How To Profit In Real Estate Without Flipping, Renting Or Beating Bubbles

real-estate-investing-11-11-2011Most people believe that making a profit in real estate means buying and selling at the right time, or renting their property and profiting over the long term.

Being handy with property renovations and having a great relationship with a bank can also prove essential.

But what if you’re better suited for a straightforward approach to short-term, high-interest financing for higher-than-normal returns – independent of the established banking norms? What if you want to build better relationships for safer investments?

That answer may be found in hard money lending, the “second oldest profession in the world, right after that other one,” says Buscemi, managing director of Dandrew Partners LLC in New York City and author of “Making the Yield: Real Estate Hard Money Lending Uncovered” (

Hard money lending is a type of community lending and here’s how it works, Buscemi says. Investors act like a bank and make short-term loans to small businesses that buy and repair distressed properties, refinance them with conventional bank loans and repay the short-term loans at higher interest rates, generating more profitable returns for the original lenders.

“Cash flow is something everyone needs yet few people have – that’s been true since Bronze Age Sumerians were writing in cuneiform on clay tablets,” Buscemi says. “But in the 18th century such community lending was vilified, leaving a massive gap that banks have absorbed.”

Also called bridge loans, hard money loans are a specialized type of real-estate backed loans and fall within the peer-to-peer lending category, he says. As a lender, if you have a “cash-strapped” client who has missed several payments, then you have their collateral to resell and claim back your money with interest, he says.

“It’s a safe, short-term investment with nice returns, but doing without the established criteria on loans established through banks poses certain risks,” says Buscemi, who offers some need-to-know tips for navigating hard lending.

•  Avoid hazards with insurance. When you know that the hazard insurance is in place – with adequate coverage – make sure that you are listed as the mortgagee. A little mortgagee clause that shows you are the mortgagee wit your name and address on the policy matters. This clause should also show that you are in first position to be paid, should the property be foreclosed on.

•  Know the many different types of insurance. They include policies: hazard, vacant dwelling, flood insurance, builder’s risk and loss of rents coverage. A very large part of your job as a hard money lender is to minimize the risk in a high-risk field. You are already doing all you can to reduce the risk of lending to a particular individual, which is great. But now you need to acknowledge that there are external factors that can affect your investment.

•  Build in prepayment penalties. Lenders want to make money on loans, which is not possible if the loan is repaid in full almost immediately after one is provided. The penalty would only apply for the first few months of the loan; after that, the borrower will not incur a penalty if they want to settle the debt. You don’t want to distress borrowers, but you also want to protect lenders against losses from ultra-short-term loans.

•  What you risk without agreed-upon prepayment penalties. If you do not build in prepayment penalties as part of a promissory note or mortgage, you are potentially leaving money on the table. Without such penalties you are giving an opportunity for unscrupulous borrowers to come in and take advantage of your lending system. Don’t leave yourself vulnerable.

About Salvatore M. Buscemi

Salvatore M. Buscemi, author of “Making the Yield: Real Estate Hard Money Lending Uncovered,” is managing director of Dandrew Partners LLC in New York City ( company specializes in placing capital from prominent institutional investors into middle-market distressed commercial real estate investments. He began his career at Goldman Sachs, where he worked four years as an investment banker. A frequent speaker on hard money lending, Mr. Buscemi also co-founded Dandrew Strategies LLC, a $30 million real estate solutions provider in the secondary mortgage market specializing in non-performing residential mortgage portfolios.

VIPP introduces a problematic prefab

vipp in the evening


Oscar Wilde wrote in The Picture of Dorian Gray: “Nowadays people know the price of everything and the value of nothing.” I use that phrase a lot when people complain about the price of everything from furniture to tiny houses; short production runs and quality materials mean higher costs. But even I choke occasionally, such as with this visually stunning new prefab from VIPP, a Danish company that has been working with steel since 1939, starting with an iconic wastebasket that’s now in the Museum of Modern Art.


The VIPP shelter is a beautiful object, all glass and steel, 50,000 pounds of superior workmanship and design. 592 square feet of felt-lined modern living. It gives new definition to the word “turnkey”- there are no options whatsoever. It’s “a plug and play getaway.”


Indeed, they have chosen everything from the bedsheets to the toilet brush, it is all included. The specifications are top of the line, from the VIPP kitchen to the electric radiant concrete floors to the 10 inches of insulation. It is indeed a stunning minimalist modern object of desire.


And then it all begins to fall apart, perhaps in this interview with designer Morten Bo Jensen, who says:

The biggest difference between this getaway compared to anything else on the market is the fact that I am not an architect. The shelter is conceived more like a product than a piece of architecture that melds seamlessly with its surrounding. We didn’t start with a piece of land on which we customized a house taking into consideration the natural surroundings. There is plenty of amazing architecture out there, but we wanted to conceive something different; an escape in the form of an object designed down to last detail, where the only choice left to the customer, is where to put it.


But architecture doesn’t work like that. You cannot design a building with a wall of glass and claim that it will work “in the darkest forest or the brightest desert”; put this object in full sun, with no shading and that wall of glass and black steel and it will be uninhabitable.


The loft will be an oven, even with the one opening window. But nobody will use it anyway; just try spending one night where you have to climb a steep ladder and then crawl up from the bottom of the bed. You will sleep downstairs on the second night.


Then there is the small matter of cost, which I usually downplay, but $US 585,000 is a lot of money for 592 square feet, for 50,000 pounds of glass and steel. That is actually the same price per pound as a BMW Series 2 Coupe; you can do your own price per square foot calculation. That also does not include land, delivery, crane rental, or site services like septic or electricity. And add 12% for US east coast delivery.


On another design website they title their post The Vipp Shelter is a plug-and-play prefab home that can be placed just about anywhere. If only it were. However you cannot call something “plug and play” if there are no plugs. So you may not have to buy a toilet brush but you have to buy infrastructure, which is surprisingly expensive and difficult.

Perhaps I am just bitter, because I spent two years trying to sell a high end minihomeand ran into all these problems of connections and zoning bylaws and lofts and costs. I just look at this and see every problem that I had writ large. There are a dozen reasons that this kind of building cannot be placed just about anywhere; perhaps it will work in a nice Scandinavian climate with lots of shade and hopefully no mosquitoes.


I shouldn’t be so critical, it is a beautiful thing and I hope they sell like VIPP wastebaskets, also overpriced iconic objects of desire. But at least a wastebasket really can go anywhere and doesn’t have to be plugged in. Lots more beautiful documentation and photographs at VIPP.

House Seeks To Protect Rain Barrels

Barrel-outfit--21267by David A. Firmin, Esq.

Last week, HB 15-1259 was introduced to the House of Representatives and referred to the Committee on Agriculture, Livestock & Natural Resources.  The Bill, as drafted, will protect personal rain barrel collection systems and establish the following guidelines:

•    Use up to two rain barrels having a total combined storage capacity of not more than 100 gallons to collect precipitation.
•    May only be used in communities with detached homes or row homes.  Owners in stacked condominiums would not be permitted to use the rain barrels.
•    Collected rain must be used for irrigation or other non-potable uses exclusively on the property it was collected from.
•    Precipitation must be collected from residential roofs.

This bill will amend 38-33.3-106.5 of the Colorado Common Interest Ownership Act to add rain barrels to the list of items protected by state law along with the American flag, political signs, renewable energy generation device and drought prevention measures.

Using rainwater collection systems is easy and is reportedly very good water for lawn and gardens, and could assist in the reduction of water costs to irrigate the owners’ lawn or garden.  And, the barrels should be easily hidden.  As a general statement, I am pro rain barrel.  Happy gardening and, as always, stay on top of community association legislation in our 2015 Legislative Tracking Chart!


ASHRAE/IES Publish Updated Standard on Energy Efficiency in Existing Buildings

A newly revised standard from ASHRAE and IES seeks to provide greater guidance and a more comprehensive approach to retrofit of existing buildings for increased energy efficiency.

Published this week, ANSI/ASHRAE/IES Standard 100-2015, Energy Efficiency in Existing Buildings, provides comprehensive and detailed descriptions of the processes and procedures for the retrofit of existing residential and commercial buildings in order to achieve greater measured energy efficiency. Appendices are included for life-cycle cost analysis procedures as well as identification of potential energy conservation measures.

“The total primary energy used in both residential and commercial building sectors is expected by the U.S. Energy Information Administration to rise each year for the next several decades in spite of aggressive efficiency improvements in new construction,” Rick Hermans, chair of the Standard 100 committee, said. “In order to reduce the overall impact of energy used by residential and commercial buildings, the existing building stock must become more efficient. This revision to Standard 100 provides the means to accomplish that goal.”

The standard addresses both residential and commercial buildings. It addresses single and multiple activity buildings with variable occupancy periods and identifies the approach for 53 building types in 17 climate zones/subzones. It identifies requirements for buildings undergoing retrofits that do not fall under the scope of either ANSI/ASHRAE/IES Standard 90.1-2013, Energy Standard for Buildings Except Low-Rise Residential Buildings, or ANSI/ASHRAE/IES Standard 90.2-2007, Energy Standard for Low-Rise Residential Buildings.

Standard 100 directly addresses a building’s energy-use efficiency in a quantitative manner and provides a means to improve that efficiency with an objective benchmark created with the assistance of the Energy Information Administration, the Federal Energy Management Program and Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

Recognizing that the actual occupancy of the building plays a key role in its performance, the standard establishes the need for development of an energy management plan and an operation and maintenance program. It also addresses the requirements for ongoing commissioning.

The standard takes advantage of the fact that any building that has been in operation for at least twelve months can quickly determine its performance relative to some benchmark, which is defined in the standard as an energy-use intensity target. This concept is the new paradigm for energy conscious design, construction and operation of buildings, according to Hermans.

The revision of the standard, last published in 2006, also brings the standard in line with other published ASHRAE documents, specifically Standard 90.1-2013, Standard 90.2-2007 and ANSI/ASHRAE Standard 105-2014, Standard Methods of Determining, Expressing and Comparing Building Energy Performance and Greenhouse Gas Emissions.

The cost of ANSI/ASHRAE/IES Standard 100-2015, Energy Efficiency in Existing Buildings, is $72 ($61, ASHRAE members). To order, contact ASHRAE Customer Contact Center at 1-800-527-4723 (United States and Canada) or 404-636-8400 (worldwide), or visit

– See more at:

Renting To Tenants with Pets: Countering the Expense

How Much Is that Puppy In Your Window…Going To Cost You?

An adorable puppy.Tenants who have pets bring a unique kind of risk with them. On the one hand, people with pets tend to be more laid back. On the other hand, pets tend to occasionally damage goods and property just by their nature. (If you’ve ever inspected a property of a seven year tenant and seen the damage their German Shepard’s nails have done to the linoleum in the laundry room, you know what we mean.) So what can you legally do to defray the costs?

Not Accept Pets
The most obvious choice is to simply disallow pets. This can take the form of a blanket pet ban, a ban to all uncontained pets (which would allow, for example, fish, reptiles in tanks, tarantulas, and so on), a restriction to just dogs and cats, or almost any configuration you can imagine. But when you realize that three out of four Millennial renters have pets, you have to ask yourself just how much of that crowd you want to disqualify yourself from. So it might be better to pick another option.

Ask for a Pet Deposit
Pets damage property, and the law fully recognizes that by allowing you to ask for a larger security deposit if the tenant brings a pet with them. You don’t even have to set the increased amount ahead of time; Royal Rose Properties negotiates a deposit with each tenant based on the kind of pet, it’s activity level, and the apparent conscientiousness of the owner. If we’re talking a goldfish, we’ll probably skip it altogether; if we’re talking about a pair of ferrets…that’s a different story.

Increase the Rent
We totally do this, too: if your tenant has a pet that you can safely anticipate will cause even minor extra damage over a long period of time, feel free to increase the rent slightly. If they have a dachshund that is a digger, for example, you can increase their rent by $25/month to pay for the landscaper’s extra time. As with the security deposit, RRP leaves that line on our lease blank and we chat with the pet owner about what they have, what their intent is for dealing with it, and we agree on a reasonable amount. Most pet owners not only understand, but they love their pets and are more than willing to pay an extra amount per month to keep their fuzzy friends nearby.

Follow Up with a Surprise Inspection
Nothing will tell you more about what a pet is being allowed to do to your property than seeing it with your own eyes. Our lease informs tenants that we’re going to do two surprise inspections — one 30 days out and one 90 days out — to check on their pets’ effects. In general, there are not many tenants that remember three months later that we’re going to be checking in, so it’s not hard to get a solid idea of what’s going on with the animal on your property.

Establish a Pet Policy
Your lease’s Pet Policy should include three basic elements:

  • Containment: It should explain to the tenant when and where they need to keep their pet under strict control (i.e. “all common areas,” “whenever outside of the home/fenced area of the yard,” or so on.)
  • Pet Health: It should explain that their pet needs to have all common vaccinations, and if relevant, needs to be spayed or neutered.
  • Cleanup: It needs to specify that the tenant is responsible for 100% of costs related to pet cleanup. That includes paying your landscaper for any time spent cleaning up pet ‘landmines’ in the yard so that they can do the rest of their job safely.

One other requirement we exercise prudently is requiring tenants with pets to purchase a one-year Renter’s Policy that covers animal bites. Be sure to have yourself named as additionally insured for not only the extra coverage, but also so you’ll be notified if the policy is cancelled.

If you give your tenants the courtesy of dealing with their pets respectfully, you can open your doors to a much larger chunk of the rental market that’s willing to pay more — which means fewer vacancies, shorter vacancies, and happier tenants. Win-win!


I often wonder what variables factor into an association board’s decision to forego professional management and an annual retainer relationship with a law firm in favor of “going it alone”.

Naturally, money is top of mind for most directors when deciding whether to use professionals such as managers and lawyers for their community. However, financial concerns should not be the only topic of discussion during this debate. In addition to the costs involved. boards should ask themselves the following questions when deciding if they wish to be self-managed:

  • Are we comfortable with handling requests from owners and pursuing covenant violations directly as opposed to having a “cushion” provided by our manager?
  • Do we have the time, patience and expertise to follow through on the daily operations of our community?
  • Do we have the time, patience and expertise to follow through when something out of the ordinary arises like a fire, hurricane or other disaster?
  • Are other communities of our size and type typically managed professionally or self-managed?
I have lived in a Broward County homeowners’ association for more than twenty years and our community has always been self-managed. Our community could really go either way. We are relatively small (98 homes) and do not have a plethora of common areas although we have enough features (private roads, green parks, gazebo, guardhouse, perimeter wall and gate) that do require consistent maintenance and oversight. Someone buying in our community may very well expect it to be professionally managed but would likely not be shocked to learn it isn’t.
On the other hand, a high-rise condominium on the water would present a host of operational and maintenance challenges which might prove far too taxing for the average volunteer board of directors no matter how enticing the cost savings may be. This is when the old adage “penny wise and dollar foolish” comes into play.
As for boards who decide to forego legal assistance on issues like covenant enforcement, document amendments, contracts, insurance claims, hiring and firing decisions, land acquisitions, easements, recalls and more, the questions I would urge them to ask would be:
  • Is our D&O coverage current and high enough and do our actions in this matter exclude coverage?
  • Will we be able to hire the attorney(s) we want when we want them for this matter?
  • Are we willing to learn a lesson the hard way?
Sometimes boards relax into patterns and deciding to forego useful professional assistance can be a bad one.

Urban farming in your backyard? There’s a vertical aeroponic garden for that

The people behind the Tower Gardens claim it can produce fresh local food in half the time as conventional growing, with 90% less water and in 90% less space.

I have to admit that when it comes to the launch of new products in the green scene, I do rather enjoy seeing novel solar gizmos and gadgets, but I’m most excited when I see innovations designed to help more people grow their own food. And with all of the recent projects being launched in the urban farming space, it’s starting to look as if joining the homegrown revolution is easier than ever before.

Of course, growing your own food is a bit more complicated than just adding water to an automated gardening device, but by lowering the barriers to entry for urban farming – even on the small scale – these new devices could get more hands in the soil (or in the soil-less growing medium, as it were) and put more local produce on the table.

One very exciting urban farming method uses vertical aeroponic gardens, dubbed Tower Gardens, to produce more food quicker, using less space and water (90% less, according to Future Growing), either as a single unit or with multiple units in a large-scale growing operation.

The Tower Gardens, which were developed by Tim Blank, a leading horticulture and aeroponics expert who got his start interning at the futuristic hydroponic gardens of Disney’s EPCOT center, are now being used to efficiently grow food at a number of big venues, including Chicago’s O’Hare airport, Giant Stadium, and the Google cafeteria. They’re also being used by restaurants, and by the students of one of the heroes of the school gardening movement, the Green Bronx Machine’s Stephen Ritz, to produce tens of thousands of pounds of locally grown produce in the South Bronx.

“This state-of-the-art vertical patented technology is the perfect solution for farming in an urban setting, using 90% less land and 90% less water. This technology also allows the grower to control all elements of food production, most importantly the quality and safety of the water. Our nutrient-dense living produce can be harvested in half the amount of time as traditional organic farming and requires a fraction of the amount of time to maintain (up to 50% less time) all without the use of any soil. Best of all, the Tower Garden eliminates the use of any harmful herbicides and pesticides.” – LA Urban Farms