How to Choose a Real Estate Agent

Agent

If you’re looking to either buy or sell real estate in the near future, you’ve got many questions on your mind. It’s a scary process, and to make sure you get through it without losing your mind you need a real estate agent that you can trust and will do a great job on your behalf. So how do you choose the right real estate agent? There are several ways to do this, and I’ve listed a few of the more effective ways to choose the perfect agent for you.

Over the course of the last twenty years, real estate agents have developed a poor reputation that rivals that of a used car salesperson. Being a real estate agent myself, I hear this comparison all of the time. It’s true, we are salespersons. But we have a duty and obligation to practice a code of ethics, and to work in any prospective seller or buyer’s best interest. We’re not allowed to pressure anyone into selling their home, or a buying a home when we know they cannot afford one. However, I must say there are some very terrible real estate agents out there, and I think it’s these agents that have given the rest of us a bad name. Keep in mind that we all work differently. For instance, if you and I took a pen and signed our names, though the result would be different we still used to the same tool to do it. If you apply this to real estate, you’ll see that though all agents use the same methods we don’t always get the same results. Choosing the right agent can be the difference between achieving your real estate dreams or experiencing a nightmare. Choose wisely and I hope these steps will help.

 

Ask your friends for recommendations.

This is my number one method for choosing a real estate agent. Don’t pay attention to the advertisements, commercials, or word of mouth around the city. If you trust your friends opinions, then I highly suggest listening to them. As a real estate agent, 70% of my business comes from referrals generated from past clients. Each time I have a new client I always take into consideration that it could lead to future business, therefore I try to do a great job. If you know of someone that has had a polite experience with a particular agent, then find a little bit more about the agent and call them for an interview.

 

Don’t get wrapped up in an agent’s production.

I cannot stress this one enough. Here in Wilmington, North Carolina, there are a few top agents in the area that are known for their production of 80 million dollars or more. Most of these agents have actually branded their name, but have a small team of agents working underneath them that contribute to the overall production. I’ve heard horror stories of someone listing their home with a particular agent, and they never heard from them again. They’d make phone calls that were never returned or e-mails that were never replied to. I attribute this to the fact that they do have so much other business going on that it’s hard to concentrate on one property in particular. An agent with less production actually has the time to concentrate fully on selling your property or showing you houses, and spend time on figuring out creative ways to advertise it.

 

If an agent exerts more pressure than you’re comfortable with, ask them to leave.

We are in sales, but in the business of selling homes we don’t have to exert pressure. Being a real estate agent is about selling yourself, not selling a prospective client on the idea of listing their home. Credibility is everything with this business, and if an agent chooses to disrespect you and the time you took to meet with them then it’s not worth it. You’ve got many other choices and you certainly don’t want to put your trust into someone that makes you uncomfortable.

 

Have a simple conversation with them.

Again, real estate agents are normal human beings. While interviewing the agent, find a little more about who they are and where they come from. Of course, you’ll need to find out about their experience and what they’ll do to sell your home, but having a normal conversation will allow you to see how your personalities will match up. For instance, if you live in the South and you’re interviewing a smooth talking, overly aggressive agent that comes from New York City, your personalities may clash down the road, which will affect the way you communicate together. Choose someone that fits your lifestyle and personality.

 

Choose a company that is nationally known.

I’ve never understood why a seller doesn’t list with a company such as Century 21 or Coldwell Banker and instead lists with Red Tiger Realty. As a seller, you want your home to be associated with the elite in real estate, not a small, failing company that has two part-time agents. There are obvious reasons to use large companies on the selling end, but as a buyer it is to your benefit to use a larger company. The reason being, most of the larger companies such as Century 21 have standards and ethics that the agent’s must uphold. This includes working in your best interests, and not pressuring you into doing something that could be wrong. If an agent in a larger company were to do something unethical, it’s more likely to go unnoticed.

 

After interviewing, make sure the agent is responsive to all calls or emails.

The number one complaint about most real estate agents is the lack of communication. After your interview, place a few calls or write a few e-mails to the agent to see what kind of response time they give. A good agent will respond within the hour if they’re not busy with appointments, and a poor agent will put it off three or more hours, even sometimes to the next day. This will tell you a lot about an agent. If they’re aggressive and very customer service oriented, they’ll make sure you’re a top priority. You don’t want to make the mistake of going with an agent that responds slowly. If they can’t pick up the phone to call you then they won’t go the extra mile in selling your home.

 

Colorado Real Estate Search: Look at Homes in Denver and Castle Rock

Home

When you are searching for Colorado homes, it’s best to first narrow down your options to two or three areas depending on your living preferences and desired home value. After all, Colorado is the 8th largest state. Here are two popular areas that you may want to consider in your search for Colorado homes: Denver and Castle Rock.

Denver Real Estate

 

Denver — also called the “mile high city” — is the capital of the state and home to more than 526,000 people. Denver is unique because it combines an urban flair with the natural beauty of the Rocky Mountains that flank it. According to Housing Tracker, the median price of Denver real estate currently hovers around $280,000 and is expected to grow by at least 16 percent between 2008 and 2009 as home inventory goes down.

 

Castle Rock Real Estate

 

If you are the type of person who prefers to have a home within reach of a major city while keeping a comfortable distance, you may want to look into Colorado homes in Castle Rock. Castle Rock is a prime location nestled in the mountains of central Colorado, 35 miles south of Denver. The city’s Chamber of Commerce estimates that the population of this burgeoning municipality will double in five years, and Colorado Realtors are jumping on prime homes in this area, so these Colorado homes have plenty of potential for increasing in value and demand over time. Now is definitely the time to settle into Castle Rock, which boasts many small-town charms with big city amenities. Conveniently located halfway between Denver and Colorado Springs, Castle Rock offers stunning views of the Rocky Mountains and other natural formations. In fact, if you move to a community such as The Meadows, you can enjoy luxurious living in a home expertly designed to blend in with Colorado’s own natural landscapes.

 

Next Step: Find Colorado Realtors

 

As you embark on your quest to find great Colorado homes, compile a list of Colorado Realtors who specialize in those areas you’re interested in to assist you in your search. A good agent will understand your needs, provide you with a comprehensive list of Colorado homes based on your requirements, help you coordinate your trip, and help you adjust to your new home and its surroundings. Finding Colorado homes is a much less daunting task when you have a great Colorado Realtor on your side.

Finding An Apartment For Rent That You Like: Searching For a Home That is as Unique As You Are

For apartment hunters looking for something that isn’t run of the mill square corners, like those found mostly in large complexes, the key is the neighborhood.

Large complexes are made for the fluid mover, and so management is usually working to allow renters options to make their apartment their home. Those options can range from more lease options to bulidings that are already built with varietal floor plans.

Although older apartment complexes might have most of the same floorplan designs, many will let you paint or create your own improvements without a deposit penalty.

How to Look for an Apartment

Get out and drive around the town. The most affordable and elegant apartments might not be found in a local newspaper or online. They may be behind a lawn sign from the small contractor or home owner with a mother-in-law apartment looking for a tenant.
Getting the word out is also important. Many small-time landlords or smaller complexes will rely on the local connection to find renters. A small advertising budget doesn’t always mean little upkeep. Some owners are spending the rent money on apartment improvements rather than on a bundle of advertising.

Word-of mouth from co-workers or current residents is the best place to start. Plus, the friend-of-a-friend connection may allow for more negotiable terms on the lease.

Downtown Apartments for Rent Offer Many Options

Although a renovated home may offer fewer neighbors, the downfall of smaller units is they may not have the amenities that can be offered at large complexes such as a health club, pool, or playgrounds.

Many historical homes have been renovated into apartments in recent years. However, if utilities are not included in rent, inquire regarding the utility upgrades. Victorian homes offer beautiful and unique apartments but in climates that teeter on the extreme such as northern winters, appropriate heat saving measures should be installed. Ask whether property owners have the ability to do so. Otherwise, renters may be paying what is saved in rent directly to utility bills.

Finding an apartment outside of metro areas

Small towns or metro areas with a historical zone offer a plethora of unique choices. Again, this may take a little leg work on the part of apartment hunters. Cruise the classifieds and online for the older parts of town that are deemed historic.

Residential areas aren’t the only place to look. Downtown, where building owners might be looking to upgrade the property, add value by adding residential above businesses.

The business/apartment combos can be the ideal place for a nine-to-five worker. The traffic is running throughout the day while you’re at work. In the evening, there is no one to complain about noise. Just be sure to check the business hours of what might be your neighbors. Not everyone will be open to lviing next to an all access fitness center with a booming stereo that is on 24/7.

Mortgage Refinancing – Pros and Cons: Can Someone with Adverse Credit Reduce Mortgage Repayments?

The end of a mortgage term allows a homeowner to consider mortgage refinancing. A fixed-rate mortgage, tracker mortgage or discounted mortgage can help to reduce mortgage repayments, even if an adverse credit history exists. It is not sensible to consider mortgage refinancing before the end of the mortgage term as this incurs an early redemption penalty. Some homeowners utilise the services of a mortgage broker to trawl the market, but this does increase the associated mortgage fees.

Advantages of Mortgage Refinancing

  • Lower mortgage repayments. Homeowners that aren’t tied-in can reduce their mortgage repayments, even after mortgage fees have been taken into account. A homeowner that obtained a mortgage when they had adverse credit is likely to benefit most from mortgage refinancing;
  • Stability. Many families on fixed incomes find that tracker mortgages and standard variable rate mortgages compromise their financial stability. Whilst falls in interest rates help family finances, many homeowners prefer the security of fixed mortgage repayments;
  • Consolidate personal debt. Mortgage refinancing allows homeowners to consolidate personal debt and pay all their debt with a single mortgage repayment. This can help to minimise interest payments and simplify family finances;
  • Home improvements. Families often choose mortgage refinancing in order to pay for home improvements, such as a loft conversion or a new kitchen. This can help to increase home equity as it adds to the value of the family home;
  • Offset mortgages. Homeowners with personal savings can offset their savings against interest payments on their mortgage. This type of mortgage refinancing can help a homeowner to reduce mortgage repayments.

Disadvantages of Mortgage Refinancing

  • Adverse credit. Homeowners that took out their mortgage prior to adverse credit may be better-off staying on standard variable rate. Mortgage refinancing can become more expensive as adverse credit customers present a greater risk to the lender;
  • Mortgage fees. Mortgage refinancing incurs a number of mortgage fees. These include arrangement fees, valuation fees, broker fees as well as mortgage indemnity premiums. These mortgage fees can add thousands of pounds to the outstanding amount owed and minimise any savings achieved on monthly mortgage repayments;
  • Early redemption penalty. In order to benefit from lower mortgage repayments, homeowners are tied-in for a period of time. Should someone wish to proceed with mortgage refinancing, they will normally have to pay a hefty early redemption penalty;
  • Complexity. Mortgage refinancing isn’t simple and involves assessing a number of factors before proceeding. Whilst a mortgage broker simplifies the process, their service increases the mortgage fees. Most brokers charge homeowners 1 per cent of the mortgage value;
  • Home equity. Unless home equity is available, mortgage refinancing is unlikely to be possible. This is especially true now that the Financial Services Authority (FSA) has changed the rules in-light of the recent collapse in property prices.

The majority of homeowners can benefit from mortgage refinancing at the end of the mortgage term. Mortgage refinancing helps families to reduce mortgage repayments, provided they aren’t already tied-in. Entering a new arrangement before the current one has ended will incur an early redemption penalty. Homeowners with adverse credit should get a few exploratory quotes before mortgage refinancing.

Payment Strategies for Rising Mortgage Rates: Rising Home Loan Rates Require a Disciplined Payment Plan

After a period of historically low home loan rates, the tide is starting to turn in Australia and the lenders have followed the Reserve Bank’s lead and raised interest rates in the past three months.

On the one hand this is good news because it shows that the Australian economy is in better shape than other developed countries. On the other hand it is little comfort to home owners who have a mortgage. Therefore, it is important for every home owner with a viable rate home loan to revisit their budget and put a workable strategy in place to counteract the effects of the rising rates.

Effective Repayment Strategy for a Mortgage Loan

One very clever payment strategy is to set the monthly repayment at a higher rate than is required by the bank. For instance, if the bank’s home loan rate is 6.50%, then calculate the repayments at 7.50% or even 8.50% if the household can afford it. This has the dual effect of getting the household used to paying the higher amount so that if and when the interest rate rises to that level the household knows that they have no problems making repayments. The other benefit is that the increased amount is used to reduce the capital on the loan. For example:

Current Interest Rate 6.50%

Current Monthly Payment $2,275


Higher Interest Rate 7.5%

Monthly Payment at the higher rate $2,517

The additional $242 per month reduces the capital whilst the interest rate remains at 6.50%.

(The above example is worked on a Home Loan of $360,000 over a 30 year period.)

Other Options to Cope With the Mortgage

If making higher than normal repayments are not an option, then there are other ways that householders can try to cope with rising rates.

  • Consulting a mortgage broker to ascertain if the loan product is the right one for the family and to ascertain if there are ‘cheaper’ products on the market.
  • Consider moving all or part of the loan to a fixed rate for a specific period. This will give peace of mind knowing that the during the chosen period the repayments will not change. Of course there will be a cost involved in doing this.
  • If paying multiple loans such as personal loans, car loans and credit card debts which are at a higher interest rate, consider refinancing and rolling them into the mortgage so that only one monthly payment at a lesser interest rate is payable.
  • Consider extending the loan term to reduce the monthly payment.

Factors to Consider When Making Changes to the Home Loan

It should however be borne in mind that any changes to the home loan by way of moving to a fixed rate loan, rolling in other debts and extending the loan term could all incur costs.

With a careful look at the household budget and by consulting a mortgage professional, homeowners will be able to reduce the impact of the rising home loan rates.

Fire Emergency Tips: What to do if Your House Burns Down

Besides normal fire prevention precautions, additional considerations ought to be taken into account.

Before a House Fire

Choose your fire insurance company carefully. Get testimonials from other customers if you can. Find out how individual companies handle claims.

Do not underinsure your home. You may be accused of purposely underinsuring to keep your premium payments low. This can seriously delay or even prevent a full settlement.

Read and be familiar with your insurance policy. What is the responsibility of the insurer and what is the responsibility of the homeowner? Make sure you understand all the clauses referring to both your home and the contents in your home. Don’t hesitate to ask for clarification. You may need to insure jewelry, art and antiques separately.

Take pictures of your home and its contents. Make two copies and keep one copy elsewhere, in a safety deposit box or at a friend’s house.

Find out if your community offers emergency social services for fire victims. If you suffer a total loss you may leave your home with only the clothes on your back. These services generally provide a place to stay for 72 hours plus meal and clothing allowances.

During a House Fire

If you are in the house get out immediately and do not go back inside. The impulse to rescue your possessions will be very strong. Even if you don’t see flames, smoke inhalation can be fatal.

Annual fire deaths in the US average 2,740.

Use your cell phone to call 911 from outside your home. If the phone is still in your house, leave it and phone from a neighbor’s.

Tell firemen about anything that may explode and become a dangerous projectile, such as a barbecue propane tank.

After a House Fire

 

Report the fire to your insurance agent as soon as possible so they can begin processing your claim. Ask for a copy of your insurance policy. You will consult it often in the coming days and weeks and your copy may have been lost in the fire.

Report the fire to your mortgage company and ask them for a copy of any appraisal of your home they may have on file. The appraisal with its accompanying house diagram and square footage information will be a starting point in determining the value of your loss.

Begin compiling a list of the contents in your home. Refer to saved pictures and add any purchases made after the photos were taken. You cannot claim for replacement of any itmes you do not remember so it is important to start your list as soon as possible.

A house fire is devastating but you will feel more in control if you are prepared.

Selling a Vacant Home a Challenge: Vacancy News Another Sign that Housing Market’s Woes are Deep

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, one out of every nine housing units in the United States is now vacant. That comes out to more than 14 million empty homes.

This isn’t good news for anybody. An empty home often develops into a neighborhood eyesore. They often become “attractive nuisances,” seeming to attract trouble.

The Empty Home Challenge

For sellers, an empty home is an even bigger challenge. In today’s slumping housing market — home sales dropped 5.9 percent in the fourth quarter of this year from the same period one year earlier, according to the National Association of REALTORS — it’s difficult to sell any home. But an empty home, one that sellers often view as cold and impersonal because of its lack of furnishings or artwork, is an especially tough sell.

Unfortunately, homeowners often have no other choice but to sell a vacant home. A job may have sent the family to another part of the country. Perhaps the family found the perfect new home, but wasn’t able to unload its current home before closing date.
Whatever the reason, homeowners can take some steps to make selling a vacant home at least a little easier.

Get it Staged

Real estate agents often recommend that their clients hire a home stager to give an empty home some personality. Stagers, usually for a flat fee paid by the homeowner, will fill a home with furniture and art, and will do so in a way that maximizes a home’s positive features and obscures its negative ones.

Many stagers use homeowners’ existing furniture, but others will bring in their own sofas, beds, props and artwork. This is especially important for homeowners who have already moved on from a home. It’s rare that these owners will have two complete sets of furniture.

Homeowners not willing to commit to a home stager can take less costly steps to make their vacant homes look warmer. One way is to spend the time and energy to give living room, bedroom and kitchen walls fresh coats of paint. When a home is empty, there is no furniture to distract from faded, chipped or dirty paint. Fresh paint can instantly rejuvenate a gloomy home.

Curb Appeal is Key

Homeowners should also pay special attention to an empty home’s outside. They should make sure lawns are kept neat and gardens are weeded. Trees should be trimmed, and sidewalks and driveways should be kept free of trash and litter. When a vacant house has an unkempt exterior, it instantly makes a bad impression on potential buyers.

Selling a vacant home will almost always take time and energy. But homeowners who do the little things to make an empty home feel warm and inviting will be rewarded with a quicker sale.

Selling Without a Real Estate Agent: Do You Have What it Takes to Sell Your Own Home Without a Realtor?

Are you thinking of selling your home? Have you considered selling it yourself–without a realtor? Selling your home on your own is often referred to as a For Sale By Owner (FSBO) sale. And when it comes time to sell your home, every home-owner should consider whether FSBO is an option worth exploring.

To determine whether FSBO is right for you, consider these key questions:

  • How quickly do I need to sell my home?
  • Do I have time to interact with potential buyers?
  • Do I possess the skills to do this on my own?
  • Will the financial savings be worth the extra effort?

Waiting for Buyers

It’s important to recognize that selling your own home may take longer than selling through an agent.

The time it takes to sell your FSBO home will depend on the speed of your local housing market and on the energy you put into marketing your home.

FSBO may be the right choice if you don’t need to sell by a certain date. Give yourself a certain number of months to try the FSBO market. If you don’t sell within your set time period, reassess your options.

Making Time for Potential Buyers

If you have a hectic schedule, you may find it difficult to make time to return phone calls or show your home to potential buyers.

Potential buyers will want to view your home according totheir schedules. Being available is integral to making a FSBO sale.

If you can’t free up a lot of time to accommodate buyers, a realtor may be your best bet.

Skills: Legal Contracts

In order to sell your own home, you will need a lawyer. Hiring your lawyer or notary public early in the process will make for a smoother sale. Make sure to have all your paperwork drafted and ready to go beforeyou put your home on the market.

Your lawyer may be able to assist you with the creation of contracts, but don’t rely too heavily on his or her advice. Do your own research. Think of your lawyer as your boss; he or she will catch your mistakes, but it’s up to you to do the work. Remember, it’s in your best interest to possess basic real estate knowledge!

Almost anyone can master the basics of real estate law if he or she takes the time to learn. But if you aren’t prepared to take an interest in the legal side of real estate, it may be best to leave it to the experts and hire an agent.

Skills: Marketing

In order to succeed in the FSBO market, you will need to market your home enthusiastically. Staking a “for sale” sign in front of your home is often not enough.

You will have to work hard to let potential buyers know that your home is for sale. The key is to diversify your strategies. Be creative! The more effort you put into the sale, the more likely it is that you will find a buyer for your home.

Is the Extra Effort Worth it?

In the United States, the seller pays an average fee of six percent of the sale price to a realtor. Whether the extra effort of selling your home yourself is worth this savings is up to you.

If you’re a busy individual with little time to spare, then hiring an agent might be worth saying goodbye to that six percent.

But if you can get excited about selling your own home, then success is almost certain if you take the time to do it right.

Pre-Foreclosure Phase: Time to Buy? First Stage of Foreclosure Offers Opportunities for Investors

As reported on RealtyTrac.com, the 342,048 foreclosure filings in the United States for April 2014 represented an increase of 32 percent from one year ago and a record. The foreclosure filings reported by RealtyTrac refer to bank repossessions, default notices, and auction sale notices.

For real estate investors, properties facing or in foreclosure may offer opportunities to enhance existing real estate investment portfolios. Contrary to the impression given by infomercials and other high-pressure advertising, investing in foreclosure properties is a high-risk venture for the novice, uninformed real estate purchaser.

One key way to be informed is to know the stages of foreclosure. By understanding how foreclosures progress, investors can assess which stage is the best for them to locate and buy properties. Investors who want to succeed must always remember that they can control how much risk to take on so that they do not become overwhelmed. All of this is done while following the dictates of a real estate investment plan, which sets out the investor’s financial goals and timetable.

Although some sources say there are three phases foreclosure, and Steve Berges identified four phases in his book The Complete Guide to Investing in Undervalued Properties (New York: McGraw Hill, 2005), there are arguably five phases:

  1. pre-foreclosure
  2. foreclosure
  3. sheriff’s sale
  4. redemption
  5. post-foreclosure

This article focuses on the first phase of the foreclosure process.

Phase One: Pre-Foreclosure

The pre-foreclosure phase is when a homeowner’s financial distress becomes evident. The homeowner does not make the monthly mortgage payments. The mortgage lender may send a delinquency notice before declaring the mortgage loan in default and informing the homeowner that he or she has a limited time to bring the mortgage payments up to date. This grace period can be several several weeks or several months, depending on state law. If the homeowner fails to pay the delinquent amount of the mortgage loan by the end of the grace period, the lender can initiate a formal foreclosure procedure.

There are several ways in which the homeowner can avoid the foreclosure phase:

  • The homeowner pays all of the arrears and late fees and brings the payments up to date, thereby reinstating the mortgage loan.
  • The homeowner sells the property to a third party, often at a deep discount (20 percent to 60 percent). If the sale price is less than the loan amount, a short sale occurs; the homeowner may be able to work out an agreement under which the lender agrees to accept the proceeds of the sale and forgive the rest of the mortgage debt. However, a sale without the prior approval of the lender may violate provisions of the mortgage.
  • The homeowner transfers title to the property to the lender by means of a deed in lieu of foreclosure.

Investor Due Diligence

Investors must consider that homeowners who are falling behind in their mortgage payments may also be falling behind in property taxes and the maintenance of the property. There may also be delinquent second and third mortgages on the property.

This is why investors must be diligent in doing their background work before offering to buy a property in the pre-foreclosure phase. Investors should have the title examined – which will disclose the potential of tax foreclosures and other outstanding claims against the property – and the property inspected.

Real Estate Investment Trusts or REIT: A Real Estate Investment Vehicle Made Simple, More or Less

For those investors who like the idea of the possible large rewards available in real estate investment, a REIT offers a way to get in on the action without having to deal with many of the headaches. Simply investing in the REIT allows the investor to avoid some of the risks inherent in real estate investment, such as tenants, taxes, foreclosures, and legal liability.

Real Estate Investment Trusts are simply corporations, publicly or privately held, who operate, own or finance income producing real estate. As a corporation, REITs are required to return 90% of taxable income to its investors.

Benefits of Real Estate Investment Trusts (REIT)

As far as investors go, REITs offer a very hands-off approach to real estate investment. For all intents and purposes, they are comparable to a standard mutual fund. Investments are pooled and the REIT purchases and operates income-producing investment properties, returning the bulk of the profits back to the investors. The REIT assumes all risk associated with owning property: Foreclosure, tax issues, insurance, tenants, legal liability and so on. The investor is only on the hook for the money put in.

Typically, Real Estate Investment Trusts return between 6% and 7% on money invested, due in large part to the real estate investment market’s stability and tendency to appreciate. As with any investment, nothing is guaranteed, and much lower returns are possible. On the other hand, some have returned as much as 15% over a three year period. One of the downsides is that dividends paid from REITs are usually fully taxable as income.

Not everyone believes in the stability and earning potential of REITs, so all investors are well advised to adequately research any investment decision and seek professional advice where necessary. Dave Ramsey, for example, frowns on Real Estate Investment Trusts and advises that one’s portfolio contains no more than 10% REIT funds. His advice would be to put that same money in a strong growth mutual fund.

Portfolio Diversification – REITs Should Be Just One Egg in Your Basket

As any financial planner or advisor will say, all portfolios should be well balanced and diversified. While investing in a Real Estate Investment Trust may be a good idea, always make sure there are other investments to fall back on should the REIT fail. Remember- most investments aren’t guaranteed (notable examples being government bonds and CDs). A balanced portfolio would include stocks, bonds, mutual funds and REITs and/or property investment.