Clues in the News — The Fed, the Repo Market, and Real Estate Investing

When you’re an investor … the state of the financial system is always on your mind. 

The Fed shocked the world when it pushed an emergency infusion of cash into a distressed financial system. 

In 2008 … it took $85 billion per month to stabilize the U.S. financial system. 

Today, the Fed is injecting $75 billion PER DAY. 

Does this mean our financial system is in trouble? 

We’re searching for Clues in the News about the Fed, the Repo Market, and what it could mean for investors like you. 

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

  • Your stable host, Robert Helms
  • His fabled co-host, Russell Gray 

Listen


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Staying Smart in a Changing Market

We look at a lot more than just real estate. That’s how we stay smart in an ever-changing market. 

This week, we’re looking at what’s going on at the Federal Reserve … and we’re not just talking about the interest rate change. 

But let’s start there. 

The Fed came out and dropped interest rates by 25 basis points … which is one-quarter of one point. 

It’s important to note that the Fed doesn’t actually drop interest rates, because they don’t set interest rates. 

What they do is set a target and a range. 

They dropped the high end of the range down 25 basis points … and that manipulates the markets. 

The Fed also goes into markets and buys and sells bonds … again manipulating interest rates. 

So what is the effect of those actions on a real estate investor?

Sometimes it can be confusing … but it starts with understanding that yields … which are interest rates on bonds … are a function of supply and demand. 

When money floods into the bond market, it means that the interest rates come down. When money leaves the bond market, it means that interest rates go up. 

Many people think that if the Fed lowers the interest rates, mortgage rates are going to go down … BUT really the opposite is what would happen. 

Today, it’s different. 

The money that is moving around isn’t coming from the market. The Fed is putting more money into the system. 

That means investors are playing with new money that is in the system … and bonds go up and stocks go up. 

For the last decade, there has been a big infusion of money into bonds … so much so that it has driven interest rates yield down. 

There are $250 trillion of total bonds out there … $17 trillion of them are negative yields. 

It’s important to understand because, at the end of the day, a real estate investor is a user of debt. 

As investors, we have to pay attention to what the Fed is doing … and we should watch other investment categories like stocks and oil and gas and metals. 

All these things play together and play off of each other. 

The Repo Market

Now, something happened this week that hasn’t happened since 2008 … and it has got a lot of people nervous. 

The repo market dried up. People were going in to raise short-term cash … and there was no money. 

The repo market is like a pawn shop. It’s where Wall Street traders go to hawk a bond. It’s the same thing that house flippers do … but it happens in a day instead of over the course of several months. 

Remember that the bond that you hold is valuable because it has a rate of return. 

There’s a payment associated with it. It’s a poker chip in the Wall Street casino. 

Healthy markets require certain components. There has to be cash. There has to be assets. There have to be buyers. There have to be sellers … and there has to be trust. 

If any one of these components breaks down, then the system locks up until people fix whatever the problem is. 

On September 16, 2019, people showed up at the repo market … and there wasn’t enough. 

So, in order to get cash, they had to start bidding up or discounting what they were selling. 

Interest rates went all the way up to nearly 10 percent … and the Fed’s target is about 2 percent. 

So, the Fed had to step in. They pumped in $53 billion the first day. 

It wasn’t enough. The next day they had to put in another $75 billion. 

Still not enough. The third day, the Fed added in $75 billion more. 

That’s more than $200 billion in three days. And it STILL wasn’t enough. 

So, the Fed lowered the rates … and every single day of the following week they pumped another $75 billion into the market. 

The question for investors is … why did this happen?

Well, nobody knows. It’s a big mystery. 

Ultimately it all comes back to those key components … buyers, sellers, cash, assets, and trust. 

If there’s no cash, you can’t have buying and selling … and people don’t trust the marketplace enough to come in. 

What You Can Do To Prepare

Every listener out there that didn’t live through 2008 really needs to wake up and understand what can happen. 

For those of you that did live through 2008, this is probably like deja vu. 

But there are things you can … and probably should … do to be prepared just in case this is a real crash. 

It may not be. It may be just a little crash … but if you’re prepared, a crash is a great wealth-building opportunity. You can go into a marketplace and pick up bargains. 

The best thing you can do is get educated. Education is not just consuming knowledge and perspectives … it’s processing and thinking and conversing with experts. 

The second thing you can do is pay attention. We obsess about the news because there is so much you can learn from what is happening around you. 

From a practical portfolio management standpoint … right now you can lock in low rates for the long term. Take advantage of that. 

And you can take the combination of cheap interest rates and equity and pull some of that equity out and get liquid. 

Store that liquidity in something that allows you to pivot to other currencies. 

All of this is so you can be prudent as you look ahead into the unknown. 

Listen to the full episode to learn more about today’s Clues in the News!

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Podcast: Clues in the News – The Fed, the Repo Market, and Real Estate Investing

The Fed shocks the world with an emergency infusion of cash into a distressed financial system.

It took $85 billion per month to stabilize the financial system in 2008. Today, the Fed is injecting $75 billion PER DAY.

Is the financial system in trouble? What’s an investor to think … and do?

Listen in as we search for Clues in the News about the Fed, the Repo Market, and what it could mean to real estate investors.


More From The Real Estate Guys™…

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


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

Clues in the News – Stocks, Negative Rates, Oil, Gold and You

If you’re wondering which way the financial winds are blowing … look to the news!

From the rollercoaster ride of the stock market, to negative interest rates on mortgages, to big moves in gold and oil … it appears the winds are changing. Something is coming. 

Savvy real estate investors are reading the signs and asking, “What should I do?”

Join us as we study the mystery that is the headlines and discuss what all these things mean for investors like YOU. 

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

  • Your headliner host, Robert Helms
  • His mysterious co-host, Russell Gray 

Listen

 


Subscribe

Broadcasting since 1997 with over 300 episodes on iTunes!

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The dance between stocks and bonds

On today’s edition of Clues in the News, we’ll go beneath the headlines to find out how all the goings-on in the market impact real estate. 

They say that the time to repair the roof is when the sun is shining. 

Right now, markets are good. Real estate is strong. Rents are durable. Jobs are great. Gold is high … so we need to dig into the headlines. 

Even though we’re in real estate, it’s important to pay attention to other industries and markets like oil, bonds, and gold. 

When we try to understand what’s going on in the world economically, it’s like that old game Mouse Trap. Every action has a reaction. 

And there seems to be a dance between the stock market and the bond market. 

When people are feeling good, investors buy stocks … because they are feeling bullish that the asset value of the stock that they bought was going to go up. 

When they get fearful … they sell stocks and go for safety in bonds. 

Bonds are basically IOUs. The best bond you can get is from the U.S. government, which prints the world’s reserve currency … the dollar … making it impossible for them to ever default. 

But as we saw in 2008 … it is possible for your credit to seize up. 

So, you can rearrange your affairs in order to capitalize on the opportunities that will be created by whatever is going to happen to the market in the future and mitigate the risks. 

Signals from the yield curve inversion

When you hear bonds and stocks, you may be thinking that it doesn’t have much to do with real estate. 

But it does … because interest rates are the fuel that we use to drive our real estate purchases. 

You’ve probably heard recently that rates are headed down and the Federal Reserve is planning to cut rates another quarter of a point. 

We certainly look at that to see what the long-term prognosis is for owning real estate. Then we look at the short-term housing markets. 

But in between, there are all kinds of signals. 

One of the big signals that happened last week was a yield curve inversion. 

You don’t have to necessarily understand what that is at a deep level. What you do have to understand is what it means. 

In other words, if you’re driving down the road and see that oil pressure is green, you know you’re good. 

If it falls below the green, you know that if the light turns red and you don’t put oil in your car, your engine is going to blow. 

A yield curve is like that. It’s the relationship between short-term interest rates and long-term interest rates. 

When you take on a loan, the yield curve should slope up so that the lower rates are closer to you and as time progresses they go up as they forward further in time.

When the curve inverts, it goes the other way. 

All you really need to know is that the last seven recessions were preceded by a yield curve inversion. On average, the recession came 22 months later. 

Whatever happens, there is always a flow of money to and a flow of money away. You want to make sure that you’re always in the flow of where it’s coming. 

Growth in gold

Meanwhile, gold prices are reinvigorated by the yield curve. 

Gold prices pick up on fears of a global recession because those two markets, the stock market, and the liquid metals market can hit the buy or sell pretty fast. 

That’s in part because gold is a proxy for currency. Gold is at record highs in many currencies around the world, not just the dollar.

When countries are trying to compete in international trade, they have an advantage when their goods are cheaper. 

So, if they devalue their currency so that the purchasing power of their trading partners goes up, they can sell more goods. 

When people begin to lose faith in their currencies … they look for something that allows them to step out of a currency and still hold liquid wealth. 

Some people are using Bitcoin, but the vast majority of investors … especially institutions and sovereign governments … are using gold. 

Last year, central banks around the world purchased more physical gold than at any other time since 1970.

If you think about insider trading when it comes to currencies … there’s nobody more insightful than central banks. 

The effects of oil

All economic activity is derived from energy … and in modern society, that energy is primarily oil. 

So, as the cost of oil goes up … it’s actually friction in regard to economic activity. 

When you think of what happened coming out of the great recession, the economics in the United States that were producing all theat jobs leading to recovery … were ENERGY PRODUCING LOCALITIES. 

The other side of it is an economic problem … a lot of the oil that has been built upon bonds issued by oil companies are counting on higher oil prices. 

When those oil prices drop, they still have the same debt service.

There’s a lot of fragility out there … and nobody knows what could be the catalyst that’s going to ignite the debt bomb that creates the next debt implosion. 

But one of the things to pay attention to is all of the debt in the oil industry. 

We look at it for the cost of the input to the daily lives of our tenants. When gas is more expensive, it increases their cost of living. 

So, they’re going to be more resistant to rent increases … and they will be moving out of the higher priced places into the lower ones. 

And then of course, it can also point to the health of the credit markets. 

Time to pay attention

There’s a lot to be licking your chops at … so to speak … with what is happening in the world right now. 

And NOW is the time to pay attention. 

Learn more from the Clues in the News by listening in to the full episode. 


More From The Real Estate Guys™…

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


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Podcast: Clues in the News – Stocks, Negative Rates, Oil, Gold and You

From Mr. Stock Market’s Wild Ride to negative interest rates on mortgages, to the big moves in gold and oil … the news is full of clues that the financial winds are shifting.

What’s a real estate investor to do?

Listen in as we take a look at the hottest headlines and consider what they mean to Main Street investors.


More From The Real Estate Guys™…

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


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

Jerome Powell has spoken … now what?

In our last edition, we discussed what gold might be revealing that the Fed isn’t … while waiting to see what Fed Chair Jerome Powell would say to Congress.

But now the great and powerful Powell has spoken … and there are a couple of notable nuggets worthy of an inquisitive real estate investor’s attention.

According to this report by CNBC, the Wizard of the Emerald Printing Press told Congress …

“… the relationship between … unemployment and inflation … has gone away.”

If you’re not a faithful Fed watcher (and therefore have a life), you might not know about the Phillips curve. It’s been a guiding principle for the Fed interest rate policy for a long time.

It goes without saying (but we’re saying it anyway) that interest rates are important to real estate investors.

After all, debt is arguably the most powerful tool in the real estate investor’s toolbox. And interest rates profoundly affect both cash flows and pricing.

Many investors rely on their mortgage pro for interest rate guidance. Most mortgage pros watch the 10-year Treasury. But Treasury prices are strongly impacted by Fed jawboning and open market activities.

By watching further up the food chain you can get more advance notice of the direction of rates … and better position yourself to capture opportunity and avoid problems.

Through their comments, Fed spokespeople … chief among them Chairman Powell … send signals to those in the market who care to pay attention.

Of course, sometimes a little interpretation is needed. In this case, it seems to us Powell is being pretty clear.

The Phillips curve … which presumes that full employment leads to higher wages which leads to high inflation (prompting rate hikes to preempt it) … “has gone away”.

In other words, don’t assume high employment will trigger the Fed to raise rates.

But just in case the message wasn’t clear enough, Powell also added …

“… we are learning that the neutral interest rate is lower than we had thought …”

In other words, there’s a NEW normal in town … and the Fed is abandoning (just like Peter Schiff has been telling us they would) rate hikes and tightening.

But unlike Peter Schiff, the Fed is just now figuring this out.

So the great and powerful Wizard pulled not one, but TWO doves out of his hat.

(For the un-initiated, when the Fed is “hawkish”, it means tightening the currency supply by raising rates … while “dovish” is easing … like quantitative easing … and lowering rates)

It seems the Fed looked over the economic landscape … (and over their shoulder at the real estate guy in the White House) …

… and concluded the punch bowl fueling the longest recovery in history needs to be spiked again.

You might agree or disagree.

But it doesn’t matter what YOU think the Fed SHOULD do. We’re pretty sure they’re not asking you. They’re sure not asking us.

They think what they think. They do what they do. And THEY are the ones behind the curtain with their hands on the levers.

Our mission as a real estate investors (accumulators of mass quantities of debt used to control assets and cash flows), is to watch and react appropriately.

So here’s some food for thought …

Fed “dovishness” usually translates into higher asset prices … primarily stocks and real estate. Equity happens!

It’s EASY to get enamored of equity growth based on momentum (price changes) and not fundamentals (income). Be careful.

Sometimes the Fed loses control or misses a major problem until it rolls over the market.

If your portfolio is anchored with strong fundamentals, you’re more resilient.

Equity is wonderful, but fickle and unproductive.

If your balance sheet is telling you you’re rich, but your cash flow statement doesn’t agree, you’re not really rich.

Read that again.

The key to resilient real wealth is durable passive income. And rental real estate of all kinds is a time-proven vehicle for building durable passive income.

But wait! There’s more …

It’s no secret President Trump wants to weaken the dollar … and has been pressuring the Fed to make it happen.

Based on the Fed’s recent shift of direction, it seems it’s not just interest rates headed down … but the dollar too. The currency war could be about to escalate.

And remember … the dollar has a 100+ year history of losing purchasing power.

So if you’re betting on the direction of the dollar long term … we think DOWN is the safer bet. And right now it seems that what the Wizards are planning.

This is where real estate REALLY shines.

That’s because an investor can use real estate to acquire enormous sums of dollars TODAY (via a mortgage) which effectively shorts the dollar.

Those dollars are used to buy tangible, tax-advantaged, income-producing, real assets which not only pays back the loans from their own income …

… but unlike debt, grows nominally (in dollars) in both income and price as the purchasing power of the dollar falls (inflation).

That’s why we say, “Equity Happens!”

And when it does, it’s a good idea to consider converting equity into cash using low-cost long-term debt, and then investing the proceeds in acquiring additional income streams and assets.

Of course, you can only do that when the stars of equity, lending, and interest rates all align. Right now, it seems they are.

We think last week signaled an important change of direction. And while the financial system is arguably still weak, it’s working …

… so it might be a good idea to do some portfolio optimization while the wheels are still on.

Until next time … good investing!


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At this rate, something’s gotta give …

Real estate investors tend to like low interest rates.  

After all, low rates mean lower payments for the same size mortgage … or a bigger mortgage for the same payments.  Nice.

The current Wizard of Rates is Fed chair Jerome Powell.  And he just showed up on 60 Minutes and told everyone …

“‘We don’t feel any hurry’ to raise rates this year.”

Many Fed followers consider this a bit of an about face.

And those who use the Fed’s actions as a barometer of economic health and stability are asking what this more dovish stance means.

After all, isn’t the motive of low rates to goose a sluggish economy?  So then what’s all that healthy economy talk?

Also weird is that just over six months ago, Powell stood at a podium and defended his plan to RAISE rates.

Then two months ago he said, ‘The case for raising rates has weakened …”

Last summer, he apparently couldn’t see six months ahead … and now all of the sudden he’s clear for a year? 

Maybe the answer is here …

Fed Chair Powell: ‘The US federal government is on an unsustainable fiscal path’
– Yahoo Finance, 2/26/19

Summit faculty member Peter Schiff constantly reminds us … the economy is addicted to cheap money and Uncle Sam is addicted to spending.

Of course, addicts … and their enablers … sometimes take extreme steps to keep the party going.

So that could mean more money printing … because that’s how the Fed keeps rates down.  And as any debt-ridden household knows, lower interest rates help make a giant debt load a little easier to service.

That’s probably more important than anyone’s letting on.

Because with record corporate, consumer, and government debt … there’s a lot of cheap money junkies out there.

So … maybe the Fed’s just trying to keep them all supplied?

Of course, we have no way of really knowing what data or philosophy is driving Jerome Powell’s decisions.  We just watch and react.

But based on all the green lights flashing across stocks, bonds, oil, and precious metals … it looks like asset price inflation is the bet du jour.

At least for now.

But even though it’s party time in the Wall Street casinos, real estate investors need to play the game differently.

We don’t have the luxury of jumping in and out of positions on a moment’s notice.  Besides, that’s not our game.

We’re not trying to buy low and sell high.  Real estate investors work to find a spread between the cost of capital and the cash flow on capital invested.

So let’s switch from the macro view and get a little closer to Main Street … and glean some lessons from self-storage investors.

But before you tune out, this isn’t about self-storage … it’s about how real estate investors are reacting to an big influx of capital. 

Because as cheap capital floods any market (niche, geography, asset class) it affects prices and yields.   So sooner or later, investors move around searching for opportunities.

And that’s what’s happening in self-storage … 

Self-Storage Investors Start Looking at Smaller Markets to Capture Higher Yields
National Real Estate Investor, 3/11/19

This headline caught our attention because of what the Fed is doing with interest rates.  And as we dug deeper, we found some notable excerpts …

“Investors are being more careful about which assets to bet on …”

“ … worried about the number of new … properties …”

 “To avoid competition from new properties coming on-line … buyers have turned their attention to secondary markets …”

“ … buyers in overbuilt markets are taking more time to underwrite their deals, double-checking assumptions about future leasing and rent growth.”

There’s more, but let’s stop and process these thoughts …

First, these are lessons investors in ANY income-property niche should take note of.  So it’s not just about what’s happening in self-storage.

Notice the attention to supply and demand. 

We see lots of rookie real estate investors crunch the numbers of the property … but completely ignore the inventory pipeline of the market.

And of course, there’s also the supply of prospective renters in a market.  That’s why we also look at population and migration trends.

The article also highlights something we’ve been talking about for a while …

People, businesses, and investors will “overflow” from mature primary markets into emerging secondary markets in search of affordability.

The danger is getting into an emerging market ahead of a migrating problem.

Think about it …

If investors are moving into secondary markets to find better opportunities than in an over-built market … what happens when builders move in for the same reason?

Cheap money makes building easy.  Developers love it.

But Austrian economists warn of “malinvestment” … when bad investments look good primarily because money is cheap.

All long-term debt needs stable long-term cash-flow to service it.  If supply exceeds demand, and rents and cash flows fall … debt can go bad fast.

So when looking at markets, pay attention to the capacity of market to absorb more inventory without collapsing rents.

Because if you go in with optimistic underwriting (tight cash flow) and supply expands faster than demand and rents fall … you could be in trouble.

That’s why self-storage investors are “taking more time to underwrite their deals”.  Maybe you should too.

Hot markets can be intoxicating for investors.  It’s easy to jump on a hot trend hoping to catch a nice ride …

Despite these worries … investors keep paying higher and higher prices … relative to income.  Cap rates … are at their lowest point on record.”

“They continue to trend lower even though interest rates have begun to rise …”

“There is a tremendous amount of capital chasing yield.

That’s what happens when interest rates are low.

Don’t get us wrong.  We’re not complaining.  We like low-cut interest rates as much as the next guy.  But hot markets can be fickle. 

So the moral of this muse is to stay sober and diligent about your underwriting … and be very wary of using short term money to invest long.

Until next time … good investing!


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Rent control … a sign of the times?

A very big real estate story splashed across mainstream news recently, but got buried underneath (insert the sensational political headline you’re sick of) …

Oregon Okays First Statewide Mandatory Rent Control Law

 Associated Press, 2/28/19 

Okay, we admit this is a government policy … so it’s political.

But politics is easy to laugh at when it’s happening in cyberspace.  It’s a little less funny when it hits hard on Main Street.

For thousands of Main Street landlords in Oregon, politics just landed hard … right in their portfolio.

Of course, as is often the case, there’s more to the story than meets the eye.

So even if you don’t own property in Oregon … or won’t for much longer 😉 … there’s a lot to glean from this watershed legislation.

We could debate whether or not government should step into a “free” market and regulate the price of anything … from housing to healthcare to haircuts.

But it doesn’t matter if WE think they should or shouldn’t.  They do.

And as a broken financial system keeps growing a wedge between haves and have-nots … we’re guessing more politicians will try to legislate affordability.

So like it or not (we don’t), rent control is something every investor everywhere should be watching out for.

Let’s take a look at how rent control works in the real world …

Real estate investors buy property to produce income and build long-term wealth.  The more income a property produces, the more it’s worth.

In order to create more wealth, real estate investors need to create more income … which means creating more value that a tenant is willing and able to pay for.

The essence of real estate investing is using capital to acquire long-term cash flow.  This is how real estate investors think.

Make sense so far?

Politicians, whom we’re guessing are NOT real estate investors, think investment starts and ends at acquisition.

Unless you’re Warren Buffet, paper asset investors don’t buy stocks with the intention of improving the cash flow.

You just buy, own, and sell.  Maybe collect some dividends along the way.

But when value-add real estate investors buy properties in poor condition with lousy amenities …

… they’re excited about the potential to make further investments into the property AFTER the acquisition.

For example, a property without a washer and dryer might rent for $50 a month less than one with that amenity included.

So for perhaps $600 per unit additional capital invested, a landlord could acquire $600 per year cash flow.

That’s a good ROI.  It’s also a nice amenity for the tenant.

You could say the same about covered parking, self-storage, a laundry room, a workout room, free wi-fi, and on and on.

Rent control caps the owner’s ability to create positive returns by improving properties.  So guess what?  They don’t.

So crappy properties stay crappy … because the incentive to improve them is removed.

And as nicer properties deteriorate, there’s not much incentive to maintain them above the bare minimum.

With profit potential capped on the revenue side … and no cap on the fixed expense side …

… as margins get squeezed, property owners have no choice but to cut services and defer maintenance.

So rent control makes both landlords and properties cheap.  In a bad way.

And because there’s always more people on the low-end of the economic scale (part of the reason Oregon is doing this) …

… there will always be a line of people waiting to get into these “affordable” rentals … even though they’re crappy.

And with little market pressure on landlords to compete for tenants, there’s even less incentive to improve properties, add services and amenities, or lower rents.

But it gets “better” … or actually worse …

As property values decline … or stagnate relative to rising costs of labor and materials … incentives for developers to build new inventory declines too.

Rising values are what attract developers to create more supply … which is the answer to moderating rising values.

Yes, it’s sad when marginal tenants’ incomes don’t grow as fast as rents … or other inflating necessities.

But capping the property’s growth doesn’t pull the tenants up.  It pulls the properties down.

It’s a bad scene. That’s why nearly every investor we know stays away from rent control areas.

But it’s also important to consider WHY this is happening …

The Fed dropped interest rates to zero for nearly a decade, then pumped trillions of dollars into the financial system … primarily to inflate asset values (stocks, bonds, real estate).

It worked … at least for some people.

Those paying attention, with both resources and financial education … snapped up the money, rode the equity train, and got much richer.

You might be one of them … or hope to join them.  We hope you succeed.

You can’t blame people for playing the game using the rules and circumstances in their own best interests. But politicians do.

But the real issue is the financial policy wizards thought these now richer folks would then spend the money … and build businesses … and prosperity would trickle down to Joe six-pack and Larry lunch-bucket. 

In many ways, it worked.  The problem is the wealth didn’t allocate very evenly.  It never does.

Certain markets got a disproportionate share of the goodies. 

And even though Oregon wasn’t really on the list … it was nearby … and so became a collateral beneficiary /victim.

Lots of cheap money ended up in tech stocks, which blew up real estate values in tech hubs like Seattle and Silicon Valley.

As prices shot up, folks in those uber high-priced markets got pushed off the back of the bus … and gravitated to nearby “affordable” places like Oregon, Nevada, and Arizona.

Of course, the folks already in those nearby affordable areas end up competing with the new people who see everything as cheap … and easily bid things up.

It’s a regional variation of gentrification … with its roots in paper asset bubbles blown up by cheap stimulus money.

But politicians are notoriously myopic when it comes to “fixing” things … especially financial problems.

As Peter Schiff says, “Good economics is bad politics, and good politics is bad economics.  That’s why you always get bad economics from politicians.”

Sadly, there are signs it could get worse as politicians try to contain the consequences of an over-financialized economy.

So even though we tout the opportunity to invest in affordable areas ahead of the crowds, it’s REALLY important to stay aware of the political climate.

If you bought into Oregon ahead of the migration …

… you’re now the proud owner of a property where the state government views you more as a public utility to be regulated than a free entrepreneur to be incentivized.

So you’ll either need to get out while the getting’s good … or not as bad as it could get … or start brushing up on your C-class property management skills.

Until next time … good investing.


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Clues In The News – Crisis and Growth Opportunities

Warren Buffet. Also known as the Oracle of Omaha, this investing heavyweight spends a lot of his time doing one particular thing.

It’s not scoping out new investments. Not chatting with folks in the investment industry. Not attending board meetings … although we bet he does spend a bit of time doing all of those things.

This investing genius spends 80 percent of his time reading.

From trade-specific journals to general financial news, reading and listening to the headlines is essential to staying informed. But just as important is reading between the lines.

That’s why we bring you Clues In The News … our take on how recent headlines affect real estate investors like YOU. In this edition, you’ll hear from:

  • Your media examiner host, Robert Helms
  • His (slightly OCD) news peruser co-host, Russell Gray

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Mortgage rates for single-family homes rising

Many articles are saying it … mortgage rates continue to climb and show no signs of stopping soon. Note, this information applies specifically to single-family homes.

This is important news … but before you react, stop and ask yourself the question, “If interest rates were guaranteed to rise, what would I do?”

The answer is probably buy a deal that makes sense today and lock in the interest rate so you get a competitive advantage.

Data from this Redfin survey shows less than 4 percent of potential homebuyers would cancel their decision to buy if interest rates increased … so people will keep buying even if it squeezes their bottom line.

But buying at a too-high interest rate means high cost inputs, higher rents, and potentially more vacancies. Getting in while the interest rate is lower is an important factor for success.

We also suggest you consider the advantages of adjustable-rate mortgages versus fixed-rate mortgages. Adjustable-rate mortgages may start lower depending on the market, but have no certainty of staying the same.

Fixed-rate mortgages, on the other hand, allow you to lock in a predictable rate that won’t rise or fall with the market. And when you’re locked into a rate for 10-15 years, having consistency is particularly important.

An equal concern is the strength of the dollar. If rents are sliding upwards faster than wages, your tenants are in trouble.

That’s why investing in A-class properties can be a poor strategy (more on that later).

Tighter guidelines plus higher mortgage rates can mean good things for landlords because fewer people are buying their own homes. So pay attention and think strategically … because a large part of success is getting in at the right time.

Is the multifamily sector overheated?

Multifamily properties have attracted a lot of money. We’re now hearing from many investors who wonder whether the sector is overheated.

Interest rates are rising, and since multifamily properties typically have 10-15 year loan periods, investors do need to be careful here.

If you’re a multifamily investor, you also need to keep in mind that rising interest rates not only affect you … they affect your tenants too.

According to a CNBC article, half of all renter households pay more than 30 percent of their income in rent. That means there’s no real wiggle room for inflation … and no real wiggle room if YOU need to raise rents.

One apartment developer interviewed in the article above says, “There is an acute crisis headed our way.” We can see this in the high numbers of luxury apartments being developed … and then standing empty.

At the same time, we’re seeing a shortage in B- and C-class housing.

Because of today’s costs, it’s difficult for developers to build new buildings for non-luxury buyers. And Wall Street investors see luxury as a safer investment … even though it typically brings 2-3 percent yields.

If you’re a syndicator, all of this information can help you understand the economic world you’re operating in. A development explosion in the high-end apartment space DOES NOT mean you should be investing in that space.

This information should be the start of your research. Read between the lines, look for the wise voices, and start following them … but mostly importantly, talk to the people who have boots on the ground.

And remember, just because the economy looks bad does not mean investment options are bad. In fact, a downturn can be the best time to buy.

What’s happening on Wall Street?

We like to read trade-specific news. But we also think it’s important to read and watch mainstream financial news because that’s what everyone else is seeing.

The difference, though, is that we always attempt to delve into what’s beneath the headlines.

An article published by Bloomberg notes that Wall Street investors are beginning to snap up cheaper single-family properties they had formerly ignored.

After focusing on a particular niche … “safer” luxury-class homes and apartments … Wall Street is now lowering expectations.

Realize that what Wall Street investors are essentially doing is speculation.

They’re trying to “buy low, sell high” without investing the time and effort to research their product and control outcomes the way real estate investors can do.

But Wall Street’s foray into single-family homes affects YOU … because sourcing inventory is harder when there are more hands in the game.

It is possible to get in front of Wall Street investors … in fact, Wall Street by nature is essentially following in the steps of smart real estate investors.

But now you know what the big players are doing … and you can think about where you can step in before the market becomes saturated.

All it takes to spot the right clues is a bit of attention.

How does the tech industry affect investors?

The retail apocalypse has caused a huge shift in the industrial and office space. Products are being sold online … instead of in buildings.

But the industry behind this shift can bring boons to real estate investors.

According to the National Real Estate Investor, tech firms continue to seek out new markets for expansion.

Expanding tech companies bring huge job numbers wherever they go … and with jobs comes a need for housing.

Other markets, like office and retail space, are also impacted directly and indirectly with population and industry shifts.

To get ahead of the game, look at what factors make a market appealing to tech CEOs. A great example is Amazon’s list of market criteria, although each company will seek out different qualities.

A tech hub creates critical mass. Tech companies not only create tech jobs, but attract and are attracted to various other industries, like airlines and shipping companies.

As you pay attention and understand where businesses are growing, your ability to align yourself strategically with market shifts and new hot spots will improve dramatically.

The headlines in this episode of Clues In The News bring both challenges and opportunities. Now it’s your turn … get out there, do some research, and start reading between the lines! It’s the only way to get ahead of the game.


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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.

Clues in the News – Housing Sales, Home Improvement and Foreign Investors

Every real estate investor is afloat in a vast economic sea. As an investor, it’s easy to believe you’re on stable ground … only to wake up and find you’ve drifted far from your goals.

We believe SMART real estate investors (you!) have to act a bit like ocean biologists … tracking the winds, noting the undercurrents, and keeping detailed observations of the environments you find yourself inhabiting.

One way to take your notes is to read the news. And in this edition of Clues in the News, we bring the news to you! Listen in to hear from:

  • Your economic sea biologist host, Robert Helms
  • His lowly research assistant, Russell Gray

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Slumps in home sales, builder confidence

This is a trend we’ve been observing for a while … existing home sales are decreasing. In June, they dropped 1.8% to the second lowest level this year.

If we stopped right there, you might think the economy is in trouble because people aren’t buying houses. But let’s take a closer look.

While sales of homes overall are dropping, the median home price in June was $263,800 … 6.5% higher than the same time last year.

All housing types aren’t equal. While prices are rising for houses in the 250k+ category, they’re falling for homes under 100k.

Just further evidence, like Robert Kiyosaki says, that the rich are getting richer while the poor are getting poorer.

The article linked above quotes Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, who says, “The demand for buying a home is as strong as it has been since before the Great Recession.”

So why are home sales dropping?

Many factors could contribute to a slow market … the growing number of millennials with high debt and inadequate income, for example. And the flux of institutional investors entering the real estate market.

Severe housing shortages are also leaving folks on the sidelines.

While the average median home price has risen, the median price of a new home has dropped by 3%.

Homebuilder confidence in recent months has reached record lows … leaving buyers hoping for a new home in the lurch.

If you look at the stock market, it would be easy to believe everything is peachy. But look at homebuilders … and you’ll see an indicator that not everyone has a bright outlook right now.

Fewer new homes, more home improvement

Speaking of homebuilders, housing inventory is at a 30-year low.

This while home prices have risen to pre-crisis levels in most markets (and far higher in a select few).

It’s a conundrum. Why are homebuilders moving at a snail’s pace? Why is homebuilder confidence so low?

Take a look at capital markets, and you’ll get a partial answer … real estate is heavily dependent on financing, and while the markets may have recovered from 2008’s recession, banks are still wary about giving loans.

In addition, 78% of homebuilders complain that labor shortages are their No. 1 concern.

Reliable, skilled labor is difficult to find. One reason? Construction workers found different careers during and after the recession … then never returned to the home-building business.

In lieu of buying new homes, homeowners are instead spending record sums on home improvements.

According to an article in the Wall Street Journal, “A shortage of new single-family homes across the U.S. is pushing up prices and locking many buyers out of the market.”

Note the certainty in that statement? Reporters are quick to assign cause and effect.

It’s your job to look at the bigger picture and see what’s going on. Then reexamine the conclusions made in the news … and draw your own.

Sales to foreigners up, buyers and sellers struggle outside U.S.

While home sales overall are down, Forbes reports that foreign investments in U.S. properties have skyrocketed recently. Sales to foreigners are up 49% over last year.

If you’re a U.S. investor familiar with the current political situation, you may be wondering what these investors are thinking.

But think about it … the U.S. has strong property rights, lots of renters, a relatively stable government, and strong infrastructure.

Buyers from China and Canada want to move their cash to a place where they see a better long-term future … and the U.S. fits the bill.

Speaking of Canada, a model produced by Better Dwelling predicts that Canadian home prices still have farther to fall.

Canadian real estate markets started crashing when the Canadian government made policy changes that hinder foreign investment.

It’s a lesson for investors to look at both the economics and the politics of a situation … then align themselves financially to policy decisions for the smartest payoffs.

You also need to be aware of the data … and what that means in terms of rising trends. While the Canadian housing market is struggling, lonely urban centers are predicted to be the next big real estate trend in the country.

While our friends across the border are seeing home prices fall drastically, our friends across the pond are seeing a dearth of affordable housing. 

An article we found recommends the London government lower tax rates for new homeowners and suggests 100% mortgages as another option.

The alternative is that London will see a “brain drain” as young workers unable to find affordable housing move outside of London.

This is a problem in the U.S. too, as large companies seek to find locations where workers can afford decent housing and quality-of-life measures are high.

The good thing about problems? (And there is a good thing.) If you’re creative, a problem is only an opportunity to create a solution.

Businesses and people need good places to live. Real estate markets have the opportunity to create them.

Homelessness and hedge fund managers

A recent article in Bloomberg listed the cities where rent hikes leave the most people homeless.

The bottom line is markets with less slack see more homelessness. The message for you? Slack is good.

It’s crucial for you to dig into your local market and figure out the dynamics driving outcomes. Many things can put a squeeze on your bottom line … make sure you’re aware of current and potential trends in demographics, jobs, and the local economy.

Winning markets don’t require a good economy to stay viable. They allow you to stay profitable even when factors change and be the recipient of demand when other markets are struggling to keep prices down and renters happy.

Remember, when you invest in the rental marketplace, you’re getting into a long-term contract. But a stable one.

Stability is probably one of the big reasons hedge fund managers and other wealthy investors are making a break for real estate.

They see the opportunity for a safe haven … but most don’t want to get their hands dirty. If you do, you may find doors opening for you.

Tune in to our next episode to hear an amazing guest make his case for entrepreneurship.

Until then, go out and make some equity happen!


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.

Clues in the News – Market Peaks, Credit Scores, and Student Loans

This edition of Clues in the News is coming to you from Bozeman, Montana, where we just wrapped up an insightful weekend at the Red Pill Expo with thought-provoking author G. Edward Griffin and other amazing speakers.

Perhaps the mention of this conference provokes skepticism. Why attend, you ask?

We’ve learned that as real estate investors, it’s crucial to examine information from all sides instead of taking a single account at face value.

That’s why we found the expo so exciting. It’s also why we read the news every day … and then examine it with a critical eye to see what lies between the lines.

In this all-new edition of Clues in the News you’ll hear from:

  • Your at-the-helm host, Robert Helms
  • His (tired of being kicked in the side!) sidekick, Russell Gray

Listen




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The rise (and fall?) of short-term vacation rentals

We find it helpful to look at the real estate investing world from both a big-picture perspective and a smaller local perspective. Often, local news gives us helpful insight into currents running underneath the big waves that make national headlines.

That’s why we took a look a Bozeman’s local newspaper, the Bozeman Daily Chronicle, where we found an interesting article about short-term vacation rentals.

Short-term rentals are a craze that has been sweeping across the nation over the past couple years … and local governments have responded in various ways as these rentals have risen in popularity.

Although Bozeman isn’t a large town, many residents and businesses are concerned about this issue.

Why? Well, think about who’s threatened by rentals offered through companies like Airbnb. Hotels.

A pragmatic investor or businessperson is aware they may meet resistance to their business model … and that’s what’s happening in Bozeman.

Companies threatened by these smaller rentals are taking the issue to local politicians … who are backing them up.

Think about it … who has a bigger influence on local economics, and thus a bigger say in local politics? The one-property Airbnb owner, or the hotel operator?

Investing is more than just making deals. An important piece of being a successful investor is being aware of the local political environment, including tenant-landlord laws and local issues that may affect you.

The lesson? It’s great to be optimistic and hope for sunny skies, but always pack an umbrella in case you run into rain (or resistance).

Market peaks continue to soar higher

When we took a step back and zoomed out to see the nation as a whole, we noticed a trend we’ve been seeing for a while … escalating home prices across the board.

Although home prices continue to rise, there’s a lot of variation in different markets. A close look at the data in Harvard’s Annual Housing Report tells us that while home prices in the 10 most expensive metro areas have risen a whopping 63% since 2000, while prices in the 10 cheapest areas have grown by only 3%.

That’s a big difference!

We think it’s important to dig deeper and find the over-performers. Looking at information at the macro level is great … but it’s up to you to take that information and move toward the micro.

Look at the nation … then examine your specific town. You may find surprising disparities, even between different neighborhoods in one city!

We zoomed out even further to see if the housing boom was a U.S.-only trend and found an article from an Irish newspaper that stated the average cost of buying a house was €338,000 (about $384,000).

That amount is nine times the average Irish salary!

Big, overheated markets aren’t a problem specific to America. They’re a worldwide trend.

As this trend becomes more obvious, journalists are taking note and coming up with their own interpretations of the data to satisfy the curious public.

We find it helpful to remember news isn’t hard data, and it isn’t the answer … it’s really the question.

The news gives you a starting place to ask yourself: Does this topic affect me? And what does this article really mean? How can I dig deeper?

We went through this process with a CBS article that contained advice for home buyers in the current market.

Many of the article’s statements were simply the opinion of the journalist. And although the journalist offered some helpful advice, we often find professional journalists don’t have the buy-in to catch some of the most important dynamics active in the marketplace.

That’s why as an astute investor, YOU have to be prudent and pay attention.

Rising home prices may mean it’s time for you to take some chips off the table. Depending on trends in income versus rent prices and other numbers, they may mean something else.

Either way, it’s up to you to do the math!

The cost of renting versus buying

If you’re a landlord, you know it may not make sense to buy rental properties in areas where tenants can afford to buy homes.

We found this infographic eye-opening. Although it only cites average numbers, it’s obvious that today buying a home is more affordable compared to renting than it ever has been.

What does that mean for you? It means you have to watch your numbers.

Analyze your own tenant base. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • What is the income-to-price ratio?
  • How affordable is your housing for your tenants?
  • Do you have tenants with high credit scores who will be able to get easy loans?
  • Do you have a competitive advantage over other housing options?

The overall idea is to find tenants that have income durability, but won’t skip when they can buy a house. One option is to invest in rent-to-own properties.

Finding that balance can be tricky, but if you’re paying careful attention to your numbers, it’s doable.

Rising mortgage rates and plummeting credit scores

Credit rates affect new homebuyers’ abilities to get loans and buy houses. In a recent article, we read that for every increase in mortgage rates, credit scores go down.

As real estate investors, we always want to understand the ratios of mortgage rates and interest rates.

We have no control over these rates … but they definitely affect what we do as investors.

So what do these changing numbers mean? Is there any correlation? We don’t necessarily think so.

What we do know is when lenders lower barriers to entry by decreasing the credit score required to get a loan or nudging the required debt-to-income ratio, it can be a warning sign credit markets are starting to get desperate.

When you start to see lenders giving borrowers up to 50% of their income, that’s when you know something problematic is happening.

A dimming outlook for brick-and-mortar retail stores

We’ll look at this next issue with the assumption that with the rise of mega-sized online retailers (think Amazon), retail is not the greatest place to be right now.

With this dimming retail outlook comes a push for shorter leases.

When retail tenants consider their options, they ask themselves a basic question: Do I pick a longer lease for more stability, or a shorter lease I can get out of sooner?

The trade-off of choosing a longer lease is that the landlord decides what the future 5-10 years will look like in terms of rate increases, even if those don’t match up to reality.

Retail tenants also have to consider how the location they choose will drive traffic.

If big-box stores pull out, can smaller retailers expect the same regular traffic? Uncertain about the future of these stores, more smaller retailers are pushing for shorter lease terms.

If you’re not in the retail business, you may be wondering how this affects your residential properties. Ask yourself, How many of my residents work at these stores? What will happen when local retailers shut down and my residents are out of work?

Big sea changes for retailers can also mean big changes for you. Retailers typically choose to close stores in places that are weak for core drivers. If you have a tenant demographic similar to the store’s shopper demographic, it may be insightful to look at where stores are shutting down, and why.

As an outsider, you’re not privy to why the big dogs do what they do, but you can observe what they’re doing and come to your own conclusions.

New options for homebuyers with student debt

We all know student debt is increasingly becoming a bigger issue amongst millennials.

This younger generation often forgoes buying homes due to high amounts of student debt.

An article in the Wall Street Journal reported on a new option backed by Fannie Mae that allows homebuyers with student debt to refinance and convert their student loan debt to housing debt.

This program gives younger buyers collateral … and may make them more likely to choose to buy a home.

The program could also drive home pricing in your area, depending on the makeup of the local population.

If you don’t have student debt, this program may not seem relevant … until you stop to consider the bigger picture.

That’s it for now until next week, when we talk about a major disruption in real estate markets!


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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