Monthly Archives: March 2011

August, 2004.

The Case-Schiller Index for January has been released, and the numbers are down. 3.1% from January 2010, to be exact.

Eighteen of twenty markets are down from January 2010; Seattle is down 6.7% to 135.41, the lowest point since August, 2004.

Nationwide, real estate values are down 31.8% from the peak; locally – which means: King, Pierce, and Snohomish counties – 29.6% from the peak.

The good news is . . . well, buyers apparently came out in February, and as the Daily Journal of Commerce reports, “Sales agreements for homes rose 2.1 percent last month to a reading of 90.8, according to the National Association of Realtors’ pending home sales index released Monday.”

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Are Small Multi-Family Properties Good Investments?

There are two important aspects to investing in real estate – speculating on future values, and the cash return from renting to tenants.

For years, investors were willing to accept small cash returns in exchange for the prospect of future appreciation; nowadays, investors are looking much harder at the balance sheet.

And the balance sheet for 2-to-4-unit properties is, surprisingly good.

We’ve done a survey of small multi-family sales in Seattle proper since 2008, and found that the combination of lower prices and higher rents are resulting in higher returns for investors.

1H 2008	4.3%
2H 2008	4.4%
1H 2009	4.8%
2H 2009	5.1%
1H 2010	5.1%
2H 2010	5.5%

The % figure is Cap Rate, which is calculated by dividing the net income of a property by the purchase price – a typical small multi-family purchased in the first half of 2008 would return 4.3% annually, one purchased in the second half of 2010 would return 5.5%.

We’ve calculated “net income” by taking the reported rents, deducting 25% for expenses – vacancy, maintenance, management, taxes, insurance, and utilities. The actual expense vary by property, but 25% is an accepted industry standard for simplifying analysis.

Typically, these properties “break even” from a cash-flow standpoint with about 30% down, meanwhile, your tenants are paying off your mortgage for you.

Even with the volatility in the residential real estate market, rents have remained remarkably stable over the past few years; long-term holders of rental property have been enjoying significant cash-flow during the recent downturn.

Data was compiled by Cynthia & Mack, and the NWMLS is not responsible for our use (or misuse) of their data!