Herald's client Yariv Bensira tells Roomi.com 5 key points to ask yourself while seeking your first apartment

 First Apartment Checklist: 5 Key Points to Ask Yourself

So you’ve set out on your own and are ready to be your own person. Congratulations! Now that you’ve made the big decision, it’s time to start the formidable search for your first apartment — for which you’ll need a checklist. Before you stress out, remember that millions of people have been through it (and are going through it as we speak). With a little preparation and some help from the experts, you’ll be signing a lease to your very own place in no time. Here are five key points to remember for your first apartment checklist.

Your First Apartment Checklist: What to Ask Yourself

1. What’s going to be the total cost?

Entering the “adult” world can be tough at first, especially if you’re new at handling your own finances or creating a budget. A lot of things come down to money, and apartments are no exception. There’s a reason cost should be at the top of your first apartment checklist — so really think about your financial situation and be realistic about what you can afford. For some, moving out on your own may take a while. In fact, the practice of rooming with the parental units for a bit post-graduation to save money isn’t that uncommon (Thanks, Mom and Dad!). As you start to browse apartments, here are some other things to keep in mind:

“A few mistakes first renters can make are related to underestimating the cost, not getting their priorities straight, not carefully reading the lease, or not touring the apartment before moving in”, says Yariv Bensira, a real estate expert from Brooklyn, New York.

Bensira recommends taking note about things like security deposits, maintenance fees, or other upfront costs before you commit.

“Make sure you have the right questions in mind when you’re visiting the apartment so you don’t waste your time”.

Renting Costs

When you’re ready to take the plunge, you’ll need to think first about how much you can spend on rent and factor in moving costs. Sometimes looking for an apartment means using a realtor, and that involves paying a broker’s fee, which is often 12-15 percent of your annual rent. A realtor or broker can be a useful person during your apartment search because they will be able to show you a variety of apartments in your price range so you can avoid falling in love with a place you can’t afford. With that said, don’t forget to factor in the additional cost if you choose to rent through the realtor — which can easily add hundreds to your monthly rent.

Moving Costs

Moving costs can also vary, depending on if you need to hire movers or rent a storage unit in case of temporary situations. This is where research and creativity come in handy. Shop around and see if you can find some deals. Some units run specials that offer a highly reduced price the first month, and charge a regular fee every month thereafter.

Another great option is to bribe your friends, coworkers, or family members with their poison of choice (be it pizza, beer, or something a bit more wholesome) in exchange for helping you move. Having a few willing and able-bodied buddies can be a great way to save on movers, whether you rent a truck or have a friend with a van.

Unaccounted For Costs

Another important tip for budgeting is to factor in extra costs. Are utilities included? If so, are they all included, or is it only heat and hot water, leaving you with the electricity? In the second case, it’s important to factor in changes in your electricity bill, especially in peak hot/cold seasons when your A/C or heater work overtime.

2. What do you know about the management?

Paying rent

Next key time on your first apartment checklist: What’s the management style of your building? Is there a live-in super or landlord? Is the building owned by a property management company? An unfortunate reality is that some renters don’t know who they’re paying rent to once they’ve moved into their new apartment — and that’s not okay. Who will you talk to if there’s an issue about “missing rent”? Always have a written record of who you’ll write rent checks to and who is responsible for giving you a rent receipt.

Getting Maintenance Done

The other reason you need absolute clarity on your management is so you know who to hold responsible for maintenance requests. You should know how to do simple upkeep like unclogging a shower drain, changing light bulbs, hanging pictures, etc, but when your building has bed bugs or you’re out of hot water, you should have a reliable point of contact.

Other Amenities

Don’t assume that your potential apartment will be outfitted with the latest appliances and amenities. Ask about laundry facilities, elevators, trash/recycling pick-up and access to communal areas. If these are important to you, you’ll want to consider the added expenses in cities where these are highly-valued luxuries, not everyday amenities.


Yariv Bensira, Real Estate Expert and Herald Client, about the Pros and Cons of Building a New Home

 Is Building a New Home a Better Deal Than Buying an Existing One?

by Holly Jonhson

Just the other day, a friend of mine argued that building a new home is more cost efficient than buying an existing property.

Her new home is almost finished, and will be move-in ready in about three weeks — so she’s understandably excited. Plus, she said, she’ll be saving all kinds of money because she built.

While I understood her excitement, I found that part puzzling. Was building a new home really cheaper? Please say it isn’t so.

She went on to explain that her new home came with a warranty on its construction and individual components, which would save her money if her home had any structural defects.

“Plus, I won’t have to replace a roof or an air conditioner for a decade,” she said. Since everything in her new house would be straight from the box, she felt sheltered from many of the surprise costs of home ownership we all complain about.

Why Building Usually Costs More

I wanted to dig deeper, so I reached out to an array of experts on the topic. As I suspected, there is no hard and fast rule. Just like the “rent versus buy” conundrum, the cost of building versus buying depends on a number of factors – some of which aren’t even in our control.

Still, the numbers don’t really lie. According to the National Association of Home Builders, the median price of a new home in the United States was $301,400 in February of 2016, while the median price of an existing home was $212,300.

That disparity can be explained at least partially by the idea that those who build new are often investing in larger and more luxurious homes. The median age of an existing, owner-occupied home in the U.S. is 37 years old, according to the NAHB. Back when such a house was built, around 1979, the median size of a newly constructed home was 1,645 square feet. In 2014, the median-sized new home was up to 2,453 square feet. A home that’s nearly 50% bigger is certainly going to cost more.

However, most experts concur that building new simply costs more on the front end. Here are a few reasons why:

Builder profits: Any new build is going to include some expectation for profit, which is part of the reason building a home costs more than buying an existing one, says founder of Beacon Real Estate, Stephen Maury.

“One contributing factor is the profit margin that a homebuilder will necessarily tack on to their cost of construction,” says Maury. “Sellers of older homes are less concerned with replacement costs than they are with capturing a profit on their investment,” he says. “Also, those homeowners will have benefited from value appreciation in the years since they built or purchased their home.”

More stringent energy policies or building codes: One instance where building new can cost more is when codes and rules have changed over the years, says Maury. “Depending on the age of the existing home, new homes may be required to be built to a more stringent energy code, to withstand higher winds, or at a higher elevation based on new FEMA projections for flood risks.”

Then, there are upgrades that are voluntary. One current trend is building “green,” or environmentally friendly homes, says Andrew Leff, national builder executive for Bank of America. Many newly-built homes come with energy certifications covering everything from roofs to appliance packages, while many existing homes were originally built to lower standards.

Then again, investing in an energy-friendly home could be a better long-term investment, says Leff. “While environmentally-friendly homes may cost more upfront to build, it could save you more money in the long run in terms of energy bills.”

The cost of land: When you buy an existing home, the cost of land comes with it. Buying a new home, on the other hand, generally means hunting down the perfect plot first. And that can be expensive, says Yariv Bensira of real estate firm Hyde Capital and investment management firm Lennox Companies.

“From my experience, if you’re looking to buy or build in a high demand area, the cost of purchasing land and then having to build a new home is more expensive than buying an existing home,” says Bensira. “The cost of the land [by itself] might be comparable to or near the cost of an existing home, so if you add in the building costs, permits, and time involved, you’re looking at a much more expensive proposition.”


Real Estate Expert and Thought Leader (and Herald Client) Yariv Bensira on Rental Market in Dallas

The Solution to a Shortage of Apartments For Rent in Dallas

inShareIn case you haven’t heard, people are flocking to Texas. The state, which boasts a burgeoning tech industry, warm weather and plenty of friendly faces has become the nation’s hotbed for renters in recent years. As a result, apartments for rent in Dallas — which has seen the second largest population boom in Texas — have become hot commodities. In a recent study of 11 major metros, Dallas’s rental market saw the most significant change in availability: a 5 percent drop in its vacancy rate over the last decade. The North Texas city even beat out San Francisco, the country’s most expensive city for renters, where vacancy has decreased by 4 percent since 2006. Apartments for rent in Dallas are going fast and they're staying gone. Click To Tweet Here’s what else you need to know if you’re planning on navigating the shortage of apartments to rent in Dallas.

The State of Apartments For Rent in Dallas

A Sizable Expansion

According to an NYU Furman Center report that studied 11 U.S. metros between 2006 and 2014, the Dallas metro area increased its rental stock by 25 percent —  an increase the study remarks is “sizable” compared to other metros. Real estate investor Yariv Bensira says the market in Dallas is ripe, from a developer’s point of view — but at a cost to renters.

“More and more rental developments are going up throughout Dallas. And it seems more and more amenities are needed in new buildings to compete in order to command higher-end rents,” he says.

And it isn’t just apartments for rent that are contributing to the boom in units in Dallas. According to the NYU Furman Center study, a significant number of the new rentals are single-family homes, as homeowners choose more to rent their houses, adding new streams of income.

The Influx of Millennials

Nationally, Millennials are leaning more towards renting today than owning — perhaps because it offers a sense of flexibility that the generation is so well-known to love. In Texas, the steep property tax rate is an added incentive to rent. As a result, the competition for vacant apartments for rent in Dallas is fierce. As more renters enter the Dallas market, developers continue to outdo one another for new business.

“There are young professionals and entrepreneurs flowing into Dallas from other urban centers and big cities, and they are used to luxury living in high-end buildings laden with amenities,” Bensira says. “They are looking to stay in town and are willing to pay to do so.”

And for those who do want to buy? The swelling property values mean scarier price tags, and ultimately it’s a matter of choosing the lesser evil. There’s no way, they say, to really have it all.

“I think people aren’t buying homes in Dallas because the cost of buying is also going up. I have friends who want to buy homes and condos, but it’s really expensive especially to be in a generally nice area,” says Betty Matthew, a Dallas-based speech language pathologist, who rents a townhome with two housemates in the city’s Deep Ellum neighborhood. “If you want to buy a home, you have to move further away, which people may be reluctant to do because of the longer commute to work and things to do in the city.”

The Decreasing Vacancy Rate

Even with a 25-percent increase in new apartments for rent in Dallas, the vacancy rate is still dropping. This is in part because the number of renters has increased by more than 35 percent since 2006, leaving a 10-percent deficiency in supply. As with any major metro experiencing the recent influx of renters, low-income renters are having more trouble finding affordable housing in the city center. They’re forced to either pay more to stay in the city or be pushed out into the suburbs and surrounding cities.


Herald Client, Real Estate Expert, Yariv Bensira in US News and World Report

Our client, real estate investor and developer, Yariv Bensira, was recently interviewed as a real estate expert and investing guru in US News and World Report. Yariv is a principal of Hyde Capital, LLC. a real estate investment firm. He is a leading expert and thought-leader in the world or real estate, real estate investing, development and homebuilding. 

By Christine Giordano 

April 18, 2016, at 9:12 a.m. 

As winter blustered through his Cleveland hometown, Steve Novotny may have been a world away, pulling his sailboat up to a dock in sunny Florida on his way to the Bahamas.

Four years ago he plunged into the rental business as a handyman by buying a house that had a decent location but needed huge repairs. "It took all of my savings to buy it," he says. "I actually lived in my truck while I was renting houses out for the first two years."

Now he looks for so-called "handyman specials" – houses with at least three bedrooms that are in nice locations but need repair. He now owns nine houses and the rental income allows him to sail around the country.

Many investors like Novotny are seeking to get into the rental market to create passive income to fuel their lifestyles, and the rental market in the United States is still rising.

Since 2005, the number of households that rent has hiked to 37 percent, a jump of 9 million and the largest increase by decade since 1965, according to a December study by Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University. This is on track to be the "strongest decade of renter growth ever recorded," according to the study, and hikes in rent are outpacing inflation. 

Traditionally, investors have looked for quick returns by flipping houses after a swift remodeling. "While flipping can be lucrative, it can also tie up your money if the home doesn't sell immediately," says Corey Brinkman, market vice president of Renters Warehouse, a property management company in St. Louis.

"Plus, it's a one-time benefit once the house sells. Renting out a property can provide income month after month and free up your cash flow to invest in other places," he says.

But investors should enter the market with caution because it is easy to underestimate the costs of repairs and upkeep on your rental unit. "A good rule of thumb is to calculate anywhere from 7 to 15 percent for these unforeseen repairs, depending on the age of the rental property," Brinkman says.

Here is some advice from experts to keep your rental money flowing in the right direction. 

Keep your goals in mind. Investors need to know why they are in the rental market and what they want to accomplish financially, says Wendell De Guzman, chief executive of the real estate investment firm, PCI in Chicago.

If the goal is to live passively off the rental income, then investors should know how much income they'll need. The tax rate changes as income becomes passive, says De Guzman, and "your tax rate can be zero percent" because you can deduct the depreciation from your taxable income.

For example, an investor who pays $275,000 for a house would divide it by 27.5 (years) for depreciation and shield $10,000 in income annually.

Put your financial house in order. Knowing your income and expenses will help you get loans and, subsequently, buy more property, De Guzman says. Don't forget to include taxes, insurance, maintenance, management, utilities and the reserves for major repairs, like a new roof.

It also pays to learn financing and talk with mortgage brokers to find programs to buy the property with as little money down as possible. First-time homeowners might buy a four-unit apartment building, get an Federal Housing Administration loan with a 3.5-percent down payment, collect the security deposit and, if you close early enough in the month, use the first month's prorated rent toward the down payment, De Guzman says.

Learn your market's vacancy rates and property ratings. There are areas rated A through F, and they all sell and rent for different rates. Keep your vacancy rate to 5 percent or less, De Guzman says, so you won't be stuck with an unrented property for months at a time.

If you don't want to be a property babysitter, avoid the areas with the lesser ratings. Areas with F ratings often have the most violent crimes in the neighborhood. "It's tough being there. You have to watch your investment like a hawk," he says.

A-rated areas often mean higher sales prices but lead to higher rents and more regular tenants. "You'll have fewer headaches if you're dealing with renters who can afford a more expensive rent. You don't want to be dealing with the bottom-of-the-barrel (properties) if you plan on being an absentee landlord," Novotny says. 

Look for real estate with great potential. Properties that tend to do well are near schools, expanding retail or trendy points of interest, local transportation, or surrounding malls, says Daniel Sanchez, commercial associate partner of Partners Trust Commercial in Beverly Hills, California.

Once it's yours, maintain the exterior and keep your costs down with desert landscaping, low-flow toilets and tankless water heaters, he says. 

Keep your options open. Consider smaller markets within secondary markets, how well the house was built and how much people are paying rent in the neighborhood. "I want to be in the $800-to-$900 range in the secondary market," says Yariv Bensira, owner of Hyde Capital in Memphis, Tennessee, who came to the country to attend college and now who owns and handles 4,000 units with a private investment fund in Israel.

Before buying, he checks how well the house was framed, who the tenants would be and what he can add to the property to reasonably increase the rent. "You're not going to change the demographic or bring in completely new people. The question is whether the existing tenants can pay a little more for a better product," he says.

Don't be lured by low interest rates. If a property is already 30 years old and would cost the same to build it, then don't buy it, Bensira says. Make sure your home has enough value to get the returns you want when you eventually sell the property. 

Renovate the kitchen and bathrooms to get higher rent. Quality granite in the kitchencould save you resurfacing costs, and bring in an extra $50 to $90 per month, Bensira says. Be sure to know how much renovations cost so that you know if you're getting a fair bid. 

Screen the tenants. Have an application process and use a service such as National Tenant Network to look for civil and criminal lawsuits, recent collection activity and credit scores above 600, says De Guzman. "Look for people who were down financially, but now are on their way up with a good job and some savings, who have been paying their bills for the past four years," he says.

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