This is my first post and I apologize if I missed a previous discussion on the topic. My brother and I are interested in starting a real estate company and building up a group of rental units. I'm wondering if anyone has any advice on starting out in terms of establishing a corporation or an LLC.
-Thank you for your thoughts.
You need to establish a re pore with a good CPA. A company is only as good as their accountant. Find out are they going to be by the book or are they going to help you keep your money? As far as the LLC thing, dont worry to much on that unless you start making a lot of money in real estate. The worst thing is not starting cause you think you need an LLC. Or worst! You have an LLC and you think you've started and you never do! Just go out there and start. But definetly find a good cpa to guide you. You will eventually need one.
Hey @Simon Hepp , welcome to the forums!
A corporation generally holds more requirements than an LLC, but it can offer some different tax incentives based upon the size of your operation. Another option that many investors are moving toward is creating an LLC and then electing it to be taxed as an S Corp - but this is a discussion you will want to have with a CPA.
In terms of asset protection this is how I usually explain things to clients I meet with when they are starting. The first thing we do is to discuss (A) their personal assets, (B) break down their current investments portfolio and other business ventures before discussing any (C) future goals. Each of these variables will dramatically change the advice for the individual asking this question. I often break it down into the "five pillars" of protecting your assets.
1st pillar is avoiding unnecessary and risky activities (don't drink and drive, insurance generally won’t cover your poor decisions) and take good care of your investments - these simple steps will help you prevent lawsuits before they even occur.
2nd pillar is a good insurance policy as that cover the majority of your exposure. However, insurance is limited because it only protects you from one type of liability: accidents/negligence. Insurance doesn’t protect you from any part of the sale or acquisition of a property (e.x. Somebody wanting to sue for you backing out of a bad deal or accusing you of selling them a property with defects like unknown termite damage). Insurance also doesn’t protect you from misunderstandings, especially those made in writing and email. What happens in these misunderstandings is that something goes wrong either in the sale or after, and then they sue you for some statement you made that they “misunderstood”. That lawsuit is a claim for fraud, and that’s what fraud typically is...a misunderstanding and someone being “injured” and wanting to hold the other responsible for it. Insurance never protects you from these kinds of claims and they happen all the time.
3rd pillar applies after you have good insurance You need to protect yourself from what insurance doesn’t cover by compartmentalizing your assets. Compartmentalization means that if something happens to one property they can't touch you or the other properties. You should use either LLC's (the old and expensive way) or a Series LLC (the new and more cost/time effective way). No matter where you live or where you own assets, I personally recommend the Series LLC to be a great tool for the individual investor who is planning to expand their operation, as it allows for you to scale infinitely for FREE- check out this article to learn more.
4th pillar is somewhat similar - you want to separate your operations from your assets. One company owns everything and does nothing (this is your SLLC a/k/a "asset holding company") and a completely separate company handles all of your operations (this is a traditional LLC a/k/a "operating company") For the operating company which serves as your face to the world and through which you do all your business, you establish a Traditional LLC to carry out the operations of your investments. The operating company takes on all of the liability that would otherwise blow back on you including: paying property management, paying contractors, collecting rent, marketing, etc.
5th pillar is owning everything anonymously. If people don't know what you own, then they are less likely to sue. People don't sue people that qualify for food stamps. This anonymity can be accomplished for free by using Trusts to own your companies as well as the assets. Trusts create this anonymity by removing your name from public record. Even if they can see you used to own a property, when properly transferred it will look like it was sold to investors. If they somehow guess you are the owner still, it doesn't matter because you are not the owner. The trust and the LLC are the owner of the asset/real estate, so even in the scenario that they guess, they guess wrong.
As you grow, or you include more partners, you should be incorporating more pillars to support the business that you are taking part in. Investors just starting with minimal personal assets are comfortable with doing their due diligence and insurance, while other investors just starting (but with significant personal assets at risk) would want to start with more pillars to keep themselves and their wealth protected.
This isn't legal advice, just my opinion as a real estate investor.
Thank you so much for the responses. I had never heard of a series LLC before, we definitely will look into that, as well as get in touch with a CPA.
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