- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 27, 2006

The forecasts for real estate in 2007 have been rolling in during the past couple of weeks, and it looks like another great market ahead. Keep in mind, I’m always bullish on real estate, whether it’s a buyer’s or seller’s market. Somebody’s going to make some good money.

And 2006 was a great year in real estate, despite what you might have read. The National Association of Realtors says on its Web site (www.realtor.org) that it was the third best year on record; 2007’s numbers ought to be pretty close to 2006’s.

As you look forward to next year’s opportunities to make money in real estate investing, be sure to put together a team that’s going to help you take advantage of market conditions.

The first person on your A-list will be a really good agent.

This is a person who’s confident in his or her skills and knows how to benefit in this market. She or he trusts you as the consumer and is willing to listen to you regarding your wants and needs. This is a person who’s going to help you meet your goals, not just rake in a commission.

That sounds pretty simple, but you have a responsibility in this relationship as well. You need to be willing to sit down with this agent and walk through what kind of market you’re facing in your investment target area. Be upfront and truthful about your financial situation so you can determine your buying power and let the agent know about your apprehensions about buying in today’s market.

You want an agent who’s not afraid to write a low offer and is willing to go to the mat with market information, third-party statistics and hard data to substantiate the offer face to face with the listing agent and his or her seller.

There will be no faxing contracts in the current market. Ask the agent if she or he will present face to face. If your prospective agent says it’s not customary, find another agent.

Seasoned agents have been having a great year because they have been willing to carry out all the necessary tasks.

Next, seek out a good lender. Many times you can find one through your agent. You are looking for a lender who is local, has plenty of programs and will get the financing job done.

Let’s break this down. I prefer a local lender because if something happens with the financing — and many times it does — the lender is right down the street, and we can meet eyeball to eyeball to work it out.

A local lender has a reputation to protect because he or she wants referrals from me and he wants repeat business from agents. No one gets that over the Internet.

As I’m getting into new properties, I also want a good group of residual service providers: a home inspector, a termite inspector and contractors. Always go with a referred source, not someone who put a flier in your mailbox. You want to get in and get out with the fix-ups required on real estate investing.

Have these people ready to move on your new investment right after the settlement date. In fact, you may want to coordinate settlement dates with your contractor’s availability dates. You don’t want to be making payments on an unrentable house in disrepair because your contractor’s working on another job.

Finally, you want a good supply of information providers and Web sites that give you what you need to make decisions on markets across the country.

• U.S. Economic Development Agency (www.eda.gov/AboutEDA/Edevdirectory.xml).

Start here to drill down to the local economic development authority where you want to invest in real estate. You’re looking for economic growth statistics and projections into the next decade.

m National Association of Realtors (www.realtor.org).

Here, you’ll get access to economic and sales forecasts as well as the latest news and comments from its chief economist.

m National Association of Homebuilders (www.nahb.org).

The same type of information the NAR provides is available from the National Association of Homebuilders, from the builders’ perspective.

• Meyers Group/Hanley Wood Market Intelligence (www.meyersgroup.com).

This is the ultimate real estate media group. It tracks building permits, starts and sales. Some of the reports are free; others are subscription-based.

• You also want to be reading from a third-party economic research organization.

In the Washington area, it’s the Center for Regional Analysis at George Mason University (www.cra-gmu.org).

Many states and localities have a group that regularly conducts this type of research for business interests in the community.

M. Anthony Carr has written about real estate since 1989. He is the author of “Real Estate Investing Made Simple” and a contributor to Donald Trump’s latest book, “The Best Real Estate Advice I Ever Received.” Post questions and comments at his Web log (http://commonsenserealestate.blogspot.com).

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