Tag Archives: Los Gatos

Rental property owners save big money with this Scooby Snack

I spoke this week to a long time friend I made when I worked at Excite.com. Remember that early Internet portal?! Those were fun times. We share a common interest in real estate investing and in fix-flip projects. Both of us managed to work insane hours during the day and then spent weekends remodeling houses. There is a certain joy in that…but it takes its toll on the physical and mental health for sure! My parents worried that I’d never find someone and get married. I ended up marrying someone who also shares this interest in real estate.

Like many of us in the San Francisco Bay Area, my friend, Darlene, was able to cash out her Non-Qual stock options and use the proceeds to invest in real estate. She found some great opportunities in the Desert Hot Springs area and acquired several properties that she has renovated and is now renting. Score. What a great way to use her stock proceeds to generate more wealth.

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Darlene shared that she recently sold two rental properties and is looking to reinvest in more properties in that area. This is where my heart sank and my ears perked up…at the same time…which is interesting from a purely biological perspective. I have a very active body it seems. My biological reaction was a cringe from the heavy taxation Darlene had to pay and the resulting loss of wealth that could have potentially been avoided.

When Darlene sold her stock options she paid short-term capital gains tax which is very common. She took those proceeds and bought properties. Now, depending how long she owned those properties, she paid capital gains taxes when she sold those properties. She will also pay income tax on the monthly rent she collected. Like wow, Scoob, that’s a lot of Scooby Snacks to give Uncle Sam. Yes, it is….and some of it can be avoided. Step into the Mystery Machine and let me tell you how.

The taxable event of selling stock is totally unavoidable and is a right of passage for success in the Silicon Valley. Paying taxes on rental income is also unavoidable. However, taxes on real estate investments can possibly be avoided…or at least deferred… through a little trick called the 1031 Exchange. The 1031 Exchange is a tool designed to help real estate investors buy “better” and more lucrative properties with the added benefit of not paying taxes on financial gains from properties sold.

 

Here’s how it works…and it’s totes legal. Let’s say I own 5 single-family home properties that I paid $100K each for a total investment of $500K. I hold these properties over 10 years and each has appreciated by $100K for a total gain in value of $500K. Let’s say I decided to sell all 5 properties and take the gain of $500K. Partaaaaaaay! That’s solid money. But wait, Scoob, if I take the $500K gain and run, I will pay long term capital gains tax….and that amount will hurt. Not so partaaaaaaaay!

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Or, I can play this sale more strategically and use the 1031 Exchange to protect that $500K gain by buying an income property (up to 3 separate properties) of an equal or greater value…and not pay capital gains tax. Keep in mind that the purchased asset must be another investment property…and NOT a primary residence. For this example, I’d sell the 5 single-family homes and then possibly exchange them for a small apartment complex. Do this exchange several times, and there are opportunities to own big time real estate assets…and to defer having to pay capital gains.

The kicker on this type of transaction is that once the 5 properties are sold (or closed), I must identify the “better” property I want to exchange to within 45 days and close on the sale within 180 days. This can be tricky if inventory is low like in the San Francisco Bay Area. Be sure to work with a real estate agent who is well connected to other agents within your local area.

Ok…watch your step out of the Mystery Machine. There are lots of other games that can be played here that are well defined within our lovely, and I mean lovely, tax code and by the SEC. I’ll be share more in future posts….like should real estate be a part of a retirement portfolio. The short answer is, heck yeah!!!

Please leave a question or response directly on this post or Tweet me a question @ericdunstan.

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Beware the handsy Santa

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Yikes, is it December already?!
Our family makes the annual visit to see Santa at the mall.  I learned why this is my wife, Dee Dee’s favorite holiday tradition.  Well, it turns out Santa remembers us and is rather “handsy” as he expresses his appreciation of Dee Dee.  “Wow, you’ve got a real looker for a wife, Dad” shares Jolly Ol’ Saint Nicholas.  Of course, Dee Dee beams and the boys are really puzzled.
“What does ‘looker’ mean, Dad?”

“Just eat your candy canes, boys,” I reply.

Yes, this is my life and this actually happened.  I won’t be happy if Dee Dee wants to wait up all night for Santa on Christmas Eve.

Thank you all for your support and referrals as I build my real estate business.

I hope your Holiday Season is merry and bright.
– Eric

Owning your own home is totally doable

TIMG_5496he thought of owning a home never crossed my mind until my early thirties. I remember a myriad of limiting thoughts crossing my mind including, “there is NO WAY I can afford a home,” or “I don’t have the time or the money to maintain a home” or “owning a home is something you do when you settle down…and renting is still cheaper.” Looking back on those thoughts I can’t help but laugh. Yes, those thoughts are all legit, but SO NOT true.

I was 31 when I seriously considered buying my first home. Up until that time I did what all of my other friends did…rent an apartment with roommates. At that time of my life, I was in my last quarter of my MBA program at Santa Clara University. I was going to school part time and working full time as to not take on giant school debt. “Who has the time or money to own a home? All I do is work and go to school at night,” I remember thinking.

A roommate, Greg, told me one night that he planned to buy a house and asked if I would be open to renting a room from him once he found a home. Hmmm….clever. Seeing him go through the home buying process opened my eyes to how that “trick” is done. Greg found a home after a few months search and I rented a room from him at a price equal to what I was paying for the apartment…and he got all the financial benefits. I quickly realized if Greg could do it, so can I.

The first step in buying a home is to get your financial house in order and determine when you are ready to buy a home. Yes, this can be tough given the lack of financial education people receive these days. Or, if you totally “Kanye” your finances buying too many Yeezy shirts. One of the best things I did was meet with a certified financial planner (CFP). Financial planners will help you obtain a clear snapshot of your current financial health and help you identify short-term and long-term goals…including buying a house. Planners will also provide you the tools to get there.

Ask a trusted friend or parent for a referral or there are options available online. Alexa von Tobel created LearnVest to help people get control of their money. Be financially fearless! The service and tools are all available online and certified financial planners are available to work with people one on one to achieve their dreams. I’ve met Alexa several times during my time with a financial technology startup. She is really great and has a passion to help others. Believe me, once you understand your financial strength, the path to affording a home becomes clear. I think many of you will find the path a lot less difficult than you think. I know I did.

A second step in understanding the affordability of a home is the cost of ownership. This is a BIG factor I find many people don’t quite think through clearly. Getting your financial house in order to buy a home is focused mostly on getting approved for a loan to buy a house. This second step is focused on what’s needed to keep and maintain a home once you buy it. So beyond the monthly mortgage payment, homeowners must consider costs of home insurance, taxes, utilities, homeowners association dues (if applicable) and more. These home ownership costs are in addition to the typical living expenses we all have including cable, phone, Internet site subscriptions, going out, etc.

So how is this done? Build a budget! Building a budget helps identify and prioritize monthly expenses within the context of your financial priority…in this case, home ownership. Yikes, many people quickly realize the need to say “no!” to a Tuesday trivia night at a local bar. I remember making the decision to NOT buy a BMW so I can afford a home. I will be writing more about budgeting in a future post…and will maybe throw in some trivia for those needing a fix.

A third step in understanding home affordability is changing the mindset that it’s what people do who want to settle down. Or that renting is still cheaper. I recently wrote a post for TV and radio talk show host, Chelsea Krost, about the benefits of buying versus renting so check that out as a resource.

The shift in mind-set is up to you and it’s hard to change people’s thinking without a catalyst. What shifted my mind into wanting to own a home was my room mate Greg. He bought a home and I rented a room from him. He used my rent money to pay down HIS mortgage and gave HIM great tax benefits. Greg got to experience the many financial benefits of owning a home…and I paid him to do it. That relationship changed my mindset. “I need to look into this!” I remember thinking.

Yes, home ownership is scary. The more you understand how it’s done and the many benefits received the less scary it is. I argue the more EXCITING it is. Home ownership is one of the many things that make America great. It’s your property. You can do what you want with it…within reason, of course. Do laundry at midnight. Fry fish and stink up the house. Netflix all night with the sound WAY up. If you do it in your own house, no one complains to the landlord. Better yet, NO BODY CARES! To me, that’s the true benefit of home ownership.

My goal is to share with others the great opportunities, benefits and risks of home ownership to empower them to make their own decisions for what works best.

Please feel free to Tweet me with questions about this post @ericdunstan.


Lend Me Some Sugar! I Am Your Neighbor!

Dunstan_HNYI became a realtor to help preserve what makes the San Francisco Bay Area such a great place: our communities! I want every client I help to say, “Lend me some sugar! I am your neighbor!” *

I was born and raised in Saratoga and my roots go back 5 generations in California. I have seen our communities evolve as people from across our nation and the world come to the Bay Area to live and work. Remember, the technology developed here changes the world. How great is that!?

I depend on all of you for referrals to colleagues and friends who need support in relocating their families to a community that best meets their needs.

Please email me at eric@dunstanproperties.com if you, or someone you know, need a tour of the Bay Area, a referral to a trusted lender, insights into local schools or traffic patterns. I’d be happy to share my unique local perspective and market knowledge.

Thank you for your continued support and friendship. May 2016 bring you and your family much happiness!

– E

* Be cooler than cool. Reply on Twitter to @ericdunstan with the song/artist reference and be entered to win a Starbucks gift card.

Check out “The Hawaiian House”

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My son, Cole, was inspired by a recent trip to Maui to design his own beach house. The result is his “Hawaiian House” complete with palm tree. Enjoy!


Renters, it may be time to buy a home!

Screen Shot 2014-09-17 at 11.29.14 AMI was reminded again this week by how red hot the residential rental market is in the San Francisco Bay Area. Over lunch with a few friends, discussions quickly turned from the quick “what are you doing now” update to rants like “I am spending so much on rent…and my landlord is going to increase it again this year!” This statement is quite common for renters in non-rent controlled areas like Palo Alto or San Jose.

Finding a decent place to live in the Bay Area has always been a challenge, but it seems over the past 2-3 years the search has become even more formidable. However, with rents so high, the BIG $1M QUESTION is now does it make sense to continue paying high rent or is it better buy a house (or condo) and put the money towards a mortgage. Interest rates are so low now that monthly mortgage payments could actually be lower than paying rent! Yikes. The barrier to explore this option, however, lies in finding at least $200K in cash for a down payment. No matter your income level, obtaining that amount of cash is not easy and requires discipline. As I mentioned in a previous post, don’t buy that BMW M series with your options. Buy the house first!

Screen Shot 2015-11-22 at 6.45.36 PMI have been asked this “should I rent or should I buy” question several times recently. I am fan of buying a home as a longer term, 5-7 year play. I reached out to a mortgage broker friend to help build the business case for home ownership taking into consideration economic factors including home appreciation, tax benefits, etc. Of course, the analysis is positioned within the context that anyone considering buying a home should consult a CPA or financial planner to understand the implications for their specific circumstances. Come on guys, you know I had to say that!!!

Following is a rough analysis that focuses on the tax advantages of home ownership. The numbers used are for illustrative purposes only to explain the concepts. Feel free to manipulate the equations as needed. Or run a few calculations yourself using a “rent vs buy” calculator.

OK, let’s get to it! For example, let’s assume someone makes $120,000/year and is in a combined state and federal 30% tax bracket and will pay $36,000 in taxes.

Now, let’s assume a $800,000 home is purchased with a 20% down payment of $160,000 and with a $640,000 loan at 4%. The monthly payment breaks down as:

Monthly payment: $3,055.46

Property taxes: $833

Insurance: $80

Total Monthly Payment: $3,968

The same home could be rented for $3,000 per month, BUT don’t forget that the mortgage interest and property taxes are tax deductible. The high tech salaries being so high in the Bay Area this benefit is potentially HUGE. The annual interest paid on the loan in this example is about $25,000 and annual taxes are $10,000. As a result, taxable income has been reduced by $35,000. The buyer will pay $10,500 less in taxes, or $875 less per month, or the equivalent of $3,093/mo ($3,968 – $875).

But wait, there’s more to this. Now hear me out. Let’s assume the property value increases by a modest 5% per year. Over a 5-year term, the $800,000 property will be worth $1.021 million. Not bad, right?

Let’s assume rent increases by a modest 5% per year when in reality it has increased by much more!! Given the $3,000/mo rent in this example, rent will increase to $3,828 per month by year 5. Keep in mind that any renter (tenant) is at the mercy of a landlord and the laws that govern the local rental market as well. A renter could be asked to leave if, for example, the landlord wanted to sell the property.

Again, this scenario is designed to introduce the basic concepts to understand the benefits of buying a home vs renting. There are a ton of other factors to consider beyond the quantifiable including emotional benefits. We all have our hot buttons for what makes us happy.

Personally, I find happiness in home ownership from the remodeling and interior design perspective. I love that stuff. My mom spent many years as an interior designer and it rubbed off. Many family meals include conversation around what projects we are working on or what great home interiors we’ve seen. However, I have friends who are SCARED TO DEATH of any home project and prefer to just rent and let a landlord take care of it. To each his own.

However, my goal is to share with others the great opportunities, benefits and risks of home ownership to empower them to make their own decisions for what works best.

Kirk out.

Please send me an email (eric@dunstanproperties.com) or call me (408-674-2825) if you have any questions.


Buying the first home means not buying the sports car

Screen Shot 2015-09-03 at 9.29.22 PMThe explosive growth of the Internet brought a lot of money to the San Francisco Bay Area and the Silicon Valley in the late 1990s. Many of my work colleagues and friends cashed in their stock options and bought high-end cars or lived BIG in San Francisco during those go-go years. Many of us younger employees did not know the difference between paper wealth and actual wealth. Unfortunately, the paper wealth quickly disappeared as pro-forma balance sheets fell out of fashion and stocks plummeted. Easy come, easy go.

Fortunately for me I did not get sucked into the craze of buying a BMW M5 and renting an apartment in the Marina. My Mid-West style upbringing made me far too frugal (or cheap!) for such “extravagance.” Fortunately I was able to same-day sell a chunk of my ISO options and chose to just sit on the cash. I continued to drive the 1988 Toyota Carolla I owned in college and rented with a roommate a two-bedroom apartment in less than trendy Sunnyvale. I was also able to have my company pay for a good portion of the MBA program I attended to avoid taking on massive student loan debt.

Yes, I experienced a ton of peer pressure for not living in the city. “Come on, Dunstan! Move up to the Marina with us. You won’t have to make the long drive home to Sunnyvale late at night…and “Social Safeway” is just crawling with honeys.” Many a tale has been told about love found in the produce aisle.

Screen Shot 2015-09-03 at 9.43.19 PMWhy didn’t I cave to the peer pressure or buy-in to the spendy trends at that time? I wanted to buy a house. That was my goal. Even back then, living in San Francisco was expensive and many of my friends there lived paycheck to paycheck. Several work colleagues graduated with an MBA and $100K+ in student debt. I graduated with no debt. Shortly after I started my first job after business school I was able to purchase my first house. Goal accomplished.

The San Francisco Bay Area housing market is even more competitive (read “expensive”) now than it was in the early 2000s. Buying a home or condo takes a significant cash down payment to meet the more stringent lending requirements. A hefty monthly cash flow is also required to take care of the trappings of ownership…namely property taxes, insurance and then basic living expenses. Home ownership gets expensive. Fast. But I think it’s SO worth it!

First time home ownership is still possible in the Bay Area despite the gloom and doom affordability market data. Sacrifices have to be made and savings goals have to be achieved. Life style choices have to be made too. The process of saving for the first home may take some time and may require renting with a roommate in a less fashionable area to amass cash. Building a monthly and annual budget is a great tool to help analyze where the monthly paycheck goes and decide what changes are to be made to funnel more cash to savings. I highly recommend Alexa von Tobel’s book, “Financially Fearless” to help with building a budget and savings plan.

Buying what type of house and in what neighborhood will also be defined by company stock performance and salary compensation. People make a lot of money in the Bay Area. However, how well one manages money will play a key role in the home purchasing power of the individual. Keep in mind that most first time home buyers will NOT be able to buy a home in a top neighborhood. Be OK with that. Buy what you can afford in the best neighborhood possible. How this is done will be discussed in future posts. Start small and gain equity to then move up to the next house/neighborhood. This is all very possible. It takes time, commitment and money management. I did it. So can you.

Please send me a note on Twitter (@ericdunstan) if you have any questions.


Avoiding the boom-chickaboom clubs at Finovate in San Jose

I have attended several Finovate events over the past few years in their exotic 🙂 locals of San Francisco, New York, London and Singapore. As a denizen of the south end of the San Francisco Bay Area, I was surprised and excited to see that the next FinovateSpring event will be hosted in San Jose at the City National Civic.

Screen Shot 2014-04-18 at 11.59.10 AMSan Jose is roughly 50 miles south of San Francisco and has long time positioned itself as the capital of the famous (if not infamous) Silicon Valley. San Jose is home to many tech giants including eBay/PayPal and Cisco. Apple, Google, Yahoo and Facebook are located in cities just 20 minutes up the 101 or 85 freeways. San Jose is also home to the San Jose Sharks who are snapping at the heals of the LA Kings in divisional play offs.

Even though the San Jose area is home to many world famous brands, technologies and teams, it is NOT a booming cultural mecca of historical sites, tourist attractions and a bustling night life. In fact, the downtown San Jose area rolls up the sidewalks after work hours and most restaurants close down around 9pm. Unfortunately, any nightlife is limited to the standard “boom-chickaboom” type clubs that blare “Rhythm of the Night” on a speaker turned up to 11.  Yes, I’m aware that I’m mashing together several pop culture references here.

So where to go and what to do when we all descend on San Jose for FinovateSpring on April 29 and 30? For starters, I’ve listed below a series of local restaurants that are great to host business dinners at and are within walking distance of the Civic.

Original Joe’s  – Does not accept reservations and good for smaller parties.

Il Fornaio – Accepts reservations and hosts larger parties.

The Grill – Accepts reservations and hosts larger parties.

Firehouse – Accepts reservations and hosts larger parties.

There are a few options for after dinner entertainment…but they are limited. The San Jose Sharks will be in Los Angeles unfortunately. However, there may be something happening at the SAP Center worth attending. The nearby Hotel De Anza and the Fairmont Hotel hosts jazz musicians in their lobbies most nights for something more low key.  However, avoid the bars and club scene in downtown San Jose.  There was a fatal stabbing at a bar just last week…and it even happened on a night early in the week.

Screen Shot 2014-04-18 at 12.00.19 PMAs a resident of the south bay area, I recommend visiting the nearby town of Los Gatos. Los Gatos is a small town tucked to the side (map) of the Sillicon Valley and is a 15 min drive or cab ride South/West of San Jose. There are several great restaurants in the downtown area and many interesting bars for after dinner drinks and strategy sessions. “Rhythm of the Night” is seldom heard.

I’ve listed my favorites based on personal experience. I recommend making reservations at all restaurants for each is well known in the area.

Restaurants

Nick’s

Cin Cin

The Lexington House

Bars

Carry Nations

C.B. Hannegan’s

The Black Watch

Cabs can be hard to find in the area so ask the restaurant/bar host to call one for your party.  Keep in mind that Los Gatos is also a great town to just walk around in too.  If you are into exotic cars, the Los Gatos Luxury Cars  dealership has a store on Main St where one can drool over Aston Martins, Bentleys and Lamborghinis.  There are also several gift shops and clothes boutiques to purchase a peace offering for the home front. There is an Apple store too in case you forgot your iPhone charger at home.

I hope you enjoy FinovateSpring and have a chance to explore the Silicon Valley.


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