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What's Your Exit Strategy?

by Cameron Dunlap   

I know a fireman who once told me that it's not safe to enter a burning building without first knowing where all the exits are. It seems like common sense to me. Does it to you?

The same thinking applies to the real estate business. Before you buy any property, you must first decide on your exit strategy. In fact, you should decide on your exit strategy before you make your offer. It should drive your offer.

In other words, when you know what you will do with the property, it will help you determine the offer(s) you should make and the financing source (if any) you should use.

A few examples of what I mean

If you know your exit is to wholesale the house, then you would make an offer below what you might otherwise be willing to pay, so there's room for your wholesale profit. You need to build in the proper margin.

If you decide you are going to retail the house, then you might be willing to pay a little more for it than if you were going to wholesale it. This could be the case when the house is in a super neighborhood, has a great layout, and is very saleable. You might be willing to pay a little more to get the deal, because the house is so sweet.

This exit strategy would also require short-term financing. I say short term because you'll be in and out of the deal in less than six months. Good sources for this type of financing would be:

  • Hard money

  • A partner who wants to split the profit

  • A private lender who's okay with a short-term loan

  • Your credit

  • Your home equity, or

  • Your own cash

Remember this about your credit, home equity, and cash. Never tie it up for more than six months. If you do, you limit your ability to move quickly. You reduce your liquidity.

Your exit strategy determines where you'll buy

Here's another consideration when you choose to retail the house. It must be in a neighborhood where "A" credit buyers are buying! If it's in a neighborhood where "A" buyers are not buying--retailing is not a viable exit strategy.

It's the "A" buyer that's got "A" credit and can get the new, high loan-to-value financing that will cash you out. That's the essence of retailing--cashing out. If the house is in a neighborhood where "A" buyers are not buying, then you need to choose another exit strategy.

How will you know? Ask a Realtor. Another clue is if there's an absolute absence of Realtor signs in front yards, but there are F.S.B.O. signs. Realtors generally don't list houses that aren't going to sell to "A" buyers because in order for them to get paid, the buyer needs to cash the seller out.

Lease options can be sweet!

Or suppose your exit strategy is to sell it on lease option. This will require you to line up long-term financing going in. If the seller is willing to "be the bank" and hold a note, and it's obviously very desirable that they do, then you might be willing to pay a little more for the house.

In fact, if the seller is willing to carry back zero interest financing, you might be willing to pay a good bit more for the property. This is my favorite way to buy--bar none. (As an aside, a great ad to attract this type of seller goes something like this: "I'll pay your price if you'll sell on my terms." It works! Try it.)

When your exit strategy is "buy and hold"

If your exit strategy is not to exit, but rather to rent the house and hold it long term, that's fine too. But here are a couple of considerations. One, your financing needs to be long term. My humble opinion is that private lenders with a long-term time horizon are far better than going to the bank.

No matter what the current rates are, a private lender is always better for limiting liability, flexibility of terms, and helping people in general.

Did you know that when you borrow a private lender's money, you are helping that person. You are providing them with an investment vehicle that is probably not available to them otherwise and presumably at a rate higher than they can earn anywhere else. It's true.

And if you're like me and make helping people a priority in life, then there's one more reason to use private lenders.

In this scenario, no balloon payment is most desirable. Balloon payments seem okay going in, but when they pop, and you're forced to refinance or sell, it adds stress to your life that you really don't need. So go for no balloon or a LONG term balloon (like 7 - 15 years) if at all.

One last thing about renting property...

Decide to use a professional property manager from the "get go." Managing them yourself is the fastest way to being miserable that I know, and I do know.

Oh, and if you think a property manager will cost you money, then you don't get it. You need to rethink the benefits. If you think that a property manager will cost you money, then you probably also think an accountant will cost you money. DUH!

So know your exit strategy before you even make the offer and be sure it's a viable one. Then line up the financing that the exit strategy requires, then do the deal!

About the Author:

cameron dunlapCameron Dunlap has been a full-time real estate investor since 1993 and a nationally known real estate trainer since 1995. In his first two years, he amassed millions of dollars of residential and apartment complex properties in addition to buying and selling many other properties, particularly foreclosures, for quick cash profits.

He continues to invest in real estate full time and teach his techniques all over the US. He defines the entrepreneurial spirit every day and truly enjoys the fruits of his success.

Cam has created a complete "hands off" virtual money-making system specifically designed for real estate investors.

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