11/08/15: Property Inspections – Protecting Yourself from Hidden Problems

It’s been said, “The devil’s in the details.”  

This is certainly true when it comes to buying real estate…even unimproved real estate.  After all, there’s so much that the naked and untrained eye just can’t see, which is why property inspections are so important.

In this episode, we take a look at some of the myriad of property inspections available to help investors uncover hidden problems, avoid unexpected expenses and gain leverage in negotiations.

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Inspections are a very important part of real estate investing.

It’s just smart to have a trained expert objectively evaluate the condition of all components of a property so you don’t end up walking blindly into a costly repair or remediation.

In The Real Estate Guys™ radio show studio B unraveling the mystery of property inspections…

  • Your ace detective of discussion, Robert “Sherlock” Helms
  • His joker sidekick, Russell “Watson-of-a-Gun” Gray

Property inspections is a HUGE topic.  And because it’s far too technical and time consuming to do a comprehensive explanation of all of the many inspections available, it’s important to start out with some essential principles.

Property Inspections are Cheap InsuranceGetting a property inspection is cheap insurance

Every real estate transaction has a LONG list of various and sundry expenses.  In your zeal to reduce expenses and maximize profits, it’s easy to skip an inspection or two.

Bad idea.

You only need to miss ONE major thing…or even a minor one…to see all that “savings” just disappear.

With that said…

Only Get Inspections on What You Plan to Keep

There’s no point to paying for structural inspections on a structure you plan to tear down or a roof you plan to replace.  Duh.

Attend the Inspections if You Can

Even though you can and SHOULD read the inspection reports when you receive them, they’ll mean a lot more if you’re actually present when the inspection takes place.  This way, you can see things in person and ask questions in real time.

Hire QUALITY Inspectors

Hire qualified and experienced property inspectorsLike any profession, you’ll find dedicated, competent, diligent providers.  And you’ll find those who are lazy, incompetent and inexperienced.

Take a guess which one’s cheaper.  Take another guess about which one costs more.  Now guess which ones you should hire.


Inspect the Visible and the Invisible

Even novice investors can understand inspecting the roof and physical structure.  But don’t forget things like title…and sometimes the soil.

Sometimes there are things lurking underground or behind the walls, which are literally toxic…and VERY expensive to fix.

Sometimes there are easements and restrictions which can affect your plans…and the value.

Use Protection

Using professional representation can be a great way to have another set of experienced eyes looking over everything.

Sometimes investors try to “save” commissions (which are paid by the seller anyway) by representing themselves or using a friend or family member who happens to have a real estate license, but no substantial relevant experience.

We think it’s just smart to use a real estate agent who is experienced in the type of property you are buying.  Someone who’s been involved in many similar transactions will often think of things you won’t.  And they’ll have a better idea about what kind of concessions are reasonable in a given market when something is discovered which necessitates a renegotiation (“re-trade”).

Order Your InspectionsTrust but verify - seller's are supposed to tell you ALL about the property. But sometimes they leave things out.

For newbie investors, a property can seem like a complex creature.  In reality, a property is a whole lot less complex than your car or body.

A piece of dirt with a physical structure on it is simply an assembled combination of easy to understand components.  The idea of property inspections is simply to discover the actual condition of each of these components.

So think about it from the ground up…

  • The dirt – title report, environmental report (usually commercial)
  • The infrastructure – sewer, septic
  • The structure – foundation, structure (termite), electrical, appliances, HVAC, plumbing, roof
  • Structural toxins – lead (paint), asbestos (ceiling, insulation), mold

Remember…Knowledge is Power

An accurate assessment of the property’s condition is essential to putting together a budget for Cap Ex (capital expenditures, i.e., initial fix up) and operating budget (reserves, contingency).

But in cases where defects aren’t known or properly disclosed by the seller and therefore not built into the pricing, your property inspections provide some leverage in renegotiating the deal.

The idea is that the price offered was offered based on what was known about the property.  When something major comes up, it’s reasonable to ask for adjustments.  It doesn’t mean you’ll get them, but you definitely won’t if you don’t ask.

With that said…

Don’t Major in the Minors

No one buying a “used” property should expect it to be perfect.  There will be a certain amount of wear and tear…aka deferred maintenance.

So when you craft your offer, you should already have that built into your price.

And if you find something in your inspections which you didn’t expect, you need to decide if it’s worth potentially blowing the deal up over.  That is, you should ask yourself, “If the seller refuses to fix this, then am I willing to walk away?”

If not, then think twice about asking for a concession.  ESPECIALLY if the market is red-hot and the seller’s holding back up offers.

Avoid Seller Surprises

Ordering property inspections before you sell can prevent unexpected and unwanted surprises laterUp to now, we’ve focused on this whole issue from the BUYER’s perspective.  But what about the SELLER?

We think it’s smart for a seller to order up most of the major inspections BEFORE putting the property on the market.  This way, you know what the buyer is likely to find.  And you can price your property accordingly or budget for concessions you’ll need to make in a re-trade (re-negotiation).

Sure, this adds some extra expense.  And the buyer’s probably going to want to order their own inspections anyway.  So why bother?

First, as noted, this allows you to price your offer and/or adjust your own expectations for net cash.  No point making big plans for an amount of net proceeds you’re not going to get.

Also, if the buyer’s inspections show more problems than your inspections, you’ll already have a second opinion.

Plus, having the inspections sets a professional and honest tone for the transaction.  It builds trust versus suspicion.  This good will is very handy for any back and forth that might occur during the transaction.

Do Ask, Do Tell

Keep in mind that once you know about something “material”, as a seller in virtually all jurisdictions (in the U.S.), you’re required to disclose.  Omitting a material fact is akin to misrepresentation.

Now if you’re a sneaky character, you may think it better NOT to know, so you’re under no obligation to disclose.  After all, you can only disclose things you know…or where the law deems that you have SHOULD know.

BUT…if the buyer is going to order inspections and find things out, they’ll probably tell you when they start bargaining.  So you’re probably going to find out anyway.  And then if the first offer falls apart, you’ll have to disclose to every subsequent buyer anyway.

So we think it just makes sense to find out early, correct what makes sense BEFORE you market the property, price your property appropriately for its true condition, then disclose everything.

Ghosts of Transactions Past

Proper real estate disclosures help prevent old transactions from haunting your futureEven if you “get away” with selling a property with a major undisclosed problem, a duped and angry buyer may decide you cheated him…and come back to unwind the transaction or sue for damages.  Who needs that?

Worse, if you’re active in the market, you don’t want to be known as “that” guy…the one who tries to cheat buyers.

It Pays to Be a Pro

We think it’s better to be a pro.  So whether buying or selling, be sure you get quality property inspections from qualified providers, and use them to negotiate a deal that is fair to both sides.  You may pay a little more or net a little less, but you’ll sleep better at night…and you’ll build a better reputation.

Plus, when word gets out that you’re a straight shooter, market participants may give you preference when it comes to bringing you deals or buying your inventory.  And that can be worth a LOT.

Listen Now:

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11/01/15: Fed or Foe? Two Valid Views on the Federal Reserve

What is the Fed? Friend or foe? Love it or hate it, the Federal Reserve of the United States is arguably the most powerful financial force on earth. 

Fed policies affect interest rates, prices and credit…not just in the United States, but around the world. Ben Bernanke and Ron Paul have two very different answers to the question, “what is the Fed?”.

Former Fed chair Ben Bernanke has been touring the country promoting his memoir The Courage to Act.  Co-host Russell Gray stopped by a San Francisco Commonwealth Club meeting where Bernanke was speaking…just to hear what Big Ben had to say for himself.

Meanwhile, host Robert Helms sat in on a Simon Black Sovereign Man conference featuring long-time Fed critic, ex-congressman and multi-time Presidential candidate Ron Paul.

Then we sat down with the microphones and chatted about what we heard and how it relates to real estate investors.

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In the studio to reflect on the very valid, but polar opposite views of Ben Bernanke and Ron Paul on the Federal Reserve…

  • Your very valid host, Robert Helms
  • His in-need-of-validation co-host, Russell Gray

Long time listeners know we aren’t raving fans of the Federal Reserve system.  So we confess that right up front. We’re a bit biased when it comes to answering the question, “what is the Fed”?

With that said, we’re huge believers in “getting a 360” when it comes to studying any topic…and especially one as important as the Fed.  In fact, in our Recommended Reading bookstore, we feature several books on what is the Fed.

Some, like G. Edward Griffin’s iconic Creature from Jekyll Island, view the Fed as a nefarious creation of elite collectivists intent on world domination.  Scary stuff, if true.

Others, like David Wessel’s In Fed We Trustheap kudos on the Fed…and Ben Bernanke in particular…for saving the global financial system with bold action in 2008.

Obviously Mr. Bernanke concurs…as he named his memoirs, The Courage to Act.

What is the Fed?

That’s a loaded question in itself.  The standing joke is that the Federal Reserve Bank is not federal (i.e., it’s not a governmental agency, but rather a private company), is not a bank, and it has no reserves.The Federal Reserve Bank has the power to print money.

But for sake of this discussion, suffice it to say that the Federal Reserve Bank is the United States’ central bank.

The Fed issues the currency (those green pieces of paper with pictures of famous dead politicians on them)…called Federal Reserve Notes (FRNs).  You probably refer to them as “dollars”, but that’s technically incorrect.

Of course, that opens up a HUGE can of worms about the difference between currency (FRNs) and money (dollars – which used to be specific amount of silver and gold).  But we won’t go there….at least not today.

So as you can see, right out of the gate … “what is the Fed?” is complicated topic.  But it’s one worth studying when you consider what Henry Ford (the guy who created the Ford Motor Company) said…

Henry Ford said it's better people don't understand the banking system or there'd be a revolt by morning!“It is perhaps well enough that the people of the nation do not know or understand our banking and monetary system, for if they did I believe there would be a revolution before tomorrow morning.” – Henry Ford

Why would he say that?

Well, since Mr. Ford is no longer with us, we can only speculate.  But the gist of the comment is plainly understood.

Obviously, he felt the citizens would not be happy if they knew how money and banking worked.

And that’s exactly what Ron Paul thinks.

Ron Paul has been an outspoken critic of the Federal Reserve for the four decades he served in Congress.

He wants the Fed audited.  He wants the Fed more transparent.  He wants the Fed accountable.

Ron Paul wants the Fed ABOLISHED.

Yet other people are convinced the Fed is an essential part of the U.S. financial system.Ron Paul want to End the Fed - what is the fed

The Fed is the Bank to the Banks

If you’ve ever seen the movies It’s a Wonderful Life or Mary Poppins, you’ve seen a run on the bank.

This is when depositors come wanting their money back, but the bank doesn’t have it.

That’s because the banking system business model is fundamentally flawed.  A bank borrows short by paying you interest…at least they used to…on your demand deposits.  The means you can pull the money out any time you want…as in “short” notice.  They, they lend long…like a 5 year car loan or a 30 year mortgage.

So the amount of actual cash on hand is very low compared to potential demands on cash (withdrawals).  The number is something less than 5%.

No wonder they run out of money!

The idea of a Central Bank (like the Fed), is to give the banks somewhere to go when they run out of money.  It’s like a payday loan for banks.

So when a bank doesn’t have enough money to satisfy customer withdrawals, they can go to the Fed and borrow.  Later, when they get some money in from new deposits or loan payments, they can pay it back.

Obviously, we’re WAY over-simplifying this.  But that’s the basic model.

The Fed Creates the Currency Out of Thin AirThe Federal Reserve can create money simply by printing it....or more accurately, adjusting computer balances of the member banks.

So where does the Fed get the money to lend?

It prints it.

Bet you wish YOU could do that.  But you can’t.  So don’t try.  It won’t end well.

When Panic Strikes…

When the 2008 Financial Crisis struck, financial markets froze up.  It’s a long convoluted story, and if you’re super interested, then you’re a sickie like Russ, and you’ll enjoy plowing through ALL of the books in the Banking and Economics section of the bookstore.

The short of it is that major banks, insurance companies and investment houses all ran out of money…at the same time.

How could that happen?


Wall Street created trillions of dollars of faux financial assets called “derivatives”.  Basically it’s debt secured by debt secured by debt secured by debt.  Get it?

Even though there were BILLIONS of dollars in the financial system, they were holding up MANY TRILLIONS of dollars of debt.

And when the sub-crime…oops…sub-prime…crisis hit, some of that debt went bad.

Normally, that’s not a big deal.  Which is probably why Ben Bernanke assured the world the sub-prime contagion wouldn’t spread.

Famous last words.

Ben Bernanke assured the world the subprime contagion wouldn't spread. Famous last words. In fact, the contagion spread like wildfire and caused an unprecedented collapse in financial markets and housing values.In fact, it spread like wild fire.

That’s because when the sub-prime debt went bad, it set off a daisy chain reaction of ALL the derivatives (debt secured by debt secured by debt secured by debt…secured by sub-prime mortgages).

And each layer had a margin call.  So when the sub-prime loan went bad, the value dropped relative the derivatives backed by it, so the bank that pledged it as collateral got a margin call.

That means they need to put up cash.  Except they didn’t have enough.

So they tried to sell some of the derivatives they had to raise cash.  But no one wanted to buy them.  Seems the word on the Street was the paper (debt) was bad.

Now, in a “no bid” environment, prices were in free fall.  Margin calls were everywhere.  More and more derivatives were hitting the market with no bid…leading to more margin calls, defaults and widespread panic.

Ben Bernanke to the RescueBen Bernanke was nicknamed Helicopter Ben because of his commitment to aggressively expand the money supply to stave off deflation and depression. Friend or foe, what is the fed.

It’s a big long story…but the short of it is this:  Ben Bernanke printed over $4 trillion dollars and started buying up all the bad debt.

The Fed put a “bid” under the market to stop the margin calls.

Then they made huge emergency loans to private businesses.  Like the $80 billion loan that saved AIG Insurance.

They allowed Goldman Sachs and other investment banks they liked (then Secretary of the Treasury Henry Paulson was the former CEO of Goldman Sachs) to become deposit banks so the FDIC fund could be raided…oops…used to save them.

Lehman Brothers wasn’t smart enough to get their CEO into Treasury, so Lehman went bust.

So Ben Bernanke had the courage to act.  And according to people like David Wessel, Richard Duncan and Bernanke himself…Ben’s bold action saved the financial system.

Good job.

Who Broke the Financial System?

Ron Paul, Peter Schiff and other critics of the Federal Reserve System claim that the entire problem was originally caused by Federal Reserve activity in the years and decades leading up to the financial crisis.

You can (and should) read more about that in Peter Schiff’s books, Crash Proof 2.0 and The Real Crash.

Who Cares?

Hopefully, when it comes to understanding, “what is the Fed”, YOU do.  After all, the Fed’s decisions impact every aspect of the economy including interest rates, employment, wages, cost of materials, availability of credit and more.  All those things directly affect you, your tenants, the value of your savings, and the price of your properties.

But we make distinction between politics and investing.

We have an opinion about how things SHOULD be.  Sadly for us, things aren’t that way.  You may have your own opinion and you may agree or disagree with us.

That’s okay. It’s what makes the world go around.

But when it comes to investing, whether we like the Fed or not, and whether or not we agree with the Fed, politicians or each other…what matters is making sure we understand what is the Fed and what’s happening so we can try to anticipate likely outcomes and position our portfolios to roll with the flow.

Will there be inflation or deflation?  Will interest rates rise or fall?  Will employment improve or weaken?  And on and on and on…

The Elephant in the RoomThe Federal Reserve system is the elephant in the room few are willing to acknowledge as the potential source of much of the financial instability in the world

So just like being locked in a room with a huge elephant which could EASILY CRUSH YOU…

So, what is the Fed? It doesn’t matter if you think the Fed is evil and is trying to destroy you…or if the Fed is just a big, lumbering oaf…

If you’re on the wrong end of it, you get CRUSHED.

So pay attention to the Fed.  Try to see if from all angles.  And when it moves, make your adjustments to make sure you’re safely positioned.

Listen Now: 

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The Real Estate Guys™ radio show and podcast provides real estate investing news, education, training and resources that help real estate investors succeed.

10/25/15: Halloween Horror Stories – Lessons Learned When Things Go Bad

Equity happens…but sometimes other “stuff” happens on the road to real estate riches.

Fortunately, we can (and should) learn from bad experiences.  Even better, we can learn from OTHER people’s bad experiences.  And that’s why we broadcast Halloween Horror Stories every year!

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The Real Estate Guys™ radio show and podcast provides real estate investing news, education, training and resources that help real estate investors succeed.

Halloween Horror Stories – Lessons Learned When Things Go BadThe Real Estate Guys radio show Halloween Horror Stories

Problems are a normal part of life.  And sometimes the harder you push yourself to succeed, the more problems you experience.

So if you’re experiencing something less than smooth sailing in your real estate investing career, don’t be dismayed.  As you’re about to discover, you’re in good company.

In the conversation crypt for this episode of The Real Estate Guys™ Halloween Horror Stories:

  • Your horribly talented host, Robert Helms
  • His cryptic co-host, Russell Gray
  • The Real Asset Investor, Dave Zook
  • Global Diversified Partners founder, Danny Kalenov
  • Real estate investor and loyal listener, Casey Thom
  • Real estate investor and loyal listener, Nick Jensen
  • Attorney and regular contributor, Mauricio Rauld
  • Real estate developer and regular contributor, Beth Clifford

What Lurks Beneath…

In this segment, Dave Zook recounts a crappy experience he had when a guy fell into a sewer on one of his properties.

Dave found out that while it can SEEM like a nice benefit to not have to pay for certain municipal services…like city sewer…it also means you have FULL responsibility for maintaining them.  Or cleaning up when something messy happens.

So even though you may not have a choice on any given property, it’s important to set up your budget and reserve contingencies to account for the responsibility.

It’s also a good idea to make sure your insurance policies actually cover ALL the risks you’re exposed to.

Deep Into the Red…

Danny Kalenov goes back in time to one of his very first real estate investing decisions.

Danny was living and working in Southern California at the time.  And he just couldn’t find affordable investment properties where the numbers made sense.

So, he and his wife jumped on a plane, flew to Texas, found a local broker and bought two “great deals”.

Then he perused the local ads, found a property manager, signed the papers, turned over the keys and flew back to California.

That was easy.


Turns out the properties got rented out to a demographic…call them “college students”….who didn’t take good care of the property.  In fact, they trashed it.

And without a clear personal investment philosophy and solid local team to help guide the initial investment decisions…and now the corrective decisions…Danny opted for the better part of valor and dumped the properties at a loss.

But it wasn’t a complete loss.  And that’s because he ended up listening to The Real Estate Guys™ radio show…and he learned a better way to approach the challenge of out of area investing.

First, start with your personal investment philosophy.  Understand WHY you want to invest and WHAT you are willing to do (or not do).

Then think about HOW you need your investment to perform.

Then pick a market WHERE the kinds of properties, economic factors and demographics exist that are most likely to produce the financial result you’re after.

Next, decide WHO you need on your local team and invest time to build a good working relationship.  What do they need to be successful?  How can you help each other?

Have your team help you learn the sub-markets better and then to pick out a property which is most likely to do what you want it to do.

Of course, if your team (led by your property manager) has input on the property, you’re more likely to get one that will do better.

The bottom line is:  spend at least as much time getting good at researching and interviewing team members as you do running around looking at “deals”.

Fire Sale Fourplex…

Sometimes when you’re looking for affordable properties with good cash flows, you’ll find yourself in rougher areas.

In this segment, Casey Thom tells us about a four-plex he bought…right next to a crack house.

Fortunately (just kidding) the crack house burned down.  But unfortunately, the fire jumped to Casey’s property and destroyed it as well.

The owner of the crack house didn’t carry insurance…or enough of it.  So that property didn’t get repaired.

Casey was smart enough to have insurance, including the VERY important “Loss of Income” rider, which pays the scheduled rent to the owner (you!) even though your property is empty while being repaired.

Lots of first time landlords don’t even know to ask for the Loss of Income rider. So while the property gets repaired, the owner has to come out of pocket to pay the mortgage payment and expenses.  That’s bad.

Lesson:  Be sure to work closely with an EXPERIENCED rental property insurance agent to be sure you’re covered for the real world risks you’re facing.

The Incredible Shrinking Lot…

Investor Nick Jensen thought he’d executed the perfect pizza strategy.  That’s the one where you buy a whole pizza and then sell individual slices for a profit.  Then you end up with either a cash profit, equity in any remaining “slices”, or some combination thereof.

In this case, Nick bought approximately (key word…”approximately”) 3 acres with a trailer home on it.  As you might imagine, it was the land which was interesting.  The trailer home just happened to be there.

So Nick decided to sell off 2 acres to a new buyer.  Nick planned to use the proceeds to get rid of the trailer home and build something better.

BUT…what Nick didn’t do was make SURE he ended up with at LEAST one FULL acre.

Because as it turns out, the local zoning ordinances only permit a new building on a MINIMUM one acre lot.  Oops.

And as you might imagine, the potential to buy back a sliver of land from one of the other two one acre buyers is slim.

So now, Nick has a slightly less than one acre property, with slightly less than desirable trailer home on it, and…a very valuable lesson.

Note to self:  Don’t ever ASSUME anything that’s important…like the ability to build a home on lot…or the size of the remaining lot…without VERIFYING the facts FIRST.

Mystery Mailbox Mayhem…

As long time listeners will know, way back in 2012 when the JOBS Act was passed, attorney Mauricio Rauld pointed out a small provision in the bill that had HUGE potential.

In short, Congress was lowering the barriers between Main Street money and Main Street opportunity by allowing purveyors of non-public (private) offerings to advertise directly to the general public.

Until then, the public was only being offered publicly registered securities.  Private deals were all reserved for insiders, friends and family.  In fact, the prior law said that anyone offering a private deal to someone had to have a PRE-EXISTING relationship.

Later, (and it seemed like MUCH later) in September 2013, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) finally released the first phase of regulations.  But they only allowed advertising for private placements to be directed at accredited investors.  So the little investors are still locked out.

We put together a free report on this topic, which is available here.

(UPDATE:  On October 31, 2015 the Wall Street Journal reported that the SEC released updated regulations permitting promotion to NON-ACCREDITED investors.  This is GOOD news for anyone wanting to raise money to do bigger deals…and for all the little investors who’d like to get in on bigger deals).

Meanwhile, Mauricio had a client who got excited about using the freedom under the new law to promote for investors.

So she a organized a presentation and bought a list of accredited investors to send invitations to.

Apparently, one of the recipients didn’t like the invite.  So rather than simply throw it in the trash and ignore it…or contact Mauricio’s client and asked to be removed from the list…this person decided to contact the state security regulator and file a complaint.


And then the regulator decides to go “under cover”, poses as a prospective investor and requests information about the investment offering.

Now you may not know (which is why we have Mauricio on our faculty for our Secrets of Successful Syndication seminar)…but when you put together an offering that is claiming an exemption from public registration, you need to make a filing with the state regulator.

But you aren’t required to do it before you make the offering. It just needs to be done within 15 days of accepting your first investor.

(Note:  We’re not attorneys.  This is just a blog about a radio show.  So before you actually do anything, we STRONGLY recommend you work with your own attorney to be clear about the regulations surrounding your particular situation).

In this case, Mauricio’s client hadn’t filed yet.  So when the regulator checked, they was no filing.  Keep in mind, there was no legal requirement to have filed at this point.  So Mauricio’s client had done nothing wrong.

But that didn’t matter to the regulator.  And rather than simply pick up the phone and ask whether any investments had been accepted (they hadn’t), the regulator simply fired off a “Cease and Desist” order and freaked out this poor entrepreneur.

The good news is the offering was compliant and it all went away with a few responses by counsel.

The lesson?  It’s probably safer to simply file your exemption BEFORE you do any public promotion.  Because you never know who will be looking at your offering…or how they will react.

Out of Control…

Real estate developer Beth Clifford was working on an in-fill project in Washington DC.

The project itself was a very unique product and Beth thought she could get a higher price if prospective buyers actually saw the finished product…instead of buying from an artist’s rendition.

So rather than generate cash flow from pre-sales, Beth took advantage of cheap debt, and borrowed money to fund current cash needs.  After all, the math said the premium of selling a tangible finished product was cheaper than the interest on the loan.

Of course, when debt is involved, it’s really important to hit time lines…because the loan payment creates a drain on available cash.

So the project is cruising along, the structure is completed and nearly ready to be furnished, and everything’s looking good, until…

An arsonist decides it would be a good idea to break into the property and set it on fire.

As you might guess, this introduced some delays and cash flow problems into the plan.  Yikes!

Fortunately, Beth’s insurance company stepped up big and quickly got the rebuild funded.

Meanwhile, Beth decided to turn the situation into a public relations opportunity.  So she organized a barbecue fund raiser to honor all the fire and police who helped her.  She invited all the local people, who then saw her project and her concern for the community.

Sometimes there are things you just can’t control.

But by having contingency funds in your budget, good quality insurance that will actually pay instead of fight with you, and a creative mind which allows you to see how to take something negative you can’t control, you can turn a bad situation into something positive.

Do YOU have a Halloween Horror Story?  Let us know!

Click here to go to our Feedback page.  Tell us what happened, how it turned out and what you learned.  Who knows?  Maybe YOU will end up featured on a future edition of Halloween Horror Stories!

10/11/15: Ask The Guys – Markets, Condos, Deflation and the Future of Money

So many great questions piled up in our email grab bag, Walter could barely carry them into the studio.  Of course, Walter’s got those skinny little bird legs…The Real Estate Guys email grab bag

In any case, it was fun to dive in and see what’s on your mind!

In the studio behind the silver microphones of The Real Estate Guys™ radio show:

  • Your intrepid educator and host, Robert Helms
  • His inept communicator and co-host, Russell Gray
  • The ageless Godfather of Real Estate, Bob Helms

Choosing a Good Real Estate Market

It’s no secret that real estate prices have risen in many markets.  And because of this, investors are looking for places where properties are more affordable.

Long time listeners know we think all things being equal…affordable markets will be a safer place to be in the next decade or so.

To find the best market, it's important to compare two or three.BUT…all things aren’t equal in all markets.

So when a young listener asks our opinion of Detroit as a real estate investment market, we had to take a step back and discuss what makes one market preferable to another.
After all, “good” has to be answered in the context of, “Compared to what?”

So tip #1 is…pick at least two markets to compare.  Not seventeen.  Just two or three.

Next, look for economic drivers.

What makes that market tick economically?  There should be several things.  If there aren’t, then you need to move on.

Look at population and migration trends.Population growth and migration trends are two factors to consider when evaluating a real estate market for potential investment

More people equals more demand for real estate.  Growing population and people moving in means upward pressure on rents and prices….and vice versa.

Look at infrastructure.

Schools, transportation, healthcare and retail are biggies.  The more and better of these essential “bones” that exist in a market, the more likely people and businesses will want to move there…or stay.

Consider the financial health of the government.

The financial health of local government can have an impact on the quality of life, the value of real estate and burden of taxes on businesses and residents.Is it able to provide essential services, improve infrastructure and maintain an environment conducive to economic growth?

A municipality that can’t afford to pay its police or maintain its roads, parks, etc…is likely to impose higher taxes now or in the future.  That chases away businesses and people.

You get the idea.

Of course, with that said, because of the inherent inefficiencies in trading real estate, it’s always possible to find a deal that makes sense.

We just think fighting the local market trends isn’t worth it.  As much as a hassle as investing out of area is, it’s easier than swimming upstream against a declining market.

“Live where you want to live, but invest where the numbers make sense.” – Robert Helms

Condo Conundrum

Another listener is considering investing in a residential condominium.  Like any product type, there are pros and cons.

One of the positives about condos is they tend to be more affordable than single-family homes.  So you potentially get more bang for your investment buck.

You also have the power of the group.  Depending on the size and configuration of a complex, you can have common amenities like a pool, fitness center, tennis courts, green areas, etc.

These are things many tenants would find attractive, but the costs are shared by all owners.Condos present some unique challenges for real estate investors.

On the downside, there are some things every condo investor should be aware of.

First and foremost is the financial condition of the Homeowner’s Association or HOA.

If the HOA isn’t collecting its membership dues or not collecting enough, then all those fancy amenities fall into disrepair.  Or worse, essential things like roofs, driveways and landscaping can deteriorate.

When these major expenses come up and the condo association can’t pay the bill, the owners could end up getting a “special assessment”, which is essentially a cash call.

And if you don’t pay, the HOA can place a lien on your property, impeding your ability to sell the property…or worse, the HOA can initiate a foreclosure to satisfy its lien. Yikes!

Also, on the subject of HOA’s…

Be sure to look over the HOA’s meeting minutes to see if any major issues of concern are being discussed.  If there’s trouble brewing, you probably want to know about it BEFORE you buy.  You can’t expect that the seller or the seller’s agent have read them…much less disclosed anything problematic.  Check it yourself.

It’s also important to pay attention to the percentage of renters in any given complex.

That’s because when the percentage gets too high, the condo becomes “unwarrantable”.  This is lending lingo for saying that conventional lenders won’t loan on it.

Now you might not care when you buy or own, but when you get ready to sell, if your potential buyers can’t get a loan, it limits your options for getting out.  This means a lower price…if you can sell it at all.

So it’s certainly possible to make money in residential condo investing…and many people do…it’s very important to do your homework BEFORE you pull the trigger.

Inflation or Deflation?

We got a great question from a long term listener wants to, know, “Is inflation or deflation coming?

Investments must be structured so you profit and are protected whether there's inflation or deflationThe short answer is yes.  In fact, they’re both already here.

The bigger answer is more complicated, but worth delving into because it’s very relevant to real estate investors.

Inflation and deflation affect everything from interest rates, to wages and rents, to property values...and more.

In an effort to keep it simple, we get inside what causes prices to rise or fall.

The factors which drive prices UP include appreciation, leverage and inflation.  And they are all different.

Factors driving prices down are the inverse:  depreciation, de-leverage and deflation.

Here are the quick definitions:

Appreciation is when more demand is out weighing supply.  Depreciation is when supply is out weighting demand.

Remember, an economy is just one big auction with bidders and sellers.  The more people who “appreciate” an item and bid for it…especially against a static or shrinking supply…the higher the price will rise.

Of course, if supply increases relative to demand, the sellers lower the price to attract buyers, and prices fall.

It’s true for stocks, houses, labor, commodities and pretty much everything.

But there’s more…

Inside “demand” is “capacity to pay“.  After all, if you can’t afford something, it doesn’t matter how much you demand it.

This is where “leverage” comes in.  And leverage dramatically affects “capacity to pay”.

When people who want something they can’t afford today with the money they already have, financing allows them to bring future earnings into the present.  Those funds are used to bid UP the price.

A big part of the explosive rise in the cost of college has come from the explosion in student debt.  A lot of money from the future came into the present and bid up the cost of college.

The same thing happened in housing over the decades following the Depression.

If you can find someone really old, ask them about home loans in the 40’s.  They were maybe 5 or 10 years.  Today, they’re 30 years.  In Japan, they can be 100 years!

That’s a lot of future money (leverage) coming into the present to bid up prices.

Of course, when people can no longer afford to go into debt…or are unwilling to…then all that purchasing power goes away.

And LESS leverage means downward pressure on prices.

The third component of price change is the supply of currency (not debt, just cash) that is in circulation.

The MORE money being circulated, the more can be used to purchase things.

And if the amount of things doesn’t change, the net result is it costs MORE to buy the SAME things.  This is inflation.

Of course, the reverse is true.  But since the central banks control the printing presses and are committed to INFLATION, the probability of true deflation is unlikely.

But that doesn’t mean prices won’t fall. Just take a look at oil.

Because the SUPPLY of oil exploded with the fracking industry, while the DEMAND for oil didn’t grow as quickly, the price of oil dropped.

Meanwhile, because the DEMAND for properties to rent has grown (U.S. home ownership is at the lowest level since 1967) relative to SUPPLY of units available to rent (builders haven’t added as many new units as there are people wanting them)...rents have gone UP.

So for those who call rising prices “inflation” and falling prices “deflation”, BOTH are happening at the same time.

Of course, now you know there’s a lot more to rising and falling prices than just inflation and deflation.

The art is to look at anything you’re investing in and ask how ALL the factors are most likely to affect it.  And then invest accordingly.

Yes, we wish it was simpler too.  But it is what it is…which is why we study all the time.

Could the Yuan replace the Dollar?China has been pushing for the yuan...aka the renminbi...to replace the U.S. dollar as the world's reserve currency

Another topic we study is currency.

Because most of the world transacts most of its business in…or based on…the dollar, we pay attention to it.

Lately, China’s been making moves to push its currency (the yuan or renminbi) to be on par with the U.S. dollar, the British pound and the Japanese yen.

The head of the International Monetary Fund has already publicly stated it’s not a question of if, but a matter of when this will happen.

One listener wonders what to make of all this.

Join the crowd.  We spend quite a bit of time contemplating this very thing.  In fact, one of the major discussion topics on our next Investor Summit at Sea™ will be “The Future of Money”.

At this stage, the trend for the demand of the dollar as a currency (medium of exchange) is actually going down.

At the same time, the supply of dollars has gone up…thanks to trillions of dollars injected into the economic system through multiple doses of quantitative easing by the Fed.

Based on that alone, you’d think the value of the dollar would FALL.  After all, less demand and more supply means a falling price.

So then WHY has the dollar been so strong?

Because people are using it not just as a currency, but as a store of value.  So while demand for the dollar as a currency has fallen, demand as a store of value (a safe haven) has increased.

So back to the listener’s question…what happens if the yuan becomes a reserve currency?

Is the Yuan eventually going to overtake the dollar as the world's reserve currency?If the yuan becomes a reserve currency, it legitimizes its role not just as a medium of exchange, but also as a store of value.

And if China backs the yuan…even partially…by gold (in addition to its substantial reserves and robust manufacturing economy)…it’s conceivable that many investors would dump dollars and buy yuan.

Consider that Britain is issuing the world’s first yuan denominated bonds.  It’s just a clue that the yuan is moving ever closer to becoming a serious player on the world stage.

So if demand for the dollar falls against the backdrop of the trillions printed in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis, then the value of the dollar could fall SUBSTANTIALLY.

Worse for dollar holders, is that once the world begins to lose faith in the dollar as a store of value, the rush for the exits begins.  And this exacerbates the fall of the dollar.  It’s an ugly downward spiral.

What does that mean to you as a Main Street real estate investor?

The first and most likely impact will be a rapid rise in interest rates and in the dollar denominated value of anything real.

If you own real assets, like real estate and precious metals, then you’ll preserve your relative position.

The dollar value of those things will go up, but it won’t mean anything because the dollars won’t be worth as much.

It’s like that $50,000 3 bedroom house from 1970 that’s now worth $500,000.

The house didn’t get bigger or more useful.  The dollar just fell, so now it takes more of them to buy the same real value.

But even though you aren’t richer in real terms, you’re better off than if you didn’t own the house.  So owning anything real when a currency is losing value is a safer place to be.

Next, if you’ve used low fixed rate financing, as interest rates rise, you’re not affected.When a currency collapses, owing real assets is far safer than owning paper assets.

In fact, you have a competitive edge because anyone trying to buy when interest rates are high will have to charge much higher rents in order to cover their costs.

So you can offer low relative prices to your tenants in a time of economic weakness and still be positive cash flow.

Your tenants will probably be very grateful and loyal, so you’ll have less vacancy and less hassles.

All this to say…the more you understand what’s happening, why it’s happening, how it affects you and what you can do about it…the less scary all of these changes are.

Because change is coming whether you’re ready or not…and whether you do anything or not.  Obviously, it’s probably a good idea to pay attention and take appropriate action.

We’ll be here watching, reporting and commenting.  So stay tuned to The Real Estate Guys™ radio show.  And if you really want to compress your learning curve, take the big leap and join us on our next Investor Summit at Sea™.

Meanwhile, listen into this enlightening edition of Ask The Guys!

Listen Now: 

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The Real Estate Guys™ radio show and podcast provides real estate investing news, education, training and resources that help real estate investors succeed.

10/04/15: A Real Life Rock Star Reveals Secrets for Success

“Rock star” is a term commonly used to describe HUGE success in any field of endeavor.

Maybe YOU are dreaming of being a real estate rock star some day!Phil Collen is the co-lead guitarist and backup vocalists for Def Leppard, one of the greatest rock bands in history

So we thought it would be fun (and instructive!) to sit down with a real life rock star…and see how someone goes from obscurity to super-stardom in their chosen field.

Of course, we didn’t want some random one-hit wonder…though we’re sure there’d be lots of lessons there too.

Instead we found someone who’s achieved both huge and ENDURING success.

Rockin’ this edition of The Real Estate Guys™ radio show:

  • Your rock star radio host, Robert Helms
  • His roadie co-host, Russell Gray
  • Lead guitarist for mega-band Def Leppard, Phil Collen

Now right out of the gate, you may wonder WHY we’re interviewing a musician for a real estate investing program.

Def Leppard is one of the greatest rock bands in historyAnd if you’re part of our younger demographic, you may not even know that Def Leppard is one of the greatest selling rock bands in history.

Formed in 1977, Def Leppard has sold more than 100 MILLION albums worldwide.

According to Wikipedia

  • Def Leppard is one of only five rock bands with two original studio albums selling over 10 million copies in the U.S.
  • The band is ranked No. 31 in VH1’s “100 Greatest Artists of Hard Rock”
  • Def Leppard is ranked No. 70 in “100 Greatest Artists of All Time”.

And nearly 30 years later, they continue to pack thousands of people into concerts..  We know.  We went to one in Dallas.  It was awesome.

So that’s HUGE success.  It’s also ENDURING success.  And Phil Collen has been with them since 1982, so he’s been a big part of Def Leppards success.

But success is bigger than just fame and fortune.  

Just think about Elvis Presley, Marilyn Monroe, Jim Belushi, John Candy and a long list of other rich and famous entertainers…along with all kinds of lesser known corporate executives and hard working entrepreneurs.

So while you’re busting your rear building your balance sheet, it’s a good idea to build some balance into the process.

Success is also about physical health, long term relationships, and living with passions and purpose.

After all, without these things…how successful are you really?

Of course, when you think of the stereotypical rock star, you don’t think about health and long term relationships.

Phil Collen is a not just a master of guitar, but also of health.That makes Phil Collen a very rare guy.

Phil’s a 57 year old, non-drinking, drug free, vegan who exercises regularly and is more fit than guys half his age…

All the while, Phil continues to rock the house while on tour with Def Leppard…AND still finds time (and energy!) to make music with not one, but TWO other bands.

So if you think YOU are busy…and struggling to stay fit, focused, motivated and effective while building your real estate empire…

We’re guessing you could learn a thing to two from Phil Collen…and THAT’S why we wanted to talk to him.

We say all the time that what you think and believe affects the actions you take, which in turn produce the results (or lack thereof) in your life.

So getting a chance to grill Phil on how he thinks about life and work could reveal success principles, patterns and philosophies we can apply to our own endeavors.

You’ll discover Phil is a pretty level headed guy and a solid “middle-class” work ethic.

He says in spite of his fabulous success, he hasn’t succumbed to believing his own press. He just keeps working on improving himself.

He’s also fiercely loyal.

In fact, Phil tells us the amazing story of how Def Leppard’s drummer, Rick Allen, literally had his arm ripped off in a car accident…and how his bandmates never thought to replace him.Def Leppard drummer Rick Allen is an amazing story of perseverance, friendship and overcoming adversity

Watching a Def Leppard concert is worth it…just to see Rick Allen play world class drums…with only one arm!

Wow.  And we want to throw in the towel when a tenant trashes one of our units.

Of course, as we’ve mentioned, the rock and roll landscape is littered with tragic stories of substance abuse, broken relationships and excesses of all kinds.

And Phil confesses there was a time early in his career when he got caught up in some of that.

But he had the vision and humility to realize the path he was on, and made a conscious decision to choose a different path.

So Phil hasn’t had a drink in over two decades. He’s as fit a guy as you’ll ever see…at any age.

The lessons are to know yourself and your goals, to be decisive and disciplined to be true to your mission, vision and values…and to always keep pushing yourself to improve.

Easy to say.  Harder to do.  Unless you’re able to unlock your own personal, powerful, compelling why.

We learned a lot from Phil and are inspired to take our personal efforts to the next level.

We trust you’ll find great lessons in this episode…which you apply to the daily pursuit of your hopes, dreams and goals…real estate and otherwise!

Listen Now:

  • Want more? Sign up for The Real Estate Guysfree newsletter and visit our Special Reports library.
  • Don’t miss an episode of The Real Estate Guys™ radio show.  Subscribe to the free podcast!
  • Stay connected with The Real Estate Guys™ on Facebook!

The Real Estate Guys™ radio show and podcast provides real estate investing news, education, training and resources that help real estate investors succeed.

09/27/15: In Search of Yield – Real Estate Niches to Get Rich In

So many opportunities…so little time!

In this fifth and final episode of our series on how to get off the beaten path to find better cash flows, we take a rapid fire look at a variety of real estate niches.

We discover there are MANY places an intrepid real estate investor can go to find profits…without fighting with dumb money or institutional giants.

In the studio pulling the trigger on another exciting episode of The Real Estate Guys™ radio show:

  • Your rapid fire host, Robert Helms
  • His nearly fired co-host, Russell Gray

If your target is cash flow from real estate…even if your long term plan is to build equity…you’re going to LOVE this episode!If you're targeting better cash flow from your real estate investments, there are lots of real estate niches to consider investing in.

The big picture of finding higher yields is to avoid being Waldo.  He’s that kids book character who’s always lost in the crowd.

The key to success is finding investment opportunity where others aren’t looking.  And you’ll be happy to know there are DOZENS.   Here are just a few…Real estate investing niches can be a great way to find better cash flow for your real estate investing dollar

Monetizing Traffic

Whether you have retail space, land strategically located on a busy corner, or a fully leased multi-family or office building, there are people coming, going and passing by.

That traffic is valuable…to someone.

Think about WHO that someone might be, and you may have a potential “tenant”.

Here are some examples:

Kiosks and Vending Machines

Vending machines of all kinds are great ways to turn a little bit of extra floor space into rental incomeLeasing space to a kiosk or vending machine operator on a flat rate or revenue sharing basis can be a great way to generate low maintenance income from otherwise unused space.

ATM machines, laundry rooms and vending machines of all kinds are among the many potential tenants for spare space. And you don’t have to be the operator!

Cell TowersCell towers are another way to generate cash flow from real estate without the hassle of tenants and toilets

Sometimes you can get rents without having any people involved.  Cell towers are another way to monetize a strategic location to generate low maintenance cash flow.

Personal Services Stations

Each station doesn’t take up much space and can be rented to a number of independent operators.  It’s a way to create high yield on small spaces while spreading your income stream over many tenants.

Stations in a hair or nail salon can be a great cash flow investing nicheSpecialized versions of this include hair and nail salons.  They may require modifications to plumbing, but are otherwise fairly simple in terms of property improvements.

Other examples are mobile massage stations where an operator sets up a table or chair, but nothing is permanent.

Classes and Gatherings

Sometimes an unused empty space can be rented out on long term or short term basis…all the way down to per use…for things like Bingo night, flea markets, fitness classes or dance classes, small presentations, etc.Renting space to classes and gatherings which only require an empty room can be an easy way to generate quick cash flow.

It’s amazing how much cash can be generated from just a room and some mats or folding tables and chairs!

Pop-Up Stores

Another use for vacant space…this time of a retail nature…are “pop-up” or seasonal stores.  The most notable is probably a Halloween store, but there can be others.

“Undesirable” Real Estate

Sometimes there’s real estate that doesn’t seem very useful at first glance.  But with a creative mindset, you can find ways to make even the ugly duckling properties generate cash…

Document Storage

Sometimes buildings in less desirable locations, or with limited parking, or not worth prettying up, can be converted into offsite document storage.Document storage can be a good cash flow generating use of an otherwise undesirable space or building.

Some businesses are required by law to retain voluminous amounts of hard copy documents which are seldom if ever accessed because they’ve been scanned.

Often these businesses are financial, legal or medical…and they’re paying high rent for their office space.  It makes no sense to pay premium office rates to store seldom used boxes of documents.


James Rickards, author of Currency Wars and The Death of Money (both on our Recommended Reading list), argues that one of the best places to store and protect wealth from the long term downward trend of paper money…is in vacant land.

The knock on land, like gold, is that is doesn’t produce cash flow.

But it can!  And in more ways than one…

Temporary or Seasonal Tenants

Vacant land can be rented out to temporary or seasonal businesses as a way to generate cash flow from property that's otherwise sitting emptyVacant land can be used for pumpkin patches, Christmas tree sales, traveling carnivals, parking for major events, and more.  If the land is located in a busy place, this is another way to monetize traffic.

Long Term Tenants

Properly permitted empty land can be used to store boats, RVs, trailers or other large items that don’t require much shelter from the elements.    This can be a way to generate income from land that’s away from high traffic areas.

Like document storage, a large item owner might be willing to drive a little to save a lot…compared to paying higher rent at a fully developed self-storage location in town.

Carry Back Financing

If you have a piece of land you don’t want to keep long term, but for whatever reason don’t want to or can’t sell for cash, you can use it to create a stream of income…simply by selling it on an owner carry back.

Investing in notes can be another great way to generate above average cash flowNow you’ve taken the disadvantage of raw land, which is that it’s hard to finance, and made it an advantage…because your buyers will probably pay an above market price and rate for your financing.

And if you combine owner financing with the “pizza” strategy (taking a whole pie and selling it in smaller pieces), you can create multiple income streams on higher values.

In fact, we know people who like this strategy so much, they borrow cheap money from easily re-financed properties to purchase chunks of land for “cash”, then sub-divide and sell the pieces with owner financing.

The down payments get them most or all of their money back, and they retain the cash flow from the loans…at a rate much higher than the original loan.

Now they can take their cash and do it again.

Ranch and Farmland

A variation on the land theme is agricultural land.  Once again, you’re generating income from a plot of land.Renting empty land to farmers for is another great way to generate cash flow from land that is just sitting empty

It can be as simple as leasing out some excess acreage to a farmer.

This might be some land next to a home or restaurant leased to a grape grower, or acres of land for crops of nearly any kind from food to timber.

You can also lease land for storing or grazing livestock.

Specialty Properties

People and business will pay rent to use real property in MANY different ways.  Some of our FAVORITES are…


Self-storage investing is a great way to generate cash flow outside of residential real estateAnother form of retail with no people…or very few.  And as people downsize to save money, they hate to part with their junk.  So they rent space to store it.

But it’s not just middle-class folks.

Specialized storage, like fancy boats and RVs or exotic cars can be a way to collect self-storage rents from a more affluent customer.

Mobile HomesMobile homes are a variation on residential real estate investing that often generates far better cash flow...with less hassle

Another fun one.  Usually, you don’t own the structure.  Just the dirt.  So your tenants are home-owners, just not dirt owners.  And they tend to be longer term, lower hassle tenants.

Assisted Living Facilities

With 10,000+ baby boomers retiring every single day, there’s a growing population of aging people who will eventually need help caring for themselves.

Learning how to invest in assisted living facilities is a great way to generate huge cash flows while providing an important service to a growing population of senior who need help with their cay to day livingNot everyone will want or need a nursing home.  Many won’t want to live in large compounds that look more like hospitals than homes.

For those aging seniors who want the warmth and companionship of a home and friends, but still need someone to help them with their day to day living, assisted living facilities can be a great answer.

And assisted living facilities are a fantastic investment opportunity as well.

We did an entire episode on this topic with our good friend, Gene Guarino.  Gene’s also been kind enough to do a webinar on how to invest in assisted living facilities, which is available in our Special Reports library.

The Opportunities are Endless…

Even with five full episodes dedicated to the Search for Yield, we have only scratched the surface.  And that’s what we LOVE about real estate.

While investors in bank accounts and bonds get next to zero compensation for the very real risks they take… corporate profits are strained by a weak economy…and stock prices gyrate up and down like the Tower of Terror with every breath that proceedeth out of the mouth of Janet Yellen…

Real estate just keeps on being real…serving real human need of ALL kinds…and generating better and more stable cash flows than just about anything else out there.

Listen Now: 

  • Want more? Sign up for The Real Estate Guysfree newsletter and visit our Special Reports library.
  • Don’t miss an episode of The Real Estate Guys™ radio show.  Subscribe to the free podcast!
  • Stay connected with The Real Estate Guys™ on Facebook!

The Real Estate Guys™ radio show and podcast provides real estate investing news, education, training and resources that help real estate investors succeed.

09/20/15: In Search of Yield – Creating Cash Flow from Commercial Real Estate

If you’ve ever wondered how to invest in commercial real estate, this is a great episode to get started with.Commercial real estate is a way for residential real estate investors to expand their horizons and find alternatives to houses and apartment buildings to create passive income from real estate

That’s because there are MANY ways to make money from commercial real estate.

And as we’ve been discussing for the last few episodes, with cash flows on residential real estate tightening, alert investors have already begun to widen their horizons.

In The Real Estate Guys™ radio show studio helping you widen your real estate investing horizons through a look at commercial real estate investing:

  • Your wide open host, Robert Helms
  • His horizontal co-host, Russell Gray

Commercial real estate is both a deep and wide topic.

Flitting across the surface of the topic, there are three major categories of commercial:  Office, Retail and Industrial.

But that’s far from exhaustive.

And then going deep into each of the big three, there are all kinds of sub-categories.  And it’s WAY too much to cover in one episode.

So the purpose of this edition of The Real Estate Guys™ radio show is to give you an overview of some of the many options available when you enter the wide, wonderful world of commercial real estate.


Office buildings are an alternative to residential real estate for creating passive income through real estate investingWhen it comes to office real estate, the first thing most people imagine are office buildings holding white collar workers all sitting at desks starting at computer screens and shuffling papers.

But there’s more to office than just that.  And it’s a good thing.  Because as technology has empowered a virtual workforce, the need for mainstream office space has been affected.

Today, many people telecommute.  That means less desks…or some cases, shared space.

And with more people free lancing, executive suites and collaboration stations are growing in popularity.

Also, with so many records digitized, it’s less important to keep physical records in close proximity of workers.  This reduces the need for high priced office space, while adding to the demand for off-site record storage.

Yes, there are still businesses that retain hard copy documents for many years…often for compliance reasons.


Also growing in popularity are mixed-use buildings where people live above offices or retail space.  Part of this shift can be attributed to younger people waiting longer to start families and move to to the suburbs.

Another factor in the popularity of Mixed-Use is traffic congestion and people’s desire to reduce the amount of time they spend in cars to go to work, shop and socialize.


From strip centers, to shopping malls, to single-purpose structures like car washes or that coffee kiosk in the parking lot, retail real estate comes in a variety of shapes and sizes.

Retail real estate investing is an alternative to investing in rental houses to generate passive incomeAnd while office has certainly been affected by technology induced societal changes, retail much more so.

So as a retail real estate investor, it’s important to understand how the internet is affecting your tenants, the retailers.

One only needs to consider that Amazon, a company with not a single retail location, has surpassed Wal-Mart in terms of stock market capitalization.

People order MANY things on-line (one of the reasons we love markets like Memphis, Dallas and Atlanta that are distribution hubs).  This means they aren’t necessarily going to the corner store to buy them.

Therefore, a smart retail landlord manages his tenant mix carefully…preferring businesses whose products or services require customers to visit them.  You can’t order a sandwich, a mani-pedi, or a haircut online.

But it’s more than simply making sure your tenants have local customers and aren’t losing business to websites.

A good tenant mix will promote cross-selling.  So when a customer comes to the center to drop off their dry-cleaning, they can get get a haircut, or a teeth cleaning, or massage.

In other words, you are helping your tenants leverage each other’s traffic, by offering a complimentary mix of products and services and getting more of that customer’s spending to happen in your retail center.


Although it isn’t glamorous, industrial space can be a stable way to generate long term cash flows.

Industrial tenants often sign long term leases because it's expensive and difficult to move all their equipment to a new locationWhen a business rents a building and loads it up with equipment, whether it’s light manufacturing, auto repair or something else…it takes a lot of time and hassle to move.  So they don’t.

And they’re happy to rent because they don’t want to tie up their money in real estate.  They need it for equipment and inventory.

As you can see the list of commercial opportunities is long and diverse.  And we only scratched the surface.

But as people pile into pile into the the ever more crowded residential space because it’s easy to understand, if you’ll take some time to learn a commercial niche, you may find less competition and more profits are waiting for you.

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The Real Estate Guys™ radio show and podcast provides real estate investing news, education, training and resources that help real estate investors succeed.

09/13/15: In Search of Yield – Escape from Wall Street with Private Placements

Big banks and Wall Street have once again been accused of manipulating a MAJOR financial market.  This time they’ve been slapped with a lawsuit alleging manipulations of the mammoth Treasury market.

Wall Street and big banks have been slapped with a lawsuit alleging manipulation of the market for TreasuriesMaybe getting caught in the LIBOR scandal and paying BILLIONS in fines wasn’t enough of a hand slap.  Or maybe the fines are just commissions to the government for allowing the Wall Street “boys to be boys”.

Who knows?

All we know is that the Fed just decided NOT to raise interest rates, so savers continue to be punished…while flash traders continue to get essentially free money to place highly leveraged bets in the Wall Street casinos.The Fed keeps printing free money for Wall Street gamblers to use in their casinos

Of course, you probably know you don’t have to play their game.  After all, you’re a real estate investor.

The challenge is main stream residential real estate has started to attract attention…and capital.  So prices have been going up even faster than rents, resulting in lower cash flows.

In this third episode of our In Search of Yield series, we take a look at private placements as an alternative to both dangerous paper assets and main stream real estate where returns are just a little too thin.

Private placements are simply non-publicly traded investments which up until recently had largely only been available to insiders.  Many people haven’t heard that a new law breaks Wall Street’s monopoly on investments.New breaks Wall Street's monopoly on investments

Placing themselves safely in the privacy of the studio for this episode of The Real Estate Guys™ radio show:

  • Your high yielding host, Robert Helms
  • His private place mat co-host, Russell Gray
  • Attorney and regular contributor, Mauricio Rauld

Way back when Mauricio first brought to our attention the provision in the JOBS Act that was loosening the restrictions on raising money from investors without the time, hassle and expense of a public offering…we KNEW this had the potential to be big.

And while a lot of tech folks got on board the crowdfunding bus (and we think crowdfunding is cool…and will eventually be very big), we saw an immediate and direct benefit for real estate investors.

Investors who have more deals than money are now much free to share those deals with investors who have more money than deals (or the time and expertise to chase deals).

Sounds like a match made in Heaven.  That’s why we keep producing our Secrets of Successful Syndication seminar.  Syndication is almost always done through private placements.

So if it’s gotten easier to offer private placements, then syndication just got easier too.  THAT’S EXCITING!

If you have MONEY you need to put to work…

Then you need to understand the basics of a private offering.  The good news is it’s not that complicated.

First, you need to know who you’re doing business with.  And it’s not just the people, but the legal structure too.It's easier than ever to research people and businesses you're considering doing business with.

Are the people reputable?  Are they experienced?

What’s the legal structure?  Is it in good standing?

Fortunately, in today’s internet age, it’s fairly easy to find (and rat out) a bad actor.  But you don’t just need to rely on a Google search.  There are law firms who can help you check out the people and entities you’re thinking of investing with.

Next, you should understand the deal.

It's important to read the fine print and understand the details of anything...and anyone...you're investing in.Do you understand the plan for getting in, making money, and getting out?

Many private placements are not liquid like stocks.  So you don’t buy and sell whenever you want.

Typically, there’ll be an offering period when you can get in (invest).  When the offer is “fully subscribed” the offering period ends.

Then there’ll be a holding period.  This is the amount of time the organizer or “sponsor” expects to need to do whatever the deal is.  Often, you can’t get your money back out during this period of time.

Then there’s an exit.  This is the time when the sponsor expects to liquidate the holdings and return your money to you…with profit!

So when you’re looking at an offering, you must consider whether the plan makes sense…and whether it fits with your timing and investment objectives.

Beyond the sponsor and the deal, it’s important to be aware of how the investment might impact your tax, estate and asset protection plan.

Most of the time, your ownership in the offering will be as a “limited” investor.  This means your personal risk is limited to only the money you put in.  But that’s not always the case.

If you invest as a General Partner (you probably never want to do this) or “Tenant in Common” (TIC), you may have some DIRECT exposure to civil, criminal and financial liability.

The tax structure of the deal is important to know also.  A structure that is “disregarded” for tax purposes simply passes all the tax benefits and liabilities to the owners.

That’s not necessarily bad.  In fact, sometimes it’s great.  You just need to know and discuss it with your tax advisor.

It’s also important to think about what happens if…It's important to think about What If....

…the sponsor dies or quits

…the sponsor gets sued or goes bankrupt

…the project fails (especially is there’s a loan involved)

…a fellow investor gets sued or goes bankrupt

…a fellow investor sues the sponsor

…you need your money back sooner than the project is scheduled to return it

…the project takes longer than expected and you need to wait to get your money back

…the project requires more money than initially planned

And this is just a partial list!

Sound scary?  It is.  But you know what’s worse?

While private placements have their risks, so do public offerings. Investors must choose carefully which option is best for them.Investing naively in publicly traded offerings like stock, bonds and mutual funds…that you don’t understand, operating in shark infested markets by people you don’t know, and never asking any questions…except “What happened to my money?” after an unexpected “Black Swan” event crashes markets without warning.

No investment comes without risk.  The best ones come with risks we understand and are managed by people we know and trust.

But there are other advantages to private placements, not the least of which is private placements are PRIVATE.One of the greatest benefits of investing in private placements is the ownership is often highly confidential

And when constructed properly, they can be VERY private, which means it’s much easier to keep your financial holdings out of the cross hairs of financial predators and snoopy governments.

Remember all the mystery surrounding Donald Trump’s actual net worth?  Until Trump filed his paperwork and disclosed his holdings, no one really knew.  Trump’s holdings were private.  And yours can be too.

If you have deals and you need to raise money…

You should be VERY happy right now!  There’s a lot of money looking for the benefits of private placements, including higher yields, better asset protection and more privacy.

And when you learn how to create private placements, you can package up one or more of your deals and offer them to private investors…without the hassle and expense of public registration.

Just remember to think about all of the aforementioned considerations…and make sure your offering is ready to address the many questions a prudent investor would have.  When you do, you’ll have something likely to be attractive to investors and their money.

All this to say, this is a VERY exciting time to be either an investor or an entrepreneur…because a whole new world of opportunity has opened for both!

Listen Now:

  • Want more? Sign up for The Real Estate Guysfree newsletter and visit our Special Reports library.
  • Don’t miss an episode of The Real Estate Guys™ radio show.  Subscribe to the free podcast!
  • Stay connected with The Real Estate Guys™ on Facebook!

The Real Estate Guys™ radio show and podcast provides real estate investing news, education, training and resources that help real estate investors succeed.

09/06/15: In Search of Yield – Hotel and Resort Investing

In the second installment of our series on looking outside of little green houses for higher cash flows, we turn our attention to a Monopoly favorite….big red hotels.

Except in this case, they aren’t big, they aren’t red…and they aren’t necessarily on Boardwalk or Marvin Gardens.

So in this episode, we sit down with a seasoned real estate investor and international boutique resort developer for an insider’s perspective on how hospitality real estate works…and where the opportunities are.

In the studio to help us check in to the four-star ideas for hospitality investing:

  • Your hospitable host, Robert Helms
  • His last resort co-host, Russell Gray
  • International resort developer and regular contributor, Beth Clifford

In a world of artificially low interest rates, artificially high asset values, and overtly managed (manipulated?) financial markets…queasy investors are trying to find something real to cling to.

For most investors, that means income.  But not all income investments are created equal.

With stocks and bonds arguably in a bubble, where can you invest for income without risking a huge loss of principal?Debt-based investments like bonds expose investors to the triple threat of low yield, default and collapsing principal value.  Yikes!

And with interest rates SO low, and the looming threat of rising interest rates, it seems like bonds would be a scary place to be.

At least with real estate backed debt like private mortgages (NOT derivatives of mortgage-backed securities), the debt is backed up by a real asset.  One that presumably can generate sufficient income to make the payments…even if the lender has to take over operations.

So while we would be very hesitant to use bonds or bank accounts to generate income from debt (remember, when you make a deposit in a bank you are effectively loaning them your money), we’d be a lot more open to making loans against quality cash-flowing real estate.

On the equity side (buying a property versus lending against one), we like to borrow whenever we can generate more cash flow from the property than it costs to borrow.  And with interest rates so low, it’s better to be a borrower than a lender in today’s market…unless you’re able to lend at above average interest rates and still attract credit worthy borrowers and quality collateral.

Now if you’re an active residential real estate investor in single-family or apartments, you know that rates are low on both sides of the fence.

That is, though loan rates are low…so are cap rates (cash-on-cash returns).  That’s because lenders and borrowers both rushed into residential in search of better yields and security.

That’s why we think now’s the time to look outside of mainstream residential real estate for better yields.  The principles are the same, but the numbers are better.

In this episode, we consider hotel and resort property investing…and not just domestically, but globally.  And whether you want to play in the debt or the equity side, hotel and resort properties offer some very unique and attractive characteristics.

First, the properties are typically nicer…Resort properties are fund to use and to rent out

Sure, you could buy or loan against a dump.  But except for motels that are really more like psuedo-apartments for transients, most hospitality properties are operated for a more discriminating clientele.  Therefore, the properties are in good shape and located in nicer areas.

Next, the properties are professionally managed

While it’s true that you can hire a professional manager to handle your single-family home or apartment building, some investors are tempted to practice do-it-yourself property management.

But running a hotel or resort is much more work because instead of monthly or yearly leases, you’re dealing with daily or weekly tenancies.  And a good operator is the key to success, and it probably should not be you.

Hospitality has a new guest…

A new generation of mobile workers are able to live, work and play...all at the same time...in hotels and resorts.Hotel and resorts are grabbing a new and growing demographic…the mobile workforce.

In today’s technology empowered free-lance world, it’s easier for people to live a far more mobile lifestyle.  It’s no longer necessary to take off work to stay in a hotel or resort.  You take your work with you.

Hospitality properties are easier than ever to market

The same technology which facilitates a mobile workforce also opens up international markets to the small time hotel or resort operator.  From social media to travel sites, it’s just a lot easier for prospective guests to find a property.  So while it’s nice to have a big brand affiliation, it’s a lot more level playing field for boutique operators to compete for attention.

A sweet spot to store your wealth…

If you invest in a very small property, you may not get the economies of scale necessary to attract a professional operator and generate a respectable hands-off bottom line.

If you go too big, the obvious obstacle is you have to have…or raise…a lot of money.  And then you’re competing with other whales.

But there’s a sweet spot…above the small-time operator, but below the mega-chain, where an individual investor can play and there’s still enough meat on the bone to make it profitable.

And if you can find a niche, or a market, where there’s more need than there is supply,  you can get in and stake your claim early.

Rents from the affluent

One of our favorite things about hospitality investing is it allows us to collect rents from businesses and (relatively) rich people.

When you’re buying little green houses or apartments, your customer (tenant) is typically a working class guy or gal…maybe even on some kind of government subsidy like foot stamps, Social Security, Section 8, etc.

These are the first people to feel the pinch of rising food, energy and healthcare costs.  They just don’t have a lot of extra money after paying for essentials.  So when their cost of living rises, it makes it harder for them to pay you rent.

And if the government subsidy goes away or is reduced…or if interest rates on your tenants’ consumer credit goes up…then it becomes even harder for them to pay you rent.

But, while affluent people would probably never rent their home from you, they’ll pay you rent to stay in your resort property.

There are other ways to derive rents from the affluent, but resort property is one of our favorites.

And right now, the yields are much higher than apartments, so we like it even better!

So tune in and take in a heapin’ helpin’ of our hospitality…discussion, that is.  And consider how you might begin to put some paradise in your portfolio.Collecting resort properties can be a fun and profitable way to invest in real estate.

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The Real Estate Guys™ radio show and podcast provides real estate investing news, education, training and resources that help real estate investors succeed.

08/30/15: In Search of Yield – Going Global

Just as ancient hunter-gatherers would migrate in search of sustenance, real estate investors today might be well-served to migrate into new markets and product types to find yields.

In this first episode in our series on finding yield, we go WAY outside the box of little green houses and red hotels on Main Street USA…and take a look at an eclectic assortment of global opportunities.

In the studio gathering ideas and hunting for opportunity in this episode of The Real Estate Guys™ radio show:

  • Your heckuva hunter and host, Robert Helms
  • His nut-gnawing co-host, Russell Gray
  • Special guest and Uruguyan attorney, Juan Federico Fischer
  • Special guest and Premier of Nevis, the honorable Vance Amory
  • Returning guest and international property broker, Jon Greene
  • Special guest and Myanmar fund manager, James Song

It’s no secret real estate has been attracting a lot of investment capital over the last several years.  After the dust settled from the financial implosion of 2008, the most intrepid investors stepped in and started snapping up bargains.  Turns out that was a pretty good idea.

Today, while there are still deals that make sense, it’s a lot harder for residential real estate investors to find bargains.

Does that mean it’s time to sit out and wait for the next crash?

Only if you’re a one trick pony.

But if you’re open to new markets, product types and strategies, there are lots of alternatives.  In this episode, we talk to several people about investment ideas we’re guessing you wouldn’t have come up with on your own.


Up first, we talk to Juan Federico Fischer.

Juan Federico Fischer is a lawyer from Uruguay who helps investors invest in farmland in UruguayJuan is a lawyer from Uruguay.  But we like him anyway.

When’s the last time you talked to a lawyer…or anyone…from Uruguay?

Juan’s professional practice helps international investors understand and find real estate investment opportunities in Uruguay…and in particular…farmland.

Long time listeners know we’ve been very interested in farmland…anywhere…for the last few years.

Farmland investing is a great way to derive income from land, by serving a need that is even more basic than housing.  And unlike residential real estate, where you need to hone in on local jobs.  Farmland investing lets you produce your crop anywhere and the sell it anywhere.

So no matter where the hungry mouths are…and it’s a safe bet the world’s population is on the rise…you can own land that produces a renewable resource and tap into emerging markets.

Juan explains to us that Uruguay is extremely friendly to foreign investors.  In fact, one-third of the land is owned by foreigners and they’re fine with that.  Very cool.

Uruguay is also one of the most advanced countries in Latin America with the highest per capita income.  We would not have guessed that.  But that’s why we ask experts.


Next, we sit down and visit with the Premier of the tiny Caribbean island nation of Nevis, the honorable Vance Amory.The Honorable Vance Amory is the Premier of Nevis

While you may not have heard of Nevis, you’ve probably heard of Alexander Hamilton.  He’s the guy on the U.S. ten dollar bill.  At least for now.  There’s been some talk about dumping Alex and replacing him with a woman.  But we digress.

So Alexander Hamilton was born in Nevis.  Jot that down.  It could end up as trivia question on a future episode of The Real Estate Guys™.

Back to Nevis…

The investment play in Nevis isn’t farmland.  It’s beautiful resort property….that you can rent out.

We’re also fans of resort property because it’s a way to collect rents from the affluent.  Just say those words.  Collect rents from the affluent.  That just SOUNDS like a good idea.

Investing in Nevis real estate can earn you money and a second passportThis can be great diversification for real estate investors who derive most of their income the lower middle class.

Nevis (and Uruguay also) has another cool feature which our next guest Jon Greene describes…

If you purchase a property of sufficient value (about $400,000 US), it’s possible to not only get the property, but citizenship too!  That means another passport.

While not everyone is into a second (or third or sixth) passport, some people (Simon Black) think it might be a good idea.

What’s REALLY cool is you can buy a property, collect rents for 5 years while (hopefully) equity happens to you…PLUS get a passport.  And then, after 5 years you can sell the property and KEEP the passport.

Of course, we’d like to keep both.  But it’s nice to know that after 5 years, your Nevis citizenship is permanent, even if you decide to move your equity to another place.


Next…and to make sure we’re showing some love to the Eastern hemisphere, we talk with James Song.

James is a principal in an investment fund in Myanmar.

Never heard of it?

How about Burma?  Like Burmese python.

Myanmar is the former Burma and one of the most interesting investment markets in the worldIt’s a long story, but Burma was once one of the richest nations in Southeast Asia.  Then it fell under a military dictatorship.  We hate when that happens.  It’s usually a disaster for an economy.

In time, they got the dictator out of the way, changed their name and held free elections in 1990.  That’s a start!

Of course, getting people to trust their capital to a country with a someone volatile past is a little scary.  It’s like loaning money to someone with a checkered credit history.

Yet, Myanmar is a very resource rich country…including gems, natural gas, oil and other minerals.  And in spite of China’s recent slow down, they’re still a big consumer of natural resources, so Myanmar’s close proximity to China (and India) give it some really big potential customers right nearby.

So brave investors might be willing to take the risk.

But if you’re a little more conservative, before you make that “loan” to the buy with bad credit…

What if you could get an investment guarantee…up to nearly THREE times your investment?

And what if that guarantee is by the U.S. government?

You can.  And it is.

James explains the what, why and how of all this.  We just think it’s amazing and certainly worth a closer look.  Or in this case, a closer listen.

So tune into this episode of The Real Estate Guys™ radio show and join us in our first excursion…in search of yield.

Listen Now: 

  • Want more? Sign up for The Real Estate Guysfree newsletter and visit our Special Reports library.
  • Don’t miss an episode of The Real Estate Guys™ radio show.  Subscribe to the free podcast!
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The Real Estate Guys™ radio show and podcast provides real estate investing news, education, training and resources that help real estate investors succeed.

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