Investing Can Be Lucrative With Real Estate in Slovenia

Very few people are aware that investments in Slovenia are much more profitable, compared to investing the same amount in the United States or the United Kingdom. Slovenia property investments have potential for higher returns on your hard-earned lifetime savings than other markets. With the guidance of a professional experienced in Slovenian markets, you would be able to benefit from the opportunities existing in Slovenia for maximizing your returns. When you mention property investment in overseas markets, the initial reception is usually skeptical. When you take this topic further by saying that investments in Slovenia are more profitable compared to the property market in California, you are most likely to shock most of the people.

For example, if you say that you had bought a housing property in Slovenia for $500,000, the initial comments would most probably be, “Slovenia? Is it a town or a country? I have never heard of it”, “Don’t you think buying a house in Slovenia is a risky affair?”, and “I am convinced that you are not acting in an intelligent manner.” Some of the comments could be even harsher. On the other hand, if you state that you have invested $1,000,000 in a waterfront property in a remote area in California, people would unanimously agree that you had made a wise decision. In reality, which of the above two investments is riskier? How to decide whether property investment in new overseas markets like Slovenia is riskier or safer than an investment in native California?

Slovenia Economy

It is true that many real estate investors in various countries had neither heard of Slovenia or the opportunities that this little known neighbor of Italy offers in the property field. Slovenia joined the European Union in 2004 and recently adopted euro as its currency. It would be interesting to know that Slovenia possesses the highest per capita GDP in the Central Europe region, according to the CIA World Factbook. Further, the infrastructure of this country is one of the best and the workforce is also quite well-educated. Like most global countries, properties appreciated significantly between 2004 and 2007. However, the worldwide recession after the bursting of the real estate bubble in the middle of 2008 in the United States affected Slovenia also to a certain extent. Still, the country had managed to recover and is now on the growth path again. The present GDP growth rate is around 5%, the highest for any new member state of the European Union.

Slovenia Real Estate Market

Data released by the Statistical Office of Republic of Slovenia (SORS) reveal that property values rose at an annual average of 1.3% between 2004 and 2007 but declined after that. During the first quarter of 2009, the prices of houses on sale in second-hand market dropped by 7% from the same period in 2008, while the fall in real terms was at 8.7%. The real estate prices in the capital city of Ljubljana collapsed by 8% in nominal terms and 9.6% in real terms, while the decline was 6.8% in nominal terms and 8.5% in real terms in the rest of the country during the first quarter of 2009. This had brought down property prices, which is not a negative point but a positive factor. You could buy properties at lower rates right now.

Investment Opportunities in Slovenian Properties

The biggest assets of Slovenia are its valleys blooming with vineyards, the breathtaking coastlines, the snowy peaks of Alps and the rolling hills, the numerous rivers, and beautiful waterfalls. These features had made Slovenia a major tourist attraction, with possibilities for rental properties thriving financially. At the same time, the slump in property values and the possibility of significant appreciation in this decade make this country a prime location for real estate investment. After the setback of 2008, the Slovenian economy had been recovering at a faster rate than several other European and North American nations. A recent survey voted Slovenia among the top 10 countries offering best opportunities in real estate investment.

According to the survey, the growth rate of property values in Slovenia are forecast to increase at an astonishing rate of 284% on an average, between 2010 and 2020. The annual rate of real estate price growth is estimated at 30% at present. As such, investment in real estate of Slovenia is considered as a long-term, safe and solid proposition. Do you know that you would be able to buy a few hectares of prime land covered with vineyards and having a medium-sized 2-bedroom house for a low price of 80,000 euros or about $100,000? The interesting fact is that nearly 40% of Slovenia has land covered with vineyards and it is a major wine-producing nation. Even the properties in major cities of Slovenia, such as Ljubljana and Maribor cost only around 1,500 to 3,000 euros or $1,800 to $3,600 per square meter.

Procedures of Investment in Slovenia Real Estate

Apart from the several registered real estate operators in Slovenia, the local laws explicitly permit people from the United States and European Union to buy properties in Slovenia without any restriction. It would take about a month to complete all the formalities required to buy a property. With certain stipulations, you could also avail financing and mortgaging options but it is advisable to finance your purchases out of your own resources, if you want to maximize the returns on your investment.

Conclusion

It is obvious that a property investment in Slovenia is likely to be more profitable as a long-term venture when compared to the same amount being invested in the United States or other countries in the European Union, where the economic growth rate is still sluggish. The present growth of Slovenia promises better returns in this decade than any real estate investment in these countries. As such, it could be safely concluded that your investment in Slovenian real estate would prove to be more profitable than a similar investment in several other countries right now and much less riskier.

Realtor Lockboxes Explained: A Summary of Lockbox Options and Alternatives for Real Estate Agents

Real estate professionals today have a plethora of high tech options out there to enhance their business, but rarely do we fully consider the value of the lockbox – the sole piece of equipment responsible for allowing agents to show the homes that we sell everyday. The lockbox itself has evolved over time, and today agents find themselves comparing the value from a standard combination lockbox to that of a more high-tech electronic lockbox. Real estate agents today are pressed from all sides for fees, dues, and expenditures that are unavoidable costs of doing business, so when it comes to making a decision between a combination lockbox that’s just a few bucks versus a high-tech electronic lockbox that is substantially more expensive, does the increase in cost justify the value? Also, what are all the options out there for electronic lockboxes? This article highlights the findings of current industry options available.

Having the ability to show a home without the sellers there to watch your every move was a move in the right direction for the real estate industry. Agents know very well the situation where a seller will remain in a home during a showing and “pretend” like they are minding their own business while the buyers tip-toe through the home trying not to impose while attempting to get a sense of what the home was like.

This is a wild departure from the typical showing when the sellers aren’t there; clients love to snoop around in order to get a good sense of the home. With the sellers not there, the buyers get a good opportunity to get a true sense of how that particular home would feel and if they can see themselves living there. Put simply, it allows for a better, more convenient showing experience.

From this dilemma the lockbox was invented. A device securing the key for entry by licensed real estate agents to show their prospective buyers, and it allowed sellers (or their agents) the opportunity to have the home shown without the need of their presence. It saved time, and allowed for a better showing experience. Truly, it was a win-win.

However, early lockboxes were simply a combination lockbox. They are certainly inexpensive, but an obvious downside was the lack of security for the home in question once the lockbox code was known. Sellers would rely on the professional ethics of real estate agents to keep the code confidential, but sometimes the code would slip into hands of non-agents. Less frequently, the code would be found by people with malicious intent.

With the obvious shortfall of relying on the honor system to keep lockbox codes confidential, it offered the opportunity for a better solution that would allow for accountability along with the ability to show a home without the seller being present. As a result, it did not take long for “smart” lockboxes using electronic technology to come into existence, thus revolutionizing the process of showing a home. Before a seller and their agent wouldn’t really know who was showing the property other than the confirmed appointments that were made. Flash forward to today, and you have the ability to know exactly who and exactly when someone shows a property through the use of an electronic lockbox. With these smart electronic lockboxes, only an agent or other authorized party can access the lockbox itself, further emboldening the assurance to a seller that only licensed agents and properly authorized individuals are showing or entering their home.

Today there are 2 main companies that provide these smart electronic lockboxes to real estate agency associations. They are Supra key and Sentrilock. Together they comprise the majority of the lockbox industry market; nobody else comes close.

Supra (or SupraKey) is owned by general electric and provides lockbox solutions to all sorts of niche industries, real estate lockboxes being one of them. Bill Love, national account manager for Supra, says that out of a given state or region in the country, Supra, on average, maintains an 80% market share. Supra has sold several million lockboxes throughout the years to real estate agents, and currently Love estimates that there are 1.5 million+ Supra lockboxes currently in use by about 750,000 real estate agents throughout the country.

The supra key itself features a cylindrical design up to the “shackle” (the loop part of the lockbox that will noose around something and keep it in its place securely) where the shackle fits in seamlessly. Its simplistic design is pleasing to the eye, and to activate the lockbox, an agent has a “digital key” that’s about the size of a small flip phone and has a number pad and screen on it. The agent sets the key to open a box and points it in the direction of an infrared sensor on the box itself. When the lockbox recognizes that it being accessed by the remote digital key, it will release to allow access and the bottom of the lockbox will fall out when it’s pushed by the agent, and voilĂ , the key to the home is available for the agent to take and open the door for the showing.

Love says that Supra has plans for upgrades to the current model lockbox that will include the ability for wireless Bluetooth access and syncing. Also, rather than having the digital key, if the agent has a smartphone, Supra offers an app for access with the phone instead, which makes it easier and more convenient, for a monthly fee. Love claims that the key difference with a Supra Lockbox is that “it keeps intelligence in the hands of the user.” Rather than having to rely on extra equipment or other trades people, the user has the control. Supra has had the current model for several years now with incremental software updates along the way. If an agent wants to buy a new Supra lockbox, it costs around $90, but the actual price that an agent will pay is determined by the association that they belong to.

Sentrilock is the other major player in the real estate lockbox industry. Sentrilock, which is based out of Indiana and is partially owned by the National Association of Realtors has been around for less than a decade and currently services about 250 of the 1000+ Realtor associations throughout the country and Canada as well. These associations comprise about 250,000 agents and approximately 500,000 lockboxes in current use. Sentrilock has 2 main models that are currently used; one is a silver lockbox that resembles a cell phone from the late 1980′s, bulky and heavy and somewhat longer in size than the supra lockbox. It has a key pad directly on the front of the lockbox itself, and holds the key within a drop-down door that pops open when accessed.

The other lockbox they offer is a smaller, more compact blue lockbox that is more cube-ish in shape but with the similar functionality features. The main difference between the silver and blue lockbox is that the blue lockbox allows for more space within the lockbox itself (which is important for people trying to sell a condo and who need to include an “access fob” in addition to the key to the front door of the unit itself – there just isn’t enough room for multiple keys or when including the access fob with Sentrilocks’ silver lockbox). Sentrilock sells their lockboxes for about $125 a piece, but this also depends on where you are getting it from, as the actual retail price is determined by the local real estate association that sells the boxes.

Both lockbox companies offer substantial warranties on the product themselves. They also have a support team that is almost always available in the event there is difficulty in accessing a lockbox, or for troubleshooting purposes. Both companies offer a comprehensive online tool that can provide the analytics from the showings and use of a specific lockbox which agents can use to share with their clients.

Some of the main differences between these two are how the lockbox itself is accessed. Sentrilock doesn’t need an extra piece of equipment to open a box. Rather, they utilize a “Smart-Card” which is essentially a credit-card that fits into the lockbox and has a chip inside it that shares your information with the lockbox you are accessing. This card is all you need to access the lockbox, whereas Supra requires the digital key, although they have addressed this by means of offering the smart-phone app so an agent can use their phone in place of the digital key. Both systems require updating; in other words, the smart card for the sentrilock system requires you to stick your card in a “card reader” that you get when you buy your smart-card that hooks into your computer. Every few days (the exact amount of days is determined by your local Realtor association) you must update the card through the card reader, which will allow you to show property, and at the same time uploads the information of the places you have shown to the Sentrilock system, which in turn is then able to be seen by the agents who owned the lockboxes of the places that you accessed. In a pinch you can update your card over the phone, but you can only do this once or twice.

On the other hand, supra keys update wirelessly. They didn’t always do this, where you were required to keep your “digital key” docked on a charging station that was hooked up to a phone line. You had to do this every day and that’s how the system would both update your card as well as share your showing information to the system. The wireless updating feature has been in place for a year or two now, and takes the headache out of the equation of having you update your key each and every day.

The back end system for Sentrilock allows an agent to create specific access codes for one-time access of a specific lockbox. This makes it really convenient for a contractor, appraiser, termite inspector, etc. to be able to access a property with a code, but only one time because that code will expire after the day the code was intended to be used. This is a great feature that Supra doesn’t have an answer to.

Although there are benefits to both systems, any agent can’t simply choose which lockbox system they want to use – this is decided, agreed to and contractually obligated between either Sentrilock or Supra and an agent’s local real estate association. These associations, once they have agreed on a system to use can then “tweak” the system to their discretion and preference. Things like the cost of a lockbox, whether the lockbox is leased or sold to agents, the amount of times an agent can renew their key by phone, the amount of days that can elapse before an update of an access key is required, these and more options can be tweaked and most real estate professionals are unaware that other options or preferences exist.
When comparing the benefits over your standard combination lockbox, an agent must be able to justify the added cost of a smart-electronic lockbox by the value it provides. It’s easy to do so, especially when taking the seller’s best interests at heart, as the smart lockbox will ensure accountability and a better safety and security measure for the showing process and for the home itself. Its analytics information and the ability to control who can actually gain access to the home are tantamount to successfully being able to gauge the interest in a home by means of how many people are interested in seeing it as well as being able to rest assure the seller that a home is being shown but in the most secure manner possible.

During this most recent downturn in the economy, most real estate markets throughout the country were inundated (and some still are) with foreclosure property. Certain real estate brokerages that specialized in this type of distressed property had the best years of production on record for the 2008 and 2009 years. All of these properties that needed to be shown and sold needed lockboxes, but the value provided by a smart lockbox through Sentrilock or Supra didn’t justify the cost to acquire, as distressed-property brokerages had inventories of 50, 100, 200 or 300 properties at a given time. The smart lockboxes were too expensive, especially when taking into account that the home in question was owned by the bank, it was vacant and the analytics of showings didn’t matter when a given foreclosure property is selling in no time at all with multiple offers. If an agent is carrying even 50 listings with a smart lockbox, it entails $5000 worth of lockboxes needed on all the properties he/she has for sale. At this point, a less expensive combination lockbox from Lowes for $7 looks way better and the total outlay for the lockboxes is substantially less. It’s a combination of utility value and overall price paid from the standpoint of the real estate professional, so it begs the question, why are the smart lockboxes so expensive?

Put simply, the market will bear the current price point of both the Supra and Sentrilock lockboxes because the value they provide are well worth the cost. That being said, certain companies have come into existence that are poised to take advantage of the amount of agents that want to sell their used lockboxes as well as the agents out there who don’t want to pay retail for the lockbox(es) they need for their business. Blake Nolan, co-owner of San Diego based LockboxSwap has created a website where a secondary market has been created and regulated for both the Sentrilock and Supra lockbox systems. Nolan says his company can help agents buy or sell their lockboxes and in the process save time and money. “Right now there is no real place online that offers what we offer” Nolan Says. He continues that “if you call into (any association) and ask about used lockboxes, or where to sell your own lockboxes, they say to go try craigslist or Ebay. We created LockboxSwap to address this vast and untapped market opportunity.”

Nolan’s’ LockboxSwap company plans to unveil the business this summer, and preliminary beta-test users have offered rave reviews.

In the world of Realtor lockboxes, smart-lockboxes are preferred because the overall value inherent in being able to secure a home, controlling the use of entry and having analytical accountability far outweighs the alternative of your standard combination lockbox (or no lockbox at all) Although the 2 main players in the Realtor lockbox arena have 2 excellent products, both fall short of being 100% perfect. They both do some things quite well and have the capabilities that the other does not. It would be great to be able to merge both products and concepts together, but since that is not possible, it’s up to each individual Realtor association to interview and determine which company is a better “fit” for them. At the end of the day, the 2 companies and respective products, although imperfect, represent competition between one another which keeps productivity and innovation high while keeping prices in check. Companies like that of LockboxSwap help to do this further by inventing and establishing the precedent for an industry that hereto has yet to exist, but has the ability to offer a cost-efficient alternative to Realtor professionals when it comes to their lockbox needs.

No matter what, it’s obvious the industry is moving in the right direction; we are witnessing technological advancements that help to serve Realtor professionals do their job better and more efficiently, and it is interesting to see what will be the norm in the near future as well as the long term. For now, Realtor professionals should be confident in knowing that while it’s great where we stand today, the future is only getting brighter.

Book Review: Adriana Dodge’s A Millionaire’s Real Estate Secret

An admitted “knowledge junkie” like many investors out there, I’ve devoured scores of books, tapes, courses, and seminars on real estate, investing, and tips and techniques to take your business to the next level. A large part of what is out there is, putting it delicately, quite literally WORTHLESS: old, misinformed, irrelevant, unrealistic, only “theory”-based information that cracks under the pressure of application- or is even downright illegal.

“My system is very complete”, says Adriana Dodge. For the most part, I completely agreed after having read her book. No fluff, no filler, just a simple single real estate investing technique spelled out from soup to nuts. If you’re looking for an encyclopedia of real estate knowledge or a bunch of motivational mumbo-jumbo, you won’t find it in A Millionaire’s Real Estate Secret.

What you will find is the correct mindset, organizational system, steps, forms, paperwork, and guidelines to easily complete a “subject to” house-buying transaction with no cash and no credit- and build a business doing more deals if you so choose.

Adriana claims she formulated her “subject to” investing strategies after having purchased numerous properties at courthouse foreclosure auctions, and becoming frustrated with the limitation of needing cash for the transactions. In putting her system together for herself, she has created an aggressive investment blueprint that others can follow.

As an investor, Adriana epitomizes the importance of mastering a niche before moving on to something else. With so many options and opportunities in the world, not to mention just the world of real estate investment, sometimes we can get bogged down and overwhelmed with all the paths we COULD take. For her, the niche was “subject to investing”, a technique of acquiring property with little to no cash needed that involves taking ownership subject to any existing financing which remains in the name of the seller until the buyer/investor completes their exit strategy (sale/refinance). While this kind of investing may not be the business plan for everyone, if you are an opportunist at heart it is certainly a great vehicle to get you where you want to go.

Adriana came to this country from Colombia with a job that sponsored her residency but did little else. It certainly wasn’t a career. Searching for something she wanted to do with her life, she also set a goal of buying a house that would net at least $10,000 when sold in a year or two. At the end of 1996, after coming to the country and saving money, and praying to God to show her a good investment, she bought her first house in Minneapolis on a one-acre lot for $63,000. In a little more than a year, at the beginning of 1998 she sold the house and acreage separately, netting over $41,000. That’s when she knew she wanted to be an investor. Those certainly aren’t huge sums to anyone likely reading this, but you’ll recognize in Adriana the risk-taker in all success stories. I’ll bet you have a similar story to tell, do you not?

On top of the many obstacles, risks, and frustrations of any typical new investor- like financing headaches, dealing with contractors, sourcing deals, and finding the right people to do the work- Adriana had to contend with becoming fluent in the English language, learning a new culture, battling residency issues, and contending with the somewhat non-businesslike image of a pretty Latina woman of less than five feet tall. These experiences uniquely qualify her to speak to that opportunist and believer in all of us, and give her the voice that people listen and respond to- even when others are singing the same song or preaching a similar message. I wondered how disarming her appearance must be to a motivated seller facing possible foreclosure, who sees others in her niche as “all-business” at best and at worst as vultures? She managed to turn what most would see as stumbling blocks into stepping stones.

As an author and teacher of subject to real estate investing, Adriana comes across very genuine. A certified coach and trainer who has been investing in real estate and training others full-time since 2001, she possesses that rare trait of the truly inspiring individual in that she achieved her status of today with the sweat and entrepreneurial risks of thousands of uncertain yesterdays- and is more than willing to share both the triumphs and struggles with those who ask for help.

To know Adriana Dodge is to know energy and excitement, focus and charisma, all coiled up and ready to explode from her cheerful 4 ft. 11 inch frame. I was pleased to have three distinct discussions with her where she shared with me and our readers her thoughts on success, real estate, “subject to” investing, mentorship, building a business and so much more.

Among the words of wisdom shared were these gems:

Always be duplicating yourself.
Listen to others but know that you must make the decisions.
In frustrating times, remember: we expand, we grow, and then we deserve more.
No matter what you feel, it really comes down to the numbers.
Hire people with a great attitude. You want people who go the extra mile.
Some people in your life are a liability- distance yourself from negativity.
Deal fairly with people.
Build relationships, don’t just do transactions.
Don’t fall in love with a property or investment.
Communication is key in business: always let people know what’s going on.
You cannot afford to burn bridges.
Surround yourself with a great team.
Have fun with negotiations.
Finding people who are “X” is easier when you are “X”…example: “honest”
You can keep your integrity and still make money in investing.

As I finished writing this, I thought of something powerful besides encouraging those who now want to read Adriana’s book to do so. Each of us as entrepreneurs often has someone in our life that we would love to empower to do something more, to take risks, to realize their potential, and to go after the better life it seems we want more for them than it they want for themselves. It may be a wife or girlfriend, a mother or sibling, a teacher or a preacher. Sometimes drawing encouragement from us isn’t enough; sometimes it’s not the message but the messenger that’s key in catalyzing great achievement. If you too have a person like that in your life, and they have an interest in real estate, give them this book and let inspiring Adriana Dodge be that messenger with A Millionaire’s Real Estate Secret.

Wealth Building With Real Estate

When it comes to saving for retirement, investment advisors generally recommend that one contribute regularly to an Individual Retirement Account (IRA) or a company 401(k) plan. Steady growth can be achieved, they suggest, by diversifying one’s portfolio with a mix of stocks and bonds. Rarely, however, do they recommend adding real estate to the investment portfolio. By neglecting to invest in real estate, one could be missing out on the many benefits afforded by this asset class.

Advisors and investors may shy away from this investment for many reasons. Advisors might avoid it possibility because they are not licensed to sell it. Thus, they have no incentive to decrease the amount of money that they have under management. Also, investors often avoid real property because often they don’t understand it. Even if they do, they don’t feel that they have enough capital to make an initial investment. But if they became better educated in the benefits of real estate, they would find that it offers some advantages not seen in other investments.

Often, advisors recommend utilizing investments such as mutual funds to achieve risk-adjusted, long-term appreciation when saving for retirement. By utilizing qualified retirement vehicles such as an IRA or 401(k) accounts, investors can often receive a tax deduction to offset income, reducing their current tax bill. They may also use Roth accounts to forego the upfront tax deduction enabling them to receive retirement account distributions tax free. Real estate may also provide long-term appreciation, as seen in stock and bond mutual funds. In addition to receiving up-front tax advantages just as qualified plans do, real estate investments may add other tax advantages when the property is liquidated.

Many might be surprised to learn that over the past ten years, despite the “real estate meltdown,” real estate prices have outperformed the Standard and Poor’s 500 stock market index by a wide margin. As of May 2011, data provided in the Standard and Poor’s Case Shiller index (CS) showed that real estate prices, based on a 10-region composite, advanced 30.1% over the latest ten year period. During that same time the Standard and Poor’s 500 (S&P500) stock market index advanced just 7.1%. This is despite the fact that over the past two years, stock prices nearly doubled off of their March 2009 lows. During this same period, bond and commodity prices have also moved dramatically higher, causing many to worry about future market corrections. Only real estate prices have not performed and remain 32% below than their peak. The S&P 500 was just 13% from its all-time high based on May data. This is a value that an investor might look upon as a good opportunity based on current prices.

Both qualified retirement plan contributions and real estate investments offer tax incentives. When one contributes to a qualified retirement plan, the investor can usually deduct the contribution from gross income, reducing the income tax liability. Real estate, even when purchased outside of a qualified plan, offers tax deductions, sometimes as great as a qualified plan contribution. Individuals who own their own home can deduct mortgage interest and property taxes paid if they itemize their tax deductions. If they don’t itemize, they can still deduct their property taxes to receive some tax relief. Investors who purchase real estate investment property do even better. In addition to the mortgage and property tax deduction that home owners receive, real estate investors also receive deductions for property maintenance and depreciation. If this investor is not generating positive cash flow on the property and the investor has an income of less than $100,000, he or she can write off up to $25,000 for losses against their gross income.

A residential real estate also receives a special capital gains tax exemption not offered to other investments. If one had lived in the home as a primary residence for two of the previous five years, the individual is allowed a capital gains exemption of $250,000. This amounts to a $37,500 tax savings based on the current 15% Long Term Capital Gain tax rate. Not so with distributions taken from a qualified plan. These are taxed as ordinary income, at your highest tax rate. If the investor owned a primary residence along with a rental property, the investor could sell the primary residence at retirement, take the capital gain, and move into the rental. The tax-free distributions from the liquidation of the primary residence could be used to pay off any remaining mortgage on the rental property and provide extra funds for retirement expenses.

Real estate offers many positive benefits that may be important to a person planning for retirement. Like stocks and mutual funds, real estate has the potential to appreciate, preserving purchasing power. Adding real estate to one’s holdings increases diversification and reduces overall portfolio risk helping to ensure a financially successful retirement. Residential and investment real estate often provide tax benefits not found in other retirement investments.