MANY lessons from Amazon’s HQ2 search …

You’ve probably noticed Amazon is taking over the world.  There’s a lot we could say, but we’ll narrow our focus to lessons for real estate investors …

In the May Housing News Report, there’s an article about Amazon’s ongoing search for their second headquarters (HQ2).

Even from just a real estate perspective, Amazon is a fascinating company to watch.  There are SO many lessons to be gleaned from watching what they’re doing … and how the world is reacting.

In case you’re new to the Amazon HQ2 story …

In 2017, Amazon put out a Request for Proposal (RFP) to bait cities across the U.S. into falling all over themselves to win Amazon’s coveted second headquarters …

… and the 50,000 high-paying jobs (average salary = $100,000 per year) that come with it.  We commented on this story at the time.

At first, there were hundreds of cities in the hunt. We said at the time we think there’s an excellent chance Amazon will pick Atlanta.

Early in 2018, the race narrowed to 20 finalists … and Atlanta’s still on the list.

Which brings us to now …

In the Housing News Report article, there’s a link to an analysis by Daren Blomquist of Attom Data Solutions.  Daren ranked the 20 finalists by comparing the cities on certain criteria defined in Amazon’s original RFP.

It’s the same process we did, except Daren used actual data … we just guessed.

Here’s Daren’s actual chart for your viewing pleasure …

Notice Atlanta’s ranked #2.  So our hunch is holding its own … so far.

Meanwhile, there several useful things to glean from this chart and the story behind it, so let’s dig in …

Single family homes are NOT an asset class

We’ve said it a thousand times, but just look at the median prices.  They range from $130,000 in Indianapolis to $1.445 MILLION in New York.

When people say, “Housing is in a bubble!” … what housing are they talking about?  Indy?  Seems pretty cheap based on median price and affordability.

And when high-priced markets start hitting the top of their affordability range, people MOVE … to more affordable markets.  People ALWAYS need a place to live.

So while it’s true that migration patterns drive prices … demand rises or falls as people move in or out … it’s often economics that drive migration patterns.

So an alert investor can get in front of growing demand and ride a wave up. That’s exactly what the folks who got into Dallas five years ago have done.

Equity happens … but not evenly

Look at the disparity in five-year appreciation rates among these markets … from just 8% in Montgomery County to 246% in Dallas.  HUGE difference!

Even in markets where median prices are similar … say Dallas and Miami… the five-year appreciation variance is substantial … Dallas coming in at 246% and Miami at “only” 71%.

So price doesn’t seem to be the deciding factor for appreciation.

And neither does property tax … as Dallas is second highest behind New Jersey (hey, New Jersey had to win at something), but Dallas is still king of appreciation.

Meanwhile Denver has the lowest property tax … half of Atlanta … yet their appreciation rates were about the same.

And price-to-income ratios don’t seem to make the difference either … as Los Angeles and New York are both equally unaffordable, yet New York has half the appreciation.

Keep it simple …

Obviously, this is just one chart … and it’s easy to get lost in the weeds.  We don’t want paralysis from analysis.  So charts like these are just the start of a deeper dive.

But it doesn’t have to be complicated.  Here’s what we look for …

What do winners have in common?

Dallas and Austin are both triple-digit appreciators … even though Dallas grew at twice the rate of Austin.  Is it just simply they’re both in Texas or is there more to the story?

Of course, 10 years ago, Dallas was coming off being one of the slowest appreciating markets in the country.  So something changed that dramatically…

What’s driving appreciation?

Prices get bid up when supply is growing more slowly than demand with capacity to pay.

So though you can see affordability based on income on this chart, you can’t see supply and demand drivers.  Neither can you see the economic drivers.

But you need to look at them.

That’s why we say you can’t study 20 markets well.  It’s too much.  Use a chart like this to pick your top three … and get to know them very well.

What markets are poised for growth?

Once you understand what makes a market like Dallas tick … and how it went from no growth to explosive growth … you can watch for similar factors in sleepy markets.

When you spot something interesting, you go in for a closer look.  If things go your way, you get there before the masses … and you get to catch a rising star!

What are the big players doing?

Big players can do research you can’t.  But that’s okay because you can piggy-back on their hard work.  It’s like cheating off the smart kid in school, except you don’t get detention.

Amazon is a juggernaut in American business … and their power is impacting real estate of all kinds … retail, industrial, and even office and housing in markets where they have a footprint.

That’s why SO much attention is being paid to their search for HQ2.

But another reason to watch is they’re leaders in business decision making too.  Other employers are watching what Amazon does and being influenced by it.

So when Amazon ultimately picks a city, we’re guessing other companies will cheat off their homework … and pick the same city.

The reason we bet on Atlanta is because many other Fortune 1000 companies had already chosen Atlanta as a great place to set up shop.

We don’t know what process they went through to get there.  We just know they did.  So as Amazon goes through its process … they may reach similar conclusions.

Of course, Raleigh is also home to a comparable number of big companies.

But based on the world-class airport, huge labor pool, access to higher education, major distribution, and a business-friendly environment … though it’s close, we still think Atlanta has the edge.

Then again, Jeff Bezos isn’t consulting with us, so we’ll just have to wait and see like everyone else.

Meanwhile, as the field narrows, we’ll continue to learn where corporate leaders think the best location is for their businesses, employees, and new job creation.

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.

Amazon’s primed to ignite a real estate market …

You’ve probably heard Amazon has been shopping for a second home.

In typical corporate fashion, Amazon put out an RFP (Request for Proposal) and many North American cities have been falling all over themselves hoping to win the big prize.

And who can blame them?

After all, Amazon is projecting FIFTY-THOUSAND jobs … with an average annual salary of $100,000 … which is $5 BILLION per YEAR … PLUS another $5 BILLION in capital investment.

That’s a LOT of new economic activity to cram into one metro.

Think about it.  Fifty-thousand jobs is enough for every single man, woman, and child in the cities of Cerritos, CA; Harrisburg, PA; or Galveston TX.

Of course, none of those cities are in the running because they’re too tiny.  But the potential impact on whatever metro wins is substantial.

Amazon says they aren’t going to announce until 2018, so we’ll have to wait and see where they end up … and what kind of incentives they get out of the deal.

A quick perusal of the RFP outlines what Amazon is looking for.

Here are some highlights about what Amazon wants in a market …

  • A metro with more than 1 million people
  • A stable and business-friendly environment
  • Urban or suburban locations attractive to technical talent
  • An international airport within 45 minutes with direct flights to key cities
  • Close to freeways
  • High capacity connectivity (fiber optic and cellular)
  • Access to large, educated labor force
  • Attractive community and quality of life for employees

Here’s what Amazon wants in a deal …

  • Access to mass transit to the site
  • “Scale and creativity” in real estate options (it’ll be interesting to see what this looks like)

There’s more, but these are the biggies.

Of course, a business doesn’t have to be Amazon to want these things.  They just have enough clout to make a public spectacle of it.

Meanwhile, there are some things to think about as you watch this unfold.

Primary jobs create secondary and tertiary jobs.

Amazon boasts it’s “been a catalyst for development in downtown Seattle with an abundance of restaurants, services, coffee shops …”.

So it’s not just 50,000 Amazon jobs at stake … it’s billions in local commerce as Amazon’s employees spend big chunks of their salaries in the local community and create lots of non-Amazon jobs.

Amazon claims every dollar they invested in Seattle generates an additional $1.40 for the city’s overall economy.

So on a $5 billion investment, that’s ANOTHER $2 billion in economic juice for the winning geography.

And while local landlords may not rent directly to many of Amazon’s $100,000-per-year workers … Amazon employees’ spending will create lots of lower paying jobs for potential tenants.

It’s a safe bet Amazon’s presence will be good for landlords.

Other employers may follow the leader.

Most companies aren’t big enough to do the kind of research Amazon is doing.

We’re guessing more than a few employers looking to expand or relocate may just decide, “If it’s good enough for Amazon, it’s good enough for us.”

Some businesses may move to the area specifically to be near Amazon.  That’s even more primary, secondary and tertiary jobs.

Again, all very good for landlords.

Don’t end up paying for the farm the city gives away.

Sometimes in their zeal to notch political points or a marquee win, government officials can blow their budgets landing a big fish.

But the big fish … in this case Amazon … doesn’t pay the price.  They’re usually exempted through “incentives.”  Instead, the bill ends up with the locals.

We’re not saying that’s happening here.  We don’t know the terms of any deal.  But it’s something we’ll look at closely when the final deal’s announced.

It’s been reported San Antonio dropped out of the running because of concerns they “would not be highly competitive from a ‘real estate and incentives perspective.’”

San Antonio’s mayor is quoted as saying, “Blindly giving away the farm isn’t our style.”  It probably shouldn’t be yours either.

So pay attention to what the winner pledges … and whether it’s likely to affect property owners or small businesses.

If you’re not careful, you may end up moving in just in time to pick up your share of the tab for the incentives.

The real estate opportunity will develop slowly.

Even though all this is in the news, there’s no easy way for Wall Street hot money to front-run investors into Main Street real estate.  It’s too cumbersome.

So even though you’re watching the opportunity develop on the front page of mainstream financial news, you have a good chance to get in while the getting’s good.

As plans are announced, the impact on local housing, land, retail, and commercial space will become more apparent.

Once the market is announced, the FIRST thing to do is get boots-on-the-ground and build a team.  They’ll help you find the pockets of opportunity.

Our bet is Amazon will pick the best LONG-TERM deal.  They’ve been playing the long game for their entire existence, and Wall Street seems fine with it.

We’d be shocked if the final criteria for Amazon’s decision are primarily financial incentives, which are most important early.

We think the front runners are probably those cities with great infrastructure in terms of airport, freeways, mass transit, education, population, and connectivity.

Cities who don’t already have all this in place probably can’t make investments big enough fast enough to win … no matter how much tax savings and real estate they give away.

Another reason to think the winner will be a bigger metro is the burden of any incentives must be borne by the people and businesses already there.

Many hands make a light load.  If each voter’s slice of the burden is too big, the politicians and Amazon might have a big PR problem.

Amazon’s smart.  If they want big perks without upsetting the locals, they know they’ll need a bigger population to share the load.

But since you’ve read this far, we’ll go out on a limb and say if we had to place a bet (and we don’t), our money would be on Atlanta.

It’s huge, has great everything, and gives the new HQ proximity to both Latin America and Europe.

Of course, we could be dead wrong (and often are), but it’s fun to speculate.

Is Amazon a prime opportunity for real estate investors?

Time will tell, but it’s certainly a story worth watching.  The odds are good.

Any time this much economic activity is pointed at a single market, there’s certainly going to be a lot of opportunity.

The big question is when and where.  Stay tuned!

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 Real Estate Guys are going back to Atlanta, Georgia!

In case you missed the news, Atlanta home prices were up 19.2 percent in the first quarter, compared with the first quarter of 2012.

In other words, equity happens!

But does that mean the opportunity in Atlanta real estate is over?

Obviously, we don’t think so or we wouldn’t be going back.  We think it only proves that the Atlanta real estate market is attracting buyers.

And for good reason.

Atlanta is one of the biggest metros in the USA.  It’s home to tons of people and several major corporations, including UPS and Home Depot.  Plus it has GREAT infrastructure, which is important to attracting and retaining more people and businesses.

Atlanta is one of the more friendly business states.  And it’s strategically located as a distribution hub for the Southeast.

Atlanta is the state capitol of GeorgiaAtlanta is home to the busiest airport in the U.S. and is the capitol of the state of Georgia.  State government is probably not an industry soon to be outsourced to China.

Atlanta has great medical, transportation and educational infrastructure.  There’s great shopping, entertainment and several major sports franchises.  It’s just a FUN place to live and work – and to visit!

It’s also HUGE.  This means it attracts both state and federal attention when things go sideways.  And whether you or not you like politicians pandering, the fact is that they do it.  So that means big metros get the love in bad times and good.Atlanta is a huge metro and home to several Fortune 100 corporations

Inside of all that hugeness, there are pockets of opportunity.  That is, not EVERY property and neighborhood in Atlanta went up or is a good investment. Some are better than others.

When you understand that, then you know you can go into a big metro and by leveraging local knowledge, you can find those pockets of opportunity that haven’t been discovered by the less diligent.  When you join us on the trip, we’ll teach you how to do that.

Here’s the IMPORTANT thing:  Right now, in spite of the great APPRECIATION Atlanta has experienced, many properties are still selling BELOW replacement cost – and well below their 2007 highs.

What’s even more exciting is that even at today’s prices and interest rates, rental homes in Atlanta still CASH FLOW.  And cash flow is the key to controlling the property while equity happens over time.

Is there more equity in Atlanta’s future?  Maybe.  But the bigger question is whether there’s going to be any in yours.

We can’t say that Atlanta (or Memphis or Belize or Detroit or wherever) is the right market for you.  Only YOU can decide that.  But we’re inviting you to come take a look!  We’ll talk about Personal Investment Philosophy during our Sunday morning strategy session.  Some say that’s one of the most important part so of the trip.

Our experience is that GOOD things happen when we go out and check out new places, meet new people and collect new ideas.  One thing is certain.  No one is coming over to our house to pull us off the couch and hand us an opportunity.

And while the internet is great (after all, that’s how you’re reading this), but it’s the start of an adventure, not the culmination of one.  Real estate happens in the real world.

So we invite YOU to join us in Atlanta on October 25-27.  Worst case, you’ll meet some new friends, learn some new ideas, see some new sights and have some fun.  And who knows?  You just might end up looking back on the trip smiling someday because equity happened to you.

Life is better when equity happens. 🙂

To learn more about The Real Estate Guys™ educational market field trip to Atlanta, Georgia, click here now.

9/1/13: Something to Appreciate – Equity is Happening (Again) in Major Metros

It’s baaack!

Yes, it’s true.  Equity is back and it’s happening in major metropolitan real estate markets.

Surprised?  You shouldn’t be.  These cycles and their causes are highly predictable.  It’s seldom an issue of IF, but more of WHEN.

And while it’s fun to talk macro-economics while in the 30,000 foot clouds of conversation, it’s also important to descend to the street level and find out what’s happening on the ground.

So for this episode, we sit down with returning guest Ken Corsini and pick his brain about what’s happening in one of the USA’s best appreciating markets over the last year:  Atlanta, Georgia.

Sunbathing in the studio in scorching hot Scottsdale, Arizona for this sizzling episode of The Real Estate Guys™ Radio Show:

  • Your smokin’ hot host, Robert Helms
  • His smouldering co-host, Russell Gray
  • Special guest from Hotlanta, Ken Corsini

For those who may have forgotten, “appreciation” is occurs when the price of something you own actually goes UP over time.  And the increase in value over debt and down payment (your cost basis) is called “equity”.  Dust off those memories.  Is it coming back to you now?

Housing prices are on the rise in many major marketsEquity happens in different markets for different reasons.  We’ve spent a lot of time since the mortgage meltdown getting our minds around the macro factors that float all boats.  That is, when central banks like the Fed (and the European Central Bank, the Bank of Japan, etc.) initiate a barrage of “stimulus” (a.k.a., Quantitative Easing, printing money, debasing currency, etc.), it floods the market with liquidity. This liquidity eventually flows through the global economy and puddles up in various asset classes.

But  WHAT those asset classes are, and HOW the money gets there, is an inexact science at best.  It’s like squeezing a balloon.  Pressure in one area is going to create a bulge somewhere else, but you don’t always know where.  And too much pressure, and the bubble springs a leak.

For quite awhile, the excess liquidity has been sucked into the sponges of bank’s balance sheets.  That is, even though there’s tons of money out there, banks haven’t been lending.  But the market abhors a vacuum, so private money  started to mobilize in the form of hedge funds, and money was deployed to heal ailing asset classes (it’s called “scooping up bargains”).

Obviously, single family homes were a decimated asset class.  So it’s no surprise that hedge funds started gobbling up inventory.  And with builders not building, and a growing renter population needing homes to rent, a perfect supply and demand imbalance was forming.

Meanwhile, much of the really distressed inventory was being rehabbed and re-purposed.  The result?  Neighborhoods started looking nicer and therefore increasing in value.

Another contributing factor to pushing prices to the upside are commodity costs.  When prices rise for things like lumber, steel, copper, concrete and the gas that moves them from point A to point B, then when a demand in a market for new inventory screams loud enough for builder’s to build, the new stuff simply costs more.  This pulls the old stuff up right along with it.

Sure, there are some headwinds, especially in the form of a weak jobs recovery and rising interest rates.  No one is saying we’re out of the woods.  But if we were, then there’d be a lot less opportunity, so this is an exciting time.

So coming out of the macro-economic clouds down to the street level, our market case study for this episode is Atlanta, Georgia.  We ask our pal, Ken Corsini from Georgia Residential Partners, a turn-key property provider in Atlanta, to tell us what he’s seeing as he’s out every day buying, selling and renting houses in the suburban neighborhoods of Metro Atlanta.

We find out that Atlanta home prices are up over 20% in the last year.  Wow!  Equity happens!  At least for those who got into the market more than a year ago. (Hmmm….we recall doing a market field trip to Atlanta in June 2012…were you there?  Just sayin’….)

So, Atlanta’s interesting for a lot of reasons.

First, it’s a huge metro.  So it’s not really ONE market, but many.  We like that because inside of that 20% appreciation are over and under achieving neighborhoods.  This is where the knowledge of a great local team can really help an out of area investor.  In other words, proper sub-market selection can stack the odds in your favor.

Also, Atlanta was one of the more beaten up markets coming out of the recession.  As such, it attracted lots of big investors like hedge funds.  It offered an economy of scale that a big fund can’t find in Smallville.  Most of don’t think of buying houses by the dozens, but that’s what funds do.

Now some might think that competing with hedge funds for inventory is hard work.  And it can be.  But there are also some advantages of investing alongside those funds.  Namely, they grab entire neighborhoods and pretty them up.  It’s easier to do when you have a gazillion dollars to invest.

But big funds also leave scraps that Mom ‘n Pop investors can grab.  Then, when the big money pushes up the market, Mom ‘n Pop get to ride the appreciation wave too.  It’s like when you were a kid and your Dad would jump in the pool and create a big wave.  Maybe you can’t do it yourself, but you can still have fun by being in the pool when Dad makes the big splash.

So take a listen to our conversation with Ken Corsini.  Then think about where you were a year ago and what you wished you would have known and done.  Then think about your life a year from now, and consider what you might want to do today.  Oh, by the way, we have another field trip coming to Atlanta (shameless self-promotion), so if you want to meet Ken and see Atlanta with your own eyes (plus hang out with yours truly), we hope you’ll join us.  Click here for more info.

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12/18/11: Regional Roundup – Taking The Pulse of the U.S. Real Estate Market

So many markets, so little time!

Let’s face it.  When you get the hots for real estate investing, there are lots of tempting opportunities out there!

But before you go out on a market field trip date or get hot and heavy with just one market, why not get a quick sampling of what’s out there?  And as great as the internet is, sometimes you just need the warmth of a real human voice.

So we decided to round up 8 different real estate practitioners from 8 different U.S. real estate markets for The Real Estate Guys™ version of market speed dating!

In the studio and calling in from around the country:

  • Your ever debonair host of the show, Robert Helms
  • The ever air- headed co-host, Russell Gray
  • Our marvelous man in Memphis, Terry Kerr
  • Our Miami market maven, Deborah Boza-Valledor
  • Our amazing Atlanta affiliate, Bruce Carlisle
  • A guy who really knows the way to San Jose, Jurgen Weller
  • Our deal-making dude from Dallas, Jay Hartley
  • Our money man from Minneapolis, Rob “Boom Boom” Bonahoom
  • Our phabulous phriend in Phoenix, Timothy Theiss
  • The Washington DC Wonder Woman, Beth “Bubbles” Clifford

Wow!  What a line up! Like Santa in his sled, we decided to cover a lot of ground in a short period of time.  So we hitched up our eight market reindeer and headed into the foggy air of market prognostication.

We ask each call in contributor to give us a quick update on their market from their unique perspective – and what does 2012 look like?

We quickly find out that each market is different.  And each person’s perspective is different too!  That’s the beautiful thing about real estate.  There’s a LOT of variety!

We have a lender, a couple of turnkey property providers, an executive from the largest local Realtor® association in the USA, the manager of a large residential brokerage in a very pricy area, a property manager, an investment property broker and a real estate developer.  Different people, property types and price points, market personalities and perspectives.  Fun!

Some of these markets were killed in the Great Recession.  Others barely felt it.  Some are SUPER expensive, but people are still paying CASH.  And one has lots of foreign buys stepping in and snapping up bargains.

Want to know which is which?  Well, you’ll just have to listen in!  But have a cup of coffee, because this is a fast paced show.  Enjoy!

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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.

10/9/11: Market Spotlight – Exploring Atlanta, Georgia

One of the largest metros in the United States, Atlanta is strategically located in the southeast and serves as a major transportation and distribution hub. We like that because it means those jobs, and all the businesses (and those jobs) that rely on being near that infrastructure, are probably more likely to stay in the area.  In times like these, it’s really important to pick your markets carefully!  Maybe it’s just us, but we prefer the ones with jobs for our tenants. 😉

To learn more about Atlanta, Georgia we invited two market experts to visit our illustrious studios.

Under the headphones and behind the microphones for this exhilarating episode of The Real Estate Guys™ radio show:

  • Your peach of a host, Robert Helms
  • Your peach fuzzed co-host, Russell Gray
  • The Godfather of Real Estate, Bob Helms
  • Atlanta residents and market experts, Ken Corsini and Bruce Carlisle

So we were hanging out at an airport (something we do often) and over-heard these two guys talking about great weather, low cost of living, strong population growth and solid rents.  Our ears perked up, and we invited them to be our guests on the show.

Not really.

Actually, we’ve been talking on the show about the importance of strategic market selection and some of the qualities we think are important in a real estate market – especially for long term buy and hold real estate investing.  The next thing you know,  Ken Corsini calls and asks, “Have you heard about the Atlanta real estate market?”

Well, of course we’ve heard of Atlanta.  But after about 10 minutes it was obvious we really didn’t know that much…but Ken did.

Now we get these calls all the time (don’t you wish you were us?  We know we do!), but before we invest valuable air time we decided to throw down (which is better than throwing up) a few hoops.  After all, we like to know who we’re putting on the radio.

So we asked Ken to fly to Dallas and hang out with us at one of our recent field trips.  And he did!  This gave him a chance to hear all about Dallas (a market we like a lot) and let us know how Atlanta stacks up in comparison.  Not dismayed, he showed up in Dallas and took notes, asked intelligent questions and Ken began our education on the investment opportunities available in Atlanta real estate.

The short of it (we know, it’s already been long) is that we discovered Ken’s a really nice guy, he knows Atlanta very well, and he impressed us enough to invite him onto the show.

As a special bonus, Ken brought along his associate, Bruce Carlisle, who’s not only a lifelong resident of Atlanta and a raving fan, but he’s also a long time real estate practitioner that has been nice enough to write a special report on Atlanta (which is conveniently located in our Special Reports library and yours for the asking).

So without stealing too much thunder from the show, we found that Atlanta has a young, well-educated population,  great education and transportation infrastructure, and offers its residents and businesses a very friendly, low cost place to live and do business.  So far so good!

Toss in great weather, lots to do, and a strong and diverse economy – and it’s no wonder that Atlanta has enjoyed strong population growth over the last decade.  People like it!

Of course, once all the basics of a strong long term real estate market are in place, what we really want to know is whether the numbers make sense.  When Ken and Bruce started telling us about prices and rents, we got excited about getting to know this market better.  So sometime in the near future,we’ll be heading out for a pre-field trip scouting trip.  And if we like what we see,  The Real Estate Guys™ just might be organizing an Atlanta real estate field trip.

For now, to find out more about the Atlanta real estate market, listen in on the conversation and be sure to check out Bruce’s special report on Atlanta.  We learned a lot and we think you will too!

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