The Most Important Part of the Business Plan – The Financial Model

During the 2000s, business planning and entrepreneurship experienced a resurgence due to the massive and expansive growth of Web 2.0 businesses and the solid GDP growth of the US. There was a deep hiccup in terms of the 2008 Great Recession, but for all practical purposes, this was nothing more than a major market correction that signaled the exponential change business has undergone with the integration of technology in the way we live life and build wealth. As the saying goes, though, “the more things change, the more things stay the same, and this is true of starting and / or expanding a business. Business planning remains the cornerstone of improving the probability of survival and success in commerce. The tools of planning have improved and changed, but the purpose and foundation of it have not. This valuable resource is more than a “glorified document”; it is a roadmap that keeps the business owner and his / her team focused and also serves as a lever to enhance the business’s investment prospects with both debt and equity sources of capital. The definitive part of the plan rests in the logic of the financial model because it provides a comprehensive and integrated layout of how all the other components of the business work together to produce a sustainable flow of cash and ultimately profit.What Is A Business Financial Model?

This part of the plan documents and explains how the business makes, spends, and accumulates money in the language of numbers. The reality of business is that the operations of the firm must provide a reasonable value to the marketplace to justify an exchange of resources (i.e. products / services for money). The numbers included in the financial model provide the narrative of how the firm will accomplish these objectives. In order for these figures to have merit, the entrepreneur must provide “proof” of the business model via a sample of actual sales or rely on primary market data segmented specifically by location and industry. Depending on the stage of the business cycle, this portion of the plan includes financial projections of the main business financials (i.e. balance sheet, income statement, and cash flow statement), assumptions that motivate these projections, and supplemental disclosures such as notes to these projections.

What Are The Benefits of Producing and Using A Business Financial Model?
There are 2 main benefits to including this model in the business plan:

(1) Quick Access and Review by Capital Providers

For most entrepreneurs, debt and equity providers are key components of aiding the business in establishing or growing operations to a profitable level. The downside to this reality is that a majority of business owners are not prepared to pitch their businesses properly because they lack the proof. All is resolved, though, once the financial model of the business plan is completed. Not only does the entrepreneur have the proof of an actual document, he / she will have the ability to tell the story behind the numbers in a concise and targeted manner. The ability to tell the business’s story in such a way increases the odds of investment substantially because both management and business risk are mitigated by both knowledge and action.(2) Forces The Business Owner to Validate the Business Model

Once the entrepreneur completes the financial model, he / she will have a solid understanding of the business’s prospects of sustainability and profitability. The “mousetrap fallacy” cripples many prospective entrepreneurs into believing that their business is a necessity to the market when in reality they have not taken the time to really validate (i.e. prove) the business model. In the immortal words of the Apostle Paul, just because you can do a thing well does not mean you should do it. In order to give yourself a head start in business, do the homework and put in the action to build out the business financial model.

Real Estate Agents and the Internet – How to Buy and Sell Real Estate Today

Then and Now

Ten years ago, a search for real estate would have started in the office of a local real estate agent or by just driving around town. At the agent’s office, you would spend an afternoon flipping through pages of active property listings from the local Multiple Listing Service (MLS). After choosing properties of interest, you would spend many weeks touring each property until you found the right one. Finding market data to enable you to assess the asking price would take more time and a lot more driving, and you still might not be able to find all of the information you needed to get really comfortable with a fair market value.

Today, most property searches start on the Internet. A quick keyword search on Google by location will likely get you thousands of results. If you spot a property of interest on a real estate web site, you can typically view photos online and maybe even take a virtual tour. You can then check other Web sites, such as the local county assessor, to get an idea of the property’s value, see what the current owner paid for the property, check the real estate taxes, get census data, school information, and even check out what shops are within walking distance-all without leaving your house!

While the resources on the Internet are convenient and helpful, using them properly can be a challenge because of the volume of information and the difficulty in verifying its accuracy. At the time of writing, a search of “Denver real estate” returned 2,670,000 Web sites. Even a neighborhood specific search for real estate can easily return thousands of Web sites. With so many resources online how does an investor effectively use them without getting bogged down or winding up with incomplete or bad information? Believe it or not, understanding how the business of real estate works offline makes it easier to understand online real estate information and strategies.

The Business of Real Estate

Real estate is typically bought and sold either through a licensed real estate agent or directly by the owner. The vast majority is bought and sold through real estate brokers. (We use “agent” and “broker” to refer to the same professional.) This is due to their real estate knowledge and experience and, at least historically, their exclusive access to a database of active properties for sale. Access to this database of property listings provided the most efficient way to search for properties.

The MLS (and CIE)

The database of residential, land, and smaller income producing properties (including some commercial properties) is commonly referred to as a multiple listing service (MLS). In most cases, only properties listed by member real estate agents can be added to an MLS. The primary purpose of an MLS is to enable the member real estate agents to make offers of compensation to other member agents if they find a buyer for a property.

This purposes did not include enabling the direct publishing of the MLS information to the public; times change. Today, most MLS information is directly accessible to the public over the Internet in many different forms.

Commercial property listings are also displayed online but aggregated commercial property information is more elusive. Larger MLSs often operate a commercial information exchange (CIE). A CIE is similar to an MLS but the agents adding the listings to the database are not required to offer any specific type of compensation to the other members. Compensation is negotiated outside the CIE.

In most cases, for-sale-by-owner properties cannot be directly added to an MLS and CIE, which are typically maintained by REALTOR associations. The lack of a managed centralized database can make these properties more difficult to locate. Traditionally, these properties are found by driving around or looking for ads in the local newspaper’s real estate listings. A more efficient way to locate for-sale-by-owner properties is to search for a for-sale-by-owner Web site in the geographic area.

What is a REALTOR? Sometimes the terms real estate agent and REALTOR are used interchangeably; however, they are not the same. A REALTOR is a licensed real estate agent who is also a member of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS. REALTORS are required to comply with a strict code of ethics and conduct.

MLS and CIE property listing information was historically only available in hard copy, and as we mentioned, only directly available to real estate agents members of an MLS or CIE. About ten years ago, this valuable property information started to trickle out to the Internet. This trickle is now a flood!

One reason is that most of the 1 million or so REALTORS have Web sites, and most of those Web sites have varying amounts of the local MLS or CIE property information displayed on them. Another reason is that there are many non-real estate agent Web sites that also offer real estate information, including, for-sale-by-owner sites, foreclosure sites, regional and international listing sites, County assessor sites, and valuation and market information sites. The flood of real estate information to the Internet definitely makes the information more accessible but also more confusing and subject to misunderstanding and misuse. Despite the flood of real estate information on the Internet, most properties are still sold directly through real estate agents listing properties in the local MLS or CIE. However, those property listings do not stay local anymore. By its nature, the Internet is a global marketplace and local MLS and CIE listings are normally disseminated for display on many different Web sites. For example, many go to the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS Web site, http://www.realtor.com, and to the local real estate agent’s Web site. In addition, the listing may be displayed on the Web site of a local newspaper. In essence, the Internet is just another form of marketing offered by today’s real estate agent, but it has a much broader reach than the old print advertising.

In addition to Internet marketing, listing agents may also help the seller establish a price, hold open houses, keep the seller informed of interested buyers and offers, negotiate the contract and help with closing. When an agent provides all of these services it is referred to as being a full service listing arrangement. While full service listing arrangements are the most common type of listing arrangement, they are not the only option anymore.

Changes in the technology behind the real estate business have caused many agents to change the way they do business. In large part, this is due to the instant access most consumers now have to property listings and other real estate information. In addition, the Internet and other technologies have automated much of the marketing and initial searching process for real estate. For example, consumers can view properties online and make inquires via email. Brokers can use automated programs to send listings to consumers that match their property criteria. So, some agents now limit the services they offer and change their fees accordingly. An agent may offer to advertise the property in the MLS but only provide limited additional services. In the future, some real estate agents may offer services in more of an ala carte fashion.

Because of the volume of real estate information on the Internet, when people hire a real estate agent today they should look at the particular services offered by the agent and the depth of their experience and knowledge in the relevant property sector. It is no longer just about access to property listing information. Buyers and sellers historically found agents by referrals from friends and family. The Internet now provides ways to directly find qualified agents or to research the biography of an agent referred to you offline. One such site, AgentWorld.com, is quickly becoming the LinkedIn or Facebook for real estate agents. On this site an agent can personalize their profile, start a blog, post photos and videos and even create a link to their web site for free. Once unique content is added to their profile page the search engines notice!

Some have argued that the Internet makes REALTORS and the MLS less relevant. We believe this will be false in the long run. It may change the role of the agent but will make knowledgeable, qualified, and professional REALTORS more relevant than ever. In fact, the number of real estate agents has risen significantly in recent years. No wonder, the Internet has made local real estate a global business. Besides, Internet or not, the simple fact remains that the purchase of real property is the largest single purchase most people make in their life (or, for many investors, the largest multiple purchases over a lifetime) and they want expert help. As for the MLS, it remains the most reliable source of real estate listing and sold information available and continues to enable efficient marketing of properties. So, what is the function of all the online real estate information?

Online real estate information is a great research tool for buyers and sellers and a marketing tool for sellers. When used properly, buyers can save time by quickly researching properties and, ultimately, make better investment decisions. Sellers can efficiently research the market and make informed decisions about hiring an agent and marketing their properties online. The next step is to know where to look online for some of the best resources.
Internet Strategies

In the sections that follow, we provide strategies and tips on how to use the Internet to locate properties for sale and research information relevant to your decision to purchase the property. There are many real estate Web sites from which to choose and although we do not mean to endorse any particular Web site, we have found the ones listed here to be good resources in most cases or to be so popular that they need mention. One way to test a Web site’s accuracy is to search for information about a property you already own.

Finding Real Estate for Sale

Despite the widely available access to real estate listings, many believe that MLS databases continue to offer the most complete and accurate source of real estate information. Most MLSs now distribute content to other Web sites (primarily operated by real estate agents). An excellent starting point for MLS originated content is the national NAR Web site, realtor.com, which is also the most popular web site for searching real estate listings. Virtually all local and regional MLSs have an agreement with realtor.com to display much of their active listing inventory.

Some local and regional MLS systems also have a publicly accessible Web site. However, to get complete information you will most likely still need to find a qualified local REALTOR. Many local real estate agents will also provide their customers (via email) new listings that are input into the MLS that match their predefined criteria. This can be very helpful to a busy buyer.

There are also many Web sites that display both real estate agent listed and for-sale-by-owner properties. Some of the more popular Web sites include zillow.com and trulia.com. These sites offer other services too. For example, zillow.com is best known for its instantaneous property valuation function and trulia.com for providing historical information. Another source of properties for sale is the state, regional, and local Web sites associated with brokerage companies; for example, remax.com or prudential.com. Search engines like yahoo.com and classified advertising sites like craigslist.com also have a large number of active real estate listings.

One key difference between these sites is how much information you can access anonymously. For example, at trulia.com you can shop anonymously up to a point but then you will need to click through to the agent’s Web site for more information. Many new real estate search engines allow you to sift through listings without having to fill out a form. The best strategy is to browse a few of the sites listed above to find geographic areas or price ranges that are interesting. Once you get serious about a property, then that is the time to find a qualified REALTOR of your choice to conduct a complete search in the local MLS.

It also never hurts to search the old-fashioned way by driving through the neighborhoods that interest you. There is no substitute for physically, not virtually, walking the block when you are making a serious investment decision. In this sense, real estate is still a very local business and standing in front of the property can lead to a much different decision than viewing a Web page printout.

Valuing Real Estate

As we mentioned, one of the most popular real estate tools is zillow.com’s instant property valuation. Just type in an address and in and you get a property value. It even charts the price ups and downs, and shows the last date sold (including price) and the property taxes. There are other sites that provide similar tools such as housevalues.com and homegain.com. Unfortunately, many people use these estimated values alone to justify sales prices, offers and counteroffers. However, these are only rough estimates based on a formula that incorporates the local county sales information. These estimates can swing wildly over a short period of time and do not appear to always track actual market changes, which are normally more gradual. In addition, these estimates do not automatically take into account property remodels or renovations or other property specific or local changes. This is not to say these sites are not useful. In fact, they are great starting points and can provide a good ball-park value in many cases.

When it comes to getting a more accurate value for a particular property, there are other strategies that are more trustworthy. One is to go directly to your county’s Web site. More often than not the county assessor’s area of the Web site provides sales and tax information for all properties in the county. If you want to research a particular property or compare sales prices of comparable properties, the local assessor’s sites are really helpful. When you visit a county’s Web site you are getting information straight from the source. Most counties today publish property information on their Web sites. Many times you cannot only see the price a previous owner paid, but the assessed value, property taxes, and maps. Some county assessors are now adding a market and property valuation tools too.

Given the importance of valuation to investing, we are also going to remind you of the two most important (non-Internet) valuation methods: real estate agents and appraisers. Working with a local REALTOR is an accurate and efficient way to get value information for a property. While one of the primary purposes of the MLS is to market the active property listings of its members, the system also collects sales information for those listings. REALTOR members can pull this sales information and produce comparable market analyses (sometimes called CMAs) that provide an excellent snapshot of a particular property’s value for the market in a particular area. Finally, the most accurate way to value a property is by having a certified appraiser produce an appraisal. An appraiser will typically review both the sold information in the MLS system as well as county information and then analyze the information to produce a valuation for the property based on one or more approved methods of valuation. These methods of valuation can include a comparison of similar properties adjusted for differences between the properties, determine the cost to replace the property, or, with an income producing property, determine a value based on the income generated from the property.

The Neighborhood

There are many ways the Internet can help you get the scoop on a particular neighborhood. For example, census data can be found at census.gov. You can also check out the neighborhood scoop at sites like outside.in or review local blogs. A blog is a Web site where people discuss topics by posting and responding to messages. Start by looking at placeblogger.com and kcnn.org/citymediasites.com for a directory of blogs. Trulia.com has a “Heat Map” that shows how hot or cold each neighborhood is based on prices, sales, or popularity among the sites users.

Schools

When it comes to selling residential property or rental properties that cater to families, the quality of the area school district makes a huge difference. There are many Web sites devoted to school information. Check out greatschools.net or schoolmatters.com. Most local school districts also have their own Web site. These sites contain a variety of information about the public schools and the school district, including its district demographics, test scores, and parent reviews.

Finding the Right Real Estate Agent

A recent addition to the Internet boom in real estate information is Web sites that let real estate agents market their expertise and local knowledge by displaying their professional profiles and socially networking with blogs. You can search to find an agent with a particular expertise, geographic area of specialization, or an agent offering specific services. The web site AgentWorld.com lets users quickly and easily find an agent with the right expertise using keyword searches and clean and simple agent profiles. AgentWorld.com also enables agents to post personalized blogs, photos and videos to help consumers find the best agent for their needs. Plus, many agent profiles include a direct link to the agent’s web site where you will likely find the local MLS listings.

Maps and Other Tools

The Internet has made mapping and locating properties much easier. To get an aerial view or satellite image of a property or neighborhood, go to maps.live.com or maps.google.com or visit walkscore.com to see how walk-able a particular property is. These sites can give you an idea of the neighborhood characteristics and the types of entertainment, restaurants, and other facilities that are within walking distance of the property. Maps.Live.com provides a view at an angle so you can see the sides of houses and Maps.Google even gives you a 360 degree street-level view for certain neighborhoods. If you have not tried one of these satellite map Web sites, you really should if only for amusement.

Final Thoughts on Internet Strategies

The Internet is a very effective research and marketing tool for real estate investors but is not a replacement for a knowledgeable experienced real estate professional. The Internet can save you time and money by enabling quick and easy property research and marketing options. Sites like AgentWorld.com also help you efficiently find a REALTOR who fits your buying or selling needs.

Always remember, when it comes to Internet strategies for real estate: More knowledge is better. You need to use the Internet to build your knowledge base on a target property or to find a real estate agent with expertise you need. However, the big caution here is that the Internet should not replace human judgment and perspective, expert advice or physical due diligence-keys to successful investing.

How a Foreign National Can Buy Real Estate in America

Opportunities for real estate investment for foreigners is wide and varied in the United States. It doesn’t matter where you’re from and what currency you’d be using to purchase a property, you have a property waiting for you.

There are generally three kinds of real estate investment available to foreigners. These investments include the commercial estate investment and residential property investment. Residential properties are further classified into single family properties, apartments or condominiums and recreational properties. Regardless of what kind of real estate you are interested in, there are all sorts of tax ramifications, financing options and legal requirements that you have to deal with.

Why Should You Invest in the U.S. Real Estate Market?

You’ve probably heard of the increasing number of foreign real estate investments in the United States. This is not surprising. With the troubles that the real estate investment market is facing in the United States, greater opportunities in real estate investment were opened to foreign investors.

With the dollar’s value in its all time low, foreign investors are finding real estate bargains all over the United States. There are no shortages of deals in this market. More and more distressed properties are being sold everywhere and foreigners are pouring in millions buying these foreclosed or distressed properties. The United States real estate has become a fairly attractive long-term investment for foreign investors.

In November of 2006, the National Association of Realtors released a report entitled “Foreign Investments in U.S Real Estate: Current Trends and Historical Perspective”. The report showed that there has been a steady increase in foreign real estate investment in the United States. This is especially after the euro and the loonie became stronger in the face of the continuous devaluation of the US dollar. Prime bargains were opened to foreigners. Many foreigners have now looked into the possibility of retiring or settling in the United States.

If you’re a foreigner, you would find a lot of reasons why you should invest in the United States real estate market. Aside from the fact that the floating exchange rate has given you a lot of leverage over the bargaining table, the financial market is a pretty good reason why you should invest in the US real estate.

The financial market in the United States in relation to the real estate market is quite liberal and the restrictions against foreign investors are pretty reasonable. This is ideal for foreign companies that are seeking to invest in the real estate market in the United States in order to avoid tariff restrictions and are considering setting up an office or a company in the United States.

Furthermore, despite the devaluation of the US dollar and the wide foreclosures of a lot of property, the real estate market remains to be stable, though slightly shaky, due to foreign investors’ capital appreciation. Domestic real estate buyers may not necessarily share the same opinion, but the market has remained to be strong for foreign real estate buyers. This may be largely credited to the fact that there is minimal risk for them.

Why are Foreign Real Estate Investments Safe and Profitable?

There are a lot of investments you can make, but the safest you can make right now is investing your money in real properties. This is another good reason aside from the fact that you can make a pretty nifty profit, if you like, particularly now with the widespread property foreclosures and seemingly continuous US dollar devaluation. This is especially true if you are going to use the euro or the loonie when making your investment.

It is undeniable that stock investments are not a safe avenue at this point. The recession has not only affected the US economy; the same recession has greatly affected worldwide stock investments. Stocks values are dropping. It is also a fact that even without the current economic situation, stock values fluctuates.

On the other hand, real estate investments are pretty stable if you would compare it to stock investments – or even bond or mutual fund investments. With real estate investment, you’d be putting your money in an investment that would grow in value as years go by.

What are the Benefits of Foreign Real Estate Investment?

US state government supports foreign investments and along this line has formulated various tax breaks to encourage foreign investment on real estate. Many of these tax breaks are not available in many countries. In fact, most countries would frown at foreigners owning real properties within their territory.

Foreign real estate investment in the United States is open to everyone. As long as you can afford to buy the property or at least comply with the mortgage requirements and payments, you can secure for yourself a pretty good property in the United States. Again, with the current economic situation of the United States, this is the perfect chance for you to make an investment.

Another great benefit that you can take advantage of is the availability of mortgage financing. Lenders have opened their doors to foreign investors who are looking into purchasing a property. So, you don’t have to actually deplete your bank account. You can actually secure a mortgage loan and gradually pay it off.

I’m Canadian, What Are My Financing Options?

There is a steady increasing rate of Canadian real estate investors in the United States; and accordingly, the government has made certain that they have attractive financing options available to them.

If you’re Canadian – or if you’re a foreigner – you’d find a lot of reasons why you should buy a piece of real property in the United States. For Canadians, the parity of the currencies or the apparent devaluation of the US dollar is a pretty good reason itself. But how do you finance your purchase?

There are various financing options available to you depending on which state you are in. In Arizona, for instance, you’d get favorable financing terms if you are purchasing a property for recreational purposes, that is, you do not derive any income or benefit from your purchase or ownership. You will be required, however, to sign up a disclosure agreement and give a 30% down payment for your loan. To qualify though for a loan, you may be required to show availability of liquid reserves for a period of three to six months. You may also be required to present a minimum of 3-month bank statement.

If you are purchasing a property for investment, you’d probably meet stricter terms. Requirements may be more stringent. For instance, you could be required to give a down payment of more than 30% and you may be required to show one year worth of liquidity reserves.

Regardless of your reasons, if you feel like you can fulfill the requirements of a financing loan, you can then proceed to actually applying for a mortgage loan. Also, keeping yourself updated with the financing terms flux may be a wise idea.

Understanding the Tax Ramifications of Real Estate Investment

The first foreigner to have ever bought a real estate property in the United States was Peter Minuit. This opened the doors to foreign real estate investors. After a couple of centuries later, foreign real estate investment has grown into huge proportions, accounting for billion-of-dollar worth of industry.

The low risk attached to US real estate market, the availability of countless properties, and the steady market liquidity attract foreign investors in droves. The initial snag, however, is the process of understanding the legal ramifications of foreign real estate investment.

What you have to understand is that foreign investment in the United States can take a lot of forms. A foreigner has various options. He can acquire direct interest. He can acquire an interest in the real estate through a partnership, a corporation, or a limited liability company. The latter is the typical structure used by foreign investors.

Limited partnership or Limited Liability Company offers financial protection or indirect asset protection, especially in cases of bankruptcy, law suits and taxes. Foreign investors are generally taxed on the property as if they hold the property in direct interest.

Ideally, you should secure the services of a real estate accountant to help you out with the tax ramifications, but it would help if you, at least, know the basics before you actually talk to an accountant.

There are tax consequences that you have to deal with when you buy a real estate in the United States. You would need an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number which you will use with all your tax transactions. Your investment in real estates can be treated as a portfolio investment and will be accounted for as an investment income which can either be fixed or a periodic income. This is typically taxed at 30% on gross revenues. This tax though does not apply though to all foreign investors. Tax rates would vary depending on the tax personality the foreign investor opted for. For instance, a corporation would be taxed differently.

Other things that you should take note of are availability and requirements of tax refunds and state tax laws on real estate properties as they may differ from federal laws, among other things.

By knowing all these things, you may save yourself from a lot of hassles when you finally approach a real estate accountant. You’d be in same wavelength when you finally get down to talking business. It is, however, very important that you secure the services of an accountant. You’d have an easier time dealing with the taxes ramifications. You’d also have assistance ensuring that you comply with all the accounting aspect of your investment. This is especially true if you are purchasing a real property for investment purposes.

Do You Need to Secure the Service of a Real Estate Lawyer?

If you are considering buying a property in the United States, you need to secure the services of a real estate attorney – someone who could help you with the legal issues concerning your purchase. It is tempting to forego securing the service of a lawyer to save money, but this could cost you a lot of money in the long run. Make sure that you have an experienced and trustworthy lawyer to help you out. Make sure that you have thoroughly checked out his credentials, profile, history of successful cases handled by him, and other factors that would influence your decision. You could check online and look for a lawyer working within the state where you are considering purchasing a property. Functions of a Real Estate Lawyer

There is no actual distinctive function for a lawyer in a real estate case. However, you would really need the assistance of a lawyer for various tasks. A real estate lawyer would review the sales contract for you. He would also check on the title and other documents relating to the property. A lawyer would also review your mortgage contract and make the necessary adjustments or corrections. You could also get him to review with you the legal and tax issues concerning the purchase. A real estate attorney could also make the necessary adjustments relating to various expenses and costs involved in the purchase. He would assess your eligibility for tax refunds and draft the documents and statements relating to this.

Putting it simply, a real estate lawyer will be your watchdog. He would guide you through the whole process of purchasing a real estate in the United States in order to make sure that you will be legally protected. You will have a capable and trustworthy liaison to help you out with the contract. He will also face legal disputes if any arise.

Tips on How to Invest in Real Estate Successfully

Now, if you’ve fully bought into the idea of real estate investing in the United States, you might just want to know how to go about investing in real estate successfully. If you want to be successful in this venture, the first thing that you have to avoid is overanalyzing. Of course, it is a good idea to carefully think through your actions but it is a bad idea to overanalyze your investment to nonexistence. You might lose a great opportunity.

Before you purchase the property though, it might be wise to check the property value. If it sits well with you and you can reasonably afford the property, go ahead and make the purchase.

If you are considering the property for a quick flip, make sure that the property is in perfect condition and in good area. This is to ensure that you could double or actually triple your return of investment. If you can inspect the property yourself, do so. If not, a good and trustworthy agent can help you with this task.

Another important thing to remember when you’re buying real estate is good financing. You should take your time to carefully consider all your financing options. Foreign investors can email in their queries to various lending institutions. It is a good idea to make sure that you’ve had their terms and rates on paper because they tend to change these terms and charge you with a lot of junk. Your real estate agent can help you with reviewing the escrow charges.

The bottom line, however, is that it is very important that you do your homework before you actually buy a real property. Investing in real properties in the United States can be profitable especially during these times. In fact, it may be the wisest and most perfect investment you can make right now.

Health Care Reform – Busting The 3 Biggest Myths Of ObamaCare

In the last few months we’ve seen a lot of Health Care Reform rules and regulations being introduced by the Health and Human Services Department. Every time that happens, the media gets hold of it and all kinds of articles are written in the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, and the TV network news programs talk about it. All the analysts start talking about the pros and cons, and what it means to businesses and individuals.

The problem with this is, many times one writer looked at the regulation, and wrote a piece about it. Then other writers start using pieces from that first article and rewriting parts to fit their article. By the time the information gets widely distributed, the actual regulations and rules get twisted and distorted, and what actually shows up in the media sometimes just doesn’t truly represent the reality of what the regulations say.

There’s a lot of misunderstanding about what is going on with ObamaCare, and one of the things that I’ve noticed in discussions with clients, is that there’s an underlying set of myths that people have picked up about health care reform that just aren’t true. But because of all they’ve heard in the media, people believe these myths are actually true.

Today we’re going to talk about three myths I hear most commonly. Not everybody believes these myths, but enough do, and others are unsure what to believe, so it warrants dispelling these myths now.

The first one is that health care reform only affects uninsured people. The second one is that Medicare benefits and the Medicare program isn’t going to be affected by health care reform. And then the last one is that health care reform is going to reduce the costs of healthcare.

Health Care Reform Only Affects Uninsured

Let’s look at the first myth about health care reform only affecting uninsured people. In a lot of the discussions I have with clients, there are several expressions they use: “I already have coverage, so I won’t be affected by ObamaCare,” or “I’ll just keep my grandfathered health insurance plan,” and the last one – and this one I can give them a little bit of leeway, because part of what they’re saying is true — is “I have group health insurance, so I won’t be affected by health care reform.”

Well, the reality is that health care reform is actually going to affect everybody. Starting in 2014, we’re going to have a whole new set of health plans, and those plans have very rich benefits with lots of extra features that the existing plans today don’t offer. So these new plans are going to be higher cost.

Health Care Reform’s Effect On People With Health Insurance

People that currently have health insurance are going to be transitioned into these new plans sometime in 2014. So the insured will be directly affected by this because the health plans they have today are going away, and they will be mapped into a new ObamaCare plan in 2014.

Health Care Reform Effect On The Uninsured

The uninsured have an additional issue in that if they don’t get health insurance in 2014, they face a mandate penalty. Some of the healthy uninsured are going to look at that penalty and say, “Well, the penalty is 1% of my adjusted gross income; I make $50,000, so I’ll pay a $500 penalty or $1,000 for health insurance. In that case I’ll just take the penalty.” But either way, they will be directly affected by health care reform. Through the mandate it affects the insured as well as the uninsured. Health Care Reform Effect On People With Grandfathered Health Plans

People that have grandfathered health insurance plans are not going to be directly affected by health care reform. But because of the life cycle of their grandfathered health plan, it’s going to make those plans more costly as they discover that there are plans available now that they can easily transfer to that have a richer set of benefits that would be more beneficial for any chronic health issues they may have.

For people who stay in those grandfathered plans, the pool of subscribers in the plan are going to start to shrink, and as that happens, the cost of those grandfathered health insurance plans will increase even faster than they are now. Therefore, people in grandfathered health plans will also be impacted by ObamaCare.

Health Care Reform Effect On People With Group Health Insurance

The last one, the small group marketplace, is going to be the most notably affected by health care reform. Even though the health care reform regulations predominantly affect large and medium-sized companies, and companies that have 50 or more employees, smaller companies will also be affected, even though they’re exempt from ObamaCare itself.

What many surveys and polls are starting to show is that some of the businesses that have 10 or fewer employees are going to look seriously at their option to drop health insurance coverage altogether, and no longer have it as an expense of the company. Instead, they will have their employees get health insurance through the health insurance exchanges.

In fact, some of the carriers are now saying they anticipate that up to 50% of small groups with 10 or fewer employees are going to drop their health insurance plan sometime between 2014 and 2016. That will have a very large effect on all people who have group health insurance, especially if they’re in one of those small companies that drop health insurance coverage.

It’s not just uninsured that are going to be affected by health care reform, everybody is going to be impacted.

Health Care Reform Will Not Affect Medicare

The next myth was that health care reform would not affect Medicare. This one is kind of funny because right from the very get-go, the most notable cuts were specifically targeting the Medicare program. When you look at Medicare’s portion of the overall federal, you can see that in 1970, Medicare was 4% of the U.S. federal budget, and by 2011, it had grown to 16% of the federal budget.

If we look at it over the last 10 years, from 2002 to 2012, Medicare is the fastest growing part of the major entitlement programs in the federal government, and it’s grown by almost 70% during that period of time.

Because of how large Medicare is and how fast it’s growing, it’s one of the key programs that ObamaCare is trying to get a handle on, so it doesn’t bankrupts the U.S. Medicare is going to be impacted, and in fact the initial cuts to Medicare have already been set at about $716 billion.

Medicare Advantage Cuts And The Effects

Of that $716 billion cut, the Medicare Advantage program gets cut the most, and will see the bulk of the effects. What that’s going to do is increase the premiums people pay for their Medicare Advantage plans, and reduce the benefits of those plans.

Increased Medicare Advantage Costs

Right now, many people choose Medicare Advantage plans because they have zero premium. When given a choice on Medicare plans, they view it as an easy choice because it’s a free program for them, “Sure, I get Medicare benefits, I don’t pay anything for it; why not.” Now they’re going to see Medicare premiums start to climb, and go from zero to $70, $80, $90, $100. We’ve already seen that with some of the Blue Cross Medicare Advantage plans this year. It’s going to get worse as we go forward in the future.

Reduced Medicare Advantage Benefits

In order to minimize the premium increases, what many Medicare Advantage plans will do is increase the copayments, increase the deductibles, and change the co-insurance rates. In order to keep the premiums down, they’ll just push more of the costs onto the Medicare Advantage recipients. Increased premiums and reduced benefits are what we’re going to see coming in Medicare Advantage plan.

Fewer Medicare Physicians

And then if that wasn’t bad enough, as Medicare doctors begin receiving lower and lower reimbursements for Medicare Advantage people, they’re going to stop taking new Medicare Advantage recipients. We’re going to see the pool of doctors to support people in Medicare starting to shrink as well, unless changes are made over the course of the next five years. So Medicare is going to be affected, and it’s going to be affected dramatically by health care reform. Everybody’s kind of on pins and needles, waiting to see what’s going to happen there.

Health Care Reform Will Reduce Healthcare Costs

The last one, and probably the biggest myth about health care reform, is everybody thinking that ObamaCare will reduce healthcare costs. That’s completely hogwash. Early on in the process, when they were trying to come up with the rules and regulations, the emphasis and one of the goals for reform was to reduce healthcare costs.

But somewhere along the line, the goal actually shifted from cost reduction to regulation of the health insurance industry. Once they made that transition, they pushed cost reductions to the back burner. There are some small cost reduction components in ObamaCare, but the real emphasis is on regulating health insurance. The new plans, for example, have much richer benefits than many plans today: richer benefits means richer prices.

Health Care Reform Subsidies: Will They Make Plans Affordable?

A lot of people hope, “The subsidies are going to make health insurance plans more affordable, won’t they?” Yes, in some cases the subsidies will help to make the plans affordable for people. But if you make $1 too much, the affordable plans are suddenly going to become very expensive and can cost thousands of dollars more over the course of a year. Will a subsidy make it affordable or not affordable is really subject to debate at this point in time. We’re going to have to actually see what the rates look like for these plans. New Health Care Reform Taxes Passed On To Consumers

Then there’s a whole ton of new health care reform taxes that have been added into the system to help pay for ObamaCare. That means everybody who has a health insurance plan, whether it’s in a large group, a small group, or just as an individual, is going to be taxed in order to pay for the cost of reform. Health care reform adds various taxes on health care that insurance companies will have to collect and pay, but they’re just going to pass it right through to us, the consumer.

Mandate Won’t Reduce Uninsured Very Much

During the initial years of health care reform, the mandate is actually pretty weak. The mandate says that everyone must get health insurance or pay a penalty (a tax). What that’s going to do is make healthy people just sit on the sidelines and wait for the mandate to get to the point where it finally forces them to buy health insurance. People with chronic health conditions that couldn’t get health insurance previously, are all going to jump into healthcare at the beginning of 2014.

At the end of that year, the cost for the plans is going to go up in 2015. I can guarantee that that’s going to happen, because the young healthy people are not going to be motivated to get into the plans. They won’t see the benefit of joining an expensive plan, whereas the chronically ill people are going to get into the plans and drive the costs up.

Health Care Reform’s Purpose Is Just A Matter Of Semantics

The last portion of this is, one of the key things – and it’s funny, I saw it for the first two years, 2010, and ’11 – one of the key things that was listed in the documentation from the Obama administration was: Health Care Reform would help reduce the cost that we would see in the future if we do nothing today. That was emphasized over and over again. That was how they presented health care cost reduction, that it would reduce the future costs. Not today, but it would reduce what we would pay in the future if we did nothing about it now.

Well, that’s great, 10 years from now we’re going to pay less than we might have paid. And we all know how accurate future projections usually are. In the meantime, we’re all paying more today, and we’re going to pay even more in 2014 and more in 2015 and 2016. People are going to be pretty upset about that.

Conclusion

Those three myths, that health care reform is only going to affect the uninsured, that it won’t affect Medicare beneficiaries, and that ObamaCare is going to reduce healthcare costs, are just that. They are myths. There’s nothing to them.

It’s really important that you pay attention to what’s happening with health care reform, because there are more changes that are coming as we go through this year, 2013. Knowing how to position yourself so that you’re in the right spot to be able to make the best decision at the beginning of 2014 is going to be really important for everybody.