How to Rent Your Property Fast

By Vestpro Residential Services

There’s no doubt that owning rental property is an excellent investment that can help you to build wealth while establishing long-term cash flow.

Sadly, owning rentals in the Houston area or elsewhere in the United States can become a burden when those properties are sitting vacant.

Thankfully, filling those vacancies is easier than you think especially if you follow these simple tips.

1. BE PROACTIVE WITH YOUR CURRENT TENANT

Ask your tenant 90 days ahead of the lease expiration whether they plan to stay another year. Consider offering them a small (or no) rent increase if they respond within 30 days of your notice. This gives you 60 days out from the end of the lease to search for a new tenant if your current tenant decides not to renew.

The benefits of this strategy are:

1) Gives your tenants an incentive to stay longer because of the lower rent increase (eliminating turnover costs altogether).

2) If your tenants decide to move out, you will have more advanced notice and be able to begin advertising your unit sooner. That way, you may even have a new tenant lined up as soon as your current tenant moves out, preventing you from losing rental income.

You’ll also want to routinely perform property inspections and stay on top of maintenance.  This is all part of being a great landlord for your renter, which can pay dividends in the long run.  By staying on top of maintenance and addressing issues quickly, you’ll spend less time on repairs while turning over the unit. This is especially true for cases like leaky faucets, which can escalate into much larger (and more expensive) water damage repairs. The last thing you want when trying to turn over property quickly is a major construction project or having to lower the rent because the property is in a state of disrepair.

2. OPTIMIZE YOUR ADVERTISING STRATEGY

You want to cast a wide net when advertising. This is because the greater the pool of prospective tenants, the better the chances you’ll have of finding a good tenant in a reasonable amount of time. Reach out to friends and family to let them know your property is coming up for rent and ask your existing tenants for recommendations. After all, good tenants are likely to know other good tenants. Publish your listing on multiple websites for maximum exposure.

Attractive advertisements go a long way to increase your chances of attracting a larger pool of renters, and therefore, renting an apartment quickly. When your property is empty, spend the time to take professional photos that can be re-used every time there is tenant turnover. Professional photos are much more appealing for renters and being prepared ahead of time prevents you from having to enter the unit when tenants are living there. After all, the unit might not be in the best condition and the current tenant’s belongings can be distracting.

Know what features tenants want in a property and be sure to advertise those features in your ads. Make sure to point out both the positive and less desirable aspects to the apartment, so you don’t waste your time or that of prospective tenants by showing them a property that isn’t right for their needs because, say, the closets are too small.

Disclose all necessary information about the unit in the advertisement and set expectations upfront about your income and credit requirements. Be sure to include your pet policy, and list other relevant deal breakers if you have them. Make sure details of the property and your rental criteria are clearly outlined in the advertisement. This will prevent you from wasting time on showing the property to applicants who are looking for more bedrooms, storage space, etc., or who don’t fit your rental criteria.

3. UNDERSTAND THE MARKET

The rent prices of comparable properties will give you a good idea of how much you will be able to charge your own tenants. It’s important to set the right rent price, one that is in line with the going rate in the neighborhood. If you’re asking for rent that is too high, you’ll soon find you don’t have many applicants, leading to longer vacancies and more money out the door.

The good news for landlords is that it currently appears to be a landlord’s market.  There is strong demand for rental homes, low vacancy rates, and an ability to increase rent pricesAccording to the U.S. Census Bureau Housing, vacancies are currently at the lowest levels since at least 2005 with a national average of 7.3%. However, you’ll want to familiarize yourself with vacancy rates at the local level, which may not be the same as the national average. For instance, the National Association of Realtors reports that in 2014, San Jose, CA had a low vacancy rate of 4.0%, while Ocean City, NJ had a high vacancy rate of 58.4%.

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At Vestpro Residential Services we offer professional property management in Kingwood, Humble, Atascocita and the surrounding area. To learn more about our services please call us at (832) 971-1841 or click here to connect with us online.

Property Management Tips – April Is A Great Time For HVAC Maintenance

As the weather warms up in the Houston Texas area, spring is also a great time for HVAC maintenance because your tenants are going to be using their air conditioners heavily in the coming months so it’s best to make sure that they are functioning correctly by doing the following.

Step #1: Inspect

The first thing that you or your HVAC technician should do is to visually inspect your entire HVAC system, looking for things such as rust, corrosion from moisture, condensation, or leaking ductwork. This is a great example of an HVAC duct in disrepair–these leaky ducts can lower the efficiency of your air conditioner, making it eat up more power and do its job less effectively in the long run.

With an HVAC system, small problems can quickly become big ones that make your system less efficient or even cause it to fail entirely.

The units themselves will need to be inspected as well, particularly for damage and dirt build-up on the fins. Even a well-cared-for unit can be damaged inadvertently by a stray bird or stick tossed by a storm.

Step #2: Clean

It’s time to clean the equipment after the HVAC system has been thoroughly inspected. Your HVAC technician will clean the evaporator coil, the drains and lines, and the condensate pan to ensure that each part of the system is running at peak performance. A dirty evaporator coil can make it harder for your A/C to cool the house, and clogged water lines can cause floods inside your home.

Your technician will also inspect all of the connections to make sure that there are no potential leak points.

Step #3: Check

The next step in your spring HVAC inspection is something that will need to be done by your HVAC technician. They will need to inspect and test all the electrical components in the HVAC system.

Inspect wiring for frayed connections or damaged insulation. Tighten any loose connections, and replace any damaged wires before your unit goes into full service for the spring.

They will also test the circuit boards that run the system, and the capacitors to ensure that they’re doing their job.

Step #4: Test

The last step is to test your HVAC system as a whole. This will include checking the coolant levels during various cycles; making sure that the run controls function properly; and ensuring that the compressor is functioning at peak levels. Your technician will also test the safety switches to ensure that the system shuts off properly when there’s a power failure.

This might sound like a comprehensive inspection, but it can be completed in just a few hours by a well-trained technician.

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Did You Just Buy Your First Houston Texas Rental? Click Here For Property Management Tips

There’s no doubt that owning a Houston Texas Rental Property is a great investment, especially over the last four years as Houston has been one of the fastest growing cities for relocation in the United States.

If you own Houston Rentals, getting started as a landlord can be tough because there’s so much to learn. Thankfully, you can cut down on the learning curve by following these tips.

1. Screen Tenants

Don’t rent to anyone before checking credit history, references, and background. Haphazard screening and tenant selection too often results in problems — a tenant who pays the rent late or not at all, trashes your place, or lets undesirable friends move in. Use a written rental application to properly screen your tenants. For more information, see How to Screen and Select Tenants FAQ.

2. Get it in writing.

Be sure to use a written lease or month-to-month rental agreement to document the important facts of your relationship with your tenants — including when and how you handle tenant complaints and repair problems, notice you must give to enter a tenant’s apartment, and the like. For what to include in a lease or rental agreement, see Ten Terms You Must Include in Your Lease or Rental Agreement. Not sure which to use? See Whether to Use a Lease or Rental Agreement.

3. Handle security deposits properly.

Establish a fair system of setting, collecting, holding, and returning security deposits. Inspect and document the condition of the rental unit before the tenant moves in, to avoid disputes over security deposits when the tenant moves out. For more information, see Leases and Rental Agreements FAQ.

4. Make repairs.

Stay on top of maintenance and repair needs and make repairs when requested. If the property is not kept in good repair, you’ll alienate good tenants, and tenants may gain the right to withhold rent, repair the problem and deduct the cost from the rent, sue for injuries caused by defective conditions, and/or move out without needing to give notice. For more information, see Repairs, Maintenance, and Entry to Rented Premises.

5. Provide secure premises.

Don’t let your tenants and property be easy marks for a criminal. Assess your property’s security and take reasonable steps to protect it. Often the best measures, such as proper lights and trimmed landscaping, are not that expensive. For more information, see Criminal Acts and Activities: Landlord Liability FAQ.

6. Provide notice before entering.

Learn about your tenants’ rights to privacy; see Repairs, Maintenance, and Entry to Rented Premises. Notify your tenants whenever you plan to enter their rental unit, and provide as much notice as possible, at least 24 hours or the minimum amount required by state law. For state-by-state information, see Chart: Notice Requirements to Enter Rental Property, State by State.

7. Disclose environmental hazards.

If there’s a hazard such as lead or mold on the property, tell your tenants. Landlords are increasingly being held liable for tenant health problems resulting from exposure to environmental toxins in the rental premises. For more information on lead, see Lead Disclosures for Rental Property FAQ. Check your state law for other landlord disclosures. – Learn more here!

Most Important Tip For New Landlords

Besides the excellent tips mentioned in this article, the most important tip for new landlords is to invest in property management sooner, rather than later.

Hiring an experienced property manager will save you the time, money and hassle of managing your rental properties yourself.

To learn more about the professional property management services we can offer you contact us today by calling (832) 971-1841 or click here to connect with us online.

How to reduce late payments at your Houston Texas rental property

By Vestpro Residential Services

There’s no doubt that late payments will hurt any owner regardless if they’re just getting started with owning rentals, or they’ve owned them for years.

The truth is that most owners rely on the rent that they receive from their tenants to pay their mortgages so when a tenant is late paying their rent this means that the owner will have to pay their mortgage out of pocket.

What’s the solution to the problem?

Owners must reduce their late payments and getting started with this is easy especially when the steps listed in this article are followed.

How To Reduce Late Payments

Enable Electronic Payments

We’re a big fan of software that allows residents to make payments online, such as many property management software solutions. In this day and age, we’re all busy. Having to physically write a check, track down a stamp, and trek to the post office to mail a payment is a hassle. Some will certainly prefer to make payments that way; but if you want to collect payments on time, leveraging electronic payments will make it easier for you to do so.

Improve Your Resident Screening Process

There will always be one-off cases of residents paying late. However, if you find that multiple residents are making late payments more often than not, it could mean that your tenant screening process is in need of a few tweaks. Be sure that you’re calling landlord references, confirming proof of employment, setting guidelines for minimum income required to lease, etc. This should help to ensure that you’re choosing high-quality residents who can afford to make their payments each month.

Hire a Property Manager

If you’re struggling to collect rent payments and dues, or you simply don’t have the time or energy to track down late payments, consider hiring a property manager. Hiring an experienced property manager can help you to implement a stronger payment system to ensure consistent cash flow moving forward, and can provide valuable expertise on these kinds of situations in the future.

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For professional property management contact us today by calling 832-971-1841 or click here to connect with us online.

 

late payments
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Enjoy The Tax Benefits Of Renting Your Home During Special Events

 

Are you planning on going on vacation this year? If so, you might want to wait to go on vacation during an annual event in the Houston area.

You may be able to rent your home for more money while a special event is in progress like Comicpalooza because more people will be in town during the week of that event and willing to pay higher rental rates.

Could Be Tax Free Income

Homeowners go on vacation and make tax-free income while temporary tenants rent their home. Homeowners can benefit from a little known provision in the tax code that does not require taxpayers to recognize the income derived from renting their home for less than 15 days per year. See Plan Ahead for Tax Time When Renting Out Residential or Vacation Property- special rules.

This situation can particularly benefit homeowners where there are large sporting events nearby like golf and tennis tournaments, championship games or other high attendance venues. The demand for a private residence can be more attractive than staying in a hotel which makes the price go up.

Obviously, there are challenges with personal belongings and damage but getting a premium rental rate and not having to recognize the income could be worth it. You’ll certainly want to discuss this with your tax professional prior to making this decision. You’d probably also want to get some help from an experienced real estate professional.

Source – In Touch Weekly

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What tax impact will disasters have for Houston rental property owners?

Once it’s finished, 2017 will be remembered as one of the toughest years in recent memory especially thanks to Hurricane Harvey which formed on August 17th, carving a path of destruction in Houston and along the Gulf Coast until it dissipated on September 3rd.

What Tax Impact Will Natural Disasters Have For Property Owners In Houston?

When a major disaster occurs, the IRS normally tries to help the victims out by extending tax deadlines. After all, no one wants to have to worry about making tax payments or filing returns while their property is underwater or destroyed by a fire. For example, victims of Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria will not be required to make most types of tax payments and filings until January 31, 2018.

The IRS automatically identifies taxpayers located in a covered disaster area and applies the extended deadlines. Thus, to benefit from the extended deadlines, your rental property simply has to be located in a federally declared major disaster area. There is no need to ask the IRS for a deadline extension. You can determine if an area has been declared a disaster area by checking the FEMA website.

Deducting Losses from a Disaster

Insurance is always the first line of financial defense when disasters occur. However, not all rental properties are fully covered for losses due to natural disasters. Some types of losses may not be covered at all. For example, losses due to floods, hurricanes, and earthquakes may not be covered unless the property owner has obtained a supplemental policy. Even if a loss is covered, the property owner may still have to pay for part of the cost of repairing or replacing the rental property.

Fortunately, any uninsured casualty losses are deductible by rental property owners, subject to certain limitations. A “casualty” is damage, destruction, or loss of property due to an event that is sudden, unexpected, or unusual. Deductible casualty losses can result from many different causes, including (but not limited to):

  • Earthquakes
  • Fires
  • Floods
  • Government-ordered demolition or relocation of a building that is unsafe to use because of a disaster
  • Landslides
  • Sonic booms
  • Storms, including hurricanes and tornadoes
  • Terrorist attacks
  • Vandalism, including vandalism to rental properties by tenants
  • Volcanic eruptions

One thing that all of the events in the above list have in common is that they are sudden—they happen quickly. Suddenness is the hallmark of a casualty loss. Thus, loss of property due to slow, progressive deterioration is not deductible as a casualty loss. For example, the steady weakening or deterioration of a rental building due to normal wind and weather conditions is not a deductible casualty loss.

The Role of Insurance After a Disaster

A rental property owner may take a deduction for casualty losses only to the extent that the loss is not covered by insurance. If the loss is fully covered, there is no deduction. A property owner can’t avoid this rule by not filing an insurance claim. Indeed, a timely insurance claim must be filed, even if it will result in cancellation of the property owner’s policy or an increase in premiums.

The amount of the claimed casualty loss must be reduced by any insurance recovery received, or reasonably expected to be received if it hasn’t yet been paid. If it later turns out that the property owner receives less insurance than expected, the owner can deduct the amount the following year. If the owner receives more insurance payments than expected, the extra amount is included as income for the year in which it is received.

Amount of Casualty Loss Deduction

How much a rental property owner may deduct depends on whether the property was completely or partially destroyed.

If the property is completely destroyed (or stolen), the deduction is calculated as follows:

Adjusted basis – salvage value– insurance proceeds = Deductible loss

Adjusted basis is the property’s original cost, plus the value of any improvements, minus any deductions taken for depreciation or Section 179 expensing. The adjusted basis for rental buildings, land improvements, and landscaping are each determined separately. Adjusted basis should be easily found from a rental property’s depreciation schedules and/or tax returns filed for the property. Salvage value is the value of whatever remains after the property 
is destroyed; in cases of total destruction, this is often nothing.

If the rental property is not completely destroyed, the amount of the casualty loss is the lesser of 1. The property’s adjusted basis or 2. The decrease in the fair market value of the property due to the casualty, minus any salvage value and insurance proceeds.

An appraisal can be used to determine the reduction in fair market value of partly damaged property, as well as salvage value. Alternatively, the cost of cleaning up or making repairs after a casualty can be used as a measure of the decrease in fair market value if all of the following conditions are met:

  • The repairs are actually made
  • The repairs are necessary to bring the property back to the condition it was in before the casualty
  • The amount spent for repairs is not excessive
  • 
The repairs are for the damage only
  • 
The value of the property after the repairs is not greater than its value before the casualty

The amount of a casualty loss to rental property must be calculated separately for each item that is damaged or destroyed. This may include a rental building, landscaping, and other land improvements apart from the building. However, it is not necessary to separately deduct personal items inside a rental property, such as appliances.

Example of Casualty Losses

John’s rental building suffered wind damage due to a hurricane. The hurricane not only damaged the building, but damaged his landscaping—trees and shrubs—as well. John must separately calculate his casualty loss for the building and
 the landscaping. The adjusted basis of the building is $566,000. The trees and shrubs have an adjusted basis of $10,000. John hires an appraiser who determines that the fair market value of the building immediately before the hurricane was $700,000, and was $650,000 immediately afterwards. The fair market value of the trees and shrubs immediately before the casualty was $4000, and afterwards was $500. John’s insurance did not cover hurricane wind damage, so he expects to receive no insurance proceeds.

John calculates his casualty loss for the building as follows:

  • Adjusted basis of rental building before hurricane: $566,000
  • Fair market value before hurricane: $700,000
  • Fair market value after hurricane: 
$650,000
  • Decrease in fair market value: $50,000
  • Amount of loss (line 1 or line 4, whichever is less): $50,000
  • Insurance reimbursement: 
0
  • Deductible casualty loss = $50,000

John separately calculates his loss for the landscaping as follows:

  • Adjusted basis of landscaping before hurricane: $10,000
  • Fair market value before hurricane: $4,000
  • Fair market value after hurricane: 
$500
  • Decrease in fair market value: $3,500
  • Amount of loss (line 1 or line 4, whichever is less): $3,500
  • Insurance reimbursement: 0
  • Deductible casualty loss 
= $3,500

Deducting Losses in Federal Disaster Areas from Prior Year Taxes

Casualty losses are generally deductible in the year in which the casualty occurs. However, if a deductible casualty loss occurs in an area that is declared a federal disaster by the president, the property owner may elect to deduct the loss for the previous year. This will provide a quick tax refund, since the owner will get back part of the tax paid for the prior year. If the owner already filed the tax return for the prior year, an amended return for the year must be filed.

Casualty Gains

It’s quite common for a rental property owner to have a casualty gain rather than a loss. This occurs when the insurance reimbursement an owner receives exceeds the adjusted basis of a property that has been completely destroyed.

Example of Casualty Gains: Part 1

Sheila owns a rental building with a fair market value of $500,000. After years of depreciation deductions, its adjusted basis is $250,000. The building is totally destroyed in a fire. Sheila receives $480,000 in insurance proceeds. She has a $230,000 casualty gain.

A casualty gain is taxable income. However, the property owner need not pay tax on the gain the year it is received if the owner replaces the destroyed property and the cost exceeds the insurance recovery. Instead, the gain is postponed until the replacement property is ultimately sold or otherwise disposed of. The basis of the replacement property is reduced by the amount of this postponed gain.

To qualify as replacement property, the new property must be similar or related in service or use to the property it replaces. However, the rules are more liberal if the destroyed property was located in a federally declared disaster area. In this event, any replacement property acquired for use in any business is treated as replacement property. Moreover, the replacement property doesn’t have to be located in the federally declared disaster area.

To avoid paying tax on a casualty gain, the property must replaced within two years after the close of the first tax year in which insurance proceeds are received. However, if the property is located in a federally declared disaster are, this period is increased to four years.

The property owner doesn’t have to use the insurance proceeds to acquire the replacement property. Rather, the owner has the option of spending the money they receive from the insurance company for other purposes, and borrowing money to buy replacement property.

Example of Casualty Gains: Part 2

Assume that Sheila uses her $480,000 insurance proceeds to construct a new rental building. The new building cost $600,000. Sheila need not pay any tax on her $230,000 casualty gain since she reinvested her entire gain in replacement property. However, the basis of the new building is reduced by $230,000 to $370,000. This way, tax on the gain will have to be paid when Sheila ultimately disposes of the replacement property.

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Will Your Rental Make More Money With A Laundry Room?

Thinking about building a laundry room at your rental property? Yes, it’s true that laundry rooms are a good investment to make but before you spend the money it’s important to ask yourself these questions.

Question #1 – Will My Tenants Actually Use This Laundry Facility?

The very first thing you should do before building a laundry room on site at your four-plex, or multi-family unit, is to speak with each of your tenants personally and find out if they would be open to using a laundry room if there was one on site.

You should also ask your tenants where they do their laundry now, and how much they are paying per load, so you have a better idea of what local laundromats are charging in the area.

Question #2 – How Many Washers and Dryers Will I Need?

To avoid overspending on washers, dryers, and other hardware, you should consider starting small and maybe buying two washers and dryers first.

Also another thing you can do to make adding more washers and dryers in the future easy is to add additional outlets and plumbing to your laundry room when it’s under construction.

Question #3 – What Will Your Laundry Room Hours Be?

As with any laundromat in Houston Texas Rental Property it’s important to have set hours for the laundry room in your Houston Texas Rental Property that way people know when they can use it. This will help to keep noise at a minimum in the evening and insure that all tenants respect the laundry facility.

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For more tips on improvements you can make to your Houston Texas Rental Property, or to speak with us about our property management services, contact Vestpro Residential Services by clicking here, or calling us at (832) 971-1841

Is Your Rental Scaring Away Renters? Click Here!

Have you put a lot of time, money and energy into your rental property only to find that it’s still not renting and you can’t figure out why?

Your Curb Appeal Is Scary

Take a look at the curb appeal for your Rental and think like a potential renter.

Are there overgrown trees or bushes?

Does the grass look like it hasn’t been mowed since last year?

If you answered yes to either of these questions it’s time to do a property clean up and do your part to improve the curb appeal of your rental property.

The Inside of Your Rental Property Is Scary

When was the last time that you spent 10 minutes inside your rental?

Does it have plenty of light inside? If not, lack of light can be sending potential renters away since light always helps to make the inside of a rental look brighter and cheery.

Consider improving the lighting in each room and also painting the rooms of your rental bright colors like yellow or green since bright colors will bring light to any room regardless if the room gets a lot of natural light or not.

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Tips for Getting Your Rental Property Ready for Fall Weather

Fall 2017 is officially here and with it comes a change in weather! If your rental property isn’t ready for the change in weather it could be left unprotected. Thankfully, you can get ready for fall weather simply by following the tips in this article.

Do end-of-season yard maintenance.This doesn’t just include raking the leaves (although that’s important, too!). It also means trimming the hedges, fertilizing the grass, trimming unwieldy branches, and removing any weeds or roots that may impact siding, patios, and walkways.

Pack up and store outdoor items.It may seem a little premature to do now–but if the recent spate of hurricanes is any indication of what the rest of this season will look like, it’s a good idea to start now. Clean, pack up, and store outdoor furniture, grills, and other items that could be damaged by late fall or winter weather. If your property is located in a hurricane-prone area, be sure to tie down any large items that could wash or blow away.

Drain water lines.If your property is located in a cold-weather climate, now is a good time to turn off the water leading to outdoor spigots. Turn off sprinkler systems and drain outdoor hoses to prevent water from freezing and bursting the lines.

Clear debris from gutters.One of the best things about fall is watching leaves transform into beautiful shades of red, orange, and yellow. But it only lasts for so long–and then those leaves fall, clogging gutters in the process. Be sure to clear all debris from rain gutters to prevent water from pooling–or worse, causing roof damage.

Inspect the roof.Climbing up a ladder and getting onto the roof is not for the faint of heart, but it’s a worthwhile exercise to ensure that the roof is in good condition when you’re heading into the winter months. Loose or missing shingles are easier to replace during the fall. Otherwise, you could face costly roof repairs caused by hail, sleet, and snow.

Seal windows and install storm doors.Aging seams and weather stripping around windows and doors often lets cold air in and warm air out. This drives up heating costs, which can add up for landlords and HOAs that pay for heat as part of their fees. Seal drafty windows and doors with caulk, install new windows if necessary, and swap out screens with storm doors and windows.

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What are the main reasons you should invest in Houston Real Estate?

Have you been thinking about investing in Houston Real Estate but you’re not sure if now is the right time for you to invest or not?

Now is a great time to invest in Real Estate especially for these reasons:

Reason #1 – Demand

Thanks to a recent study by the Harvard University Joint Center for Housing Studies and their 2015 State of the Nation’s Housing Report we know that demand has been one of the primary factors which has been driving the Real Estate market during 2015.

There’s been huge demand for rental properties and an even bigger demand for homes for sale thanks to historically low mortgage interest rates which has brought out the first time home buyer, and casual investor, in search of Houston Texas Real Estate and homes nationwide.

Reason #2 – Mortgage Interest Rates Will Increase

Many economists predict that Federal Reserve Chairwoman Janet Yellen will be increasing mortgage interest rates gradually in the coming months and these increases can mean the difference between paying less money now for a mortgage payment, or more if you buy a home in the future.

Reason #3 – Home Ownership Has Dropped While Renting Has Increased

Last of all, but most important, you should invest in Houston Texas Real Estate is because of the fact that renting has increased across the United States while the actual homeownership rate has decreased. If you happened to need a real estate lawyer, you could use real estate attorney Houston to help you out.

With a greater demand for rentals nationwide especially among Millennials and Baby Boomers it makes sense to invest in Real Estate because that demand isn’t expected to change in the coming years.

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