A tale of two Americas …

You might think this is a political rant about income inequality … or contrasting the America of today to some past period of “the good old days.”

But it’s really more pragmatic.

Right now headlines say the economy is booming, unemployment is down, the stock market is up, and the biggest problem in housing is there’s not enough inventory.

While all that may be true, there are certainly markets where pricing is low, vacancies are high, and “bargains” can be found.

And with lots of newbie investors getting on the real estate bandwagon, we think it’s a good time to revisit a timeless piece of investment wisdom …

Cheap isn’t necessarily a good deal.

Before we expound, let’s consider the opportunities which may lie hidden inside of a U.S. economy in transition.

In other words, might one of yesterday’s disaster markets turn out to be tomorrow’s rising star?

After all, the Trump administration is putting a big emphasis on bringing manufacturing back to the USA.

And as you’ll see, many of today’s distressed real estate markets are in so-called “rust-belt” states … many of which declined substantially since “the good old days” (sorry, had to) of the heyday of U.S. manufacturing.

Now, just because Trump wants manufacturing to come back doesn’t mean it will.  And even if it does, it doesn’t mean it will come back to where it left from.

But it might.  At least in some places.  So it all bears watching.

Because if you can see something happening before most other people, you can make your move in front of the wave and go for a nice ride.

Back in November, 24/7 Wall Street published an article 30 American Ghost Towns.

It was all about neighborhoods with TOO many vacant homes … even in the midst of a housing shortage.

Naturally, houses in these areas are CHEAP …  WAY less than $100,000 per house.  In some cases, as low as $20,000.

And there are some MAJOR cities on this list including Baltimore, Kansas City, St. Louis, Cleveland, Detroit, and Cincinnati.

Now before the hate-mail starts flying, we’re not saying these are all bad cities to invest in … or that houses are cheap and vacancies are high in the ENTIRE cities mentioned.

Big cities are made up of multiple zip codes, and when you look at the 24/7 Wall Street report, you’ll see it’s reporting on SPECIFIC zip codes within those cities.

So THIS is our first point for all out-of-area investors … especially newbies …

You don’t invest in cities.  You invest in NEIGHBORHOODS. 

 And you either need to take the time to get to know your neighborhoods well … or to build a good relationship with someone who does (our favorite method).

Over the years, we’ve seen rookies get into some bad deals by researching a city and seeing promise, then buying the wrong neighborhood and ending up with a big problem.

So be smart.

Also, just because a city or zip code has fallen on bad times, doesn’t mean it will last forever.  By paying attention, you might catch a down-and-out area on the upswing.

Of course, you can die of old age bird-dogging a dead market, so how do you tell the difference between a market with potential … and one that’s probably terminally ill?

Here’s what we look for …

Population – If there’s not enough people for politicians and CEOs to pay attention to, you can be sure that town won’t get much love … or money … to change any time soon.

Education – Industry needs skilled labor, which today is still fairly intellectual (as opposed to manual).  Even in trades, computers and sophisticated equipment are often involved.

When a community has access to quality education, it’s easier for a population to upgrade skills to take advantage of opportunity when it arrives.

Families also prefer to live in areas where educational opportunities are better in the elementary to high-school levels, so education’s impact on an area’s appeal is more than just college and trade schools.

Transportation – In order for people and goods to move around, there needs to be a good airport, highway system, and in some cases, a rail system for raw materials.

Public transportation is helpful too, especially if residential areas are distanced from employment centers.

But don’t discount a small town, IF it’s near a big one.  If the commute isn’t bad, when the big city economy picks up, that nearby small town can benefit too.

Business-friendly State – Some cities are just disadvantaged because they happen to be in a state that’s unfriendly to business.

We like to talk with the local Chamber of Commerce, and read the local Business Journal, because it gives us insight into how businesses feel about themselves, their community, and what they’re working on.

Most expansions don’t happen in a vacuum, so if you’re paying attention you can see trends (both positive and negative) developing ahead of the curve … giving you the opportunity to make your moves … in or out.

Become a student of markets …

It’s more than we can go into here, but a fun exercise if you’re a real estate investing geek is to do your own common-sense analysis of what markets on a list like this have in common.

When you know the common characteristics of good markets, or bad markets, then you’ll recognize when a shift is in progress.

Obviously, recognizing trends early allows you to get out of the path of problems, and ride a wave in the path of progress.

So it’s probably not good enough to simply buy a big market or a booming economy … because things change.

Detroit was once the richest city in the world.  Then it became the largest municipal bankruptcy in the world.  That’s a big shift.  And it happened for many reasons.

It also took decades, so even sleepy investors could adjust.  Even so, there were people who didn’t see it … or bought into a decline they didn’t understand.

Sometimes when prices fall, it doesn’t mean they’ll come back any time soon.

It’s also important to realize the world is moving faster today, so a market might go from boom to bust or vice-versa more rapidly than in the past.

That’s partly because information travels faster, so people paying attention see things sooner … and they react quicker.

But if you fail to pay attention, then no amount of information can help you. The world will just spin faster … with or without you … and you’ll miss out.

To paraphrase the late, great Jim Rohn …

The book, seminar, podcast, article, or homework you don’t see or do … can’t help you.

Until next time … good investing!


More From The Real Estate Guys™…

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

Going from Single to Multi-Family Investing

If the first property you bought as a real estate investor was a single-family home, you’re not alone.

This property type is a popular first choice for many … maybe even most … real estate investors.

But eventually, you’ll want to take your investing to the next level. If you’re at that point, this episode of The Real Estate Guys™ show is for you!

We’ll be chatting with our special guest about how investors can get started with multi-family properties … from duplexes to fourplexes.

Listen in! You’ll hear from:

  • Your next-level host, Robert Helms
  • His level-one co-host, Russell Gray
  • Consultant at Fourplex Investment Group, Steve Olson

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From house-flipper to investor

A bit about our guest … Steve Olson got his start in real estate at the tail end of his college career, when he flipped his first house.

He’s now an experienced investor who works to help other investors add value to multifamily investments.

We asked him for his thoughts on flipping now that he’s moved on.

“It’s not a bad thing to do,” he says, although he acknowledges flipping is not really real estate investing because you have to trade time for dollars.

“You have to know what you’re getting into,” he says. For many investors, flipping can be a great way to generate capital, but it’s not always sustainable.

Steve would recommend that new investors talk to someone who’s flipped houses before they consider that option seriously.

Taking the leap to multi-family properties

If you’ve started out in single-family housing … or even if you haven’t … multi-family properties are an excellent next step.

Steve specifically recommends two-, three-, and four-family apartments.

Why stop at fourplexes? For a good reason … Fannie Mae has loan options for investors that stop at four-family apartments.

These slightly bigger investments are the perfect next step up. And they allow you to fully maximize a Fannie Mae mortgage.

They also provide a more sustainable income source. Think about it … single-family properties are either 100 percent occupied or completely vacant.

But with a fourplex, even if you have one vacancy, you have a 75 percent occupancy rate.

There’s one problem with multi-family properties, though … and that’s demand. Because demand in the housing market is high right now, even for properties bought primarily by investors, cap rates are being pushed up.

Some investors resort to buying properties in bottom-of-the-barrel neighborhoods … but that’s a risky bet.

A return for a low-priced property might look great on paper, but a low return that actually happens is far better than a high return on paper that never happens.

Tenant quality is worth it for the peace of mind.

So how do investors find great properties … that aren’t in C-class neighborhoods? Steve has two options for investors.

Find lower cap rates with a value add

Cap-rate compression is driving prices up … but rents aren’t rising. Steve recommends that investors navigate today’s market by finding value-add opportunities.

Finding a respectable cap rate takes some maneuvering, he says.

He names two options:

  1. Buy a run-down apartment for a low price and add value after purchase.
  2. Buy land pre-construction and then add value by building new apartments.

With the Fourplex Investment Group (FIG), Steve helps investors navigate the second option.

He recruits investors before properties are even built—a win for investors, who can get a better cap rate, and for developers, who get risk removed from their plate.

So how do investments with FIG work?

  • FIG operates in four markets: Salt Lake City, Houston, Boise, and Phoenix. They are cautiously investigating new markets as well.
  • New projects start with a tract of land and a developer. Then FIG puts together a pro forma and releases the new project to investors four to six months before the build date.
  • Investors put down a deposit to reserve their spot, and FIG sets them up with construction financing.
  • Fourplexes (as well as some three-plexes and duplexes) are built in groups. Construction usually takes about 12 months. Investors get two to four brand-new townhomes … and one tax ID.
  • The average fourplex runs from 650k to 800k, depending on the market. Investors put 25 percent down and refinance when construction is complete.
  • FIG requires investors to use an in-house property manager, at least for the first two years of their investment. This provides stability and maintains the integrity of rents.
  • FIG sets up an HOA to preserve the appearance … and value … of the townhouse-style properties. Exterior maintenance of the properties is included.

“The fourplex model does well when the market isn’t doing well,” says Steve … and that’s the ultimate measure of whether your investment is a good choice.

Steve shared lots of details about how investors can get started in multi-family properties with FIG … but if you’re interested in more information about how YOU can make the jump to multi-family properties, please click here to request a report he compiled especially for listeners of The Real Estate Guys™ show.

Words of wisdom

We asked Steve what he wished new investors knew going in to a multi-family deal. He gave us a few words of wisdom:

  • “The pro forma is only as good as the neighborhood.”
  • “You’re not buying treasury bonds.” Steve says nothing … including a return … is guaranteed.
  • “When something goes wrong, that IS normal.” Investors have to accept there will be bumps in the road and …
  • View real estate investments through a long lens. A few months are not indicative of a long-term trend. Investors should be patient, Steve says.

We hope you gleaned some new perspectives from our conversation with Steve. We certainly did!

We believe in education for effective action … which is why we encourage you to seek out many different perspectives and relate them back to your personal investment philosophy.

The more ideas and perspectives you’re surrounded by, the more likely it is you’ll hit on something that perfectly aligns with your own goals as an investor.

So keep on listening!


More From The Real Estate Guys™…

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

Doomsday scenario …

Imagine a scenario where a giant asteroid is on a collision course with Earth.  When it hits, a huge portion of the world will be destroyed.

Scientists and politicians know it’s coming.  But it’s years away.

Fearful of triggering panic, the information is suppressed.  Even when leaks get out, they’re spun to seem insignificant.

Of course, those in the know realize real estate and businesses in the region facing obliteration will become worthless.

They also realize values in safe areas will skyrocket once people realize what’s happening and flee the danger zone … bidding up anything available where it’s safe.

So insiders begin quietly divesting themselves of assets in the danger zone … and begin to systematically accumulate assets in the safe zone.

They know there’s time to warn people, but want to make all their moves before acknowledging to the world the gravity of the situation.

Along the way, astute observers piece together the clues.  They realize what’s happening and use all means available to sound the alarm.

Some are dismissed as conspiracy theorists.  Others as doom porn profiteers.

Meanwhile, news feeds are filled with sensational, but trivial headlines … keeping the masses distracted.

So most people go about their daily business, completely unaware a disaster of epic proportions is slowly, steadily looming closer.

Most will be caught completely off-guard.  Some will reap huge profits simply through happenstance … because they accidentally own property in the safe zone.

Most in the danger zone escape with their lives, but not their fortunes.  Because their wealth and income are all based exclusively in the danger zone, they lose everything.

However, a few alert people in the suspected danger zone decide to hedge by acquiring property and expanding their businesses into other areas.

They reason that so long as the underlying investment makes good sense in its own right, even if a disaster never strikes, they really aren’t worse off for diversifying.

Sure, it takes extra time and effort to learn a new area, build relationships, and make the investments … but the incremental expense is accounted for as an insurance premium.

What would YOU do? 

And what does this have to do with your investing?

Perhaps obviously, the asteroid is a metaphor for a catastrophic financial event … say, the collapse of the U.S. dollar or the global financial system.

Could it happen?  Will it?

Of course, no one knows.  But there’s plenty of smart people out there who think it’s already started … and is inevitable.

It may not destroy the entire world.  But it could destroy yours … depending on how well you’re prepared … or not.

Robert Kiyosaki says the stock market will eventually collapse under the weight of baby-boomers hitting age 70-1/2 and beginning forced liquidations.

It hasn’t happened yet, but that doesn’t mean his premise is false.

It can be reasonably argued massive money printing and Central Bank interventions are propping markets way up … at least temporarily.

Chris Martenson says an economic system reliant on compounding growth and abundant energy is doomed to fail.  You can print money, but you can’t print energy.

So when energy production fails to compound as quickly as debt, an economic implosion is inevitable.  There’s no economic activity without energy.

Worse, Chris says, collapse will happen quickly because of the exponential nature of debt.

You can double the straw on the camel’s back many times … but the final doubling ends it all very quickly.

Consider the growth of only U.S. debt (the rest of the world is just as bad) …

1992 – $4 trillion

2000 – $6 trillion

2008 – $10 trillion

2012 – $16 trillion

2017 – $20 trillion

Notice the speed at which the debt is growing.  It’s compounding like a cancer.  And at some point, it consumes the host.

In 2006, Peter Schiff warned the world about the 2008 financial crisis.  People scoffed.

Peter says the next crash will be even bigger because everything wrong in 2006 is MORE wrong today.

Critics of Schiff’s theory point at the stock market … and the fortunes being made … to claim all is well.

Maybe.  But Venezuela’s had one of the best performing stock markets in recent history … and it’s plain all is not well in Venezuela.

Not surprisingly, people are fleeing Venezuela… a reminder of how economic conditions, harsh or otherwise, stimulate migration.  Of course, that’s of interest to real estate investors.

But this isn’t about Venezuela.  It’s about human behavior in the face of possible disaster.

Some ignore facts they don’t like.  Others deny them.  Still others spin them, while most simply don’t understand and can’t be bothered to try.

A few will remain rational, curious, diligent, and proactive.  Common sense says those folks generally fare better.

Clues in the News …

Bloomberg recently reported China is considering slowing or even ending lending money to the United States.

Markets responded by dumping bonds, which drove up interest rates.

So yes, what China does with its balance sheet affects YOUR interest rates on your Main Street USA rental properties.

Of course, China doesn’t want bond prices to fall when it’s holding a bunch of them … especially if they’re thinking of selling.  They just want to quietly unload.

Unsurprisingly, China decried the Bloomberg report as “fake news”.

But if U.S. news is “fake”, what are non U.S. news sources saying?

Here’s an interesting headline from Sputnik News on January 16th …

Chinese Media Explain How Russia and China Can Escape “Dollar Domination”

You should read it, but two important components are oil and gold.

“ … both Russia and China are also stepping up with exploration and acquisition of physical gold reserves, hedging against the implications of a possible collapse of the de-facto world currency.”

Of course, the de-factor reserve currency they’re referring to is the almighty U.S. dollar.

Hmmm … maybe China and Russia see an asteroid on the horizon.

Doom porn?  Conspiracy theory?  Or clues of a possible cataclysmic event coming to an economy near you?

We don’t know.  But we took Robert Kiyosaki’s warnings in 2006 too lightly and paid a BIG price.

Since then, we’ve gotten to know Peter Schiff, Chris Martenson, and Simon Black.

Peter keeps us sufficiently freaked out.  He makes sure we don’t fall asleep at the watch.

Kiyosaki teaches us to keep an open mind, to seek out diverse perspectives, and talk with other interested and thoughtful observers.

Chris Martenson reminds us to pay attention to energy.  And he’s accurately predicted the recent run-up in the price of oil.

Simon Black advocates the pragmatic wisdom of having a Plan B … not being overly dependent on one location, economy, currency, or investment.

Simon says you’re no worse off to be prepared … and it could make all the difference in your future.

All of these very smart friends … and many more … will be with us for our Investor Summit at Sea™ in April.

It’s unfortunate not everyone reading this can afford the time and expense to be there.

Even more unfortunate are those who can, but choose not to.  They have the most to lose … and gain.

We don’t know if the “asteroid” reports are true or not.  But every investor owes it to themselves to consider the arguments and the options.

Better to be prepared and not have a crisis, than have a crisis and not be prepared.

Until next time … good investing!


More From The Real Estate Guys™…

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

Looking Ahead with our Predictions Panel – Part 2

Listen in to hear part two of our 2018 Predictions Panel!

In this episode of The Real Estate Guys™ show, we sit down with three expert economists. Our guests hail from Fannie Mae, the international finance sector, and the National Association of Realtors® (NAR).

Together, we’ll look back on the economic trends of 2017 … and talk about what our experts think is coming around the corner in 2018.

Then we’ll put it all together to calculate how trends in the U.S. and across the world will affect YOU as a real estate investor.

This show features:

  • Your trending host, Robert Helms
  • His not-terribly-trendy co-host, Russell Gray
  • Doug Duncan, senior vice president and chief economist at Fannie Mae
  • Richard Duncan (no relation!), best-selling author and economist
  • George Ratiu, director of quantitative and commercial research at NAR

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Where do we fall in the economic cycle?

We asked Doug, Richard, and George about where the U.S. economy will be heading in the next 12 months.

“Recent data suggests a recession probably won’t happen in the next 12 months,” says Doug. He reminds investors to be mindful, however … “Every expansion eventually ends.”

Doug also predicts that, “In 2018, we will see a small acceleration of growth over what we saw in 2017.” The forecast at Fannie Mae predicts a growth of approximately 2.75 percent over the next year, after which the market will slow down a bit.

Richard also agrees that although we are in the midst of a remarkably long expansion, it’s unlikely the bubble will burst in the next year.

Should investors sell now? “That depends on their risk tolerance,” Doug told us. “The best strategy is to ride a bubble out and surf it to the top. This is probably not the top of the bubble.”

Every expansion has to end eventually. The market has been growing since the market crash in 2008 … but so far, our expert economists aren’t seeing any major signs of impending recession.

What will cause an eventual crash? “The key as to when the bubble will pop depends on interest rates,” says Richard.

Will interest rates rise?

The biggest factor affecting players in the lending world … that’s you! … is interest rates.

In the next year, says Doug, “The central banks may tighten, which will apply upward pressure to mortgage rates.”

He says upward pressure won’t be significant this year … but that we’re moving that general direction.

Richard is a bit more concerned about rising interest rates, and thinks YOU should be too … he says, “Listeners should be very concerned about the possibility that U.S. interest rates will go up within the year.”

That’s because the Fed is currently reversing quantitative easing right now … essentially “uncreating” money. That may bring danger, as higher interest rates will push asset prices down, says Richard.

He also says higher rates will cause credit to become more expensive and “contract and cripple the economy.”

What’s happening in the housing market?

Doug notes the rental market is slowing down right now … but only because the largest metros are saturated. Smaller, less saturated markets are a better place for investors to be right now.

George agrees. Prices in large-cap spaces are still trending upwards, he says, but investors have started to take their foot off the accelerator over the last year.

By contrast, smaller markets like Austin, Nashville, and Jacksonville are still seeing continued acceleration. “There’s a lot of potential in smaller markets,” says George … and these markets are grabbing the attention of investors, both locally and internationally.

What about the supply side of the equation? “Single family home construction is still running slower than demand, whether that’s from investors or occupants,” says Doug.

George emphasizes the low housing supply … “2017 has been a year characterized by extremely tight inventory,” he says.

But in 2018, George thinks the market will be a stable platform for real estate investors. He says price appreciation will flatten and prices may even decline in some markets.

On the other hand, Doug predicts that “Real prices will continue to accelerate faster than has historically been the case.”

Even if housing prices flatline this year, they’re already historically high. Will incomes rise to meet the cost of buying property? That depends, in part, on the effect of the recent tax reform.

How will the tax bill affect the economy?

According to Doug, “The tax change should result in household income growth due to tax cuts for most households and acceleration in business investment,” which will increase productivity and wages.

“This is the biggest sweeping change in a very long time,” says George.

Will the tax bill benefit those who want to become homeowners? George notes that the mortgage interest deduction and property tax deduction were both capped in the new bill … and predicts that will affect the real estate market going forward.

The impact will be higher, however, in states where the property tax is significant.

What does the future look like for millennials?

George notes there is concern about this generation acting differently than past generations. Living in a sharing economy may mean millennials are less likely to want to own their own homes … which could be good for investors.

But according to Doug, “There’s clear evidence that millennials are moving to buy homes.”

Despite the demand, there are some barriers to entry for millennial home buyers … George notes that property prices have increased six percent year over year, while wages have only gone up about two percent.

Combined with rising interest prices, millennials are faced with an affordability challenge. And, says George, “Student debt also presents a serious issue.”

What’s going on in the global market?

Richard sees several areas of concern, globally.

Europe is cutting down on quantitative easing, just like the U.S. This will push interest rates higher, eventually impacting the market negatively, he says.

He is also concerned about Chinese exports. “The world can no longer continue absorbing so many Chinese exports,” he says, and this may lead to tariffs on goods from China.

He thinks China will begin overproducing goods, weakening prices and ultimately causing bank loans to default. This would cause a systemic banking sector crisis in China, says Richard … and have serious repercussions around the world.

For the time being, however, U.S. investors find themselves in a fairly stable position. According to George, “The U.S. economy has performed quite well, even as other places resort to negative interest rates.”

Although George, Richard, and Duncan aren’t sounding any major alarm bells, we encourage you to do your own research and figure out a plan that’s right for you.

Start by checking out part 1 of our 2018 Predictions Panel, if you haven’t already!

Whether you buy, sell, or hold, make sure you’re prepared for an eventual crash. Investing is a long game. Start figuring out your contingency plan now!


More From The Real Estate Guys™…

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

The disrupted American Dream …

One of today’s most popular buzzwords is “disruptive”.  It describes an event, idea, or invention that upends the status quo in some aspect of life or society.

“Disruptive technology” is used for everything from Amazon to Uber.

And as we’ve previously discussed, many of these things impact real estate and investing.

But disruption transcends technology.

Donald Trump’s election and Brexit are two examples.  The world appeared to be on one course … then boom.  A new direction.

So, political norms, societal norms, government and business models …almost everything is being disrupted right before our eyes.

In fact, disruption is so commonplace, it’s become the new normal.

But really, disruption is nothing new.  It goes back to pre-historic times.

The wheel was disruptive … and revolutionized the world (sorry, we had to…)

Farming was disruptive.  It changed the entire societal model … accelerating labor specialization, commerce … even banking.

The printing press was disruptive … connecting human minds past and present at greater speed, for lower cost, and with greater accuracy than ever before.

The U.S. Constitution was disruptive … protecting private property rights for the common man … the foundation on which all personal wealth is based.

That’s a personal favorite. 😉

Radio, telephone, personal computing, the internet, smart phone … all disruptive … each one taking idea sharing to never-before-seen levels.

Trains, automobiles, and airplanes all disrupted the transportation norms of their time … allowing people and their possessions to circulate faster and less expensively.

Now blockchain technology … at least for now … is threatening to disrupt how freely money and wealth circulate.  And governments have noticed.  Uh oh.

Of course, history shows with every disruption, there are winners and losers.

For every railroad baron or millionaire automobile maker, there were thousands of wagon-makers and liveries put out of business.

So while disruption isn’t new … the rate is unprecedented.  The world we live and invest in is evolving at a dizzying pace.

Blink and you miss huge opportunity.  Or worse, you get wiped out by a trend you didn’t even see coming.

The faster the world is going … the further ahead you need to look.

 So with this mindset, here’s a headline that caught our attention …

Why it makes more sense to rent than buy – Market Watch, 1/13/18

Obviously, a real estate headline.  But disruptive?  Seems pretty mundane.

After all, the rent vs. buy debate has been going on forever … usually linked to temporary circumstances favoring one side over the other at the time.

But this article references two interesting reports …

One is the ATTOM Data Solutions 2018 Rental Affordability Report.

It notes … buying a home is more affordable than renting in 54 percent of U.S. markets, but 64 percent of the population live where it’s cheaper to rent.

Hmmm …

Looks like folks prefer to rent where they want to live than buy where the numbers make sense.  Apparently, buying just isn’t that important to them.

Which leads to the second report, A Revision of the American Dream of Homeownership.

This one’s a premium report, so the link’s to the press release … but look at the title … “a REVISION of the American Dream”.

The idea that something so foundational as the American Dream is being … disrupted … is something worth thinking about.

Market Watch did another article based on this report … “Renting is better than owning to build wealth – if you’re disciplined to invest as well.”

Some might say it’s a hit-piece on real estate to entice millennials to put their savings in the stock market rather than a home.

But that would be cynical.

More interesting is the possibility there’s really a disruptive trend developing in terms of the way society views home ownership.

Consider this …

We have a friend who’s a very successful millennial, who can easily afford to own any kind of car … several of them … if he wanted to.

He doesn’t.

Now that he’s discovered ride-sharing, he sees no value in owning a car … not as a status symbol or an investment.

We’re not suggesting this guy’s viewpoint represents the millions of millennials out there.  But it’s worth noting.

Millennials are a big, powerful demographic rolling through the seasons of life … just like the baby boomers did.

Except millennials aren’t like Boomers …they live in a different world and view it through their own lens.

Career, opportunity, family, community, home ownership … roots … are very different today compared to 50 years ago.

In a world where you may change jobs a dozen or more times in a career, and you operate in a global economy, with a social network that’s not local, but virtual …

… home ownership can go from being stabilizing to burdensome.

The sharing economy is changing the way people think about the value of owning things they simply want the use of.

Absent paradigms of ownership, sharing is arguably more efficient.  But for the first time in history, it’s logistically possible.

No generation before has had as many options for sharing as there are today.  

And while pay-per-use seems like a no-brainer when discussing a depreciating asset like a vehicle, Market Watch isn’t the first to argue a home isn’t a great investment.

The pioneer in the “your home is not an asset” mindset is none other than our good friend (and boomer), Robert Kiyosaki.

Of course, Robert’s an avid real estate investor, so his issue isn’t real estate.  It’s about respecting the difference between consuming and investing.

Investing is about profit.  But when you consume, you want value … the right mix of quality, service, and price.

Some people rent their residence because they get a better value, have less responsibility, enjoy more flexibility and variety …

… and it frees up money to invest in rental properties.  They get a better ROI.

So they own real estate … just not the home they live in.

If there’s a new attitude about home ownership working its way into the marketplace, it could lead to a new experience in landlording too.

Because now you might have more affluent, well-qualified tenants competing for longer term tenancies in nicer properties in better areas.

Stable people with good jobs and incomes, who want to live and keep a nice home in a good area, but don’t want the responsibility of home ownership … can be great tenants.

They can also be a way for you to collect premium properties while someone else pays for them.

It’s a trend we’re watching.

Until next time … good investing!


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

Looking Ahead with Our Predictions Panel – Part 1

There’s a lot of change on the horizon as we sail into the new year.

To help us process it all, we dialed up some of the biggest brains we know to share their insights, perspectives, and predictions.

In part one of our two-part Predictions Panel, we’ll have these smart guests take a look into their crystal balls and introduce the hot topics that will help YOU inform your investing decisions in 2018.

In this episode of The Real Estate Guys™ show, you’ll hear from:

  • Your future-predicting host, Robert Helms
  • His predictable co-host, Russell Gray
  • John Burns of John Burns Consulting
  • Frank Holmes from U.S. Global Investors
  • Money Strong’s Danielle DiMartino Booth
  • Peak Prosperity’s Chris Martenson

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What is 2018 going to be like for investors?

This is the big question on everyone’s minds. As real estate investors, there are a lot of factors that impact our marketplace. So, we need to look beyond the real estate market and examine the broader economy.

There are many variables that will determine how 2018 plays out … like the new tax law, the second year of the Trump administration, a new chairman of the Federal Reserve, record high stock markets, the rebirth of U.S. manufacturing, and international trade deals.

And that’s just the beginning!

Any of our guests today could fill an entire show … and most of them have! But today we are just hitting the highlights. It’s part one of our 2018 Predictions Panel.

What the Trump administration means for real estate investors

“Trump is a disrupter,” says Frank Holmes of U.S. Global Investors, “but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Many positive changes can come because of that.”

We’ve seen how other great disrupters … like AirBnB, Amazon, and Uber … have boosted marketplaces in the end.

“I think the government won’t be able to raise rates too much and is going to do everything they can to maintain economic growth,” Frank adds.

One of the biggest changes the Trump administration is facing in the new year is at the Federal Reserve. Money Strong’s Danielle DiMartino Booth reminds us that President Trump has three vacancies to fill at the Fed. And A LOT is riding on who he chooses to fill those positions.

“2017 was clearly the year of the natural disaster, so we are seeing a ‘sugar high’ from the rebuilding that is happening in places like Puerto Rico, California, Florida, and Texas,” Danielle says. “But we are also starting to see signs that the U.S. household is simply buckling under the strain of inflation.”

How these Fed appointees choose to adjust rates could have a major impact on the economy … and that means the real estate market too.

What about the new tax cuts? John Burns of John Burns consulting predicts that the new tax cuts will be a boost to the economy, particularly to entry level buyers looking for median-priced homes.

Get educated on cryptocurrency

Cryptocurrency is a hot topic in the investment industry. From Bitcoin to Ethereum, it seems like everyone is rushing to get a piece of the pie. But what do our experts think?

“I am completely in love with the technology itself,” says Peak Prosperity’s Chris Martenson. “But it’s hard to predict who is going to be the winner in the end. Which piece of cryptocurrency will survive and still be viable 10 years from now?”

For Chris, it’s really too early to say. He likens it to when the technology to record movies and play them back at home hit the scene.

The core technology was amazing, but who could have predicted that it would evolve from VHS to DVDs to Blockbuster to Netflix?

“My advice would be to understand that when it comes to cryptocurrency, you are speculating,” Chris says. “If you’re interested in these assets, have a small portion of your speculative money there. This isn’t investing at this stage. It really is just speculation.”

Danielle agrees, “The exchanges of the world are not your friends. When it comes to cryptocurrency, I’m not saying avoid it altogether. Just remember that there is nothing backing this right now, so be careful.”

Watch for signs of an economic downturn

They say what goes up must come down. So, it’s natural in times of good economics to wonder when the next recession will arrive.

The number one most important thing in real estate is the economy. If any other sector collapses, the real estate industry will suffer too.

Pay close attention to other industries to spot indicators of economic change.

“After Hurricane Harvey, one of the things I will be watching most closely in 2018 is car sales,” Danielle says. “They’re a good sign of where the economy is heading.”

Danielle also suggests monitoring economic conditions internationally. With so many geopolitical ties and trade deals, our economy relies heavily on the economies of other countries.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if the catalyst for the next American recession came from somewhere overseas,” Danielle says.

Real estate investors can also look within the U.S. market to monitor conditions. For John, one area to keep an eye on is the growth and supply of new homes coming to market.

“If you look at the numbers of new homes coming into the marketplace, you’ll see that those numbers are pretty stagnant,” John says. “Construction costs have gotten so out of control that many homebuilders aren’t able to grow their businesses over time.”

However, John says that right now, he feels there aren’t any major markers pointing toward recession in the real estate industry. But it’s always a good idea to keep an eye out for potential risks.

In the words of Frank Holmes, “A lot of money has gone into real estate, so I think it is going to remain attractive to investors.”

Now you … the investor … get to take all these ideas and ask, “What does it mean to me?”

And there’s more information to come next week in part two of our Predictions Panel. Tune in so you can gather even more facts and be ready to make a plan for a profitable 2018.


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Where people are moving and why …

Real estate investing scientists are avid researchers of the migratory patterns of Homo americanus.After all, population affects demand … and monitoring supply, demand, and capacity to pay is an important part of strategic geographic market selection.

So we’re excited because it’s that time of year when all kinds of reports start coming out about the year past … and we can geek out on data and analysis.

North American Moving Service recently released their report on which states experienced the most inbound and outbound migration.

Of course, strategic investing is more than just chasing trends reflected by data.

It’s about digging into the why behind what happened … and infer what might happen in the future … so you can get in front of a trend and ride the wave.

So let’s take a look …

If you know anything about any of these markets, the map and lists might already be talking to you.

Consider that actions … in this case, people moving … are motivated by running towards and getting away.  It’s wise to look at both.

Avoiding problems is just as important as chasing opportunities.  Losses offset wins.  So we study falling markets as well as rising ones.

We’ve previously discussed the mess in Illinois, which you can read here.

And while the above map is just an overview of the information provided in the complete North American report, it’s enough to think about what these migratory patterns might be indicating.

For additional color, check out a similar report from United Van Lines.  You’ll note that their top and bottom states vary from North American’s.

Also, the United Van Lines map is fun because it’s interactive.  You can look at moving patterns all the way back to 1979.

U-Haul also produces a similar report … and their results also varies from the others.

So why the variances?

Perhaps obviously, each company is reporting its own stats … and not every company is equally represented in every state.

Remember: one point of view never tells the whole story.  Always look for supporting and differing perspectives, and corroborating and disagreeing data.

Once the data’s on the table, you can start to dig in and look for commonalities and trends … clues about what’s happening, where, and why, so you can be more strategic than the lazy investor.

Of course, there’s a danger in over-analysis, so don’t get lost in the weeds and forget to invest.

It takes assets, not ideas, on your balance sheet to build wealth. 
Think of it as “investigation for effective action.”

Remember, you’re not looking for the perfect market or perfect property.  There’s no such thing.

You want to find a good market, with good fundamentals, and a great team.

When it comes to migration, our goal is to understand the motives behind the movers … so we can anticipate whether trends will continue, change direction, or otherwise shift.

Because when people leave, they take demand for housing with them.  Lower demand could lead to lower rents and prices.

If the phenomenon is only temporary, it might be a great time to grab some bargains.

But if the reasons people are moving away are permanent or worsening, you might be buying into a downward trend … that could be unprofitable and expensive to escape.

Of course, there are lots of reasons people move to and from places.  Some are non-financial such as family, friends, lifestyle, and weather.

But financial considerations are also powerful motivators to change locations.  A job, the cost of living, and taxes are typically top of the list.

While things like family, friends, hobbies, and weather preferences are all highly personal and subjective …

… things like job growth, cost of living, and taxes are all relatively objective.  They’re easy to identify and measure.

So it’s a useful exercise to evaluate the locations at the top of the list and see what they have in common in these terms.

Then do the same for those on the bottom, and it may start to paint a picture.

Now this is a newsletter and not a seminar, so we’ll let you dig in and do the research if you’re so inclined.

The great news is this is the information age, so there’s terabytes of data available.

But to speed you along, here’s some resources … and some additional food for thought …

Tax Burden

Taxes have been in the news quite a bit, and it’s that time of year when people are reflecting on the past year … and settling up with taxing authorities.

If Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year, tax time is probably quite a bit further down the list.  It’s Uncle Sam’s turn to open his presents … from you.

To see which states are naughty and nice, Wallet Hub publishes a ranking of states by total tax burden here.

Then keep in mind … information workers and retired boomers are largely free to live anywhere.  Total tax burdens could be an important consideration where they go … or leave.

So when you look at the states with people moving in and out, and compare it to the states in light of their total tax burden … you might find a correlation which could infer taxes are a motivator for moving.

Cost of Living and Affordability

While taxes are an important consideration, we’re guessing even more important is overall cost of living and affordability.

US News puts out an analysis of states by affordability.  The 2017 version isn’t out yet, but here’s the 2016 version.

Like taxes, people whose incomes aren’t tied to a specific geography, might consider making a move to a more affordable area.

Of course, if you study some of the rent-to-price ratios of various locations, you’ll find some of the best residential rental property returns come from affordable areas.

Jobs

Housing health is really a direct reflection of jobs.  While academic politicians think housing creates jobs, it’s really the other way around.

So while people might want to live in the country, on the beach, or on a hilltop … most choose to live where they can find work.

Keep in mind, many characteristics of a locality are affected by state-wide considerations such as tax rates, weather, and regulatory climate … while jobs are local.

Fortunately, Wallet Hub also publishes a pretty handy ranking of Best Cities to Find a Job. Now you’re looking at data at a more local level.

Not Rocket Surgery

While real estate investing isn’t as intellectually demanding as many types of investing (that’s why it’s perfect for us!) … it’s more than just picking out a pretty property with nice curb appeal and putting up a For Rent sign.

Each property sits in a market … and neighborhoods, cities, counties, and states all have their own appeal … or lack thereof.

Migration patterns can help you see a bigger trend so you can pick markets likely to rise with the tide of demand.

Until next time … good investing!


More From The Real Estate Guys™…

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

The Changing Role of the Real Estate Agent

Are real estate agents obsolete?

These days, you can search listings and tour houses entirely through internet platforms. You can also list and sell properties using mobile phone apps.

It’s safe to say our processes for buying and selling properties have completely changed with technological innovation.

In this new landscape, however, real estate investors need real estate professionals on their side … now more than ever.

In this episode of The Real Estate Guys™ show, we’ll explain why the most CRUCIAL relationship you’ll ever have as a real estate investor is with your real estate agent.

You’ll hear from:

  • Your sprightly host, Robert Helms
  • His ancient co-host, Russell Gray
  • Eight-decade investor and broker, Bob Helms

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What is the role of the real estate agent?

First a definition … when we say real estate agent, broker, or professional, we’re referring in general to a person representing you, for a fee, in the purchase or sale of a property.

The role of the real estate agent has really evolved over the past several decades. In the past, only real estate agents had access to listings … but now, anyone with internet access can look up property prices on Zillow.

Although the WAY real estate agents function has changed, the core job of a real estate agent hasn’t changed at all. Real estate agents exist to represent YOU.

Their three main roles:

  1. Representative. Agents represent clients as a third party, at arm’s length. Someone who is not emotionally or financially attached to a deal can usually negotiate a better number.
  2. Fiduciary expert. It is the agent’s duty to hold clients to the highest legal level possible.
  3. Counselor. Agents are experts in empathy and adding value. They provide access to key individuals through their networks and can give you valuable information about the neighborhood you’re investing in.

Agents provide value by interjecting the available information with their accumulated wisdom and connections.

And if you really think about it … how much time can you spend developing negotiation skills for a deal you’ll only do four or five times in your lifetime?

Real estate professionals do the same transaction four or five times … every WEEK. They’ve built up skills and knowledge and have their thumbs on the pulse of the real estate world.

Negotiation is a learned skill

Negotiation is critical to good deals.

It’s even more critical when a deal starts to go sideways.

When a loan doesn’t come through or your financing falls apart, you have to get creative. But how can you get creative with no experience?

And just as importantly, how can you successfully navigate an emotionally negative event?

There’s a real art form to negotiating a win-win deal, and often the best option for a successful negotiation is having a professional do it for you.

A skilled professional can play a neutral role, win the trust of both the buyer and the seller, and figure out deal breakers and makers for both parties.

Critically, an agent doesn’t just broker sales. They’re your advocate. It’s their job to work with both sides … but get you a leg up.

A skilled salesperson can help people get over buyers’ remorse and help them implement the decision they have already made. And that could be the difference between a deal and no deal.

A win-win outcome IS possible … when you’ve got a professional who can suss out the objectives of each party involved in the deal.

A broker IS worth it

We weren’t surprised when we read new research from Collateral Analytics that shows properties sold by agents net a higher final price than homes sold by owners.

In fact, homes for sale by owners receive 5.5 percent less than those sold with the help of agents.

Some of you may be thinking, “What about agent fees?”

If agent fees are approximately equivalent or even slightly more than the difference between the sale price you would have gotten with them and the price you would have gotten without them … then you’re netting a similar deal for SIGNIFICANTLY less time and effort on your part.

Part of being a real estate investor is getting yourself into what we call deal flow … giving up tasks, delegating, and forming networks so the best deals flow straight to YOU.

Delegating tasks to a broker can actually MAKE you money, if your resulting deal flow gets you access to better deals.

It’s extremely important to understand that your business as a professional real estate investor is building a network of people who will feed you money, deals, and information … and have your back when you need support.

And you find people who’ll have your back … by having theirs. That means supporting your agent.

We’re big believers in building relationships to infiltrate a market. Find a way to form two-way relationships. Make other happy so they’ll want to make you happy too!

Don’t go at it on your own

So, what’s changed? One of the biggest changes these days is that brokers do less research.

It’s less about the data agents have at their fingertips … and more about the wisdom they can offer you.

Real estate agents and brokers play the same game they did decades ago. It’s all about negotiation and selling skills.

One more pro to having an agent on your side … professional brokers have both errors and omissions insurance AND a legal team.

They know where landmines are and can help you navigate new and unfamiliar markets without making a legal misstep … or spending a ton of money on a real estate attorney.

If there’s anything you get from this episode, we hope you realize it doesn’t pay to be penny wise and pound foolish.

The best professionals won’t cost you money … they’ll make you money. So, don’t be afraid to pay for the services you need.

And once you find a trustworthy professional, get everything you can from them. Build a relationship. Seek their advice. Eventually, YOU’LL be the one they start bringing unlisted deals to.

Kudos to all the real estate professionals out there.

Don’t have an agent yet? Consider this your challenge to get out there and find one!


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Trickle down Trump-style …

In a financialized economy, it’s easy to obsess over the dollar, Bitcoin, gold, forex, the Fed, interest rates, stock indexes, etc.

Financialization is when an economy emphasizes making money from money … as opposed to making money from making things.

Think of it as the difference between Wall Street and Main Street.

But there’s currently a subtle shift taking place we think is noteworthy.  We call it …

Trump-style Trickle-down

It’s said Donald Trump got elected by working-class people … those who aren’t at the financialization party.

These are folks whose manufacturing jobs trickled overseas for the last three decades.

When you’re underemployed with no savings, you can’t play financialization.  Your balance sheet is missing all those paper assets being pumped full of air from cheap money.

Wall Street’s trickle-down has been Main Street’s “bleed out.”

Does 3-D printing trump paper printing?

When we first asked then-candidate Trump about his plan for the American real estate dream, he simply answered, “Jobs.”

Since then, Trump has been emphasizing manufacturing jobs.  We think the distinction is important.

Manufacturing jobs … or the lack thereof … is something multi-time Summit at Sea™ faculty member Peter Schiff has railed about for years.

Peter insists no economy can print its way to prosperity.

Peter contends a prosperous economy MUST produce things …  and not just blow up paper asset bubbles.

Simply making money from money isn’t enough to keep Main Street off the welfare rolls. There’s no role for them in play in a financialized economy.

Main Street needs good-paying jobs … the kind that come from production and not just consumption.

For residential real estate investors, it’s more than just a philosophical discussion.

It’s central to strategically selecting the right geographic markets, demographics, and product-types.

After all, real estate is about the local economy … and the flow of cash from productivity into rents.  In short, the best tenants have jobs.

Not all jobs are created equal.

While any rent is good, to really understand your real estate investing, it’s a good idea to look further up the food chain … to see what’s trickling down and from where.

People who pour coffee, clean clothes, mow lawns, cut hair … activities we call tertiary employment … usually do so for folks with primary or secondary employment.

So if Acme Manufacturing sub-contracts to Dan’s Welding … and Reuben the welder is buying coffee from Bonnie the barista (your tenant) …

… where does YOUR rent REALLY come from?

And what’s the core economic strength of the local economy … the coffee shop, the welding shop, or the manufacturing company?

What happens to the local economy if Acme moves away?  Who does Reuben weld for so he can buy coffee from Bonnie?

Sure, Acme might not be the only primary employer in the market …

… but if the reasons Acme moved also motivate others to leave … the market loses eventually its anchors and starts to bleed out.

Financialization vs Industrialization

“Trickle down” can be a polarizing term.  But it doesn’t mean the same thing to everyone.

President Trump has the White House, so whether we like or agree with him or not, he’s pulling the levers and we aren’t.

After a year of observing, it seems like Trump’s got his own version of trickle-down and is pushing it forward.

Trickle-down Reagan-style was running up the debt and military spending, which pumped lots of cash into the economy and created a boom.

Yes, tax reform was involved … which blew up real estate and the savings and loan business.  But that’s a discussion for a different day.

Reaganomics “worked” because starting out, the US had a good balance sheet, lots of manufacturing capacity, and high interest rates.

Just like a household with very little debt, lots of income, and adjustable rate loans in a falling rate environment …  you can rack up a LOT of debt for a long time before it starts hurting.

Trickle-down Greenspan / Bernanke / Yellen style was financialization.  De-regulation opened the door, but cheap money from the Fed fueled it … and continues to.

Advocates of trickle-down financialization say pumping up paper assets will make uber-rich people uber-richer … on paper.

Then, the theory goes … the uber-rich will lend to Main Street, who will then spend on Main Street … and eventually the cheap money ends up with Bonnie the barista.

Sounds a little like leftovers to us, but you can decide for yourself if it’s working.  We think Trump’s shocking win says Main Street didn’t think so.

Trickle-down industrialization appears to be Trump’s game plan.

The idea is to create an environment attractive to Acme Manufacturing to start, return, and expand … on Main Street.

It’s a mix of Reagan-style tax cuts and military spending, more Greenspan / Bernanke / Yellen-style cheap money pumping the stock market …

… but it’s all strategically aimed at boosting domestic manufacturing.

If Trump can get his agenda implemented, only time and math will tell if it works.

Oh, and about that math …

How do YOU measure success?

Now that we’ve got you jazzed about… okay, moderately interested in … paying attention to the direction of domestic manufacturing …

… we’re going to complicate things ever so slightly. But for good reason!

We live in a world of perverted units of measure.  It’s something Steve Forbes warned us about the very first time we talked to him.

Most reports we read measure productivity in dollars.  But a fluctuating dollar can give false readings.

Think about it …

If your business produces 1,000 widgets per month at $100 each, you have a $100,000 per month business.  Good job.

If inflation (a falling dollar) causes your widgets to go “up” to $120, you’re a $120,000 per month business … BUT, your production is the SAME.

Have you grown?  Not in terms of real production.

THIS is why it matters to real estate investors …

If at the $120 price, 10% of your customers can no longer afford your widgets, your production falls by 10% to only 900 widgets per month.

At $120 each, 900 widgets sold is $108,000 per month.

Hmmmm …

Measuring in dollars, your business is UP by 8% … from $100k/mo to $108k/mo.  Your look good on paper (there’s a lot of that going around) …

But by production, you’re DOWN by 10% …  so you need 10% less labor, supplies, space, sub-contractors, etc.

It’s like reverse-trickle down, but not really.  Money isn’t flowing up.  It’s really more like bleeding out.  This is why some folks don’t like inflation.

Here’s the point … and thanks for sticking with us …

The U.S. economy looks good … measured in dollars.  But some say there’s still a LOT of work to get real productivity up.

Still, the November jobs report had a ray of sunshine with a spike in manufacturing jobs …  and this article says U.S. manufacturing executives see growth in 2018.  Good.

But if those indicate this is the front-end of trickle-down industrialization that brings prosperity to Main Street, it could be a fun ride for real estate investors.

We’ll keep watching … and so should you.

Until next time … good investing!


More From The Real Estate Guys™…

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