A potentially big real estate story for 2019 …

While most Americans are fixated on the brouhaha surrounding the government shutdown, we’re thinking about something even MORE slimy …

Oil.

Long time followers know we’ve been watching oil for quite a while … and for a variety of reasons over and above the amazing tax breaks.

Oil and energy have a substantial impact on the economy, inflation, geo-politics … even the health of the financial system. 

We’ve observed that as oil prices rise and fall, the specific area of their impact shifts.   There are important clues and opportunities to be gleaned from watching these dynamics.

When oil prices rise, it’s a drag on economic growth and can also be a sign of inflation.   It’s no secret President Trump wants to lower cost inputs to help fuel economic growth.

The Trump formula is lower taxes, lower oil, lower interest rates, a weaker dollar, and less regulation.  Labor is the only input he wants to see rise.

You may agree or disagree, but that’s what Trump wants.  Of course, there are some conflicting goals in the Trump recipe …

Specifically, low interest rates and a weaker dollar generally mean rising prices (inflation) … and oil is one of the first places it shows up.

Also, more economic activity leads to more energy consumption, which means higher demand … and rising prices.

So … the only way to keep oil prices low in an environment like this is to increase oil production to where supply overwhelms both higher demand and a weaker dollar … and pushes oil prices down anyway.

Perhaps obviously,  a domestic agenda which needs lower energy costs will affect U.S. relations with oil rich nations.

We think Trump’s stance towards Saudi Arabia … in spite of denials … makes it clear low oil prices are a high priority for the White House.

It’s consistent with what Trump told us when we asked him about his vision for housing and real estate.  He said, “Jobs”.

Remember, oil and energy were the largest drivers of job growth in the United States coming out of the 2008 financial crisis.

Many real estate investors who recognized this trend and got involved in Texas real estate in 2009 …and  have done very well over the last 10 years.

We think that party’s probably not even close to over.

One less obvious, but very important connection between oil and real estate is in the financial system … specifically, the debt markets.

As we’ve discussed several times over the years, LOTS of loans were made to oil companies when oil prices were over $100 per barrel.

But when interest rates rise and oil prices fall … it’s the worst of both worlds for heavily indebted domestic oil producers.

MANY billions of oil-related debt has the potential to go bad … and crater the financial system just like bad mortgage debt did in 2008.

And when credit markets seize for whatever reason, liberal users of debt, such as real estate investors … are directly affected.

We don’t think it will happen.

First, there’s too much upward pressure on oil prices.

Second, as we’re about to discuss, there’s BIG motivation to stimulate domestic production … which provides a lot of cash flow to service debt.

Of course, we could be wrong … as Ben Bernanke was about the dangers of sub-prime … so real estate investors should pay attention to oil.

Using the gas pump as an indicator, you probably already know oil prices have been a little soft.

Of course, businesses and consumers (including your tenants) LOVE this because it makes everything more affordable.

U.S. car manufacturers love it because it means they can sell more gas guzzling SUVs and trucks.

But bigger picture … oil and energy are major cost inputs on virtually all products.

After all, it takes energy to manufacture and transport everything.

And many products are made from petroleum derivatives, such as plastic, roof shingles, and asphalt.

So even though energy is left out of the “core inflation” index, the effects of changes to oil pricing are still reflected in it.

And so partly due to subdued oil prices, concerns about excessive inflation have been muted … even in the midst of a red-hot economy.

Obviously, sellers of oil would prefer higher prices. 

But you can only charge what the market will bear … which is a factor of supplydemand, and capacity to pay.

It’s also important to note that energy, like real estate and food, isn’t a discretionary purchase.

People MUST have energy to survive and thrive.  Therefore, demand for energy is ever-present.

So when it comes to oil … the thing to watch is supply and capacity to pay.

Breaking out capacity to pay from the traditional supply and demand model is something we started doing a long time ago … because there’s no effective demand without it.

Just because you want something, doesn’t mean you can afford it.  Think of it like debt-to-income ratios and interest rates in real estate.

Just because someone makes an offer on a house (demand), if they can’t quality for the loan (capacity to pay), there’s no sale.

And when mortgage rates rise, but wages don’t, the dynamic negatively impacts qualifying ratios … thereby decreasing capacity to pay and ultimately, effective demand.

That’s why observers often expect rising interest rates to lead to decreased housing demand.

It’s similar with oil.

When oil prices rise and wages don’t, then lack of  “real” wage growth (incomes outpacing inflation) makes it hard for the market to bear price increases.

That’s why the recent blowout jobs report was notable.

Not only were lots of jobs created, but wages grew at the best rate since 2008.

That means capacity to pay improved.

As you may recall, Saudi Arabia (the leader of the middle-eastern oil cartel OPEC and one of the largest oil producers in the world) INCREASED production …

… which meant MORE supply and LOWER prices (and thanks from President Trump).

But just recently, Saudi Arabia reversed course, calling for a target price of $80 per barrel … and a REDUCTION in production to make it happen.

Now before your A.D.D. kicks in … remember, this ALL has ramifications for real estate investors …

The point is there’s some real pressure on oil prices to rise … and a lot of motivation by President Trump to take steps to push prices down.

We think BOTH will happen and lead to interesting opportunities for real estate investors … in spite of the pressure higher oil prices puts on your paycheck-to-paycheck tenants.

If you invest in oil for the tax breaks and oil prices go up … there’s big potential for a double dip … tax breaks and profits.

Nice.  You can use both for your next down payment.

Higher oil prices reduce the risk of oil debt imploding credit markets.  Healthy credit markets are essential to vibrant real estate markets.

If oil prices rise on the international stage, we’d bet President Trump will do whatever he can to further stimulate domestic production to counteract it.

And that means more U.S. jobs and robust regional economies … with increased demand for real estate to in those areas.

All this to say, we think it’s smart to pay attention to oil … as an investment, as an economic gauge, and as a treasure map to potentially hot markets.

Oil will be a big topic of discussion on our upcoming Investor Summit at Sea™.

Until next time … good investing!


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Taking on the New Year …

A brand-new year brings with it both anticipation and apprehension.  Both are emotional responses to the unknown.

There are MANY things we could discuss in this year’s opening missive …

… tariffs, trade wars, a new Congress, the Fed, interest rates, the stock market, the bond market, gold, oil, taxes, Opportunity Zones, and on and on.

Most of those things are completely OUTSIDE of your control.

So as we stand together at the threshold of the New Year, rather than dive into the weeds of the daily news or pontificate on predictions of the future …

… we think it’s important to consider how to use things WITHIN our control effectively to make the MOST out of the next twelve months.

The goal is to OPTIMIZE your odds of success by focusing your best efforts on the few things you can control, and which create the most positive leverage in your endeavors.

Read that again and let it sink in.  It’s something we work on all the time.

Now let’s take a look at this idea from a real estate investing perspective …

Everything starts with your goals.  But not really … because before you can set a MEANINGFUL goal, it’s critical to choose your values, mission, and vision.

Values, mission, vision, goals, focus, and effort are all things YOU can control.

Sadly, most people don’t proactively and strategically identify their values, mission, and vision.

Instead, they bounce from thing to thing … role model to role model … idol to idol … hoping to stumble onto the secret to happiness.

That’s why we put so much emphasis on taking time to create your future.

Once you have your values, mission, and vision clear, NOW you can set meaningful goals … what are often referred to in business as “key objectives.”

These are activities YOU can control … things you CAN do … which are specific, measurable, and have a deadline for completion.

For example, “owning more real estate” is NOT a goal.  “Buying four properties by the end of the year” is better.

But “acquiring 100 doors by the end of the year” is even more powerful because it creates possibilities and leverage … while focusing your activity on the REAL heart of real estate investing.

Think about it …

If your goal is to “buy four properties”, you might end up with four single-family homes … which is only four tenants, or “doors”.

And saying “buy” puts a subconscious limitation on HOW you acquire the properties.

But focusing on “acquiring 100 doors” is VERY different because you might achieve it through only ONE property, which provides time leverage.

This goal also focuses you on what REALLY matters … acquiring TENANTS.

Remember, it’s not real estate that makes you rich … it’s the rent.  Even equity is a derivative of income.

And when you think in terms of “acquiring” instead of simply “buying”, it opens your mind to seeing alternative acquisition possibilities … like options or syndication.

After all, you can acquire a property without paying for it. 

For example, if you syndicate 1,000 doors for a 10% share, you effectively gain 100 doors personally.

But instead of paying to own them, you get PAID to own them.  BIG difference.

So it’s actually easier and faster to think bigger.  Yet most people believe just the opposite.

Of course, thinking and feeling are interconnected.  That is, how you think affects how you feel … and how you feel affects how you think.

Blair Singer says, “When emotions run high, intelligence runs low.”

So if you’re afraid of an uncertain future or of making a mistake, you’ll tend to think about avoiding risk.

But investing is about navigating risks … not avoiding them.

Similarly, if you’re hyper-enthusiastic, you may only think about the upside and fail to think about the risks  … or strategies for navigating them.

We think passion and logic go together.  The most successful investors we’ve seen know how to balance both effectively.

It comes down to knowing the difference between what you can and should control, and what you can’t.

The future is always in motion and largely out of our control, so we can NEVER be certain.  Striving for certainty in an uncertain world is a recipe for paralysis.

On other words, it’s ineffective to worry about things we can’t control.

Better to stoically observe uncontrollable events, and then focus our passionate attention on things we CAN control in a way which maximizes possibilities and leverage.

We KNOW there will be LOTS of things happening in the new year.  We just don’t know what they are.  However, we can sure they’ll present both challenges and opportunities.

But it’s not the uncontrollable events themselves which most effect our results … it’s how we choose to react to them.

History tells us there will be ups and downs, and there will be winners and losers.  In the same set of circumstances, some will prosper and others will fail.

The individual challenge is figuring out how to define what winning looks like on a personal basis, and then doing what’s in our control to win on our terms … in whatever environment we face.

It takes clarity, knowledge, connections, emotional control, and the discipline to focus on those few strategic things under your control that provide the most leverage.

It’s simple, but not easy.   If it were, more people would do it.

Our experience and observation is that the best place to start is by putting great ideas in your mind, getting around the right people as much as possible … and narrowing your focus to the very few things that make the most impact.

So as you enter the new year … be sure the time and resources you invest in developing the real estate between your ears is commensurate with the size of your investing goals.


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The role of housing in economic growth …

Some people think housing is a driver of economic growth.  But that doesn’t make sense to us.

Sure, a robust housing market creates a lot of jobs from construction all the way back through the supply chain.

But housing itself is a by-product of prosperity, not a creator of it.  After all, who buys a house first … and then gets a job?  It’s the other way around.

So we think housing is not a leading indicator, but a trailing indicator.

With that said, in addition to reflecting economic prosperity, housing definitely plays a role in driving economic activity.  But not in the way most people think.

So let’s take a look …

Economic activity isn’t about asset values.  It’s about velocity … transactions … how fast money is flowing through society.  That’s why they call it currency.

But it isn’t really money that’s flowing.  It’s credit. It’s a subtle, but important difference because you can’t create money from nothing.  Only credit.

If you’re not familiar with the VERY important difference between money and credit, you should strongly consider investing in the Future of Money and Wealth video series …

… because G. Edward Griffin (author of The Creature from Jekyll Island) does an amazing job of explaining it all in an easy to understand way.

The fundamental principle to understand is that a loan is an asset to a bank.

When a bank makes a loan, they effectively create “money” from nothing by issuing credit.

Obviously, the biggest loans in most people’s lives are mortgages on houses.  So that means banks are creating LOTS of “money” by extending credit.

Meanwhile, governments issue bonds, which are simply humungous, glorified IOUs … like a mortgage.  Except the collateral isn’t a house … it’s the citizens’ earnings.

And when the mother of all banks, the Federal Reserve, buys government bonds, they are effectively creating “money” by issuing credit.

Now when all this “money” gets into the financial system it pushes asset prices up.  But not evenly.  And no one know for sure where it will all end up.

If lots of the new “money” goes into bonds, bond prices go UP and interest rates go DOWN.  There was a LOT of that going on over the last decade.

Similarly, if it goes into stocks, then stock prices go up.  There was a lot of that over the last decade also.

One big driver of rising stock prices has been corporations pigging out on cheap debt and then using the proceeds to buy back their own stock.

But remember, this isn’t economic activity … it’s just inflation of asset prices.  So it’s a mistake to think a rising stock prices means a booming economy.

In fact, “stagflation” occurs when prices go up, but economic activity is slow.

And just last week, former Fed chair Alan Greenspan said he sees stagflation coming to an economy near you.

At the same time, fellow former chair Janet Yellen is warning of excessive corporate debt.  We were just talking about that in our last commentary.

Funny.  Neither Greenspan or Yellen has said anything about the Fed going insolvent.  Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain.

Meanwhile, Fannie Mae’s economics team recently announced their prediction of slowing economic activity in 2019.

And just so you don’t think they’re merely jumping on the bandwagon, Fannie Mae Chief Economist Doug Duncan predicted this in his Future of Money and Wealth presentation on our last Investor Summit at Sea™.

All this to say, there are some notable experts saying the economy could be in for some headwinds in 2019.

So back to housing and its role in goosing economic activity …

Anyone paying attention knows housing prices have bounced back nicely from their 2008 debacle.

And almost everyone who bought early in this last run-up has built up gobs of equity.  Good job.

Unsurprisingly, consumer confidencecash-out refinances, and consumer spending all surged in 2018 … as households became equity rich … and then tapped that equity to SPEND.

In other words, credit flowed through housing to consumer spending which drove a lot of economic activity.

So it’s not housing construction that’s a leading indicator … it’s rising prices and equity.

But as housing price appreciation slows … it’s no surprise consumer confidence is dipping too.

Remember, consumers are usually the last ones to realize what’s coming.

So again, it’s the flow of credit into home prices and equity … and then the flow of credit through home equity to consumers … and then from consumers into the economy … that be a leading indicator of what’s coming down the line.

There’s one more nuance to consider …

As we’ve been pointing out for the last few months, there are LOTS of reasons to think more money is heading into real estate.

A combination of the best tax breaksOpportunity Zones, and nervous stock investors fleeing Wall Street in record numbers to seek a safer haven in housing … all could have real estate setting up for a nice run.

But be cautious.

Because if Alan Greenspan is right about stagflation … rising prices without rising real wages and economic activity …

… then real estate PRICES could rise from big money seeking safety … while the rents you use to control the property could be under pressure.

Consider RentCafe’s recent year end report, which found the most popular things renters searched for in 2018 were “cheap” and “studio.”

So as we’ve been suggesting for quite some time …

… it’s probably safer to focus on affordable markets and product types… using long-term fixed financing … and focusing on solid cash-flows to position your portfolio to ride out a slow-down.

We’re not saying there will be slow down.  But others are.

And it’s better to be prepared and not have a slow-down, than to have a slow-down and not be prepared.

And remember … asset prices and economic activity are NOT one and the same.

Until next time … good investing!


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The big story for 2019 will be …

As we’re winding down 2018, it’s time to rub our crystal balls and peer into the new year … and we see …. 

Taxes.

For most high-earners, taxes are their biggest expense.  And almost everyone who has to pay taxes would prefer not to … or at least pay less.

So while there are MANY trends and developments real estate investors should pay attention to in the new year …

… the biggest story may well end up being how market participants respond to their growing understanding of the revised tax code.

Thanks to tax strategy advocates like Tom Wheelwright, many people ALREADY investing in real estate are cashing in on the amazing tax benefits the new law gives to real estate investors.

But as investors of all stripes close the books on 2018 and start looking for tax breaks in the new year, we’re guessing many will discover real estate for the very first time.

Meanwhile, it’s quite possible stock investors will trade in their “buy the dip” strategy for “drop the falling knife” … and look for other, less volatile places to invest the proceeds.

While YOU may not be interested in the stock market, its recent tribulations are noteworthy because it may portend a shift of capital from Wall Street stocks to Main Street real estate.

And if you’re a syndicator talking with prospective investors, you should really have more than just a cursory understanding of what puts downward pressure on stocks.

After all, some of the jittery money still stuck in stocks just might be inclined to move your way … if you’re able to explain the case for real estate.

Besides tariffs and rising interest rates, there are two factors putting pressure on stocks but aren’t discussed much on mainstream financial news.

First, as interest rates rise, it’s less profitable for corporations to borrow heavily to buy back their own stocks.

Besides, many have already gorged themselves on cheap money while taking corporate debt to record levels.  This alone is causing some concern.

And if rates resume their climb, debt service will begin to take a toll on corporate earnings as interest expenses rise. 

There’s a second factor sucking the wind out of the corporate buyback sail …

The big tax break offered to corporations enticing them to bring their offshore money back to America has already worked most of its magic.

And a lot of the money ended up in stock buybacks.

But with the dual air pumps of cheap debt and repatriated offshore funds both losing pressure, stock buybacks are slowing … letting air out of the stock bubble.

Remember, asset values (prices) are largely based on “air pressure”.  There always needs to be more money coming in to keep prices elevated.

On the other hand, income producing assets … like rental properties … derive their value from income.  And because those incomes are relatively steady, so are the prices.

That’s why jilted stock investors often migrate into real estate. 

Sure, they like flirting with the hot stocks when the punch bowl is full.  But when the bowl runs dry, many investors choose to go home to old faithful … real estate. 

And when you add in the new tax breaks, old faithful got a face lift … and is even MORE attractive.

But it gets better …

The world is really starting to buzz about Opportunity Zones

O-zones promise huge tax breaks … and much of it is likely to provide long-term benefit to real estate in those designated areas.

Of course, like anything new, it takes time for folks to figure it out, to get in position, and make their moves.

That’s the advantage of being small.  You can study fast and out-hustle the big money to get into position. 

Then when big money finally shows up, you get to ride a wave.

So when we look at the upcoming year, we think the impact of the tax laws will continue to magnify a movement of money into real estate.

And even if the overall economy slows, it’s our guess real estate will continue to attract its unfair share of investor interest.

Now we’re starting to understand why Tom Wheelwright and Robert Kiyosaki get so excited about taxes, real estate, and infinite returns.

Until next time … good investing!


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Social Security, Inflation and Real Estate …

If you’re relatively young, Social Security is probably just an abstract concept and another bite out of your paycheck.

But before you tune out,  consider that the U.S. Social Security program creates both problems and opportunities for real estate investors of ALL ages … including YOU.

Big picture …

Social Security and Medicare make up about 42% of federal program expenditures.  They’re a BIG chunk of Uncle Sam’s spending.

According to this Congressional Research Service report on Medicare and this Social Security Administration Trustees’ Report … both are headed towards insolvency in the not-too-distant future.

That’s bad.

Worse … both are “pay as you go” programs.  That’s not our description.  That’s exactly the way the U.S. government describes them.

The programs don’t really have any money.

The only “assets” these programs have are YOUR taxes … and IOUs from Uncle Sam.  The CRS report explains it on page 5.

Of course, IOUs from Uncle Sam are also backed by taxes … and the Federal Reserve’s printing press (which means inflation).

According to recommendations by the SSA Trustees in their report, the answers are … wait for it …

… raise payroll taxes and reduce benefit payments.  

Shocker.

You probably know payroll taxes are paid by working people (your tenants) and their employers.

Higher payroll tax obviously means less take-home pay to live on … including paying their rent to YOU.  So you may want to pay attention to the direction of payroll taxes.

But what about benefit reduction?  How does that matter to real estate investors?

There’s the obvious impact on tenants who rely heavily on Social Security, disability benefits or Medicare to help them with their routine living expenses.

Reduction in subsidies means those tenants have less money to pay rent … and less flexibility to absorb increases to rent or other costs of living.

But there’s a less obvious angle to consider … one we pay close attention to … and that’s the Fed’s printing press.

We trust at this stage of your financial awareness, you’ve heard of John Maynard Keynes, the father of the “Keynesian economics” you hear about.

Here’s a long, but powerful statement made by Keynes in his book The Economic Consequences of the Peace …

“Lenin is said to have declared that the best way to destroy the capitalist system was to debauch the currency. By a continuing process of inflationgovernments can confiscate, secretly and unobserved, an important part of the wealth of their citizens.  By this method they not only confiscate, but they confiscate arbitrarily; and, while the process impoverishes many, it actually enriches some. The sight of this arbitrary rearrangement of riches strikes not only at security but [also] at confidence in the equity of the existing distribution of wealth.

Those to whom the system brings windfalls, beyond their deserts and even beyond their expectations or desires, become ‘profiteers,’ who are the object of the hatred of the bourgeoisie, whom the inflationism has impoverished, not less than of the proletariat.  As the inflation proceeds and the real value of the currency fluctuates wildly from month to month, all permanent relations between debtors and creditors, which form the ultimate foundation of capitalism, become so utterly disordered as to be almost meaningless; and the process of wealth-getting degenerates into a gamble and a lottery.

Lenin was certainly right. There is no subtler, no surer means of overturning the existing basis of society than to debauch the currency. The process engages all the hidden forces of economic law on the side of destruction, and does it in a manner which not one man in a million is able to diagnose.”

There’s SO much we could say about that quote … but read it and re-read it a few times.   You’ll view the news in a whole different light.

For now, let’s get back to Social Security, inflation … and YOUR real estate investing …

As you can guess, cutting benefits overtly is not a politically popular solution.

Neither is raising taxes.

Yet according to the people in charge of these programs, that’s EXACTLY what needs to happen.

And it is happening … but “in a manner which not one man in a million is able to diagnose.”

That is … cutting benefits and raising taxes are both cleverly hidden inside how Uncle Sam and the Fed handle inflation.

When most people think of “inflation,” they think of Uncle Sam’s official gauge of inflation … the Consumer Price Index (CPI).

It’s well known that the Fed has a stated goal of 2% per year inflation … every year … year in and year out.

That doesn’t sound like much. And whether it’s good or bad depends on which side of the coin you’re on.

If you own real assets, you get richer in nominal terms.

If you use long-term debt, like mortgages, you get richer in real terms.

That’s too big a concept for today, but one EVERY real estate investor should know like their name.  In fact, it’s a big part of what Robert Kiyosaki will be talking about at our next Investor Summit at Sea™.

But just because you own properties doesn’t mean you’re home free (punny, we we know) because …

… for folks who don’t have assets (like your tenants) … inflation means it costs more to live.  To see it in dollar terms, use Uncle Sam’s inflation calculator.

Based on the CPI, a tenant in October 2018 would need $1,542 to purchase items that cost only $1,000 in October 1998.

That’s means they need more than a 50% increase in take-home pay over 20 years … just to keep the SAME standard of living.

Similarly, for programs like Social Security … with  built in cost of living adjustments (COLAs) … a $1000 benefit in 1998 now costs Uncle Sam $1542.

No wonder the debt is swelling.

Of course, it didn’t take Uncle Sam long to figure out keeping the CPI lower than real-world rate of inflation, would effectively cut benefits without political fallout.

In other words, as Peter Schiff often points out, the CPI probably UNDER-reports the ACTUAL rate of inflation … which means the reality is even harder for the working class than the CPI indicates.

So it’s important for investors of all types to get the best measure of real-world inflation possible.  And the CPI is arguably not it.

That’s why many investors turn to Shadow Stats or the Chapwood Index.

The Chapwood Index is handy for real estate investors because it breaks inflation down by city.  That’s important because unlike stocks, bonds, and commodities … real estate is a LOCAL investment.

Here’s where it all comes together …

Even though Uncle Sam is motivated to keep inflation LOW for CPI purposes, they have no choice but to print gobs of dollars to fund the huge and growing debt and deficit.

Meanwhile …

Income producing, leveraged real estate is arguably (and by far) the safest, most powerful hedge against long-term inflation.

But again, rental property investors must stay alert to the pressure inflation puts on their tenants.

Remember … just because nominal GDP is growing, it doesn’t mean your tenants are getting more purchasing power.

So be careful to select markets, product types, and tenant demographics that fit well into what’s happening in the big picture.

Until next time … good investing!


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Bitcoin, gold, oil, stocks, real estate, and popcorn …

It’s hard to watch the financial news these days and not get the feeling the fragility in the financial system we’ve been concerned about … is starting to show.

We grew up in California and learned as kids how to react to an earthquake …

Get away from glass and hide under the shelter of a desk or doorway … because stuff was probably going to start falling.

Fragile things shatter in an earthquake.  They can’t handle the pressure.  The key to safety is to get to the sturdiest parts of the structure until the shaking subsides.

Of course, when it’s clear and bright … the windows are the most fun.  You can bask in the sunshine of hope and opportunity.

But when the foundation is shaking, it’s time to find shelter … FAST.

You’ve probably noticed stock prices slipping.  Even the fabled FAANGs (Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Netflix, Google) are ALL now in bear markets.

So what?  After all, we’re real estate investors.  What do we care about stocks?

We don’t.  At least not directly.  But all these markets are like gauges on our financial dashboard … and when they start flashing red, it’s wise to investigate.

This is a newsletter, not a seminar, but let’s see what we can reason together in the next few minutes about what’s shaking in the financial world … and where it might be headed.

The first place to look is the most important financial market there is … bonds.

Of course, real estate investors should watch the bond market for clues about the direction of interest rates.

But while interest rates are interesting … credit markets are what REALLY matter.

That’s because credit markets both create and price the currency which fuels everything else. 

Credit markets are like the big reactor core in the Star Wars Debt Death Star.  They’re both the fuel source and the weak spot at the same time.

To take the metaphor a conspiratorial step further … credit markets are also the source of the Emperor’s power.

And as Peter Schiff persistently points out … when the original Debt Star blew up in 2008, the Emperor wasted no time in building a bigger, deadlier version.

The obvious implication is the next explosion could be a LOT bigger.

Now in a plain vanilla stock market dip, some (usually innocuous) event spooks highly-leveraged paper traders.  They sprint to the exits … and stock prices fall.

But then they calm down and the next day they’re back out there snapping up bargains.  This “buy-the-dip” strategy has been the name of the game for several years.

But the longer-term downtrend suggests something is different this time.  Perhaps worries the Debt Star is running out of power?

The Bitcoin crowd has been chanting “buy the dip” also … but here too, it seems the Farce is strong … and the downtrend has more gravitational pull than past dips.

Clearly, nervous stock investors aren’t piling into Bitcoin for safety.

Of course, the usual safe space for snowflake stock investors to hide is bonds.

But if gobs of money were pouring into bonds … interest rates would be falling.

While rates have certainly moderated the last few weeks from their upward trend, it’s hardly a serious decline.

So … nothing happening now has us disagreeing with our recent conversation with David Stockman on the direction of rates.

And we certainly would NOT be using short-term debt on tight-cap properties hoping to re-fi to lower rates in a year or two!  If that’s your plan … be careful.

Then there’s oil.  You’ve probably heard the price has fallen.  We’re guessing your tenants like it at the pump.  Businesses too.

Obviously, energy costs … just like interest and taxes … RAISE the costs of operating a business, a household, and an economy.

President Trump’s a business guy.  So to no surprise he prefers ALL three lower … so more profit gets to the bottom line.

But oil … like gold … is MUCH more than just a commodity. 

Both have significant connections to the future of the U.S. dollar … and all three are powerful tools in geo-politics.

Just last year, we pointed out China’s noteworthy moves with both oil and gold.

And just because things are moving slowly, doesn’t mean they aren’t moving.

All that to say … we’ve been paying close attention to this for several years … and it seems to us things are picking up speed.

We keep them on our radar … and yours … for TWO reasons …

First … major financial events often seem to show up suddenly and shock the world … but they usually had a long and obvious (in hindsight) build up.

We’ve learned to look further out so we have more time to re-position.  After all, the blessing and curse of real estate is it moves slowly.

So real estate investors are wise to pay attention to early warning indicators … and then rearrange portfolios to both mitigate risk and capture opportunities.

Second … when economic and financial earthquakes first tremble … it’s smart to seek shelter under sturdy structures.

For that reason, we think it’s likely to see MORE money moving into real estate in search of stability (and tax breaks).

But just because real estate is stable doesn’t mean YOUR portfolio is.

As we learned in 2008, bad portfolio structure crumbles when hit with tremors from a Debt Star explosion.

However, when those market forces clean out weak portfolios, there are bargains galore … for those who are ready, willing, and able to take advantage.

Ironically, consumers are tapping home equity like it’s 2007.  We’re guessing holiday shopping will be solid.  But it won’t make those borrowers wealthier.

Savvy investors are grabbing equity too … and using it both to purchase strong cash flows … and to hold in reserve.

It’s always good to have some cash if market tides turn.

YOUR mission is to be among the aware and prepared … and NOT among the unaware and unprepared.  It could be a good time to increase liquidity.

Are we saying another crash is coming?  No.  But we can’t say it’s not.

Right now, there are tremors.

So while you’re thinking about your goals for next year … including how to invest your educational time and money …

… we encourage you to make getting better educated, better connected, and better structured a top priority … so IF things turn quickly …

… YOU can sit safely inside your reinforced portfolio chomping on popcorn and watching the fireworks.

And if the fireworks turn out to be a dud … you’re really no worse off for being prepared.

Until next time … good investing!


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Think like a big dog …

Whether you’re an active real estate investor out there finding and managing deals in your own account …

… or you’re a passive investor looking to invest in someone else’s deals …

… or you’re a syndicator putting together deals on behalf of your passive investors …

… it can be smart to think like a big dog.

After all, major players have big research and due diligence budgets.  They hire big brains to study the market and make smart strategic decisions.

YOU can learn a LOT … just by watching what they’re doing.

Sometimes you can get in front of a big wave they’re about to create and ride it.

And sometimes you can front run them … buying what they want BEFORE they get there … selling to them at a premium when they arrive.

(We think there could be a particularly good opportunity to get in position to do this in the residential assisted living space right now.)

So even though you can’t play at their level, you can still get in the game by paying attention and being more nimble.

For example, this headline caught our attention …

Apollo is Targeting $1 Billion for U.S. Real Estate Fund Bloomberg 11/20/18

Apollo Global Management LLC has started talking to investors about its third U.S. real estate fund …

Hmmmm … $ 1 billion is a chunk of change.  And apparently it’s not their first rodeo.

In fact, Apollo has been around since 1990 and has over $270 billion under management.

Not that we’re promoting or vouching for them.  We’re just saying it seems like they’re qualified to have an opinion about investing.

So back to the article …

“Investment will be in senior housing, hotels, retail”

A little deeper down we discover … in addition to these three … Apollo is also into industrial real estate and manufactured housing.

Of course, this doesn’t come as a big surprise to us or our long-time followers.

We’ve been paying attention to sub-niches in senior housinghotelsretail,industrial and manufactured housing for quite some time.

But even though it’s affirming to have a big dog like Apollo see what we see … it’s not like we’re geniuses.

The clues in the news, trends, data, and our discussions with our boots-on-the-ground contributors make it easy to see the opportunities.

Of course, seeing the opportunity and knowing someone in the space … is just the beginning.

It’s also important to think about your personal investment philosophy … build great relationships with a solid team … and structure things to endure in both good times and bad.

Recently, the wild ride in the stock market is reminding 401k owners how fickle paper equity can be.

It’s no surprise smart fund managers are looking to real estate as a way to find high risk-adjusted returns … and stability in a volatile world.

Right now, we’re watching Wall Street investors race each other to the exits … leaving a flood of red in their wake.

And while history doesn’t necessarily repeat itself, it often rhymes.

Remember, after the dotcom bust at the turn of the century … frightened capital found a safe haven in real estate.  It just might be happening again.

For those already there, it could make for a fun ride.

Until next time … good investing!


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Seven lessons for better investing …

With less than 7 weeks remaining in 2018, we’re taking a short break from our obsessive-compulsive perusal of the financial news.

Because with an exciting New Year about to begin … full of hope, challenges, and opportunities … it’s a great time to focus on some important fundamentals.

Lesson# 1:  Invest in yourself first and frequently

Think of the amount of money you put into fixing up a property in the hopes of generating a few thousand dollars of profit or cash flow.

How much MORE important are YOUR education, skills, and network over the rest of your career?

For a fraction of what you’ll spend sprucing up just a single property, you can increase your sales skills, gain more strategic clarity, expand your economic education, and grow your professional network.

Any ONE of those things can pay you back 10x or more in just a few years.  Plus, investing in your education and networks sets you up for …

Lesson #2:  Focus on relationships, not transactions

Sure, we understand you need to do deals … to produce profits … so you can pay the bills and keep investing.  But transactions are really just a by-product of great relationships.

When you put the transaction over the relationship, you risk killing the goose that lays the golden eggs.

And remember, every person you know knows MANY more people you don’t.

So even if the person in front of you isn’t ready to do a deal today, someone they know might be.

This is where YOUR education and network come into play …

When you know things other people don’t, but need to … or when you know people other people don’t, but need to …

… YOU have something of great value to enhance a relationship or work through one contact to reach another.

Most people won’t give you a referral if they think you want to sell their referral something.

But they’ll happily connect you if they think you will HELP their referral.  That’s based on trust, which is based on the relationship.

It sounds so easy … and it is.  But for some reason, most people focus on the small value of the transaction and miss the HUGE value of the relationship.

Lesson #3:  Emphasize mission and values

The old adage says, “People don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care.”

It’s true.  But it goes further …

People do business with people and brands they trust.  And when you focus on mission and values, and filter all you say and do through them …

… over time, you’ll create a trustworthy reputation.

Of course, a good, trustworthy reputation will attract more people into your life … and that means more relationships, and ultimately, more deals.

Lesson #4:  Build a business and portfolio that works for YOU … and not vice-versa

We’re old enough to remember when Michael Gerber’s now classic title, The E-Myth, was the hot new business book.

But the timeless lessons are as applicable today as ever.

Too many people … employees, entrepreneurs, and investors … do the “two-step.”

They set out to do whatever they can find to make money based on the belief that if they can just make enough money, THEN they can go do what they REALLY want.

The problem is when you don’t love what you do, either you let off the gas and never really succeed …

… or worse, you lose yourself in service to a business, portfolio and lifestyle you don’t really enjoy.

And then you just hold your breath until the day you can sell it or retire on your investments.

Better to ask yourself EARLY what’s really important to you … how you want to live … what you love to do … and then build a business and/or portfolio around THAT.

It’s a harder problem to solve, but you’ll LOVE the answer when you find it.

Lesson #5:  Develop and maintain a clear vision

We all run around with pictures in our mind. How we see the world … how we see ourselves … what we’re working to accomplish.

The challenge for many is the picture is fuzzy.

It’s like driving in the fog.  You have a sense of direction … but aren’t exactly sure how to get there.

You’re feeling your way … scared to go too fast and miss a turn or fall into a ditch.

Yet some people are taking bold action and moving aggressively through life.

What’s the difference?

Clarity.

Bold action takers can “see” exactly where they’re going, what they’re building, and WHY … and that vision inspires and emboldens them to move towards the goals with enthusiasm and confidence.

We say, “When you have clarity of vision, strategy and tactics become evident.”

So when you’re not sure what to do, focus on your vision.  Just seeing the end from the beginning is often enough to tell you what to do next.

Lesson #6:  Always see the downside

Really?  Doesn’t focusing on the negative create paralysis?

Only for amateurs.  Pros are more afraid of what they DON’T see than what they do … because you can’t avoid or manage risks you aren’t aware of.

Billionaire real estate investor Sam Zell says everyone sees the upside.  That’s what they look for and what motivates them to go for it.

But Zell says his success comes from being able to see the DOWNSIDE too …  and then making plans to mitigate it … even if it means walking away.

Pessimists ONLY see the downside and can’t act.  Optimists only see the upside and hope for the best.

We’re pretty sure hope is not an investment strategy. Be a realist and get good at seeing and managing risk.

Lesson #7:  Always pay attention to cash and cash flow

Profit and net worth are important.   Cash and cash flow are essential.

A business mentor of ours once taught us that cash is like oxygen, while revenue is like water, and profit is like food.

You can survive for a long time without profit … if you have revenue and cash.

You can survive for a little while without revenue … if you have cash.

But run out of cash … and you’ll be dead very soon.

Pre-politician Donald Trump once told us it’s always good to have cash in the downtimes. We say, “Cash Flow controls and Cash Reserves preserve.”

So have some liquidity at all times. Write off the lost opportunity cost on the cash as an insurance premium.

And do NOT count on credit for liquidity. We did that once … and it didn’t end well.  Lenders tend to cut off credit when you need it the most.

Bonus Lesson:  Use firewalls to avoid portfolio contagion

Let’s face it.  Some investments are more risky than others.

But if you don’t have firewalls, then just ONE risky investment can implode your entire portfolio.

You might have a solidly built, cash-flowing portfolio of properties, and a high net worth with good liquidity, and hedges against inflation and deflation.

But just ONE lawsuit, or personal loan guarantee on just ONE risky deal, or pulling money out of performing property or business to feed a loser …

… and EVERYTHING goes … UNLESS you use legal structures, mental discipline, and emotional control to isolate risk.

It’s a bigger topic than we have time for here, but we address it in ourIntroduction to Strategic Real Asset Investing webinar.

You can get the webinar as a free bonus when you order the Future of Money and Wealth video series … which is a great primer on several risks ALL investors should be paying attention to right now.

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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The mid-term morning after …

If you’re an American, unless you’ve been in a coma or living under a rock, you know the United States just had one of the most energetic mid-term elections in quite some time.

The day after, both sides are disappointed … and both sides are claiming victory.

One of the advantages of being older is we’ve seen this movie before.

In our younger days, when elections didn’t go our way, we thought it was the end of the world.  Today, not so much.

It doesn’t mean we don’t care.  We do.  And certainly, politicians and their policies have a direct impact on our Main Street investing.

But it’s in times like these we’re reminded of the beautiful, boring stability of real estate.

Because while all the post-election drama and speculation plays out, people still get up and go to work and pay their rent.

And though the Trump-train just got slowed … like Barack Obama before him, big chunks of his agenda got pushed through early … and are likely here to stay for a while.

In other words, it doesn’t look like Obamacare or the Trump tax reform will be repealed any time soon.

More importantly, investors of all stripes … paper and real … now know what the lay of the land is for the next two years.

Early indications (based on the all-green dashboard of Wall Street) reveal there’s cash on the sidelines waiting to see what happened … and now that gridlock is the answer… money is pouring into everything.

We know that sounds counter-intuitive.  But while political activists push change … too much change too fast makes money nervous.

Investors and entrepreneurs need to make decisions about long-term risk and reward.  And when the world is changing too fast, those decisions are harder to make.

Way back in the lead-up to the 2010 mid-terms, we penned this piece about a concept we call “healthy tension.”  Just change the team colors and it’s just as applicable today as it was back then.

The point is that money and markets like gridlock.

At this point, from an investing perspective, it doesn’t really matter if any of us like or dislike what happened … politically.  It’s done.

Now we all just need to decide what it means to us and how to move forward … because life goes on.

So bringing it all back to Main Street …

We’re guessing all the great Trump-tax reform benefits for real estate investors… from bonus depreciation to Opportunity Zones … are here to stay.

And as we said just a week ago …  there’s probably a lot more money headed into real estate.  Nothing about this election appears to change that.

So gridlock inside the beltway means stability on Main Street.

Sure, it might be a little boring.  But real estate investors are used to boring.  And when it comes to long-term wealth building … boring is good.

Until next time … good investing!

More From The Real Estate Guys™…

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There’s MORE money headed into real estate …

In the swirling sea of capital that makes up the global economic ocean we all invest in …

… big fund managers are pay close attention to a variety of factors for clues about the ebb, flow, and over-flow of people, business, and money.

Right now … it seems like a BIG wave of money could be headed into real estate.

Of course, compared to stocks, these things aren’t simple to see and track.  And they’re even harder to act on.

Stocks are easy … if interest rates fall and money floods into stocks, you just buy an index fund and enjoy the ride.

Just remember … the dark side of easy and liquid is crowded and volatile.

So unless you’re a seasoned trader, trying to front run the crowd to both an entrance and exit in stocks can be a dangerous game.

But real estate is slow.  It’s inefficient.  It moves slowly.  There’s drama.

And yet, the BEAUTY of real estate is its messiness.  Embrace it.

So here’s why we think more money could be flowing into real estate soon …

Opportunity Zones

We’ll be talking about this more in the future, but the short of it is the new tax code creates HUGE incentives for current profits from ANYTHING (including stocks) to make its way into pre-identified geographic zones.

According to The Wall Street Journal,

“U.S. is aiming to attract $100 billion in development with ‘opportunity zones’…”

“could be ‘the biggest thing to hit the real estate world in perhaps the past 30 or even more years’ …”

 Private Equity Funds

 Another Wall Street Journal article says …

“Real estate debt funds amass record war chest

“Property funds have $57 billion to invest …”

Pension Funds

This Wall Street Journal article indicates BIG pension funds are getting into the game too …

“Big investors like the California teachers pension are backing real-estate debt funds …”

One reason savvy investors watch economic waves is to see a swell building … so they can paddle into position to catch a ride.  It’s like financial surfing.

Time will tell where all these funds will land, but it’s a safe bet it won’t be in smaller properties.  MAYBE some will end up in residential mortgages, but don’t count on it.

So what’s the play for a Mom and Pop Main Street investor?

Start by watching the flow …

We’ll be watching the markets and product types the money goes into.

Then we’ll be watching for the ripple effect … because that’s probably where the Main Street opportunity will be.

For example, if money pours into a particular geography, it’s going to create a surge of economic activity … especially if the funds are primarily used for construction.

But we’d be cautious about making long-term investments in any place temporarily benefiting from a short-term surge … so it’s best to look past the immediate impact.

Think about the long-term impact … which is a factor of WHAT is being built.

Fortunately, major projects take many months to complete … so they’re easy to see coming IF you’re paying attention.

We like to plug into the local chamber of commerce to track who’s coming and going in a market place … and why.  The local Business Journal is also a useful news source to monitor.

The kinds of development that excite us include factories, office buildings, industrial parks, and distribution centers.  Those mean local jobs.

We’re less excited about shopping centers, entertainment centers, and even residential and medical projects.

Because even though they mean jobs too … they don’t DRIVE the economy.  They feed off it.

Of course, we’re not saying those things are bad … but they should reflect current and projected growth … not be expected to drive it.

Hopefully, developers are doing solid market research and are building because the local population and prosperity can absorb the new product.

Then again, when money is aggressively pumped in, sometimes developers get greedy … and areas get OVER-built.

So don’t just follow the big money.   Be sure you understand the market.

Watch for the over-flow too …

Sometimes money moving into a market creates prosperity only for some … and hardship for others.

Silicon Valley is a CLASSIC example.

As billions flood into the market through inflated stock prices, many people get pushed off the back of the affordability bus.

But even though it’s hard for those folks, they end up driven into adjacent markets which are indirectly pushed up.  It’s overflow.

That’s when you see headlines like these …

Boise and Reno Capitalize on the California Real Estate Exodus –Bloomberg, 10/23/18

“Sky-high housing prices in the Golden State bring an echo boom—and new neighbors—to other Western states.”

Sure, in Silicon Valley’s case, the flow of money is cheap capital pouring into the stock market and enriching tech companies … and their employees.

But it doesn’t matter which door the money comes in when it flows into a market.  That’s why it’s best to look at ALL the flows into a market.

And when the flow of capital drives up investment property prices in a market (depressing cap rates), even investors will overflow into secondary markets in search of better yields.

The lesson here is to watch the ebb, flow, and overflows as capital pours into both the debt and equity side of real estate through Opportunity Zones, private equity funds, and increasing pension fund allocations.

You never quite know how the market will react, but you can be sure it will.

The key is to see the swell rising early so you can start paddling into position to catch the wave.

We do it by looking for clues in the news, producing and attending conferences, and getting into great conversations with the RIGHT people.

We encourage YOU to do the same.

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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