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!


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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Cypress, TX Market Report

Cypress, TX Market Report

 

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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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Tracking trends and making smart moves …

The winds of change are swirling like a tornado … even if they’re outside your personal horizon at the moment.

That’s why we stay up on the lookout perch … watching for clues in the news and shouting out what we see … so you have time to make smart moves.

A couple of things popped up that we think are noteworthy for real estate investors …

Private Equity is Moving in on Single-Family Rentals – NREI Online 2/4/19

“In the past, individual investors owned more than 80 percent of single-family rentals. Since then, the number has fallen significantly.”

“…individual landlords have been increasingly marginalized by big institutional investors.”

“When banks started to foreclose on mortgages, institutional investors swooped in, leaving individual landlords with new, outsized competition.

If you’re an active Main Street individual investor, you know inventory is hard to find in major markets … and it’s even harder to make the numbers work.

Of course, the article’s author runs a crowdfunding platform, so his implied solution is to join the crowd and invest in a bigger deal.

While we agree with the premise of going bigger, crowdfunding is only a solution for small-time passive investors because of government imposed limits.

So if you’re passive and want to go bigger, you need a better answer.  More on that in a moment.

But if you’re an active investor, then what?

Starting your own crowdfunding platform is a heavy lift.  You need tech, special licensing, and a crowd.  None are cheap or easy.

So how can an active Main Street investor compete, when the big boys are marginalizing the little guy?

You’ll need to find a way to go big and invest outside the box.

For us, that comes in two forms …

First, perhaps the best way for an active Main Street real estate investor to go big is to syndicate private capital.

It’s like crowdfunding … without the crowd or tech.  It’s still work, but doable for a Main Street individual.  In fact, we know MANY are doing it.

And for passive investors who need in on bigger deals without arbitrary limits, and want to be more than just a face in a crowd or number on a spreadsheet …

…. investing in syndicated private placements opens a world of opportunity.

So the synergy between active and passive Main Street investors should be obvious.  That’s why it works.

When it comes to investing outside the box …

… it’s REALLY important to pay attention to developing trends … and then paddle quickly and get in position to catch a wave.

For example, there’s a huge demographic wave known as the baby boomers.

You’ve probably heard of it. 😉

Boomers are getting old.  So real estate niches that cater to seniors is a hot sector … in both residential and commercial.

If you’re a passive investor, you can invest in a senior housing REIT, a crowdfunded big box project, or a privately syndicated residential facility.

They each have pros and cons.

But right now, margins on residential facilities are pretty fat.  That’s because the big boys are playing at the big box level … for now.

When we speak at Gene Guarino’s Residential Assisted Living Academy training, we point out … big money won’t ignore fat profits forever.

Big money’s already moving aggressively into single-family homes … bidding prices up and squeezing out late-to-the party individual investors.

Those who saw the big boys coming and paddled into place early are riding a nice equity wave.

This could easily happen with residential assisted living.  So it’s a bit of a land grab right now.  The good news is there’s .

That’s just one way to invest outside the box.

Another is to pay attention to economic trends and migration patterns.

Think about it …

As big players gobble up inventory in major markets, smaller investors … and eventually big money … will migrate outside the box into secondary markets.

For example, though Dallas is still a solid single-family market … deals are few and far between.

It wasn’t always that way.  When we started going to Dallas 10 years ago, it was the front end of a real estate boom that’s been GREAT for early adopters.

Today, markets like Kansas CitySalt Lake City and Cleveland are on our radar … each for a different reason, but they’re variations on a theme.

These markets have affordable price points with strong cash flows for investors.

They’re also attractive to Millennials (another important demographic to watch) who’ve been priced out of primary markets.

But it’s not just the young and cash-strapped who move for financial reasons.

There’s another important economic trend we’re watching closely, and it’s alluded to in this Washington Examiner article …

Cuomo’s woe: More taxation means more out-migration

Caution:  This is an opinion piece and you may not agree.

But the point is high-earners are leaving New York to escape high taxes they can no longer deduct from their federal tax bill.

This Bloomberg article elaborates …

Cuomo Blames Trump Tax Plan for Reduced New York Tax Collections

“Governor says wealthy New Yorkers are giving up residences …”

“…leaving for second homes in Florida and other states …” 

Once again, these trends are easy to see coming, watch develop, and then act on … BEFORE they pick up a lot of steam.

We’ve been excited about Florida for some time … and this whole tax thing just makes it better … especially for nicer properties.

So here’s the point …

We got a HUGE wake-up call in 2008 … and it wasn’t any fun.  But those lessons help us see trends and opportunities early instead of late.

The key is to pay close attention to clues in the news …

 … then get around REALLY smart people who can help you understand what you’re seeing … so you can act decisively.

Because if all you are is aware, but you don’t act … you might as well watch game shows.

But when you see a trend and have the right relationships, you can identity opportunities and take effective action quickly.

Everyone’s smart in hindsight.  But can you see the future?

Until next time … good investing!


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


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Out of control debt is a problem … and an opportunity

Debt is a lot like religion and politics.  People have strong opinions … so it’s risky to talk about it in a group setting.

But we’re going to do it anyway … because there’s more debt in the world than ever before.  And it has big potential ramifications for real estate investors.

Most real estate investors use debt.  Some because they need to … others because they want to.

Consumer finance gurus hate debt.  They say cut up your credit cards, pay down your mortgage, drive an old car, and brown bag your lunch.

On the other hand, Robert Kiyosaki (the greatest-selling personal finance author in history) LOVES debt …

… but he makes an important distinction between “good” debt and “bad” debt.

“Bad” debt is used for non-productive purposes, and payments come from the earnings of the borrower. 

When you borrow more than you can service and eventually pay off, the debt first enslaves you … then bankrupts you.

That’s bad.  And it can happen to people, businesses, and countries.

“Good” debt is invested for productive purposes … creating income and capital gains exceeding the interest expense.  Good debt is profitable.

And when the payments come from the investment itself … the loan is essentially free, the return is infinite, and the debt goes from good to GREAT!

The topic of debt popped up when ex-Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz announced he may run for President.

His pet worry?   According to this Time.com article

‘‘… the fact that the United States is $20 trillion in debt…” 

Actually, it’s closer to $22 trillion.  But who’s counting? 

It seems Schultz thinks the MAIN problem is Uncle Sam’s debt … and presumably he can fix it.

Maybe.  But we’ve seen dozens of politicians over the decades … both winners and losers … all warn about the national debt.

But no matter what combination of colors end up in control … one thing is SURE.  The debt grows … and grows … and GROWS.

So even if Schultz runs and wins, he’ll probably be the same as Donald Trump, who’s no different than Barack Obama, who was no different than Ronald Reagan.

There.  That should have offended pretty much everyone … so now we’re all on a level playing field.

But this isn’t about politics or personal preferences. 

The whole point is to cut through the noise and look at the structural realities so we can make better investing decisions.

Here’s the dirty little secret … the entire system is debt

When currency is borrowed into existence (which is how it works), then it can’t be paid back WITH interest … unless you borrow even MORE currency into existence to pay the interest too.

It’s an infinite loop of ever-expanding debt.  It’s not political.  It’s STRUCTURAL.

Like water in an aquarium, you can swim from one end to the other, hide under a rock or behind a plant, lurk in the depths, or float at the top. 

But no matter where you go or how you’re positioned, you’re ALWAYS in the water.  If you jump out, you suffocate.

Even if you personally manage to become “debt free” … your government goes into debt for you … then uses taxes and inflation to force you to debt service.

Depressed?  Don’t be. 

But that red pill reality check is the first step towards “confronting the brutal facts” … a pre-requisite to making better, more pragmatic decisions. 

Robert Kiysosaki understands the financial system is based on perpetual, growing debt.  You can’t effectively escape it.

In fact, on our 2012 Investor Summit at Sea™ …  after G. Edward Griffin (The Creature from Jekyll Island)  explained the debt-driven nature of the Federal Reserve system …

… Kiyosaki said, “Don’t fight the Fed.  BE the Fed.”

That’s a LOT of paradigm shattering brilliance all distilled into two short sentences.

But it begs the question … HOW?

Debt. 

The Fed uses debt to create currency and so can you.  The key is to use GOOD debt … and stay keenly aware of where you are in the “cycle.”

Consider this truism …

“If something cannot go on forever, it will stop.” 

 – Herbert Stein 

Debt can only grow safely if it can be serviced.  When payments are missed, then debts default, credit market seize, and asset prices plunge.

That’s what happened in 2008.  And it was GOOD … at least for those who saw it coming (or listened to them) and were properly positioned.

For investors, crashes are like sales.  You can stock up on quality assets … IF you’re emotionally, intellectually, and financially prepared to act quickly.

Good debt is the tool of choice for extracting equity while it’s available … and having it liquid for the next inevitable shopping spree.

And real estate is the collateral of choice …

… because the cash flows, large loan limits, tax breaks, favorable interest rates and amortization schedules make real estate debt the best good debt available.

Plus, you’re double-hedged against inflation because you have both a real asset AND long-term debt.

That’s important because …

Out-of-control debt virtually assures currency debasement.

That’s wonky talk for inflation. It takes more paper money to buy the same real things.

The sooner you “get real” with real estate, commodities, energy … the better you avoid the inflation tax.  Of course, real estate and oil also help avoid income tax too!

And one last thing …

(thanks to our Peak Prosperity pals Chris Martenson and Adam Taggart for enlightening us)

Economic activity requires resources.  Try making a product without raw materials or energy.  It ranges from not easy to impossible.

Debt requires payments … which come from profits … which come from productivity … which requires resources.

Growing debt requires growing supplies of resources.

But if supplies are limited, then growing demand will inevitably bid UP the prices of those resources.

And those who own, produce, process, and distribute those resources … and along with those who invest in the communities those folks live in … will be enriched.

There’s a reason we pay attention to precious metals, energy, farmland … in addition to our fascination with everyday real estate.

Real assets help build a resilient portfolio … even in the midst of a debt-fueled slow-motion train wreck. 

So go ahead and cheer your for your favorite politician.  Watch the Super Bowl, too.  They’re both cheap entertainment.

But remember to confront the brutal flaws of a debt-based system and then structure yourself accordingly.

Until next time … good investing!


More From The Real Estate Guys™…

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What this legendary real estate investor is buying NOW …

Even though most of us will never become billionaires, it’s sure fun trying.

But if we want to have a chance of making it BIG, it’s probably smart to watch and listen to those who’ve actually done it.

After all, as Tony Robbins says, “Success leaves clues.”

To which the Godfather of Real Estate, Bob Helms, adds … “You don’t need to give natural childbirth to a good idea … you can adopt!”

So when multi-billionaire real estate investor Sam Zell has something to say, we pay attention and take notes.

In a recent appearance on Bloomberg News, Zell reveals what he’s doing right now and why.  It’s a short clip, and you can watch it here.

There are some great pearls of wisdom to glean … and if you’ve been followingThe Real Estate Guys™ for a while, some of them will sound familiar.

But that’s not because we’re super smart.  It’s more because we’re well- informed from spending quality time with lots of really smart people.

Sam Zell is buying gold … for the first time in his life.

We think that’s REALLY interesting.

Of course, we’ve been following gold for quite some time … for a lot of reasons.

So while it’s interesting that Zell is buying gold for the very first time in his long and uber-successful investing career … what’s even MORE intriguing is WHY.

In the interview, Zell offers up two reasons.  One is obvious.  The other is more subtle … and leads to some even more subtle lessons.

All this from a guy who wrote a book titled Am I Being Too Subtle?

First, Zell says he’s buying gold because of the supply and demand dynamic.  He overtly states he sees gold supply constrained going forward.

It’s obvious from Zell’s comments that it’s important to understand supply and demand when investing in anything, because …

When supply is low relative to demand, there’s opportunity.

Yes, we realize that’s Investing 101.  But it’s also a GREAT reminder that even at the billionaire level, successful investing is based on basic, timeless concepts.

However, there’s MORE to be gleaned from Zell’s comments about gold …

While he openly explains that he sees the supply being constrained, he onlyimplies his confidence in persistent demand for gold.

 After all, if supply drops … but demand drops too … there’s no imbalance, and therefore, no opportunity.  Zell’s too smart to miss that.

So Zell must see gold demand holding … or increasing.

That means the supply and demand dynamic in gold is SO compelling that billionaire Sam Zell is buying gold for the FIRST time in his EPIC career.

That’s telling in and of itself.  But wait!  There’s more …

In addition to constrained supply combined with persistent and growing demand going forward … Zell must think the opportunity in gold is quite good right now relative to other investment options.

Which begs the question …

What’s different in TODAY’s world to push the prospects for gold so high up Sam Zell’s priority ladder?

After all, he’s been around a LONG time … through stock market crashes, recessions, financial crises.  What’s different NOW that makes gold alluring? 

That’s a topic too big for this commentary … and our limited brains …

… but it will be a hot topic of discussion with gold experts Brien Lundin, Dana Samuelson and Peter Schiff aboard the upcoming Investor Summit at Sea™.

We’re guessing part of the answer is wrapped up in Sam Zell’s second subtle comment …

Sam Zell is buying gold as a “hedge.”

Hmmmm … that’s interesting.   A hedge against what?

Investopedia defines a hedge this way …

“A hedge is an investment to reduce the risk of adverse price movements in an asset. Normally, a hedge consists of taking an offsetting position in a related security.”

Well, THAT’S interesting.

So Zell is using gold to “reduce the risk of adverse price movement in an asset.”

And he apparently considers gold to be highly useful as “an offsetting position in a related security.”

Which begs yet another question …

What asset / related security is Zell worried about … for the first time in his long and illustrious career?

Our guess is it’s the U.S. dollar.  In fact, we’d bet a beer on it.

And there’s one more clue we think bolsters the argument Zell is hedging the dollar …

Zell is bullish on oil.

 Wow.  What a coincidence …  our recent episode on precious metals was immediately followed with an episode on oil and gas.

Maybe Zell’s been listening to The Real Estate Guys™ radio show???

Um, probably not.

More likely, we’re learning a lot from all the smart folks we hang out with and listen to … and we’re starting to think like billionaires.  We hope so.

So why oil?

Also coincidentally … just a week before the Sam Zell interview was published, we published our weekly newsletter and talked about … oil.

So we won’t take time here to explain why we think oil could be a big story going forward.  You can read our thoughts here.

But this Zell interview affirms what we and many of our big-brained pals have been monitoring carefully for several years …

The dollar is under attack … from both internal and external forces.

So anyone who earns, invests, borrows, lends, or denominates net worth in dollars … most likely YOU … should probably take steps to become more aware and better prepared.

After all, if multi-billionaire real estate investor Sam Zell is hedging against the dollar … it’s smart to pay attention and consider doing the same.

Until next time … good investing!

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Preparing for the mega-trends of the next decade …

We realize it’s only the START of 2019 …

But 2019 is the LAST year of the second decade of the 21st century.

And with our annual goal setting workshop coming up this weekend, we’re in the mood for thinking ahead.  Like a decade ahead.

Perhaps you should too …

After all, real estate investing is based on long-term commitments … to markets, to properties, and often to financing.

Right now, there are more than a few reasons to think there are probably some MAJOR shifts coming … things which are important to consider in today’s investing decisions.

Consider this recent headline …

U.S. economy could slip from top spot in 2020 and keep slipping, analysts say – MarketWatch, January 14, 2019

Standard Chartered predicts that China’s GDP will overtake the U.S. next year. What’s more, within another decade, India is pegged to push the U.S. even further down the list

Think about that.

This isn’t some routine wave in an economic cycle.  This is a complete global shift of economic (and probably military) power and influence.

Virtually NO ONE investing today has ever done so in a world where the United States and its almighty dollar aren’t the undisputed dominant economy and currency.

Of course, we’ve been talking for quite some time about preparing for the possibility of the U.S. dollar losing its unique and powerful position as the world’s reserve currency.

There are several internal and external forces working against it, in spite of recent relative strength.

In fact, Russia just dumped all its dollar holdings and traded them for Chinese yuan …

Russia Buys Quarter of World Yuan Reserves in Shift From Dollar – Bloomberg, January 9, 2019

These are both MEGA-trends … major shifts that are gradually taking place over a long period of time.

Back in 2016, Business Insider published an article about four mega-trends that could change the world by 2030 … including the U.S. losing top status.

Of course, we’re only a few years in.   But IF you’re paying attention, you’ve been watching these trends slowly and surely develop.

Most people don’t even see it happening, much less have any understanding of what it might mean to them … or how to prepare.

We think that’s a mistake.

There’s an old investing adage which says, “the trend is your friend.”

In other words, it’s generally a losing proposition to invest against the trend.  It’s just too powerful.  Especially a mega-trend.

Sure, you can be contrarian and buy when others are selling or vice-versa.

But that’s just navigating cycles.  If you get it wrong, you can simply wait it out because time often heals those wounds.

But a mega-trend isn’t a cycle.  It’s a major long-term shift in the landscape.  It fundamentally changes the way the world works.

The gradual erosion of the United States exclusive status is a powerful mega-trend.

Artificial intelligence is another.

In a recent news report, a leading expert predicts AI will displace 40 percent of world’s workers as soon as 2035.

That kind of disruption has the potential to impact economies, political systems, and your real estate investments.

So when thinking about the New Year ahead … we encourage you to start thinking about the next decade as well.  Because big change is on the horizon.

Fortunately, real estate moves slowly … just like a mega-trend.

And because real estate is a permanent and essential part of human existence, there’s likely to be investment opportunity … so long as private property rights survive.

So what might all this mean to YOUR real estate investing?

It’s obviously way too much to unpack in a weekly newsletter, but here’s some food for thought as we approach the 3rd decade of the new millennium …

U.S. real estate could grow in appeal as a preferred wealth preservation haven for foreign investors.

Sure, the U.S. economy and dollar might get knocked out of the top spot.  But the U.S. has a long and stable history of strong private property rights.

The same can’t be said for some these up and coming economies.

However, if the dollar loses reserve status, then dollar-denominated asset prices … along with interest rates … could surge in response to inflation.

So anyone who uses long-term fixed debt to acquire real estate BEFORE it happens could end up a two-time winner.

Rising prices against fixed debt makes equity happen.  We like it.

The key is to pick markets and product types likely to see increased demand if economic conditions become more challenging for working class folks.

Of course, if economic conditions improve then all the better.  But best to prepare for downward pressure.

These are themes we’ve been talking about for years … because the mega-trends driving them have been slowly developing for quite some time.

Be careful not to let routine cycles, political winds, or investing fads blind you to the mega-trends underneath it all.  Mega-trends transcend all those things.

The good news is mega-trends move slowly.

So IF you’re paying attention, you’ll almost always have plenty of time to adjust your position to capture opportunity and mitigate risk.

The even better news is real estate is a tangible, essential asset … with a unique status.  All stakeholders in society have a vested interest in keeping it valuable.

Not all investments can say that.

Of course, all investing involves risk.  But so does NOT investing.

So it’s a matter of  being strategic and taking well-calculated risks … which is why we think it’s critical to keep a keen eye on mega-trends as well as cycles.

When you play off the big picture, it smooths out short-term gyrations which can sucker Pollyanna investors to jump in … or spook skeptical investors into missing out.

That’s why we’re REALLY looking forward to spending a week with our incredible faculty members on our fast-approaching 17th annual Investor Summit at Sea™.

Of course, we hope you’ll join us.

But whether you do or don’t, we encourage you to get together with smart, experienced investors and discuss the way the world is changing …

… and how YOU can best position yourself to survive and thrive as the future unfolds.

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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Oil and Gas for Real Estate Investors

Energy is the key input for all economic activity. And as populations and economies grow worldwide, there’s an increasing demand for energy.

So listen in as we chat with an experienced oil man and discuss the nitty-gritty of investing in oil and gas for profits and tax breaks.

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

  • Your well-oiled host, Robert Helms
  • His slightly creaky co-host, Russell Gray
  • Oil and gas businessman, Bob Burr

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How we got into oil and gas

We’re often asked how we transitioned from real estate to other real assets.

We started studying economics after the ’08 financial crisis. We were looking to see what we could have done … to better survive the crash.

We realized we needed to be more careful about structuring our portfolios so they weren’t vulnerable to the ups and downs of Wall Street.

We also realized the dollar, gold, and oil were all interconnected.

And, we looked at the tax benefits, and realized the tax path leads to oil.

Our guest today is basically the Godfather of Gas and Oil. Bob Burr started out in the gas and oil industry working on rigs as a young man in Louisiana.

“It was my life’s mission to find out the other end of the business,” Bob says.

Well, he’s made it … Bob now has several cumulative decades on the money-making side of the oil and gas industry.

And he’s still at it … technological innovations and new oil discoveries have made the U.S. one of the top places in the world for oil extraction.

Bob’s decades of experience have led him through ups and downs, mistakes and discoveries, and he has come out wiser on the other end. He met us on the Summit at Sea™ … and now he’s here to share his knowledge with YOU.

The tax benefits of oil investing

So … why oil and gas?

“The tax shelter is just tremendous,” Bob says. Oil and gas investing is the only business today where you can put in a dollar and write off 70 to 80 percent of that, whether you win, lose, or come to a draw.

There are risks inherent to investing in the industry, but the federal government makes it much more approachable by subsidizing heavy tax breaks.

“Every time you drill a well, you’re gambling,” Bob says. But since oil drives the economy, Uncle Sam is willing to place some bets.

Bob does a lot of due diligence before he even starts digging to make sure a potential well has a high chance to be profitable for him and his partners.

First, he explores the land and picks out a bunch of prospective sites.

Then, he sends those prospects to a third-party geological team and says, “Kill it.” Really. If the geological team comes back and says no go, Bob moves on.

After the geological team gives the A-OK, Bob does yet another evaluation. His sons do a due diligence inspection to examine specific site issues.

“We’ll have some bad ones regardless, but I’m doing everything to avoid that,”  Bob says.

Oil and gas exploration is a numbers game, but Bob is shaving the odds in his favor. He’s eliminating 90 percent of the bad options … before the drilling starts.

Oil and gas investing is an industry that requires high responsivity to partners.

Because it is a high-risk industry, Bob makes sure he is being attentive to his investment partners’ needs.

“We need to shut up and listen and let them present the facts,” Bob says. If there’s ever a point where he disagrees, he consults with specialists and experts first.

Bob has been in the business a long time. “I would be lying if I never did anything wrong,” he says. “I had to climb the mountain and fall back down, climb the mountain and fall back down.”

But now, “You can’t play any tricks on me,” he declares.

Who gets a cut?

How does oil and gas investing work for everyone involved?

First, there are the land owners. In usual oil and gas terms, the land owner owns the surface and minerals. The oil extractor … that’s Bob … gives the owner a bonus for each acre used, plus royalties … a percentage of the total proceeds.

“You have to look at the economics,” he says, in reference to the royalty rate.

If an oil person is pulling in millions of dollars, the reserve rate … what they take home to investors and their own business … will be less, perhaps closer to 50 percent. For a smaller pull, it’ll probably be closer to 80 percent.

“You have to play every hand differently,” Bob says. There are a lot of variables that affect each situation.

Now, what about the investors?

Becoming a partner to Bob or another oil person requires taking on a lot of risk. But regardless of the outcome, investors still get tax benefits.

Bob says he does turn-key deals on each well, and he takes on the responsibility of figuring out completion costs and risk.

If he runs into problems, he doesn’t go back to his investors to ask for more money, he says … but if there is a chance to drill deeper and get much higher profits, he will sometimes give investors an opportunity to put more money in and play the game.

As for the profits? “I’ve never had one problem having a market for oil at a premium price,” he says.

Bob recently got about $70/barrel for West Texas crude, but he says he can make money at as low as $25/barrel … so there’s a lot of flexibility. Twenty-five is still a good, solid return, he says.

The oil industry is all about developing relationships … after all, we only got to know Bob through the great relationships we form each year at the Summit at Sea™.

“I’m a team with my partners, and I’m the captain of the team,” Bob says. “And I want to score.”

Think you want to learn more about oil and gas investing? You can start your research with Bob’s custom report. And of course, you can meet Bob and other experienced investors at our annual Summit at Sea™!


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!

Seven lessons for better investing …

With less than 7 weeks remaining in 2018, we’re taking a short break from our obsessive-compulsive perusal of the financial news.

Because with an exciting New Year about to begin … full of hope, challenges, and opportunities … it’s a great time to focus on some important fundamentals.

Lesson# 1:  Invest in yourself first and frequently

Think of the amount of money you put into fixing up a property in the hopes of generating a few thousand dollars of profit or cash flow.

How much MORE important are YOUR education, skills, and network over the rest of your career?

For a fraction of what you’ll spend sprucing up just a single property, you can increase your sales skills, gain more strategic clarity, expand your economic education, and grow your professional network.

Any ONE of those things can pay you back 10x or more in just a few years.  Plus, investing in your education and networks sets you up for …

Lesson #2:  Focus on relationships, not transactions

Sure, we understand you need to do deals … to produce profits … so you can pay the bills and keep investing.  But transactions are really just a by-product of great relationships.

When you put the transaction over the relationship, you risk killing the goose that lays the golden eggs.

And remember, every person you know knows MANY more people you don’t.

So even if the person in front of you isn’t ready to do a deal today, someone they know might be.

This is where YOUR education and network come into play …

When you know things other people don’t, but need to … or when you know people other people don’t, but need to …

… YOU have something of great value to enhance a relationship or work through one contact to reach another.

Most people won’t give you a referral if they think you want to sell their referral something.

But they’ll happily connect you if they think you will HELP their referral.  That’s based on trust, which is based on the relationship.

It sounds so easy … and it is.  But for some reason, most people focus on the small value of the transaction and miss the HUGE value of the relationship.

Lesson #3:  Emphasize mission and values

The old adage says, “People don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care.”

It’s true.  But it goes further …

People do business with people and brands they trust.  And when you focus on mission and values, and filter all you say and do through them …

… over time, you’ll create a trustworthy reputation.

Of course, a good, trustworthy reputation will attract more people into your life … and that means more relationships, and ultimately, more deals.

Lesson #4:  Build a business and portfolio that works for YOU … and not vice-versa

We’re old enough to remember when Michael Gerber’s now classic title, The E-Myth, was the hot new business book.

But the timeless lessons are as applicable today as ever.

Too many people … employees, entrepreneurs, and investors … do the “two-step.”

They set out to do whatever they can find to make money based on the belief that if they can just make enough money, THEN they can go do what they REALLY want.

The problem is when you don’t love what you do, either you let off the gas and never really succeed …

… or worse, you lose yourself in service to a business, portfolio and lifestyle you don’t really enjoy.

And then you just hold your breath until the day you can sell it or retire on your investments.

Better to ask yourself EARLY what’s really important to you … how you want to live … what you love to do … and then build a business and/or portfolio around THAT.

It’s a harder problem to solve, but you’ll LOVE the answer when you find it.

Lesson #5:  Develop and maintain a clear vision

We all run around with pictures in our mind. How we see the world … how we see ourselves … what we’re working to accomplish.

The challenge for many is the picture is fuzzy.

It’s like driving in the fog.  You have a sense of direction … but aren’t exactly sure how to get there.

You’re feeling your way … scared to go too fast and miss a turn or fall into a ditch.

Yet some people are taking bold action and moving aggressively through life.

What’s the difference?

Clarity.

Bold action takers can “see” exactly where they’re going, what they’re building, and WHY … and that vision inspires and emboldens them to move towards the goals with enthusiasm and confidence.

We say, “When you have clarity of vision, strategy and tactics become evident.”

So when you’re not sure what to do, focus on your vision.  Just seeing the end from the beginning is often enough to tell you what to do next.

Lesson #6:  Always see the downside

Really?  Doesn’t focusing on the negative create paralysis?

Only for amateurs.  Pros are more afraid of what they DON’T see than what they do … because you can’t avoid or manage risks you aren’t aware of.

Billionaire real estate investor Sam Zell says everyone sees the upside.  That’s what they look for and what motivates them to go for it.

But Zell says his success comes from being able to see the DOWNSIDE too …  and then making plans to mitigate it … even if it means walking away.

Pessimists ONLY see the downside and can’t act.  Optimists only see the upside and hope for the best.

We’re pretty sure hope is not an investment strategy. Be a realist and get good at seeing and managing risk.

Lesson #7:  Always pay attention to cash and cash flow

Profit and net worth are important.   Cash and cash flow are essential.

A business mentor of ours once taught us that cash is like oxygen, while revenue is like water, and profit is like food.

You can survive for a long time without profit … if you have revenue and cash.

You can survive for a little while without revenue … if you have cash.

But run out of cash … and you’ll be dead very soon.

Pre-politician Donald Trump once told us it’s always good to have cash in the downtimes. We say, “Cash Flow controls and Cash Reserves preserve.”

So have some liquidity at all times. Write off the lost opportunity cost on the cash as an insurance premium.

And do NOT count on credit for liquidity. We did that once … and it didn’t end well.  Lenders tend to cut off credit when you need it the most.

Bonus Lesson:  Use firewalls to avoid portfolio contagion

Let’s face it.  Some investments are more risky than others.

But if you don’t have firewalls, then just ONE risky investment can implode your entire portfolio.

You might have a solidly built, cash-flowing portfolio of properties, and a high net worth with good liquidity, and hedges against inflation and deflation.

But just ONE lawsuit, or personal loan guarantee on just ONE risky deal, or pulling money out of performing property or business to feed a loser …

… and EVERYTHING goes … UNLESS you use legal structures, mental discipline, and emotional control to isolate risk.

It’s a bigger topic than we have time for here, but we address it in ourIntroduction to Strategic Real Asset Investing webinar.

You can get the webinar as a free bonus when you order the Future of Money and Wealth video series … which is a great primer on several risks ALL investors should be paying attention to right now.

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.


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

The mid-term morning after …

If you’re an American, unless you’ve been in a coma or living under a rock, you know the United States just had one of the most energetic mid-term elections in quite some time.

The day after, both sides are disappointed … and both sides are claiming victory.

One of the advantages of being older is we’ve seen this movie before.

In our younger days, when elections didn’t go our way, we thought it was the end of the world.  Today, not so much.

It doesn’t mean we don’t care.  We do.  And certainly, politicians and their policies have a direct impact on our Main Street investing.

But it’s in times like these we’re reminded of the beautiful, boring stability of real estate.

Because while all the post-election drama and speculation plays out, people still get up and go to work and pay their rent.

And though the Trump-train just got slowed … like Barack Obama before him, big chunks of his agenda got pushed through early … and are likely here to stay for a while.

In other words, it doesn’t look like Obamacare or the Trump tax reform will be repealed any time soon.

More importantly, investors of all stripes … paper and real … now know what the lay of the land is for the next two years.

Early indications (based on the all-green dashboard of Wall Street) reveal there’s cash on the sidelines waiting to see what happened … and now that gridlock is the answer… money is pouring into everything.

We know that sounds counter-intuitive.  But while political activists push change … too much change too fast makes money nervous.

Investors and entrepreneurs need to make decisions about long-term risk and reward.  And when the world is changing too fast, those decisions are harder to make.

Way back in the lead-up to the 2010 mid-terms, we penned this piece about a concept we call “healthy tension.”  Just change the team colors and it’s just as applicable today as it was back then.

The point is that money and markets like gridlock.

At this point, from an investing perspective, it doesn’t really matter if any of us like or dislike what happened … politically.  It’s done.

Now we all just need to decide what it means to us and how to move forward … because life goes on.

So bringing it all back to Main Street …

We’re guessing all the great Trump-tax reform benefits for real estate investors… from bonus depreciation to Opportunity Zones … are here to stay.

And as we said just a week ago …  there’s probably a lot more money headed into real estate.  Nothing about this election appears to change that.

So gridlock inside the beltway means stability on Main Street.

Sure, it might be a little boring.  But real estate investors are used to boring.  And when it comes to long-term wealth building … boring is good.

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.


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

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