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.