   Picking the right entity.  The romantic notion of the sole proprietor rising to the top on his or her own volition is the stuff of many novels, but in today”s complex and modern environment, the entrepreneur is well-advised to protect themselves with a structure within which to operate their business.  Concerns about liability and exposure to litigation may be a bit overblown by those who seek to alarm rather than inform, but there is more to forming a legal entity than just asset protection.  The right entity provides a framework or structure within which to carry on a business properly, with due consideration for proper accounting and legal elements.  Selecting the correct entity can help the entrepreneur confront and even take advantage of tax consequences.  And last, but certainly not least, forming an entity enhances credibility and sustainability of the enterprise — both of which are very attractive features to investors!

2.   Managing Resources.  It takes a village.  The common thread of all successful entrepreneurs is that they knew what they didn”t know, and knew enough to pick good Några av de största progressiva jackpottarna i online- spelautomater online nas historia finns här och väntar på att du ska vinna dem, och nya slots läggs regelbundet till på vår webbplats. people with the right skills to build successful teams of experts.  Most everyone recognizes that everything is connected — the successful entrepreneur focuses on the points of intersection.  In today”s online environment, where more and more resources are moving to the Cloud, the essential skill is not having the largest number of followers or Friends, but efficiently connecting with the mission-critical individuals and information necessary to achieve your objectives.  Fortunately, the same forces that threaten to overwhelm your bandwidth also provide you with access to extremely skilled individuals who, in their own entrepreneurial way, can help you sort the wheat from the chaff, manage information, and handle the technical details.

3.   Financing.  The mother”s milk of all great ventures is, of course, financing.  But for the vast majority who do not have ready access to venture capital or a loan officer on speed dial, finding working capital can be a challenge.  To the rescue — self-directed Individual Retirement Accounts — held by individuals looking for an opportunity to earn more than what Wall Street has provided, and perhaps gain a bit of altruistic pleasure from helping a fellow entrepreneur.  To be certain, there are rules and regulations, but with the banks and conventional lenders sitting on their hands, it is likely that more and more individuals will seek alternative sources of funding.  It may be 0nly a matter of time before the sum of retirement funds assets held in self-directed IRAs — currently estimated at around 2%, or $94 billion — will expand as the opportunities grow.  When self-directed IRAs compete, entrepreneurs win.

Crisis breeds opportunity.  Motivated by the harsh reality of sustained levels of high unemployment, more and more individuals will be striking out on their own.  Those who take the proper steps will find an interesting combination of new tools and resources, as well as access to financing, that was not available only a few short years ago.   Combining vision, opportunity and guts with practical and professional legal and tax advice, today”s entrepreneur can significantly enhance the probability of success in these turbulent times.

 

Back to Basics — Investing with Self Directed IRA

Whoa, Nelly!  If you”re not suffering motion sickness from watching the Dow, you”re probably still recovering from the market”s overall poor performance over the past few years.  You”re not alone.  After a brief recovery, we”re back where the Dow was one year ago.  Meanwhile, real estate prices are a bargain, but getting a loan is still a major challenge.  Many people are discovering the benefits of using their IRA to invest in real estate.  To be successful, you need to understand the basics about both using your IRA and investing in real estate.  We”ve got two very affordable events coming up that will cover both!

A lot of people are taking a new look at using their pension funds to invest in real estate.  The process is relatively simple — you roll your plan funds (401k, SEP, 457, etc.) into an IRA with a custodian that allows you to invest in “Alternative” investments, such as real estate, businesses, notes, precious metals, etc.  Since 1974, the IRS has allowed individuals to use their self-directed IRAs to invest in anything except collectibles or insurance.  (IRS Publication 590).  There is a catch — it has to be an arms-length investment; the account holder cannot receive any direct or indirect benefit.  And, you may not use your self-directed Le jeu de meilleur-casino-en-ligne.info Happy Circus est une machine à sous très colorée et pêchue ! Retrouvez les symboles du cirque et des fêtes foraines avec le célèbre Monsieur Muscle, le lion qui traverse le cercle de feu, l’éléphant, le clown, etc. IRA in a transaction involving yourself, your spouse, parents or children.  But the range of permitted options is extremely wide.

Using your self-directed IRA, you can purchase investment rental property, make private loans, purchase a percentage interest in a commercial development, or invest in a new business.  You can combine your IRA with others, and even borrow money using your IRA to leverage your purchasing power.  Investment opportunities are not limited to real estate; you can invest in oil & gas leases, businesses, and yes, even stocks!  The key is to find something you are comfortable with that will generate a nice return on investment for your IRA.  But there are special restrictions, and if you violate IRS rules, the penalties are severe!  On September 21, from 6:30 – 7:30 p.m., I will be joining Ron Ricard, Certified Exchange Specialist at IPX1031 at Intero Santana Row to discuss the use of the self-directed IRA for investing.  Additional details will be updated here soon.

Learning that you can use your IRA to invest in real estate is exciting, but it is easy to get overwhelmed with the range of opportunities, especially with real estate prices at bargain levels.  Even if you have some experience investing in real estate, the market has changed, and like new investors, you need to go back to basics.  On September 17, I will be moderaing a panel of experienced real estate investors who will provide an all-day JumpStart seminar in Cupertino on the basics of real estate investing.  Nothing will be sold — it”s all education and networking.  Topics to be covered will include the pros and cons of different types of real estate investments, how to find good deals, tax considerations, how to finance transactions, and exit strategies.  To attend the JumpStart program on 9/17, go to www.SJREI.org to register and get more information.  Seating is limited, so be sure to register early!

Learn before you earn.  Using a self-directed IRA is not for everyone, and you need to understand what risks are involved before making important decisions involving your pension funds.  The two programs are designed to provide you the basic information you need to make an informed decision.

“No Money Down!” Too Good to be True?

Can a clever entrepreneur realistically expect to make money in today’s market with no money down? Each year, thousands of people sign up for real estate seminars to learn about wholesaling and similar techniques that promise to make them wealthy with limited demands for time or cash. These programs are sold at seminars and workshops, along with books, CDs, and tapes, along with the opportunity to sign up for “coaching” and “mentoring” programs.

Many people ask me if these programs are legitimate, or if they are “too good to be true.” Sometimes promoted as “wholesaling,” they have been around for years. For the new investor with little or no money to invest, these concepts offer an opportunity to get started, learn a lot, and if you land the right deal, make some money. Here’s how one approach works: you search for a property owner who is highly motivated to sell for substantially less than the market value, make an offer to purchase, and get the seller to sign a legally binding contract. You then sell the contract to an investor – most likely a “rehabber” – and take the profit on the sale. Basically, you make up for your lack of cash with hard work – searching lists, making phone calls, and knocking on doors – to get the deal: a binding contract to purchase the property for substantially less than the market value. In theory, you could earn a fair income in real estate without having to pay a dime of your own money, replace a roof, or install a toilet. Slick marketing brochures and flashy web sites promise to teach you all the tricks, provide all the forms, and for only a few dollars more, be your Coach or Mentor.

Does it work? Like most programs that promise you the chance to make money in real estate, it depends on a number of factors, not the least of which is the integrity and reputation of the program and the people behind it. Other factors include the state of the real estate market, and changes to laws and regulations affecting the investors. Things have changed since the housing collapse in 2008, and wholesaling was being promoted by individuals like Robert Allen and Carelton Sheets. In a rising housing market, bad decisions and sloppy management will often be forgiven or ignored if there is still sufficient profit in the deal. But in a declining market, with tight credit and an overabundant supply of properties with little or negative equity, qualified buyers are scarce – and cautious. This is not to say that you can’t make money wholesaling, but you’ll have to work twice as hard for half the profit. You should be very skeptical of any claims or testimonials made before 2008!

Making the task even more challenging are many laws recently enacted by the California Legislature, mostly in response to reports of fraudulent schemes which were designed to take advantage of homeowners facing foreclosure. Many real estate programs from out-of-state failed to address the new California laws into account, while others merely provided lip service to the new California regulations. Unfortunately for the investor, the consequences for making a mistake could mean heavy fines or even going to jail! It is very common for these programs to recommend that you “get a lawyer on your team” as part of setting up your wholesaling business. Of course, the cost of legal advice is not included in the price charged for the seminar or “coaching” program! Also not included: the cost of legal representation if you decided to guess and guessed wrong!

So, what has changed? For one, the entire housing market. In the typical wholesaling transaction before 2008, a “no money down” deal would involve finding a homeowner with a large amount of equity willing to take less profit in exchange for the convenience of a quick, “as-is” sale. In a rising market, the property value continues to rise, and there is a good probability that the investor or rehabber will recover their purchase price and repair costs and still make a profit. Since the housing crisis struck in 2008, the percentage of sellers being forced to sell because they are underwater, facing foreclosure, unemployed, and unable to refinance or modify their mortgage, has steadily increased. Today, almost half of all home sales on the market are short sales, which not only means a much longer and contentious escrow, but the profit margins no longer exist. As housing prices drop, investors can afford to stand back and wait. For the wholesaler, it most likely means losing the deal altogether! To make it work, the wholesaler must cast a wider net, and inevitably will find themself facing compliance issues under the new regulations.

As a result of many fraudulent scams, California enacted new laws and toughened others intended to protect homeowners facing foreclosure from unscrupulous individuals trying to take advantage of homeowners. For example, a homeowner who had been issued a Notice of Default has a 5-day right of cancellation of a sale, and must be provided a special Notice of this right (CC §1695). The Attorney General requires individuals who offer “foreclosure assistance” to register as a “Foreclosure Consultant” and post a special bond (CC §2495). Violations could result in steep fines and even jail. In addition, the California Department of Real Estate started issuing Cease and Desist orders against unlicensed individuals for activities that were deemed by the DRE to require a real estate license. New and tougher laws, tougher penalties, and stricter enforcement definitely increases the risks and challenges for the wholesaler operating in California.

In addition, to protect homebuyers against unscrupulous “fly by night” rehabbers, the Legislature enacted AB2335, which requires local municipalities to enforce provisions requiring that all work be done by licensed contractors. An exception was allowed for an owner/rehabber, but only if they certified that they were an owner-occupant for 12 months. Further complicating matters, all States were required to enact provisions to implement provisions of the SAFE Act, which seeks to strictly regulate private lending practices by requiring those who originate or arrange loans to take courses, register and report all lending activities. Making the challenge even tougher, new reporting and disclosure requirements effectively make it difficult, if not impossible, for the wholesaler to claim a fee, let alone complete a double-escrow.

In short, these challenges, coupled with the evolving nature of real estate transactions, makes wholesaling a considerably more difficult way to get started in the real estate business. However, this has not appreciably reduced the number of individuals and companies from promoting seminars and sell books and CDs, and offer attractive discounts for “coaching” and “mentoring” programs. Before you write a check or given them your credit card, do your due diligence. Read the reviews. Make sure they are based where you want to invest your time, especially if it’s in California. And check the date – make certain the materials are current and relevant for today’s real estate market! There are a few legitimate and honest programs out there that do a good job of teaching new investors how to get started and survive in this turbulent market, and those who take the time to adjust and adapt to the new regulations will stay ahead of the curve.

The bottom line. Many factors have changed real estate investing. “No money down” deals – if they ever really worked – are complicated and scarce, and probably not the best choice for the new investor just getting started. At the same time, changes in the real estate market have created new opportunities not previously available, so keep your eyes and ears open. Join a reputable REI association; get to know other members, and listen with a critical ear. If a particular investment strikes you as interesting, apply the following tips.

Tips. Rule No. 1 is to do your due diligence. If the claims and promises sound too good to be true, they probably are. Rule No. 2 is to plan ahead, and be patient. In a turbulent market, everything takes longer. Delays can end up costing you money, if not the whole deal. Rule No. 3 is to be realistic. Get the facts from professionals – don’t rely on something your weekend buddy said, or something you got in an e-mail. Double-check and verify the facts. Ask yourself – do you have all of the relevant facts to make an informed decision?

Using a Checkbook LLC to Invest Your IRA Funds

Six months ago, I wrote: “Real estate prices are at bargain levels.  Many individuals seeking to recoup their stock market losses, or who are considering a career change, are seriously considering real estate as an investment opportunity.  However, despite the fact that rates are at historically low levels, lenders are still reluctant to loan money, and with the overall drop in appraised values, it is harder than ever to get an equity line of credit.  Even those with great credit scores find that lenders are reluctant to loan money for some of the more challenging types of investment opportunities, such as bulk REO sales, foreclosures, rehabs, and flips. This is where you might consider using your retirement plan — your 401(k) or IRA – as an alternate source of funds.”  For whatever reason, the situation has not changed: real estate is still a bargain and lenders are still not lending.

If you haven’t already done so, you might consider using your Self-Directed IRA to fund a real estate investment.  For some people, it might even make sense to set up a “Checkbook LLC” so you can control the speed of the transaction process.

Based on some examples I’ve encountered over the past year, I want to emphasize that the use of your SDIRA must be compatible with your investment objectives. Restrictions on the use of your IRA — sometimes referred to as “Prohibited Transactions” under IRC Section 4975 — may be incompatible with your objectives.¬† For example, if you plan to purchase an investment rental for your son or daughter to live in while they attend college, you cannot use your IRA funds.¬† Another example is where you plan to use your IRA to fund a business where you are the key decision-maker (CEO, COO, etc.).¬† IRS and DOL restrictions will often make these types of investments impossible or extremely complicated.¬† But if you are simply looking for a bona-fide, arms-length investment that will provide a decent ROI, consider using your IRA.

First, you need to find a qualified IRA custodian who will allow you to invest in real estate, and not just “traditional” investments such as stocks, bonds or mutual funds. A truly “self-directed” individual retirement account  (“SDIRA”) custodian will allow you to “self-direct” your retirement funds into “alternative” assets, such as real estate, notes and deeds of trust, and business opportunities.  This isn’t new – it has been available to investors since 1974 when Congress enacted ERISA.  What is new is the nature of investment opportunities that are available.

Several custodians offer the opportunity to use your SDIRA to invest in real estate, but there are restrictions and regulations. The transaction must be arms length: the account holder may not receive any direct or indirect benefit (i.e., commission); and they may not sell or buy property that is owned by a direct relative or themselves (i.e., you cannot purchase your mother’s house or buy a condo for your daughter while she’s attending college).  In addition, you may not make personal use of the property purchased with retirement funds. Real estate investment property is generally ideal for using SDIRA funds.

With a SDIRA, your Custodian must control the disbursement of funds, and all proceeds (i.e., rental income or sale) must be returned to your IRA in order to maintain the special tax treatment provided for retirement plan accounts.  This means that all transactions must be processed through your SDIRA Custodian, which can result in fees and, in some cases, delays.  In some types of transactions, such as bulk REO sales, foreclosure sales, rehabs and flips, not only are there multiple transactions, but time is of the essence!

This is where a “Checkbook LLC” can help.¬† The process involves setting up a separate LLC funded and owned entirely by your SDIRA, and deposited directly to a checking account held in the name of the LLC.¬† As Manager, you would have the authority to issue checks to disburse funds for both minor and major expenses, pay fees, and generally manage the funds according to the time requirements imposed by the type of investments you are working with.¬† A classic example is the need for prompt disbursement when purchasing foreclosure property at the courthouse steps.

The “Checkbook LLC” is not for everyone, and there are some disadvantages when using SDIRA funds to invest in real estate.¬† The investor must be fully aware of and take special measures to ensure that the investments comply with the special restrictions, or risk losing the special tax benefits provided for retirement plan funds.¬† “Boilerplate” or “Internet” format LLC documents will often not be acceptable to SDIRA Custodians.¬† At the same time, don’t be fooled into paying thousands of dollars for unnecessary services, books and tapes.¬† Remember, your primary goal should be to invest your retirement funds in real estate, not gimmicks!¬† Always consult with a qualified professional, and take the time to learn more.

Loan Mod Catastrophe Can Be Avoided

Is the glass half full or half empty?  Or is it the wrong glass?  On October 8, Treasury Secretary Geitner announced that the Administration’s loan modification program was on target to help 500,000 households avoid foreclosure.  On October 9, a Congressional TARP Oversight Panel released a crtical report that predicted the Administration’s program would, “in the best case,” prevent “fewer than half of the predicted foreclosures.” (NY Times 10/10/2009).  Who’s right?

The problem, of course, is that no one really knows.  The program, which requires completion of a three-month “trial” period for a homeowner to qualify for a “permanent” loan modification, is still in the infancy of the implementation period to provide any meaningful statistics.  According to the NY Times article, as of September 1st, only 1.26% of trial modifications had become permanent, and the plan had produced only 1,711 “permanent” loan modifications.   Many of these so-called modifications involve only a short-term reduction in rate with no reduction in principal, and leave the homeowner upside down with no hope of qualifying for a refinance.  With many Option ARM loans due to reset, and thousands of new homeowners who just entered the market to take advantage of the 3.5% FHA down payment and the $8,000 tax credit, the stage is set for a new wave of delinquencies if the job market continues its current trends.

Another problem is the so-called “shadow inventory” – the homes that should be on the market at a trustee or foreclosure sale, but are not.  The evidence is empirical but not necessarily reliable.  Stories abound of homeowners who have not made their mortgage payments for months, but who have yet to receive a Notice of Default fromt their lender.  Perhaps some lenders are waiting to see how their first round of “trial” modifications play out.  In some cases, the sheer volume of applications has overwhelmed the loan servicers, forcing delays stretching into months while the applications are “under review.”

Bruce Norris recently attempted to calculate more precisely the extent of this phenomenon, noting that the number of Trustee Sales had dropped despite the ever-increasing number of delinquencies.  In July, 2009, he reported the number of Trustee Sales in California had dropped to slightly more than 17,000, compared to almost 29,000 in July of 2008.  Based on the number of deficiencies, the number of Trustee Sales should have been almost threetimes as many – 52,700!  Running the numbers over the past year, comparing delinquencies vs. trustee sales, Bruce Norris calculates that there are approximately 306,329 additionalhomes that should have gone to trustee sale in California.  If the rumors about delinquent homeowners who haven’t even been added to the list are even partially true, the discrepancy would be even higher.  And if the best the Administration’s Plan can hope to achieve is “less than half” of the predicted foreclosures, the prospects for success are indeed dismal.  Any grade less than 50% would not be considered acceptable under any circumstances.

Rising unemployment, overwhelmed and untrained loan servicing agencies, and a continuing refusal to provide adjustment for actual market value, are all ingredients for failure.  Add a few scoops of Option ARM resets, continuing chaos in the appraisal system, and a whole new crop of FHA-backed minimum-down mortgages to the mix, and you have the classic recipe for a catastrophe.  On the national level, the conflicting statistics only generate fuel for debate over policies and programs.  But at street level, families and neighborhoods continue to suffer from the collapse of a complicated securitized mortgage marketing scheme that should not have been allowed to take over and replace a more fundamental but functioning system.

What most homeowners facing default fail to grasp is that the investors who hold or control their mortgage have absolutely no incentive or interest in “saving” the homeowner from default.  All that matters is the value of the Note, and in any particular situation involving a portfolio consisting of hundreds or thousands of individual Notes, which in turn comprise security for an investment held by shareholders, the decisions whether or not to modify the terms are made — not for the benefit of the individual homeowner — but purely and simply on the basis of the impact on the value of the portfolio overall.  Complicating this process are multiple layers of IRS, SEC and similar regulations and restrictions that limit the extent to which the portfolio managers can make adjustments without putting the shareholders — or themselves — at risk.  As it is, the best a lender can tell a homeowner in distress is that they will do a “charge off,” effectively shifting the financial burden for the loss from the lender to the borrower.  While it sounds like a huge break if the lender “forgives” a $100,000 Note, the lender gets to write off the loss against other gains, while the homeowner faces the prospect of a $40,000 tax bill via a Form 1099.

There are solutions out there.  Modifying the tax codes and restructuring the securitized mortgage market dynamics would take too long and would offer little in the form of timely relief.  I like Bruce Norris’ concept of returning to the days when an investor could buy a property by assuming the existing loan.  It would be a simple transaction, and return control of the housing market to people willing to work to make it succeed, instead of faceless institutional speculators amassing unmanageable volumes of security instruments that bear little relation to the properties they represent.  Investors would be permitted to manage their risk more directly, and more importantly, homeowners would have the opportunity and the incentive to participate in the process for a successful outcome.  It provides the opportunity for a classic “win-win” that would save families, preserve neighborhoods, and restore communities.