Market Diversification for More Stable Income

One of the most important pieces of advice we give to investors new and old is “Live where you want to live, but invest where the numbers make sense.”

Once you break out of your market comfort zone, you can experience incredible personal and business growth … and build a diversified, stable portfolio.

In this episode, we discuss the various types of markets available to real estate investors … and chat about how to pick a market based on your personal goals.

Listen in! In this episode of The Real Estate Guys™ show you’ll hear from:

  • Your diversified host, Robert Helms
  • His divergent co-host, Russell Gray

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The two major market types

Let’s start from the top! Investment markets can be categorized into two major types … cash flow markets and equity growth markets.

Whether a market produces strong equity growth or stable rents is a byproduct of supply and demand.

Cash flow markets have a steady demand for rentals from working-class tenants with stable income. These factors combine to create high occupancy rates and reliable income.

These markets don’t sizzle … but they offer steady returns.

On the other side of the coin, markets like San Francisco and Los Angeles are proven, stable equity growth markets. Investors won’t get reliable cash flow in these markets … but if they get in before the market gets hot, they’ll get hefty equity growth.

You can predict the next equity growth markets by looking at markets where the ability to supply new housing is beginning to be restricted.

Buying a property for equity growth is a completely different style of investing than cash flow investing, and it comes with some challenges … like finding properties that make sense, choosing markets with a good probability of growth before they get too hot, and managing your income.

It requires caution … because if you choose the wrong market … or the right market at the wrong time … your investment can go against you.

Of course, these two major market types are two extremes. The reality is that markets fall onto a continuum … and yes, there are markets that combine equity growth and cash flow.

Some markets have the capacity to supply housing as they continue to grow in value. However, inevitably that market will begin to slow down and shift through the cycle.

There are some trade-offs to combining equity growth and cash flow … for example, cash flow isn’t quite as good as prices go up. To evaluate a current market, look at the trajectory of other major markets like New York or even Dallas.

Markets are cyclical, and almost every market evolves the same way. There are four basic stages in a market cycle:

  1. Growth. The market is expanding as more people are drawn to the area.
  2. Equilibrium. After a period of growth, the market slows down and is mostly developed.
  3. Decline. This can happen when a market falls out of favor or loses employers.
  4. Revitalization. The market starts to pick up again when demand increases.

The key? Study markets you want to invest in. Understand there is an evolution process, and even if a market is currently great for cash flow, it can absolutely evolve into an equity market in the future.

How to allocate your real estate assets

You’ve probably heard the saying, “Diversity is a recipe for mediocrity.” And while that rings true in some cases, we think diversity can be your key to a stable portfolio.

Investors can benefit by using a basic asset allocation recipe … and remember, these numbers are yours to fiddle with:

  • 50% of your portfolio should be allocated to solid cash flow markets.
  • 30% should be invested in aggressive equity growth markets that show signs of being in the path of progress, such as supply and demand imbalances.
  • And your remaining 20% should be liquidity funds … dry powder you can have on hand so you can swoop in and pick up great deals when everyone else is strapped.

Here’s a good question … how do investors approach aggressive growth markets?

To leverage an equity growth market, you need to invest while the market is still emerging.

That doesn’t mean investing in brand-new markets … it means looking for markets that are starting to take off with signs of job growth and increasing demand.

You want to avoid being spread too thin across markets … but you also want to be leery about banking on any one type of market. As the saying goes, “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.”

There are, of course, some advantages to sticking with a single market, like efficiencies of scale. But if you stick to a single market and that market declines, your whole portfolio is affected.

Unique market types

Of course, every market has unique factors, but some markets stand out from the crowd in particularly distinctive ways.

  • The college market.

You can make a great income investing in housing near colleges and universities. It’s a captive market with constant need and a built-in client base … most students have good income durability.

You do have to consider the nature of technology, social trends, and educational trends when investing in a college market, however.

A great resource for information is the college or university itself … they can provide great data on the student population. If you’re careful, this can be a stable market.

  • The retirement market.

Jobs aren’t the only driver of strong markets, as retirement markets prove. Retirees today are more active and less likely to buy a house.

They can also make excellent tenants, especially because retirees are no longer geographically linked to their income, whether that’s social security, a pension, or investment returns.

By positioning yourself in markets like Boca Raton or Palm Springs, you can benefit from retirees who are searching for an affordable, attractive lifestyle that doesn’t tie up a bunch of capital.

  • The lifestyle market.

Making a lifestyle investment means picking a market YOU want to spend time in.

This often involves renting a property on a monthly, weekly, or even nightly basis … which translates to high income, even when offset by higher management costs.

A major benefit of a lifestyle market is the chance to use the property yourself, whether that’s for a few months every year or during your own retirement.

  • The international market.

Investing outside of your country is a great way to diversify. The United States is not the only country in the world that offers great places to invest.

Investing outside of the U.S. also gives you the chance to create income in a different currency and park your wealth in a different economic environment.

And international investments are a sort of lifestyle investment … they certainly give you a good excuse to travel!

Although international investments can often require a steep learning curve, they’re something every serious investor should take a look at.

There’s always a great-performing market if you know where to look.

  • The sleeper market.

Sleeper markets aren’t on the top 50 metropolitan statistical areas. These are boutique markets … the markets no one else is talking about.

They allow you to make returns no one else can make … but there isn’t as much ballast, so you have to be very, very careful.

Don’t forget to consider property type

We’ve discussed market types in this episode … but another important part of your investment decision is property types.

The choice of single-family, multi-family, commercial, development, or land-holding property is an important factor when balancing your portfolio of well.

And different markets hold different opportunities with regard to property type.

We want to get you thinking about where to look for your next investment … and market type is a great place to start!


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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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