Zillow real estate investment writer and long-term investor Leonard Baron, MBA, is answering questions from MintLife readers.
If you have a question about investment properties, cash flows, insurance, mortgage financing, homeowners associations, renting versus owning, foreclosures and more, drop Leonard an email.
Marci of NJ asks:
Properties values zoomed ahead last year in many areas, and people are predicting they will only ease forward in 2014.
I’m deciding whether or not to buy a home, so I was wondering what your prediction is for future prices?
Answer: One thing I’ve learned over the years is to not try to predict the future. Although it’s important to be aware of home values, your wealth-building future is for the long term.
As a general rule, the best way to build equity in real estate is holding a property for decades, so focus on a home you could see yourself owning for at least 10 years.
Don’t worry about market fluctuations – when to buy a home is a personal decision. You should also educate yourself on real estate and issues that can cause monetary losses, and try to avoid those problem properties.
Let’s touch base in about 10 years. There is a greater chance than not that if you still own the property you buy this year, you’ll be a happy camper will lots of equity.
Credit Report Marks
Bernice of Mobile, AL asks:
I’m in disagreement with my landlord over some rent I believe he owes me.
There was a broken water pipe at the property that flooded part of my unit, and I had to move out for a week for them to fix the problem.
I moved in with family and it was an inconvenience for everyone involved. I asked my landlord to credit some of my rent for that week, but he said no because I didn’t have any moving expenses.
As a result, I’m withholding part of the rent, and he is threatening to place a mark on my credit report if I don’t pay. Can he mark my credit report?
Answer: No, he can’t mark your credit report. Landlords do not mark credit reports.
The credit reporting companies pick up records at the county courthouse from an eviction (unlawful detainer) lawsuit, judgment, etc.
Your landlord would have to sue you and win in court for a mark to eventually end up on your credit report.
If your unit flooded and you had to move out, your landlord should prorate your rent and be ecstatic that you didn’t rent a hotel and run up a big bill. I suggest reminding him of that.
Also, it is possible that your rental lease agreement covers this issue, so I would start there.
If you can’t settle the matter, don’t worry. You’ll win in small-claims court if it ever gets there, which it hopefully won’t.
Just keep a good written account of exactly what happened to protect yourself.
Unfortunately, not all landlords treat their tenants the same.
Moving forward, I would try to ask other tenants about the landlord before you sign a lease.
Note: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of Zillow.
Leonard Baron, MBA, CPA, is Zillow’s real estate investment writer, a San Diego University lecturer and real estate due diligence expert. As America’s Real Estate Professor®, his unbiased, neutral and inexpensive “Real Estate Ownership, Investment and Due Diligence 101” textbook teaches real estate owners how to make smart and safe purchase decisions.