As we wound down 2019 with low interest rates and rising rental demand, it was clear to see that it had been a great year for investors. Considering this is the season of New Year’s resolutions, the following are four ways investors can up their competitive game and prepare themselves for even greater real estate investing success in 2020.
1. Ditch the paperwork and go digital.
The digital revolution has improved our lives in so many different ways, from social media to online shopping and vacation planning to bill paying and even buying and managing real estate investments. Ditching the paperwork and going digital was a game-changer in my real estate investing business, and it can be in yours too. Heading into 2020, set up the processes and systems so you can go almost entirely digital. The advantages of storing and organizing real estate documents online include:
• Reducing physical storage space.
• Bank-encryption security to minimize the risk of document theft or loss.
• Preserve historic documents such as year-end financial statements for tax purposes.
• Efficient retrieval and information sharing with business partners, CPAs or attorneys 24/7 from anywhere in the world.
• Save money and be friendlier to the environment.
I don’t know how many times I’ve been on-site at one of my properties, chatting with a property manager or vendor, at a bank or talking with a member of my team when I needed to reference a document. Going digital makes it as simple as taking out your smartphone and having the answers at your fingertips.
2. Get your asset protection strategy in order.
Real estate investors who think it’s easier to ask for forgiveness than permission may be in for a rude awakening when they start getting into legal gray areas. Successful investors know that following rules and regulations shouldn’t be viewed as an obstacle. People who have “been there, done that” know that it is important to protect yourself, your assets and investors from a worst-case scenario.
Real estate investors should protect themselves by:
• Obtaining full coverage insurance for your property. Property damage and theft, fire and construction insurance, liability insurance that covers claims from tenants and their guests and loss of income with business interruption insurance coverage. It’s also critical that your tenants have renters’ insurance and can provide proof of coverage. At the end of each year, I like to review current insurance coverage to ensure that it’s still adequate — perhaps there have been changes to a building over the years. There may also be ways to reduce your costs if some coverage is no longer needed.
• Reviewing what asset protection is right for you. LLCs help protect the members of the company from the liabilities and business debts, but they also have drawbacks. Understand whether this type of asset protection is right for you and consider others. If you don’t choose the LLC route, you may want to explore umbrella insurance or use a combination thereof.
3. Prepare today for tax success tomorrow.
Let’s face it: in addition to generating income, one of the main reasons we invest in real estate is for tax benefits. As you’re digitizing your business, take the opportunity to get all your tax documents ready and organized for filing, whether on your own or with your accountant. It’s never too early to begin preparing for tax season.
Smooth your tax information-gathering process by:
• Tracking your income and expenses throughout the year using digital tools
• Uploading and storing documents and receipts whenever you receive them
• Talking with your accountant about how you can take advantage of other tax strategies like pass-through deductions and casualty losses
Keep in mind the various tax advantages that may be available to you as a real estate investor, such as:
• Depreciation, a non-cash expense that allows you to reduce taxable net income
• 20% pass-through deduction of qualified business income helps maximize deductions for qualifying taxpayers
• Deductions from a large list of business expenses allowed by the IRS for rental property income
• The 1031 tax-deferred exchange, which can be leveraged to sell one property and buy another without paying capital gains
Taxes can be complex, but they don’t have to be complicated if you are prepared.
4. Always learn.
Real estate education is a building block to success as an investor. We learn, we take action, we make mistakes and we adjust accordingly.
Some of my favorite resources for learning to invest in real estate in 2020 include:
• Books on real estate written by experienced investors. TheStreet published a helpful summary of the best investing books from 2019.
• Online seminars through blogs, videos and podcasts that are free and on-demand. One of my favorite podcasts is Bigger Pockets, and there are various others to choose from and add to your list.
• Newsletters are a great way to stay abreast of the latest real estate news.
• In-person training sessions led by a motivating and experienced instructor.
• Mentors who can provide one-on-one advice and help you avoid mistakes that even experienced real estate investors can make.
• Investment clubs, apartment associations and meetups in your local market for networking and finding off-market deals.
For real estate success in 2020 and beyond, the key steps investors should take are to go digital, get your legal house in order, prepare now for tax time and always seek out education opportunities. These will be the hallmarks of real estate investing success in 2020.