“No Conflict of Interest” is an Over-Used Canard in Real Estate Representation

Commercial real estate consists of many types of real estate, and a variety of agency types. But when representing a tenant or buyer, that exclusive agency in which the client has been assured of and expects to receive absolute good faith, loyalty, fidelity and non-disclosure is only as strong as its weakest link; and that link is conflict of interest.

Conflicts arise when the same agent representing the tenant breaches loyalty and fidelity either by design (in which they purposely do so), or by default (by allowing or creating the circumstance). The subject of this article is the latter, more sinister, invisible form of conflict of interest found throughout the commercial real estate industry by the “convenient proximity” of conflicting interest to that of the tenant. However, know also that the former, purposeful conflicts, happen all the time as well; and both require the tenant or buyer to strap on strong sensing devices as well as strong legal protection.

Conflicts even occur when there is a buyer’s agency or exclusive agency agreement enumerating in detail the list of good faith, loyalty, fidelity and non-disclosure requirements, but the conflict can still arise at any moment without the client ever knowing it is there. A few examples below reflect that conflicts can be as invisible and as deadly as carbon monoxide gas. It takes a trained sniffer and monitoring system to identify it, but it’s there for sure.

Take, for example, the tenant being represented by an agent of XYZ Company who, among the variety of buildings for the tenant to consider, XYZ Company has listings on several. There have been occasions where the tenant rep agent for the tenant is simultaneously a listing agent for other buildings. Worse, leases have occurred where the tenant, represented by the tenant rep, actually leased space in the tenant rep’s listed building! Smell a rat? But conflicts of interest don’t need to be so obvious and most can be noxious and just as invisible.

Here are a few more real-life examples where conflicts may exist in some hidden primordial form: CBRichard Ellis, known as the largest real estate services in the world also has CB Richard Ellis Realty Trust, a real estate investment trust (REIT) that seeks to invest in income-producing properties in major metropolitan areas (a landlord). And in May 2008 CBRichard Ellis Realty Trust also formed a joint venture with Duke Realty to acquire from Duke Realty up to $800 million of newly developed bulk industrial build-to-suit projects over three years. Yet at the same time CBRE consistently represents tenants, and perhaps even at these buildings. Not to suggest that CBRE engages in conflicts of interest, but the extremely close association of opposing interests in one space, one company or one office provides fertile soil for the possibility.

Another more precise example is the actual company, self-described as largest tenant representation organization (we’ll call it ABC Company); yet when you go down to the local operating unit, you find this company is actually apart of (and owned by) another company who describes themselves as a full service real estate services provider in retail development, property disposition, lease administration, project management, audits, and asset/property management. They then describe their tenant representation as “Our corporate division is the (city) office of ABC Company – one of the nation’s leading corporate real estate firms dedicated to providing corporate real estate services exclusively, including tenant representation, project management, administrative services and strategic planning.” Huh? Tenant Representation INSIDE a developer, management and property sales company?

Jones Lang LaSalle, a financial and professional services firm specializing in real estate services and investment management recently acquired Staubach Company which only represent users of office, industrial and retail space. On the Staubach website it even says, “There are no conflicts of interest”. So, what happens to the “no conflict of interest” now that Staubach is inside the whale of JLL? What happens if or when Staubach represents a tenant at a JLL building? They’ll gnash their teeth and jump up and down proselytizing about never breaching loyalty and fidelity as they all, and always, do.

To be specific, the St. Louis Business Journal (March 13, 2009) announced a deal by JLL. Here is exactly what it says: “Lynn Schenck of Jones Lange LaSalle represented (the tenant), and David Steinbach, also of Jones Lang LaSalle, represented (the Lessor)”. Hello? Excuse me?

Even Mark Fewin, senior managing director of CB Richard Ellis Inc.’s Dallas office stuck his foot in it when quoted in the Dallas Business Journal (8/8/08 issue) about the benefit of Staubach inside JLL, when he said, “The (JLL/Staubach) merger provides final validation to the argument that we have been making for many years – that both tenants’ and landlords’ best interests can be served by one firm.” WRONGO! In my opinion, the merger provides final vindication that tenants’ interests can not be best served by one firm which represents both tenants and landlords.

But, purveyors of conflict of interest situations artfully bob and weave – denying any association whatsoever with any conflict as if to say “Elephant! What Elephant?” I have been involved with many and one in particular stands out. Caught red handed that his tenant representation assignment included a few of his own companies listings, he stammered like a public figure caught in the act of accepting pay-off money, juxtaposing and angling away in flight for life all the while knowing the evidence was immutable.

Tenants who knowingly permit dual agency are ignoring the law that is in their favor – called Buyer’s Agency Laws. Every state has buyers agency laws which specifically apply to tenants. To not have inviolable representation is to have a fool for a patient.

While dual agency and “Chinese walls” are routinely touted as defenses and explanations, it cannot entirely rub out the stain and whiff of conflict. The seed of doubt, once cast, cannot be entirely eliminated.

The best course of action is to understand the insidious nature of overt or covert conflicts and work only with a firm “which can never have a conflict” (emphasis added). Seek out a firm which specializes in tenant representation. Don’t be fooled by the “full-service” come-on the large brokerages serve up. You don’t need their property management skills, you need a person with a poker face. As the tenant, you have every right to make this demand…in practicality, and under the law.

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Real Estate Stories that Show You How!

Let’s begin easing you out of the pits. I mean, comfort zone! I’m going to slowly and methodically give you as many little sparks and insights to the relatively simple ways that ordinary people use real estate to achieve extraordinary results.

Stories are the best spark plugs. They let you casually observe from a safe, secure and understandable view point. I will write to answer most of the questions that I feel I myself would ask if I was reading what you are about to read.

I want you to know something from the very start of this report and that something is this: I care about you and I sincerely mean that. I really do want you to move to a new comfort zone, one that is pleasurable and free from fear. A place where you realize you have the power to achieve greater things than you currently can imagine.

It’s possible for you to start being a more powerfully directed purpose-driven individual who is well organized and on track to higher achievement. You will change and grow, slowly and steadily with every page you read. With every thought and insight you gain, your desire and courage will grow as well.

Napoleon Hill wrote one of the greatest books of all time. It’s called “Think and Grow Rich.” The essence of that book, the secret it reveals time and again is this: you must develop a burning desire.

Don’t put this book down thinking the previous statement is cliché and that you already knew that! I am simply leading you to my next point, the next point being is – your desire needs a starting point. So to start developing desire, my secret is you must have a purpose. Why do you want to pursue real estate? I know what you’re thinking: to make money, to have security, to feel useful and appear successful. Good points. I agree you can have all of that and more if that is what you desire.

Now here is something that comes before any of those things you desire. What is the purpose of all those things? Purpose, purpose, purpose…you need to first define purpose before you get the things. My purpose, or so I thought early in my career, was to move up to a nicer house and have my first house become my first rental property. When I moved up to the next one, I quickly learned as soon as I rented it out, I was in some way responsible for creating happiness and security in the life of another person that was of no relation to me.

It soon was evident to me how the choices I made in choosing that first property either would help me or hurt me in my quest to succeed in the real estate investment business.

All of it is cumulative, everything you do and how you do it adds up. It compounds itself and it either makes your life easier or more difficult. I am going to give you experiences that you can learn from that will make your life easier; I am going to show you how. That is my purpose.

The book that gave me the unknowing courage to take my first steps in real estate was a book called “How I Turned $1000 into $3 Million in real estate in my spare time” by William Nickerson. He was a master storyteller and by osmosis, after reading his book, I found myself gravitating towards the real estate classified section of my Sunday paper.

Eventually I leapt and my life had changed. It was an FHA foreclosure, a two-bedroom, one-bath home with a built-in, screened-in pool, with a Jacuzzi and a built-in sprinkler system. I bought it for $46,000 and used the HUD 203K rehab program to fix it up. I spent $16,000 to update and make repairs. They then gave me one loan for a total of $62,000. It took me three months to complete it and I was in; I had done it!

My life changed, I learned, I took the leap. From then on I had confidence. I had already had my first home but now I had two. Well, I was in the Coast Guard and wouldn’t you know, three months later we moved. Uncle Sam took me out of St. Petersburg, Florida and dropped me in Kodiak, Alaska, for my next tour of duty.

Well guess what? I was armed with ambition, courage, confidence and just enough knowledge to be considered dangerous, so I bought a duplex as soon as I came ashore on Kodiak Island. Now I had three dwellings and my relationships and responsibilities were growing with my new tenants counting on me to provide a clean, functional and pleasing environment for them to exist in.

It looked like this: My mother rented my first house and an elderly couple rented the second one and my duplex came with an existing tenant who was a hospital administrator, so I was lucky. I was able to ease myself into the role of landlord without getting burned early in my career. I now had two houses and a duplex in the span of about one year. My brothers and some other family members took notice and were pretty well dumbfounded.

They couldn’t figure out how I had, all of a sudden, become a real estate wizard.

It felt good to make that change in so short a time.

I got that from reading a book! And that my friend is how you are going to do the majority of everything you do in real estate, by reading and taking steps towards duplicating the success of others in a repeatable pattern. The key is to understand that you can do it if you read the right books and apply the very basic formulas that are handed to you.
There lies in: Magic Bullets in Real Estate

This is a common man or woman’s real estate manual. William Nickerson never gave me anything so easy as “Magic Bullets!” So I learned trial by fire and it has been very gratifying. I’ve since went on to collect 17 properties, 23 tenants, 2 real estate licenses in Florida and Alaska, an assistant appraiser’s certificate and over a hundred books on real estate. I just kept learning and growing and gaining momentum for the last 13 years. I am still in the Coast Guard, too, and I work at Alaska One Realty in my spare time. In two more years, I will be retired at the ripe old age of 42. Sounds like a sort of fairytale, doesn’t it? Don’t let me fool you. It’s hard work and I’m still not a millionaire, but I want you to have the truth, so I will be honest with you every step of the way.

I know why I am not a millionaire and here is why. I would periodically sell property that was going up in value and paying for itself through the rent checks. But being in the Coast Guard would dislocate me every four years, so I found myself selling out in order to avoid being what is called “an absentee landlord.”

This is an important lesson for you. It has prevented me from becoming a millionaire up to this point. The lesson is: find an area on this planet that you could and will live in, and stay close to it. Don’t move more than 10 miles from your farm area. The farm area is where all your properties are located. Long distance “land lording” is tough! It can be done but you lose the ability to control the situation compared to if you were there. I’ve served my country and saved people’s lives, so for me it has not been in vain. I have no regrets but if you don’t have to leave your area of expertise, don’t!

The networks you build and the contacts you build, in the process of “doing” real estate, are so valuable that when they are no longer at your disposal, it puts you at a serious disadvantage.

Not to mention when you move you have to acclimate yourself to an entirely different market, build new trust-based relationships and start all over again. It’s like a treadmill you’ll be running and running, however it gets you nowhere.

I’ve used it to my advantage. I have been forced to accelerate my abilities to rapidly duplicate my success whenever I am moved, but it is still an uphill battle. My point: Don’t move too far from your farm or your network of bankers, appraisers, carpenters, tradesman, real estate, friends, tenants and so on. Once you have the skill you can duplicate your success anywhere you go but if you don’t have to go…enough said on that!

I like to say, “Don’t sell the goose to get the eggs.” What that means is if you need money to buy more property, use equity lines from other property to do it. You will get the same amount of money or more by using an equity line as if you sold it. However, you get to keep the asset and the money! I go into this in “Magic Bullets,” so I won’t drone on here. Just know you don’t have to sell your property to get the cash out of them.

So here we are. You know a little bit about me and you may have picked up a nugget or two. Let’s find a few more.

There once was a man who wanted to buy some investment property, so what he did was look at growth patterns. You should do this too, by going to your city’s planning and zoning department. You can see growth patterns and you definitely want to buy property that stands in the way of growth.

This is how he used what he learned. He saw that city planners had decided that a new artery (highway) would benefit their city by creating linkage to another city about 100 miles away, so being a smart investor he only went as far as a ten mile limit to be able to be close to his investment.

Now on average, new growth will radiate out from existing prosperous cities in the direction it is planned at a rate of about one mile per year. So our smart investor had a 10 – 12 year plan to cash out in about 10 – 12 years.

What he did was buy, I believe, 10 acres of commercially zoned property very cheaply because there was no demand at the time. He bought it, fenced it in, put up some lights and a gate, and held onto that little bugger. Now that new highway was coming his way and the good folks, through their taxes, were paying to have it built.

It didn’t take long for the heavy equipment to start cutting a swath towards his fenced-in storage facility and when they got close enough to him, he started renting out a secure area for everything, from road cones to generators to backhoes. You name it – it was stored there. This more than paid his land off.

Now the men and their equipment eventually moved on further down the trail but they left a finished highway behind them. And guess what? Low and behold, people started driving on it, and then started buying property to build houses on to get away from the city. Since the new highway was a straight shot into town, ten miles out was breeze.

Well, of course, here comes the herd and everyone is just populating the whole darned area. And within ten years, residential housing surrounds Mr. Investor, and can you guess what he’s got? Yep, a prime piece of commercial property, 10 acres large.

So in accordance with his 10-12 year plan, he sells his storage facility to make room for the new office/business park complex for over $2,000,000. That, my friend, is vision, and the sooner you get a clear picture of what it is that you want to specialize in, the sooner you can retire to the islands.

How hard was that? Don’t tell me you can’t do it, you can! I’m here to help you. I’m going to give you secrets no one else dares. Do you ever wonder why people won’t tell you the secrets? Of course you already know this but I’ll tell you anyway. It is because they are operating on a scarcity mentality, as though there won’t be any left for them. Or if learn something and act on it, you will get ahead and have a great life. Well, misery loves company and silent oppression is the rule.

Here’s a little story that poor quality real estate agents won’t appreciate either but I’m going to tell it to you anyway. The reason I can tell it is because there are some great real estate agents out there who absolutely don’t fear what I am about to tell you and would let you know it if they were in my position.

Here’s the deal: Some agents want to be like the Wizard of Oz. They want to create the appearance of marketing and transacting real estate as being technical and very legal, a deep dark mystery. Well, it’s not! The truth be told, you can write a contract on a napkin and it would stand up in court. I will emphasize here that you write on that napkin along with the terms of your agreement, “The terms set forth on this here napkin are subject to my attorney’s approval.”

An attorney will cover you completely for around $750.00. Prices may vary, however that is an average home transaction. There is a lot I am leaving out here but my point is this: If you own property, you can sell it anyway you want. “Magic Bullets” will teach you. Let’s move on.

Exposure is the key to finding buyers and sellers in real estate. If a property is priced fairly and everyone who is looking for that type of property knows that it is in the availability pool, it will be found and the transaction will proceed as advertised. Price it right, advertise it properly and let the lawyer take care of the details. No commission, just a flat fee. Period.

Now that I have that off my chest, I will tell you a story about Dan, a 21-year old friend of mine, and his wife and their new baby. He’s a hardworking guy who does his work without complaint and all the other “workers” pick on him for working so hard. Can you believe it? The other guys are so insecure and lazy that they make fun of a guy who is doing the work of three men, mainly of the three who are ridiculing him. Well, believe me, this doesn’t go unnoticed by me and I take him under my wing. Dan wants to buy a house, so I begin the process of saving him years of trial by fire and save him $25,000 at no charge. That is because he deserved my help.

Anyway, here is the story: I began with him by asking him what type of home he thought he would be comfortable with and a price range. He indicated a 3-bedroom for around $100,000.

Knowing what he wanted and knowing the area, I was able to take him shopping for the house he was looking for. Now I always go after the “For Sale by Owner” homes first because I know they won’t be adding any commission figure into their price, because they won’t be paying one. So at 6% of $100,000 he will get $6,000 more “house” for his precious dollar.

I also told him besides the “For Sale by Owner” homes, we would be looking at oddball discount companies that help distressed sellers further part with their money and property. The mentality of a seller who uses cheesy companies to help them sell their property is pennywise and pound-foolish. If you’re going to use professionals, then get a professional.

So off we go. After a day or so, we have found our house. Sure enough, El Cheeso Inc. has a sign on it. The screen doors are flapping in the breeze, the weeds are dancing on the lawn, but this house is indeed a 3-bedroom, 2-bath, 1-car garage with a fenced yard and it’s selling for $110,000. Well, due to the fact that there is a divorce in progress, and a new girlfriend who doesn’t like the place, and El Cheeso Inc. giving no representation, I negotiate for Dan and he gets it for $99,000. What’s so great about this deal is this exact same floor plan in another house was for sale down the street, on the same street, for $25,000 more.

The moral of the story is good things come to those who deserve it, and that is another key to real estate. You must work hard so others will take notice of you and help you succeed.

Here’s a beauty for you. This is about being in real estate circles and keeping your eyes and ears open and often times your “yapper” closed. This is the story of Brian and Julie. Here we have two hardworking souls. They have been married for 20 years and they have weathered the storms of matrimony. Julie works at a real estate office as an office manager. No real estate license, but she works at an office that sells a lot of waterfront property. So we are talking about location and being in the right place at the right time, and here comes a seller in the door of the office stating she is going to sell her older waterfront home. She is willing to take $180,000.

Julie tells Brian, they look at it and sure enough, this pearl is right on the water. She’s a gem waiting to be polished up, so Brian and Julie sell their condominium and move in. Well, they aren’t making any more waterfront property, so Brian goes to work polishing this jewel up.

Now, they have bought this house under market value in an appreciating market. So about one and a half years later, this property is worth over $350,000 and still climbing. Well, Brian is no dummy, so he gets to know his neighborhood. He strolls, takes walks and notices, you guessed it, a vacant, neglected jewel on an inside double lot. He tracks down the elderly lady, who is living with her sister, through the county records office and buys the house, including the extra lot, for a total of $120,000. Now Brian can walk to his new “jewel” and he starts polishing it. The neighbors start noticing and are amazed at his deal. He has offers of $180,000, $200,000 and $60,000 for just the lot. You name it. Now that the exposure is there, everyone wants a piece of it.

Well, this is what Brian did. He rented his first house out, moved into the second one and used plans that I gave to him to build a third house on the vacant lot, using the equity he accumulated from the first house that went up so much. And here’s how this thing shakes out: $180,000 for his first house and it’s value goes up to $365,000; he picked up the next jewel for $120,000 and he paid cash using the equity from the first house. Now he takes out a new mortgage on his second house for $120,000 and builds a third. The value at last count was $815,000 and he owed a grand total $300,000. That’s a half million-dollar profit in 5 years!

Now what does this story tell us? #1 – it says, “work hard”; #2 – keep your eyes open; #3 – use equity lines; #4 – don’t sell; #5 – learn how to be a landlord; #6 – be in locations that appreciate; #7 – buy things that are limited in availability; #8 – know how to research owners and repair property; #9 – get your partner’s help (spouse); #10 – use knowledgeable friends to help you see potential (I gave him the plans and advised him not to sell anything!).

Can you get any more lessons out of this story? I’m sure you can. Just read it again and think on it. Jot down your ideas and put them to work. Real estate is not that hard, folks! You can do it. With a few magic bullets, some spark plugs and a good mentor to show you how, you can do it too!

Let’s you and me talk for just a minute here, OK! Have you ever been really good at something and been able to step back and see the whole thing for what it is was? You just know exactly how to do it and you can see the end result clearly in your mind before you start. It’s predictable to you. It’s almost second nature, so you are comfortable doing it. It’s almost become boring to you; your comfort zone is such that you can do it in your sleep.

I’ve gotten that way with certain types of real estate and I see people everyday that are so afraid of taking the first step that they are literally paralyzed. They make excuses and put it off, and rationalize and live a quiet life of desperation. They don’t trust themselves and as a result of the unknown they can’t trust anyone else either. This is a vicious cycle because the longer they wait the more it reinforces their beliefs.

I just want to grab them by the collar, take them to the bank and make them tell the banker, “Pre-qualify me!” Then walk them out the door and show them how to do something that will change their life forever, and that is to buy the first property, and then a second. Then their fear is gone and they grow to be of service to everyone who is ready for their assistance.

Let me tell you this: After you finish reading the rest of this report and you read the “Magic Bullets” book, your fears will be subdued and you will do something and your life will change. If you cannot succeed with what I am intent on showing you, then something is not right. I believe your desire would be your major obstacle, so if that’s the case, read “Think and Grow Rich” by Napoleon Hill and come back to me then.

Let’s get back to real estate education, shall we? Do you know who the largest commercial real estate owner in the U.S. is? It’s McDonalds Corporation. Yep, and on top of that, they also have the most valuable locations for their type of business. The research they do on demographics and traffic counts is unparalleled!

If you were ever going to open a fast food restaurant, just put it near a McDonalds. You would survive just on the volume of people who flock or pass by the location that McDonalds has already decided meets all the critical data to support their restaurant business. Your restaurant, if you had good food and service, would flourish. Just sell something a little different than McDonalds. That’s leveraging someone else’s expertise in evaluating a location for a certain type of real estate.

Now that is a principle and principles are like natural laws. A natural law always works in every situation in its own way. It’s like gravity – it always works! Here on earth, anyway.

So in real estate it doesn’t matter what type it is, whether it’s commercial, residential, industrial or recreational. Look for signs that serious market studies have been undertaken by major operators and buy things that can flourish in the presence of those concerns.

For instance, let’s use Home Depot as an example. If Home Depot decides to build on a site, every residential lot within a mile of that new center will be bought up as soon as the Home Depot commits to build! Why?

Because smart investors know that Home Depot has done the market study and the area will be a prosperous one.

On top of that, it will provide jobs, it will pay taxes, it will provide materials to actually build the neighborhoods with, and people will shop there once their houses are built. The same goes for Wal-Mart, Lowe’s and other smart business concerns.

You may or may not have noticed this but take a look the next time you are driving around. Here is what you should see. As you drive into cities from the suburbs, you’ll notice donut shops, gas stations with convenience coffee centers, bagel shops, and etcetera, on the side of the road that people travel to on their way into the city to go to work. These are morning activity business centers.
Now on your way home, out of the city, you will see restaurants that cater to the evening meal crowd: KFC, Taco Bell, Subway and Pizza Hut. That’s because people don’t go there for breakfast. They get it on their way home, outbound from the city at night. If you put your restaurant on the wrong side of the road, you could be making a huge strategical error. Think!

Location, location, location as they say, are the 3 most important things in real estate. That is a very true statement. With residential property, that boils down to safety, security and convenience. So buy homes in good neighborhoods, cul-de-sacs preferably. No noise or through traffic, no escape routes for thieves, and a private setting, where kids play in the street without getting run down.

Security = close to hospitals, police and fire protection for obvious reasons.

Convenience = stores, gas stations, restaurants, small businesses, parks and recreation and access to major highways to circulate or evacuate if necessary.

You might get a great deal on a piece of properly but if it takes you a half hour to get a loaf of bread. What kind of resale will that great deal offer? Another great deal may back up to or face a busy street. That’s often a poor choice as well…noise, pollution, the loss of privacy and curb appeal are all factors here.

The two best types of property to buy are:

1. Property that no one else knows is for sale! Why? Because you have no
competition.

2. Property no one wants! You just have to figure out why people don’t want it.

If you can turn that lemon into lemonade through some problem solving, that

jewel may just shine because you used the right magic polish.

In real estate, you get paid when you solve problems. That is a fact!

Here is a golden nugget for you. If you do this, it will catapult your real estate investment career. I guarantee you will gain more insight to real estate by doing this one thing than just about anything else you could possibly do. The golden nugget is this: Take a real estate appraisal course. It will fly by, a few weekends and it’s over, but the perspective and the information you gain from the class is priceless. It gives you vision, ideas and understanding. You will have an edge over every other investor who has not done it.

I had an instructor, who by some stroke of luck, I was privileged to be taught by. His name is Steven V. and he is truly a genius. This guy could make millions if he applied himself to real estate investment but he chooses to teach and give back to others in that way. He is very comfortable in life and money is a by-product for Steven. When I finished the class, I had appraisers wanting to hire me to go to work. Now I don’t want to work as an appraiser. I just want to think like one and that is why I took that four-weekend course. That class taught me more than both of my real estate licensing courses combined. The reason for that is real estate classes deal with state laws, contracts, regulations and ethics. Appraisal focuses on evaluating real estate and that is what you want to learn as an investor.

A real estate license can actually hold you back from being a savvy investor and here’s why: #1 – You have to announce to every seller that you are an agent. It’s an ethics rule and a disclosure law. Well, now the seller is on guard for all kinds of reasons and you waste precious time overcoming negative reactions. #2 – When you go to sell your real estate, the same things apply but add to that scenario the fact that if you make large profits on property that you sell, people can come after you, saying you took advantage of them because of your expertise. And they win!

So you don’t need to go to college for 4 years and you don’t need a real estate license. What you do need is a guy like me to convince you to go to appraisal school and read books like the one you have now.

Then go out and do it, using a lawyer to protect you every step of the way. Again, here is a good point to make. Simply weave into every agreement or offer you make the following statement: This entire agreement is subject to my attorney’s approval. I can’t stress that enough. That’s one line of text. That covers it all. It gives you time to investigate deals. It protects your interests and keeps you from getting burned in this business.

Here are a couple more beauties that I use to protect myself and you should too.
These are used with initial purchase offers:

1. Willing to pay X amount of dollars or appraised value, whichever is less.
(That says, “I’m only going to pay so much but if the appraisal is lower than

what I offered, than I am going to get it for the lower price. I don’t get

burned!)
2. Subject to my partner’s approval. (My partner was always my wife, and if she

didn’t like it, the deal was null and void, cancelled, over, kaput, finito.)

Now nothing says my partner wasn’t my dog, so if there’s no fire hydrant, well the deal could be off.

Those are examples of escape clauses that could be abused to the point of being called “weasel clauses.” Don’t be a weasel! They give you a short period of time to have the option to buy something first with the right to cancel the deal, contingent upon something or someone else’s decision.

I use them to protect myself and to get a little time to do my research on the property. Don’t use them to unfairly tie a seller’s hands. Be fair and try to move quickly when you do employ them.
What you are doing is creating a short time, zero-cost option to buy real estate. Here is a little trick and I don’t use it very often but it can be used in a fair manner so I will give you the nugget. When you write an offer to purchase property, on the top line of the contract is a line that indicates who the buyer is. On that line in certain cases, I will write my name plus the words or assigns, like this:
Buyers: Dan Auito or assigns

What that word “assigns” does is this: it allows me to sell by assigning my right to buy the property to someone else. Dirty dealers will take advantage of people with that word if they can get away with it.

Here’s where I would use it. In real estate, a lot of bargain hunters look for distressed property. You know, the fixer-uppers, the abandoned, condemned, fire-damaged stuff. I go a step further and look for distressed sellers such as death, divorce, relocation, but a lot of times I don’t specialize in that type of property.

That’s OK because if it’s a steal and I get it for 40 – 50% off, I will assign it to someone who does deal in that type of property and make a profit by assigning it.

I’ll always ask the distressed seller if that is a problem and if it is, I will buy it outright, then flip it but it costs more to do that. So I’ll explain this to the seller and get their permission to use it. I don’t slip it in on them. You will have a miserable existence if you practice real estate by deceit. Natural law will crush you; play fair! Purpose, passion and desire cannot be achieved or acquired by deceit. That’s a quotable quote. I hope you remember it.

Let’s get on with another story. This illustrates another fine example for you. This story is about a family who had business interests outside of real estate investing and as a result of the successes of their other businesses they had fairly large sums of money to play real estate like a monopoly game. Power can be dangerous in the wrong hands!

So here we go. This flush with cash family sees an opportunity to take advantage of an overlooked or left alone market. That market is the old-fashioned trailer park, or shall we say Mobile Home Park.

Anyway, the way most mobile home parks came into existence was this: Usually a man of integrity and strong work ethic coupled with a love for his fellow man would buy a piece of land suitable to the placement of mobile homes. As people moved in, he and his wife would welcome them and the neighbors would greet them and the community would become established.

The private owner would dig his own sewer lines and cut his own roads and landscape the park. Maybe put in the clubhouse complete with a swimming pool, shuffleboard, pool table and meeting hall. As time marched on, the residents bonded with each other and a family-friendly community took root. Well this man of integrity had a problem. Since all of his tenants are his friends, he is pressured not to raise the lot rents with inflation.

So the rents over the years are kept very low in the park and now this man and his wife are getting old. Perfect timing for our investors to come knocking and offer our private aging park owner a 2 million dollar price for his 10 acres of mobile home lots. This is a once in a lifetime offer and many park owners cashed out.

What people didn’t see was these investors were systematically and methodically doing this all over the place and once they cashed out as many mom and pops as they could, they lowered the boom.

Now they the investors had control of many parks in the same areas and they started raising the lot rents. You see, they didn’t have any emotional ties to the residents and they didn’t live there, so it was a straightforward business deal: either pay the new higher rent or move.

The residents said, “To hell with you new owner, we are moving.” “Well, fine, go ahead,” they said. Now the residents started calling around to find another park with low rents but guess who owned those? Yep, our investors did, and those lot rents were going up too. So the mom and pops who didn’t sell were full and it would cost on average of about $7,000 to relocate to another park even if they could find a vacancy.

The old folks who had it so good for so long were faced with a new reality and that was that they had no choice but to pay up or move, and moving, in many cases, wasn’t an option. These investors exploited a complete segment of the market and made millions and millions in profit and continue to do so today.

It wasn’t long after this happened that you started seeing signs saying, “This is a resident owned community.” People eventually got smart and started buying that little lot that their trailer was sitting on and they began paying association dues for the clubhouse and security and grounds, maintenance and road repair. The good ole days are nothing but a fond memory.

Life goes on but America did not change for the better as a result of these types of people. Their only purpose was to make money; I believe they will die alone and in misery as a result of their way of life.

So I ask you again, can you be passionate and put your heart into investing in real estate by investing the way our corporate investors did? I think not. Money is no good when you get it by deceitful ways. I encourage you to work at balancing your objectives. Lease optioning, flippers…you are walking a fine line.

Here’s a flip side to communal living. This story is a happier scenario, so let’s have a little joy here. I once lived in Key West and I lived off base. Well, I thought I lived next door to Noah, and it sounded as though he was building another ark. All summer long, hammers and saws seemed to be making some type of racket, so naturally being the neighbor I was, I got to know the man next door. He never went to work and I asked him one day, “Don’t you have a job and he kind of grinned and put his hammer down and this is Mark’s story.

Mark and his brother were from the Northeast and they had a 30-room boarding house for college kids there, at something like $300.00 a month. That was about $9,000 a month and they made the parents responsible for the rent payments. Mark would spend his time with his family in the Keys for the nine months that school was in session. His brother was a local up North and he took care of the toilets, faucets, doors and windows. Yes, they had their very own animal house going on there, but Mark factored in the abuse and would spend 2 – 3 months a year, putting the animal house back together while the animals went home for summer break.

Mark only worked three months a year and the house (ark) that he built next to us was a masterpiece; it was beautiful. He was a master craftsman and he loved his work and spent a lot of his time with his family in a wonderful climate. Makes you kind of jealous, doesn’t it? Well, don’t let it because you can do it, too, but you must get started. Mark was 45 when I met him. I believe he was 25 when he got started, so my advice to you is to get started now!

Real Estate Law Degree – What is it and is it For You?

What is a Real Estate Law Degree?

The practice of law has undergone major changes in the past 20 years. Today, real estate lawyers work in varied and complex transactions, from simple residential house purchases to commercial projects.

This degree is a mix of law, business and dispute resolution. It will prepare you to deal with issues beyond law school, understanding how law interacts with tax, corporate, and environmental law. You will be faced with issues such as workforce housing, urban redevelopment, commercial leasing and workouts, and energy conservation. It will prepare you to deal with transactions when the economy is booming and when it is not.

What can I do with this type of Law Degree?

Real estate lawyers provide their clients with advice regarding purchase and sale of property, financing and development, construction contracts, investments, environmental compliance and property management. They help clients with governmental zoning restrictions necessary to move forward with projects.

With this type of law degree you could work in law firms, corporations as well as government agencies. You could work in large firms, in the building and zoning departments of counties and municipalities. You could also work for corporations, development companies or title companies. If you decide to work alone or in a very small company you will most likely focus on residential housing. In this profession you will work together with title insurers, brokers, environmental lawyers, litigation departments and bankers.

You would spend much of your day drafting documents, reviewing them, counseling clients as well as negotiating terms. A business law foundation as well as negotiation skills are critical for success in this area of the law.

Courses and Curriculum

Most students begin their study with a basic introductory course, transactions and finance. Following this entrance course, you would be exposed to courses in finance, mortgages, mezzanine loans, bond financing, leasing, acquisitions, mortgage foreclosures and community association law.