Ask the Guys – Long-Distance Landlording, Property Management and More

Welcome back to an all-new edition of Ask The Guys!

Today, we’ll be answering listener questions. So listen in for our best real estate tips and tricks!

A disclaimer … we are not tax advisors or legal professionals. In our Ask The Guys series, we give ideas and information … NOT advice.

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

  • Your tipster host, Robert Helms
  • His tricky co-host, Russell Gray

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How do I find a property management company?

This question comes from Lee, in Bay City, Michigan. He wants to know whether we have any advice for finding—and vetting—management companies.

He says he’s investing in his area, but the only management companies he can find are run by real estate agents on the side. He has a day job, and doesn’t have time to manage on his own … so he wants to find a reputable company that’s up for the task.

He also asks whether he should move out of his local area, since there aren’t many management companies.

We always say you should invest where the numbers make sense … but you also need to invest in places where you can find a great team.

In the long term, your property manager is the most important person on your team. So if there aren’t any great property management solutions where you live … perhaps it’s time to expand your geographic investing boundaries.

Start by refining your personal investment philosophy, then look for a market that both matches your goals and has the management companies to fill your needs.

You don’t want single-point failure. Make sure the company you choose aligns with your philosophy. Ask them, “Who supports you, and how?”

You want to make sure their compensation model is aligned with your best interests. In other words, when you earn money, they do too.

And choose your property management company BEFORE you buy your properties. They can be an excellent resource for finding properties and asset class types that will work well for both of you.

Remember, you can’t scale up without putting the right team in place. Getting a great property manager on your team helps you find the professional distance you need to run your business properly.

How do Section 8 rentals work?

Laura, from Naples, Florida, wants to know how Section 8 rentals work and how she can acquire affordable housing in her investment market.

First, a few things about Section 8. Section 8 is housing subsidized by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). But it’s administered by local public housing agencies, so it’s not always available and differs across the country.

Section 8 can be great because a portion of the rent is paid by the government. You basically have a guarantee you’ll get most of your rent on time, regularly.

But tenants in this housing can be a tough crowd … sometimes they don’t blend well with other, non-Section 8 tenants. For that reason, we like a property to be all Section 8 or none.

A great resource for learning about Section 8 is Mike McLean, who has published a book called the Section 8 Bible and has some great online resources, too.

Affordable housing can be a good place to be because of stagnant purchasing power … but make sure you’re playing close attention to the program from which funding comes.

And keep in mind … the devil is in the details. If you’re not managing the property yourself, make sure your property manager is well acquainted with Section 8.

Should I invest now, or later?

Casey, in Lehi, Utah, has been listening to the podcast, and now he has a pressing question.

Casey has saved up $100,000 to invest, but he wants to know whether he should invest now or wait until the market takes a dive. He mentions worries such as rising interest rates, an unstable dollar, and inflation.

Let’s start with a premise … markets will either do well or poorly in the future. We know that. We also know that when the market hits the bottom, you can only go up.

Real estate is a long-term, buy-and-hold business. But it is interest-rate sensitive, so you want to make sure you lock in long-term financing if you invest now.

It’s also good to keep some liquidity for if and when the market does go downhill.

Something we like to say is, “Opportunities are like busses. Another one will always come along … but you have to get on the bus at some point.”

The way we see it, Casey has a few options …

  1. Invest in things that are likely to do well, even when the market is bad, particularly mid-level rentals and below. There will always be demand for housing, especially mid-range housing.
  2. Invest in a forced equity situation … a neighborhood or property that has room for improvement, which you can force upward in value. This will help you mitigate downward pressure to the dollar.
  3. Invest in a bigger market … this provides stability, as these markets have more ballast during tough times.
  4. Step in on the debt side of the market by lending money to other investors.
  5. Work with an experienced syndicator who is more likely to get investments right, even when times are more precarious.

Remember, when you’re in property for the long haul, most of the time you’ll be fine. The key is to structure deals so you can weather the ups and downs.

Another thing to consider … the price only matters when you buy and when you sell. In between, it’s all about cashflow.

Real estate is one of the best inflation hedges if you structure the financing properly relative to cashflow … but you can’t fledge against inflation if you don’t do anything at all!

How do I create residual income with little savings?

Jeff, in Fountain Hills, Arizona, says he is in an interesting situation.

He doesn’t have any income, but he has enough cash to live on for 24 months. In the meantime, he wants to figure out how to create residual income that will pay for his living expenses going forward.

Jeff is looking at building a balance sheet of passive income sources.

But right now, he has time, labor, and energy he can put to work. And since he’s not holding on to a chunk of cash, the active investor route is a good one.

Some options …

  1. Force equity by fixing and flipping.
  2. Earn cashflow by fixing, holding, and renting.
  3. Become a syndicator and use other people’s money to make great investments. It’s our favorite way to go full-time, fast.
  4. Try wholesaling.

Basically, what Jeff needs to do right now is to build up his investment capital so he can start getting some cashflow.

But before he does that, we suggest he invest in education and build relationships. Get the right tools in your toolbox and the right advisors at your back before you go big.

Can you recommend turnkey management companies?

Keith hails from East Sandwich, Massachusetts. He recently bought a home through Mid South Homebuyers and is ready to buy another.

The problem? He’s on the waitlist at Mid South. In the meantime, he’s looking for another turnkey company that manages the houses it sells.

One disclaimer … we don’t know anybody quite like Terry Kerr at Mid South.

But we do know lots of other great folks.

The idea of a turnkey provider is that they do the whole thing … find the properties, get them in great shape, put tenants in, and manage the rentals.

But before you look for a provider, think about the type of property, market, and team you want.

Then go ahead and search our provider network for someone who can help fill your needs. We don’t guarantee anyone on the list, but we do promise we’ve spent a lot of time with them on the ground and have seen enough to trust them.

Should I attend Secrets of Successful Syndication now, or later?

Gene, in Boston, Massachusetts, is an investor who owns two duplexes. He wonders whether he should attend our signature Secrets of Successful Syndication conference now, or later in the year when he has more experience.

We’ve gotta say, we really think the key is for investors to come early and often.

This conference is designed for investors who already have a portfolio and are ready to take the next step.

But even if you’re just starting out, it’s a great way to get around what we call “evidence of success” and learn the power of networking.

Experience is something you can accumulate through other people. And syndication is all about having the experience to make good investment decisions.

So, for those who want to move forward, we recommend you start as soon as you can.


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Precious Metals for Real Estate Investors

In our latest episode, we’re chasing shiny objects. Gold, silver, palladium, and platinum, to be specific.

Now, you might be wondering how precious metals investing is relevant to you as a real estate investor. But guess what? When people want somewhere to hide equity, and don’t want to put money into stocks and bonds, they turn to gold.

Precious metals play an essential role in the worldwide economic sea. They act as a hedge against falling currency and a way to diversify.

So, we invited a special guest to explain how the precious metals business works … and give you the information you need to decide whether gold and silver might be a great investment for YOU.

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

  • Your golden host, Robert Helms
  • His silvering co-host, financial strategist Russell Gray
  • Precious metals expert Dana Samuelson

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Basics of precious metals investing

We met with Dana Samuelson at the 44th annual New Orleans Investment Conference. It’s our 6th year attending, but Dana’s been around since 1983, when he started working in the precious metals business for Jim Blanchard.

Dana owns a national mail-order business, through which he buys and sells modern bullion coins. He is also an expert in classic U.S. and European gold coins.

We asked him to explain the goal of precious metal investments.

Gold is not necessarily an investment, Dana says. But, “We live in a world of enormous debt, so precious metals are a good insurance policy,” he says.

Dana says investing 5 to 10 percent of your net worth in precious metals offers a way to keep your equity solid, even when the value of paper assets is fluctuating.

He calls gold a “safe, proven, real money investment.”

There are different ways to invest … you can collect precious metals bit by bit over time, or you can pick up larger amounts during periodic price dips.

Gold and silver are slightly different investments. For one thing, gold is more portable than silver. A handful of gold equals a wheelbarrow of silver.

Another difference … people tend to put their equity in gold over silver when the stock market and the dollar aren’t doing well.

The gold-silver price ratio can be used to determine the relative value of gold to silver. To find the ratio, simply divide the gold price by the silver price.

Traditionally, this ratio has been 20:1. Today, it usually hits somewhere between 60:1 and 80:1. Right now, the ratio is on the high end, about 85:1, which means silver is cheap relative to gold.

It’s a good number to look at when you’re trying to figure out what … and when … to buy.

Different methods for precious metals investing

Gold and silver come in many forms.

There are gold bars, which are now mainly produced by mints around the world and have to meet purity and weight integrity standards.

There are also smaller American Gold Eagles and Canadian Gold Maple Leafs, modern bullion coins that are sold by the ounce, half-ounce, quarter-ounce, and eighth-ounce.

Since these are smaller than gold bars, you don’t have to report to the government when you buy them, typically.

Dana calls these bullion coins “bread and butter” products. They’re reliable, widely available, competitively priced, and have long-term value and viability.

You can also buy generic 1-ounce rounds from private mints, usually silver.

Many people like to have a viable alternative to paper money, Dana says. Aside from widely available bullion coins, investors can also go the numismatic route.

U.S. coins minted before 1964 are 95% silver by weight. And gold coins minted before 1933, when the U.S. went off the gold standard, are increasingly valuable.

The coin-collecting route is great because of basic supply-demand principles … as time goes by, fewer older coins are available, so not only are these older coins made from precious metals, but they also hold an inherently higher value because they’re increasingly scarce.

How to get started with precious metals

Gold has been a form of money literally since the concept of money first originated. It’s a currency of last resort because it’s one of the few forms of currency that doesn’t need a government guarantee to back it.

Gold and silver are the most popular precious metals. We asked Dana about the other two sister precious metals, platinum and palladium.

These are much, much scarcer than gold, Dana says, but they’re valuable because they’re scarce … and because they’re necessary. Both metals are used in catalytic converters for automobiles.

How can someone new to precious metals get started? “Find a reputable, long-term dealer,” Dana says.

He offers his precious metal trading business as an example. They follow principles of transparent pricing, guarantees for sold items, and guaranteed buy-backs for anything they sell.

And perhaps consider staying away from eBay.

“I can tell a counterfeit a mile away,” Dana says. eBay can be sketchy … and it’s harder for amateurs to tell real from fake. To be extra safe, stick with established, hard-to-counterfeit products like bullion coins.

Investors also need to think about storage. “Gold is pretty compact. It doesn’t take up a ton of space,” Dana notes. Silver, on the other hand, is bulkier.

Some banks are writing coins out of safe-deposit box charters. So you have a few options for storage …

  • Find a bank that offers storage options for coins and bullion
  • Get a secure home safe
  • Go with a storage company … new storage options around the country are a great option for those dealing with a high volume of precious metals

Also consider that there may be reporting requirements when you move money in and out of the country, due to the Patriot Act.

“The most important thing is to think about what you’re trying to do and find a dealer to help you walk through your options” for purchasing, storage, and selling the asset in the future, Dana says.

“Use common sense.” After all, Dana points out, “You’re your own best doctor.”

A final note for those still dubious about precious metals.

We know it might not seem immediately logical to take your equity … and then just put it away in gold and let it sit. There’s no cashflow, there are no tax benefits … so why do it?

A few big reasons. Putting your equity in precious metals allows you to …

  • Invest outside of the traditional banking system
  • Get away from inherent risk and keep your equity stable
  • Diversify your equity in terms of currency types
  • Parks your equity until you need it in a low-risk currency form

To learn more, check out Dana’s report on investing in precious metals.

Now, go out and make some equity happen!


More From The Real Estate Guys™…

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


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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!

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There’s MORE money headed into real estate …

In the swirling sea of capital that makes up the global economic ocean we all invest in …

… big fund managers are pay close attention to a variety of factors for clues about the ebb, flow, and over-flow of people, business, and money.

Right now … it seems like a BIG wave of money could be headed into real estate.

Of course, compared to stocks, these things aren’t simple to see and track.  And they’re even harder to act on.

Stocks are easy … if interest rates fall and money floods into stocks, you just buy an index fund and enjoy the ride.

Just remember … the dark side of easy and liquid is crowded and volatile.

So unless you’re a seasoned trader, trying to front run the crowd to both an entrance and exit in stocks can be a dangerous game.

But real estate is slow.  It’s inefficient.  It moves slowly.  There’s drama.

And yet, the BEAUTY of real estate is its messiness.  Embrace it.

So here’s why we think more money could be flowing into real estate soon …

Opportunity Zones

We’ll be talking about this more in the future, but the short of it is the new tax code creates HUGE incentives for current profits from ANYTHING (including stocks) to make its way into pre-identified geographic zones.

According to The Wall Street Journal,

“U.S. is aiming to attract $100 billion in development with ‘opportunity zones’…”

“could be ‘the biggest thing to hit the real estate world in perhaps the past 30 or even more years’ …”

 Private Equity Funds

 Another Wall Street Journal article says …

“Real estate debt funds amass record war chest

“Property funds have $57 billion to invest …”

Pension Funds

This Wall Street Journal article indicates BIG pension funds are getting into the game too …

“Big investors like the California teachers pension are backing real-estate debt funds …”

One reason savvy investors watch economic waves is to see a swell building … so they can paddle into position to catch a ride.  It’s like financial surfing.

Time will tell where all these funds will land, but it’s a safe bet it won’t be in smaller properties.  MAYBE some will end up in residential mortgages, but don’t count on it.

So what’s the play for a Mom and Pop Main Street investor?

Start by watching the flow …

We’ll be watching the markets and product types the money goes into.

Then we’ll be watching for the ripple effect … because that’s probably where the Main Street opportunity will be.

For example, if money pours into a particular geography, it’s going to create a surge of economic activity … especially if the funds are primarily used for construction.

But we’d be cautious about making long-term investments in any place temporarily benefiting from a short-term surge … so it’s best to look past the immediate impact.

Think about the long-term impact … which is a factor of WHAT is being built.

Fortunately, major projects take many months to complete … so they’re easy to see coming IF you’re paying attention.

We like to plug into the local chamber of commerce to track who’s coming and going in a market place … and why.  The local Business Journal is also a useful news source to monitor.

The kinds of development that excite us include factories, office buildings, industrial parks, and distribution centers.  Those mean local jobs.

We’re less excited about shopping centers, entertainment centers, and even residential and medical projects.

Because even though they mean jobs too … they don’t DRIVE the economy.  They feed off it.

Of course, we’re not saying those things are bad … but they should reflect current and projected growth … not be expected to drive it.

Hopefully, developers are doing solid market research and are building because the local population and prosperity can absorb the new product.

Then again, when money is aggressively pumped in, sometimes developers get greedy … and areas get OVER-built.

So don’t just follow the big money.   Be sure you understand the market.

Watch for the over-flow too …

Sometimes money moving into a market creates prosperity only for some … and hardship for others.

Silicon Valley is a CLASSIC example.

As billions flood into the market through inflated stock prices, many people get pushed off the back of the affordability bus.

But even though it’s hard for those folks, they end up driven into adjacent markets which are indirectly pushed up.  It’s overflow.

That’s when you see headlines like these …

Boise and Reno Capitalize on the California Real Estate Exodus –Bloomberg, 10/23/18

“Sky-high housing prices in the Golden State bring an echo boom—and new neighbors—to other Western states.”

Sure, in Silicon Valley’s case, the flow of money is cheap capital pouring into the stock market and enriching tech companies … and their employees.

But it doesn’t matter which door the money comes in when it flows into a market.  That’s why it’s best to look at ALL the flows into a market.

And when the flow of capital drives up investment property prices in a market (depressing cap rates), even investors will overflow into secondary markets in search of better yields.

The lesson here is to watch the ebb, flow, and overflows as capital pours into both the debt and equity side of real estate through Opportunity Zones, private equity funds, and increasing pension fund allocations.

You never quite know how the market will react, but you can be sure it will.

The key is to see the swell rising early so you can start paddling into position to catch the wave.

We do it by looking for clues in the news, producing and attending conferences, and getting into great conversations with the RIGHT people.

We encourage YOU to do the same.

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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Finding profits under the radar …

You’ve probably heard the popular adage, “Get rich in a niche!

But what does that really mean?  And how do you do it?

The premise is when you work or invest in something with a high barrier to entry, or that few strong players know about, you face less competition and can therefore enjoy better profits.

Makes sense.

The challenge is finding and mastering the niche.  And common sense says a profitable niche doesn’t stay secret for long.  So when you find one, it’s wise tomove quickly and capitalize ahead of the crowd.

Of course, all that sounds good on the chalkboard.  But how do you make it work in the real world?

We look for clues in the news … and this headline caught our attention …

Sovereign Wealth Funds, Private Equity Step Up MOB Acquisitions

For the unfamiliar, MOB stands for Medical Office Building.

Obviously, MOB is a niche, and sovereign funds and private equity are BIG players … with big research budgets and smart analysts.

So watching what big players are doing is one way to identify a hot niche.  Then you look for a niche within a niche where Main Street investors can play.

But first, let’s look at why the big boys like MOB …

“ … increasingly view medical office space as a core property type with strong fundamentals.

“ … demand for space continues to grow amid an aging population in need of more medical services …”

 “This particular sector of commercial real estate benefits from one of the largest and fastest-growing components of the U.S. economy: healthcare … ”

That “aging population” they’re referring to are the baby-boomers.  This huge demographic wave is sometimes called “the silver tsunami” because of its economic size and impact.

It’s something we’ve been following closely … including which industries and geographies stand to benefit.

But if the big boys are already in the space, is it too late?  Or is there still opportunity for Main Street investors?

We think there is.  And clues in the article support the thesis …

“ … risks facing medical office investors …  tenants are increasingly facing reimbursement pressures from insurers and government payors such as Medicare and Medicaid … ” 

“…  medical office facilities do not offer tenant diversification … tenants are exposed to the healthcare sector, unlike conventional office buildings …”

 “ … a shift of providing high-quality care … [in] alternative settings …” 

So let’s consider how these clues might fit together to spell opportunity …

First, it’s not MOBs that big money is excited about.  It’s the demographic and industry that the properties support.  It’s about elderly people and healthcare.

The properties are actually a problem because they’re specialty use.  A medical building is typically only suited to medical uses.  That can be risky.

So, even though medical buildings appear strong for the long haul, it’s still a one-trick pony.  If the sector cools, you’re trapped in a property that’s not of much use for anything else.  Yikes.

Next, the tenants of MOBs are healthcare providers whose income is largely derived from insurance and government reimbursements, which are facing downward pricing pressure.

Savvy landlords always look past the tenant to the tenant’s ultimate source of income.

In this case, “commodity” healthcare providers are getting squeezed by stingy insurance companies and social services.  Not good.

Lastly, the article reports a “shifting preference” by tenants (healthcare providers) towards “providing high quality care [in] alternative settings …”

Now THIS is interesting!

It seems those providers being squeezed are moving towards sub-niches where there’s more profit.

In fact, people we know in healthcare say a popular strategy for combating the declining margins of “commodity” healthcare …

(commodity healthcare are the kinds of services major insurers and government programs aim their cost-cutting strategies on)

… is to focus on boutique services for affluent clients who pay by cash or through private insurance.

That’s a clue.

How can Main Street real estate investors play?

Since we’ve already identified the demographic (boomers) and economic sector (healthcare), let’s focus on the property.  After all, we’re real estate guys.

We’re looking for a property well-suited to a boutique healthcare for an affluent, self-paying, or privately insured sub-demographic.

Of course, Main Street real estate investors aren’t healthcare professionals.

So we either need to find tenants who are, or find a simple healthcare service we can deliver through readily out-sourced operators.

And we’ll need to pick a property type that works well for the healthcare service … but also other things, so we don’t get trapped in a single-purpose property.

Sounds like a tall order …

Or maybe the answer is right in front of you … or next door … or down the street.

Single-family homes!

But not just ANY single-family homes … residential assisted living homes.

This is an exciting sub-niche of the healthcare real estate niche that checks a lot of boxes …

First, your tenants are the parents of boomers (today) … and will soon be the boomers themselves.  That’s a substantial long-term pipeline of tenants.

Plus, boomers are the most affluent demographic right now … and paying for Mom or Dad’s care is a TOP budgetary priority.

It’s always good to be at the front of the line for getting paid.

Also, care fees (rent) are often paid out of a combination of the parents’ estate, private long-term care insurance policies, or incomes and assets of the adult children.

So when you’re in what our residential assisted living guru Gene Guarino calls “the sweet spot” … you’re not dependent on government reimbursements.

Residential assisted living homes are boutique, high-quality, “alternative setting” healthcare … which, as the article points out, is the trend.

Another investing adage is, The trend is your friend.

Check.

Next, residential assisted living homes are NOT big, single-purpose commercial buildings well-suited only for use as a medical facility.

Residential assisted living homes are operated in single-family houses located in regular residential neighborhoods.

No special zoning.  No commercial location.

So if for some reason the bottom falls out of the sector … the home can be rented to a residential occupant (albeit at a much lesser rent), or simply sold on the open market to an owner-occupant.

In other words, you’ve got multiple exit strategies.  You aren’t trapped by your niche.  This mitigates one of the major risks the big boys fear.

Check.

But perhaps one of the greatest advantages in the sub-niche of residential assisted living homes is the ability to QUICKLY right-size to changing market conditions.

Big-box commercial properties are all-or-nothing propositions.  That’s another worry for the big guys.

When you have a 120-bed medical facility and profits get squeezed or things slow down, you still have 120-bed facility … and all the fixed costs which come along with it.

There’s no throttling capacity up or down based on demand.

But when you own ten 12-bed homes and things pick up a little … you simply add one more home to your collection and increase capacity to 132 beds.

Compared to a big-box, the properties are easy to find, set up, and get optimized.  You can catch an “up” wave sooner and ride longer.

Even better, if things slow down, you simply consolidate your residents into fewer homes … and sell or rent out the excess properties individually.

Again, there a multiple exit-strategies, and when it comes to real estate, single-family homes are arguably the most liquid.  A big-box?  Not so much.

This is HUGE in terms of maintaining profit margins … even in a declining market.

Think about it …

A big-box can’t cut facility overhead.  They either own the whole property or they don’t.  It’s all or nothing.

So the only way preserve margins when occupancy is down is to cut back on staffing, care, and amenities.  Not good for the resident under care, nor the staff or brand.

Meanwhile, the residential assisted living home operator has an advantage …

While the big-box cuts services, the more nimble RAL operator can right-size and maintain or even improve services … and attract an unfair share of residents in a competitive market.

Big check.  And who doesn’t like big checks?

But whether or not residential assisted living is for you … (though it probably will be some day … we all get old) …

… there are still great lessons to glean about strategic sub-niche investing to find profits under the radar (at least temporarily) of the big players.

Until next time … good investing!


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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

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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!


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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.


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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.

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!

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Real estate just got a BIG boost …

Something BIG is happening for real estate … and while it’s not a surprise, it’s a development every real estate investor should be aware of.

Here’s some context …

First, remember real estate investing is essentially a business of managing debt, equity, and cashflow.  

That’s YOUR job.  You can get your property managers and team to handle most everything else.

Equity (the difference between the value and the debt) comes from savings (down payment), the market (value increase), or amortization (pay down of loan).

Cashflow is a function of rental income, operating expenses, debt service, and taxes.

Debt is like the air in a jump house.  When it’s flowing in, it props everything up.  When it stops, everything deflates pretty fast.

That’s why real estate investors (should) pay close attention to debt markets.

The 2008 financial crisis devastated the supply chain of debt into real estate. Mortgage companies failed in droves. We know. We owned one.

Real estate went from too-easy-to-finance to nearly impossible.  Lack of lending crashed real estate prices and created a big mess.  The air came out.

It’s why we became such outspoken advocates for syndication.  There was (and still is) a huge need and opportunity to aggregate capital for real estate.

Banks and Wall Street had been the primary channels for capital aggregation and distribution.  But they were broken.  Main Street needed to be empowered.

The government agreed.

So in 2012, the JOBS Act passed. And since September 2013, regulations are in place which make raising private capital MUCH easier.  We like it.

But while the JOBS Act helps investors raise EQUITY …

… earlier legislation (the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act) actually impedes lending … especially at the local level.

But now that’s changing … and it’s an EXCITING development!

You may have seen this headline …

Trump signs bipartisan bill rolling back some Dodd-Frank bank regulations – Los Angeles Times, 5/24/18

“ … with the key support of some Senate Democrats, the legislation focuses relief on small and medium-sized banks …

 “‘This is a great day for Main Street in rural America, and a big testament to what’s possible when members of Congress put partisanship aside and work together to help our communities grow and thrive,’ [Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.)] said in a statement after the signing.” 

Community banks, which enjoy broad support among Republicans and Democrats, will be freed from Dodd-Frank’s mortgage rules if they make fewer than 500 mortgages a year.”

Even in today’s highly charged political environment, this bipartisan effort shows Main Street real estate is very important to politicians.

The Dodd-Frank rollback aims to improve the flow of money into real estate, which is awesome for real estate investors.

Of course, just because politicians aim at something, doesn’t mean they hit it.  Politicians are notoriously bad shots.

So what do LENDERS think of the Dodd-Frank rollback?

Local bankers say reforms to Dodd-Frank are welcome – Herald-Whig, 6/5/18

“Mark Field, president and chairman of Liberty Bank, said most of the benefits from the recent reforms … involve mortgages.”

“… allows banks to give automatic qualified mortgage status to customers they know if the banks are using their own money for loans.”

“‘Character and knowing people counts for something again,’ Field said.”

This is GREAT news … and although time will tell (after all, this is very recent) … we think it will open up capital flows into real estate.

Of course, as we’ve said before, we think more money will be finding its way into real estate lending.  It’s both inevitable and reassuring.

For individual investors and syndicators alike, this new playing field promises to open up new sources of lending … and terms.

Because even though lending has loosened since the depths of the recession …

… it’s remained tight for borrowers and projects that didn’t fit into the tightly-regulated box created by Dodd-Frank.

Not to get too far in the weeds, but the 2008 credit crisis had its roots in Wall Street’s casino mentality.

In its zeal to create more poker chips, Wall Street cast aside sound lending practices because they could bury the risk in complex securities and sell them to unsuspecting investors.

Wall Street didn’t really care if loans went bad … because they wouldn’t be holding them when it happened.

So Dodd-Frank created strict rules attempting to prevent the bad behavior of Wall Street and big banks.  (Good luck with that.)

We could go on … but the point is that Dodd-Frank took professional judgment out of lending … from EVERYONE … including community banks, credit unions, and other portfolio lenders (those who hold loans instead of flip them).

Even though the financial crisis had its roots in Wall Street, not Main Street … Dodd-Frank took many Main Street lenders off-line.

The Dodd-Frank rollback intends to take the shackles off local lenders.

There’s a HUGE difference dealing with a local lender on a PERSONAL basis … one who’s going to hold the loan … and can consider the many factors which don’t fit into some bureaucratic one-size-fits-all checklist.

And while we need to do more research, a side-benefit for syndicators may be that setting up lending funds might get easier too.

In any case, now that local lending laws are loosening, let’s take a look at moves you can make to take advantage of the changes …

Build relationships with community bankers.  If you’ve only been investing since 2008, this is a funding source you’ve probably ignored.  It’s time to fix that.

Open accounts with community banks in markets where you invest. Establish a personal relationship with the bankers.  It’s a VERY different experience than doing business with a too-big-to-jail bank.  You’ll like it.

Use professional selling skills to find out what the banker’s goals and objectives are.  What makes the relationship a win for the banker?

Present yourself as the IDEAL client for the banker.  Do some deals … even if you don’t really need the money.  SHOW the banker you’re a person of character and capability.  Build TRUST.

It’s even BETTER if you’re a syndicator because you can bring bigger deposits, bigger loans, more transaction volume, and maybe even more referrals.

In fact, one of the secrets of successful syndication is having your individual investors make deposits in the community bank you’re borrowing from.

Go with the flow …

When the rules change, so does the flow of money.  Sometimes it works against you.  Sometimes it works FOR you.

And while there are certainly some long term economic trends every investor … real estate or otherwise … should be concerned about …

… this is a development which should have real estate investors smiling.

We think these updates to Dodd-Frank will work FOR real estate investors … at least those careful to pay attention and take effective action.

Of course, you’ve read all the way to the bottom, so you’re already ahead of the game.

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.

MANY lessons from Amazon’s HQ2 search …

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Which brings us to now …

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

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

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

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

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

Single family homes are NOT an asset class

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

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

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

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

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

Equity happens … but not evenly

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

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

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

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

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

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

Keep it simple …

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

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

What do winners have in common?

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

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

What’s driving appreciation?

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

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

But you need to look at them.

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

What markets are poised for growth?

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

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

What are the big players doing?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until next time … good investing!


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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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