Finding Bargains Amid the Real Estate Rubble

Carmen spoke on Tuesday’s show about growing your money for the long haul. Just because the market was up 900 pointsone day does not mean it will continue the next day. We’re likely in for a bumpy ride for some time, but if we commit to thinking in long-term, big-picture strategies, the road out of this crisis will be that much easier.

One of the main sources of trauma for many Americans has been real estate. People who bought investment properties as a short-term investment are finding themselves just trying to break even in this new climate. But it is a buyer’s market out there, you just have to be brave enough to wade in, says real estate guru Barbara Corcoran, who has bought and sold billions of dollars in properties in her career.

Corcoran acknowledged that a better-than-expected new home sales number on Monday might be a light at the end of tunnel, although home values are still dropping and we cannot begin to breathe a sigh of relief until they bottom. Plus, she warned, the new home sales did not include data from the last month, which has been one of the worst on record. But until we find a real bottom, you still have ways to navigate the real estate market as long as you are careful. “Now is an easy time to make a smart investment,” Corcoran said. If you’re shopping for a new home, take advantage of the fear and be an aggressive – but informed – buyer. Negotiate like crazy and always look for the best bargain. One place to find it, Corcoran said, is in foreclosures.

Buying a foreclosed property is especially risky, but like in all areas of life, the riskier the bet, the better the bargain can be. A bank-owned property will be severely marked down, but it can also be in bad shape and you’re typically buying without any contingencies (and sometimes, without even seeing the inside). Make sure you go armed with a great local broker and a great contractor, Corcoran said, because they will spot warning signs in the property long before you will.

Whether you’re in the market for a first home or bargain hunting for a second, you will need Carmen’s Three C’s before you hit the pavement:

Collateral: Owning more than one property is already hedging against diversification - so protect yourself by making sure you put twenty percent down.In this environment, lenders won't shell out to anyone but the least risky borrowers.

Capacity: You need the capacity to not just collect rent, but to maintain your mortgage without rental income.

Credit: These days, it has to be excellent.