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Why Your Rental Property Is Worth $50k Less Than Your Neighbors

 I often get the question, “why is my property worth less than my neighbor’s? My neighbor’s house sold for,” in this particular situation, “$600,000. My house is listed at the same thing but I’m not getting the attention or it’s not moving as quickly as my neighbor’s home.” I am going to try answer that question really briefly. Hopefully you like my little graphic here. I am really proud of myself, able to put this together. Not that artistic so it took me a little bit. Hopefully it shows the point pretty clearly.

In this particular instance we’re talking about multi-families. We are talking about, in this particular model, two triple-decker side-by-side. Let’s assume all else is equal. They were built the same year. In the same condition. The tenant base is just as strong. All the systems are working just as effectively or efficiently as one another. All else being equal, the only thing that differs between these two properties is the rental income being produced.

In property number one in our example, you have three units. Each one of them is collecting $1500 per unit. Let’s assume they’re three bedrooms. In property number two, again, all else being equal, you have three bedrooms collecting $2000 a piece. The difference typically that we find between buildings that are almost identical selling for two different prices is the rental income that’s being produced. When buyers buy a rental property, when they buy a multi-family building, a lot of times their intention is to … and not a lot of times, most times, I would say all times, their intention is to collect as much rent as possible to help them reduce their expenses. A lot of times their mortgage qualification relies on the rental income that comes in to help them qualify for a larger purchase.

In this particular example, all else being equal, this particular model, this particular property is worth $550,000. This one is worth roughly $600,000 because of the differences in income. Often you have the seller of property number one saying, “well my house, I’m putting my house on the market and you’re telling me it’s worth $50,000 less than the house two doors down that’s almost identical to mine that sold for 600. Well I know my neighbor and I talked to my neighbor and they’re getting 600 for their property. Why is my house sitting on the market and it’s not getting the attention when we’ve listed it at the same price?”

Again, there are a lot of different factors that go into selling property. The condition, the atmosphere, maybe this person sold in a nice summer market and this is coming onto winter. The rental income is not the only factor that goes into the final price. A lot of times whether you’re talking about multi-family properties, especially the triple-deckers that we have here in New England, the rental income is a big factor and the more rental income that you have being generated by the building, typically the higher the sales price of that building compared to similar buildings.

The point we’re trying to make is more money increases value. More money equals more value. The second point is staying up with the market. Staying up with the market. Staying in touch with what’s going on in your local rental market. By that I mean, typically the reason that you find a difference between these two buildings and what they’re renting for is this person has had long-term tenants. Very good thing, but while these tenants were staying in place, this landlord never systematically went back and increased the rents. The thought process is, and again, to no fault of this person, it’s very common that this happens, is my tenants are great. They’re great people. They don’t give me any trouble. I just want to keep them in place and I want to keep them happy. I’m not going to touch the rent. As long as they’re paying the bills. It is paying the bills that I’m covered. I don’t need much out of it.

Ten years down the road, fifteen years down the road when they’ve gone … when it’s time to now sell, this person has kept up with the market, systematically said, “okay, the three bedroom apartments are now renting for $1800, now they’re renting for $1900.” As tenants move out and new tenants are being replaced, or the tenants that are in place stay there and he systematically increasing two, three percent over time to keep up with the current market rents. When it’s time for these two individuals to sell, they’re cashing out, they’re retiring, they’re moving on, they’re trading up, whatever it is, this person now, despite how nice he was to his tenants or she was to her tenants, over the years is now put themself in a tough situation compared to the person who kept up with the market.

At the end of the day, buyers are going to look at what the property is producing and say, “I’m going to make my determination of value based on,” not solely, but again, in large part on what I can get back. Even if I occupy this unit, we’re looking at it from an investor standpoint, even if we looked at it from an own occupant standpoint and we said we took away this rent, we took away this rent. I now have $4000 to help me with my mortgage. In now have $3000 over here to help me with my mortgage. I can actually not only afford to pay more according to my mortgage broker, but it makes sense for me to pay more for this stream of income. That is exactly what buyers are purchasing. A stream of income.

You as a seller should over the years understand that you want to be systematically raising your rents, systematically increasing your rents, not to be troublesome to your tenants but to make sure when that sale comes sometime in the future that you are prepared for it and that the value of your building has been maximized because the rents have been maximized.

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