Boom or bubble … where are we in the cycle?

A lot of folks have been asking lately … where are we at in “the cycle”?

Of course, the question presumes cycles exist (they do).

But with so many new people getting into real estate investing … including many who’ve never invested through a “correction” (geek speak for a downturn) …

… it’s amazing there’s anyone who isn’t wondering when the next one’s coming … and HOW to know.

It’s not really that complicated, unless you’re trying to get the timing down to the precise day and time.

Then again, if it were truly easy, everyone would know it and be on the right side of it.

This is where it gets tricky …

That’s because for there to be a right side, there’s got to be a wrong side.

This means if everyone knows it’s coming and acts accordingly, not only will it not not happen …

(We know … that’s a notty sentence.  Our English teachers are rolling over in their graves.  They never liked it when we were too notty.)

… but it’s actually more likely to happen because everyone knows it’s coming.

Our point is cycles are as much psychological as fundamental.

So when everyone sees it and moves in anticipation … it’s their very movement that makes it happen.  It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy.

You see it play out all the time in the paper markets.

Like a high-speed tailgater … even a flash of brake lights causes the lemmings of Wall Street to rush from one position to another …

… all trying to outrun each other to the exit of the entrance of a trade.  The rush pushed prices up or down depending on which way the crowd’s running.

Of course, as we often point out … real estate investing is boring by comparison … in a good way.  Real estate is slow, steady, and relatively stable.

That’s because real estate is not a commodity.  Real estate can’t be traded in large lots at lightning speed … because every deal is different.

And with real estate, the logistics of the transaction …

… verifying title, arranging financing and insurance, getting inspections and appraisals, and simply vacating the property …

… are all glacierly slow when measured in Wall Street nano-seconds.

Nonetheless, real estate is not immune to a rush for the exits … especially now that Wall Street players own huge blocks (pun semi-intended) of homes.

But even though real estate cycles like everything else, it’s still very slow.  It’s easy to fall asleep at the wheel. 

Of course, even if you’re alert (and we all know the world needs more alerts) … you need to know what to pay attention to.

And THIS is where newbie investors get confused.  They don’t know which gauges to watch.

Is it the stock market?  Interest rates?  Jobs?  Wages?  Taxes?  Cap rates?  Days on market?  Year-over-year price changes?  Price trends?  Occupancies?

Yikes.  It’s information overload.

No wonder people just want to ask someone they perceive as smart to flip to the back of the book and point at the answer.

Sorry to burst your bubble (calm down … it’s just a figure of speech), but the truth is no one knows for sure.

That’s partly because real estate is highly local.  And there are many niches … each with their own unique dynamics.

Still … there are some basic principles to apply to whatever product niche and market you’re investing in.

It comes down to the willingness and capacity to pay more.  And it’s important to note those are NOT the same.

Just because you want something, doesn’t mean you can afford it.

So effective upward pressure on prices comes when the supply in the market is being overwhelmed by demand from buyers fueled with the capacity to pay more.

So, the key ingredients to understanding what drives pricing are …

  • Supply, and the capacity for supply to expand
  • Demand, in terms of number of people chasing the supply …
  • Capacity to pay, which is generally a factor of incomes, interest rates, and loan availability.

(For rental properties, incomes are rents and net operating incomes. For single-family consumer housing, income means wages.)

Of course, to be precise with timing, you’ll need to dig into each of these factors for your specific geography, demographic, and product niche.

But when addressing “where we are in the cycle” (bet your thought we’d never get there) …

… you’re looking for a divergence between growth and the underlying driver.

Since housing is a hot topic for everyone … and usually the first thing that pops to mind when asking about real estate cycles …

… take a look at this chart:

Housing Price Index to Production Wage Index

Interesting Image
SOURCE: FEDERAL RESERVE ECONOMIC DATA   HTTPS://FRED.STLOUISFED.ORG   
(The data came from the Fed, but the chart was put together by  The Heritage Foundation  here )

Notice that wages and home prices are tightly correlated from 1991 to 1999.Then something apparently happened to create a divergence in 1999.  Of course, from 2000 to 2007 a “bubble” blew up and peaked.

We’ve all heard or experienced how that ended.  Not pretty for those who weren’t prepared for the possibility.

Severe deflation (the housing crash) ensued.

And as the chart shows, prices relative to incomes over-corrected … falling below the wage trend line …  so by 2011 housing was actually very affordable.

But it didn’t last long.  And you can see where we’re at in the “cycle” now.

Kind of makes you stop and go hmmmm….

Of course, there’s a lot of insight hidden in the history of events from 1999 to 2019.

And because real estate is about buying and holding for the production of income over the long haul …

… it’s probably worth a trip down memory lane to see what can be gleaned from the last 20 years and applied to the next 20 years.

We’ll take that up in our next edition.

Until next time … good investing!


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This niche is VERY inviting …

As we often say, real estate is NOT an asset class.  There are MANY different niches you can invest in to earn big profits … both capital gains and cash flow.

And we’ve been watching an exciting niche which is starting to attract the attention of alert investors …

“Value-add investors are finding this sector ripe with opportunity, offering strong returns and having very little competition.”

           –    National Real Estate Investor, 5/6/19

Sound inviting?  It is!

It’s rehabbing resort properties.

If you’re a fan of the long-running TV show Hotel Impossible featuring Anthony Melchiorri, you know there are a LOT of hotels out there … and many aren’t run very well.

In fact, some fail and are sitting empty and dilapidated … waiting to be resurrected by an enterprising real estate entrepreneur.

So there’s a LOT of value-add opportunity in these often potentially beautiful properties.

And the opportunity isn’t limited to a particular geography … these opportunities are available in a variety of markets.

In fact, we recently enjoyed interviewing an experienced resort rehabber in New Jersey (yes, there’s even resort opportunity in New Jersey!)

We also got the inside scoop on a fascinating resort rehab project in Orlando, Florida.

The message is clear … there’s big opportunity in resort property … and it’s not just money.

Think about it …

Most investors don’t get excited about spending the night or a romantic weekend in their Section 8 rental home, C-class apartment, or mobile home park.

There’s nothing wrong with any of those.  They’re all great for cash flow.  But when you can get cash flow PLUS lifestyle benefits too?  That’s double prizes.

Imagine taking a tax-deductible trip to check in on your beautiful resort property … walking a lush vineyard or relaxing on the beach … and enjoying a fine meal while watching a gorgeous sunset.

Of course, before you get to enjoy all the amenities … there’s work to be done.

And fixing up an entire resort … well, that’s a heavy lift even for the most seasoned house-flipper.

But who says YOU need to do all the work?  Or ANY of it?

What if there’s a way for you to get in on the action without putting on your work boots and safety glasses?

There is.

One way is to let someone else “fatten the cow” … then you buy in to “milk it” for cash flow over the long-haul.  Listen to this episode to learn more about this approach.

If you’re accredited, then there’s a whole world of investment opportunities available to you … including investing passively into an experienced resort rehabber’s project.

Of course, if you’re super-ambitious and industrious … you can become an active resort-property re-habber.  Because it’s capital intensive, it’s an ideal activity to syndicate.

If you choose the active route … here are some things to think about.

One way to learn the business is to go to work or volunteer with an active resort re-habber.

But before you go that far, it’s probably smart to start with just talking to some folks in the business to see if it’s the right niche for you.

Fortunately, we’ll have an active resort property rehabber … along with a whole bunch of other really interesting niche investors … at our next Secrets of Successful Syndication seminar.  So if this all sounds interesting, make plans to join us.

But whether you choose active, passive, or syndication … take a look at the opportunities for profit and lifestyle in the resort property investing niche.

Resort properties are a great way to earn rental income from affluent people who would probably never rent their home from 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.


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Live from the 17th Annual Summit at Sea

Ten amazing days … over 200 people … studying, sharing, learning, growing, and partying … that’s the Investor Summit at Sea!

For 17 years, the Summit at Sea has been the highlight of our year … and we’re excited to share a piece of it with YOU.

We’ve gathered some of real estate’s most successful investors, entrepreneurs, niche experts, and thought leaders to share their insights and key takeaways from the 2019 Summit.

Listen in and learn what these pros discovered … and how it could help you make smarter investment decisions.

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

  • Your sailing host, Robert Helms
  • His flailing co-host, Russell Gray
  • Author and seasteading expert, Joe Quirk
  • Rich Dad, Poor Dad best-selling author, Robert Kiyosaki
  • The Apartment King, Brad Sumrok
  • Marketing mastermind, Kyle Wilson
  • The Godfather of Real Estate, Bob Helms
  • And SO MANY MORE!

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This is the Investor Summit at Sea

The annual Investor Summit at Sea is always a highlight of our year.

It’s a concentrated amount of time with some of real estate’s smartest people … all from different walks of life, different perspectives, and even different countries.

Every year, we learn to ask better questions … clarify our thinking … and do things differently.

Opportunities like the Summit at Sea are rare. In a short time frame, investors become friends, work out problems, and do some business.

We’d love EVERY one of our listeners to join us on the high seas … but we’d need a bigger boat!

So, we’ve brought together some of our fabulous faculty members to share their insights and key takeaways from the 2019 Summit at Sea.

A first glimpse at seasteading

Joe Quirk was a last minute addition to our faculty this year … and we’re so glad he came.

Joe’s real estate niche is seasteading … that’s right … homesteading the high seas.

It’s a novel idea. Joe says that … considering nearly half the world’s surface is unclaimed by any existing nation state … the technology is at hand to create startup countries on the ocean.

“It’s sort of a Silicon Valley sensibility brought to the problem of governance,” Joe says.

Instead of trying to change things from the inside, you create startups and do things better.

The first seastead has been floating off the coast of Thailand since early 2019 … and living there costs less than the average American home.

Joe and his team are ready to scale up … and scale up quickly. But he needs partners with real estate smarts to make it happen.

“We have marine engineers, economists, scientists, and medical experts. We have almost everyone we need, but we don’t have people that know how to structure and sell these things,” Joe says.

We view seasteading as a fascinating new frontier in real estate … and we’ll have more with Joe in the coming weeks.

Look at deals through a new lens

It’s Robert Kiyosaki’s sixth Summit at Sea … and we couldn’t be happier to welcome him back.

“I come to learn as well as to teach,” Robert says. “The Summit at Sea is basically immersion learning for real estate.”

Our port excursion this year was Grand Cayman. This area has undergone an interesting transition over the last few years.

Typically, people think of Grand Cayman as the place where rich people want to hide their money … but it is so much more!

Robert says he learned that how you look at a deal can really change the opportunities you see.

In the case of Grand Cayman, Robert had always looked at the market from the point of view of an investor … but he learned that sometimes it pays to try looking at a market from a developer’s point of view instead.

Through this lens, he could see that Grand Cayman is becoming a target for families. As the economic gap between rich and poor widens on other islands … crime rates are rising.

But Grand Cayman has the lowest crime rate in the Caribbean.

That fact coupled with high standards of living make it attractive to a new housing demographic … not just people looking for a tax shelter.

“There’s a deal of a lifetime every minute if you can see it,” Robert says.

Expand your team, increase your success

The Apartment King, Brad Sumrok, joins us for his third Summit at Sea.

Brad has made apartments his bread and butter … but that doesn’t mean he is done learning and growing.

“I keep expanding my team every time I’m here,” Brad says.

There’s no better way to grow your team than by spending a week and a half on a ship with 200 other people who specialize in a variety of asset classes.

So much of investment success is leveraging other people’s experience.

Last year, Brad says he connected with our good friend CPA Tom Wheelwright … and this year Tom saved Brad seven figures in taxes!

That’s a take away Brad took directly to the bank … and by surrounding yourself with smart people, you can do the same.

Master your marketing one step at a time

We’ve known Kyle Wilson for many years. He is a familiar face on the Summit at Sea … and always has great ideas for how to better market your real estate business.

“So many people are in the real estate business. They’re good at real estate. They’re good at finding markets and putting together teams, but not always solid in their marketing position,” Kyle says.

It’s easy to overcomplicate marketing. At the end of the day, marketing is simply connecting the dots for your customers.

Kyle says the key for real estate investors is to act in a strategic way. Don’t just throw a bunch of stuff at the wall and hope it sticks.

And remember that so much of real estate investing is built on relationships. Never let what seems like a good tactic get in the way of a good relationship.

Kyle is leaving the Summit with a list of ideas and action items … but cautions investors to take things one step at a time.

“You can’t do it all. Pick the one thing that’s screaming at you that will make the biggest difference and start there,” Kyle says.

A wealth of amazing opportunities

If anyone understands the benefits of an opportunity like the Investor Summit at Sea, it’s the Godfather of Real Estate himself … Bob Helms!

We’ve been hosting these cruise ship conferences for 17 years … and Bob has been with us every time.

With 40 years of real estate experience, Bob has seen amazing changes in the way investors make money and grow their opportunities.

“As I look at the group that is here with us today and the diversity of things they are involved in, I can’t help but have a big grin on my face,” Bob says. “The opportunities out there are amazing.”

Bob says his advice to investors is to educate themselves on different locations and asset classes. Find the niche that is right for you … and start building a winning team!

Get on the advance notice list for next year’s Summit at Sea by visiting our website … and listen in to the full episode to hear from even more experts and ideas from our week on the waves.


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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Real estate is NOT an asset class …

When the talking heads on mainstream financial media talk about real estate, they often refer to it as an “asset class.”

And lately, they say real estate is “in a bubble.”

No wonder so many of them are mystified about how the real estate guy in the White House goes about his business.  But that’s a different discussion.

Today, we’re focused on the huge difference between how real estate investors and paper investors see the world … and why it matters.

Because the way you think affects the way you act … which affects your results.  

If you pay too much attention to people who don’t understand your business, you’ll probably make bad decisions.

Folks who deal in “commodity” assets like stocks, bonds, currencies … even precious metals, oil, food and other resources …

… think in terms of charts, graphs, trends, and asset classes.

By “commodity”, we mean a group of individual items which are all identical. 

So an ounce of gold, a share of Apple stock, a U.S. Treasury bond, a barrel of oil, the U.S. dollar, or a bushel of wheat …

… are all virtually identical in any market, anywhere in the world.  They’re essentially commodities.

 And because they’re traded in hyper-efficient, highly-visible, globally accessible exchanges … there’s no room for negotiation.  Only bidding. 

So instead of the Art of the Deal, there’s just the speed of the bid. 

But real estate is different.

There’s ALWAYS room for negotiation.  Properties don’t trade in packs.  Every geography is unique … right down to the neighborhood and property.

Here’s a recent article from ATTOM Data Solutions, who does a great job putting out lots of data rich content … 

Equity Rich U.S. Properties Increase to New High in 2018 

– February 5, 2019 

We like equity, so naturally this caught our attention. 

The article cites a recent ATTOM report which reveals in Q4 2018 … “U.S. properties were equity rich” … at the highest level since Q4 2013.

Of course, a mainstream pundit might surmise this means the “asset class” of real estate is in a bubble.  Watch out below!

But as ATTOM points out …

“… the report helps to showcase a story of the West coast markets having the highest share of equity rich homeowners versus the South and Midwest market, who continue to have stubbornly high rates of seriously underwater homeowners.”

Forget for a moment they’re only talking about houses …

… as opposed to industrial, resort, retail, office, multi-family, farmland, self-storage, residential assisted living, RV parks, campgrounds, student housing …

… and any of a myriad of other sectors of real estate.

Not sure how all those diverse sectors get lumped into one “asset class”.  Unless Earth is an asset class.

Obviously, in just the sub-category of single-family houses … there’s a big difference in price-setting dynamics in the West Coast versus the South and Midwest.

And even while some properties are at record levels of equity …

 “… more than 5 million U.S. properties were seriously underwater — where the … balance of loans … was at least 25 percent higher than the property’s … value, representing 8.8 percent of all U.S. properties with a mortgage.” 

Apparently, while equity is happening in some markets, in others the opposite is true.  At the same time.

So it seems not all the individual units in the “asset class” of housing are uniformly priced … or bubbling up together … or even moving in the same direction.

Yes, we realize “stocks” as a class has both winners and losers on the same day.  Some are up and some are down.

And yes, we realize an individual stock can be up one day and down (way down!) the next. 

But the entire lot of individual units move in lock step. There are still millions of shares of Facebook stock out there … and if it tanks, it tanks everywhere at the same time.

There’s no negotiation.  No deal making.  Just a high-speed bid. 

But this isn’t about whether stocks are good or bad … or whether stocks are or aren’t an asset class. 

Our point is … real estate is NOT an asset class.  And this means there are ample pockets of opportunity in niches and neighborhoods.

And those opportunities are often found in unlikely places.  

Here’s another ATTOM article …

Top 10 Seriously Underwater Metro Areas – February 8, 2019

Not surprisingly, there are a few rust belt cities on the list of underwater cities. 

Until recently, net job losses in manufacturing has hampered economic recovery in many of these locations.

Of course, recent job growth in manufacturing is setting the table for a resurgence in rust belt communities … and creating opportunity in comeback markets.

Meanwhile, a couple of markets where we have boots-on-the-ground teams popped up on the underwater list … including Cleveland and Memphis.

So now we’ve gone from the macro picture of the “equity rich” United States housing market …

… to discovering the macro picture is made up of a blend of the high-equity West and lower-equity Midwest and South.

But even the metro level is too macro for practical Main Street investing.

Consider Memphis … a metro we know VERY well thanks to our long-time friend,  Terry Kerr 

Remember, Memphis is a top 10 underwater metro. Sounds like a loser, right?

Not so fast.

Thanks to Terry Kerr, we discovered Memphis 10 years ago.  And Terry told us about a little sub-market of Memphis called Frayser. 

If Elvis is the King of Rock and Roll … then Terry Kerr is the King of Turnkey in Frayser. 

We won’t bore you with all the great reasons why Terry focuses on Frayser.  That’s not the point of this muse. 

But because we’re interested in Frayser, we pay attention. And this little gem popped up …

Home values in Frayser on the rise – January 17, 2019

“According to the Frayser Community Development Corporation, the areas’s median home selling price has nearly doubled in the past two years.”

“The prices of homes in Frayser are rising higher than in any other part of Shelby County.”

There much we could say … and MANY lessons.  For now, just remember, this is happening in a metro that’s top 10 underwater. 

Frayser is a place both macro and metro watchers have probably never heard of.  But we have.  That’s the value of having a great local team.

Our main point today is …

Real estate is NOT an asset class.  Each sector, region, metro, neighborhood, property, and ownership are unique. 

To find hidden gems, it’s important to go from macro to metro to micro with the help of savvy boots-on-the-ground experts.

So when you hear chatter about the “everything” bubble including real estate … those are trend followers talking about commodity assets at the macro level.

But no one in the real world buys real estate at the macro level.

In the trenches of Main Street, street smart and well-connected investors find and negotiate unique deals at micro level … finding great opportunities in the crevices of inefficiency. 

 It’s one of the many reasons we love real estate.

Until next time … good investing!


More From The Real Estate Guys™…

The Real Estate Guys™ radio show and podcast provides real estate investing news, education, training, and resources to help real estate investors succeed.


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MANY lessons from Amazon’s HQ2 search …

You’ve probably noticed Amazon is taking over the world.  There’s a lot we could say, but we’ll narrow our focus to lessons for real estate investors …

In the May Housing News Report, there’s an article about Amazon’s ongoing search for their second headquarters (HQ2).

Even from just a real estate perspective, Amazon is a fascinating company to watch.  There are SO many lessons to be gleaned from watching what they’re doing … and how the world is reacting.

In case you’re new to the Amazon HQ2 story …

In 2017, Amazon put out a Request for Proposal (RFP) to bait cities across the U.S. into falling all over themselves to win Amazon’s coveted second headquarters …

… and the 50,000 high-paying jobs (average salary = $100,000 per year) that come with it.  We commented on this story at the time.

At first, there were hundreds of cities in the hunt. We said at the time we think there’s an excellent chance Amazon will pick Atlanta.

Early in 2018, the race narrowed to 20 finalists … and Atlanta’s still on the list.

Which brings us to now …

In the Housing News Report article, there’s a link to an analysis by Daren Blomquist of Attom Data Solutions.  Daren ranked the 20 finalists by comparing the cities on certain criteria defined in Amazon’s original RFP.

It’s the same process we did, except Daren used actual data … we just guessed.

Here’s Daren’s actual chart for your viewing pleasure …

Notice Atlanta’s ranked #2.  So our hunch is holding its own … so far.

Meanwhile, there several useful things to glean from this chart and the story behind it, so let’s dig in …

Single family homes are NOT an asset class

We’ve said it a thousand times, but just look at the median prices.  They range from $130,000 in Indianapolis to $1.445 MILLION in New York.

When people say, “Housing is in a bubble!” … what housing are they talking about?  Indy?  Seems pretty cheap based on median price and affordability.

And when high-priced markets start hitting the top of their affordability range, people MOVE … to more affordable markets.  People ALWAYS need a place to live.

So while it’s true that migration patterns drive prices … demand rises or falls as people move in or out … it’s often economics that drive migration patterns.

So an alert investor can get in front of growing demand and ride a wave up. That’s exactly what the folks who got into Dallas five years ago have done.

Equity happens … but not evenly

Look at the disparity in five-year appreciation rates among these markets … from just 8% in Montgomery County to 246% in Dallas.  HUGE difference!

Even in markets where median prices are similar … say Dallas and Miami… the five-year appreciation variance is substantial … Dallas coming in at 246% and Miami at “only” 71%.

So price doesn’t seem to be the deciding factor for appreciation.

And neither does property tax … as Dallas is second highest behind New Jersey (hey, New Jersey had to win at something), but Dallas is still king of appreciation.

Meanwhile Denver has the lowest property tax … half of Atlanta … yet their appreciation rates were about the same.

And price-to-income ratios don’t seem to make the difference either … as Los Angeles and New York are both equally unaffordable, yet New York has half the appreciation.

Keep it simple …

Obviously, this is just one chart … and it’s easy to get lost in the weeds.  We don’t want paralysis from analysis.  So charts like these are just the start of a deeper dive.

But it doesn’t have to be complicated.  Here’s what we look for …

What do winners have in common?

Dallas and Austin are both triple-digit appreciators … even though Dallas grew at twice the rate of Austin.  Is it just simply they’re both in Texas or is there more to the story?

Of course, 10 years ago, Dallas was coming off being one of the slowest appreciating markets in the country.  So something changed that dramatically…

What’s driving appreciation?

Prices get bid up when supply is growing more slowly than demand with capacity to pay.

So though you can see affordability based on income on this chart, you can’t see supply and demand drivers.  Neither can you see the economic drivers.

But you need to look at them.

That’s why we say you can’t study 20 markets well.  It’s too much.  Use a chart like this to pick your top three … and get to know them very well.

What markets are poised for growth?

Once you understand what makes a market like Dallas tick … and how it went from no growth to explosive growth … you can watch for similar factors in sleepy markets.

When you spot something interesting, you go in for a closer look.  If things go your way, you get there before the masses … and you get to catch a rising star!

What are the big players doing?

Big players can do research you can’t.  But that’s okay because you can piggy-back on their hard work.  It’s like cheating off the smart kid in school, except you don’t get detention.

Amazon is a juggernaut in American business … and their power is impacting real estate of all kinds … retail, industrial, and even office and housing in markets where they have a footprint.

That’s why SO much attention is being paid to their search for HQ2.

But another reason to watch is they’re leaders in business decision making too.  Other employers are watching what Amazon does and being influenced by it.

So when Amazon ultimately picks a city, we’re guessing other companies will cheat off their homework … and pick the same city.

The reason we bet on Atlanta is because many other Fortune 1000 companies had already chosen Atlanta as a great place to set up shop.

We don’t know what process they went through to get there.  We just know they did.  So as Amazon goes through its process … they may reach similar conclusions.

Of course, Raleigh is also home to a comparable number of big companies.

But based on the world-class airport, huge labor pool, access to higher education, major distribution, and a business-friendly environment … though it’s close, we still think Atlanta has the edge.

Then again, Jeff Bezos isn’t consulting with us, so we’ll just have to wait and see like everyone else.

Meanwhile, as the field narrows, we’ll continue to learn where corporate leaders think the best location is for their businesses, employees, and new job creation.

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.