Tuesday, September 19, 2017

The Value of Research: A Pittsburgh Case Study

Jason Cohen was only two years out of college when he bought his first property in Pittsburgh. It wasn't a luxurious place by any means, but it was what he could afford with the means left to him after student loans. He sunk what resources he had into performing the most necessary repairs and managed to breathe new life into the struggling building. Its value soared; newly determined after his success, Cohen set his eyes on the next project and invested his profits. After ten years of hard work, Jason owns commercial and residential properties throughout Pittsburgh. He began with limited means, but Jason now has the resources and experience to run multi-million dollar community projects.

His secret?  Research.

According to Cohen, who facilitates the real estate investment forum Jason Cohen Pittsburgh in his free time, research is the factor that makes or breaks a real estate venture. An enormous amount of pre-planning goes into rehabilitating a property for sale, and the success of the venture hinges on having reasonable profit and cost projections.

More and more investors are flocking to house flipping to make a profit; according to statistics provided by Trulia, a full 6% of homes bought in 2016 had been renovated for sale. However, the field does pose significant risks if investors have little experience. If you intend to break into the real estate industry as Jason Cohen did, please consider the following basic tips for real estate research.

Look into the expense of the house.
Houses cost money. Repairs cost money. As Mindy Jenson, community manager for Bigger Pockets commented for a U.S. News article: "Nobody is going to hand you a house for free, and you can’t go to Home Depot and [get] your supplies for free [...] If you are using credit cards and have no money, you can get into trouble quickly.” Assess whether the house will require expensive repairs, and compare your expense projections to your budget. Sometimes, it’s best to be patient and move on from a house with too many liabilities in search for one that poses less of a risk.

Research the neighborhood.
Find out how much you’ll need to pay to renovate the house for sale, then assess how much you’ll likely get for it based on neighborhood averages. Remember, you can’t tack on an extra $10,000 to the price simply because you owe that much to your lenders. Figure out if you can afford to buy and renovate the home, then act accordingly.

Research lenders.
Financing a house is notoriously expensive. Spend time going over your borrowing options, and choose one that suits your needs. Don’t move forward with the first place you visit; take the time to check out all of your lending options and proceed as seems best.

*Originally posted on JasonCohenPittsburgh.org

Friday, September 8, 2017

Do You Know How to Spot a Shady Contractor?

The first building Jason Cohen bought in Pittsburgh wasn't particularly luxurious - but to Jason, it had potential. He knew that he could refurbish and turn a profit on it if he sank funds into a remodel, but he had neither the time nor skills to complete the repairs it required by himself. Cohen needed a contractor he could trust to do the job well on-schedule, and within the tight budget that he could afford.
However, the hiring process wasn't as simple as finding and signing the cheapest contractor to come along; Jason knew that many homeowners in his position fall into contracting traps when they entrust the remodel of their property to underqualified or shady contractors. Luckily, Cohen found a competent and fair contractor to work with, and that initial project went well. With over a decade of experience under his belt, Cohen continues to hire contractors in
Pittsburgh and elsewhere to improve his properties - and watches for the same red flags that he steered clear of in his early years. Those warning signs are listed below.

Can’t provide proof of permits and insurance
Never work with a contractor who can’t show you their permits, licenses, and insurance papers. Each state has different regulations regarding the licenses contractors should have before beginning work on a project; make sure your applicants meet all of the proper requirements before you hire!

Asks to work without a contract.
If they don’t sign a contract, they don’t get the job. Never trust a contractor who offers to take on the remodel with only an informal verbal agreement; without the proper documentation, they can exit the job at any time and leave you with no money and a half-finished project. For advice on what to put in a contract, check out HomeLogic’s post on Contract Basics.

Offers to work at an unreasonably low rate.
Don’t trust a lowball offer, especially if the contractor asks to be paid upfront or in cash. Some shady operators will lead with a low initial cost, then demand more money from the homeowner later, citing a budgetary miscalculation. Don’t be fooled by contractor scams - go with someone who offers quality work at a reasonable price.

Lacks the proper equipment.
Avoid hacks! Make sure that your applicants have the proper equipment to complete the job at hand. A lack of necessary equipment indicates a lack of experience and skill, and hiring an under-qualified contractor will cost you in time and money. If you’re unsure of a contractor’s competency, reach out to their references! They might provide you with insight into the types of jobs that your applicant has worked before, and whether the contractor is right for your project.   

Acts standoffish or disrespectful
Your remodel is important to you, and any contractor should be aware of its value. Find someone that you can work well with; someone you trust to listen to what you need from the project. Odds are, you’ll be working with this person for weeks or months - so don’t go with someone who brushes away your concerns, skips meetings, or acts rudely!

*Originally posted on JasonCohenPittsburgh.com

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Habitat for Humanity teams up with Jason Cohen Pittsburgh


A real estate professional based in Pittsburgh, Jason Cohen offers customized real estate consulting services to clients throughout the Pittsburgh area. In the philanthropic sector, Jason Cohen of Jason Cohen Pittsburgh supports the efforts of Habitat for Humanity of Greater Pittsburgh.

Dedicated to advancing the Habitat for Humanity mission of giving everyone a decent place to live, Habitat for Humanity of Greater Pittsburgh offers a broad range of home repair services for homeowners in the region. Through its Critical Home Repair program, the organization helps restore safe and sound living conditions for individuals without the financial means or physical ability to complete the repairs. In some cases, the program may enlist the help of outside contractors for extensive repairs.

Habitat for Humanity of Greater Pittsburgh also works closely with veterans and their families, offering home repairs and renovations via the Veteran Build Program. The program consists of many veterans in volunteer roles, creating a sense of community among veterans in the area. The organization also offers comprehensive weatherization services in conjunction with the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency, designed to save homeowners money by making homes more energy efficient. 

To learn more about home repair services at Habitat for Humanity of Greater Pittsburgh, visit the official website at pittsburghhabitat.org.

Friday, May 12, 2017

NMHC Wins Energy Star Award


An experienced real estate professional, Jason Cohen of Jason Cohen Pittsburgh works with clients, advising them regarding multifamily and other housing investment opportunities. In addition to working with his Pittsburgh clients, Jason Cohen belongs to a number of trade associations, including the National Multifamily Housing Council.

The National Multifamily Housing Council (NMHC) recently announced that it has received the Partner of the Year - Energy Efficiency Program Delivery Award from Energy Star. The organization was chosen for this award due to its work supporting initiatives that have made America’s apartments more energy efficient, including an effort that provided potential investors with comprehensive data about utility costs. 

This initiative also saw the launch of a new online platform touting various Energy Star tools. Additionally, those who live in apartments participated in a survey that highlighted how they would use energy efficient technologies. In his comments, NMHC CEO and president Doug Bibby expressed gratitude for receiving the award and said the organization will move forward with similar initiatives in the future.