Jason Van Steenwyk

Freelance Writer & Finance Expert

Jason Van Steenwyk has been writing professionally about personal finance and investments since 1999. He first learned the trade as a staff reporter with Mutual Funds Magazine, part of the FORTUNE Group of magazines at Time, Inc. While there, he also served as managing editor of Investors’ Digest, a monthly compilation of the best in investment newsletter writing, published by the Institute for Econometric Research. He was also a contributing editor to Market Logic, Income Fund Outlook, Mutual Fund Buyers Guide and The Insiders. In addition to his work for Mutual Funds, Jason has published feature articles in many financial consumer and trade publications, including Wealth and Retirement Planner, Registered Representative, Annuity Selling Guide, Bankrate.com, Senior Market Advisor, and many more. Born in Santa Monica, California, Jason was raised mostly on the windward side of Oahu, a suburban and rural area of the Hawaiian Islands. He took an interest in real estate from observing the unique economy and real estate market of Hawaii and the complex interplay of land and power in an island economy. Jason is a full-time freelance writer and editor, an avid guitarist and fiddle player, and a career officer with the Florida Army National Guard. He lives in Fort Lauderdale, Florida with his cat, Sasha, and an unknown number of musical instruments.

There are 14 rules house flippers should follow to create a successful business

We’ve covered a lot of ground in this column over the last two years, so let’s catch our breath and review some principles of successful property flipping. Here’s a review: . . .

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Real estate flippers may need special insurance coverage if they

Much as we’d all love to sell a flipped property within a week of putting it on the market, we all know it doesn’t always happen that way. Indeed, it probably shouldn’t: A big part of the engine that drives flipping profits – at least in the flippin insider way of thinking, is to find sellers who are in a hurry to sell, without being in such a hurry yourself. . . .

Read more about Insurance Considerations for Vacant Properties


There are several mobile apps that property flippers can use to make a real estate business run more smoothly

This is a good topic to revisit every once in a while because apps are always improving, and they’re always coming out with new ones. Thinking back even 10 years now, I don’t know how we managed without smartphones! If you’ve been wanting to leverage technology into productivity and profitability, here are some proven solutions for real estate flippers! . . .

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Tax liens can be a lucrative real estate investment, but they can also hurt homeowners if not regulated effectively, resulting in unnecessary foreclosures

For good or for ill, county and municipal governments rely on property taxes to provide services to their residents. Police and fire protection and school districts all rely on homeowners’ timely payment of property taxes in order to fund their payroll and operations. And that’s where tax lien investing comes in. When a homeowner is delinquent in filing taxes, an investor sometimes comes to the county tax office and pays the tax on the homeowner’s behalf. . . .

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Real estate investors and property flippers need to consider their margin of safety before taking on renovations

It’s been a long dry spell, but it’s looking like significant improvements are providing a better return on investment for real estate investors than they have in years. That’s good news for flippers, because that’s just one more way for a fix-and-flipper to add value. . . .

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The IRS has introduced a safe harbor that makes things easier for landlords when it comes to claiming deductions

Here’s a bit of good news for small landlords: The Internal Revenue Service has introduced a “safe harbor” for deducting repairs to investment properties from ordinary income. Normally, the IRS does not allow you to take a full current-year deduction for anything they consider a renovation or improvement. They only allow you to take a first-year deduction on repairs, which the IRS defines as projects that do not materially add to the value of a property . . .

Read more about The Safe Harbor for Landlords

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With tax time on the horizon, here are some tips on depreciation for real estate investors

Depreciation is a double-edged sword. It’s a big part of why real estate works so well with leverage as an investment. Taking the depreciation allowance on investment property is a critical part of the attractiveness of real estate investing, from the point of view of the cash-flow investor. But the rules governing depreciation are notoriously baffling, and occasionally trip up even tax professionals. . . .

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Certain tax deductions can help real estate flippers manage their businesses

Tax season is here – and as any veteran flipper knows, it ain’t what you have – it’s what you get to keep. In the flipping business, deductions are crucial. Unless you have a handle on your expenses, and can accurately deduct them, the Internal Revenue Service can only tax you on your gross. If your record keeping is slovenly or you aren’t alert to the deductions you can take, even getting 90 percent of your deductions right is enough to murder you. . . .

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President Obama indicated last Friday that he will sign the Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act of 2013, which eases the earlier Biggert-Waters reforms and grants property owners a reprieve from a planned sharp increase in flood insurance premiums.

President Obama indicated last Friday that he will sign the Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act of 2013, which eases the earlier Biggert-Waters reforms and grants property owners a reprieve from a planned sharp increase in flood insurance premiums. The problem is that politicians have overruled the actuaries for years, setting National Flood Insurance Program premiums far too low. As a result, the NFIP is, well, actuarially insolvent. . . .

Read more about The Flood Insurance Affordability Act


Before purchasing a house to flip, make sure you don

Plumbing can be a flipper’s nightmare, because leaky or corroded pipes can cause problems that are not readily apparent to the eye, but become all to obvious when you start making modifications to the home. You can think you’re replacing some old tile, or redoing some drywall, and encounter a nightmare of leaky pipes, water damage, mildew and wet rot that was invisible when you inspected the property. . . .

Read more about Avoiding a House With Plumbing Problems