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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Keeping it real in a surreal world …

If you’re a newshawk like us, you’ve probably noticed the world is a little crazy.  Even something as mundane as money and wealth has become weird.

The most obvious case in point is the dramatic rise and retreat of Bitcoin.

In 2017, something triggered a rush of money into Bitcoin … driving it from $1000 in early January to a peak of nearly $20,000 less than a year later.

Pundits are still trying to divine what happened and why.  Of course, what’s just as interesting is how the world reacted.

The People’s Bank of China (PBOC), which is China’s version of the U.S. Federal Reserve, has moved aggressively to crush cryptos.

Okay.  But does that matter if you’re not Chinese or a Bitcoin buyer?  How does any of this relate to Main Street real estate investing?

Patience, grasshopper …

China’s not the only government attacking private cryptos.  Six others have already banned it, though they admittedly aren’t big players.

But India is reportedly about to join the anti-crypto club.  They’re pretty big.

South Korea (home of Samsung, LG and Hyundai) is another biggie that’s floating the idea of banning cryptos.

Of course, legislation isn’t the only way to attack an alternative to government issued currency …

We’ve been listening to precious metals pundits allege that central banks … surreptitiously through their agents … use futures contracts to manipulate the price of gold and silver.

Interesting.  Let’s put on our tinfoil hats and think about it  …

According to this CNBC report, Bitcoin started trading on the futures exchanges on December 18th.

This chart shows Bitcoin’s price peaked at $19,180 on Sunday, December 17th.

But since then, Bitcoin’s been declined sharply … all the way down to under $7000 this week.  That’s a HUGE decline.  And it started December 18th …

Weird.  Probably just a coincidence.

Of course, the story of cryptos and their impact on the future of money and wealth is a MUCH bigger discussion.

But we think it’s safe to say that cryptos are here to stay in some shape or form.

What’s also interesting is how governments are now connecting cryptos to both gold and oil … linkages which are the heritage of U.S. dollar dominance.

Meanwhile, Russia (the world’s largest producer of oil) and China (the world’s largest consumer of oil) have both been accumulating TONS (literally) of gold.

Why?

According to this article in the India Times, “The Chinese central bank is trying to diversify from the US dollar on which it has become overly reliant

(Side note: you might want to think about how reliant YOU are on the dollar … maybe China knows something …)

This article in Russia affirms the role of gold in diversifying away from the U.S. dollar.

Apparently, gold does actually have a role in global economics … even though most Americans think of it as a barbarous relic or merely a trading tool to accumulate dollars.

But major sovereign nations are using gold as a hedge against the U.S. dollar.

Smart.  Turns out 2017 was the dollar’s worst performance in 14 years.

So if Bitcoin and gold each expose the dollar’s weakness … it’s not totally shocking the issuer of dollars, the Federal Reserve, might want to see both Bitcoin and gold prices held down.

We’re not saying the Fed is behind any alleged suppression.  But we’re not saying they aren’t.  We don’t know.

But in this surreal world where we’re not quite sure of the real motivations of those in power, nothing would surprise us.

The bigger questions are … what does it all mean to Main Street investors and how can we position ourselves to both grow and protect wealth in this crazy world?

Here’s some thoughts …

If the dollar is doomed to continue its 100+ year decline … then debt and real assets are your best friend.

Debt lets you pull future dollars into the present, where you can use them at today’s purchasing power (stronger than the future’s) to acquire things of real value.

By “real value” we mean utility …  things that provide permanent and essential service to people.  Food, housing, farmland, energy, and commodities all come to mind.

Of course, when you use debt, you have those pesky payments.

So it’s REALLY nice when you can acquire real assets that produce enough cash flow to service the debt you used to buy them.  They literally pay for themselves.

Naturally, debt-financed income-producing real estate is arguably one of the best investment vehicles in a falling dollar environment.

You can buy it with relatively cheap debt and use the income to service the debt.

Over time, as the dollar falls, the dollar price of the property rises while the debt stays fixed.

Not only that, but a debt-ridden government is highly motivated to perpetuate a weakening dollar (inflation), which benefits all debtors … including YOU.

In other words, using debt aligns your investing with the government’s motivations and likely actions.

Nice.  But it gets better …

Because real estate provides housing for people … who vote, work, and have pitchforks … or in the case of the USA, AR-15s …

…  governments are much more motivated to SUPPORT real estate than attack it.

They might go after cryptos (until they can issue their own).  They might go after gold again.

They might print free money for their friends in Wall Street to blow up paper asset bubbles and drive down interest rates (nice, if you’re a real estate investor).

But if they attack real estate … that hits home (literally) … and it’s a revolution.

That’s why, as we saw in 2008, even when they screw up and real estate is collateral damage to their financial shenanigans …

… governments, central banks, Wall Street, and even corporate America all rally to prop up real estate.

From that stand point, people still hold the power.  And people live, work, and depend on real estate.

So to keep things real in a surreal world, you could do a lot worse than making real estate the anchor of your investment portfolio.

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.

A tale of two Americas …

You might think this is a political rant about income inequality … or contrasting the America of today to some past period of “the good old days.”

But it’s really more pragmatic.

Right now headlines say the economy is booming, unemployment is down, the stock market is up, and the biggest problem in housing is there’s not enough inventory.

While all that may be true, there are certainly markets where pricing is low, vacancies are high, and “bargains” can be found.

And with lots of newbie investors getting on the real estate bandwagon, we think it’s a good time to revisit a timeless piece of investment wisdom …

Cheap isn’t necessarily a good deal.

Before we expound, let’s consider the opportunities which may lie hidden inside of a U.S. economy in transition.

In other words, might one of yesterday’s disaster markets turn out to be tomorrow’s rising star?

After all, the Trump administration is putting a big emphasis on bringing manufacturing back to the USA.

And as you’ll see, many of today’s distressed real estate markets are in so-called “rust-belt” states … many of which declined substantially since “the good old days” (sorry, had to) of the heyday of U.S. manufacturing.

Now, just because Trump wants manufacturing to come back doesn’t mean it will.  And even if it does, it doesn’t mean it will come back to where it left from.

But it might.  At least in some places.  So it all bears watching.

Because if you can see something happening before most other people, you can make your move in front of the wave and go for a nice ride.

Back in November, 24/7 Wall Street published an article 30 American Ghost Towns.

It was all about neighborhoods with TOO many vacant homes … even in the midst of a housing shortage.

Naturally, houses in these areas are CHEAP …  WAY less than $100,000 per house.  In some cases, as low as $20,000.

And there are some MAJOR cities on this list including Baltimore, Kansas City, St. Louis, Cleveland, Detroit, and Cincinnati.

Now before the hate-mail starts flying, we’re not saying these are all bad cities to invest in … or that houses are cheap and vacancies are high in the ENTIRE cities mentioned.

Big cities are made up of multiple zip codes, and when you look at the 24/7 Wall Street report, you’ll see it’s reporting on SPECIFIC zip codes within those cities.

So THIS is our first point for all out-of-area investors … especially newbies …

You don’t invest in cities.  You invest in NEIGHBORHOODS. 

 And you either need to take the time to get to know your neighborhoods well … or to build a good relationship with someone who does (our favorite method).

Over the years, we’ve seen rookies get into some bad deals by researching a city and seeing promise, then buying the wrong neighborhood and ending up with a big problem.

So be smart.

Also, just because a city or zip code has fallen on bad times, doesn’t mean it will last forever.  By paying attention, you might catch a down-and-out area on the upswing.

Of course, you can die of old age bird-dogging a dead market, so how do you tell the difference between a market with potential … and one that’s probably terminally ill?

Here’s what we look for …

Population – If there’s not enough people for politicians and CEOs to pay attention to, you can be sure that town won’t get much love … or money … to change any time soon.

Education – Industry needs skilled labor, which today is still fairly intellectual (as opposed to manual).  Even in trades, computers and sophisticated equipment are often involved.

When a community has access to quality education, it’s easier for a population to upgrade skills to take advantage of opportunity when it arrives.

Families also prefer to live in areas where educational opportunities are better in the elementary to high-school levels, so education’s impact on an area’s appeal is more than just college and trade schools.

Transportation – In order for people and goods to move around, there needs to be a good airport, highway system, and in some cases, a rail system for raw materials.

Public transportation is helpful too, especially if residential areas are distanced from employment centers.

But don’t discount a small town, IF it’s near a big one.  If the commute isn’t bad, when the big city economy picks up, that nearby small town can benefit too.

Business-friendly State – Some cities are just disadvantaged because they happen to be in a state that’s unfriendly to business.

We like to talk with the local Chamber of Commerce, and read the local Business Journal, because it gives us insight into how businesses feel about themselves, their community, and what they’re working on.

Most expansions don’t happen in a vacuum, so if you’re paying attention you can see trends (both positive and negative) developing ahead of the curve … giving you the opportunity to make your moves … in or out.

Become a student of markets …

It’s more than we can go into here, but a fun exercise if you’re a real estate investing geek is to do your own common-sense analysis of what markets on a list like this have in common.

When you know the common characteristics of good markets, or bad markets, then you’ll recognize when a shift is in progress.

Obviously, recognizing trends early allows you to get out of the path of problems, and ride a wave in the path of progress.

So it’s probably not good enough to simply buy a big market or a booming economy … because things change.

Detroit was once the richest city in the world.  Then it became the largest municipal bankruptcy in the world.  That’s a big shift.  And it happened for many reasons.

It also took decades, so even sleepy investors could adjust.  Even so, there were people who didn’t see it … or bought into a decline they didn’t understand.

Sometimes when prices fall, it doesn’t mean they’ll come back any time soon.

It’s also important to realize the world is moving faster today, so a market might go from boom to bust or vice-versa more rapidly than in the past.

That’s partly because information travels faster, so people paying attention see things sooner … and they react quicker.

But if you fail to pay attention, then no amount of information can help you. The world will just spin faster … with or without you … and you’ll miss out.

To paraphrase the late, great Jim Rohn …

The book, seminar, podcast, article, or homework you don’t see or do … can’t help you.

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.

Doomsday scenario …

Imagine a scenario where a giant asteroid is on a collision course with Earth.  When it hits, a huge portion of the world will be destroyed.

Scientists and politicians know it’s coming.  But it’s years away.

Fearful of triggering panic, the information is suppressed.  Even when leaks get out, they’re spun to seem insignificant.

Of course, those in the know realize real estate and businesses in the region facing obliteration will become worthless.

They also realize values in safe areas will skyrocket once people realize what’s happening and flee the danger zone … bidding up anything available where it’s safe.

So insiders begin quietly divesting themselves of assets in the danger zone … and begin to systematically accumulate assets in the safe zone.

They know there’s time to warn people, but want to make all their moves before acknowledging to the world the gravity of the situation.

Along the way, astute observers piece together the clues.  They realize what’s happening and use all means available to sound the alarm.

Some are dismissed as conspiracy theorists.  Others as doom porn profiteers.

Meanwhile, news feeds are filled with sensational, but trivial headlines … keeping the masses distracted.

So most people go about their daily business, completely unaware a disaster of epic proportions is slowly, steadily looming closer.

Most will be caught completely off-guard.  Some will reap huge profits simply through happenstance … because they accidentally own property in the safe zone.

Most in the danger zone escape with their lives, but not their fortunes.  Because their wealth and income are all based exclusively in the danger zone, they lose everything.

However, a few alert people in the suspected danger zone decide to hedge by acquiring property and expanding their businesses into other areas.

They reason that so long as the underlying investment makes good sense in its own right, even if a disaster never strikes, they really aren’t worse off for diversifying.

Sure, it takes extra time and effort to learn a new area, build relationships, and make the investments … but the incremental expense is accounted for as an insurance premium.

What would YOU do? 

And what does this have to do with your investing?

Perhaps obviously, the asteroid is a metaphor for a catastrophic financial event … say, the collapse of the U.S. dollar or the global financial system.

Could it happen?  Will it?

Of course, no one knows.  But there’s plenty of smart people out there who think it’s already started … and is inevitable.

It may not destroy the entire world.  But it could destroy yours … depending on how well you’re prepared … or not.

Robert Kiyosaki says the stock market will eventually collapse under the weight of baby-boomers hitting age 70-1/2 and beginning forced liquidations.

It hasn’t happened yet, but that doesn’t mean his premise is false.

It can be reasonably argued massive money printing and Central Bank interventions are propping markets way up … at least temporarily.

Chris Martenson says an economic system reliant on compounding growth and abundant energy is doomed to fail.  You can print money, but you can’t print energy.

So when energy production fails to compound as quickly as debt, an economic implosion is inevitable.  There’s no economic activity without energy.

Worse, Chris says, collapse will happen quickly because of the exponential nature of debt.

You can double the straw on the camel’s back many times … but the final doubling ends it all very quickly.

Consider the growth of only U.S. debt (the rest of the world is just as bad) …

1992 – $4 trillion

2000 – $6 trillion

2008 – $10 trillion

2012 – $16 trillion

2017 – $20 trillion

Notice the speed at which the debt is growing.  It’s compounding like a cancer.  And at some point, it consumes the host.

In 2006, Peter Schiff warned the world about the 2008 financial crisis.  People scoffed.

Peter says the next crash will be even bigger because everything wrong in 2006 is MORE wrong today.

Critics of Schiff’s theory point at the stock market … and the fortunes being made … to claim all is well.

Maybe.  But Venezuela’s had one of the best performing stock markets in recent history … and it’s plain all is not well in Venezuela.

Not surprisingly, people are fleeing Venezuela… a reminder of how economic conditions, harsh or otherwise, stimulate migration.  Of course, that’s of interest to real estate investors.

But this isn’t about Venezuela.  It’s about human behavior in the face of possible disaster.

Some ignore facts they don’t like.  Others deny them.  Still others spin them, while most simply don’t understand and can’t be bothered to try.

A few will remain rational, curious, diligent, and proactive.  Common sense says those folks generally fare better.

Clues in the News …

Bloomberg recently reported China is considering slowing or even ending lending money to the United States.

Markets responded by dumping bonds, which drove up interest rates.

So yes, what China does with its balance sheet affects YOUR interest rates on your Main Street USA rental properties.

Of course, China doesn’t want bond prices to fall when it’s holding a bunch of them … especially if they’re thinking of selling.  They just want to quietly unload.

Unsurprisingly, China decried the Bloomberg report as “fake news”.

But if U.S. news is “fake”, what are non U.S. news sources saying?

Here’s an interesting headline from Sputnik News on January 16th …

Chinese Media Explain How Russia and China Can Escape “Dollar Domination”

You should read it, but two important components are oil and gold.

“ … both Russia and China are also stepping up with exploration and acquisition of physical gold reserves, hedging against the implications of a possible collapse of the de-facto world currency.”

Of course, the de-factor reserve currency they’re referring to is the almighty U.S. dollar.

Hmmm … maybe China and Russia see an asteroid on the horizon.

Doom porn?  Conspiracy theory?  Or clues of a possible cataclysmic event coming to an economy near you?

We don’t know.  But we took Robert Kiyosaki’s warnings in 2006 too lightly and paid a BIG price.

Since then, we’ve gotten to know Peter Schiff, Chris Martenson, and Simon Black.

Peter keeps us sufficiently freaked out.  He makes sure we don’t fall asleep at the watch.

Kiyosaki teaches us to keep an open mind, to seek out diverse perspectives, and talk with other interested and thoughtful observers.

Chris Martenson reminds us to pay attention to energy.  And he’s accurately predicted the recent run-up in the price of oil.

Simon Black advocates the pragmatic wisdom of having a Plan B … not being overly dependent on one location, economy, currency, or investment.

Simon says you’re no worse off to be prepared … and it could make all the difference in your future.

All of these very smart friends … and many more … will be with us for our Investor Summit at Sea™ in April.

It’s unfortunate not everyone reading this can afford the time and expense to be there.

Even more unfortunate are those who can, but choose not to.  They have the most to lose … and gain.

We don’t know if the “asteroid” reports are true or not.  But every investor owes it to themselves to consider the arguments and the options.

Better to be prepared and not have a crisis, than have a crisis and not be prepared.

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.

The disrupted American Dream …

One of today’s most popular buzzwords is “disruptive”.  It describes an event, idea, or invention that upends the status quo in some aspect of life or society.

“Disruptive technology” is used for everything from Amazon to Uber.

And as we’ve previously discussed, many of these things impact real estate and investing.

But disruption transcends technology.

Donald Trump’s election and Brexit are two examples.  The world appeared to be on one course … then boom.  A new direction.

So, political norms, societal norms, government and business models …almost everything is being disrupted right before our eyes.

In fact, disruption is so commonplace, it’s become the new normal.

But really, disruption is nothing new.  It goes back to pre-historic times.

The wheel was disruptive … and revolutionized the world (sorry, we had to…)

Farming was disruptive.  It changed the entire societal model … accelerating labor specialization, commerce … even banking.

The printing press was disruptive … connecting human minds past and present at greater speed, for lower cost, and with greater accuracy than ever before.

The U.S. Constitution was disruptive … protecting private property rights for the common man … the foundation on which all personal wealth is based.

That’s a personal favorite. 😉

Radio, telephone, personal computing, the internet, smart phone … all disruptive … each one taking idea sharing to never-before-seen levels.

Trains, automobiles, and airplanes all disrupted the transportation norms of their time … allowing people and their possessions to circulate faster and less expensively.

Now blockchain technology … at least for now … is threatening to disrupt how freely money and wealth circulate.  And governments have noticed.  Uh oh.

Of course, history shows with every disruption, there are winners and losers.

For every railroad baron or millionaire automobile maker, there were thousands of wagon-makers and liveries put out of business.

So while disruption isn’t new … the rate is unprecedented.  The world we live and invest in is evolving at a dizzying pace.

Blink and you miss huge opportunity.  Or worse, you get wiped out by a trend you didn’t even see coming.

The faster the world is going … the further ahead you need to look.

 So with this mindset, here’s a headline that caught our attention …

Why it makes more sense to rent than buy – Market Watch, 1/13/18

Obviously, a real estate headline.  But disruptive?  Seems pretty mundane.

After all, the rent vs. buy debate has been going on forever … usually linked to temporary circumstances favoring one side over the other at the time.

But this article references two interesting reports …

One is the ATTOM Data Solutions 2018 Rental Affordability Report.

It notes … buying a home is more affordable than renting in 54 percent of U.S. markets, but 64 percent of the population live where it’s cheaper to rent.

Hmmm …

Looks like folks prefer to rent where they want to live than buy where the numbers make sense.  Apparently, buying just isn’t that important to them.

Which leads to the second report, A Revision of the American Dream of Homeownership.

This one’s a premium report, so the link’s to the press release … but look at the title … “a REVISION of the American Dream”.

The idea that something so foundational as the American Dream is being … disrupted … is something worth thinking about.

Market Watch did another article based on this report … “Renting is better than owning to build wealth – if you’re disciplined to invest as well.”

Some might say it’s a hit-piece on real estate to entice millennials to put their savings in the stock market rather than a home.

But that would be cynical.

More interesting is the possibility there’s really a disruptive trend developing in terms of the way society views home ownership.

Consider this …

We have a friend who’s a very successful millennial, who can easily afford to own any kind of car … several of them … if he wanted to.

He doesn’t.

Now that he’s discovered ride-sharing, he sees no value in owning a car … not as a status symbol or an investment.

We’re not suggesting this guy’s viewpoint represents the millions of millennials out there.  But it’s worth noting.

Millennials are a big, powerful demographic rolling through the seasons of life … just like the baby boomers did.

Except millennials aren’t like Boomers …they live in a different world and view it through their own lens.

Career, opportunity, family, community, home ownership … roots … are very different today compared to 50 years ago.

In a world where you may change jobs a dozen or more times in a career, and you operate in a global economy, with a social network that’s not local, but virtual …

… home ownership can go from being stabilizing to burdensome.

The sharing economy is changing the way people think about the value of owning things they simply want the use of.

Absent paradigms of ownership, sharing is arguably more efficient.  But for the first time in history, it’s logistically possible.

No generation before has had as many options for sharing as there are today.  

And while pay-per-use seems like a no-brainer when discussing a depreciating asset like a vehicle, Market Watch isn’t the first to argue a home isn’t a great investment.

The pioneer in the “your home is not an asset” mindset is none other than our good friend (and boomer), Robert Kiyosaki.

Of course, Robert’s an avid real estate investor, so his issue isn’t real estate.  It’s about respecting the difference between consuming and investing.

Investing is about profit.  But when you consume, you want value … the right mix of quality, service, and price.

Some people rent their residence because they get a better value, have less responsibility, enjoy more flexibility and variety …

… and it frees up money to invest in rental properties.  They get a better ROI.

So they own real estate … just not the home they live in.

If there’s a new attitude about home ownership working its way into the marketplace, it could lead to a new experience in landlording too.

Because now you might have more affluent, well-qualified tenants competing for longer term tenancies in nicer properties in better areas.

Stable people with good jobs and incomes, who want to live and keep a nice home in a good area, but don’t want the responsibility of home ownership … can be great tenants.

They can also be a way for you to collect premium properties while someone else pays for them.

It’s a trend we’re watching.

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.

Where people are moving and why …

Real estate investing scientists are avid researchers of the migratory patterns of Homo americanus.After all, population affects demand … and monitoring supply, demand, and capacity to pay is an important part of strategic geographic market selection.

So we’re excited because it’s that time of year when all kinds of reports start coming out about the year past … and we can geek out on data and analysis.

North American Moving Service recently released their report on which states experienced the most inbound and outbound migration.

Of course, strategic investing is more than just chasing trends reflected by data.

It’s about digging into the why behind what happened … and infer what might happen in the future … so you can get in front of a trend and ride the wave.

So let’s take a look …

If you know anything about any of these markets, the map and lists might already be talking to you.

Consider that actions … in this case, people moving … are motivated by running towards and getting away.  It’s wise to look at both.

Avoiding problems is just as important as chasing opportunities.  Losses offset wins.  So we study falling markets as well as rising ones.

We’ve previously discussed the mess in Illinois, which you can read here.

And while the above map is just an overview of the information provided in the complete North American report, it’s enough to think about what these migratory patterns might be indicating.

For additional color, check out a similar report from United Van Lines.  You’ll note that their top and bottom states vary from North American’s.

Also, the United Van Lines map is fun because it’s interactive.  You can look at moving patterns all the way back to 1979.

U-Haul also produces a similar report … and their results also varies from the others.

So why the variances?

Perhaps obviously, each company is reporting its own stats … and not every company is equally represented in every state.

Remember: one point of view never tells the whole story.  Always look for supporting and differing perspectives, and corroborating and disagreeing data.

Once the data’s on the table, you can start to dig in and look for commonalities and trends … clues about what’s happening, where, and why, so you can be more strategic than the lazy investor.

Of course, there’s a danger in over-analysis, so don’t get lost in the weeds and forget to invest.

It takes assets, not ideas, on your balance sheet to build wealth. 
Think of it as “investigation for effective action.”

Remember, you’re not looking for the perfect market or perfect property.  There’s no such thing.

You want to find a good market, with good fundamentals, and a great team.

When it comes to migration, our goal is to understand the motives behind the movers … so we can anticipate whether trends will continue, change direction, or otherwise shift.

Because when people leave, they take demand for housing with them.  Lower demand could lead to lower rents and prices.

If the phenomenon is only temporary, it might be a great time to grab some bargains.

But if the reasons people are moving away are permanent or worsening, you might be buying into a downward trend … that could be unprofitable and expensive to escape.

Of course, there are lots of reasons people move to and from places.  Some are non-financial such as family, friends, lifestyle, and weather.

But financial considerations are also powerful motivators to change locations.  A job, the cost of living, and taxes are typically top of the list.

While things like family, friends, hobbies, and weather preferences are all highly personal and subjective …

… things like job growth, cost of living, and taxes are all relatively objective.  They’re easy to identify and measure.

So it’s a useful exercise to evaluate the locations at the top of the list and see what they have in common in these terms.

Then do the same for those on the bottom, and it may start to paint a picture.

Now this is a newsletter and not a seminar, so we’ll let you dig in and do the research if you’re so inclined.

The great news is this is the information age, so there’s terabytes of data available.

But to speed you along, here’s some resources … and some additional food for thought …

Tax Burden

Taxes have been in the news quite a bit, and it’s that time of year when people are reflecting on the past year … and settling up with taxing authorities.

If Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year, tax time is probably quite a bit further down the list.  It’s Uncle Sam’s turn to open his presents … from you.

To see which states are naughty and nice, Wallet Hub publishes a ranking of states by total tax burden here.

Then keep in mind … information workers and retired boomers are largely free to live anywhere.  Total tax burdens could be an important consideration where they go … or leave.

So when you look at the states with people moving in and out, and compare it to the states in light of their total tax burden … you might find a correlation which could infer taxes are a motivator for moving.

Cost of Living and Affordability

While taxes are an important consideration, we’re guessing even more important is overall cost of living and affordability.

US News puts out an analysis of states by affordability.  The 2017 version isn’t out yet, but here’s the 2016 version.

Like taxes, people whose incomes aren’t tied to a specific geography, might consider making a move to a more affordable area.

Of course, if you study some of the rent-to-price ratios of various locations, you’ll find some of the best residential rental property returns come from affordable areas.

Jobs

Housing health is really a direct reflection of jobs.  While academic politicians think housing creates jobs, it’s really the other way around.

So while people might want to live in the country, on the beach, or on a hilltop … most choose to live where they can find work.

Keep in mind, many characteristics of a locality are affected by state-wide considerations such as tax rates, weather, and regulatory climate … while jobs are local.

Fortunately, Wallet Hub also publishes a pretty handy ranking of Best Cities to Find a Job. Now you’re looking at data at a more local level.

Not Rocket Surgery

While real estate investing isn’t as intellectually demanding as many types of investing (that’s why it’s perfect for us!) … it’s more than just picking out a pretty property with nice curb appeal and putting up a For Rent sign.

Each property sits in a market … and neighborhoods, cities, counties, and states all have their own appeal … or lack thereof.

Migration patterns can help you see a bigger trend so you can pick markets likely to rise with the tide of demand.

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.

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!


 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.