Don’t get lost in the lag …

Investors and economists often talk about cycles … business cycles, credit cycles, even news and legislative cycles.

Cycles are the ebb and flow of causes and effects sloshing around in the economic sea we all swim in.  They’re big picture stuff.

For nose-to-the-grindstone Main Street real estate investors, cycles are barely interesting, seemingly irrelevant, and mostly boring.

But a danger for Main Streeters is not seeing something dangerous developing on the horizon.  Another danger is getting lost in the lag.

The lag is the gap between when a “cause” happens and when the “effect” shows up.

For example, in a typical supply-and-demand cycle, a shortage of homes could cause prices to spike.    The effect of the supply-demand imbalance is higher prices, which in turn becomes a new cause.

Rising prices causes builders to increase production … and existing property owners to put their homes on the market … thereby increasing supply.

As supply grows, price escalation slows. If supply overshoots demand, prices might actually fall.  If you’re structured for only rising prices, you might have a problem.

Of course, there are other factors affecting pricing such as interest rates, wage growth, taxes, labor and material costs, availability of developable land, and on and on.

But our point is … an amateur investor often doesn’t see the cause for price escalation (or anything else) until the effect happens.

Once prices rise, they jump in to ride the wave … believing prices will go up tomorrow because they went up yesterday …  and their speculation only adds to the demand and fuels the fire.

At least for a while …

What’s often overlooked is the production pipeline … until the supply shows up and softens pricing.  Near-sighted investors often get lost in the lag.  They’re not sure where they are in the cycle.

It’s what happened to “GO Zone” investors after Katrina and Bakken investors during the shale boom.

Folks bought in during a boom, not considering the “production lag” … and didn’t structure for a slowdown.  When it happened, they didn’t have a Plan B.

It’s a simple example … and before 2008, that was about as deep as our analysis ran.

But the pain of 2008 opened our eyes … and 10 years later they’re still as wide open as we can keep them … because we know there are cycles as sure as the sun comes up.

That knowledge isn’t bad.  In fact, it’s good.  Because when you see the bigger picture, you also see more opportunity.

So we study history for lessons … current events for clues … and we talk with experts for different perspectives.

It sounds complicated … and maybe it is a little … but it’s like the old kids’ game, Mousetrap.

There’s a lot of fancy machinery hanging over our heads …and it’s just a series of causes and effects.  “A” triggers “B” triggers “C” and so on … until it’s in our faces.

But even at the street level with our nose on the cheese, if we watch the machinery, we can see events unfold and still have time to react appropriately.

So let’s go past a simple supply-and-demand example.

Back in 1999, Uncle Sam decided to “help” wannabe homebuyers get Fannie Mae loans … so the government lowered lending standards and pushed more funds into housing.  It seemed like a nice thing to do.

But at the time, observers cautioned it could lead to financial problems at Fannie Mae … even to the point of failure.  It took nine years (lag) … but that’s exactly what happened.  Fannie Mae eventually failed and needed a bailout.

But before things crashed, it BOOMED … and people made fortunes. We remember those days well.  It was AWESOME … until it wasn’t.

Folks were profitably playing in the housing jumphouse from the time the easy money air pump switched on until the circuit blew.  Lags can be a lot of fun.

Because few understood why the party started and why it might end … most thought the good times would roll forever.  So they were only structured for sunshine.

Oops.

People who urged caution at the height of fun … like Peter Schiff and Robert Kiyosaki … were derided as party-poopers.

Of course, they both did well through the crisis because even in the boom they were aware of the lag and the possibility of a downturn … and were structured accordingly.  Smart.

Now, let’s go beyond supply, demand, and mortgages … and look even further up the machinery …

In late 2000, Congress passed the Commodity Futures Modernization Act of 2000.

Doesn’t sound like it has anything to do with real estate … BUT …

This was the birthplace of unregulated derivatives … like those infamous credit default swaps no one in real estate ever heard of …

… until they destroyed Bear Stearns and Lehman Brothers in 2008, while bringing AIG to the brink of bankruptcy, and nearly crashing the financial system.

This mess got ALL over real estate investors in a big and painful way … even though there was an 8 year lag before it showed up.

Remember, for those 8 years a lot of the money created through derivatives made its way into mortgages and real estate … adding LOTS of air to the jumphouse.

Back then, real estate investors were riding high … just like today’s stock market investors.

And those who only measured the air pressure in the jumphouse … ignoring other gauges … didn’t see the circuits over-heating … until the system failed.

Then the air abruptly stopped, the inflated markets quickly deflated, and the equity-building party turned into a balance-sheet-destroying disaster.

And it happened FAST.

Which bring us to today …

The Atlanta Fed recently raised their GDP forecast for the booming U.S. economy.

Stock indexes are at all-time highs.  Unemployment is low.  The new Fed chair says, “The economy is strong.”

Some say these are the effects of tax cuts and a big spending bill.

Makes sense … because when you measure productivity by spending, when you spend, the numbers move.  Spending, or “fiscal stimulus” is an easy way to goose the economy.

But some are concerned this is a temporary flash fed by debt and deficits.

Others say it’s fiscal stimulus done right … kindling a permanent fire of economic growth and activity.

Could be.  After all, Trump’s a real estate guy, so he understands using debt to build or acquire long-term productive assets.

Real estate investors know better than most that not all debt and spending are the same.

Of course, government, geo-politics, and a national economy are a much different game than New York City real estate development.

And there are certainly some cracks showing in all these strong economic numbers …

A strong U.S. dollar is giving emerging markets fits.  Home buyingbuildingappreciation, and mortgages are all slowing.

We’re not here to prognosticate about what might happen.  Lots of smart people are already doing that, with a wide variety of opinions.

We just keep listening.

Our point today is … there’s a lag between cause and effect smart investors are wise to consider.

When lots of things are changing very fast, as they are right now, some are tempted to sit out and see what happens.  Probably not smart.

After all, the air in the jumphouse could last a while.  No one likes to miss out on all the fun.

But others put on sunglasses, toss the umbrella, and go out and dance in the sunshine … without watching the horizon.  Also not smart.

Dark clouds could be forming in the distance which might quickly turn sunshine into storm.

The best investors we’ve met take a balanced approach … staying alert and nimble while enjoying the sunshine, but not getting lost in the lag.

Changes in economic seasons aren’t the problem.  It’s not seeing them coming and being properly prepared.

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.

This is getting old … and that’s good

Even though there are many interesting economic developments to talk about, we’re going to focus on an oldie, but a goodie … senior housing.

National Real Estate Investor just released their latest Seniors Housing Market Study and the headline hints that opportunity in the niche might be … growing old …

“High construction levels are tempering some of the enthusiasm in the seniors housing sector.” 

Although cautionary, it’s hardly doom and gloom compared to this cheery report from Attom Data Solutions …

Foreclosure Starts Increase in 44 Percent of U.S. Markets in July 2018

Or this one …

One in 10 U.S. Properties Seriously Underwater in Q2 2018

Or this one …

U.S. Median Home Price Appreciation Decelerates in Q2 2018 to Slowest Pace in Two Years

BUT, as we’re fond of pointing out, the flip-side of problems are opportunities.

And because real estate is NOT an asset class any more than “Earth” is an asset class, there are lots of niches, sub-niches, and micro-trends to dig into to find deals.

Besides, every time some casual observer scans a scary headline and walks away, it leaves even more opportunity unclaimed for those willing to look a little closer.

So let’s see what we can glean from these articles …

First, the “underwater” report illustrates the point that real estate can’t be an asset class because even a sector as broad as “housing” behaves very differently in different places …

“… the gap between home equity haves and have-nots persists because home price appreciation is certainly not uniform across local markets or even within local markets.”

As long as this is true, there will always be “haves” and “have-nots.”  We’re not sure about you, but we’d prefer to be “haves.”  So that means picking the RIGHT markets.

Of course, “markets” aren’t just geographic.

A market can be a product type … single-family housing, multi-family, mobile homes, student housing, senior housing, medical, office, retail, resort, and on and on.

A market can also be a price-point.  “Low-income” is different than “work-force,” which is different than “executive,” which is different than “luxury.”

Consider this quote from the “appreciation” report …

“Price-per-square foot appreciation accelerates for homes selling above $1 million.

You get the idea.  As you continue to parse real estate into geographic, demographic, and economic niches, sub-niches and localities, you can uncover hidden opportunity.

This kind of analysis is the “work smarter, not harder” alternative to simply looking at hundreds of properties along with all the other deal-hunters.

So with that backdrop, let’s go back to our lead headline about what’s happening in seniors housing …

“Seniors housing has carved out a larger place in investors’ commercial real estate portfolios due to the compelling demographics and a track record as a steady performer in both up and down market cycles.”

BUT …

“… survey indicates a note of caution creeping in because of how much new supply is coming into the market.” 

First, “hint of caution” isn’t “OMG, the sky is falling” … so that’s good.

We’ll just hit one more quote, then look at how to go sub-niche as a way to mitigate the potential negative consequences of “too much supply.”

“…respondents in this year’s survey remain confident in seniors housing’s stable fundamentals.  A majority are optimistic that both occupancies and rents will continue to increase …”

So clearly, there’s a LOT to like about the senior housing space.

Of course, it’s this very bullishness which attracts new development and increased supply.

HOWEVER, there’s an angle to consider … and the hint is that this article is written to, and about, commercial … largely institutional … investors.

To them, senior housing means big buildings … like those featured in this report from the American Seniors Housing Association.

And remember, when big institutional money is looking for yield, they need big institutional properties to buy or build.

But as our good friend Gene Guarino tells us, there’s a sub-niche of the senior housing niche that’s too small for the big players, but plenty big for Main Street real estate investors …

Residential assisted living homes.

RALs are where you take an existing McMansion in a residential neighborhood, make some modifications, bring in a specialized manager,  and house a small group (8-16) of seniors who need assistance with their daily care.

But unlike a regular boarding house, these things cash-flow like CRAZY.

We won’t get into the mechanics of all that now.  You can learn more here.

Our point is this is RALs are a sub-niche where you can ride a demographic wave (boomers’ parents … and eventually boomers themselves), an economic niche (million-dollar plus homes), a hot niche (seniors housing, and especially assisted living) …

… and avoid the challenge of excessive inventory created by big institutional money.

Think about it …

There’s not yet a practical way for institutional money to come in and build large supplies of residential assisted living facilities.  They can only build “big box” facilities.

If and when they overbuild, it will mean the big box facilities will be forced to lower prices to attract residents from each other.

BUT, the big box operator has a BIG, all-or-nothing facility, meaning it can’t easily reduce room count to match demand. They either own and operate the entire big building or they don’t.  There’s no in between.

So over-supply means they’ll need to cut SERVICES in an attempt to preserve profitability.

Contrast this to a RESIDENTIAL operator …

Let’s say you have six of these houses in an area where the big boxes overbuild.

Will YOU feel the price pressure?  Sure.  At least a little bit.

BUT … remember, the senior resident who ends up living in a big box is often a different customer than the one in a residential assisted living home.

Many will pay a premium to live in a home rather than an institution.

So right out of the gate, your sub-niche of the senior demographic is arguably less price-sensitive, and your residential home is a very different value proposition.

But let’s say you do get squeezed and lose a few residents.  If you can’t replace them with profitable residents, you can always sell one of your six homes … into the single-family home market.

After all, it’s not like you’ve got a 125-bed single-purpose property.  In other words, you have a Plan B exit strategy that feeds into a different niche …. home-owners.

It’s MUCH easier for you to navigate the ramifications of an over-build … so you can ride the hot wave with less risk.

Even better, if the big box operators’ profit margins get squeezed, don’t be surprised if they take notice of your high profit margins and make you an offer.

We could go on, but you get the idea.  There are always niches and sub-niches when you’re willing to dig a little deeper.

So when you read headlines about macro-trends, keep in mind opportunity is often micro … and often requires more thought.

In this case, the cautionary headline about over-building serves as an example of how to ride a macro-trend, while avoiding dangers created when big money overcrowds a space.

Until next time … good investing!


More From The Real Estate Guys™…

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

The dichotomy economy …

Have you noticed a bit of division in the news … over just about EVERYTHING?

As you may know, we obsess on all things economic and how they affect Main Street real estate investors … and try to steer clear of the more divisive topics.

But even the financial news is a polarized collection of confusing banter.

On the one hand, we see reports about low unemploymentGDP growth over 4 percentrising consumer confidence, and record high small business optimism.

That all sounds awesome.

On the other hand, we read about record levels of household debtstagnant real wages, and growing government deficits … at a time when interest rates are rising.

Then there’s the ballooning corporate debtgrossly underfunded pensions even as boomers are retiring at 10,000 plus per day … and the hard-to-understand impact of a strong dollar on pretty much everything.

All that sounds mostly scary.

Sure, you could say it all blends together into a balanced and comfortable investing climate …

But that’s like saying if you have one foot in a bucket of boiling water and the other in a bucket of ice water … on average you’re comfortable.  Probably not.

But before you pull the sheets over your head and hope it all blows over, consider this pearl of wisdom from Atlas Shrugged author, Ayn Rand …

“You can avoid reality, but you cannot avoid the consequences of avoiding reality.”

Of course, we’ll never unpack all this with today’s simple commentary …

… but we hope to encourage you to watch what’s happening, get in conversations with similarly engaged folks, and consider how all these things can and do affect YOU and YOUR investing.  Because they do.

For now, let’s just take a VERY simple investing principle and see if it helps us make sense of this schizophrenic financial world …

Would you borrow money at 2 percent if you could invest it at 4 percent?

 Most investors and businesspeople would.  So on its face, the borrowing isn’t the big problem.  It’s maintaining a positive spread.

This is the world real estate investors live in … borrowing and investing at a positive spread.

Of course, it gets a little trickier when rates are rising.   But the fundamentals of the game remain the same.  When rates rise, you MUST increase earnings, or you lose.

So it’s not just how much you borrow, but what you do with the proceeds.  If you borrow to consume or retire less expensive debt, you’re in trouble.

If you borrow to invest in growth, to acquire higher-yielding assets, to start profitable businesses … debt can be your most valuable tool.

Right now, Uncle Sam is borrowing and spending at a wicked pace.  The multi-trillion-dollar question is whether the borrowing will pay off.

The most recent 10-year Treasury auction saw a record amount of U.S. debt offered and scooped up by investors … at a yield under 3 percent.

(We watch the 10-year because it’s the most correlated to mortgage rates)

So it seems bond investors aren’t overly concerned about Uncle Sam’s debt-levels and capacity to repay with a comparably valued dollar.  For now.

And in spite of the highly touted tax cuts, federal income tax receipts actually GREW nearly 8 percent in the first 10 months of 2018.

BUT … while income is up, deficits and debt are up MORE.

As investors, we understand it sometimes takes time for investments to pay off, so it’s probably not time to judge … yet.

However, this is something we’ll continue to watch carefully.

If the investments pay off, especially in a way that resurrects rust belt markets… there could be some serious real estate investing opportunities on the horizon.

If they don’t, and this is all just a debt-driven faux boom, the end game could be a collapsed currency, ugly recession, and interest rates even the Fed can’t hold down.

Of course, if all the “bad” stuff happens, there’ll be lots of quality assets available at fire-sale prices … for those with enough foresight to liquefy some “boom” equity and keep it at the ready.

Of course, probably the BIGGEST opportunity in either scenario is to have a large network of aware and prepared investors on speed-dial … so you can put together investment funds to ride the wave or pick up the pieces after a crash.

The bottom-line is …

… it’s not external circumstances that primarily control individual success or failure, but rather the individual investor’s awareness, preparedness, and propensity to ACT as circumstances unfold.

How are YOU preparing?

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.

Can you handle the truth?

“You can’t handle the truth!” 

 – Jack Nicholson in A Few Good Men

Neither optimists or pessimists can handle the truth.Optimists refuse to acknowledge the part of reality that’s negative …

… while pessimists can’t see the ever-present opportunities hidden behind the problems.

While we’d rather be optimistic than pessimistic, maybe it’s better to be BOTH.“The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.” 

 – F. Scott Fitzgerald 

Here are some thoughts about risk and opportunity from legendary real estate investor Sam Zell …

People love focusing on the upside.  That’s where the fun is.  What amazes me is how superficially they consider the downside.”  

“For me, the calculation in making a deal starts with the downside.  If I can identify that, then I understand the risk I’m taking.   Can I bear the cost?  Can I survive it?” 

You can only take calculated risks if you look carefully at both the upside AND the downside.

Today, the entire global financial system is largely based on “full faith and credit” … primarily in the United States dollar.

And there’s a gigantic investment industry that’s built on perpetual optimism …and a belief non-stop debt-fueled growth FOREVER is actually possible.

Even worse, the entire financial system’s fundamental structure literally REQUIRES perpetual growth to avoid implosion.

That’s why central banks and governments are COMMITTED to debt and inflation … at almost ANY cost.

But as Simon Black points out in Future of Money and Wealth 

History is CLEAR.  Empires and world reserve currencies don’t last forever.

And irredeemable paper currencies and out-of-control debt ALWAYS end badly … at least for the unaware and unprepared.

Optimists can’t see this.  So they take HUGE risks they don’t even know exist.

Pessimists can’t act.  So they miss out on the HUGE opportunities that are the flip-side of the very problems they obsess over.

Robert Kiyosaki stresses the importance of being REALISTS …

… standing on the edge of the coin, seeing BOTH sides … and then being decisive and confident to ACT in pursuit of opportunities while being keenly aware of the risks. 

We created the Future of Money and Wealth to gather a diverse collection of speakers and panelists together … to examine the good, the bad, and the ugly …

… so YOU can have more context and information to make better investing decisions. 

Chris Martenson opens our eyes to the physical limitations of long-term perpetual exponential growth which depends on unlimited supplies of clearly LIMITED resources.

Of course, as these critical resources dwindle, they’ll become very expensive as too much demand competes for too little supply.

When you see nation’s fighting over scarce resources, it’s a sign of the times.

But of course, there’s OPPORTUNITY hidden inside of crisis.

And to seize the opportunity, you must understand it … or it just sits there like a hidden treasure under your feet.

But it’s not just recognizing trends.  It’s also TIMING.  And being a lot early is much better than being even just a little late.

To beat the crowd, you can’t wait for the crowd to affirm you. 

To get timing right, it’s important YOU know what the signs are.

What does it mean when Russia dumps Treasuries and buys gold?  What caused Bitcoin to sky-rocket in 2017?  Why are there bail-in provisions in U.S. banking laws?

Peter Schiff saw fundamental problems in the financial system back in 2006 … and screamed from the rooftops that the financial system couldn’t support the then red-hot economy.

Few listened … then WHAM!  In 2008, the weakness of the financial SYSTEM was exposed … and MANY people were CRUSHED.

Peter insists the REAL crash is still yet to occur … and everything that made the financial SYSTEM weak in 2006 is MUCH WORSE today.

Yet small business and consumer OPTIMISM is at all-time highs.  The ECONOMY appears to be BOOMING … again.  And Peter’s still screaming out his warnings.

The Fed is RAISING interest rates to cool things down.  But history says EVERY SINGLE TIME the Fed embarks on a rate raising campaign it ends in RECESSION.

In Future of Money and WealthFannie Mae chief economist Doug Duncan reveals when he thinks the next recession is coming … and WHY.  We listen to Doug because he’s got a really good track record.

The 2008 crisis exposed real estate investors to the REALITY that what happens on Wall Street, at the Fed, and in the global economy … can all rain down HARD on Main Street. 

Ignoring it doesn’t make it go away.  And you’ll die of old age waiting for the storm clouds to blow away.

There will ALWAYS be risk.  There will always be OPPORTUNITY. 

It’s not the external circumstances which dictate what YOU get.

It’s really up to YOU … and your ability, like Sam Zell, to see both opportunity and risk, so you can aggressively reach for opportunity while carefully navigating risks.

Education, perspective, information, and thoughtful consideration are all part of the formula.

That’s why we created the Future of Money and Wealth video series.

Future of Money and Wealth features TWENTY videos … over fourteen hours of expert presentations and panels …

… covering the dollar, oil, gold, real estate, crypto-currencies, economics, geo-politics, the new tax law …

… PLUS specific strategies to protect and GROW wealth in the face of potentially foundation-shaking changes to the financial system.

Just ONE great idea can make or save you a fortune. 

Future of Money and Wealth might just be one of the best investments you’ll ever make.

To order immediate access to Future of Money and Wealth … 

Click here now >> 


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.

Appraisals – Find, Negotiate and Fund Better Deals

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder … and in real estate, an appraisal is what gives you the unbiased, third party opinion on a property.

Appraisals happen whenever a lender is involved in a transaction, but that’s not the only time you’ll need or want an appraisal.

We’ll examine the three ways appraisers can evaluate a property, why you shouldn’t accept an appraisal as gospel truth, and how you can use an appraisal to SAVE money on your next deal

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

  • Your valuable host, Robert Helms
  • His admiring co-host, Russell Gray

Listen

 


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Understand what an appraisal is

Nearly everyone who has purchased a property has dealt with an appraiser. In most all cases involving a lender, an appraiser is involved.

A lender is one of several parties interested in the value of a property. The seller, buyer, and lender all have an interest in knowing about value for different reasons.

But, an appraiser has no vested interest in a property’s value, making them the neutral third party. However, even though they are neutral, it’s good to keep in mind that their appraisal is an opinion of value.

While lenders are often interested in an appraisal to check out the value of the home versus the loan, it’s a FANTASTIC tool for investors, too.

Appraisers can determine the value of a property based on future use. Depending on what improvements or changes an investor plans to make, the value of a property changes.

So, why would you need to understand valuation?

  • To secure a loan
  • To evaluate a deal
  • To understand your portfolio’s value

An appraisal doesn’t only happen when evaluating or completing a real estate deal. It’s a way to understand your portfolio and properties at any point along the way.

Decode the jargon

An appraisal has a very specific purpose. Its job is to solve a problem: what is the highest and best use for this? That’s the challenge.

Appraisers in many countries use the same methods and standards to solve this problem. The Appraisal Standards Board (ASB) develops, interprets, and amends the Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice (USPAP).

The appraisal report is created using a combination of three methods:

  1. Sales comparison method. Look at similar properties and what they’ve sold for recently.
  2. Capitalization approach (income approach). This is the value the property based on the income it generates. What are people renting for right now? Where else could they go locally? In some cases, there aren’t many comps to look at, so the income a property is currently generating might be more appropriate.
  3. Summation approach (Cost segregation approach). Look at the income from the property and ask: What would it cost today for the land, construction, and development? This is a way to appraise a large, one-off or unique building.

The appraisers job is to look at the value based on these approaches and to weigh them properly.

How to use an appraisal report

Since appraisal reports are a third-party opinion of value, they aren’t set in stone, and shouldn’t be taken as the gospel truth.

Once you know what goes into an appraisal report, you can think critically about them and extract the parts that are useful.

And, it can be a valuable tool for negotiation.

In some cases, if an appraisal comes back LOWER than the offered price, it’s appropriate to go to the seller and start with that valuation in the negotiations.

Or, if you’re planning to go in on a deal with someone else and need to split the property value later, an appraisal is that neutral party that provides the numbers.

As with any expert, appraisers have a WEALTH of knowledge, and it’s worth learning a little about their craft. Some appraisers have some impressive niches, including airports, commercial buildings, and even haunted properties!

If possible, try to be on-site for an appraisal and learn what the appraiser is looking for. All of this information feeds into your education and foundation on how to improve properties to get the best bang for your buck … especially in a refinance or a sale.

Appraisals are a valuable tool for an investor. Whenever possible, be sure to spend the money on an experienced, well-respected appraiser. Then, when you get your report, understand the value AND the limitations of a report as you make your important investment decisions!


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.

Headlines say real estate funds performing well …

Regular followers know we’re news hawks.  We scour the headlines for clues about opportunities and threats facing real estate investors.

We look at the good, the bad, the ugly … and consider things at the micro, macro, geo-political, and systemic level.

Even though we watch a broad range of real estate niches … we tend to look at the world through the eyes of a syndicator.

We think raising private capital to invest in real estate is the single BEST opportunity for real estate investors … and one of the best business opportunities in ANY industry.

So it didn’t surprise us when the following headline popped up on page one ofYahoo Finance, the most visited financial website on the internet …

Closed-End Real Estate Funds Are Performing Well

The real estate market is booming … Not surprisingly … funds that focus on real estate have been posting good numbers …”

A “closed-end fund” just means a fund which raises a specified amount of money, then closes to new investors.

This is different than a typical “open-end fund” like a mutual fund which continually accepts new investors.

Our point today is … 

Mainstream headlines are informing the market real estate is a winner …

…and that individual investors can access real estate through funds … versus taking on the personal hassles of tenants, toilets, and termites.

Of course, the aforementioned article is talking about publicly traded funds, which come with a host of risks most Main Street investors are unaware of.

But if YOU are thinking of investing in real estate through a publicly traded fund, OR …

… if you’re talking to Main Street investors about investing in YOUR real estateprivate placement (syndication) …

… then you’ll find it VERY helpful to understand the risks in public funds.

Publicly-traded real estate funds can be used as gambling chips in Wall Street casinos … just like any publicly traded stock.

This means speculators (gamblers) can short-sell, trade on margin, and use options … all of which add volatility to the share price.

So even if the underlying asset is as stable as the rock of Gibraltar … the share price can bounce all over the place as it’s traded in the casinos.

Of course, if you’re a long-term buy-and-hold paper-asset investor, maybe that doesn’t matter to you … just don’t watch the share prices or you might get nauseous.

But MUCH less understood is the counter-party risk every paper-asset investor faces because of the way paper-asset trading is facilitated.

In short, counter-party risk is the exposure you have when an asset on your balance sheet (a stock, bank account, a bond) which is simultaneously someone else’s liability.

In other words, they own the the asset and OWE it to you.  YOU own an IOU.

If the counter-party fails to perform or deliver … you LOSE.

Most people understand the concept of counter-party risk … but many don’t understand all the places they’re actually exposed to it.

And it’s a LOT more than you might think.

In the case of publicly-traded securities, like closed-end real estate funds, you’re NOT the registered owner … your broker is.

You get “beneficial ownership” through what is effectively an IOU from your broker to you.  The fund doesn’t even know you exist.

Of course, this is all fine as long as the financial system supporting all this is sound.  But in a crisis, if the broker fails, you might end up a loser.

It’s not unlike what happened in the 2008 financial crisis …

In short, individual mortgages … which are great assets to own … were pooled into securities and made into gambling chips in the Wall Street casinos.

Because the “beneficial ownership” of the mortgages changed hands so quickly, it was all facilitated through a system called Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems (MERS).

When the financial system nearly collapsed in 2008, the flaws of MERS were exposed … as the legal documentation required to affirm clean title to the asset wasn’t properly maintained.

Some of the beneficial owners of the mortgages couldn’t prove legal ownership and lost when property owners challenged foreclosure in courts. Huge mess.

So there’s a BIG difference between “beneficial ownership” and actual ownership.  And the difference isn’t exposed until it matters.

Sometimes that’s ugly for investors.

The GREAT news for you and your investors is … it’s NOT necessary to play in the Wall Street casinos to get into a real estate fund.

In fact, we’d argue it’s better if you don’t.

If you’re following The Real Estate Guys™, you’re probably already a fan of real estate and may already be a successful individual property investor.

Maybe you’re considering, or have already started, putting together groups of investors to syndicate bigger deals.

Or maybe you’re tired of being an active investor … and now you’re looking to stay in real estate, but as a passive investor in another investor’s deal.

In any case, it’s important to understand the BIG differences between public and private real estate fund investing.

As an investor in a private offering, you directly own the entity which directly owns the asset.  There’s no counter-party who owes you the shares. YOU own them.

We think when you delve into the differences, you’ll agree private offerings are arguably a MUCH better way to go.

Of course, if you’re interested in starting your OWN real estate investment fund, the timing couldn’t be much better.

Headlines are telling the marketplace real estate funds are performing well.

And when you explain the important differences between public and private funds, we’re guessing you’ll get more than your fair share of investors interested in investing with YOU.

Main Street investing in Main Street … outside of the Wall Street casinos.  We like it.

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.

SWOT are you worried about …

A common adage is “treat your investing as a business”.  

Good advice!  And at first blush, you might think it means …

  • Figuring out your mission, vision, values …
  • Establishing clearly defined goals and objectives …
  • Developing strategies, tactics, processes, policies and procedures …
  • Recruiting, training, and leading a team …
  • Setting up communication and accountability rhythms, and processes for evaluating progress and making adjustments

All true.  But it’s also very important to pay attention to the economic environment you’re operating in.

A popular business planning tool is SWOT analysis … which stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats.

SWOT helps you make better decisions about where to focus time, attention, and resources.

Most amateur investors focus only on opportunity.  They look for it.  They chase it.  They stretch their limits reaching for it.

And sometimes they end up in dangerous deals by not leveraging their strengths, acknowledging their weaknesses, or recognizing external threats.

In Am I Being Too Subtle?, multi-billionaire real estate investor Sam Zell says a big part of his success is the ability to understand the DOWNSIDE … and still proceed.

Most people ignore threats because they’re a downer.  It FEELS better to focus on sunshine.  It’s just not smart.

Risk is gloomy.  It doesn’t sell seminars, books, or video-courses.  And it can chase away an audience.

So investors are under-served by most gurus, media, and pundits because few talk candidly about threats.

Yet it can SAVE YOUR FINANCIAL LIFE.  So we do it anyway.

Besides, the flip-side of most risk is opportunity.  So when you frame looking at threats as searching for opportunities, it’s not so bad.

Part of SWOT is about assessing the environment you’re operating in.

We divide investing environments into four categories … Micro, Macro, Geo-Political, and Systemic.

Micro factors include …

  • The property, parties to the transaction; financing, etc.
  • The neighborhood, local economy; local laws, taxes, customs, etc.
  • The local team … property manager, on-site staff, etc.

Micro factors are where most investors start and finish … because micro factors are easiest to see and handle along the shortest path to getting the deal done.

Macro factors include …

  • Interest rates and factors which drive them
  • Federal taxes and laws
  • Policies affecting job creation, living costs, real wages, consumer and business confidence
  • Economic factors affecting energy, materials and commodities costs, currency strength, etc.

Sure … this is some heady stuff …

And if you’re only going to play small and VERY conservatively, maybe not worth all the effort to watch and interpret macro factors.

Then again … many small investors got killed when the Tax Reform Act of 1987 changed the tax treatment of rental properties.

They probably wish they’d been more aware and prepared.  When things are changing, a “wait and see” approach can be painful.

But if you plan to play big … and especially if you’re going to raise money from private investors … you’ll definitely want to invest in your macro education.

Remember … the 2008 crisis which crushed many unprepared investors started at the macro level … before crashing down on the micro level.

Most micro-players (including us), didn’t see the storm forming at the macro level until the monsoon hit.  Bad scene.

So … how much advance notice do YOU want when something major is lurking on the horizon?  More is probably better.

Geo-Political factors include …

  • Currency and trade wars
  • Oil and energy policies
  • International treaties (trade, land-use, etc.)

Most people hear about geo-political factors in the news all the time … but don’t consider or understand their impact on Main Street micro-investing.

Systemic factors include …

  • The financial system … currency, banking, bond market, etc.
  • The environment … energy, climate, water, etc.

We think systemic factors just might be the BIGGEST threat most investors aren’t paying any attention to.

Yes, it’s a lot to consider.  And maybe you doubt it really matters to your daily real estate investing.

That’s what we thought … before 2008.

Then we found out the VERY hard way these things DO affect Main Street investing … so thinking about them isn’t just for wonky paper asset pundits.

Let’s look at some recent headlines … how they might affect our Main Street investing … and let’s just focus on oil …

Is The Oil Industry Repeating A Critical Error – Oilprice.com 7/14/18

 “ … Wall Street has been subsidizing the consumption of oil on Main Street.”

“… the punishing price decline in oil from 2014 to 2016 … resulted in deep cuts in exploration and development throughout the industry …”

“… there isn’t an oil price … both low enough to avoid economic stagnation …  yet high enough … to prevent a decline in the overall rate of production worldwide.”

Let’s break it down …

Energy is essential to economic activity.  No energy, no growth. Restricted energy, restricted growth.  Expensive energy, expensive growth.  You get the idea.

Energy is a key input into the cost of EVERYTHING.  When subsidies mask rising costs, economic numbers look better than they really are.

Remember …  a strong economy is NOT the same thing as a strong financial system.

Investors make mistakes when they deploy capital based on false readings or temporary circumstances.

Remember what happened to real estate investors who flocked to North Dakota because of the oil boom … a boom only possible because of high oil prices.

When oil prices crashed, so did the North Dakota real estate boom.  Investors only watching micro-factors … and even macro-factors … didn’t see it coming.

Whether it was Saudi Arabia attacking U.S. frackers … or the U.S. directing an economic assault on Russia’s oil revenue … oil prices fell because of what was happening at the geo-political level.

So today, knowing oil prices affect economic growth, consider these recent headlines …

It takes cheap energy to grow an economy fast.  And with the Fed raising interest rates, Trump’s using tax cuts and cheap energy to goose the economy.

He’s got to out-run ballooning deficits and rising interest costs.  Cheap energy … even if only temporary … buys some time.

But cheap energy doesn’t fund the exploration necessary to replace oil being consumed.  Very few people on financial TV talk about this.

That’s why we hang out with brainiac Chris Martenson.  He’s a fun guy … a positive guy … but he’s a realist.  It’s sobering.  Brutal facts can be that way.

At some point, supply and demand take over and prices rise … slowing or reversing economic growth, driving up costs, and probably bankrupting marginal businesses.

Many billions in oil industry debt could go bad.  Remember when sub-prime mortgage debt went bad?

The financial system today is rife with counter-party risk, so bad debt can spread like wildfire through credit markets.

We’re not saying it’s going to happen, but we’re watching.  If something starts to break, we want to see it sooner rather than later.

Of course, we’re also watching oil, like gold, for its role in currency wars.  We remain convinced the dollar will be a major story in the next ten years… or less.

A little spooky.  But pulling the sheets over our heads doesn’t make it go away.

The good news is there are smart people watching all this … and thinking deeply about what it all means.

That’s why we get together with them regularly on our Investor Summit at Sea and the New Orleans Investment Conference.

These are voices mainstream sunshine-sellers don’t promote.  It’s bad for ratings.

But we put together nearly 14 hours of presentations and panels with all the big brains from our Future of Money and Wealth conference …

So if you missed the live event, you can still see and hear what everyone has to say. Click here to learn more.

Smart business people and investors practice SWOT… and invest in growing their education and network … so they can make better, faster investing decisions … in ANY economic environment.

Until next time … good investing!


More From The Real Estate Guys™…

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

The Economy is Great Except for One Problem

As real estate investors, we’re always looking toward tomorrow. We’ve had a long, sustained recovery since the market crash in 2008. Many indicators show the economy is on the right track … the stock market is up, unemployment is down, and the dollar is strong.

So, what could be the problem?

We’ll talk about what we’ve learned since 2008 and how we’ve changed the way we look at the economy AND the financial system.

Learn how you can repair your financial roof now while the sun is still shining so when the next downturn comes, you’ll be in better shape to protect and grow your wealth.

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

  • Your weather-any-storm host, Robert Helms
  • His fair-weather co-host, Russell Gray

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Inspecting the financial foundations

From the outside, the economy looks like it’s in good shape. But, just like when you’re evaluating a house, it takes an expert to understand what shape the foundation is in.

While it’s easy to look at the structure and assume everything is going well, a failure to inspect the foundation could cost you dearly.

One of the most important things we learned from the 2008 market crash is the difference between the economy and the financial systems it’s built on.

In order to do that, we knew we needed top-notch inspectors. We changed who we hung out with and started to learn from economic experts outside of real estate.

They taught us about the cracks in the foundation and how we could better prepare for economic downturns. Because while we didn’t see the scope of the crash, there were experts who did!

Through serious study, we’ve learned that this is something that anyone can learn.

So, how did the investors who weathered the storm in 2008 do it? And how can we all be better prepared for next time?

Digging into debt

Our financial system is built on debt. The amount of debt on corporate and government balance sheets is staggering.

When consumer and business confidence is high, everyone borrows to consume more. Eventually, this leads to too much leveraging and over-allocated capital. And the higher the boom, the bigger the bust.

The Federal Reserve has tools in place to help smooth some of the dramatic rises and falls. When the economy slows, they lower interest rates to free up lending. As recovery builds, they raise rates to tighten and restrict lending.

For individual investors, one of the biggest problems was that our portfolios were built for perpetual sunshine. And while the next crash won’t necessarily look the same, there are plenty of similarities.

Shoring up your investments

Learning from the past means you’ll be in a better position to profit from the next downturn. Don’t let the good economic numbers lull you into doing nothing. Use the good times as a wake-up call!

  • Don’t spread your equity too thin. Make sure your deals make sense on paper and that you aren’t lowering your standards. The bigger your portfolio, the more careful you need to be and the fewer mistakes you can make before a market downturn tumbles all your holdings.
  • Keep cash on hand. Don’t over-rely on your credit lines for liquidity.
  • Have your foot near the brake. Keep an eye on your assets, credit, and future deals. There’s no need to panic, but be cautious and thorough.
  • Consider having some properties paid for in cash. If you have a property without a loan, it won’t be a target of or subject to the swings of the market.
  • Acquire recession-resistant real estate. Look for properties in the middle of the market where there’s nearly always demand. Also consider niche investments like long-term storage, luxury properties, or assisted living opportunities.

If you’re looking for a fantastic primer on the financial system, how it is the foundation for the economy, how to recognize the warning signs of a downturn and how prepare for it, check out our video series The Future of Money and Wealth.

We captured some of the best and most relevant information from expert financial minds in 20 sessions you won’t want to miss. The information in this series is a head start into understanding the underpinnings of the system and how to build and protect your wealth in a changing economy.

To learn more, send an email to future [at] realestateguysradio [dot] com.


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.

Protecting equity from bursting bubbles …

One of the primary purposes of easy money (“quantitative easing” or QE) is to inflate asset prices, bloat balance sheets, and create a wealth effect.

The formula is simple.  Print gobs of money, buy bonds to drop interest rates, and flood the markets with liquidity.

Corporations borrow cheap money to buyback stocks … pushing stock prices up and triggering big bonuses for execs.

Corporate raiders borrow cheap money leveraging operating cash flow into leveraged buyouts … triggering mega-mergers and acquisitions … and fat fees.

Real estate investors borrow cheap money … leveraging rental income into big mortgages … bidding up prices, creating lots of equity, and compressing cap rates.

Even everyday homeowners get in on the action … borrowing cheap money and leveraging their paychecks into big mortgages … pushing up prices and creating lots of equity.

And some of the equity boom in real estate comes from folks moving some of their stock equity into fancier houses.

Of course, from a portfolio management perspective, it’s probably not a bad idea to reposition fickle, volatile paper equity into boring, stable real estate equity.

For those with real estate equity in bubbly markets, it’s probably a good idea to consider repositioning some of that equity into less bubbly real estate markets.

After all, if quantitative easing was about inflating asset prices … what’s the likely outcome of quantitative tightening?

Right now, the Federal Reserve is raising rates and shrinking its balance sheet … which is the OPPOSITE of what they did to inflate asset prices.

So it’s reasonable to be concerned about the equity on your balance sheet.  If the prices of your stocks and real estate fall, so does your equity.

This all begs the big question … how can you protect your equity from bursting bubbles?

Aside from selling everything and sitting in cash … which has its own risks … one strategy is to simply reposition equity into assets which are less affected by leverage.

It’s why Jim Rickards (Currency WarsDeath of MoneyRoad to Ruin) recommends allocating a portion of your balance sheet into real assets, including gold and unleveraged real estate.

Of course, these strategies are easy to talk about.  But in the real world, it takes some work to actually implement them.  And it starts with education.

But you’ve read this far, so you’ve already begun the process.  Good job!

We get into much greater detail in the Future of Money and Wealth video series.

In fact, in module 13 of 20, there’s a detailed strategy (too big to explain here) for repositioning equity for wealth preservation, privacy, and increased cash flow … and some other VERY cool benefits.

But there’s more to protecting equity than simply understanding a strategy.

If you’re going to move equity from highly-leveraged stock or real estate markets into less-leveraged real estate markets, you’ll need to find and learn those markets.

One of our favorite un-leveraged real estate markets is Belize.

There’s a long list of reasons why we like a very specific market in Belize, including the fact it’s not leveraged … yet.

That’s because getting wealth into non-leveraged real estate markets insulates your equity if credit markets seize up like they did in 2008.

Just look back on what happened in Texas in the financial crisis that temporarily wiped out lots of equity for a several painful years …

Sure, you could get loans in Texas … but Texas law restricted some of the more aggressive lending.  So less air got into Texas values.

That’s a big reason why the Texas markets didn’t bubble as much as other markets, which made it boring pre-crash … but VERY attractive post-crash.

Well, Belize was even MORE stable than Texas going through the crisis … and that was before Belize had as much global exposure and demand to prop it up as it has today.

We thought Belize made sense heading into back then and we like it even better today.  That’s why we continue to share it with people through our discovery trips.

It’s not for everybody, but we think everyone would be wise to take a closer look.

Last year, Hilton Hotels decided to plant a flag in Belize.  Marriott just announced earlier this year.  Big players like this little market for a reason.

When you see big brands making moves into a market, it’s a leading indicator of market strength.

And when you have a chance to get in a market BEFORE leverage arrives, you have a good chance of catching a big equity wave.

Of course, if the leverage never happens … you simply have a chunk of your wealth parked in a stable market with some VERY desirable lifestyle perks.

So whether you do it in your own account or with partners through syndication, Belize is a market to consider right now … and you can learn all about it on our next fun-filled discovery trip to beautiful Belize.

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.

Capitalizing on the American dumbbell …

Ohhhh … there’s SO many directions we could go with that subject line … but let’s pick something both potentially polarizing and unifying …

Income inequality.  It’s a political cause and an economic reality.

But we’re not here to talk politics.  Because it doesn’t matter if we think it’s fair or not.  We’ll leave that to the politicians and activists.

Income inequality is what it is.  And while our politics might affect our voting habits … the economic reality is what drives our investing decisions.

So what is income inequality … and what does it mean to real estate investors?

Great question … so glad you asked.

In simple terms, income inequality refers to a disproportionate amount of a society’s income concentrated in a small percentage of people at the top …

… with a big gap between the masses at the bottom who average much less income per person.

Sadly, this topic often descends into an argument of accusations between political viewpoints … a blame game.

People at the top look down on the lower income masses with contempt …

They don’t work. They don’t save.  They don’t invest.  They don’t take risks.  They’ve made their own bed.

People at the bottom look up at the rich with envy and jealousy …

The game is rigged.  It takes money to make money.  The rich are greedy selfish exploiters of the little guy.

Ironically, both are probably right … and both are probably wrong.  But again, we’ll let the politicians and activists fight over all that.

Investors are best served to set all that aside … and simply focus on the opportunities inside the economics and demographics of income inequality.

For many years, Rich Dad Poor Dad author Robert Kiyosaki has been saying the financial system is helping the rich get richer, while the poor get poorer … and the middle-class gets squeezed.

It’s like a dumbbell … where one end is fat with the wealth of the rich … and the other is fat with the poverty of the masses.  The skinny part in between is the middle-class.

But of course, all this has a direct impact on real estate … and should be taken into account when making real estate investing decisions.

John Burns Consulting recently took a look at this very subject …

What the Shrinking Middle Class Means for Housing

“The widening gap in income distribution trends in the US has significant implications for home buying activity and homeownership.” 

More rental demand.  More demand for homes at the highest and lowest price points.  Less demand for median-priced homes.”

If you’ve been following us for a while, this is probably old news.

We’ve been touting the opportunities in affordable housing like apartments and mobile homes …

… as well as higher-end opportunities in resort property and residential assisted living.

That’s working both ends of the dumbbell.

Smart investors should probably also watch migration patterns created by income inequality … and changing government policies.

Obviously, if there’s “more demand for homes at the … lowest price points” … it doesn’t mean people need to live on the streets of high-priced markets like San Francisco or New York.

They can move … to the suburbs of affordable states like Utah, Nevada, Arizona, Texas, and Florida.  And they are.

But it’s not just middle-class folks looking to lower their costs …

Millionaires Flee California After Tax Hike  – Forbes, July 7, 2018

New Jersey’s Tax Gift to Florida – Wall Street Journal, July 1, 2018

In 2014, Florida passed New York as the third most populous state.  It’s one of the reasons we’ve been high on the Central Florida market for quite some time.

A big part of Florida’s growth is from retired and wealthy boomers heading south for warm weather, affordable housing, and NO state income tax.

Of course, when they move … they bring their incomes and spending with them.  One state loses.  The other wins.

So while affluent retirees might not rent their home from you, they’ll spend money with the local businesses who employ your tenants.

The point is money moves people … and policies moves money.

So whether you love, hate, or even ignore a policy … it affects the movement of money and people … which affects real estate.

Lastly, it’s wise to also consider the systemic causes of income inequality … and put them to work for you.

The global financial system is inherently inflationary.  It’s the stated goal of all central banks … most notably the Federal Reserve … to CREATE inflation.

That means anything denominated in currency (dollars) is destined to rise in dollar price over time.

In other words, as dollars lose value … it takes more of them to buy the samethings.  That’s inflation.

That’s why a typical house in the U.S. which used to cost $20,000 is now $200,000 … even though it’s the SAME house, only older.

So from that standpoint, the system is rigged.   People who own assets pull further ahead of those who don’t.

But people who don’t have assets like real estate, stocks, and commodities on their balance sheets get no paper wealth from inflation.

Relatively speaking, they get poorer.

Over time, the poor get poorer in real terms also … as the costs of housing, energy, food, and products of all types goes UP faster than their incomes.

The financial system is the ROOT cause of income inequality.

It’s also the fastest path to wealth for those who can use long-term debt to acquire long-term income producing assets … like real estate.

Sure, we know there’s cronyism, regulatory barriers that protect big corporations from competition, tax loopholes, insider trading, and all kinds of unfairness helping the rich get richer.

You need to be an insider to play that game successfully.

But real estate is available to almost everyone.  It’s a sacred cow of sorts.  It’s hard to manipulate, and most everyone in power protects it.

So the sooner Main Street pulls its money out of Wall Street and takes advantage of real estate … the sooner the playing field gets flatter and fairer for Main Streeters.

It’s why we love real estate.  It’s why we teach syndication.

MAYBE someday the politicians will quit arguing with each other and really fix the system.  We’ll keep breathing in and out.

Meanwhile, we encourage YOU to take what the system gives you … and do it in a way that adds a lot of value to Main Street.

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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