Housing Resource
Category: Real Estate Investment

Email to Phil about renting a a home in the JBLM area.


My husband just found out we are going to Fort Lewis last night so I began my search for info on the place. Coincidentally we are in Germany also. This will be our first REAL PCS move so I am trying to figure out all that I need to know. I am not sure we are looking into buying a home right this minute we just got all our bills paid and have a car payment but most likely in the next two years we would be interested in buying a house but like I said not sure. If you do help with rentals that would be amazing. We are particularly interested in the Lacey or Olympia areas.

Phil’s response.


Thanks for your email.  I want to be up front with you and let you know that I don’t manage rentals.  I do sell homes, and although this sounds like a sales pitch…this may be the best time to buy a home for the rest of your life!


I would certainly consider buying, and speak with a mortgage lender before making the final decision.  Right now, in the JBLM area, you can buy for considerably less than what you can rent for.  For example, a decent 1800 square foot home can be purchased with a monthly payment of about $1100, rent for the same home would be $1350-1400.  A very unique situation, that will not last.


If you do move forward with renting, I can refer you to someone who manages properties.  If you decide to buy, I can refer you to a local Mortgage lender who will counsel you on best courses of action and who can give you exact $ numbers.


Respectfully, Phil


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Yelm Home for SaleIn our last newsletter I discussed the current bank owned property inventory, and aggressive pricing by the banks.  The aggressive pricing seems to have had the desired effect.   A large part of the foreclosure inventory that piled up in November and December is sold, and default (pre-foreclosure) numbers in the JBLM Region have declined, especially in Thurston County (Info from Realty Trac) .  If you have been actively watching foreclosure listings, you have probably noticed that many (attractive and/or well priced) homes are no longer showing up in your search.  Of course the overpriced/junk is still out there!

There will of course be many, many more foreclosures over the next couple of years, but at least the tide seems to have turned.

I have been making noises about housing shortages for the past 6 months or so, and the inventory is starting to show signs of shortage primarily in finished new construction.  Several years ago, banks were allowing builders to pile up inventory…no longer.  Most of our local builders (Quadrant and Horton don’t fit this category) are now finishing one home, pouring the foundation on the next, and then being forced to stop until home #1 sells.  Additionally, while we still have a fairly large inventory of existing homes, much of what is out there has been picked over, and buyers are becoming more aggressive in bids on the more desirable properties.

Delays in new construction will push buyers to existing homes, especially relocating military buyers who’s alternative is a hotel.  More demand for existing homes, and a picked over inventory, may result in increasing home prices as we move into the summer.   With thousands of new arrivals expected to report to Ft. Lewis this year, our primary demographic (Close to JBLM, 1500-2000 sf, 3/4 bed 2/3 bath) is bound to be in more demand this year than last, when over half the population of the base was deployed.

While this is still very much a buyers market, things are looking up for potential sellers.  As we get further into spring and summer, I believe that we will see a sellers market situation for those wishing to sell, but only for those with desirable/well priced properties..






Should You Rent or Buy a Home?

If the time is right, its time to buy.

Been Trying to Time the Bottom….Looks Like Times Up

Have you been watching the market for signs of the bottom, or watching in anticipation of moving to Washington?  If you have, then you have likely noticed major changes in the local housing inventory.  Inventory is below “normal” in the lower price ranges, and we are seeing quick sales and multiple offer situations on attractively prices homes across the board.

What is driving the current uptick in the Real Estate  market…Well, Boeing is selling airplanes like crazy, JBLM is growing by 20% or more this year, and everyone in California is still trying to move to Washington.  The other very significant factor is pent up demand from buyers of all sorts, and from numerous sources.

In addition to real estate investors wanting to take advantage of good prices and low rates, there is pent up demand from people wanting to trade up, down, and sideways.   Know anyone who lost money in the stock market in 2008?  There are lots of folks who did, and who think it makes sense to add a couple of rental homes to the retirement portfolio…and they seem to think it is time to do so.  Whatever the reason, homes are selling, and the real estate market “feels” better to me than it has in several years.

There are plenty more good deals, distressed homes and foreclosures yet to come on the market, but if current activity is any indicator, things are changing quickly and dramatically.  Barring another fumble by our national leadership, or major disaster, it looks like real estate in western Washington is on the rebound.  Time will tell…


Buyer Financing Options

Home Buyer Financing Options

When you buy a car the dealers have in-house financing options available for your purchase. This makes it convenient and assures your purchase will go through in a timely manner. You trust the dealer you have chosen to work with has identified the best financing options for you.

Why not do the same when selling a home? We market your home with a financing plan in place. As part of my marketing plan for your home I team up with a local lender, Ward Lending Group, that has been a pillar of the local business community for the past 20 years. We prepare loan data and promote incentives for potential buyers that will make them more confident about purchasing your home.

When a prospective buyer views your home online or in person, they will be exposed to materials explaining that we will help them obtain financing, along with rate and payment information that demonstrates just how affordable your home is. Many buyers, especially first time buyers, are intimidated by what seems to be the daunting task of obtaining financing. We provide them with the knowledge and information to remove the fear of rejection and show buyers they can get financing. We are prepared to make transactions happen for the buyer which helps you sell your home.

“Our buyers DON’T fail due to qualifying/financing.”


Investing in real estate as an owner occupant, a great opportunity for novice investors to enjoy the best of both worlds

Article By Phil Sharp Printed in the Olympian Newspaper

Investing in real estate has always been considered the key to wealth in this country, and investing in real estate in Thurston County has made many investors very wealthy over the past few years.  The local market has grown astronomically, when put into perspective with other markets around the country, and the local market is still booming.

The question asked by those who see this growth ( and haven’t seen it in the stock market lately) is “how do I get started”.  A great way to do

Invest in Real Estate as a Home Owner

Investing in Real Estate as Owner/Occupant

so is as an owner occupant of Multi-family housing.  Duplexes, tri and four plexes may be considered by lenders to be “owner occupied” if the owner lives in one the units.  The benefits to the owner are numerous, and allow buyers to get into the fabled “zero down or close to zero down” deal.  Other benefits include tax advantages of owning your own home, no capitol gain tax if you own and reside in the home for two years, and potentially having your tenants pay all or a part of your living expense.

Typically, real estate investors pay 10 percent or more in down payments for investment properties.  This number can go beyond 20 percent depending upon the type of property, its use etc.  As an owner occupant, 95, 97, and even 100 percent of the loan to value (LTV) is common.  What this means is that if the four-plex you would like to buy and live in is financed at 97% LTV, and we assume that your four-plex is valued at $200,000, your cost to purchase would be $6000 (3% of $200,000), and your lender would finance the remainder of the cost of the property.  You could expect to pay an additional 3% in closing costs making your total purchase cost $12,000.  Twelve thousand dollars is a lot of money?  The bette3r your credit is will determine how much you can borrow, and at what interest rate.  I mentioned earlier that 100% owner occupied loans are available, some will even roll closing costs into the loan, making your deal truly ZERO down!


  • If you own your own home, whether it is single or multi family, you can deduct from your taxes all of your interest payments and depreciate the value of the dwelling over the course of its useful life.  Using the $200,000 example, the approximate annual mortgage interest expense would be $12,000, and depreciation would be about $6600, an $18,600 tax deduction.
  • Investors pay capitol gains taxes when they sell property, and can’t avoid it.  If the property is owned for less than one year, income tax is paid, which is significantly higher than capitol gain.  As an owner occupant, residing in the property for a minimum of two years, the IRS has a provision that allows you to pay no tax on the gain in your property.   Going back to the $200,000 property:  Property is purchased for $200,000 (all expenses in closing the purchase are deductible), assume that the property is held for five years, and that it appreciates at 10% per year (that may seem like a large percentage, however, many investors have experienced 12-14% gains in our area over the past 5 years), so the property is sold for $300,000.  As an investor, the tax liability is 15% of 100,000, or $15,000.   As an owner occupied residence, the tax liability is zero.
  • Who pays the rent?  This is where it gets really good.  Going back to the $200,000 example, the monthly payment; principle, interest, taxes, insurance (PITI), on a property of this value would be approximately $1600 (based on a 6% interest rate and estimated cost of insurance and property taxes).  Assuming that each unit rents for $600 per month, rental income from three units would pay the mortgage payment, and put $200 per month back into your pocket.  All of a sudden, you, the home owner is living in a building with no payment, and are actually making money every month for the effort.

So, all of this is great.  Does anybody else know about it?  Absolutely!!  In order to pursue and acquire a property that will work for you, you must prepare yourself to act.  Action is what intimidates investors who dream, and invigorates those that succeed.   First, meet with a lender, get pre-approved and determine what your ability is as a buyer.  Second, establish a relationship with a real estate agent that will comb the market for your potential home (A good agent should also be in tune with lenders, and may be your best source in locating a local mortgage lender).   Finally, be patient, and be prepared to act.  The real estate market in our town is on fire.  Homes available are not keeping up with demand, and inventory is low.  You and your agent will need to pursue every opportunity, and be prepared to make an offer on a moments notice…good deals go quick.

Investing in real estate can be fun, and profitable.  The added benefit of living in your investment is obvious, and can start helping you build the leverage needed to continue investing in additional properties.  As you get into your first investment, you will start to learn the creativity and skills that have made many investors rich; remember, however, none of that creativity and skill is magic, just knowledge and insight that is easily gained by talking to the right people, your real estate agent and lender are the first and primary sources for the information you need to succeed.  GOOD LUCK!!

Phil Sharp is a Realtor/Broker in Olympia, his investment company, Sharp and Sharp Holdings LLC, has invested successfully in Real Estate in the Olympia area  six years.  He can be reached at 360-970-9977, or via email at Phil@PhilSharpHomes.com. (Contact information updated from original article)



Article by Phil Sharp Printed in the Olympian Newspaper

Many clients ask me to assist them in evaluating potential investment properties.  One question that comes up repeatedly is “What is the correlation between the Cap Rate and Cash Flow”.  My response is that, generally, they are not correlated; rather they measure different aspects of a property, each of which is useful to investors.  And other factors, such as appreciation, should be taken into account before an investment decision is made.

First, the Capitalization Rate (CAP Rate) represents the percentage annual rate of return before mortgage payments and income taxes on the total investment.  Cap Rates are primarily used to compare a property to similar ones in the market (both recently sold and for sale).  The Cap Rate (CR) is a ratio calculated by dividing the annual Net Operating Income (NOI) before debt service by the market value (MV).  The formula is CR = NOI ÷ MV.

For example, a duplex listed at $300K (the MV), with a NOI of $28K, based on gross operating income of $40K minus property taxes ($4K),

Investing in Real Estate

Get on the Right Path to Real Estate Investment

insurance ($2K), owner-paid utilities ($2K), vacancy allowance ($2K) and anticipated maintenance ($2K), yields a Cap Rate of $28,000 ÷ $300,000 or 9.3%.  Note that the NOI is determined, in part, by information provided by the seller.

The Cap Rate formula is a powerful tool.  As we all learned in algebra class, if you know two of three values, the third can be calculated. For example, if you know the CR that you want to obtain and the NOI of a property you can determine the MV a specific Cap Rate and NOI support using this formula: MV = NOI ÷ CR.  Similarly, you can determine the NOI required to for a property given a target Cap Rate and the listing price using this formula: NOI = CR x MV.

As the above examples illustrate, Cap Rates are very effective in evaluating one  property against others in the market, but Cap Rates don’t tell us anything  about what a property will earn on a month to month basis as NOI does not include the cost of capital, i.e., the debt service for principal and interest..  Additionally, depreciation and other tax benefits are ignored, as are capital improvements.

This is where a second tool, Cash Flow Analysis, helps investors:  To determine estimated cash flow simply deduct from the NOI the debt service (principal and interest), add back in any tax benefits (such as depreciation), and factor in any special circumstances:   Further consideration should be given to the tax advantages of real estate ownership, which are substantial (please consult your tax advisor), and to annual property appreciation rates.

Finally, both Cap Rates and Cash Flow Analysis are “snapshots” in time.  Appreciation rates however are forward looking and should be part of your evaluation.  Appreciation rates in the Olympia area real estate market are driving investors to accept lower Cap Rates (and lower monthly returns) in return for higher future property valuations.  As an investor I must factor in appreciation to realistically evaluate Cap Rates and annual cash flow in order to see if the overall financial picture they reveal fit my investment goals.  Fortunately, our market has experienced appreciation rates of 6-12% a year for several years and I see no reason to expect a slowdown.  We are located directly in the growth path for western Washington, and recent market appreciation rates reflect that fact. So I recommend that you add an appreciation rate (both for future rents and market value) that you are comfortable with into your calculations and see what that does for the bottom line.  I personally feel comfortable with 6% a year for the foreseeable future.

Phil Sharp is an Agent/Broker in Olympia, this article was co-authored with his brother, Malcolm Sharp; their investment company, Sharp and Sharp Holdings LLC, has invested successfully in Real Estate in the Olympia area for  six years.  Phil can be reached at 360-970-9977, or via email at Phil@PhilSharpHomes.com. (Contact information updated from origional article)


Lender InfoQ: I am looking to PCS to Fort Lewis after I finish this deployment. I would like to buy my first home in the area. I have no clue as to what I need to do to get started; so far I have just been looking at homes and the prices in the different areas. I am tired of renting and I would rather my BAH go towards a house payment than to a rental. What I would like is a 3 bed, 2 bath home with a large garage for 2 vehicles. This might be a out of my range as I have no idea as to what I might be able to get on a home loan, I have 10 years in the army and just reenlisted for another 5 so job security is good. Any help would be grateful.

A: Thanks for contacting me, and thanks for your service.

As you say, the first step is to get qualified for financing.  I use a local lender in Olympia, she is very good at what she does, and works with military (long distance) a great deal.  Her name is Jan Ward, janw@wardlg.com.  I would contact her by email and get the ball rolling that way.  She can qualify you via email.

A local is lender is nice to have in these difficult economic times…someone you can reach out and touch.

The first thing she will ask for (if you are planning to use your VA guarantee) is your VA certificate.  Your PAC or PSB can get this for you.  She will also request other financial info, and your authorization to pull your credit.  Keep in mind that you will want a comparison of VA versus Non-VA.  VA loans are about the only loans that will go zero down nowadays, but they cost more to process.  Ask for a Good Faith Estimate for both conventional and VA…federal law requires that a lender provide this document.

A good middle of the road price range for the home you describe is 200-220K.  At current interest rates (about 4.5%), your estimated payment on a 220,000 home would be about $1300.