Investing, infrastructure and you …

Timeless real estate wisdom says three things matter most when deciding what to buy … location, location, location.

It’s tongue-in-cheek, but the point is real estate derives its value from demand.

The key is choosing properties most likely to surge in demand relative to supply.

Of course, deciphering supply and demand means looking at demographics, economics, migration, and the potential for increases in supply.

The concept is simple.  But understanding actual market dynamics is more complex.

Still, it’s worth the effort because real estate investing is about buying and holding a property for the long term.

And even if your time horizon is shorter, you still need new buyers coming into a market to take you out.

So getting the market right matters a lot more than simply making sure the property’s free of termites and the plumbing works.

When it comes to residential rental real estate, some major demand factors are jobs, affordability, and quality of life.

Sure, everyone would LOVE to live in Tony Stark’s mansion in Malibu … it’s got a GREAT location and is low in supply.  But it’s not affordable.

And with so many retail jobs being automated or Amazoned … and manufacturing jobs still more off-shore than on …

… what kind of jobs and geographies offer the kind of growth potential likely to support working class folks?

We’re keeping our eyes on infrastructure for clues.

Both the Obama administration and now the Trump administration have said U.S. infrastructure needs attention.

It’s not a blue or red only issue, so maybe something will really get done.

We’ve commented before on Trump’s plan to spend a trillion dollars on infrastructure … and though it may seem to have fallen off the radar, infrastructure might be making a comeback.

First, even though the Fed backed off on the last rate hike, they’re still talking about reducing their balance sheet.

That’s code for tightening “monetary stimulus”.

This puts pressure on President Trump and Congress to fire up some “fiscal stimulus” … which is code for good old-fashioned government spending.

And while the military is quite likely to be on the receiving end of a chunk of it, we think some funding will probably find its way into infrastructure.

Of course, we’re not the only ones paying attention to this possibility.

Check out this headline from Bloomberg …

Buyers Bet on Infrastructure, With or Without Trump

The article is about one big company buying up another big company to get in position to feed off government spending on infrastructure.

“This rush to get positioned for an infrastructure-spending boom is a striking contrast to the stalled progress in Washington on legislation of any kind, let alone Trump’s proposed $1 trillion infrastructure plan. But like the private-equity firms raising buckets of money for infrastructure-focused funds, industrial firms are wagering the country’s roads, bridges and sewer systems have gotten so bad they can’t be ignored for too long.”

Of course, the big question for real estate investors is … where???

Some clues can probably be gleaned from the prospectuses of the private-equity and industrial funds … all of whom are presumably spending considerable resources on researching their mega-investments.

But there are also clues in the news.

The New York Times published an article claiming Trump Plans to Shift Infrastructure Funding to Cities, States and Business.

More recently, Reuters reports U.S. Construction Spending Falls as Government Outlays Tumble.

U.S. construction spending unexpectedly fell in June as investment in public projects recorded its biggest drop since March 2002 … The decline pushed public construction spending to its lowest level since February 2014.”

So even though Uncle Sam wants to spend money on infrastructure, they’re not doing it in earnest … yet.

But think about this …

Big companies and private-equity funds are getting positioned for big infrastructure spending.  They expect it to happen.

President Trump says he wants to spend a trillion dollars in infrastructure.

We can’t imagine Congress not wanting to spend money.  It’s what they do best.  Then again, getting anything done is what they do worst.

But everyone seems to agree infrastructure is in bad shape. And we’re guessing some places are in worse shape than others.

So like the big players, we think at some point, the need is going to force the spending … ready or not.

Now if the Feds don’t pay … or if Trump puts more responsibility on the states … it seems like those states which already have the best infrastructure … or the best economic ability to build or improve it … will have a big advantage.

And because we’re always looking for an advantage, we decided to look up those U.S. states in the best fiscal shape.

Not surprisingly, several of our favorites are in the top ten …

  1. North Dakota
  2. Wyoming
  3. Texas
  4. North Carolina
  5. South Dakota
  6. Vermont
  7. Tennessee
  8. Indiana
  9. Utah
  10. Florida

Of course, when picking a market to invest in there’s more than just fiscal strength.

Affordability, market size, business and landlord friendliness, quality of life … and your boots-on-the-ground team … are all important considerations also.

Nonetheless, with record levels of debt at every level, rising healthcare costs, pensions in crisis, and fiscally cancerous unfunded liabilities growing daily …

… we think companies and governments in relatively good financial shape are best positioned to make critical investments, gain competitive advantages, and attract an unfair share of population and business.

The goal, as Wayne Gretzky says, is to skate to where the puck is going.

Until next time … good investing!


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