Crisis Investing Lessons — Navigating Uncharted Waters

Crisis is part of the investment game … and while the COVID-19 virus crisis is unlike any we’ve seen in modern memory, it’s not the first … or the last … crisis you’ll face as an investor. 

The good news is that history shows us two things. 

One … the human race will survive. And two … the backside of all busts is a big boom. 

Until the crisis passes, we all need to find a way to survive … physically and financially. 

Today, we’re talking about how lessons learned from the 2008 crisis can be applied to what we face today. We are focusing on how you can not only survive … but also thrive!

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

  • Your thriving host, Robert Helms
  • His surviving co-host, Russell Gray

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Think and do

With so much going on in the world today, it is easy to get overwhelmed. 

Today, we’re talking about how to manage life when you find yourself in uncharted waters AND what lessons learned from previous crises can do for us in our current situation. 

We’re not here to tell you what is right and what is wrong. We’re here to talk about the facts and our own experiences. 

We haven’t seen everything … but we’ve seen a ton. We don’t know all the answers … but we have gotten pretty good at asking the right questions. 

One of our favorite sayings is, “Think and do is better than wait and see.” 

When there’s a crisis, the tendency is often to hunker down and wait to see what happens. But waiting and seeing has economic consequences. 

The big question now is …  what should we be thinking about?

Understanding what is happening in the market

Calmer heads always prevail. 

As real estate investors, we have a huge advantage. Markets like the stock market … or even the metals market … move instantly. That’s not true with the real estate market. 

If you look at what has happened in the stock market, with equity prices, and in bonds compared to what has happened in real estate … you’ll see a drastic difference. 

People who invest in stocks are seeing a market drop that appears already worse than the Great Depression. But your mortgage or your rent haven’t changed. 

That means that the person on the other end … the landlord or mortgage holder … their income hasn’t changed either. 

Now, that doesn’t mean it won’t. But the difference between now and 2008 is that in 2008, lenders were not ready to negotiate. They couldn’t see the ripple effect that would go through the financial system. 

But today, the Fed clearly sees it. Their reaction tells you they are bringing out the big guns early … and lenders are already beginning to contact people about ways to work things out. 

Even with all this intervention, there is still a chance that real estate investors will run into a cash flow problem … but the advantage is that real estate moves slower. You have more time to react now to future possibilities. 

Remember, the stock market doesn’t really reflect what’s going on in the economy. Stock prices are reacting to an anticipated slow down of corporate profits. 

There is plenty of cash out there. That’s not the problem. The problem is that it isn’t flowing. 

We’re basically watching an economic heart attack take place. It doesn’t matter what the blood volume is. The concern is that the blood isn’t flowing. 

So, you have to look at what is happening right now and make adjustments. Now isn’t the time to be a deer in the headlights investor. Now is the time to think and do. 

Making smart choices for your portfolio

We think that everybody listening in is going to want to own more real estate 10 years from now than they own today. 

Some of you may see opportunities … but you don’t have enough resources to take advantage. 

You can see bargains … quality assets going on sale. What do you do?

That’s why we are big proponents of syndication. 

We’re hearing on the street already that lenders are beginning to back off on their lending. If that is the case, it’s going to be a resurrection of private equity. 

When money goes looking for a safe haven after a nauseating ride on the Wall Street roller coaster … it often ends up in real estate. 

These investors are either on the equity side buying into real estate deals or on the debt side buying private mortgages and getting the yields. 

You have to be smart … but there is going to be a lot of money coming into real estate because of what’s happening. 

If you’re well-positioned and you underwrote your property correctly and you have a good lending partner, you’ll probably be ok. 

If you didn’t … well, there are going to be people who have to give up some real estate. 

If you’re in a good position, syndication can be a great way to get you ready to buy when those who need to sell make their move. 

And don’t forget that this doesn’t apply to just real estate. Real assets like metals and oil will have good deals, too. 

One of the biggest lessons we gleaned from 2008 is to keep your finger on the pulse of your markets and niches. 

Wherever you are in the world, whatever niche you’re in, whatever market you’re in … lean on your tribe. Enhance your participation in whatever forums or virtual meetups you have the opportunity to be part of. 

The closer you get to the front lines … the more real-time your information is … and the better you will be able to make decisions. 

For more lessons learned on investing during a crisis … listen 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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What the Coronavirus Means for Real Estate Investors

The COVID-19 pandemic and panic is well on its way to eclipsing the Great Financial Crisis of 2008 and the Great Depression of 1929 as the most devastating economic event in modern human history. 

But humanity has a way of surviving even the greatest calamities … odds are we’ll survive this one too. 

So, we’re taking a look at the current crisis through the lens of things we’ve learned from the past. 

We’re discussing where future opportunities might be and ideas for what investors like YOU can do when facing uncertainty. 

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

  • Your keeping calm host, Robert Helms
  • His carrying on co-host, Russell Gray

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Economic issues and COVID-19

There’s so much going on in the world. COVID-19. The Fed lowering interest rates to zero. Social distancing. Sheltering in place. 

Today, we’re going to be discussing one of the biggest questions our listeners have been pelting us with … what does coronavirus mean for real estate investors?

Let’s start with this truth … it doesn’t matter what we think. All that matters at the end of the day is what you think. We’ll just share some food for thought. 

Remember, we don’t give advice. We give ideas and information. 

What we have is our own perspective … and that doesn’t mean we are right. Right now, some of our very good friends have polar opposite opinions and positions on this topic. 

But that’s why we can talk about it! We can all respectfully disagree and share ideas so you can make your own decisions. 

We’re going to focus mostly on the economic issues surrounding COVID-19. 

From an economic perspective, this situation is what we call a Black Swan … something nobody saw coming. 

The first thing we have to do is accept that we can’t do anything about the coronavirus. It is out of our control. But we can control how we respond. 

There can still be opportunity

The fact of the matter is that when certain parts of society go away … even temporarily … it has a lasting impact. Those things don’t come back quickly. 

It slows the velocity of the economy. Even the Fed can’t speed that up. All they can do is try to increase the volume and hope the volume compensates for the velocity. 

We saw a bunch of money run from the stock market … which tanked … and that has an impact on people, especially retirees. 

That money moved into bonds, which drove interest rates way down … which actually created a huge opportunity for real estate investors to lock in mortgages at record lows once the crisis abates. 

But the flip side is that the Fed is printing a lot of money. The government is going into debt … and that changes the already frail economic system. 

The flip side of chaos, of course, is opportunity. There’s always opportunity to help the situation, because making money is a byproduct of providing solutions in the marketplace. 

SWOT analysis, potential outcomes, and diversity 

With a situation like this, there are short-term, mid-term, and long-term effects. 

Short-term there is a demand shift for certain types of real estate. Most month-to-month tenants aren’t moving over the virus. 

In fact … big picture … those tenants are probably staying put, provided they have income. If they were thinking about making a move, they are probably staying put. 

Now is a good time to do a SWOT analysis … strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats … of your portfolio. 

Look at each individual property and ask yourself, “Where does the money come from? Where do the tenants work? What drives the local economy?”

Looking at the answers to these questions, you can make an educated prediction for what is going to happen in that sector in the future. 

You may even be able to make some moves now to reduce your risk or exposure … like refinancing debt, lowering costs, or tightening up expenses. 

Now, the challenge is that everybody is instinctively cutting back. That’s part of how we go into recession. 

If we cut way, way back and everybody withdraws … we’re going into depression. 

Then the question is, does the Fed and the government have enough firepower left to prevent that from happening … or are we about to go through a gigantic economic reset?

For those who have all their investment in stocks … it’s a scary time. The nice thing about real estate is that it’s stable. Stock investors might think it is boring, but it’s stable.

More of those investors are going to be looking to go into real estate … which means a huge opportunity for syndicators. 

If you’re thinking of making the move to real estate, you need to undertake that same SWOT analysis for the various real estate niches. 

And we can’t preach diversity enough. Diversity of income. Diversity of markets. Diversity of real estate niche. Diversity helps you weather the storm. 

Real estate for the long haul

At the end of the day, YOU are the only person who can decide what is best for you and your family. Do the work to get educated, analyze your deals, and do what you feel is right. 

The reality is that 10 years from now, this crisis is probably going to be in the history books. It’s going to be like 2008 … something that happened and changed the world quite a bit. 

But the long-term fact is that people will always be out there. They will need places to live. They will need places to gather. They’ll still need medical care and to eat. 

Real estate will always fulfill a potential need. In the long term, smart investments remain smart investments. 

Real estate is about buying and committing and being in for the long haul. 

For more on what the coronavirus means for real estate investors … listen 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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Podcast: Crisis Investing Lessons – Navigating Unchartered Waters

While the COVID-19 virus crisis is unlike anything the world has seen in modern history, it’s certainly not the first … or last … crisis investors will face.

History says not only will the human race survive, but the backside of virtually all busts is a big boom.

Of course, we all need to survive both physically and financially until the crisis passes.

In this episode, we discuss how lessons learned in the 2008 crisis can be applied to today’s trial … and how investors can position themselves to not just survive, but thrive.


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.


Love the show?  Tell the world!  When you promote the show, you help us attract more great guests for your listening pleasure!

Podcast: What the Coronavirus Means for Real Estate Investors

The COVID-19 pandemic and panic is well on its way to eclipsing the Great Financial Crisis of 2008 and the Great Depression of 1929 as the most devastating economic event in modern human history.

Of course, humanity survived all those past calamities … and the odds are probably good that humanity will survive this one.

In this episode, we take a look at the current crisis through the lens of lessons learned from past crises and discuss where the future opportunities might be … along with ideas about what investors can do in the midst of uncertainty to position themselves to react quickly as the brave new investing landscape unfolds.

So tune in as we talk about what the Coronavirus means for real estate 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.


Love the show?  Tell the world!  When you promote the show, you help us attract more great guests for your listening pleasure!

Harvard study reveals surprising trends in rental housing …

The Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University recently released a special report on America’s Rental Housing 2020.

There are lots of reasons to pay attention to housing … rental or otherwise … even if it isn’t your primary real estate investing niche.

Housing is much less a driver of economic health than it is a gauge of it.

When people are doing well, they buy homes or pay their rent. When people are struggling, it shows up in housing.

Sure, employment and wages can be up … but if rising wages aren’t providing REAL purchasing power, they’re deceptive.

When housing costs rise faster than wages for an extended period of time, it’s a clue that society is headed towards a problem.

This report reveals some of this is happening right now.

No society can be considered economically sound if its people can’t afford a place to live.

And no matter what niche you’re in, as an alert investor, it’s wise to consider how the overall economic environment affects you directly or indirectly.

Of course, there are ALWAYS reasons to be concerned … and there are ALWAYS opportunities. So no indicator is inherently good or bad … it’s just a clue to guide better investing decisions.

The report is 44 pages, but worth the read. You can download our marked-up copy here.

For now, here are some of our more notable takeaways …

“After more than a decade-long run up, renter household growth seems to have plateaued.”

ANY time a long-term trend shifts, it can be hard for nose-to-the-grindstone investors to see it … until it’s too late to adjust. That’s why we read studies like this.

And while the cause of the shift is yet to be disclosed …

(it could be more renters are becoming homeowners … or … more renters are becoming homeless … or something else altogether …)

… the important thing is demand for rental housing and apartments is declining for the first time in over 10 years.

Economics 101 says when demand declines, prices will probably follow. So landlords counting on growing demand for their properties should pay attention.

Of course, the flip side of demand is supply, and the report says …

“… continued strength of new construction …”

“…constraints in new supply …”

Hmmm … at first glance, this seems contradictory. Are more units coming or not?

The concern is a glut of new supply hitting the market just as demand is declining …

… because this would drive rents down and potentially negatively impact a landlord’s incomes and occupancy rates.

As an aside, remember what we call the “production lag”. This lag is often the cause of little booms and busts.

What happens is demand temporarily overwhelms supply and prices rise.

Then suppliers (builders) see those higher prices and high demand as an opportunity to feed supply to the market a profit.

So they ramp up production. But it takes time to build. There’s a lag.

And if too many builders all jump into the market with new construction …

… when all those units eventually hit the market, they can suddenly reverse the supply and demand dynamic … causing prices to retreat.

So tight supply triggers a price boom followed by a construction boom leading to over-supply … which triggers a bust. And it’s easy to get lost in the lag.

This is a normal ebb and flow every investor should pay attention to.

But this report talks mentions strength of construction at the same time it describes constraints in new supply. Weird.

Or maybe not …

The reason is found in market segmentation.

As we find in the report …

“New rental construction remains near its highest level in three decades … with a growing share in larger buildings intended for the high end of the market.”

Meanwhile, there’s a …

Dwindling supply of low-cost rentals …”

So there’s growing abundance in one segment… and constriction in another segment. But this still isn’t the whole story.

The report points out …

“… rising costs of housing development are a … key factor … particularly the soaring price of commercial land which doubled between 2012 and mid-2019.”

Another reason builders are focusing on the high income renter is …

“… the cost of labor, materials, contractor fees, and local taxes, also jumped by 39 percent over this period, or three times the rise in overall consumer prices.”

You may have heard policy makers proclaim there’s no inflation … or not enough.

But when it comes to housing, which is a significant and important personal expense …

… there appears to be LOTS of inflation … and it’s not just a supply and demand problem.

When it takes more dollars to buy land, labor, and materials … important components of cost … you have higher prices in spite of declining demand.

In fact, you have declining demand because of rising prices.

That’s inflation.

Of course, gold has been signaling inflation.

Gold was “up” nearly 19% in 2019 … which really means the dollar fell. So now it takes more dollars to buy the same stuff … and it’s showing up in real estate.

The important thing to remember is inflation doesn’t make anyone richer. In fact, as this report is pointing out, inflation makes most of society poorer.

This is probably the real reason why there’s an affordability crisis in housing.

But policy makers either don’t understand this, or they deny it, or they aren’t willing to fix the root cause (a failing monetary monopoly) … so they attempt to legislate away the symptoms.

“In the last few years, states and localities have increasingly turned to rent control as a means to protect households from larger rent hikes.”

But rent control doesn’t address the components of cost.

All rent control does is discourage builders and investors from putting capital into affordable housing in rent-controlled areas … making the problem worse.

Another “solution” revealed in the report … one which property owners of all stripes should pay attention to … are zoning changes allowing more density.

In other words, if land is too expensive, cram more units onto each parcel. As the report points out, local cities and states are changing laws to …

“… allow construction of duplexes and triplexes on lots zoned for single-family housing.”

Of course, these changes affect property values and communities where homeowners and investors already own properties.

This is another thing to watch for in areas where you already own residential properties … especially single-family homes.

It could be an opportunity to build a little infill project… scrape an SFR and build a multi-unit … or dump an SFR and get out before values fall.

There’s a LOT more in the report … including remarkable data showing the fastest growing demographic of renters is age 65 and up.

One of the challenges of rentals for seniors is that much existing inventory isn’t properly configured to meet their unique needs.

Of course, challenges create opportunities for real estate entrepreneurs.

The bottom line is the rental housing market is changing for economic, demographic, and political reasons.

Real estate investors are well-served to pay attention … and look past their recent experience or current market conditions in looking forward.

These trends are often subtle, but powerful.

When you can see them forming early, you have more time to make moves to capture opportunities and mitigate risks.

But you MUST be paying attention … and talking with other alert investors to help you interpret the data and hash out viable strategies.

The pension problem is about to get REAL …

Our good friend, multi-time Investor Summit at Sea™ faculty member (who’s back again for 2020!) … and greatest-selling financial author in history …

Robert Kiyosaki thinks pensions are the greatest threat facing the financial world today.

Of course, it’s not like pension problems are breaking news. The whole crisis has been unfolding for a decade as more of a slow-motion train wreck.

But over the last few years, the looming disaster is getting hard to ignore …

America’s utterly predictable tsunami of pension problems
– The Washington Post, 2/22/17

Pension Fund Problems Worsen in 43 States
– Bloomberg, 6/30/17

States have a $1.4 trillion pension problem
– CNN Money, 4/12/2018

The Pension Hole for U.S. Cities and States is the Size of Germany’s Economy
– The Wall Street Journal, July 30, 2018

“Many retirement funds could face insolvency unless governments increase taxes, divert funds, or persuade workers to relinquish money they are owed.”

And it’s not just government pensions. Some of the biggest corporations are also struggling under the weight of their pension burdens …

GE’s $31 billion pension nightmare
– CNN Business, January 19, 2018

Here Are 14 Companies Getting Crushed By Pension Costs
– Business Insider, 8/15/2012

You get the idea. Huge storm clouds have been forming for quite a while … in both the public and private sectors.

In an election year, you’d expect to hear some chatter about it. But we’re guessing you won’t because there’s no politically palatable solution.

Of course, ignoring the problem won’t make it go away.

That’s why Kiyosaki is shining light on it. You can’t prepare for or profit from a problem you don’t or won’t see.

So this is a situation we’ve been watching more closely of late. And clues in the news tell us pension problems pose a threat to real estate investors.

Desperate politicians have already proposed funding their shortfalls with property taxes and cuts to benefits for pensioners … some of whom could be YOUR tenants.

Meanwhile, major corporations like General Electric and United Airlines have already cut their pension benefits.

Of course, the flip side of bad news is GOOD NEWS …

Pension problems also create opportunities for real estate investors.

We think pension managers will eventually concede that for a chance to save their funds from the Federal Reserve’s war on yields …

… they’re going to need to get REAL … real fast.

Pension fund managers will need to funnel more money away from Wall Street and into Main Street.

Think of all the reasons Main Street investors LOVE real estate …

… reasonably consistently achievable double-digit total returns 

… inflation-hedged yields much higher than bonds and without the counter-party-risk …

… assets which aren’t practical as gambling tokens in the Wall Street casinos, and therefore much less volatile in terms of yields and principal value.

We know. You’re already convinced real estate is awesome. And you may be wondering why everyone doesn’t invest in real estate.

But don’t under-estimate the seductive allure of Wall Street marketing and the pervasive political pressure to promote paper assets.

Remember, an argument can be made that government and Wall Street sometimes work together to the detriment of Main Street.

But when Main Street gets mad … it’s every politician and pension manager for himself.

So when poking around the crevices of the internet looking for credible clues …

… and being mindful that things NOT being talked about in well-publicized political discourse is probably more worth paying attention to …

… and we came across a couple of interesting articles …

CalPERS gets candid about ‘critical’ decade ahead
– Capitol Weekly, 8/27/19

Yes, we realize this article isn’t “fresh” … but it’s still relevant today. After all, they’re talking about the “decade ahead” … and again, this is a slow-motion train wreck.

Here’s a notable excerpt …

Quoting a letter written to CalPERS by a third-party consulting company brought in to help figure out what to do …

“ ‘The financial world is changing, and we must change with it,’ said the letter. ‘What we’ve done over the last 20 years won’t take us where we need to go in the future. New thinking and innovation are in order.’ ”

Of course, who knows what they mean by that. “Change”, “new thinking”, and “innovation” are all buzz words that lack meaning apart from a suggestion or context.

But one thing is perhaps becoming clear to the pension managers … Wall Street’s not the answer …

“ Meanwhile, a line [the] letter is a reminder that CalPERS remains at the mercy of the market, as when the stock market crash and recession struck a decade ago: ‘The value of the CalPERS fund fell 24 percent in a single fiscal year, to about $180 billion.’ ”

So it’s against this backdrop that we found the second, more recent, article noteworthy …

Sacramento County launches tender for alternative assets consultant
– Institutional Real Estate, 2/11/20

“The $10 billion Sacramento County (Calif.) Employees’ Retirement System (SCERS) is seeking a consultant for its alternative assets portfolio …”

“The alternative assets consultant works with the pension fund’s investment staff to help develop and maintain strategic plans for the system’s absolute return, private equity, private credit, real assets, and real estate investments.”

Pension problems are rampant in governments … from nations to states to counties and municipalities, as well as corporations all around the world.

As pension managers realize there’s opportunity to grow absolute returns through private placement and real estate 

… it opens up a potential floodgate of money into Main Street opportunities.

Of course, if you’re just a Mom & Pop Main Street investor … or even a fairly successful real estate syndicator doing multi-million-dollar deals …

… you may wonder how YOU can get in on the action.

Like Opportunity Zones, pensions pointing their portfolios at specific markets and niches have the potential to provide a tailwind to EVERYONE already there … or going along for the ride.

So pay attention to pensions … not just for their potential to torpedo the financial system …

… but for the opportunities created as they act out on “new thinking and innovation”.

Lastly, keep in mind that like Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac back in 2008, and the FDIC today …

… the Pension Guaranty Benefit Corporation is a horribly underfunded quasi-government enterprise backing TRILLIONS in potentially failing pensions.

If a substantial number of pensions fail (a VERY real possibility) …

… it’s all but certain the Federal Reserve will need to step in to paper over the mess with trillions in freshly printed dollars.

This weakens the dollar and among the biggest winners are borrowers and owners of real assets.

This makes real estate investors who use mortgages double winners.

So while you may not be able to calm the stormy seas …

… you can choose a boat that’s seaworthy and equipped to sail faster when the winds of change (and a falling dollar) blowhard.

Until next time … good investing!

The horrible housing blunder …

If you sometimes feel like a small fish in a very big ocean … it’s because you are.

There are LOTS of big, bigger, bigger-still, and downright ginormous other fish … some with very sharp teeth … circling all around you.

There are also mostly hidden forces creating powerful currents and waves … speeding you up, slowing you down, or taking you completely off course.

That’s why we look for clues in the news.

And because mainstream financial media doesn’t cater to Main Street real estate investors, we need to stay alert to notice things often hiding in plain sight.

In a recent trek through an airport on our way to speak at an investment conference … a notable magazine cover hit us in the face like a brick …

The Horrible Housing Blunder
Why the Obsession with Home Ownership is So Harmful
The Economist Jan 18-24, 2020

If you’re not familiar, The Economist is one of those highbrow publications ginormous fish and wave-makers are reading.

The Economist articles provide insights into how powerful people think about small fish like us and the things we care about … like housing.

In The Economist table of contents, the housing blunder topic is introduced this way …

“The West’s obsession with home ownership undermines growth, fairness and public faith in capitalism.

“Housing is the world’s biggest investment class … at the root of many of the rich world’s social and economic problems.

Wow. We didn’t know home ownership is so harmful to our fellow man. We’re ashamed.

But before we dig in, take a minute and simply consider their conclusion …

…and what happens to YOU if powerful people decide to implement policies to protect the world from the evils of housing.

Now you know why we pay attention.

So, on page 9 of The Economist, under their “Leaders” section (think about THAT) …

… they assert housing markets CAUSE both sudden economic crashes AND chronic economic “disease”.

Then they support their conclusion by claiming “a trillion dollars of dud mortgages blew up the financial system in 2007-08”.

Maybe you’ve heard that one before.

Of course, they make no mention of the trillions of dollars of Wall Street concocted derivatives of those dud mortgages …

(Warren Buffett called derivatives “weapons of mass financial destruction” … NOT the mortgages underneath them)

They also don’t account for the dangerously weak lending “standards” (we use the term loosely) Wall Street used to entice weak borrowers.

Nor do they mention the reckless, speculative and highly leveraged bets placed using those mortgage derivatives by arrogant gamblers in the corrupt Wall Street casinos.

Of course, the greed behind all of it is simply a “derivative” of the moral hazard created when everyone in the market KNOWS the Federal Reserve will paper over any problem with freshly printed “money”.

Back to The Economist special report on the horrible housing blunder …

Besides the terror of housing threatening the entire financial systemThe Economist says …

“… just as pernicious is the creeping dysfunction … housing created …” which they define as …

“… vibrant cities without space to grow; aging homeowners sitting in half-empty houses …

… and a generation of young people who cannot easily afford to rent or buy and think capitalism has let them down.”

So it seems cities which selfishly vote to preserve green space for themselves, their families, and the environment are … financial terrorists.

As are old folks who have the gall to stay in the homes they raised their children in … long after the children have successfully (and presumably permanently) moved out.

And speaking of all those independent young people … apparently because of these selfish homeowners, they can’t “easily” afford to put a roof over their head.

Of course, there’s no mention of the terror created through government sponsored student debt which both inflated the cost of college and enslaved a generation into inescapable debt …

… making home ownership … or even renting … far from “easy”.

Ummm … sorry, but how is that housing’s fault?

And what do the social scientists at The Economist suggest is the answer to the horrible housing blunder?

For that we need to flip over to page 44 where we discover that …

“Over the last 70 years, global house prices have quadrupled in real terms.”

For those keeping score, 70 years ago was 1950. Store that for future reference.

“Real terms” means adjusting both incomes and prices for inflation. In other words, prices rose four times faster than incomes.

The solution to all these ills is threefold says the author …

First, is “… better regulation of housing finance …” so that “… people are NOT encouraged to funnel capital into the housing market.”

Yes, every business person knows when you need MORE of something you should starve it of capital. Brilliant.

Next is … wait for it … a better train and road network” to “allow more people to live farther afield.” …

… because who doesn’t enjoy riding public transportation 100 miles a day to go to work?

And last but not least, our personal favorite …

“… abolishing single-family-home zoning, which prevents densification …” and “…boosting the construction of public housing.”

Makes sense (not) because clearly, the only thing better than riding public transportation to and from work for hours a day is coming home to relax in “the projects”.

Of course, as you’ve probably discerned, we think the whole thing is absurd.

But while it’s laughable, it’s also scary … because this is the way those ginormous fish think.

Worse, they’ve assigned the symptom (high housing prices and stagnant real wages) to the wrong disease … so they’re prescribing the wrong medicine.

Housing prices took off in the ‘50s because Bretton-Woods handed the U.S., and then in 1971, the entire world, a completely unaccountable ability to go into unlimited debt.

Worse, it requires the perpetual, unrelenting growth of debt … or the system collapses.

So the wizards must continually find new ways to fabricate affordable debt 

… through mortgages, student loans, government spending, endless wars, or (insert boondoggle of your choice) …

… plus, 40 years of falling interest rates … to zero and beyond!

It would take so much more space than this modest muse permits to delve deeper into the mindset, motives, and methods of the wizards behind the curtain …

… and to explore the MANY opportunities for Main Street investors who are aware and prepared.

For now, we simply encourage you to PAY ATTENTION and THINK. And look for every opportunity to talk with others who are doing the same.

Way back in January 1988, the cover of The Economist boldly warned the world to “Get Ready for a World Currency”.

As we chronicle in our Future of Money and Wealth video, The Dollar Under Attack, and is easily seen through MANY headlines since …

… the dollar’s role as currency of the world is steadily being attacked RIGHT NOW by both friendfoe, and technology.

Here in January 2020, The Economist is overtly prodding the world to take on the threat of housing …

“Bold action is needed. Until it is taken, housing will continue to weaken the foundations of the modern world.”

This hits us all right where we live and invest. We should all be paying attention.

Housing market conditions create challenges … and opportunities …

Housing is the sector of real estate most watched … and worried about … by economists, politicians, journalists, bankers, and investors … from Wall Street to Main Street.

That’s because housing, quite literally, hits us all right where we live.

We can all relate to it and housing is both an objective and subjective measure of individual and national prosperity.

Housing has certainly been in the financial news of late …

Housing Starts Surged in December. Don’t Expect It to Last
MarketWatch, 1/17/20

Housing market falling short by nearly 4 million homes as demand grows
CNBC, 1/21/20

New Risk to World Economy: Synchronized Housing Slowdown
Wall Street Journal, 1/28/20

As you can see, there’s both “good” news and “bad” news. Of course, buried inside of all that is opportunity.

So we think it worthwhile to look at housing through the lens of a tried and true investing strategy which could prove timely in today’s market conditions.

But first, let’s set the context …

Despite low interest rates (and largely because of them), housing is expensive relative to incomes.

That’s a problem for both renters and prospective home buyers … and why affordable housing is a hot topic today.

It’s also why we’re strong advocates of leaning towards affordable markets, neighborhoods, and price points. Demand tends to be stronger there.

We think it wise to be positioned below the top of the range. If interest rates rise or there’s a recession, people above will flow downhill to you.

Meanwhile, be prepared to survive a notch or two below your current price point. Otherwise, you may lose more demand leaking out the bottom of the range than you gain flowing in from the top.

In other words, ALWAYS compete for the loyalty and rent checks of your tenants … even in a high demand market.

Those who push rents to the margin of the range are the first to feel the pullback. Like equity, all rent retraction is at the margin. High rents hurt first.

That’s because when tenants start to feel a financial squeeze, giving a 30-day notice and moving to someplace more affordable is a relatively easy thing to do.

And don’t get suckered into thinking there’s no inflation or high employment based on the highly publicized and potentially “adjusted” official data.

Pay attention to the real world … because that’s where your tenants live.

From a home buying perspective, demand comes from first-time home buyers entering the market and pushing things up.

That’s why pundits are concerned that the average first-time home buyer age has risen to 47 years old.

Perhaps young people would rather rent than own? Maybe. But even if true, we wouldn’t bet on that lasting.

Sure, Millennials saw their parent’s real estate experience turn sour in 2008 … but that’s now 11 years ago … and a LOT of equity has happened since.

Most Millennials we know would like to own. They see prices rising and affordability getting away. Meanwhile, rents are climbing.

So we think Millennial demand will be a substantial factor in housing going forward. Demand is already growing … and it’s a wave you can likely ride over the next 10 years or more.

Also, Millennials are among a large group of Americans standing to inherit about $764 billion THIS YEAR alone.

We’re guessing next to paying off student debt, buying a home is near the top of the wish list for some of those heirs … adding some additional capacity-to-pay to fuel demand.

And speaking of capacity-to-pay …

Interest rates remain crazy low … and aside from a collapse of the dollar or a seizure in the bond markets (which could easily happen somewhere down the road) …

… there’s not much in the near-term to suggest interest rates will rise substantially.

In fact, with the amount of debt in the system, it could be argued there’s FAR more downward pressure than upward.

Still, because you don’t know, it’s not a bad time to stock up on inexpensive good debt. Just be VERY attentive to marrying it to durable income streams to service it.

Of course, another much discussed hindrance to Millennial home ownership is the now infamous and mountainous levels of unforgivable and inescapable student debt.

But in terms of student debt defaults and the resulting dings to credit, it’s only less than 15% of borrowers.

That means 85% of Millennials are chugging along making those payments … and presumably preserving their very valuable credit scores.

Of course, making those student loman payments hinders a young person’s ability to save for a down payment on a home. They start later and it takes longer.

And if a young person doesn’t have parents with equity they’re willing to re-position into a home for junior, or they aren’t on the receiving end of a chunk of that $764 billion inheritance …

… the lack of a down payment is perhaps an even bigger hindrance to Millennial home ownership than student debt.

And even though there are low down payment programs out there, they come with higher interest rates, private mortgage insurance, and larger loan balances …

… all of which converge to make the resulting mortgage payment much bigger than low interest rates can offset.

So that elusive 20% down payment dramatically increases the affordability of home ownership for many Millennials.

ALL this adds up to a great opportunity for real estate investors …

There’s a simple, time-tested strategy to leverage your cash into long-term equity … while preserving your credit and avoiding virtually all land-lording hassles.

It’s “equity sharing”.

In short, a cash rich investor supplies the down payment to a credit worthy owner-occupied home buyer.

The credit partner gets the loan, makes the mortgage payment, and lives in the house for the long term.

After a predetermined period of time … usually 3 to 10 years … an appraisal is done.

Any equity growth net of capital investments (reimbursed to the partner who made them) is split at a previously agreed upon rate such as 50/50.

Of course, there are some legal agreements which need to be put in place … and the borrower needs to work closely with a mortgage pro to make sure nothing is misrepresented in the loan application.

But equity sharing is a profitable way for Main Street investors to help the next generation of homeowners get into the market … so both can ride the long-term equity wave.

The borrower gets a home of their “own” … to live in, care for, and fix up for their personal enjoyment and prosperity.

They don’t feel or act like tenants … and they’re in for the long haul.

And with their name and credit on the line, they’re HIGHLY motivated to make the payment … even if it’s higher than they could rent a similar home for.

They don’t move to save a few bucks the way a tenant would because they have housing stability, tax breaks, long-term equity growth, and pride of ownership.

Meanwhile, the investor gets half the amortization and appreciation over the hold period … and next to no management headaches.

Plus, the investor has no property management expense, no loan on their credit report, no turnover or vacancy expense.

Equity sharing is a great way for an investor to leverage cash without as much risk as traditional land-lording.

Equity sharing is really just a form of syndication and a simple strategy for taking advantage of current market conditions.

For the cash partner, you get to invest in housing for the long-term, while mitigating much of the downside risk in the short term.

For the credit partner, you convert your housing expense into housing security and long-term equity. Half of something is better than all of nothing.

And when it’s hard to find rental housing that cash flows after expenses, equity sharing is a way to ride the housing bull with far less risk than traditional land-lording … while helping a young person get on board the real estate equity train.

WORST investing advice ever … or is it?

Do you know how five of America’s richest families lost it all? 

Neither did we … until we saw an article in our news feed promising to tell all. So down the rabbit hole we went. 

After all, we’re STILL stinging from the 2008 wipe out. So any lesson about landmines on the road to building and preserving wealth is an enticing topic. 

And if mega-wealthy families can lose nine-figures, it makes street rat investors like us feel less bad about our six-figure screw-ups. 

The author of the article briefly describes the lost fortunes of Cornelius Vanderbilt, John Kluge, George Hartford, Joseph Pulitzer, and Bernhard Stroh. 

Aside from Vanderbilt (as in University) and Pulitzer (as in prize), you might not recognize the others. 

Hartford was a retailer … creating what’s described as “Walmart before Walmart” … the biggest in the world in 1965. 

But the fortune he built was squandered by heirs who could act like wealthy business moguls because they’d inherited the trappings. 

But they didn’t really know what they were doing. If you’re going to fake it ’til you make it … keep the stakes small until you know you know you’re capable. 

Stroh was a beer-maker (we like him already), but when he died, his sons took over and decided to expand faster than their cash flow could support. 

Their $700 million fortune went flat … along with their beer. Tragic. 

Kluge was a media mogul who sold a network of TV stations to what is now Fox for $4 billion. That’s a lot of popcorn. 

Divorce divided the Kluge fortune, and the ex-wife dumped ALL her money into a down payment on a vineyard … to which she added a big mortgage. 

Perhaps unsurprisingly the business failed, the land was lost in foreclosure, and some true real estate investor named Trump picked it up for pennies on the dollar. 

The lesson? 

Well, according to the article’s author, the former Mrs. Kluge should have put her fortune into … wait for it … 

“… low-risk investments like certificates of deposit (CDs), which are insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) up to $250,000 per individual.” 

Really? 

But then an astonishing admission … 

“…CDs are promissory notes — essentially IOUs …” 

We’re guessing this author has never heard of counter-party risk, interest rate risk, or inflation risk. Savers take on ALL those … plus lost opportunity. 

Savings in the bank is FAR from safe. 

And while $250,000 of FDIC insurance is great … up to $250,000 … we’re pretty sure Mrs. Kluge was dealing in more sizable sums. 

So the advice in this article is HORRIBLE. 

Or is it? 

As dumb as it is to make a giant unsecured and uninsured low interest loan to a bank, for someone with no financial education, it’s almost reasonable. 

Of course, in the real world, when big money needs a place to “deposit” huge sums of cash … i.e., make low interest rate loans … they go straight to the source: government bonds. 

After all, if the bank fails, they’ll turn to the FDIC (which is woefully underfunded and arguably insolvent), which would then turn to Uncle Sam (ditto), who would turn to the Fed … who just funds everything with inflation (stealing from the workers and savers). 

Read that all again and REALLY think about it. 

But the bigger lesson from the article is … 

“Make informed investments …” 

However, rather than dumb down your investments to your current level of financial education … 

… we think it makes a LOT more sense (and dollars) to RAISE your financial knowledge by investing first and foremost in yourself, your advisor network, and an investor mastermind group. 

In other words, get smart and surround yourself with smart people. 

Money doesn’t make you smart. But smarts can make you money. 

The tragedy of our time is millions of people are facing a bleak retirement because of the pervasive fraud and mismanagement of pensions … 

… the hidden and misunderstood wealth-stealing cancer of inflation … 

… a dangerous ignorance of the important difference between speculation and investing … 

… and a false focus on net worth over passive income as the ultimate metric of wealth. 

You can read the referenced article yourself for the rest of the stories of the rise and fall of the rich families. You’ll find they’re all variations on a theme. 

Our reason for drawing all this to your attention is to remind you that most mainstream financial media is loaded with dumb ideas and devoid of any understanding of the wealth-building power and resilience of income property investing. 

Yet the need for Main Street investors to tap into the power of real estate has never been greater … 

The Fed continues to DESTROY savers. 

Yet ignorant (though perhaps well-meaning) journalists promote saving in banks … loaning money to broke and corrupt institutions which are backstopped by broke and corrupt institutions … as a panacea of safety in uncertain times. 

Wall Street continues to promote “buy low, sell high” speculation as an “investing” strategy. It’s not. 

Besides, Main Street investors are ill-equipped to swim in the shark invested waters of Wall Street for long without losing a few pounds of flesh … which is the entire reason they keep being invited to swim. 

Of course, we’re preaching to the choir. You’re probably already sold on real estate investing. 

But our point is the world needs YOU to be an outspoken, well-prepared, advocate for REAL real estate investing. 

Average people can produce WAY above average results with much less risk though well-managed income producing properties in solid markets and properly structured with optimal leverage for resilient cash-flow, inflation-destroying leverage, and tax-defying deductions. 

If you know real estate, we encourage you to teach it. 

And if you’re a proven producer of real estate profits, consider starting a syndication business to partner your skill with other investors’ money. 

No matter how you do it … join the crusade to move money out of banks and Wall Street and back where it came from, belongs, and does the most human good … on Main Street. 

Until next time … good investing! 

The world’s out of control …

The second decade of the last century are known as The Roaring Twenties.

Good times were fueled by abundant currency from the newly formed Federal Reserve … and the resulting debt and speculation which ran rampant.

As you may know, it ended badly.

The Great Depression ensued … an event which ruined lives, fundamentally changed the United States government, and took decades to recover from.

Today, we’re on the threshold of the second decade of this century.

And once again, the United States is “enjoying” a Fed-fueled party of absurd debt and speculation.

Will it end badly this time?

Or will the lessons learned from the 1929 and 2008 debacles provide the necessary wisdom to ride the free money wave without an epic wipe out?

No one knows.

But as we say often, better to be prepared for a crisis and not have one … than to have a crisis and not be prepared.

Last time,  we discussed some of the gauges we’re watching on the financial system dashboard such as gold, oil, debt, the Fed’s balance sheet, bonds, and interest rates.

But of course, we can’t control any of these things.

That’s why we think it’s very important to control those things you CAN control … so you’re better positioned to navigate the things you can’t.

Fortunately, real estate is an investment vehicle which is MUCH easier to control than the paper assets trading in the Wall Street casinos.

And if history repeats itself, as Main Street investors who are riding the Wall Street roller coasters get spooked … many will come “home” to the Merry-Go-Round of real estate.

For those of us already there, this migration of money creates both opportunities and problems.

Like any investment, when lots of new money floods in, it lifts asset prices.

While this generates equity, unless you sell or cash-out refinance, your wealth is only on paper. And equity is fickle. Cash flow is resilient wealth.

Meanwhile, when prices rise higher than incomes, finding real deals that cash flow is much harder. We’re already seeing it happen.

The key is to move up to product types and price points where small, inexperienced investors can’t play.

Of course, this takes more money and credit than many individual investors have. That’s a problem, but also an opportunity.

Another strategy is to move to more affordable, but growing markets.

This also takes an investment of time and money into research, exploration, due diligence, and long-distance relationship building … unless you happen to live in such a market.

So once again, this is better done at scale … because the time and expense of long-distance investing is hard to amortize into one or two small deals.

Bigger is better.

It’s for these reasons, and many more, we’re huge fans of syndication

Syndication allows both active and passive real estate investors to leverage each other to access opportunities and scale neither could achieve on their own.

But whether you decide syndication is a viable strategy for you …

… to take more control going into what history may dub “The Tumultuous Twenties” …

… it’s important to have a game plan for developing both yourself and your portfolio.

So here’s a simple process to take control of your investing life, business and portfolio heading into a new decade …

Step 1: Cultivate positive energy

It takes a lot of energy to change direction and compress time frames.

Building real wealth with control requires learning new things, taking on new responsibilities, and building better relationships.

So it’s important to put good things into your mind and body …

… be diligent to put yourself in positive environments and relationships, while limiting exposure to negative ones …

… and stay intentional about focusing your thoughts and feelings.

That’s because what you think, how you feel, and what you believe all affect your decisions and actions. And what you do directly impacts the results you produce.

Improving results starts with a healthy body, mind, and spirit. More positive energy allows you to pack more productivity into every minute of the day.

Step 2: Establish productive structure

This also takes effort. That’s why we start with cultivating energy. But being effective isn’t just about expending energy.

There’s a big difference between an explosion and propulsion.

Structure helps focus your energy to propel you to and through your goals.

Structure starts with getting control of your schedule. Time is your most precious resource … and you can’t make more of it.

But structure also includes your spaces … your home, office … even your vehicles and devices. They should be organized to keep you focused and efficient at your chosen tasks.

Yes, you can and should delegate to get more done faster.

But even if delegation is your only work (it’s not … learning, monitoring and leading your team, making decisions … those stay on your plate) …

… you’ll need spaces conducive to focus, with access to resources and information, so you can organize and delegate effectively.

Then there’s legal, financial, accounting, and reporting structures.

Once again, all these take time and energy to get together. So start by cultivating energy and taking control of your schedule.

Step 3: Set clear, compelling goals with supporting strategies and tactics.

You might think this comes first, and perhaps it does.

However, you can cultivate energy and establish fundamental structure as a universal foundation for just about any goals.

But whenever you choose to do your goal setting, it’s important to establish a very clear and compelling mission, vision, set of values, and specific goals for yourself, your team, and your portfolio.

This clarity will help you more quickly decide what and who should be in your life and plans … and what and who shouldn’t.

When you have clarity of vision, strategy and tactics become evident.

Step 4: Act relentlessly

We think it’s important to “keep your shoulder to the boulder” … otherwise it rolls you back down the hill that you’re working so hard to climb.

Fortunately, as you use your newfound energy and structure to act relentlessly towards your goals, you’ll eventually enjoy the momentum of good habits.

Lastly, be aware that this is a circular process … not a linear one.

You’ll keep doing it over and over and over. That’s why having an annual goal setting retreat is an important time commitment on your calendar.

We don’t know if the 2020s will be terrible or terrific at the macro level.

But history says those at the micro level who prosper in good times and bad are those who are aware, prepared, decisive, and able to execute as challenges and opportunities unfold.

Those are all things each of us can control.

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