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Real Estate Developer Ari Rastegar, The ‘Oracle Of Austin,’ On How Covid Will Change American Cities

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Ari Rastegar | Founder & CEO RASTEGAR

He closed 11 major commercial real estate deals during the Covid-19 pandemic. This came after years of telling anyone who would listen how much opportunity there was in the central Texas capitol city many refer to as Silicon Hills. His proclamation earned Ari Rastegar the moniker ‘Oracle of Austin’.

But Ari Rastegar isn’t stopping with Austin.

“Austin was our prototype to establish and then expand around the Sun Belt,” says Rastegar, founder of Rastegar Property Company, an Austin-based CRE investment firm & vertically integrated real estate company with a focus on value-oriented real estate. Austin was our prototype to establish and then expand around the Sun Belt,” says Rastegar, founder of Rastegar Property Company, an Austin-based CRE investment firm & vertically integrated real estate company with a focus on value-oriented real estate. He’s also a Forbes Council member.

“Nashville, Dallas, Phoenix, Raleigh and Tampa – the Sun Belt is hotter than it has ever been, and we see no end to the migration. You think Austin is exciting?” says Rastegar. “Get ready!”

For years he watched droves of young professionals making their way to Austin, and he took careful note. That’s why, when the pandemic hit, Rastegar realized it would only expedite these migration trends. He utilized this insight and his uncanny ability to see around corners to position and propel Rastegar’s business plan forward. Now, that vision is bearing its fruit as companies like Apple, Facebook and Amazon invest long term in the city where he was born. Rastegar’s keen understanding of his hometown —- where he made his first real estate deal while in law school — gave him the advantage of knowing exactly where the young professionals coming to the city would want to live and the type of housing that would appeal to them.

Then Tesla chose Austin for its $1 billion Gigafactory and Oracle announced it was moving its headquarters to the Texas capital, solidifying Austin as a world tech hub.

“I was already focused outside the urban core,” he says, with the exception of 1899 McKinney in Dallas. “We were going vintage multifamily, fixing those properties up to 2021 standards. So Covid actually accelerated our business plan.”

Rastegar sees the Covid era as such a great buying opportunity that his firm recently launched a $200 million REIT targeting the asset class and region for investment.

“All of these vintage multi-family properties have inherent social distancing because they’re two story walk-ups, there are no elevators, and people want to feel safe,” he says. “They are treasures.”

One of Rastegar’s many fortes is to find treasure in what others overlook or don’t see at all. The New York Times recently chronicled how his firm pivoted a UT property of traditionally student housing into a haven for young professionals. It is this innovation and agility rooted in a 38-year-old millennial who understands the building blocks of real estate, but couples it with a vision for rampant growth and consumer adoption.

Rastegar finds value in hidden places, like when he assembled four adjacent parcels of land in a bustling Austin neighborhood, and sold it to prominent North American developer Intracorp. Intracorp purchased the site through a joint venture with The Resmark Companies, the investment arm of CalSTRS, one of the largest public pension funds in the country. Rastegar’s firm will retain an investment in the project.

“I am always creating value, no matter what, which is why we are so focused on data,” says Rastegar. “From our seventy-point due diligence property checklist, to tracking wattages across apartments. We have gone beyond real estate; we see ourselves as a data analytics company, relying on hard data that we’re collecting through the sensor technology we have outfitted throughout our properties.”

Rastegar’s sensor-crazy properties collect data points across electrical, plumbing, even appliances, relying on AI and ML capabilities to remotely monitor all systems and provide management with insights to anticipate issues that can be addressed proactively.

“We’re using all of this data and technology because I’m the hybrid—an old millennial, a 38 year old who understands technology, but also, I can speak to the older generation that is very much a part of me,” he says. “I’m a real estate purist at my heart, but I understand where the world needs to go.”

Rastegar says his firm is 10 years ahead of the industry from a data analytics standpoint, using AI capabilities to identify acquisitions at attractive prices and in targeted areas. This enables Rastegar’s acquisitions team to monitor a much larger swath than local relationships and knowledge would otherwise allow. From there, machine learning is utilized when underwriting investments so that the firm can achieve risk-adjusted returns.

Which means he gets results regardless of the political climate.

Rastegar says he stays away from partisan politics, regardless of who holds national offices aside from impact on multi-family real estate.

“I think it’s really important to stay in the middle of the fairway and just say, look, I’m an American, Texas born & raised. I strive for what’s best for consumers who live in my buildings and for my investors,” says Rastegar, adding “Bears make money, pigs get slaughtered.”

Rastegar believes the next major focus in multi-family will be work-force housing, spurred by the new administration and its focus on infrastructure. Whereas Trump focused on affordability, Biden will focus on providing what some call affordable housing.

“We will create more workforce housing in the cities we’re targeting, and I’m cautiously optimistic that Biden is going to do a great job in that regard,” says Rastegar. “Biden’s dedication to smart infrastructure and technology is phenomenal. He talks so much about smart technology, clean energy, and we’re all about technology. It’s everything that we really believe in.”

Regardless of who’s in office, Rastegar believes there’s opportunity out there, you just have to find it. Since he started investing in real estate all the way back in 2006, this Oracle has shown to be quite nimble in the assets he targets. He started in storage before it was ever touched by private equity, before moving into vintage multifamily. Now, he’s reimagining suburbanism beyond the cookie cutter housing developments that defined 1950s Americana, and taking a more mixed-use approach, inspired by city culture.

These breathtaking communities will be vibrant and walkable with ample greenspace, and technology-driven, but go beyond housing to also include amenities like shops, breweries, rec centers and other community-driven places that make city life so accessible, but are often missed when one makes a move to the burbs.

To introduce this new suburban concept, Rastegar brought in highly regarded commercial real estate executive Neal Golden to be the firm’s President. Golden has extensive experience building titan real estate brands, including Newmark, where he most recently served as Vice Chairman and President of the Texas region. Together, this Texas two-some of Rastegar and Golden, who’s worked throughout Texas and the greater Sun Belt region himself, are propelling this Lone Star-based real estate firm onto the national stage.

“Much like Austin, the city that we love to call home, the firm is only just starting to scratch the surface when it comes to growth,” says Rastegar. “We’ve proven that our approach works, and have assembled a team that’s built billion dollar real estate brands. Now is the time to bring the best in class developments, from reimagined suburban housing, to much needed industrial space, to cities across the Sun Belt.”

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Are We In a Housing Bubble? Will the Housing Market Crash?

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Today’s housing market is fierce! Due to remote work and record-low mortgage rates, Americans are relocating and purchasing homes at an all-time high. However, there is a major problem – there aren’t nearly as many homes for sale as there are buyers. And this severe housing shortage is fueling record-high prices and cutthroat competition.

With the red-hot real estate market we’re experiencing, many consumers are understandably concerned. The soaring home prices and a lack of homes for sale may feel eerily similar to the 2007 housing bubble that led to The Great Recession. 

So, is there a reason to worry? Are we in a housing bubble and headed for another housing market crash? Let’s take a look. 

What is a housing bubble?

Before we jump into our current situation, let’s first take a look at what a housing bubble actually is. Also known as a real estate bubble, a housing bubble occurs when home prices rise at a rapid rate to a level of instability. Housing bubbles generally begin when there is a shortage of inventory and an increase in demand in a market. As the prices start rising, speculation begins to take effect. Consumers expect prices to increase further, so everyone wants to buy a home as quickly as possible. This drives up demand further and prices continue to skyrocket.

As we know from physics, what goes up must come down. So at some point, the steep housing prices become unsustainable and homes become overvalued. When this happens, demand begins to decrease and therefore, supply starts to rise. Suddenly, we’re in a situation where there are more homes for sale than prospective buyers. As a result, housing prices can fall drastically – and the bubble bursts.

What leads to a housing bubble?

Bubbles are a phenomenon that can happen in just about any industry, whether it’s homes, stocks, or gold. Traditionally, bubbles don’t often occur in the housing market because of the large financial responsibility associated with purchasing a home. However, with the right combination of factors, a housing bubble can begin. Here are several situations and variables that can occur, drive up demand, and lead to a housing bubble. 

  • A rise in economic activity. When the economy is doing generally well, people have more disposable income to spend on housing.
  • Low mortgage interest rates. This puts homeownership within reach for many hopeful homebuyers.
  • Loose mortgage lending practices. This is a major factor that led to The Great Recession as many lenders offered home loans to homebuyers without regard for their ability to repay.
  • New mortgage products. Specifically, those allowing the buyer to make low monthly payments. This can make the idea of homeownership appear more affordable than it actually is. 
  • A sudden increase in migration. For example, if a large group of homebuyers relocates from San Francisco, CA to Austin, TX – this will increase demand and shrink supply in Austin, driving prices up further. 
  • The time it takes to build a house. It generally takes a long time to build a new home which makes supply slow to respond to dramatic increases in demand.
  • Speculative and risky behavior. This can lead to more property investors entering the market, along with homebuyers who can’t afford the homes they are purchasing. 

What happens when housing bubbles burst?

Housing bubbles can cause major problems in the larger economy. Once the bubble bursts, many people may realize that they have borrowed more than their home is worth and could struggle to keep up with their house payments if they lose their job or find themselves in other financial trouble. This can lead to foreclosures and a loss of financial security across the board. However, if a homeowner maintains a steady income, they should still be able to make mortgage payments and hold onto their home even if their home goes down in value.

Are we in a housing bubble now? 

So, will the increase in prices and shortage of housing inventory result in a housing market crash in 2021? Most experts don’t think so. 

The circumstances influencing the housing market today are different than those of the 2006-2007 housing bubble. The bubble that eventually led to The Great Recession was primarily a result of irresponsible lending. Just about anyone who wanted a mortgage could get one, even if they didn’t have the income to afford it. However, this time mortgage requirements are stricter and the current demand isn’t caused by reckless lending. It’s the result of true supply and demand. 

“I wouldn’t call this a housing bubble because the demand for homes is truly there and the buyers can afford these high prices,” said Redfin Chief Economist Daryl Fairweather. “Bubbles burst; I don’t see that happening.”

Instead, Fairweather believes that as the U.S. reaches herd immunity from COVID-19 and the economy rebounds, the demand and home prices will slowly begin to come down. “That’s because mortgage rates will make buying a home more expensive, and Americans will have more options for how to spend their money. Instead of spending on homes, Americans will want to spend on activities like vacations, parties, and dining.”

What should you do if you’re buying a house right now?

While no one can say for sure what will happen with the housing market, it’s important to be prepared if you are currently buying a home. The most important takeaway, if you are currently house-hunting, is don’t buy more than you can’t afford. 

Right now, bidding wars are at an all-time high and buyers are paying well over asking to secure a home. So before embarking on the homebuying process, we recommend using an affordability calculator to help you determine your budget. This can help you set expectations ahead of time, so you know what you can offer and when to walk away.

It’s also important to work with a real estate agent who has your best interest in mind and a deep understanding of current market conditions. They can help you navigate the ins and outs of this tricky seller’s market. 

 

Redfin does not provide legal or financial advice. This article is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional advice from a licensed attorney or financial advisor.

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Are Closing Costs Tax Deductible?

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Are Closing Costs Tax Deductible?

There are some great benefits that come with homeownership. Things like the ability to make improvements to your home increased wealth due to an increase in your home’s value through the years, and certain tax advantages. But what if you recently bought a home, are closing costs tax-deductible? Before answering that question, it’s a good idea to understand what closing costs are and what is typically included in them.

What Are Closing Costs?

Closing costs are the fees you pay when you obtain a mortgage loan. Typical closing costs run anywhere from 2% to 5% of your loan amount. For example,on a $250,000 loan, you’ll pay between $5,000 and $12,500 in closing costs.

Here is What’s Typically Included in Closing Costs:

Property Taxes

These are fees homeowners pay to the state, county, and even various local entities to help fund the school district where you will be living, pay to repair and keep roads in good condition, and fund the local library, to name a few. The tax amount varies depending on where you live and the amenities available in your community.  

Usually, you will be responsible for paying property taxes from the date of closing forward, and the seller will pay from January to the date of closing. Your lender will typically collect between three and six months of property taxes from you at the time of closing. This is to ensure there is enough in escrow to pay the tax bill when it comes due.   

Recording Fee

Recording fees are charged by the county to record the documents related to the transfer of ownership of the property. This takes place every time a house is bought or sold.

Loan Origination Fee

This is a fee charged by the lender as compensation for handling your mortgage loan from inception to closing. The amount of this fee varies from lender to lender.

Homeowner’s Insurance

This insurance typically protects loss related to the property. It is required by the lender so that they know the property is protected. The cost of this insurance varies depending on the value of your home and the amount of coverage you carry on the property.  

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Primary Mortgage Insurance

Lenders require PMI (Primary Mortgage Insurance) on Conventional loans if the borrower does not put at least 20% of the sales price toward the down payment. This insurance is protection for the lender should the loan ever go into default. On a home valued at $250,000, you would need to have a down payment of $50,000, to equal 20% down, or you will be charged PMI.  

Appraisal

The appraisal provides the lender with an independent opinion on the value of the home. It is provided by a professional who is trained to estimate the value of real estate. The home appraisal process provides assurance to the lender that the amount they are lending is not greater than the value of the property.

Credit Report Fee

The credit report provides the lender with information about your credit history and credit worthiness. If your score is too low, it will impact your ability to secure financing and could cost you the ability to obtain the best interest rate available.  

Flood Inspection

The flood inspection determines whether the property you are purchasing lies in a flood zone. If it does, flood insurance will be necessary.

Pest Inspection

Your lender will require a pest inspection if the appraiser notices any infestation of termites or other pests when completing the appraisal. In some places, a pest inspection is required on all deals.

Title Search

The title search is performed by a title company. They are responsible for making sure the title to the home is clear, meaning there are no defects in the title or problems that would prevent the title from transferring to you at the time of purchase.

Title Insurance

You will need two types of title insurance when buying a home. The first kind protects your lender (lender’s title policy) in case something was missed during the title search. The second type of title insurance is an owner’s title policy. This protects you against any defects or problems in the title just as the lender’s title policy protects the lender. 

Survey Fee

If there is a question regarding property lines, the title company can order a survey.

outdoor 45 Panorama Coto De Caza CA 2

Discount Fee or Points

When you pay points toward your mortgage loan, it is also known as buying down the loan. These fees, paid to your lender, lower the interest rate of your loan. One point equals 1% of the loan amount. In our example of a $250,000 loan, you would pay $2,500 to buy the loan down one point. The amount the one percent buy down would impact your interest rate varies by lender, type of loan, and current mortgage rates.

Escrow Fee

The escrow company is responsible for handling all the funds involved in buying your new home. They make sure all parties involved in the transaction get paid accurately. The fee charged by the escrow company, also known as a closing fee or settlement fee, pays for their involvement in the transaction.

Prepaid Daily Interest Charges

At the time of closing, borrowers pay interest on their loan from that date to the end of the month. If your closing date is near the end of the month, you will pay fewer taxes than if you closed on your loan the first week of the month. The seller is responsible for paying interest from the first of the month to the date of closing.

Are Closing Costs Tax Deductible?

Not all closing costs are tax-deductible, and the tax code changes frequently, so check with a tax professional to determine what deductions apply to your situation. Here are some typical closing costs that may be able to deduct from your taxes this year:

Mortgage Interest

This deduction allows you to deduct the amount of interest you pay when you buy your new home. It is one of the best tax deductions for buyers. Your tax professional can assist you with questions regarding this deduction.

Primary Mortgage Insurance (PMI)

Through 2020, the PMI deduction is allowed. After 2020, this closing cost will no longer be tax-deductible unless extended by Congress.  

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Discount Points

Any of the discount points you paid when you closed on your loan are tax-deductible. You should consult your tax professional or visit the IRS website to determine whether you can take this deduction in the year you purchased the house, or whether you are required to deduct the points over the life of the loan.

State and Local Real Estate Taxes

This deduction includes state and local taxes and property taxes. Again, you will need to consult your tax professional or visit the IRS website.  

Standard Deduction

Your tax preparer will determine if it is in your best interest to take the standard deduction versus itemizing your deductions in the year you purchase your home. The IRS has determined standard deduction amounts for each taxpayer category. If the standard deduction for your situation is higher than if you were to itemize, then it would benefit you to take the standard deduction, and vice versa.

Homeowner tax benefits do not end when you buy your home. If you work from home, the IRS also allows for a home-office deduction. And should you decide to install solar panels or other energy-efficient improvements to your home down the road, there is another deduction that might apply to your situation, known as the residential energy-efficient property credit. Always talk with a tax professional to ensure you are taking full advantage of the latest tax code.

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Real Estate

SoftBank-Backed Better.Com Places Top Executive On Leave After Bullying Complaints

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There’s more executive turmoil swirling at Better.com, one of the mortgage industry’s hottest new startups, and it’s hitting just days after reports that SoftBank is investing $500 million of new funding that values the business at $6 billion.

Elana Knoller, Better’s chief product officer, has been placed on administrative leave following allegations of bullying and other workplace grievances, multiple sources familiar with the matter tell Forbes. Knoller has been one of the mortgage lender’s most powerful executives and a gatekeeper to CEO Vishal Garg, whose grueling management style was the subject of a 2020 Forbes report.

Discontent against Knoller has simmered for many months, according to interviews with six people who have worked with her, but complaints boiled over in the last three weeks on the social media app Blind, which lets employees leave anonymous feedback about their companies.

The upheaval began when some employees who report to Knoller questioned why they hadn’t received a job satisfaction survey that went to other departments, according to messages on the app that were shared with Forbes, with some commenters blaming her for the decision. The discussion then spiraled into broader accusations of bullying and mismanagement. As one example, Knoller had allegedly placed some individuals on performance improvement plans when they voiced discontent with her leadership. Other employees say that Knoller has presided over a culture of intimidation and retaliation, where workers were promoted based on loyalty and were otherwise sidelined or pushed out. “I think [she] knows that she has power and wields it in ways that are not the most, I guess, democratic,” says one person who has worked with her.

In response to a request for comment, an independent spokesperson for Knoller said, “Ms. Knoller is an incredibly accomplished executive who demands a great deal of herself as well as those who work for her. She has served in numerous leadership roles at Better.com and has significantly contributed to the company’s success. It is not a surprise some disgruntled employees have sought to undermine this talented female executive through a website that is dedicated to anonymous griping and chatter.” 

SoftBank declined to comment. A spokesperson for Better said, “We do not comment on employee matters.” 

Garg—who once berated employees over email for being slow, likening them to “a bunch of DUMB DOLPHINS”—has responded internally, however. “This stuff on Blind hit me like a sack of bricks,” he wrote on the app on April 2, identifying himself at the top of the message. “Now I know. And knowing is half the battle…. And whether I agree with everything said below or nothing said below, thank you for posting it and sharing. I am going to look into these issues.” In an email to employees, Garg also invited staffers to fill out a confidential survey to further detail potential grievances.

Knoller, 29, joined Better in 2017 from the commodities department at Goldman Sachs and was a member of Forbes’ 30 Under 30 finance list in 2021. She has ascended quickly at the company, rising from Garg’s chief of staff and head of partnerships to become an executive vice president in 2019. She was named chief product officer in February 2020. 

Better, meanwhile, has grown rapidly, fueled by a wave of refinancings during the pandemic caused by record-low interest rates. In the fall the company closed a $200 million Series D round at a $4 billion valuation—up from a less than $900 million valuation in 2019—sparking chatter about a possible IPO. The company generated about $800 million in 2020 revenue, according to PitchBook data, eight times more than the prior year. 

There are questions about whether Better can sustain that growth, as mortgage applications and refinancings begin to slow. SoftBank is clearly not spooked. According to The Wall Street Journal, which first reported the $500 million investment, the Japanese conglomerate is buying out some existing shareholders and will hand all of its voting rights to Garg.

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