The Chicago Journal

Your Gateway to the Heartbeat of Chicago

Cook County’s Real Estate Problem

Cook County, home to the iconic Windy City, is facing a slew of challenges on multiple fronts. One of the most pressing issues is the spiraling property taxes, which have seen a dramatic surge in recent years. Particularly in the suburbs, homeowners and business proprietors have been hard-hit. Residential properties in some areas experienced a staggering 127% increase in two decades, while some business properties in the suburbs saw even steeper hikes.

But property taxes are just the tip of the iceberg. The broader real estate sector in Chicago is engulfed in uncertainty, with over 80% of commercial real estate professionals anticipating a bleak 2023, according to CoStar. This number is up from 65% the previous year and is fueled by concerns about rising crime, recent political shifts with the election of Mayor Brandon Johnson, heightened interest rates, and looming recession worries on a national scale.

The Real Estate Center at DePaul University and the Urban Land Institute Chicago District Council’s report paints a similar grim picture. Astonishingly, more than three-quarters of the professionals expect the U.S. to face an economic downturn by the end of the year. However, not all is gloomy – close to half are still optimistic about the latter part of 2023, and 38.6% hold a positive outlook for 2024.

Another pressing issue in this intricate puzzle is the surge in tax appeals, which has placed Chicago as the second-most popular U.S. city for such actions, behind only Kansas City, MO. As James Shilling, a finance professor at DePaul, succinctly put it, the current market dynamics are unparalleled. And while employment figures show promise, the real estate sector’s challenges seem unrelated to housing, which is a departure from patterns observed in previous recessions.

Local investors are keenly monitoring Mayor Brandon Johnson’s initiatives, hopeful that an increase in downtown office workers might offset the declining property values, especially for older office buildings in the Loop business district. Despite the potential, some landmarks, such as the Chicago Board of Trade Building and the Civic Opera Building, face the possibility of selling at substantially reduced rates or confronting monetary difficulties.

The shifting nature of work is an additional complicating factor. The trend towards remote work is exacerbating the decline in demand for office spaces. As Greg Warsek of Associated Bank remarked, the office sector’s desirability has dimmed, a sentiment that’s unlikely to change in the near future as a result of the work from home movement catalyzed by the pandemic.

Couple this with Cook County’s unpredictable property tax rates, and it’s evident why the real estate landscape is tumultuous. As Mike Kamienski from Baker Tilly underscores, these variable tax rates are formidable barriers for finalizing deals in the city, catalyzing tax appeals as a means to ease some of the burden off of the shoulders of property owners.

However, it’s not all doom and gloom. Sectors such as industrial properties, data centers, and multifamily housing are showcasing resilience. But, like all other facets of the market, they too aren’t insulated from the broader economic uncertainties.

As Mary Ludgin of Heitman aptly mentions, the strategy for many may be to invest amidst this uncertainty, banking on brighter days ahead.

Sebastian Karnaby: A Manhattan Millionaire’s Journey in Real Estate

As New York City’s real estate market continues to thrive, one individual stands out among the crowd for his exceptional success and unwavering determination. Meet Sebastian Karnaby, a self-made millionaire who has made a name for himself in both the pharmaceutical business and the world of real estate investment. 

Sebastian’s entrepreneurial journey began in 2010 when he established a chain of pharmacies across the city. However, his keen business acumen led him to recognize the immense potential of the real estate market in New York City. With his profits from the pharmaceutical industry, Sebastian made a bold decision to venture into real estate, marking the beginning of his remarkable success story. 

In 2012, Sebastian’s business-savvy mind caught the attention of millions as he appeared on Bravo network’s popular show, “Million Dollar Listing.” The episode showcased his sharp investment skills as he purchased a townhouse on 16 Minnetta Ln for $2 million and, three years later, sold it for an impressive $4 million, nearly doubling his initial investment. 

Since that pivotal moment, Sebastian’s real estate empire has continued to expand rapidly. With each investment, he has consistently achieved outstanding returns, far surpassing his initial investment. As of 2020, Sebastian was estimated to have a net worth of $53 million, a testament to his relentless pursuit of success in the real estate market. 

What sets Sebastian apart from others is his ability to read the market and make astute investment decisions. He dedicates countless hours to analyzing market data and identifying properties that are undervalued or poised for significant growth. This meticulous approach allows him to capitalize on lucrative opportunities that others might overlook. 

Of course, with any investment, there is always an element of risk involved. Sebastian readily acknowledges that not every venture has been a resounding success. However, he approaches each setback as a learning experience, continuously refining his investment strategy and adapting to market dynamics. 

For those aspiring to enter the real estate market, Sebastian offers some valuable advice: conduct thorough research and exercise patience. It is crucial to take the time to identify the right opportunities and develop a long-term investment strategy. Success in real estate requires discipline, perseverance, and a willingness to learn from both triumphs and setbacks. 

As for Sebastian, his drive and ambition show no signs of waning. With an unwavering focus on the market and an insatiable thirst for success, he is poised to continue making significant contributions to the world of real estate for many years to come. 

 

5 Critical Questions Examined for Successful Real Estate Investing

Image commercially licensed from Unsplash

Real estate investing is a fantastic way to replace your income, build your wealth, and build financial independence, yet many hesitate to jump in and get started. Here are some of the common questions real estate investor and tax attorney, Brian Boyd is asked, along with tips on how you too, can take advantage of this opportunity. 

What are some of the pros and cons of investing in real estate?

Investing in real estate can have many benefits, but it also comes with some potential drawbacks. Here are a few pros and cons to consider:

Pros:

  • Potential for steady income streams through rental income and property appreciation.
  • Real estate investments can provide diversification to your investment portfolio.
  • Real estate has proven to be a good hedge against inflation over time.
  • Tax benefits, such as deductions for mortgage interest, property taxes, and depreciation.

Cons:

  • Real estate investments can require significant capital upfront, making them less accessible to smaller investors.
  • Real estate values can be volatile and are subject to market fluctuations.
  • Property management can require significant time and effort.
  • Real estate investments can also be impacted by government regulations, zoning changes, and local economic conditions.

Overall, investing in real estate can be a lucrative and rewarding endeavor, but it requires careful consideration and planning, therefore you will want to pay attention to what experienced real estate investors have to say in order to save yourself time, money, and potential heartache.

Who should consider investing in real estate?

Real estate can be a viable investment option for a wide range of individuals, depending on their financial goals, resources, and risk tolerance. Here are a few groups of people who might consider investing in real estate:

  1. High-net-worth individuals who are looking to diversify their portfolios and generate passive income streams.
  2. Young professionals who have some savings and are interested in building long-term wealth through smart investments.
  3. Anyone who wants to replace their income from their day job
  4. Real estate professionals or those with a deep understanding of the industry, who can leverage their expertise to identify promising investment opportunities.
  5. Retirees or those nearing retirement who want a reliable source of income (e.g. rental income from real estate investments) to supplement their retirement savings.
  6. Anyone who is interested in owning property and has the financial resources to do so, whether as a full-time landlord, vacation home owner, or some other arrangement.

While real estate can be a lucrative investment option, it is important for investors to carefully assess their financial goals, resources, and risk tolerance before making any decisions. 

How much money do you need to invest in real estate?

The amount of money required to invest in real estate can vary widely depending on the type of investment, location, and other factors. Here are a few examples:

  1. Rental properties: Purchasing a rental property typically requires a down payment of 20-30% of the property’s value, plus closing costs and other fees. Depending on the price of the property and other expenses such as repairs, renovations, and property management, investors may need anywhere from tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands of dollars to get started.

  2. Real estate investment trusts (REITs): REITs are securities that allow investors to pool their money to invest in a portfolio of real estate assets. Minimum investments in REITs can range from a few hundred dollars to thousands of dollars, depending on the fund.

  3. Real estate crowdfunding: Crowdfunding platforms allow investors to pool their money to invest in specific real estate projects, such as commercial developments or apartment buildings. The minimum investment amount can vary widely, but it is often in the range of a few thousand dollars.

  4. Real estate mutual funds: Mutual funds that invest in real estate can be purchased for as little as a few hundred dollars, depending on the fund.

Ultimately, the amount of money required to invest in real estate will depend on a number of factors, including the type of investment, the location, the investor’s goals and risk tolerance, and their available resources. 

What are some ways you can easily invest in real estate?

There are several ways to invest in real estate that require varying levels of time, resources, and expertise. Here are a few examples of relatively easy ways to invest in real estate:

  1. Real estate investment trusts (REITs): REITs are publicly traded companies that own and manage real estate assets, such as apartment buildings, office spaces, and shopping centers. Investors can buy shares in a REIT just like they would buy shares in a stock or mutual fund, allowing them to invest in real estate without having to buy physical property.
  2. Real estate crowdfunding: Crowdfunding platforms allow investors to invest in specific real estate projects, such as commercial developments or apartment buildings, by pooling their money with other investors. This can be a relatively low-cost and low-risk way to invest in real estate, as investors can participate with as little as a few thousand dollars.
  3. Real estate mutual funds: Mutual funds that invest in real estate can be purchased through brokers or financial advisors. These funds typically invest in a diversified portfolio of real estate assets, providing investors with exposure to the real estate market without having to manage properties themselves.
  4. Real estate investment groups (REIGs): REIGs allow investors to pool their money to purchase and manage properties. This can be a good option for investors who want to be involved in real estate investments but don’t have the time, expertise or resources to do it alone.

How should someone decide if real estate investing is a wise decision for them?

When considering whether real estate investing is a wise move, there are several factors that individuals should consider:

  1. Financial goals: What are your financial goals for investing? Are you looking to build long-term wealth, generate passive income, or diversify your investment portfolio? Real estate can be a good option for achieving these goals, but it is important to ensure that your investing strategy aligns with your goals.
  2. Resources: How much capital and other resources do you have available for investing in real estate? Investing in real estate typically requires a significant upfront investment, so it is important to ensure that you have the resources available to make the investment.

  3. Risk tolerance: How comfortable are you with risk? Real estate investments can be subject to market fluctuations and other risks, so it is important to have a clear understanding of your risk tolerance before investing.

  4. Knowledge and expertise: Do you have the knowledge and expertise necessary to make informed decisions about real estate investments? If not, it may be beneficial to consult with a professional or to conduct additional research to ensure that you are adequately prepared to make investing decisions.
  5. Market conditions: What are the market conditions in your area and in the real estate industry more broadly? Investing in real estate can be impacted by economic conditions, interest rates, and other factors that may influence the market.

    Real Estate

    Sourced photo

    When considering investing in real estate, it is important to do your research and seek professional advice where necessary to ensure that you are making informed decisions about your investments. Replace Your Income: A Lawyer’s Guide to Finding, Funding, and Managing Real Estate Investments by tax attorney Brian T. Boyd is specifically for those thinking about or relatively new to real estate investing.

Georgia Ribeiro Reveals One of the Secrets that has Made her One of the Leaders in South Carolina Real Estate for Over a Decade

It is not new that the eyes of the real estate market and investors from different parts of the world are fixed on Georgia Ribeiro.

Realtor for over 17 years, market leader in the region where she operates in South Carolina, Georgia  stands out because, as she says…

I don’t sell houses, I sell lifestyles.

Expressions and insights like these were developed throughout her career because of her vision and daring spirit.

Selling  lifestyle is not something that is taught in traditional training, discovering and developing strategies like this is only possible if:

The Realtor decides not to be just another one on the market

The professional has real “hunger” for growth and life change

The person himself is proactive and carries in his essence the passion for knowing that his work makes other people’s dreams come true

And here you will find just one of the secrets of this great professional.

Looking at your results, your customer list and the queue for your service, validates your method and everything you will see here.

It is no wonder that Georgia chose EXP Realty for the new phase of expansion of its business in the south of the USA. A born visionary who always seeks to better serve her clients and associates, she found in EXP Realty what she calls the “perfect business model for growth.”

Georgia Ribeiro achieved what few Realtors achieve in their entire career.

Make the customer want to to do business with her as much as to acquire the much-dreamed property.

That’s right you read. She managed to turn her service into an object of desire.

It’s unbelievable for many of her competitors to look at everything she’s been building in authority. To this day, many seek to understand why their customers feel so fulfilled not only by buying the house, but being able to say loud and clear:

Do you know who sold us our house? Georgia Ribeiro.

THE  NAME BECAME A BRAND.

Therefore, much of what you will read, see and hear about this professional will be linked to her vision and courage.

See in practice how she applied one of her techniques in a negotiation that seemed impossible to be carried out by other Realtors in the same region.

During our conversation she recalled an episode in which a beautiful waterfront property that was on the market for more than 16 months, even though it was in the hands of at least four other  Realtors, had not yet been sold.

All she had to do was see the development and analyze the profile of the investors to immediately put her lifestyle sales strategy into practice.

How come they haven’t thought of taking these investors to the docks, at the time of the most beautiful sunset in this city in a boat?

It was exactly the question she asked herself, and guess what?

there she went with it, and…

SOLD!

There is no denying that Georgia Ribeiro has in her essence the vision and courage to execute her most innovative ideas in everything she puts her hands to.

She recently started a new Instagram channel where she shares the main pillars to become a high-end Realtor in the United States.

Even at the beginning of this journey, she knows where to go and, therefore, one of her phrases is already marking those who arrive there:

I don’t want to teach you how to be just another Realtor in the market, but how to become an ICON.

She is absolutely sure that by delivering what she has developed in her nearly 20-year career, many people who decide to become a Realtor following her guidelines will come out ahead in the market competition.

Georgia Ribeiro claims that the real estate market is booming here in America, and that opportunities for people who want to really become the best in the market are endless.

But as incredible as it may seem, many still haven’t paid attention to these real possibilities that the profession offers.

For her, the real estate market is the “bridge” to change the lives of many families in the coming decade.

From our brief conversation , I’ll leave you with advice about  this icon in the profession; Don’t take your eyes off anything this visionary woman, mother, wife and entrepreneur will do from now on, following in her footsteps is walking towards success.

By Serginho Groove

Serginho Groove is a Brazilian Writer from Rio de Janeiro Who writes for several digital publications all over the world. He enjoys sunset walks by the beach when he’s not in his “writers cave” as he calls it. 

The Many Tax Benefits for Real Estate Investors

Real estate has been white hot over the last few years, and many people have made money investing in this sector of the market. But how and why? With the market starting to cool and return to normal levels of appreciation, there are still deals to be found that, for the diversified investor, would make a great addition to any long-term portfolio. But why should an investor with no experience in real estate consider this industry for a large portion of their portfolio? The answer is complicated but can be distilled down to one word: Taxes.

Real estate is one of the few sectors of the American economic machine that Congress has codified its public policy of encouraging investment in this sector. From 1031 Exchanges to Cost segregation studies, it is clear Congress believes the private sector is better equipped to help house America’s population than the Government, so Congress, in turn, will help and encourage investors to do just that. But how do they encourage those investors? Through rewarding investors with tax benefits that make substantial increases to bottom lines and deferring to offsetting taxes through heavy deductions. 

Here are the highlights of tax benefits for real estate investors:

REAL ESTATE AND TAXES

Real estate is one of the few asset classes with multiple tax benefits that are underappreciated by financial advisors. Why? It could be that financial advisors don’t make a commission on them or that you actually do not need a financial advisor to get into real estate. Not to diminish the role of your advisor, but you do not need a financial advisor to understand these tax benefits of real estate.

  1. Real Estate is Depreciable. Yes, you can depreciate residential real estate over 27.5 years and commercial real estate over 39 years. 26 USC Section 179 allows for the depreciation of real estate over the life of the asset class, and in the case of real estate, you can take a $500,000 residential property and depreciate it over 27.5 years. This means that you can deduct $18,181.81 each year in depreciation.
  1. Bonus Depreciation. Section 168(k) of the Tax Code allows for Bonus Depreciation. This is tax talk for saying that the Tax Code will allow investors to take additional depreciation on an asset used for business purposes rather than limit the depreciation to what is set for on the useful life tables. The benefit of bonus depreciation is a larger deduction in the year it is taken; this, in turn, leads to less tax owed because of the correlating income offset from this deduction.
  1. Real Estate Capital Gains Can Be Deferred. Under Section 1031 of the Tax Code, if you hold a property for the requisite holding period, which is not defined in the Tax Code, you can sell that property via a like-kind-exchange using an intermediary to hold the funds while you identify a new property or properties within 45 days and close on those identified targets within 180 days. This allows you to defer capital gains taxation and forebear depreciation recapture while buying larger and, hopefully, better cash-flowing real estate assets. Thus, this tax mechanism allows the investor to take their profits and leverage those into more assets, thereby growing the real estate portfolio in a tax-efficient manner.
  1. Cost Segregation. Depreciation of the real property can be accelerated by using cost segregation studies to break the assets into various parts that fall under separate classes to allow the individual components to be depreciated over 5, 7 or 15 years. This allows the property’s components to be utilized in a tax-efficient manner instead of using the 27.5 or 39-year class life of the entire asset. A net result of a cost segregation study is to accelerate the depreciation to allow for more Section 179 depreciation to be taken earlier in the asset’s life.
  1. Business Deductions. Section 162 of the Tax Code allows for deductions of business expenses in furtherance of the business in which those expenses are made. For example, should an investor need to purchase a subscription to a Multiple Listing Service, purchase an App for his or her phone to track mileage, buy a computer, printer, desk, or chair, pay a portion of their mortgage and utilities for their home office (Section 280A), purchase a vehicle to travel to their properties, purchase a truck for haul refrigerators, ovens, supplies, or even to check on their properties, these are all expenses of the investor that are deductible.
  1. Business Interest Expense. Section 163 of the Tax Code allows for business interest expenses to be deducted. What does this mean? Here is what the Code says:  There shall be allowed as a deduction all interest paid or accrued within the taxable year on indebtedness. Given this allowance of interest as a deduction, the interest on loans for the purchase of real estate is deductible beyond the current $10,000 limitation on mortgage interest cap for personal residences. This is not without limitation, and investors should consult their accountants about those limitations, currently set forth in Section 163 (j).

While more tax nuances can be discussed, these are the tax benefits that high-net-worth individuals should look into. Additionally, by working with a sophisticated lawyer who understands the needs of the individual and their goals, tax losses can be carried forward to future years. 

REAL ESTATE AND PASSIVE INCOME

Whether using long-term residential real estate, commercial storage units, short-term residential real estate or apartment syndication deals, real estate allows the owner and investor to take a passive role in the management of their real estate by utilizing property managers. 

The use of property managers provides the investor with the peace of mind that their investment is in good hands for day-to-day matters such as maintenance and that their tenants are safe in the knowledge that they have someone to turn to in the event a need arises. Moreover, for the cost of the monthly management fee, ranging from 3-40% of the monthly gross rents, higher percentages are usually found with short-term rental management and lower fees with long-term residential property management, so there is no need to worry about late-night phone calls about a clogged toilet. 

Property managers will also ensure the yard is maintained, the utilities are being paid, the tenants are of the caliber desired, and any marketing efforts to rent the properties are being undertaken to ensure maximum rental potential. At the end of each month, a revenue statement is generated by the property manager, and a check or direct deposit is provided into the bank account the investor designates. A true passive investment. Section 469 of the Tax Code discusses passive activities. It is of note that Short Term Rentals are unusual given the 7-day safe harbor exception for rental activities. Again, this is an area that your accountant and lawyer can help you navigate to achieve optimal tax treatment.

ASSET APPRECIATION AND LEVERAGE

While your tenant is paying the rent each month or, in the case of short-term rentals, multiple tenants, the note held by the investor is being paid down. Historically, real estate appreciates in value, so the asset is increasing in value. As the asset increases in value and the debt is being paid down, the investor receives the benefit of equity growth. It is with that equity growth that the value of real estate cannot be overstated. 

By tapping into the equity growth through a refinance or an equity line of credit, the investor can leverage that internal equity to purchase additional real estate. The additional real estate purchases allow the investor to generate more cash flow and more tax benefits. Regardless of the asset type, short-term, long-term or commercial real estate, the benefits to the investor are tangible in the form of tax deductions while maintaining monthly cash-positive receipts.  

Taxes are a very real and very certain part of the investor’s concern as they head towards their goals for retirement or even financial freedom to pursue other endeavors. The Code sections discussed above are simply the tip of the iceberg for real estate investors. Talk to your team of professionals about real estate.

About Brian T. Boyd, Esq.

Attorney Brian Boyd helps clients with real estate, construction, and other business matters, while at the same time growing his real estate portfolio to a six-figure income. He earned a JD from Samford University’s Cumberland School of Law and an LLM in Taxation from Georgetown University Law Center. His newest book is Replace Your Income: A Lawyer’s Guide to Finding, Funding, and Managing Real Estate Investments.

Tom Cruz (@tcruznc) shares Section 8 top secrets that no one will ever tell you

Governments worldwide take different initiatives to provide improved welfare programs to their citizens. The taxes collected are intended to be spent back on the public through various projects. It is how the government can provide relief in emergencies, build infrastructure, keep the country clean and grow its resources. In America alone, almost 1000 billion dollars are spent annually through social welfare initiatives in various sectors to help the low-income class. These programs ensure the basic needs of the American population are met. 

As far as federal and state social programs are concerned, they include cash assistance, health insurance, food assistance, housing subsidies, energy and utility subsidies, and education and childcare assistance. Managing these programs is one thing; however, providing awareness about them can be more challenging. While the general public is familiar with some, many projects have not gained enough traction to be known to the public. Spending money on marketing such policies can decrease the program’s overall budget. The other reason for not using conventional marketing platforms is to stop scammers from utilizing these resources. 

Under Section 8 of the American government, programs for low-income households and disabled individuals provide stable rental help. In layman’s terms, Section 8 housing vouchers are administered locally by public housing agencies (PHAs). They receive funding from the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), paying up to 80% to 90% of the rent. While these facts can be shocking, it is interesting to note that one of the leading specialists in all the branches under Section 8 and real estate investor Tom Cruz (@tcruznc on social media platforms) stumbled upon it accidentally.

Tom Cruz is one of the most remarkable real estate geniuses who started his journey in this industry by wholesaling properties. Coming from humble beginnings, Tom has always been an optimistic person who wanted to do something great in life. What makes him stand out from the crowd is the fact that he tries hard to push his limits. He realized quite early on in his professional life that IT skills were not bringing in enough money. Hence he decided to transition to real estate. After wholesaling, he started to buy and sell low-priced properties, such as condos or small houses. Tom started small but soon gauged this was an excellent opportunity to fulfil his dream of becoming a multi-millionaire.

During this time, Tom came across a property that changed his life forever. It was a downtown house, which he bought for $55,000, and it already had a tenant. Once he purchased that property, the previous owner told him to register his bank account so that Tom could get the Section 8 payment monthly. This was the first time he had heard about this policy. It was pretty shocking for him as he found out this property was generating $1,350 per month, which was more than its actual value.

While Section 8 is an incredible initiative, many houses registered under this policy are very economical, but the rent they get is great. So, Tom bought as many properties as possible and sold them after making a profit from rent. “From that point forward, I bought dozens of Section 8 rental units myself. Later eventually, I would partner with other investors and start scaling my property acquisition and management business,” Tom stated. 

His adventure with Section 8 helped him increase his net worth up to $25 million. That’s not all; Tom started his own consultancy platform and has been actively teaching his followers about the tricks of the real estate business and sharing the secrets of Section 8 on social media. Some of his tips are as follows. 

 

Physical or mental disabilities

It is one of the most significant acceptance factors for Section 8 funding. If you or anyone in your family household has a physical or mental disability, you can apply and send a special request for 100% rental help.

 

Work on your case

Applying for your Section 8 voucher can take months and still end up being rejected. It must be understood that they prioritize disabled people, single parents, and the elderly. Just having a low income can delay the process of gaining the voucher if you do not qualify for their priority list, so make sure you seek help from a Section 8 expert who will help you prepare a solid case.

 

Consultation is key

As such programs are made for the general public, it is always beneficial to use some consultancy to progress faster and receive the voucher sooner. In fact, an expert can guide you at every step of the way, whether you need help to fill out the form or prepare for the interview. With their help, you have greater chances of getting accepted.

Tom Cruz has been actively guiding new and aspiring investors, specifically the youth, about the real estate business in America. He has helped countless people understand the undiscovered world of Section 8 and aims to help and provide better housing for investors and tenants. His pure intentions and larger-than-life personality have undoubtedly made Tom Cruz a trusted name in the world of real estate! 

To learn more about Tom Cruz’s success story, you can visit his website https://section8formula.com/ or look him up on social media under the handle @tcruznc

Perfect for Real Estate Professionals, Virtudesk is the Leading Service for Remote-Working Personal Assistants

Hiring a personal assistant can sound like a capital burden, but according to a recent survey, it is one of the essential requirements for a successful business. In fact, a study by 99content revealed that companies that hire personal assistants are more likely to save up to 78 percent of their expenses. With the remote work option opening up after the global pandemic, hiring assistants has become much more accessible and affordable. Remote assistants can help employers handle administrative and logistical tasks at a fraction of the cost. 

While an experienced personal assistant can take a significant burden off your shoulders, managing them can be a challenging task in itself. Most professionals struggle to find highly skilled assistants who are familiar with their line of work and are willing to work at an affordable pay grade. To solve the problem of limited availability and high fees, Virtudesk has created one of the most effective remote assistance platforms in the world. Virtudesk acts as a bridge between talented virtual assistants (VAs) from the Philippines and businesses in the US and Canada. Not only do they aim to offer efficient virtual assistance services to their clients, but they also ensure that their VAs are punctual, responsive, as well as responsible. 

CEO and founder of Virtudesk, Pavel Stepanov, developed the inspiration for his company after he hired a virtual assistant for himself. According to him, he was a successful real estate broker and felt drained after 12 to 16 hours of work daily. He was inundated with administrative tasks and decided to hire his first-ever virtual assistant. The service he received allowed him to save time and scale up his business faster than he had imagined. Pavel was highly impressed by the potential benefits of a virtual assistant and realized that entrepreneurs and agents could glean significant benefits from hiring the right type of VA. Thus, he founded Virtudesk, with a critical focus on strategically developed systems. These systems ensured that the virtual assistants associated with his company were well-vetted, adequately trained, and efficient at their jobs. 

Virtudesk is known for its quality and impressive services. Unlike other platforms, Virtudesk is among those that take responsibility for their VAs. They ensure that their VAs know how to perform their tasks by providing them with 5-10 days of training. This training is mandatory, and only upon its completion can a VA be assigned to a client. Their account managers, who coordinate between the client and Virtudesk, ensure that the assigned VA is not just familiar with the field and possesses the knowledge but is also equipped with all the necessary tools. They provide timely updates to their clients and are available to address any inquiries. 

Understanding the assistant job is necessary to increase productivity and improve work quality, Virtudesk uses a monitoring tool to check the productivity and attendance of their VAs. They also have a workforce team that ensures all their virtual assistants stay on track and deliver according to the schedule. That’s not all! At Virtudesk, the privacy and confidentiality of clients and their data are also top priorities. Their cybersecurity insurance eases any privacy concerns that their clients may potentially have.

Paving its way to success, Virtudesk has been recognized and praised for its services by many well-known platforms. They have an A+ rating from Better Business Bureau and hold a place in the Inc. 5000’s list of fastest-growing companies in the United States. Virtudesk even won the Titan Business Awards for the exponential growth they have shown. They were named Best Virtual Assistant Solutions in 2022 by the International Business Magazine and received the title of the fastest growing company by Growjo and Financial Times.

While being a futuristic and visionary company, Virtudesk’s mission isn’t limited to providing the best virtual assistant to corporations. They also work tirelessly to create more opportunities in the Philippines to help people find work from the comfort of their homes. Their tremendous efforts have enabled many single mothers and Filipino families to return to life financially and utilize their skills and talent most efficiently. They strive to give their VAs a work-life balance, which is definitely needed to stay happy and succeed in life. They also have a retirement plan, PTO, health coverage, and financial aid program for their virtual assistants so they can get extra help in times of need. It would not be an understatement if we say that Virtudesk is a one-stop solution for various organizations and skilled employees.

What Makes Joseph McNeal a Leader in Business Development and Real Estate

Business developer and real estate expert Joseph McNeal is in the trade of creating success for his clients by leveraging marketing, recruiting, real estate, and the benefits of financial planning. Initiating and promoting business growth among his clients have always been his strongest attributes, and his world wonders for them throughout the years he has made his service available. If anything, he has made the success of his clients his gauge for his personal success.

Joseph is a successful investor in real estate and insurance with over ten years of experience. He has received his certificate in alternative investments from Harvard Business School Online, real estate and construction management from the University of Denver, and is a Graduate, REALTOR® Institute. Additionally, he is also a Military Relocation Professional and a certified Pricing Strategy Advisor.

He had a colorful season serving in the military and has amassed a variety of titles, including US Army Aviation Technician, Master Fitness Trainer, Master Resilience Trainer, and Tactical Combatives Instructor. On top of all those, Joseph was also a Certified Personal Trainer, Performance Enhancement Specialist and Mixed Martial Arts Conditioning Specialist through the National Academy of Sports Medicine. Apart from being an army veteran with more than a decade of military service, he is a lifelong learner, having graduated with an MBA, MS, BA, AAS, and AA. 

Joseph has taught college courses in occupational studies, business, martial arts, science, and fitness subjects. His diverse and rich background gives him a unique perspective of the needs of people and the demands in the market. As someone exposed to many industries, he has mastered the art of connecting with people, which has significantly worked to his advantage. 

Because of his hard work and commitment to making a lasting difference in the lives of his clients, they have been nothing but generous in praising him. They attribute their success in getting the perfect property to his excellent negotiation skills and vast network within the real estate industry. 

“My family and I cannot thank Joseph McNeal enough for all that he has done for us. Joseph took his job to another level. He went above and beyond for us and will for anyone. He always worked really hard to get us what we wanted. Joseph, thank you for your service to our country and for all the hard work you put in for us to be living in our dream home,” shared satisfied customer Anna Hummel. 

Acquiring the best possible deals for his clients is Joseph’s topmost priority. “Joseph was my Realtor for my first home buying experience, and I could not be more pleased. He is extremely knowledgeable in his field and beyond helpful. He taught me many things about home buying and spent quality time making sure that I got the best deal and option for me and my needs/wants. Joseph is also very polite and honest, and I appreciate his hard work ethic. I would recommend Joseph time and time again. Thanks, Joe,” Ashley Fifield expressed.

Whether it is investing in real estate or developing a new business, Joseph McNeal and his team are among the most dedicated groups in the industry who are making things happen for their clients. Not much for empty promises, Joseph has an impressive track record when meeting his clients’ expectations, and he is determined to protect his image and good name to elevate the experiences of his customers. 

How Does The Interest Rates Affect Chicago’s House Buyers?

Despite the interest rates increase, the Chicago Real Estate Market is staying relatively strong, according to Chicago real estate agents.

Recent reports from real estate data analytics firm Attom have placed Chicago as one of the most vulnerable states to home value decline or most at risk of a housing downturn in a potential economic slowdown in the US housing market. Looking into the projections for the Chicago housing market, many experts have agreed with this sentiment and have said that Chicago Real Estate Market is in a vulnerable state right now as interest rates are high and only expected to decline over the course of 12 months, according to Norada Real Estate Investments.

The general statistics for the Real Estate Market states that they will be a decline of 6.7% in house sales overall. Still, in the case of Chicago, the housing market has seen a rapid sale in the month of August 2022 despite of the increase in home prices and this is due to the increased power from market buyers, this has helped real estate agents in the Chicago area remain optimistic as the market remains competitive. Homes are selling in 57 days overall. Although the local Chicago website has seen a decrease in the number of homes purchased in recent weeks, mentioning that interest rates are a significant factor.

According to the Chicago Agent Magazine, home sales were down 18.6% in August 2022. Still, the average home sold in 23 days, one day faster than August 2021, despite the median home price rise to $311,000, a 3.7% bump from August 2021, which shows there’s still a high demand for houses in Chicago despite the high-interest rate.

See: https://chicagoagentmagazine.com/2022/09/22/illinois-realtors-august-2022-data/ 

How Is The Interest Rates Affecting Home Buyers In Chicago

As stated by Anna Fiascone, a Realtor in the Chicago suburbs, there has been an increase of 26.6% in home inventory to a year ago in August. According to a Realtor.com report, the home interest rate increase may be why.

Home buyers are stepping back, and some sellers are as well because the rising rates are making the monthly mortgage payments a bit more expensive for devalued properties. Also, adding to the inflation and record-high home prices, home buyers consider the best move right now is to wait.

The Federal Reserve has affirmed its commitment to reducing house rates. However, as stated by the Federal Reserve, one of the measures to fight inflation is to increase its rates. Still, many consider this move not helpful. They may be the cause that could derail the economy into a recession even faster and not the other way around, as everything from mortgages to student loans will be impacted by the rate hike.

Although long-term rates for fixed-rate mortgages are not affected by federal rates, experts advise staying up to date with changes from the federal reserve so you get a deal that suits your budget when shopping around for homes.

The truth is many buyers are taking a break and saving more money while waiting for the best time to make a move. However, buying a home represents the largest single purchase most of them will make in their lifetime, so it’s crucial to be in a good financial position before buying.

What real estate agents in the Chicago area are saying

Despite all this refusal from home buyers to buy now, real estate agents remain optimistic and consider the market strong despite the hike in interest rates and most buyers backing down. Many agents use the term “hot homes,” a marketing trend to keep buyers interested in buying.

According to Redfin: 

“A Hot Home is a home for sale that is expected to be among the most competitive homes on the market.

The Hot Homes algorithm automatically calculates the likelihood by analyzing more than 500 attributes of each home – including price, property type, and neighborhood – and buyer preferences in the area.”

When a house is referred to as a hot home, it’s meant to attract buyers during low sales, especially during the end of September, as this is considered a time when they are fewer buyers in the market, meaning they are less competent or less bidding wars, which buyers don’t really like, and more home options. This may allow a buyer to get a better deal while the market calms down from the summer rush. Because of this, buyers are willing to take a risk and invest in the market.

Chicago-based Redfin agent Ashley Arzer has said that buyers are still looking to buy a home: “They’re willing to purchase a home despite rising rates because they finally have a window of opportunity to get an offer accepted,” and he may be right.

Overall, the interest rates are definitely influencing buyers’ decisions at this time as market rates fluctuate often, there’s a lot of uncertainty related to the recession, and buyers are just trying to play it safe. According to experts, the Chicago housing market has slowed down, and it’s not very competitive. This information is based on how long it takes to sell a home, how long it remains pending and if it sells below its listed price.

Ultimately, the question of whether to buy or not to buy a home right now remains a question many seem to be struggling with right now. Still, according to September’s Fannie Mae Home Purchase Sentiment Index, a monthly survey gauging consumer thoughts on the real estate market, 73 percent of consumers believe it is the wrong time to buy a home. In addition, housing-market experts are stating that it is increasingly likely to see a recession in the near future, so whether to buy at this time or not is definitely a personal decision base on budget and needs to avoid any buyer’s remorse in the future or even losing your home.

How Real Estate Investing Queen Sofia Estrada Castro Hopes to Empower Women in the Industry

Sofia Estrada Castro is a name that rings bells amongst the entrepreneurial community, with thousands of women looking up to her because of her resilience, success, and confidence to lead in a male-dominated industry. As a successful real estate entrepreneur and philanthropist, Sofia’s inspirational story can easily capture the attention of any audience.

Long before her well-earned success, Sofia was a determined and hardworking woman trying to find her place in life. Despite dropping out of school in the 10th grade, she pursued different jobs and careers while trying to find her passion. Sofia met her now-husband, Bobby, who always had the dream of becoming an entrepreneur. He asked her if she wanted to work for him on his business venture, so she decided to go for it. And, although the business didn’t work out, she never let that stop her from pursuing her dreams.

“The initial business didn’t work out. Bobby and I both ended up getting jobs elsewhere, but we didn’t lose hope of success. We found a how-to program on building a leasing brokerage that we had to invest in to learn the ropes, and that meant asking my mom to borrow $1800, which was a big deal. We didn’t want to disappoint, so we made sure to use the new information to build something incredible,” shared Sofia Estrada Castro. “I continued working for a cardiologist’s office by day and would work the business at night for a year. Once that first year passed, and we noticed the business was growing in full force, I knew it was time to quit and put my everything into it.”

Putting her all into the work was what Sofia went on to do, ultimately building strong working relationships and learning the ins and outs of the business along the way. While things happened slow yet steady, Sofia and Bobby turned their initial $1800 investment into a company valued at one billion dollars. During this time, her interest in real estate grew, which led to experiences in buying condo conversions and more. While there were ups and downs with plenty of obstacles to overcome while fixing, flipping, buying, and renting, Sofia’s genuine love for real estate kept her motivated to keep moving forward, leading to even more success in real estate investing.

“It’s because of my success in real estate investing that I’ve created Queen Ventures, a business all about helping women who want to get involved in the real estate industry. Getting into this industry is an excellent way to build generational wealth and live comfortably, and I want to help women get in on this opportunity,” said Sofia Estrada Castro. “I provide valuable information based on everything I’ve learned during my time in the industry to help women get started. My goal is to help women become independent and wealthy entrepreneurs who succeed in life.”

While hoping to empower women from all walks of life to learn more about real estate investing, Sofia Estrada Castro is ready to share her knowledge, tips, and tricks with those who can benefit most from it.