At this rate, something’s gotta give …

Real estate investors tend to like low interest rates.  

After all, low rates mean lower payments for the same size mortgage … or a bigger mortgage for the same payments.  Nice.

The current Wizard of Rates is Fed chair Jerome Powell.  And he just showed up on 60 Minutes and told everyone …

“‘We don’t feel any hurry’ to raise rates this year.”

Many Fed followers consider this a bit of an about face.

And those who use the Fed’s actions as a barometer of economic health and stability are asking what this more dovish stance means.

After all, isn’t the motive of low rates to goose a sluggish economy?  So then what’s all that healthy economy talk?

Also weird is that just over six months ago, Powell stood at a podium and defended his plan to RAISE rates.

Then two months ago he said, ‘The case for raising rates has weakened …”

Last summer, he apparently couldn’t see six months ahead … and now all of the sudden he’s clear for a year? 

Maybe the answer is here …

Fed Chair Powell: ‘The US federal government is on an unsustainable fiscal path’
– Yahoo Finance, 2/26/19

Summit faculty member Peter Schiff constantly reminds us … the economy is addicted to cheap money and Uncle Sam is addicted to spending.

Of course, addicts … and their enablers … sometimes take extreme steps to keep the party going.

So that could mean more money printing … because that’s how the Fed keeps rates down.  And as any debt-ridden household knows, lower interest rates help make a giant debt load a little easier to service.

That’s probably more important than anyone’s letting on.

Because with record corporate, consumer, and government debt … there’s a lot of cheap money junkies out there.

So … maybe the Fed’s just trying to keep them all supplied?

Of course, we have no way of really knowing what data or philosophy is driving Jerome Powell’s decisions.  We just watch and react.

But based on all the green lights flashing across stocks, bonds, oil, and precious metals … it looks like asset price inflation is the bet du jour.

At least for now.

But even though it’s party time in the Wall Street casinos, real estate investors need to play the game differently.

We don’t have the luxury of jumping in and out of positions on a moment’s notice.  Besides, that’s not our game.

We’re not trying to buy low and sell high.  Real estate investors work to find a spread between the cost of capital and the cash flow on capital invested.

So let’s switch from the macro view and get a little closer to Main Street … and glean some lessons from self-storage investors.

But before you tune out, this isn’t about self-storage … it’s about how real estate investors are reacting to an big influx of capital. 

Because as cheap capital floods any market (niche, geography, asset class) it affects prices and yields.   So sooner or later, investors move around searching for opportunities.

And that’s what’s happening in self-storage … 

Self-Storage Investors Start Looking at Smaller Markets to Capture Higher Yields
National Real Estate Investor, 3/11/19

This headline caught our attention because of what the Fed is doing with interest rates.  And as we dug deeper, we found some notable excerpts …

“Investors are being more careful about which assets to bet on …”

“ … worried about the number of new … properties …”

 “To avoid competition from new properties coming on-line … buyers have turned their attention to secondary markets …”

“ … buyers in overbuilt markets are taking more time to underwrite their deals, double-checking assumptions about future leasing and rent growth.”

There’s more, but let’s stop and process these thoughts …

First, these are lessons investors in ANY income-property niche should take note of.  So it’s not just about what’s happening in self-storage.

Notice the attention to supply and demand. 

We see lots of rookie real estate investors crunch the numbers of the property … but completely ignore the inventory pipeline of the market.

And of course, there’s also the supply of prospective renters in a market.  That’s why we also look at population and migration trends.

The article also highlights something we’ve been talking about for a while …

People, businesses, and investors will “overflow” from mature primary markets into emerging secondary markets in search of affordability.

The danger is getting into an emerging market ahead of a migrating problem.

Think about it …

If investors are moving into secondary markets to find better opportunities than in an over-built market … what happens when builders move in for the same reason?

Cheap money makes building easy.  Developers love it.

But Austrian economists warn of “malinvestment” … when bad investments look good primarily because money is cheap.

All long-term debt needs stable long-term cash-flow to service it.  If supply exceeds demand, and rents and cash flows fall … debt can go bad fast.

So when looking at markets, pay attention to the capacity of market to absorb more inventory without collapsing rents.

Because if you go in with optimistic underwriting (tight cash flow) and supply expands faster than demand and rents fall … you could be in trouble.

That’s why self-storage investors are “taking more time to underwrite their deals”.  Maybe you should too.

Hot markets can be intoxicating for investors.  It’s easy to jump on a hot trend hoping to catch a nice ride …

Despite these worries … investors keep paying higher and higher prices … relative to income.  Cap rates … are at their lowest point on record.”

“They continue to trend lower even though interest rates have begun to rise …”

“There is a tremendous amount of capital chasing yield.

That’s what happens when interest rates are low.

Don’t get us wrong.  We’re not complaining.  We like low-cut interest rates as much as the next guy.  But hot markets can be fickle. 

So the moral of this muse is to stay sober and diligent about your underwriting … and be very wary of using short term money to invest long.

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.


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Market Spotlight – Markets on the Move

People, businesses, and their money move around for lots of reasons. New jobs, better opportunities, tax incentives, high returns … the list goes on and on.

Savvy investors monitor these constant migrations. They look for patterns and take action to capitalize on opportunities and avoid risks.

All this movement affects supply and demand … especially for real estate. So today, we’re taking a look at some of the many factors moving markets today.

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

  • Your savvy host, Robert Helms
  • His sassy co-host, Russell Gray

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Read the signs in moving markets

We talk a lot about specific markets that are providing great opportunities for investors right now … but what about a year from now? Five years? Ten?

If you want to stay ahead of the game, you need to know how to read the signs of a market on the move.

It’s important to remember that it isn’t the property that makes you money … it’s the people.

A market is made up of people and businesses that have a relationship with real estate. That’s what makes it valuable.

The more tenants you have in properties that you own, the more positive CASHFLOW comes in … and the richer you become.

When you look at markets, the main thing you are looking at is supply and demand. Are people leaving? Are people coming in?

Then, you need to ask why people are moving in or moving out. There are always underlying factors that affect where and when people move.

As you work to identify these factors, you’ll begin to recognize patterns and principles … information that will enable you to spot emerging trends in other markets and get ahead of the pack.

The power of politics and trade

An article in Bloomberg Business Week points out the upside of a global downturn … juicy real estate deals.

Worldwide, many high-end home prices are being slashed by as much as 30 percent. This market information gives us some interesting clues.

These price cuts could indicate future opportunities … these markets could move!

If you’re looking to flip properties, you could purchase real estate now and have a good chance of selling it in the future for more … and not just because of the equity you put into it to add value.

Take a market like London, for example.

London has a reputation for being super expensive. But sellers of high-end homes are slashing their price tags.

When you do your research, you can discover some of the underlying factors contributing to this lower asking price. Recent changes to tax codes, Brexit, and a surge in populist thinking are just a few.

So, people with the means and ability to move to a more friendly jurisdiction will do it.

But London has a historically great real estate market … when things settle down, there’s a predictable chance prices and demand will shoot right back up.

Sydney, Australia, finds itself in a similar situation. The median home price is down 6 percent year over year since last year.

Australia has an economy that is largely driven by supplying commodities to China. But China is experiencing a slowdown, and Australian markets are feeling the impact.

When you’re looking at markets, you’re looking for clues … and international politics and trade can be powerful factors.

Hong Kong has been a strong real estate market … but like many parts of the world, real estate there is tied to U.S. dollars.

The market is down 10 percent since August of last year and is predicted to be down another 10 percent by 2020.

When you’re looking at moving markets, that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

Populous markets have a lot of drivers … and in Hong Kong those drivers have caused prices to go down quickly. That doesn’t mean they won’t go back up.

Hong Kong is generally considered to be very safe for property rights, personal liberty, and financial stability. It’s an economic capital in that part of the world.

All of these factors are clues that tell the smart real estate investor it might be worth digging deeper to determine whether a market has a good chance of turning upward.

If it does, a temporary downturn can be a lasting opportunity.

Clue in on taxes

There are plenty of markets on the move within the United States … and a lot of that has to do with taxes.

Any time you have changes in the tax code, you will see changes in the way people invest their money. It’s an essential clue in identifying market trends.

New York City is the perfect example.

For the first time in a long time, the median price of condominiums in Manhattan has dropped below $1 million. That’s DOWN 6 percent from a year ago.

Under the previous tax code, you could deduct your state and local taxes from your federal income tax.

If you lived in a high-tax state like New York, you could mitigate a lot of those high taxes by simply deducting them from your federal liabilities. You can’t anymore.

As a result, markets like New York City and California’s Silicon Valley are moving down … and low-tax jurisdictions like Las Vegas, Phoenix, and Florida are moving up.

Learn from moving markets

You might never invest in London, Sydney, Hong Kong, or New York … but you CAN learn a lot by looking at why those markets are moving.

Markets move in different direction for different reasons. The more you understand, the more easily you can identify patterns in the trends occurring in your market of choice.

Studying markets on the move is an invitation for you to do the research. A market that works for one investor doesn’t necessarily work for another.

Markets have personalities … just like people.

You wouldn’t marry somebody just because they were the first person you talked to or because your best friend thinks they’re interesting.

You decide on your own investment life … where you want to be, and what you want to be doing.


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Rent control … a sign of the times?

A very big real estate story splashed across mainstream news recently, but got buried underneath (insert the sensational political headline you’re sick of) …

Oregon Okays First Statewide Mandatory Rent Control Law

 Associated Press, 2/28/19 

Okay, we admit this is a government policy … so it’s political.

But politics is easy to laugh at when it’s happening in cyberspace.  It’s a little less funny when it hits hard on Main Street.

For thousands of Main Street landlords in Oregon, politics just landed hard … right in their portfolio.

Of course, as is often the case, there’s more to the story than meets the eye.

So even if you don’t own property in Oregon … or won’t for much longer 😉 … there’s a lot to glean from this watershed legislation.

We could debate whether or not government should step into a “free” market and regulate the price of anything … from housing to healthcare to haircuts.

But it doesn’t matter if WE think they should or shouldn’t.  They do.

And as a broken financial system keeps growing a wedge between haves and have-nots … we’re guessing more politicians will try to legislate affordability.

So like it or not (we don’t), rent control is something every investor everywhere should be watching out for.

Let’s take a look at how rent control works in the real world …

Real estate investors buy property to produce income and build long-term wealth.  The more income a property produces, the more it’s worth.

In order to create more wealth, real estate investors need to create more income … which means creating more value that a tenant is willing and able to pay for.

The essence of real estate investing is using capital to acquire long-term cash flow.  This is how real estate investors think.

Make sense so far?

Politicians, whom we’re guessing are NOT real estate investors, think investment starts and ends at acquisition.

Unless you’re Warren Buffet, paper asset investors don’t buy stocks with the intention of improving the cash flow.

You just buy, own, and sell.  Maybe collect some dividends along the way.

But when value-add real estate investors buy properties in poor condition with lousy amenities …

… they’re excited about the potential to make further investments into the property AFTER the acquisition.

For example, a property without a washer and dryer might rent for $50 a month less than one with that amenity included.

So for perhaps $600 per unit additional capital invested, a landlord could acquire $600 per year cash flow.

That’s a good ROI.  It’s also a nice amenity for the tenant.

You could say the same about covered parking, self-storage, a laundry room, a workout room, free wi-fi, and on and on.

Rent control caps the owner’s ability to create positive returns by improving properties.  So guess what?  They don’t.

So crappy properties stay crappy … because the incentive to improve them is removed.

And as nicer properties deteriorate, there’s not much incentive to maintain them above the bare minimum.

With profit potential capped on the revenue side … and no cap on the fixed expense side …

… as margins get squeezed, property owners have no choice but to cut services and defer maintenance.

So rent control makes both landlords and properties cheap.  In a bad way.

And because there’s always more people on the low-end of the economic scale (part of the reason Oregon is doing this) …

… there will always be a line of people waiting to get into these “affordable” rentals … even though they’re crappy.

And with little market pressure on landlords to compete for tenants, there’s even less incentive to improve properties, add services and amenities, or lower rents.

But it gets “better” … or actually worse …

As property values decline … or stagnate relative to rising costs of labor and materials … incentives for developers to build new inventory declines too.

Rising values are what attract developers to create more supply … which is the answer to moderating rising values.

Yes, it’s sad when marginal tenants’ incomes don’t grow as fast as rents … or other inflating necessities.

But capping the property’s growth doesn’t pull the tenants up.  It pulls the properties down.

It’s a bad scene. That’s why nearly every investor we know stays away from rent control areas.

But it’s also important to consider WHY this is happening …

The Fed dropped interest rates to zero for nearly a decade, then pumped trillions of dollars into the financial system … primarily to inflate asset values (stocks, bonds, real estate).

It worked … at least for some people.

Those paying attention, with both resources and financial education … snapped up the money, rode the equity train, and got much richer.

You might be one of them … or hope to join them.  We hope you succeed.

You can’t blame people for playing the game using the rules and circumstances in their own best interests. But politicians do.

But the real issue is the financial policy wizards thought these now richer folks would then spend the money … and build businesses … and prosperity would trickle down to Joe six-pack and Larry lunch-bucket. 

In many ways, it worked.  The problem is the wealth didn’t allocate very evenly.  It never does.

Certain markets got a disproportionate share of the goodies. 

And even though Oregon wasn’t really on the list … it was nearby … and so became a collateral beneficiary /victim.

Lots of cheap money ended up in tech stocks, which blew up real estate values in tech hubs like Seattle and Silicon Valley.

As prices shot up, folks in those uber high-priced markets got pushed off the back of the bus … and gravitated to nearby “affordable” places like Oregon, Nevada, and Arizona.

Of course, the folks already in those nearby affordable areas end up competing with the new people who see everything as cheap … and easily bid things up.

It’s a regional variation of gentrification … with its roots in paper asset bubbles blown up by cheap stimulus money.

But politicians are notoriously myopic when it comes to “fixing” things … especially financial problems.

As Peter Schiff says, “Good economics is bad politics, and good politics is bad economics.  That’s why you always get bad economics from politicians.”

Sadly, there are signs it could get worse as politicians try to contain the consequences of an over-financialized economy.

So even though we tout the opportunity to invest in affordable areas ahead of the crowds, it’s REALLY important to stay aware of the political climate.

If you bought into Oregon ahead of the migration …

… you’re now the proud owner of a property where the state government views you more as a public utility to be regulated than a free entrepreneur to be incentivized.

So you’ll either need to get out while the getting’s good … or not as bad as it could get … or start brushing up on your C-class property management skills.

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.


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Podcast: Market Spotlight – Markets on the Move

People, businesses, and their money move around for lots of reasons. As they do, it affects the supply and demand for real estate in both the markets they move into … and the markets they move out of.

Savvy investors track these migration patterns and take proactive steps to capture opportunity and avoid risks.

So listen in as we discuss some of the many factors moving markets today.


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.


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Market Spotlight – Three Metros Attracting Attention Now

As major markets grow and mature, residents and businesses start to feel the financial pinch … and follow their wallets to greener pastures.

Savvy investors recognize trending, emerging markets and migrate there in search of value.

It’s all about monitoring where people are moving … and moving faster.

Listen in as we visit with a multi-market investor to find out why and where he is looking for opportunities.

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

  • Your moving-up host, Robert Helms
  • His moving-over co-host, Russell Gray
  • Fourplex Investment Group consultant, Steve Olson

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Metros on the move

One of the most crucial tasks for a real estate investor is finding a market that matches their real estate philosophy.

As an investor, you must think about the personality and culture of your portfolio … then find a location that offers opportunities for growth and cash flow.

On your own, you can do high-level research on rent prices, population growth, job creation, and infrastructure … but you need a team on the ground to succeed.

A local team is in touch with the minute details of a market. They can point you to the specific areas of a metro that are best for your investment.

We rely on people on the ground to help us understand what markets our listeners should have on their radars. Steve Olson is one of those people.

As a consultant for Fourplex Investment Group, Steve oversees several up-and-coming markets … and he is here to introduce us to three metros attracting attention now.

Salt Lake City, Utah

There are a lot of exciting things happening in this rocky mountain metro.

The greater Salt Lake City area encompasses a lot of cities … each with unique investment opportunities and cultures.

This long, skinny metro follows the mountains of the Wasatch front … and houses a little over 2 million people.

A high birth rate paired with large numbers of people migrating from other states is a testament to the metro’s family-friendly and business-friendly culture.

With mountains on both sides, the area is a hot spot for skiing and other winter sports. In the summer, hiking and biking are popular attractions.

From a real estate perspective, Salt Lake has been a stable market for some time now … but it’s growing faster and faster.

Two key areas that draw investment attention are Silicon Slopes and the Northwest Quadrant.

Silicon Slopes is home to towns like Lehi, American Fork, and Draper. The nickname refers to the large number of tech companies that have set up shop there.

Organizations like Adobe, Ancestry.com, and even the National Security Agency (NSA) have built major hubs in the area.

With a rapid influx of new residents, there have been some growing pains for the tech towns … but infrastructure is catching up and new construction is BOOMING.

The Northwest Quadrant is what Steve calls “an interesting opportunity.” Being surrounded by mountains leaves only so much space for new growth.

“For many years, you would just consider it a barren wasteland,” Steve says, “but now it is the only direction to go.”

The Northwest Quadrant is near the Great Salt Lake and the Salt Lake City International Airport.

“If you want land in any kind of quantity that’s affordable, that’s the direction you have to go,” Steve says.

Businesses recognize this and are embracing the blank slate. Amazon recently built a new shipping facility in the area, and so did UPS.

Thousands of new jobs mean new residents … and those residents are looking for affordable places to live.

The two main cities in the Northwest Quadrant are West Valley City and Magna.

In the past 15 years, only ONE new apartment complex has been built in those cities … and it is operating at 97 percent occupancy.

Steve says the location has lots of potential. Tenants can enjoy new, clean, affordable places to live and get to downtown Salt Lake City in 15 minutes.

“You’re going to look at that area in 5 to 10 years and not even recognize it,” Steve says.

Houston, Texas

Houston, Texas, is a go-to market for many investors … but a recently completed toll road is opening new parts of the area for investment opportunity.

After Hurricane Harvey, the fate of the Houston metro housing market was uncertain. But just four weeks after the storm, home sales had rebounded and seen the greatest rental activity of all time.

 

More and more growth is flowing into the northwest part of the Houston metro. For many tenants, Cypress, Texas, is the destination.

This suburb has become one of Houston’s largest communities and recently ranked 50th in the top 100 highest-income urban areas in the country.

The oil and gas industry have a major presence in the area, as well as the healthcare, aviation, and distribution sectors.

With a diverse, expanding economy, Cypress is on track for significant job and population growth … a great sign for real estate!

Boise, Idaho

You don’t normally hear a ton about this market because it isn’t a giant metro. As of 2018, about 700,000 people call Boise, Idaho, home.

But Steve says if you dig into the stats, you’ll feel very confident in its potential. People who are tired of metros like Portland and Seattle are going to Boise.

“Boise is more business friendly, but you’re still in the Pacific Northwest,” Steve says.

Quality of life in the area is marked by access to plenty of outdoor activities like biking, rock climbing, water sports, and skiing.

The metro is notable for its population and job growth … triple the national average … and is landlord-friendly. And who could forget the low taxes?

New residents are moving into suburbs like Nampa and Meridian and targeting new construction.

Find your niche and your market

No matter where you invest, there are many ways to put your money to work for you … and these markets are no exception.

The approach Steve takes with Fourplex Investment Group is a particularly unique niche.

By building brand-new apartment buildings on empty land, Steve and his team can meet rising space needs and offer great incentives and returns for investors.

That means instead of buying the 40-year-old fourplex down the street, you can buy four units in a 100-unit, brand-new apartment complex.

And you’re not at the mercy of apartment or commercial financing!

Whatever your investment approach and chosen market, remember that it is all about finding an opportunity that matches YOUR philosophy and works for YOU.


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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.


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Main Street needs Main Street investors …

When the 2008 financial crisis hit, the mortgage industry was at the epicenter … and the disruption of funding feeding real estate crushed housing values.

But it’s important to remember, the problem was NOT real estate.

After all, people still needed and wanted places to live.  So the demand for housing remained stable.

It was credit markets that failed.  And in a credit-based economy, everything stops when credit markets seize up … including home loans.

Without a steady influx of fresh debt to fund demand, prices collapsed … taking trillions in equity with it.  And it wasn’t just real estate.  Stocks tanked too.

Mortgage and real estate is just where it started.

The double-whammy of teaser rate resets … and the resulting big monthly payment hikes which sunk a lot of homeowners …

… and then the negative equity led to a rash of defaults by even prime borrowers …

… all of which caused a credit market contagion that scorched financial markets world-wide.

Of course, this all created huge problems for Wall Street, the banks … and for Main Street.

So Uncle Sam and the Federal Reserve got heavily involved to “help” … and to no surprise … Wall Street and the banks came out on top.

The banks needed relief from realizing their losses on their financial statements, while finding a fast path to re-inflating values.

After all, property values are the collateral for all those mortgages.  And when values drop, borrowers walk … along with the prospects of loss-recovery.

So Wall Street rallied and raised many billions of dollars to buy up Main Street houses …

… even as millions of homeowners were being demoted to the rank of tenant.

So now instead of collecting mortgage payments, they collected rent.

As a real estate investor, you probably think that’s better.  Who wants to be a lender, when you can be an owner … enjoying tax breaks and building equity.

But Wall Street doesn’t think like you … and that’s our point.

Today, those Wall Street buyers are landlords.  And by some accounts, they’re not doing a very good job for the Main Street tenants.

Shocker.

Don’t get us wrong.  We’re all for investors stepping in to clean up a mess.

Investors are like the white corpuscles of the economy … bringing capital to damaged areas and healing blight and distress.

It’s one of the reasons we’re excited about Opportunity Zones.

We just hope Main Street investors and syndicators don’t get pushed aside again by the wolves of Wall Street.

The issue is there’s a BIG difference between the way Wall Street money and Main Street money behaves.  And it’s not about savvy … it’s about heart.

Big money guys (and gals, we suppose) have a way of looking at things.

Remember this classic 2012 quote from mega-multi-billionaire and legendary investor Warren Buffett …

“I’d buy up ‘a couple hundred thousand’ single-family homes if I could.” 

Of course, we all know money’s not the gating issue for Buffet.  He can buy anything he wants.  So what could his hesitancy be?

Maybe he agrees with Sam Zell, who’s been quoted as saying this in 2013 …

“An individual investor can buy 25 houses and monitor them. I don’t know how anybody can monitor thousands of houses.”

Really?  We know Main Street investors like Terry Kerr at MidSouth Homebuyers who successfully manage thousands of houses.

So it’s not impossible to manage a big portfolio well. You just need to be committed to doing it … one tenant at a time.

The folks we know who excel at single-family property management really care about their tenants as human beings … and deal with them as individuals.

They’re focused on creating cash-flow as the PRIMARY investment result … as opposed to simply a necessary evil to offset holding costs until a capital gain can be realized at sale.

Buffett and Zell are smart guys.  Buffett saw the opportunity in single-family homes … but had the good sense to know he wasn’t the right guy for the job.  Ditto for Zell.

Big money moves in broad strokes, which is fine when you’re dealing with commoditized assets and you can buy and sell in bulk.

But real estate … especially single-family homes … is not an asset class and can’t be effectively commoditized.  And neither can property management.

We think Main Street tenants are much better served by Main Street landlords … like YOU … so long as you remember the main thing is happy tenants.

Happy tenants means longer tenancy, less turnover and vacancy, and better real-world cash flows.

Of course, you don’t need to be a small-time investor to build a portfolio of single-family homes.

When you learn to syndicate, you can combine bulk money with individual property investing … and build a portfolio of hundreds or even thousands of homes.

Being big isn’t bad.  Wall Street’s problem isn’t its size.  It’s its mindset.

As the legendary Tom Hopkins says …

“Don’t use people and serve money.  Use money and serve people.” 

Because when you do, you’ll end up with both.

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.


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