Monthly Archives: November 2008

Phantom Rent: Pitfalls of Buying Pre-construction Condo’s

Toy Factory Lofts - Where we bought 2 units pre-construction

Toy Factory Lofts - Where we bought 2 units pre-construction

Thinking of buying a pre-construction condo? As we enter the 11th month of paying “rent” to the developer on two units we own in the Toy Factory Lofts in Toronto’s trendy King West district, I want to tell you not to. We’re paying rent, yet we own the two units. Or wait, maybe we don’t!?

5 years ago I pooled some money together with a couple of partners to buy these units. We’d researched the area and knew it was just about to emerge as the next great place to live in Toronto. And the value of our units has increased a lot…even with the market cooling. But, I can’t help but feel frustrated that we aren’t paying the mortgage down on these units yet! As each day passes the return on our investment is diminishing. We haven’t even got our financing in place because officially we don’t own those units yet!

Confused? It’s “phantom rent“, as a recent Globe and Mail article called it. Phantom rent is the period of time between getting occupancy of your unit and the condo being registered (at which time you then officially own the unit and will obtain a mortgage on it). While you live in the unit (or in our case, rent it out), you must pay the developer rent to cover their costs associated with the unit. In effect, you are just renting your own unit until the condo corporation is registered with the city and you then officially get title to your unit. Once you have title, you can obtain a mortgage (or pay cash) to finally close the deal.

In our case, we have been renting for 11 months now! According to the lawyer quoted in Globe article, she states the norm is about 2 – 4 months of rent! Well, this does not please me (nor my partners) on our deal because we have missed out on building equity through principal paydown from our tenants (yes, thankfully we have 2 great tenants in our 2 units paying us rent while we pay it right back to the developer) over those 11 months.

Loft Style Units with exposed ceilings - look great, but we don't OWN them yet!

Loft Style Units with exposed ceilings - look great, but we don't OWN them yet!

How much money have we lost with our two pre-construction units thanks to the phantom rent we’ve been paying since occupancy 11 months ago?

Unit 1 – $257,400 purchase price
20% Down payment
Mortgage will be: $205,920
Using 5.5% Interest Rate and starting payments in January, our Principal paid down after 11 payments would be $3,643, so we’d now owe $202,276.

This is equity that would have been built up through the pay down of the mortgage using the rent from the tenants. So, in effect, we lost up to $3,643 in equity during this time.

Unit 2 – $276,400 purchase price
$55,280 down payment (20%)
$221,120 mortgage
$3,913 would have been paid down on the principal after 11 mortgage payments, so we’d now owe $217,207
So, in effect, we lost up to $3,913 in equity during this time.

We’ve lost out on approximately $7,500 across the two units in what should have been paid down on the mortgage, AND with each month we still don’t own our unit, we lose another $700.

There are many pro’s and con’s to buying a condo before it’s built, but as with everything, set your goals before you invest, and be aware of the facts before making the leap! And if you really want to avoid this situation… buy resale condos only!


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Fourth Place in this week’s Carnival of Real Estate

313a_bannerrev-n-youlowqual2Hosted by The Stockton Real Estate Specialist, the 118th Carnival of Real Estate has a great assortment of articles…including one written by yours truly!! My article was one that I wrote for our newsletter subscribers on the five steps to rent out your property.

Go on over to this week’s Carnival of Real Estate Host and check out the winners.

Thanks to Pat for hosting this week’s carnival and for selecting my article as one of the Top 5! I am really excited to be in my first Carnival of Real Estate!!

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Knowing Your Property Comparables – An Article by Justin Ford

313a_bannerrev-n-youlowqual1My head is still spinning from the amazing week I had in Florida. For the first 4 days I was in Delray Beach at a information marketing conference put on by the amazing folks at Early to Rise. And let me tell you, it was well worth the cost and pain of 16 hours of travel (why oh why is there no airline that flies non stop from Vancouver to Miami or Palm Beach or Ft. Lauderdale??), and every minute of my time spent at the conference. Every session was jam packed with content, ideas and tips and I met so many interesting and inspiring attendees of the conference.

I also had the absolute pleasure of meeting many of my favourite Early to Rise authors and experts. The list is long, so I won’t name them all right now even though I am dying to name drop!! I mean, did I ever expect to get to have a drink with Alex Mandossian or Michael Masterson, or shake hands with Mary Ellen Tribby, Howie Jacobson, AND Dr. Al Sears? Never!! O.k., I just name dropped some of the people I met… 🙂 I couldn’t help it – I am STILL excited about last week.

The experts were incredibly accessible in between sessions, at the networking events AND even at the hotel bar after hours. It really exceeded my expectations this year. But, one of the real treats, was when Charlie Byrne (Senior Copywriter at Early to Rise) introduced me to Justin Ford.

Justin Ford is Early to Rise’s main real estate expert. And, I save most of Justin’s articles. I reference them when I need ideas, I read them when I am bored, and most importantly, I keep them in case there’s one that I think is worth sharing with friends or fellow real estate investors… and I think this one is really well worth sharing. And at the bottom there’s link information to sign up for Early to Rise’s free e-newsletter – which you should do!! Every friend and colleague I’ve ever recommended ETR’s newsletters too loves it!!! (I receive no compensation whatsoever if you do or don’t sign up… I just think it’s great and wanted to share it… besides, they have published some of my articles on real estate investing!!!)

Not All Comps Are Created Equal: How to Zero in on a Property’s True Value – Even From Halfway Across the Country

By Justin Ford

My property manager in another state called me the other day with an opportunity on a small house. “Justin,” he said, “it’s a 2-2, about 940 square feet, on a corner lot. It needs about $4,000 worth of work that I can do myself. Going by other homes in the area, it should be worth about $120,000 to $130,000 once it’s fixed up. We can buy it for $85,000.”

“How much could we rent it out for?” I asked. Even if I’m going to quickly sell a property, I always want to know it will cash flow if I decide to – or have to – hang on to it.

“About $900 a month.” That meant we’d be buying at less than 100 times the monthly rent – a ratio at which the house would comfortably cash flow.

“Why is the owner selling so cheaply?”

“The guy’s an investor who just picked it up in foreclosure. He only wholesales deals. Doesn’t fix or rent out properties.”

“If your numbers check out, Tom, we can do the deal. Let me take a look at some comps.”

Ah, the comps. Many a good deal has appeared to be not so good once you take a closer look at the right comps. We would soon learn that Tom’s estimated value of $120,000 to $130,000 was off by a good $20,000 to $30,000. He had made that mistake for two reasons: First, because he gave too much weight to an “on the fly” assessment by a local agent. Second, because he looked at the average sale price for a 2-2 in too broad an area.

The agent told Tom that homes in the area were selling for $113,000 to $150,000. But that was off the top of his head, without checking specific, recent comps. As for Tom’s own search for comps, he did it by zip code, and that casts too wide a net.

A zip code can include very different neighborhoods and price ranges. To get a closer idea of the true sales value of any property you buy, get comps that are as close to your target property as possible. That means begin with properties on the same street.

Nobody Is Going to Make Sure You’re Getting a Good Deal – Except You

Now most appraisers won’t go out of their way to get comps on the same street or on an adjacent street. But simply because they may not apply this level of detail to their research doesn’t mean you shouldn’t. After all, they’re not risking any money in the deal.

Usually, appraisers want to come up with a legitimate fair market value. But, often, they’re pressed for time. So if the first comps they come across are a few blocks away, they may use those for the sake of convenience – without realizing that the neighborhood a few blocks away isn’t really comparable. So you’ll get a false reading by relying on houses in that area to gauge the value of your target property.

During the bubble, some banks would even push appraisers to justify the highest possible values. That way, banks could make bigger loans. And since, in most cases, they’d end up selling the loans, they didn’t care that the appraisals were a bit high. But, as a buyer, you never want your appraisals to be high. You don’t want to fool anyone – least of all yourself.

You want to be conservative with your appraisals. And you do that by knowing the “sold” and “asking” prices of as many properties as possible – in the immediate vicinity – that have the same key characteristics as your target property. These key characteristics include school district and zoning, as well as property type (e.g., size, age, construction type) and type of resident (e.g., mostly renters vs. mostly owners).

Sometimes Nearby Properties Can Be Miles Away in Value

For instance, a main drag may be dual-zoned – for commercial and residential use. If that street is growing in popularity – say, as a new “restaurant row” – a large house on it, with the potential for restaurant conversion, may command a significantly higher price than an identical house two blocks away on a residential-only street.

Conversely, properties on a main street may have fallen into disrepair as another hotspot in the city became more popular. At the same time, a cul-de-sac just a few blocks away may overlook a spectacular forested area. In that case, a house on the residential-only cul-de-sac may be worth much more on a square-foot basis than a house on the dual-zoned main street.

The point is to compare apples to apples by comparing properties with similar key characteristics that are as close to each other as possible.

So how do you do that? There are a number of ways.

4 Resources for Good Comps – Especially for Out-of-Town Properties

The simplest way to get an extensive list of recent comps is to enlist the help of a real estate agent. They can do a Comparative Market Analysis (CMA) using software from the local Multiple Listing Service (MLS). When they run the CMA, however, be sure to ask them to include as many nearby properties as possible. You’re NOT looking for the final “market value” spit out by the program. That can be manipulated by the person running the program. You just want the raw data – from which you can draw your own conclusions.

The agent may charge you anywhere from $50 to a few hundred dollars for the CMA. Or they may be willing to do a CMA only if they are representing you as the buyer’s agent. If you found the deal yourself, you don’t want to pay three percent or so to an agent for running comps. So, in that case, you can check the comps yourself – even without a real estate license.

The simplest way is to go to Type in the address, and you’ll get neighboring sales. You may not get all of them, but you’ll usually get a sufficient number. For a more thorough search, go to the website of the local Property Appraiser or Tax Assessor. This is a county or city office that keeps track of property sales for the purpose of assessing taxes.

It’s a good idea to check your Zillow comps against public record comps. The Zillow comps are mostly – but not always – accurate, so I like to at least spot-check against public records when possible.

If you’re buying from afar – as I sometimes do – you may want to look at a map of the neighborhood first. This way, you can get comps from neighboring streets too. You should always work with a local contact. Among other things, that person can tell you which neighboring streets are comparable and which are not.

Another good resource is Google Earth ( You can download some amazing free software from that site and then zoom in on aerial shots of most any neighborhood in the U.S. (and many throughout the world). That often gives you an idea of the kind of homes near your target property. You might even spot a budding Mount Trashmore landfill growing nearby. Or maybe no one mentioned the railroad tracks a block away.

Between the local Property Appraiser’s Office, Zillow, and Google Earth, you can usually do a very thorough job of running comps on any property you’re thinking of buying – even in a far-off state. If you happen to be in one of those rare areas where the Property Appraiser’s office doesn’t publish recent sales on the Web, you may need to confirm your Zillow comps by working with a local real estate agent and/or having your local contact do some footwork.

Know Your Comps Cold

Why is this so important? Because in real estate you make your money the day you buy. You may get paid when you sell, much further down the road. But you set yourself up for success or failure depending on how knowledgeable a buyer you are.

For instance, in the case of that little house I told you about at the beginning of this article, it turned out not to be such a great deal after all. I showed Tom that the few nearby comps I could find – even though I was 1,500 miles away – indicated the house might be worth about $95,000 to $100,000, give or take a few thousand. But I didn’t see a sufficient number of sales at higher prices to justify the $120,000 to $130,000 value he imagined. And, indeed, when Tom went to another agent and had her pull comps, they found a few similar homes that had recently sold in the high 80s to low 100s. So, though the house was originally represented as being offered 25 percent to 30 percent below market value, it was perhaps only 5 percent below.

Now that doesn’t mean the house wasn’t a good buy. In fact, it’s in a good area – just five minutes from downtown. The building is in good shape, and even at $90,000 the property would cash flow. It could be a decent long-term investment. But one thing is certain. The property was not the deal the sellers made it out to be. If we’d gone in thinking we’d do a fast flip and make $25,000 to $30,000, we’d have been sadly disappointed. Instead, we did our homework and discovered it was actually being offered close to a fair market price.

Still, since we put in the time to analyze the property, we thought we might as well put in an offer. So we did. But instead of offering $85,000 on the mistaken belief the property would be worth $125,000 after fix-up… we offered $73,500, expecting it to be worth about $97,500 after repairs, and expecting it would be a good investment if we held onto it for a while.

The sellers didn’t accept our offer, but c’est la vie. We didn’t overpay either. And that’s key.

Also important to keep in mind: If you’re going to make an offer on a property after verifying its market value, be just as thorough in checking your rental comps. You want to know that the rental income you’ll get will be close to the income you’ll need to pay your mortgage and expenses and have a margin of safety.

[Ed. Note: Justin Ford is a successful real estate investor with properties in five cities and three states. To learn more about how he finds value markets and then targets undervalued deals in those markets, click here.]

This article appears courtesy of Early To Rise, an e-zine dedicated to making money, improving your health and quality of life. For a complimentary subscription, visit

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5 Creative Ways to Make Money in Real Estate

Creative Ways to Make Money in Real Estate

Creative Ways to Make Money in Real Estate

I’m honoured and excited to let you know that Patrick Riddle of Must Know Investing has posted one of my articles on his site . Check out the article and the other great stuff on the site! Even if you’ve been to Must Know Investing before, I think you should stop in. The site has a great new look, and it’s much easier to find the fantastic articles and resources on the site! Nice work guys!!

Patrick has also partnered up with Trevor of to create a fantastic course on Private Money Lending. To get things ready for the course, they created a 5 part video series on private money… it’s definitely worth checking out.

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Buying a Timeshare in South Beach – Is it A Good Real Estate Investment?

We hadn’t even checked into our little boutique hotel on Ocean Drive in Miami’s South Beach when Danny was greeting us with promises of VIP passes to the Mansion, reserved chairs, tent and towels at Nikki Beach, $100 in gas, a free meal and more… if we would spend 60 minutes listening to the Crescent Hotel’s Timeshare deal.

Crescent Beach Hotel in Miami South Beach

Crescent Beach Hotel in Miami South Beach

I’ve been trying to convince Julie to go a time share pitch for a few years. We took a tour in Maui of the Westin Timeshares but didn’t go through the salespitch. It’s not that I am looking to buy a timeshare, but I like to hear about the deals (and, I love free stuff). Julie reluctantly agreed to sit through the spiel.

We barely managed to get checked into the hotel, and we were getting ushered up to the fourth floor to begin. We walk into what used to be a hotel room, and are offered the choice between two of the empty tables at the back. The room was buzzing with conversation as there were 8 other tables of couples listening as salesmen gave them their best pitches.

No less than 90 minutes later, we’d walked Justin, our 22 year old salesman, through our extensive travels over the past two years, and he’d repeatedly explained that, with the amount we spend on travel, we would have saved SO MUCH money if we’d known about this deal before! He emphasized that this was an investment because when we would sell the property later we would get more than our money back. He also slipped in the fact that we could “game” the system by renting our property out at peak times if we weren’t going to use it, and, when we did travel, it would be free! Careful to always show us the low amounts when referring to what each week would cost in terms of timeshare points (I will get to that in a sec), and to tell us the higher end of what we’d be spending otherwise he painted a very powerful picture of what life would be like once we were the proud owners of an Ocean Drive, state protected, timeshare at the Crescent Hotel. If we went to certain places like Costa Rica, in fact, we could have 12 weeks of hotels paid for each year.

He even told us that Donald Trump tried to buy the land in front of the hotel but no go… the view of the ocean will always be there…it’s protected.

Who wouldn't want a timeshare on South Beach? It's GORGEOUS here!

At this point, we knew the general structure of the deal, but we still didn’t know the price. Here’s how it works:

  • Annually you get 7,800 points,
  • The points accumulate and rollover, so unused points just roll into the following year,
  • You can break them up and use them for 4 days or 3 days instead of only week chunks,
  • Your friends and family can use your points so long as you make the booking,
  • Your points can be used directly at any of the Island One resorts (I think they had 25 resorts), or at any Interval Timeshare Company’s thousand+ locations around the world for a fee,
  • There are no black out periods, and because you’re buying at South Beach which is top tier you can more easily stay at other desirable locations around the world.

So for example, Justin showed us that 500 points would get us a week in Costa Rica. But, as we dug into it, we found out that 500 points was for what they called GREEN weeks, which basically means nobody in their right mind travels there during that period.

Realistically, we could probably get 2 weeks at places we’d want to stay during the time periods we’d want to stay there in, for the 7,800 points each year.

Definitely in their favour, Island One Resorts (the timeshare company behind the Crescent Hotel) has addressed many of the issues I’ve heard about timeshares in the past that cause people grief, including:

  • stuck to one specific week each year,
  • limited flexibility,
  • use it or lose it each year,
  • can’t transfer it to friends or family.

So, it doesn’t sound half bad. But, we still don’t know the price!

FINALLY, as we are getting close to two hours sitting at this little table, and Julie is about to pass out on the table from exhaustion and impatience, Justin tells us the numbers:

All this could be ours for $36,000.

And with their financing, at the appealing rate of 18% APR, your total cost for the purchase comes to $39,180 + $9,000 (required 25% downpayment) = $48,180.

In addition to that, your timeshare fees for maintenance, taxes and insurance are $963/year (total of $4,815). So your grand total for owning this time share for 5 years is:

$52,995 which works out to $10,599 per year.

Or, put another way, it’s the same as paying $757/night at a hotel of your choosing during a two week vacation each year for 5 years.

Even if you buy it with cash (no financing) and hold it for 15 years, you are still going to be paying the equivalent of $240/night each year for your two weeks of vacation.

And the worst part is that the Island One’s Locations are not of much interest to us. And the majority of Interval Properties (the partner company that you can pay $154 to transfer your points for use at their properties) are not in areas of cities we would stay in either. We ARE big travelers, but that also makes us pretty particular. We know we like to be within walking distance of the sites and highlights of places we visit. We don’t want to be outside of the city, or away from the beach. Justin tried to convince us that the amount we were saving was going to make a $5 cab ride to get to the things we wanted to see or do worth it… but we fail to see the value.

For $757/night… let’s face it…we can stay in some pretty swanky places RIGHT IN THE MIDDLE Of the action just about anywhere in the world.

But, wait, after we told poor Justin, and then his manager Lisa, we weren’t interested we had to meet one last person before we were  “released”. This guy sat down and actually told us that they didn’t want to lose out on our business… so they wanted to give us the opportunity to enjoy the resort further. To do that, they were prepared to hold the $36,000 price for us for two years, and they would give us 8,000 points to use… for the low price of $2,200! Hmm… definitely a better deal, but we’re still not interested.

And on top of all of this… the “free” gifts are pretty much useless. The hoops to get them or use them are so numerous and painful that I am sure 99% of the people never use them. After the long presentation, Julie smugly said to me “So, you promise we never have to do that again?”, and I said, “I promise I won’t drag you along. I’ll go on my own”. What can I say, I love hearing about “deals”!!!

Have you bought a timeshare? Or have you thought about it? Ever tried to sell one?? Please tell me your experience…

Have you got a question about real estate investing? Please let us know!

Want wealth in the 7 figures…learn how we’ve built up our real estate portfolio in seven years, part time. We publish a newsletter to help new real estate investors make money and gain freedom from real estate. When you sign up for that newsletter you’ll also get our Real Estate Investing Starter Tips Guide Free. Please check it out at our website Rev N You with Real Estate. Beach Destinations


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Meeting a Reader & Real Estate Investment Courses

You never know who'll you will meet at a course, conference or even at a coffee shop!

You never know who

So, there I was in Toronto at the event I mentioned in my last post, chatting with a very recent addition to the RealNet Canada research team when he says “Julie, I want you to meet my long time friend Peter”. The three of us stood around chatting for awhile, and I started to tell a few real estate war stories (it was a real estate event after all!). Part way into my story about Dave’s purchase of a six-plex in Niagara Falls Peter says “Wait a minute – do you write a newsletter??”.

I’m pretty sure my face went red… surprised more than embarrassed I think. “Rev N You?” I asked. “Yea -” Peter said. I braced for it… what if he didn’t like it? But then he said “I love that newsletter. It’s great…” and then the best thing happened, Peter turned to his buddy that had introduced us and started telling him about our newsletter!

As we kept talking, I realized Peter had actually written us awhile back with a question about real estate courses and finding properties… here’s his note to us, and part of my response (not all because it was a very long and detailed email and I don’t want to bore you)!

I guess it’s a good note to self… you really never know who you are going to meet, and where! Always put your best foot forward in everything you do… here’s Peter’s note, and part of my reply.



I just read your article on real estate courses. I believe heavily in the usefulness and power of education. What real estate courses have you taken that you thought were good? What is the best course you have taken?

Also, how do you find smaller investment properties that make sense financially. I have been looking for a while now and live in Toronto. There only small deals I find are usually under 8% cap and are not worth the time and hassel when I can get this in the public market.

Do you have a specifc way or process for sourcing new investments?


And part of my response… I’ll just post the bit about courses for now… or this will be the longest post in history!

Hi Peter,
Thanks for your e-mail and your great questions.

First, about courses. It’s really tough for me to recommend a course to someone I don’t know. I really believe that a course has to meet your objectives, and everyone’s goals and objectives are different. Sometimes I go to a course or a conference to meet people. Other times I go because I don’t know anything about the subject. That said, while I was in Toronto (we live in Vancouver now), I attended a lot of real estate conferences by the folks at Real Estate Forums and mini-courses put on by BILD and NAIOP. Some courses and conferences require membership and others do not. But none of these are really geared towards a small investor – they just provide great market knowledge and interesting contacts.

For a smaller investor, I wouldn’t recommend any of the courses we spent money on (the ones you see on late night t.v.). They were essentially no-money down get rich quick courses full of hype.

I know members of REIN and they really like the Quick Start Program REIN offers. It might be worth checking out: The seem to do some really great research and provide some good tools to help you invest in real estate. They definitely aren’t full of hype to set you off on the wrong course – their focus is more on fundamentals which I think is important.

I wish you luck in your hunt for a good property. Please keep in touch and let us know if you end up taking a course you like and if you find a property with numbers that make sense for you.

Best Regards,

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The Market Isn’t Always Going To Be Like This… Bruce Flatt says so!

I just returned from a trip to Toronto, where one of the highlights of my trip was the Schulich Real Property Perspectives Lecture featuring Bruce Flatt, Senior Managing Partner and CEO of Brookfield Asset Management Inc. Brookfield is famous (at least in my mind) for their 2002 purchase of the World Financial Tower in New York previously owned and occupied by Lehman Brothers. Nobody wanted to touch the assets in downtown Manhattan after 9/11 and Brookfield picked it up from Lehman at $140 per square foot, or something ridiculously low like that. It was well below replacement cost. And today it’s part of one of the world’s most coveted office complexes. It was a move made with vision – an ability to look through the negative news and plan for the future.

Don't Sit on the Sidelines Afraid...The Market Isn't Always Going to Be Like This

Don't Let the Media Messages Control You.. the Market Isn't Always Going to Be Like This!

The room was packed with a diverse crowd from Toronto’s real estate industry…Bruce Flatt was a big draw with a message everyone needed to hear. The market isn’t always going to be like this. Have a strategy and follow it. Prudence pays off. In his view, real estate almost always returns to it’s replacement value. Yes, you’ll value it based on comparable properties and it’s income… but as the market moves up and down, you should always keep replacement value in your mind when you make your decisions.

Bruce reminded us that the market is never as bad or as good as the papers say it is, AND that decisions made with prudence will be more profitable because you’re acting while others are frozen in fear.

Thank you Bruce! And thank you Seth Godin…he’s echoing this message with a slightly different spin  (yes, I am on a serious Seth Godin kick these days, but he sent me a FREE copy of his newest book TRIBES!! How can you not talk about someone that sends you a free book?!).  Seth is talking about the negative messages in the media. But he’s commenting on the potential impact it could have on productivity as company’s trim back their budgets:

The media lemmings, the same ones that encouraged you to get a second mortgage, buy a McMansion and spend, spend, spend are now falling all over themselves to out-mourn the others. They are telling everyone to batten down, to cut back, to freeze and panic…The three biggest expenses of most endeavors (the energy to make it, the people who create it and the marketing that spreads the idea) are about to be overhauled.

What a tragedy it will be if we let defensive thinking hold us back. <Read the entire post here>

So, with both Bruce Flatt and Seth Godin trying to get us thinking about what we are doing today to be profitable, productive and just all around better tomorrow than we are today, are you sitting on the sidelines afraid or are you doing something today to make tomorrow better?


We’re just putting the finishing touches on our next newsletter where we review how to get back to basics with real estate investing and five ways to know you’ve found a great real estate investment in any market. To get on the list to receive our newsletter go to:


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