The Fed pumps $200 billion into system in THREE days …

It’s been a busy week of alarming financial news!

Of course, events that rattle financial markets sometimes barely register to real estate investors. That’s because rents and property values aren’t directly involved in the high-frequency trading casinos of Wall Street.

So while paper traders frantically scramble to avoid losses or skim profits from currency flowing through the machinery …

real estate investors calmly cash rent checks and wonder what all the fuss is about.

However, as seasoned investors discovered in 2008 …

Wall Street’s woes sometimes spill over and become Main Street blues … primarily through the linkage between bond markets and mortgages.

So even though the Saudi oil almost-crisis garnered a lot of attention …

something BIG happened in an obscure corner of the financial system which has alert observers concerned …

Repo Market Chaos Signals Fed May Be Losing Control of Rates
Bloomberg, 9/16/19

Repo Squeeze Threatens to Spill Over Into Funding Markets
Bloomberg, 9/17/19

And no, this isn’t about people losing their cars or homes. It’s about systemically important part of the financial system.

Before you tune out, remember …

… when you see words like chaos and losing control and “spill over” in the context of interest rates and funding markets … it’s probably worth digging into.

When credit markets seize up, asset prices collapse. While this is troublesome for Main Street … it’s DEVASTATING to the financial system.

And when the financial system breaks down, it affects EVERYONE … even smug real estate investors who might think they’re immune.

So grab a snack and let’s explore what’s happening …

Wall Street operates on obscene amounts of collateralized leverage. Real estate investors use leverage too, but there’s an important distinction.

There are no margin calls on real estate. So when property values collapse temporarily for whatever reason, positive cash flow let’s you ride out the storm.

Not so in bond markets. When the value of a bond that’s pledged as collateral falls, the borrower faces a margin call.

This means the borrower needs cash FAST. This is a risk of the game they play.

But when traders are confident they have ready access to cash at predictable and reasonable prices, they stay very active in the market.

This is important because healthy markets require an abundance of assets, cash, buyers, sellers, and TRUST to keep things moving.

When any one falters, markets slow down … or STOP … credit markets can freeze, economic activity stalls, and it hits real estate investors too.

The head Wizard at the Fed says not to worry … just like they said about the sub-prime problem back in 2007.

Fool us once, shame on you. Fool us twice, shame on us.

But we’re far from expert on the repo market, so we encourage you to read up on what it is and why everyone’s talking about it.

Meanwhile, we’ll hit the high notes to get you started …

In short, the repo market is where short term borrowing happens. It’s like a pawn shop where market participants hock bonds to raise some cash.

But when repo rates spike like this …

image

 

Source: Bloomberg

… it means there’s not enough cash to go around.

Cash is like oxygen. You can live for a while without food (profit) or water (revenue) … but when you’re out of cash, it’s game over.

No wonder Wall Street freaked out …

‘This Is Crazy!’: Wall Street Scurries to Protect Itself in Repo Surge
Bloomberg, 9/17/19

Of course, we don’t really care if Wall Street takes it on the chin.

But when craziness on Wall Street has the potential to spill over to Main Street, we pay attention.

In this case, the situation is dire enough the Fed stepped in with $53 billion of emergency cash … in ONE day.

This is the first time since the 2008 financial crisis the Fed’s needed to do this.

The next day they added another $75 billion.

Then the Fed announced another rate cut … and hinted at more rate cuts … and suggested a willingness to print more money.

Then the VERY next day …yet ANOTHER $75 billion.

$53 billion here. $75 billion there. Pretty soon you’re talking serious money … in this case about $200 billion in THREE days … and quite possibly a serious problem.

So what? What does any of this mean to real estate investors?

Maybe not much. Maybe a lot. We certainly hope the Wizards behind the curtain pull the right levers the right way at the right times.

But if this is a pre-cursor to The Real Crash Peter Schiff is concerned about, things could become more complicated than “just” a 2008-like collapse of asset prices.

As we chronicle in the Real Asset Investing Report and the Future of Money and Wealth video series, the world’s faith in the Fed and dollar were shaken after 2008.

Meanwhile, negative interest rates on nearly $17 trillion in global debt is a symptom of a huge bond bubble today.

Here’s why …

Just as rental property cap rates fall when investors bid prices up … so do bond yields fall when investors bid bond prices up.

And just like when over-zealous real estate speculators bid property prices up to negative cash flow … so over-zealous bond speculators have bid bond prices up to negative yields.

Negative yields are a symptom of a speculative bubble.

These unsustainable scenarios typically end badly when there’s no greater fool left to bid the price up further.

And then, when the market goes “no bid” … prices collapse. Bad scene.

Remember, bonds are the foundation of the credit market and financial system.

This repo problem is like finding a big crack in the foundation of your favorite property.

The bigger concern is the size of the building sitting on the faulty foundation … and how much it might take to patch the crack.

So here’s the inspection report …

Global debt is around $250 TRILLION. These are bonds … many of which are pledged as collateral for loans … creating an almost incomprehensible amount of derivatives.

Worse, many of those pledged bonds are subject to margin calls.

This is a HIGHLY unstable situation and operates largely on trust.

Think about what happens if bond prices fall …

Borrowers who pledged bonds are upside down and need to raise cash fast.

When they get to the market, they find there aren’t enough dollars to go around. Cash starved sellers start discounting to attract buyers … causing rates to rise.

Again, it’s just like trying to sell an apartment building in a slow market. As you lower the price, the cap rate (yield) goes UP.

As yields rise, bond values everywhere fall … triggering more margin calls, more demands for cash, more desperate sellers … and a dismal downward death spiral.

And then it spreads …

As the demand for cash grows, anything not nailed down is offered for sale … often at a steep discount to compete for a limited supply of dollars.

This is contagion … falling prices spreading like wildfire across daisy-chained balance sheets.

Yikes. (Of course, if you have cash, it’s a shopping spree)

Enter the Fed’s printing press to save the day. But this ONLY works long-term if the market TRUSTS the Fed and their printed product.

In 2008, the world worried as the Fed took its balance sheet from $800 billion to $4.5 trillion. And that was just to paper over the now relatively small sub-prime mortgage mess.

It worked (temporarily) partly because the world didn’t have much choice. Dollars were the only game in town.

Today is much different than 2008. The world is wiser. Alternatives to the U.S. dollar and financial system exist or are being developed.

And the SIZE of the potential implosion is MUCH bigger than 2008.

Meanwhile, the Fed has already returned to lowering rates … and now is injecting substantial amounts of fresh cash into the system.

The question is … can the Fed print enough dollars to paper over a serious bond implosion … and if they do, will the world still trust the U.S. dollar?

Perhaps this is why central banks have been loading up on gold.

Coming back down to Main Street …

Whether the repo market is a canary in the coal mine signaling looming danger … or just a friendly wake up call to stay aware and prepared for something else later …

… there are some practical steps Main Street real estate investors can take to build a little more resilience into their portfolios.

First is education. The more you understand about how things work and how to recognize warning signs, the sooner you’ll see shifts so you grab opportunity and dodge problems.

It’s why we constantly encourage you to study, attend conferences, and get into meaningful conversations with experienced investors.

Next, it’s important to pay attention.

Most of what’s happening is widely publicized. But things are easy to miss when events don’t seem directly relevant to your Main Street life. They often are.

From a practical portfolio management perspective, it’s probably a great time to lock in low rate long-term financing, cash out some equity and retain a good level of liquidity.

When prices collapse, cash is king … and credit doesn’t count.

Be attentive to cash flows in current and future deals.

Invest in keeping your best tenants and team members happy. Look for ways to tighten up expenses and improve operations. Cash flow is staying power.

Focus on affordable markets and product niches supported by resilient economic, geographic, and demographic drivers.

Real estate is not a commodity or asset class. Certain markets and niches will outperform others. Be strategic.

Most of all, stay focused on the principles of sound fundamental investing. Be careful of having too much at risk on speculative plays.

As we’ve said before, an economy can be strong based on activity, but fragile based on systemic integrity.

If the system breaks down, then economic activity slows … sometimes dramatically … and if you’re only geared for sunshine, the storm can wash your wealth away quickly.

Until next time … good investing!


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Hidden costs that hike housing prices …

As the political cycle ramps up, housing affordability might get some attention. And it’s more complex than you might think.

Obviously, housing policies have the potential to affect YOUR real estate investing … so it’s smart to pay attention.

Of course, there’s always risk in talking politics. Everyone has heroes and talking points. Sometimes it’s hard to take the filters off and consider all perspectives.

Fortunately, we’re not here to promote or protest a policy or a politician. Life’s too short for that.

Instead, our focus is on what people in power are thinking and doing … and how it affects our strategic investing.

In case you missed it, President Trump recently signed an Executive Order to take on the lack of affordable housing.

According to the announcement, the EO establishes a White House Council tasked with “tearing down red tape in order to build more affordable housing.

This ONE sentence reveals much about how the President views the problem … and reflects his background in real estate.

So let’s put our red or blue foam fingers down and consider the landscape the way it’s being planted by the powers that be … and how things might change if a new sheriff comes to town.

Components of Affordability

Housing affordability is a relationship between incomes and mortgage payments or rents. It’s not about price as much as it is the gap between income and housing expense.

It’s no secret housing prices and rents have been rising faster than real wages.

And the longer this goes on, the more people get pushed off the back of the affordability bus.

Ironically, it’s often the attempts at creating affordability which inadvertently makes things unaffordable. Will that happen this time?

Past national policy efforts focused on increasing the availability of financing, while many local efforts include legislating lower rents.

History shows easy financing actually makes housing more expensive … just like student loans made college more expensive.

This confounds typical politicians.

But it’s simple. Financing increases purchasing power … and newly empowered buyers bid prices up. Of course, sellers are happy to oblige.

Consider what happened to housing after the Clinton Administration lowered government lending standards in late 1999 …

Looser lending combined with the Fed’s then unusually low interest rates (trying to reflate stocks after the dotcom bust and 9/11 attacks) …

… drove real estate prices up, up, up in the early 2000s.

Everything was great until derivatives of those sub-prime mortgages imploded the bond market and crashed not only real estate prices, but the global economy.

So again … easy money doesn’t make things affordable. It inflates price bubbles which eventually collapse. Not a great plan.

Interestingly, President Trump is badgering the Fed to drop rates.

He says lower rates are necessary to keep the U.S. competitive in international trade … and to lower the interest expense of ballooning federal debt.

Some claim Trump’s trying to prop up the stock market heading into the election cycle, which is probably true.

In any case, based on this EO, Trump’s push for lower rates doesn’t appear to be intended to drive housing prices UP.

Of course, that doesn’t necessarily mean he wants to drive prices down either.

After all, there are many constituencies with vested interests in keeping values stable or growing.

Banks depend on property values to secure the mortgages they make.

Local governments depend on high values for property tax calculations.

And of course, property owners (who also happen to be voters), use high property values to feel rich or to tap into for additional purchasing power.

On the other hand, there are a growing number of disenfranchised voters who struggle with rising rents and are watching the dream of home ownership become more elusive.

When we asked then-candidate Donald Trump what a healthy housing market looked like in a Trump Administration, he simply said, “Jobs“.

Fast forward to today, and we know President Trump has been trying to re-organize the economy to produce more higher paying jobs.

Of course, the jury’s still out on whether he’ll succeed. But that’s the plan. And if he is successful, it will help close the housing affordability gap.

Of course, rising wages are useless if housing prices continue to outpace them … which brings us back to this affordable housing executive order.

When we put all this in a blender and hit puree, it seems to us crashing housing prices can’t be the goal.

Instead, we suspect the purpose of increasing supply is to moderate excessive price growth … while giving incomes a chance to catch up.

So on the housing supply side, President Trump’s Executive Order presumes to stimulate development by REDUCING regulation.

This is an unusual tactic for a politician. Politicians of both stripes are infamous for MORE government, not less.

Maybe Trump is still thinking like a real estate developer.

In any case, we visited the National Association of Home Builders website to see what active home builders think of the Trump approach.

They describe Trump’s EO as “a victory for NAHB” because “it cites the need to cut costly regulations that are hampering the production of more affordable housing…”

According to NAHB, regulations add SIGNIFICANT costs to development

“… regulations account for nearly 25% of the price of building a single-family home and more than 30% of the cost of a typical multifamily development.”

Think about that. These are YUGE numbers. 😉

Of course, the odds of reducing regulations and their costs to absolute zero are … absolutely zero. There’ll always be some regulation.

But even if regulatory costs are substantially reduced, there are other factors to consider (we told you it was complex) …

Components of Cost

When bringing a real estate development to market costs include land, material, capital, labor, taxes, energy, and regulation.

Once built, you can tack on marketing, sales, and costs of operation until the product is sold or leased up. So, regulation is just one of many pieces of the equation.

Watching President Trump operate, it seems he attempts to manipulate components of cost as you’d expect from a typical real estate developer … making trade-offs to get things done in time and on budget.

The Opportunity Zones program is an attempt to move economic activity to where land is less expensive.

As mentioned, he’s aggressively calling for lower costs of capital (interest rates).

And the already passed Trump tax reform is delivering tremendous tax incentives for real estate investors.

As for energy, Trump opened up domestic oil production while pushing for lower oil prices.

And with his recent EO, Trump is going after costly regulation in the home building sector.

All that checks a lot of boxes.

Of course, there’s the issue of tariffs … which (at least temporarily) are adding to the cost of building materials.

(There’s much we could say on the touchy topic of tariffs … but we’ll save it for another day.)

Meanwhile, we’re chomping popcorn watching this play out … and trying to decipher what it means for Main Street real estate investors.

Here’s our bottom-line (so far) …

While interest and energy costs are macro-factors which affect the broad market, a reduction in federal regulation makes a smaller dent.

That’s because regulation is both a federal and regional phenomenon.

Our guess is markets with more local regulations will continue to attract less investment than those with less. Conversely, markets with less regulation will attract more.

This push to stimulate development is an obvious opportunity for real estate developers.

Meanwhile, we’re not staying up at night worrying about a supply glut collapsing housing prices any time soon.

If housing prices fall, it’ll probably be because credit markets collapse again.

For that reason, we continue to think it’s a good time to liquefy equity, lock in long term cheap financing, and tighten up operational expenses.

If prices do happen to fall … for whatever reason … as long as you have resilient cash flow and low fixed-rate financing you can ride out a storm as an owner.

And with some dry powder, a collapse isn’t a crisis for you … it’s an opportunity as a buyer.

Of course, you can stand at the plate all day waiting for the perfect pitch. Meanwhile, the market might continue to boom.

You can’t profit on a property you don’t own.

So even though there’s arguably some frailty in the financial system, it’s an ever-present threat you need to learn to live with and prepare for.

But as long as deals you’re doing today are structured to weather a storm, you’re probably better off collecting base hits than taking strikes.

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.


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Cashing in on the silver BOOM …

In case you missed it, silver exploded nearly five percent higher … in a single day … which takes its impressive year-to-date gain to nearly twenty percent.

Of course, we’re not into using precious metals as trading vehicles to churn out short-term dollar-denominated capital gains.

We think real investing is about acquiring streams of passive cash flow. Rental income is sustainable, resilient wealth that doesn’t gyrate up and down with every Presidential tweet or bloviation by a Federal Reserve governor.

Nonetheless, we do think silver and gold can serve a powerful purpose in a strategic real estate investor’s portfolio. In fact, we’ll probably make this our presentation topic at the upcoming New Orleans Investment Conference.

But there’s another big silver boom happening … and it’s one that’s attracting gobs of capital and produces very strong cash flows.

A recent research report from Jones Lang Lasalle (JLL) described healthcare as an undeniable force in the U.S. economy and “the largest employer in the U.S.”

JLL says the healthcare’s bright outlook is rooted in powerful demographics…

“Underlying the forecast for growth in healthcare spending are … the growing and aging U.S. population.”

It’s the “silver tsunami” our friend and residential assisted living investing expert, Gene Guarino, talks about all the time.

And by the numbers, it’s a sector likely to be growing for awhile

“… the American population over 65 years of age is projected to almost double, from 50 million to nearly 95 million …”

“… the 95 and older population is expected to nearly triple, from 6.5 million to 19 million.”

Maybe that’s old news. (Sorry, was that a pun?)

But the point is … those demographics drive big expenditures

“Healthcare spending is expected to grow by more than nearly $2 trillion in the next decade.”

Of course, just because big money is flowing into a mega-sector, you still need to figure out how to stake your claim and get into the cash flow.

On this count, the report contains some valuable insights …

“Healthcare delivery continues to evolve toward a more decentralized model away from inpatient care and hospitals.”

Why? Because that’s what the customer WANTS …

“Healthcare consumers increasingly expect … a better experience when seeking care.”

“This trend is leading to new real estate strategies that include moving to … smaller-scale … centers.”

Of course, they’re not talking about residential assisted living homes. At least not yet.

But McMansions converted into a cash-flowing group home provides both care and community to a growing demographic … and fit well into the micro-trend.

We’re guessing big players like JLL and their institutional clients just aren’t interested in owning a dozen single-family homes each cranking out $10,000 a month of net spendable cash.

That’s because as great as this sounds to Mom and Pop investors and syndicators on Main Street, it’s small potatoes to big institutional players.

Yet we think it’s probable somewhere down the line that the big players will find a way to get in on the action … the same way huge private equity funds found their way into single-family homes.

But that day isn’t here yet. This means there’s still a lot of room for Main Street investors and syndicators to get in on the action.

And unlike many industries which can be offshored, tariffed, or cut out of the family budget in tough times … healthcare is an industry that will remain local and likely to enjoy continued public, corporate, and political support.

Residential assisted living is one of our favorite niches. We’re seeing many individual investors and syndicators having success in this space.

The demographics driving this sector are powerful and undeniable.

As baby-boomers have moved through the seasons of life, they’ve created huge economic bonanzas for industries which find ways to serve them.

Healthcare could end up being the biggest baby-boomer bonanza of them all.

So whether it’s medical office, residential assisted living, or some other healthcare related real estate play …

… this is one silver boom tailor made for strategic real estate investors and syndicators.

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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Clues in the News – Stocks, Negative Rates, Oil, Gold and You

If you’re wondering which way the financial winds are blowing … look to the news!

From the rollercoaster ride of the stock market, to negative interest rates on mortgages, to big moves in gold and oil … it appears the winds are changing. Something is coming. 

Savvy real estate investors are reading the signs and asking, “What should I do?”

Join us as we study the mystery that is the headlines and discuss what all these things mean for investors like YOU. 

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

  • Your headliner host, Robert Helms
  • His mysterious co-host, Russell Gray 

Listen

 


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The dance between stocks and bonds

On today’s edition of Clues in the News, we’ll go beneath the headlines to find out how all the goings-on in the market impact real estate. 

They say that the time to repair the roof is when the sun is shining. 

Right now, markets are good. Real estate is strong. Rents are durable. Jobs are great. Gold is high … so we need to dig into the headlines. 

Even though we’re in real estate, it’s important to pay attention to other industries and markets like oil, bonds, and gold. 

When we try to understand what’s going on in the world economically, it’s like that old game Mouse Trap. Every action has a reaction. 

And there seems to be a dance between the stock market and the bond market. 

When people are feeling good, investors buy stocks … because they are feeling bullish that the asset value of the stock that they bought was going to go up. 

When they get fearful … they sell stocks and go for safety in bonds. 

Bonds are basically IOUs. The best bond you can get is from the U.S. government, which prints the world’s reserve currency … the dollar … making it impossible for them to ever default. 

But as we saw in 2008 … it is possible for your credit to seize up. 

So, you can rearrange your affairs in order to capitalize on the opportunities that will be created by whatever is going to happen to the market in the future and mitigate the risks. 

Signals from the yield curve inversion

When you hear bonds and stocks, you may be thinking that it doesn’t have much to do with real estate. 

But it does … because interest rates are the fuel that we use to drive our real estate purchases. 

You’ve probably heard recently that rates are headed down and the Federal Reserve is planning to cut rates another quarter of a point. 

We certainly look at that to see what the long-term prognosis is for owning real estate. Then we look at the short-term housing markets. 

But in between, there are all kinds of signals. 

One of the big signals that happened last week was a yield curve inversion. 

You don’t have to necessarily understand what that is at a deep level. What you do have to understand is what it means. 

In other words, if you’re driving down the road and see that oil pressure is green, you know you’re good. 

If it falls below the green, you know that if the light turns red and you don’t put oil in your car, your engine is going to blow. 

A yield curve is like that. It’s the relationship between short-term interest rates and long-term interest rates. 

When you take on a loan, the yield curve should slope up so that the lower rates are closer to you and as time progresses they go up as they forward further in time.

When the curve inverts, it goes the other way. 

All you really need to know is that the last seven recessions were preceded by a yield curve inversion. On average, the recession came 22 months later. 

Whatever happens, there is always a flow of money to and a flow of money away. You want to make sure that you’re always in the flow of where it’s coming. 

Growth in gold

Meanwhile, gold prices are reinvigorated by the yield curve. 

Gold prices pick up on fears of a global recession because those two markets, the stock market, and the liquid metals market can hit the buy or sell pretty fast. 

That’s in part because gold is a proxy for currency. Gold is at record highs in many currencies around the world, not just the dollar.

When countries are trying to compete in international trade, they have an advantage when their goods are cheaper. 

So, if they devalue their currency so that the purchasing power of their trading partners goes up, they can sell more goods. 

When people begin to lose faith in their currencies … they look for something that allows them to step out of a currency and still hold liquid wealth. 

Some people are using Bitcoin, but the vast majority of investors … especially institutions and sovereign governments … are using gold. 

Last year, central banks around the world purchased more physical gold than at any other time since 1970.

If you think about insider trading when it comes to currencies … there’s nobody more insightful than central banks. 

The effects of oil

All economic activity is derived from energy … and in modern society, that energy is primarily oil. 

So, as the cost of oil goes up … it’s actually friction in regard to economic activity. 

When you think of what happened coming out of the great recession, the economics in the United States that were producing all theat jobs leading to recovery … were ENERGY PRODUCING LOCALITIES. 

The other side of it is an economic problem … a lot of the oil that has been built upon bonds issued by oil companies are counting on higher oil prices. 

When those oil prices drop, they still have the same debt service.

There’s a lot of fragility out there … and nobody knows what could be the catalyst that’s going to ignite the debt bomb that creates the next debt implosion. 

But one of the things to pay attention to is all of the debt in the oil industry. 

We look at it for the cost of the input to the daily lives of our tenants. When gas is more expensive, it increases their cost of living. 

So, they’re going to be more resistant to rent increases … and they will be moving out of the higher priced places into the lower ones. 

And then of course, it can also point to the health of the credit markets. 

Time to pay attention

There’s a lot to be licking your chops at … so to speak … with what is happening in the world right now. 

And NOW is the time to pay attention. 

Learn more from the Clues in the News by listening in to the full episode. 


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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Something weird is happening with mortgages …

Real estate investing is largely the business of using debt to acquire streams of income and build oceans of equity.

In the hands of a professional real estate investor, mortgages are like a super-charged power tool … making the job of wealth building easier, faster, and more profitable.

Of course, powerful tools in the hands of amateurs can do a lot of damage … hacking off chunks of equity or creating wounds which hemorrhage cash flow.

But in all cases, for any investor who has, or is building, a lot debt in their portfolio … it’s wise to pay close attention to the condition of credit markets.

Sometimes new tools create opportunity. Sometimes there are hints that something might be breaking down.

In a little more esoteric corner of our news feed, we noticed a potentially concerning headline …

MBS Day Ahead: Another Chance to Watch MBS Suffer
Mortgage News Daily, 8/27/19

For the uninitiated, MBS isn’t referring to the controversial crown prince from Saudi Arabia. They’re talking about Mortgage Backed Securities.

Mortgage-backed securities are the vehicle Wall Street uses to funnel investment dollars into Main Street real estate.

As you may recall, it was Wall Street stuffing toxic sub-prime mortgages into the MBS they sold to institutional investors that triggered the 2008 financial crisis.

So it’s well known that MBS suffering can lead to serious Main Street suffering, especially for aggressive users of mortgages … like real estate investors.

The notable takeaway from the article is this chart which shows mortgage rates have decoupled from 10-year Treasury yields …

image

Source: Mortgage News Daily

According to The Real Estate Guys™ secret decoder ring, this means mortgage rates aren’t falling as far as fast as those of the 10-year U.S. Treasury bond.

This is notable, because it’s generally accepted among mortgage pros that the two are inextricably linked … because it’s always been that way.

But not now. Weird.

Of course, it begs the question … WHY?

According to the article, bond “traders are citing increased supply … with an absence of buyers …”

Now you can see from the chart, this has only been going on for a couple of weeks … so perhaps it’s just a little anomaly and nothing to freak out about.

But just like some war vets have panic attacks when a backfiring engine pops like live ammo, we get a little spooked when the bid on MBS dries up.

After all, it was MBS going no bid was the nuclear bomb which ignited the 2008 credit market collapse.

No one is saying another Great Financial Crisis is imminent … although for the aware and prepared, it could be a HUGE opportunity …

… but softness in MBS demand is a dot on the curve worth noting.

Looking at some other dots …

US home price growth slows for 15th straight month
Yahoo Finance, 8/27/19

“The market for existing-home sales remained soft in June despite some boost from lower mortgage rates as consumers remain wary of high home prices …”

Remember, home prices reflect the value of the collateral for mortgages being packaged up and put into mortgage-backed securities.

When property prices are rising, lenders (the buyers of MBS) see their security go up in the form of greater “protective equity” which insulates them from loss in the case of default.

Also, equity gained from rising property values creates greater incentives for the borrower to make the payments.

Sometimes, in a rising price environment, as lenders compete to make loans, they’re willing to take on more risk at inception …

… because they believe rising property values will increase their security over time.

So whereas a lender might really want 20-25% protective equity (75-80% loan-to-value) … they might be willing to originate a loan at only 10-15% to get the loan.

Then, as prices rise and equity builds, the lender quickly ends up with the protective equity they’re looking for.

But when prices slow or reverse, you’d expect the opposite …

FHA sets limits on cash-out refinancing
The Washington Post, 8/27/19

“Beginning Sept. 1, FHA borrowers will now be limited to cash-out refinancing a maximum of 80 percent of their home value.”

We’ve also heard rumors that Fannie Mae will be limiting access to cash-out loans on multi-family properties.  Stay tuned on that one.

Is this a meltdown? Hardly. But it’s a subtle shift in the wind which bears watching.

Meanwhile, rates are GREAT. Loans are still largely readily available.

And if you’ve got lots of equity and cash flow, now could be a great time to liquefy equity using long term debt while paying careful attention to cash flow.

If there’s a chance prime properties in solid markets will be going on sale in the not-too-distant future, you’ll want to be prepared to go shopping.

Meanwhile, there are still affordable rental markets offering reliable cash flows TODAY.

Repositioning equity from high-priced markets to affordable cash flow markets or product niches can be a great way to make your balance sheet work harder … without having to wait for a recession (or worse) to provide bargains.

After all, sometimes markets don’t crash suddenly or at all. They simply recede slowly for a season before ratcheting back up.  So sitting on the sidelines waiting for “the big one” could take your entire career. Base hits win games, too. Never swinging means you’ll never get on base.

Meanwhile, it’s probably a good idea to pay close attention to credit markets on the macro level and cash flow on the micro level.

Until next time … good investing!


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Goldman Sachs says it’s time for cash flow …

If you follow the financial news, you’ve probably noticed some talk about “the everything bubble”. Basically, it’s rising asset value prices for … everything.

We know that sounds great. At least as long as YOU own the assets BEFORE they inflate. When you do, equity happens to you and it’s awesome.

But until you sell, it’s only paper wealth. To get usable cash, you must relinquish the asset.

If you’re playing the buy low / sell high game … a bubble is a great time to sell.

Of course, selling means you pay taxes and fees.

Worse, you’ll need to buy low and sell high all over again … or eventually you and inflation will consume all your wealth. That’s not sustainable.

And if you’re trying to buy into a bubble, it gets dangerous. It’s easy to get fooled into chasing the market.

So how do you know the difference between a good buy and good-bye?

Two words … cash flow.

Wait! Before you ASSUME you know where we’re headed and wander back to the tyranny of all your urgent busyness …

there’s a BIG opportunity on the backside of this friendly public service announcement about the safety and stability of cash-flowing real estate.

Consider this headline, which appeared on the front page of two major news aggregators …

High-Dividend Stocks on Historic Discount as Yields Plunge, says Goldman Investopedia, 8/20/19

Goldman Sachs says some dividend paying stocks are super-cheap right now … even in the midst of an “everything bubble.”

What does that tell you about how paper investors have been thinking about income up to this point?

Seems like they’d rather buy unicorns like Uber or WeWork on hype … over proven companies with real earnings. Buy and hope a greater fool comes along to cash you out.

It’s been working.

But Goldman’s comments imply Wall Street is realizing the winds are changing. And in bubbles, when it’s time to sell, it’s a stampede.

So where’s the opportunity for real estate investors?

Goldman sees opportunity in yields between 4.3 and 6.8 percent … with the potential for equity growth.

Remember, Goldman is talking to stock investors who’ve been whip-sawed on the share price roller-coaster. They’ve been holding on for dear life.

But fleeing stocks for the “safety” of bonds has been a problem because bonds are bubbly too. That’s why rates are so low.

As of this writing, the 10-year Treasury is only yielding about 1.6 percent.

That means someone retiring with $1 million invested for income is trying to live off $16,000 a year. A year ago, it was twice that … which still wasn’t great.

Someone can be a millionaire yet have income below the poverty line.

Are they rich? Or are they poor?

Unless you think eating the seed corn is sustainable farming, they’re poor.

This is the problem facing thousands of people transitioning into retirement every day.

You may be thinking, “I could create over $100,000 a year of passive income with $1 million of equity in real estate.”

Yes, YOU could. But Goldman and their clients aren’t real estate investors.

So Goldman says it’s time to look for real income through dividends instead of share price hype.

They point out that dividend stocks are offering a much higher yield than bonds … plus some price appreciation potential.

Sound familiar?

That’s exactly what income producing real estate does.

Of course, real estate also provides arguably the best tax breaks of any investment, which dramatically improves after-tax yield.

Plus, real estate allows generous and affordable leverage, which can drive long term total returns to well over 20 percent annually … even based on conservative assumptions.

But there’s even more to the story …

The Wall Street casinos are fun when there’s a lot of air being pumped into the jump house. Asset prices inflate. Balance sheet wealth increases.

People FEEL richer. And on paper, they are.

But the jump house machinery is complicated. Sometimes it malfunctions.

And when asset price investors get spooked, they seek shelter in good old-fashioned income. For stock investors, that’s dividends.

The point is REAL wealth is INCOME, whether it’s dividend yield on stocks, or positive cash flow from rental properties.

We discuss this in detail in The Case for Real Estate Investing … and it’s an important concept to understand if you’re going to put together a resilient portfolio.

The fact that income producing stocks are relatively cheap at a time when unicorn companies are successfully going public while losing money …

… shows asset price investing can be intoxicating.

Goldman’s recommendation indicates investors may be sobering up as the punch bowl runs dry.

We think stock investors are likely to be interested in sound real estate deals.

And when Wall Street’s primary answer to asset price volatility is to simply hold on, they actually strengthen the case for real estate.

After all, if you’re going to buy and hold, the relative illiquidity of real estate isn’t much of an objection. It’s a small price to pay for stabilizing your portfolio.

And when it comes to building long-term income and equity growth higher than inflation, it really doesn’t get any better than income producing real estate.

The only real advantage Wall Street can claim is convenience. It’s pretty easy to open up a brokerage account and buy stocks.

Of course, the growing popularity of real estate private placements provides an option for busy people to partner with active real estate investors.

And when you consider the privacy and asset protection features of private placement investing, it’s probably well worth a little more work on the front end to get involved.

That’s why we think syndicating real estate is one of the best business opportunities of our time.

Millions of Main Street investors have trillions of dollars at risk in the Wall Street casinos … and they’ve been holding on for the long term.

But now, even the venerable Goldman Sachs is touting the benefits of buying equity for yield … something real estate does better than anything Wall Street offers.

But whether you decide to invest in real estate on your own, through a syndication, or as a syndicator

… headlines say the timing is right to focus on income producing assets to build long-term sustainable wealth.

Until next time … good investing!


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Podcast: Clues in the News – Stocks, Negative Rates, Oil, Gold and You

From Mr. Stock Market’s Wild Ride to negative interest rates on mortgages, to the big moves in gold and oil … the news is full of clues that the financial winds are shifting.

What’s a real estate investor to do?

Listen in as we take a look at the hottest headlines and consider what they mean to Main Street investors.


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 system is dead. Long live the system!

The ghosts of the Great Financial Crisis of 2008 still linger (as they should) in the minds and hearts of seasoned real estate investors …

… even though it’s been a an equity party for the last 10 years.

Of course, no one wants to hear it might be ending. Then again, every new beginning comes from another beginning’s end.

And as we recently noted, a bend in the road isn’t the end of the road … unless you fail to make the turn.

Right now, it seems like the global financial system is flashing caution lights all over the place.

Consider these recent headlines …

U.S. Treasury bond curve inverts for first time since 2007 in recession warningReuters, 8/14/19

Ex-Fed boss Greenspan says ‘there is no barrier’ to Treasury yields falling below zeroMarketWatch, 8/14/19

China Prepares Its “Nuclear Option” In Trade WarOilPrice.com, 8/13/19

Some real estate investors see these headlines … and yawn. Probably a mistake.

Experienced real estate investors and their mortgage professionals know mortgage rates pivot off the 10-year Treasury yield.

And because mortgages are the most powerful tool in a real estate investor’s toolbox and interest one of the biggest expenses, interest rates matter.

Regular listeners know we like fixed rates now because the risk of rates rising is greater than the benefit of them falling further.

It doesn’t mean they will. There’s a LOT of effort to keep them down.

In fact, just a year ago, 10-year Treasury yields were nearly 3.5 percent and today it’s half that. But at just over 1.5 percent, how much lower can they go?

You’d be surprised.

After all, the venerable Alan Greenspan himself is publicly raising the possibility Treasury yields could fall below zero.

How is that even possible?

Who makes a loan (buy a bond) not just for free (no interest income), but knowing they’ll get paid back LESS than the principal amount?

You might think no one in their right mind would do that, yet …

Negative-Yielding Debt Hits Record $14 Trillion as Fed Cuts
Bloomberg, August 1, 2019

And in Denmark, home-buyers can get a 10-year mortgages at NEGATIVE .5 percent interest

More good news for homeowners: Mortgages below 0% at fixed interest rates

(Unless you’re fluent in Danish, you’ll need to run this one through Google translate)

Home-buyers are being PAID to borrow.

So you can add negative interest rates to the list of items under “this time it’s different” … because this has never happened before.

What does it mean?

We’re still working on figuring that out. but we think it’s a clear sign something is broken … or least seriously different.

One of our favorite Brainiac economic commentators and an unconventional thinker is Keith Weiner at Monetary-Metals.

In a recent essay, Keith argues that based on the Net-Present-Value calculation, when interest rates hit zero, the value of assets become infinite.

We’re not sure we agree, because the limiting factor is the ability to debt service … even if all you’re doing is repaying principal.

But we do agree the result of cheap money is equity growth.

And this creates a HUGE and unique opportunity for income property investors.

That’s because when you get a mortgage to buy an income property, you’re also purchasing the income to pay down the loan.

Of course, this doesn’t mean it’s a risk-free ride.

If you lose your self-control and pay more for the property than the property’s income can service, you’ve transitioned from investor to speculator.

Now you’re banking on the equity growth in the property to compensate you for the negative cash flow … a subsidy that must come from someplace else.

This structure is most likely to occur with 1-4 unit residential properties because those lenders will let you supplement the property’s income with your own.

A word to the wise …

Unless you have a very specific, high probability plan to raise rents post-purchase …

… be VERY careful about buying a negative cash-flow property in an uber-low interest rate environment.

It’s doubtful lower rates will come along to reduce your interest expense and boost cash flow.

Of course, most commercial lenders won’t make a negative cash-flow loan, so if you’re playing at the pro level, you’re less likely to step on that landmine.

But the aforementioned headlines have some even MORE CONCERNING things to consider

First, yield-curve inversion has preceded the last five recessions.

Fortunately, those recessions don’t usually show up for about year and a half.

So if you pay attention today, there’s no reason to be blind-sided in two years. Hopefully, you’ve got time to prepare. But the clock is ticking.

Recessions mean softer employment and less Main Street prosperity.

Remember, when things are tight, people and businesses tend to move where the cost of living and tax burdens are lower.

Keep this in mind when picking markets, property types, and price points.

It’s always good to have some people above you on the food chain, who will move down and bolster demand in your niche during tough times.

Of course, that’s just your run-of-the-mill market-cycle awareness. Nonetheless, it’s always good to remember the basics.

But what if the system breaks down? What if the “this time it’s different” items tell a different story?

We’ve been watching this for quite a while.

We first spoke about it at the New Orleans Investment Conference six years ago.

We got into more detail on it at our Future of Money and Wealth conference. Of course, we’ve been writing about it regularly.

Now we’re talking about it even more because mainstream financial media is finally taking notice. Maybe we’re not crazy.

So even though we just wrote about it last week, when you hear about “nuclear options” in a trade war between the two biggest economies, would you rather hear the warnings multiple times … or risk missing it altogether?

And what if the Fed is really lowering interest rates to preemptively buffer the impact of China pushing the nuclear button? Will it be enough?

There’s a lot of hype about “the best economy ever” … and perhaps statistically it’s true.

But if interest rates spike suddenly, all that “best ever” talk goes away, along with trillions in equity … and it’s a whole new ball game.

Our pal Peter Schiff thinks the Fed will create trillions of dollars in a desperate attempt to reflate asset prices and keep rates down.

Gold is suggesting foreign central banks are preparing for trouble.

Those aware and prepared will make fortunes. Those unaware and unprepared will likely take a hit … or worse.

It’s not the circumstances that are good or bad. It’s how well you’re prepared and how quickly you respond when things start moving quickly.

The warning lights are flashing. Better to be prepared and not have a problem, than to have a problem and not be prepared.

Now is the time to expand your education, understanding, and network … and fortify your portfolio, just in case.

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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Avoid getting caught in this trap …

A long, long time ago in a world without video games, we played a boardgame called Mousetrap. Since a picture’s worth a thousand words …

image

To see it in action, click here.

As you can see, Mousetrap is a pretty elaborate set up where an initial action sets off a chain reaction of subsequent actions …

… until finally the unsuspecting mouse is caught in a descending trap.

Credit markets are a lot like Mousetrap …

… and the further back you can see through the chain of events, the more likely you are to see what’s coming … and avoid getting trapped out of position.

The Great Financial Crisis of 2008 taught us how dangerous it is to keep our noses myopically to the real estate investing grindstone … falsely aloof and insulated from the turmoil of credit and currency markets.

When the trap fell, we were caught … illiquid and upside down … with not enough time to react.

So we’ve learned to pay careful attention to the machinations of the markets. And right now, there are a lot of moving parts.

Depending on how long you’ve been watching, some of the action may seem disconnected and even irrelevant to your daily real estate investing.

Be careful.

Gold, oil, trade, tariffs, currency, and bonds are far more intertwined than most folks realize … and they all conspire together to impact credit markets and interest rates.

And last time we looked, credit markets and interest rates are very important to serious real estate investors.

By now, you’re probably aware the Fed dropped interest rates for the first time in 11 years.

Granted, it wasn’t much … only 25 basis points (.25%).

But the stock market didn’t like it. And neither did President Trump, who was unabashed in his displeasure with the Jerome Powell led Fed.

So that’s one piece of the puzzle.

You’ve also probably heard that the U.S. and China have been engaged in an economic pissing contest for quite some time.

Here again, President Trump is displeased with China’s trade policy with the U.S. and he’s been using tariffs to goad them to the negotiating table.

But the last round of talks didn’t end well, so Trump slapped more tariffs on the Chinese exports to the United States.

Once again, the stock market didn’t like it much.

Let’s take a time out here to remind ourselves that when money flees the stock market, it usually ends up in bonds. As demand for bonds goes UP, interest rates go DOWN.

Then, as interest rates do down, investors go back to stocks in pursuit of yield, and everything reverses. It’s an ebb and flow of funds which creates a degree of equilibrium.

Or at least that’s how it usually works …

Sometimes, when investors don’t like either stocks or bonds, they buy other things for safety … including gold and real estate.

This is a far more interesting development and something we discussed at length in a recent commentary.

But that was before China allegedly punched back at Uncle Sam’s latest tariffs by allowing their currency to fall below the politically significant 7:1 ratio to the dollar.

Now before your eyes glaze over, it’s not as complicated as it seems. And as we’re about to point out, it has more of an impact on your real estate investing than you may realize.

When China allows its yuan to weaken relative to the dollar, it takes more yuan to buy a dollar. More significantly, it means dollars will buy more Chinese goods.

In other words, it makes Chinese goods cheaper for Americans … effectively negating the punitive impact of U.S. tariffs. It’s like blocking the punch.

The Trump Administration wasn’t happy about China’s “block” and, for first time since the Clinton Administration, decided to brand the Chinese as “currency manipulators”.

Without getting into the weeds, it means the conflict is escalating … and the two heavyweight economies are turning a gentleman’s disagreement into a street fight.

With the two economies highly intertwined with each other … and very influential around the globe … this altercation has the potential to impact virtually everyone world-wide … including Main Street real estate investors.

Of course, we’ve been talking about this since 2013 when the clues in the news made it clear the dollar is under attack by China (and Russia).

We’re not telling you this to brag. We’re simply saying these are events which many people have seen coming … and have been preparing for.

And it’s not over by a long shot.

So if want a broader context for what you see reported in the daily news, you might want to check out our Real Asset Investing report and our Future of Money and Wealth video series.

And if you’re not sure why all this matters to a lowly Main Street real estate investor, consider this headline …

China could unleash this weapon on the financial markets to wallop the USYahoo Finance, August 6, 2019

“They [China] could start selling Treasuries which is what they use to benchmark the yuan to the dollar and that would be the doomsday scenario.

(By the way, Russia’s already done it, but they’re small fry compared to China.)

“While China has reduced its holdings of Treasuries in recent years,
any amount of pronounced dumping could send U.S. interest rates skyrocketing.

Remember, this is Mouse Trap …

Think about what “skyrocketing” interest rates would mean to an economy bloated with record levels of consumer, corporate, municipal, and federal debt.

As we discussed exactly one year ago, America’s debt could be an Achilles heel China could attack by dropping the interest rate bomb.

Back then, this was considered an extreme view … highly unlikely because dumping that many Treasuries at once could cost China billions.

But China’s been stocking up on gold … perhaps as a hedge against collapsing the dollar?

And when you consider the cost of “war” … even a trillion dollar loss is less than what the U.S. has spent in the Middle East.

So it’s not too far-fetched to think China might consider the loss just the cost of winning the trade war.

Let’s bring it back down to Main Street …

We’re not saying interest rates will skyrocket. But they could. There’s a lot more room to rise than decline.

And if China is playing a different game than Uncle Sam thinks, they may make a move few expect.

Is your portfolio fortified to withstand a sudden spike in interest rates?

“The time to repair the roof is while the sun is shining.” – John F. Kennedy

Think about it. Pay attention. Inspect the roof … and make repairs.

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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Easy money is both a symptom and a sickness …

As of this writing, we’re not sure what the Fed will do with interest rates, though it’s widely expected they’ll cut.

So as much as we’d like to talk about what it means to real estate investors, we’ll wait to see what happens.

And even though mainstream financial media are finally paying attention to gold and the future of the dollar … these are topics we’ve been covering for some time.

But if you’re new to all this, consider gorging on our past blog posts

… and be sure to download the Real Asset Investing report

… and for the uber-inquisitive, check out the Future of Money and Wealth video series.

After all, this is your financial future … and there’s a LOT going on.

In fact, today there’s a somewhat esoteric and anecdotal sign the world might be on the precipice of its next major financial earthquake.

But before you go full-fetal, this isn’t doom and gloom. We’re too happy-go-lucky for that.

It’s more an adaptation of a principle from Jim Collins’ classic business book, Good to Great

Confront the brutal clues.

Of course, the original phrase is “Confront the brutal facts.” But as great as data is, sometimes data shows up too late to help.

So, while facts may confirm or deny a conclusion … clues provide awareness and advance warning.

But just like with facts, you must be willing to go where the clues lead.

In this case, we’re just going to look at one clue which has a history of presaging a crack up boom.

For those unfamiliar, a crack up boom is the asset price flare up and flame out that occurs at the end of an excessive and unsustainable credit expansion.

In other words, before everything goes down, they go UP … in spectacular fashion.

Here’s a chart of the housing boom that eventually busted in 2008 …

See the bubble that peaked in 2007? It’s hard to miss … in hindsight. It’s hard to see when you’re in the middle of it.

Peter Schiff saw it in 2005 and published his book, Crash Proof, in 2006 to warn everyone. Few listened. Some mocked.

In 2008 it became painfully obvious to everyone.

Of course, for true real estate investors … those busy accumulating tenants and focusing on the long-term collection of rental income …

asset prices are only interesting when you buy, refinance, or sell.

As long as you stay in control of when you buy, refinance, or sell … you can largely ride out the bust which often occurs on the back end of a boom.

And if you’re paying attention, you use boom time as prime time to prep … and the bust as the best time to buy.

Today it’s safe to say, just based on asset prices alone, we’re probably closer to a bust than another big boom.

But the current run-up could still have more room to boom. As we said, it’s hard to tell when you’re in the middle of it.

Shrinking cap rates are one of the most followed metrics for measuring a boom.

Cap rates compress when investors are willing to pay more for the same income. That is, they pay more (bid up the asset price) for the same income.

But when the Fed says low-interest rates are the new normal, maybe it means so are low cap rates.

It’s one of MANY ways Fed policy ripples through the economy … even real estate.

But there’s another sign that’s hard to see unless you’re an industry insider, and while not scientific or statistical, it still makes a compelling argument the end is nearing …

Lending guidelines.

Think about it … booms are fueled by credit. It’s like the explosive fuel which propels rising asset prices.

The only way to keep the boom going is to continually expand credit.

But any responsible head of household knows you can’t expand credit indefinitely … and certainly not in excess of your capacity to debt service.

At some point, the best borrowers are tapped out. So to keep the party going, lenders need to let more people in. That means lowering their standards.

We still have a “backstage pass” to the mortgage industry and see insider communications about lenders and loan programs.

When this subject line popped up in our inbox, we took notice …

24 Months of Bank Statements NO LONGER REQUIRED

To a mortgage industry outsider that seems like a lame subject line. But to a mortgage broker trying to find loans for marginal borrowers, it’s seductive.

It suggests less stringent lending criteria. Easier money.

Sure, the rates are certainly higher than prime money. But with all interest rates so low, they’re probably still pretty good.

And these are loans with down payments as low as 10% for borrowers just 2 years out of foreclosure or short-sale. Hardly a low risk borrower.

Usually, lenders want to see TWO years of tax returns and a P&L for self-employed borrowers. They’re looking for proof of real and durable income.

Not these guys. Just deposits from the last 12 months banks statements. And they’ll count 100% of the deposits as income, and won’t look at withdrawals.

So a borrower could just recycle money through an account to show “income” based solely on deposits.

The lender is making it STUPID EASY for marginal borrowers to qualify.

All of this begs two questions:

First, why would a lender do this?

And second, why would a borrower fabricate income to leverage into a house they may not be able to afford?

We think it’s because they both expect the house to go UP in value and the lender is growing increasingly desperate to put money to work at a decent yield.

Pursuit of yield is the the same reason money is flowing into junk bonds.

And if the Fed drops rates as expected, it’s likely even more money will move to marginal borrowers in search of yield.

Today, MANY things could ignite the debt bomb the way sub-prime did in 2008. Consumer, corporate, and government debt are at all-time highs.

Paradoxically, lower interest rates take pressure off marginal borrowers … while adding to their ranks.

It’s hard to perfectly time the boom-bust cycle.

But careful attention to cash-flow protects you … whether structuring a new purchase or refinance. It means you can ride out the storm.

Meanwhile, it’s smart to prepare … from liquefying equity to building your credit profile to building a network of prospective investors …

… so if the bust happens, you have resources ready to “clean up” in a way that’s positive for both you and the market.

No one knows for sure what’s around the corner … but there are signs flashing “opportunity” or “hazard”.

Both are present, but what happens to you depends on whether you’re aware and prepared … or not.

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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