06/07/15: Ask The Guys – All About Loans with Two Expert Guests

After our last episode of Ask The Guys, we asked Walter, our email room manager, to rummage through our email inbox and gather up a bunch of listener questions about loans and lending.  And he came up with some gems!

So we dialed up our lending brain trust and convened in our Dallas studio to answer your questions about loans and lending.

Behind the microphones and ahead of the yield curve for this episode of The Real Estate Guys™ radio show:

  • Your well-capitalized host, Robert Helms
  • His living on borrowed time co-host, Russell Gray
  • Residential investor lending specialist, Graham Parham
  • Commercial lending specialist, Michael Becker

After several years of tight money, it’s nice to be able to talk about getting loans again.

Even better, lenders are beginning to to get more creative in looking for ways to attract new borrowers.

But while that’s good news, it means savvy investors need to stay on top of the ever-evolving underwriting guidelines.  That’s why it so important to have one or more mortgage pros on your team.

So when Walter dragged in a bag of emails full of lending questions, we called on our lending gurus, Graham Parham and Michael Becker, to help us answer.  In fact, we made them do all the work. 😉

We talk about what happens when you’re fortunate enough to have equity and want to use a cash out refinance to access it for additional investment.

We discover that…from a lending perspective…not all properties are the same.

For example, a condominium might be in great shape…and your credit score and debt-to-income ratios might be amazing…

But if there’s too many renters and not enough owners living in the complex, your condo might be “unwarrantable”.

That means the government subsidized lenders, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, don’t want to make the loan.

Bummer.  Now you can’t get the cheapest rates.

However, all is not lost.  Because while Fannie and Freddie might shun your deal, there’s an emerging group of private money lenders who can probably help you.

Of course, it’s more expensive compared to Fannie and Freddie.  But probably better than leaving your equity trapped and idle in a property.

We also talk about HELOCs (Home Equity Lines of Credit).  These are nifty tools that allow you to have what is essentially a revolving line of credit against the equity in your property.

For a while…in the wake of the mortgage meltdown…lenders were shutting these credit lines off en masse.

Today, lenders are advertising to attract HELOC borrowers.  Happy days are here again!

Of course, we don’t think it’s smart to count on HELOCs for essential liquidity.  After all, the lender can shut the line off at will.

But they can be VERY handy tools for tapping equity…and only paying interest when you have the funds drawn.  Nice.

One of the issues borrowers are facing is income documentation.

It SEEMS like documenting income is a good idea.  After all, who would lend to someone who doesn’t have enough income to make the payments?

BUT…as our good friend Robert Kiyosaki always reminds us…there are three sides of the coin.

In the case of income documentation, most self-employed people are working diligently with their tax advisor to MINIMIZE (legally) the amount of income showing in their tax returns.

But when it comes to borrowing, the lender wants to see LOTS of income.

It used to be that lenders understood this, and would allow a borrower to “state” their income…rather than prove it.

As long as they had good credit, savings, and a legitimate source of income, the lender assumed if the borrower was willing to risk their down payment and credit score, they probably had the means to repay…whether or not the tax returns proved it.

Of course, when real estate got “hot”…and everyone was rushing in and betting on never-ending price appreciation…borrowers and lenders got sloppy.  And we all know what happened.

So today, borrowers need to plan ahead.  That means preparing your income documentation…including your tax returns…TWO YEARS in advance of your purchase!

Obviously, it’s a REALLY good idea to work closely with your mortgage AND tax advisors.

Of course, if you decide to make the leap to commercial lending (more than 5 residential units or anything non-residential)…it’s the income of the PROPERTY that needs to qualify…and it’s your balance sheet…and not your income statement…that the lenders will be interested in.

There’s another group of people who are somewhat locked out from all the great cheap government subsidized loans.  Foreigners.   And foreigners have been very interested in buying up U.S. real estate.

Of course, where there’s demand, entrepreneurs (even lenders) will look for ways to create supply.  But as you  might imagine, those solutions don’t involve government programs.

Still…some leverage…even at higher interest rates…can be better than no leverage.

As we often say, “Do the math and the math will tell you what to do.”

Another question that came up has to do with Fixed Rate versus Adustable Rate…which is best?

The answer….as you might guess…is “IT DEPENDS!”

It’s hard to imagine interest rates falling too much farther.  So the probability is higher rates in the future.

With that said, asking the the lender to fix your rate for 30 years puts all that risk on them…which you might like…but it’s insurance you’ll pay a premium for.

So the decision to go fixed or adjustable can be largely based on YOUR plans for the property.  Do you plan to sell in 3-5 years?  Do you plan to hold for 30 years?

Also, if you decide to exit the property in a few years…will you buyer be able to get affordable financing?  You can’t always assume you can freely get out of the property…at least not at your price…because if rates are up…there will be less buyers and likely less appreciation.

We think it makes sense to look at the terms of your ARM…and if you can live with the WORST case scenario interest rates…and want to enjoy the low rates of adjustable in the meantime…and ARM could be a good choice.

On the other hand, if you’re squeezing into the property with thin cash flow based on a temporarily low interest rate…and you MUST get out in 3-5 years or you’ll go bust…an ARM can be a time bomb.

Be smart.

Just like picking your property carefully, it’s important to pick your financing carefully.  And your mortgage advisors can be VERY helpful in making good decisions.

For now, listen to our two expert guests and consider how you can be a smarter borrower.

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2/16/14: Ask The Guys – Loan, LLCs and What To Do About a Big Fannie

If you want great answers, you have to ask great questions.

In this edition of Ask The Guys, we take on several great questions from our amazing audience!

Broadcasting from the beach in beautiful Belize because we can:

  • Your unbelizeable host, Robert Helms
  • His rummy co-host, Russell Gray
  • The Godfather of white sand real estate, Bob Helms

You’d think with that tee-up that this whole episode is about Belize.  But it’s not.  We just happened to be in Belize when we did the show.  Not sure how we got there.  Rum may have been involved.  But when we realized it was time to do the show, there we were in Belize, so sometimes you just do what you gotta do.   You have no idea the sacrifices we make to bring you The Real Estate Guys™ Radio Show.

There are few things we like better than answering your questions.  Mostly because we don’t have to think of a topic for an episode. 😉   But also, because we always get great questions.  We wish we had time to answer them all.  Since we can’t, we pick out those we think are most relevant to the audience.

How do we know what the audience likes?  By reading all the questions that come in.  So add your views to the discussion by sending your question to us on our Ask The Guys page.

Remember!  We’re not lawyers, CPAs, or investment advisors.  In fact, we’re not even that bright.  So before you run off and put real money at risk because “The Real Estate Guys said so”, remember we’re only sharing ideas and personal opinions.  Always check with your own qualifed advisors before taking action on anything you hear on the radio, find on the internet or read on the bathroom wall.

With that said, let’s get into it…

Should I dump a great loan so I can put the property in an LLC?

We get this one a LOT.  And like nearly every question we get, the answer is…it depends.

In this listener’s case, he has a below market interest rate on a loan he got when he was the owner-occupant.  Great!  But the bank may call the loan if he moves it into an LLC.

Stop right there.  Why would the bank do that?

Well, in the real world, as long as you’re making the payments on time, they probably won’t.  At least, we’ve never seen it happen.  But they have the right to because nearly every loan contains a “due on sale or transfer” clause which “accelerates” the loan in the event of any change of ownership.

But even if you make the payments on time, if you have a below market interest rate, is the lender motivated to get the money back from you so they can loan it to someone else at today’s higher rate?  Maybe.  It’s a risk you take.

Now if you call up the lender and ask ahead of time, our experience is they almost always say “no”.  So you can try to sneak it by and hope no one notices, which happens all the time, but you run the risk of losing that lush loan.

Or, you can go ahead and transfer the property into the LLC and get a new loan.  Which begs the question, “Is it worth it?”

First, the loan will undoubtedly cost more.  Not only will you pay today’s higher market rates, now that it’s a rental property, you’ll pay the additional risk premium (higher interest) for it not being owner-occupied.  Plus, you can’t get government subsidized loans like Fannie, Freddie or FHA if you are using an entity like an LLC.  So you’ll pay even more.

Add to that the time, expense and hassle of forming an LLC and transferring the property, plus the ongoing expense of maintaining the entity, and it really starts to add up.

So if it’s a somewhat expensive hassle, why consider it?

It’s all about asset protection…and perhaps about privacy.  Let’s deal with each individually.

First, asset protection.  An entity like an LLC creates a firewall which isolates the liability created by the property.  In order to get to assets not owned by the LLC (like everything else you own), the plaintiff (the person suing you) will need to “pierce the corporate veil” and prove in a court that you’re personally liable for whatever damage they suffered.

BUT…before it ever comes to your other assets, they will need to get past your insurance policies.  In most cases when you or your entity is sued, your insurance policies will defend you.  And because the lawyers really don’t want to go to court, they’ll just work together to get the insurance company to settle.  Sometimes, they’ll ask you to kick something in too, which is no fun.  But it’s less expensive than going to trial.

At least that’s our experience.

So, when you look at all the added expenses of giving up the great loan, it might be a better use of money to beef up your insurance policies.

Of course, if there’s millions of dollars of net worth exposed to the liability of the property, then the added expense might be worth it.

This is why we say, “it depends”.  Check with you own professional advisors and they’ll help you make the right choice for you.

How do you build a great local team when investing out of the area?

This is another great question and is less complicated to answer.

First, look for referrals from other successful investors in the area.  Just being referred by someone is an edge because now the service provider is risking both your business and his current client’s (the referrer) if they do a poor job.  That alone is worth something.

Next, find the real estate agent who controls most of the kind of inventory you’re looking for.  That is, what name seems to show up the most on the For Sale listings?  This is obviously a person who’s very active in the market.  And with the internet, it’s easy to find them and check our their on-line reputation before you ever meet face to face.

Property managers can be a great starting point in a new market.  Someone who primarily or exclusively does property management often has less of a sales agenda than nearly anyone else on your real estate team.  Why?  Because while the agent and lender will handle your transaction and get paid all at once then are off to the next deal, the property manager is looking into a long term relationship where they’ll make their money over time…like you do.

Local market real estate expos and investment clubs can be a great place to meet fellow investors and service providers who are active in working with local investors.  You may have to fly into a town a few times to network and have meetings, but once the team is built, you can operate fairly easily from afar.

What’s the optimal amount to put down on a property?

We LOVE this question. In fact, we cover this topic extensively in our out-of-print book Equity Happens (we’re working on an update) and our Real Equity Home Study Course.

The short answer is:  Use as much leverage as you can comfortably debt service when allowing for unexpected expenses and inability to raise rents substantially.

Obviously, prevailing interest rates, local competition, the strength of the local job market, macro-economic factors that affect cost of living (interest rates, oil prices, healthcare costs, etc), all affect the durability of the rental income and must be carefully considered when pushing the leverage ratio higher.

But rather than just dump money into paying down a loan when mortgage rates are still dirt cheap, think about taking the extra cash and buying income producing investments that outperform the cost of the mortgage.  For more ideas on this topic, check out Using Oil to Lubricate Your Investment Portfolio and Real Asset Investing.

How can I keep investing if I can’t get any more Fannie Mae loans?

Another great question that comes up a lot.

First, even though post 2008, it seems like the only loans available are government backed, that’s starting to change.  So when you Fannie (portfolio) has gotten too big, you have the option of switching to private (non-government) money.  This could be owner-carry back, hard-money lenders, mortgage pools or any number of independent funds that have stepped into the pick up the pieces after the mortgage meltdown wiped out most the mortgage banks.

You can also go commercial by moving into apartment buildings (5 residential units or more), commercial, industrial, retail or office properties.  For the average rental home owner, the natural progression is apartments.  But you could look at mobile home parks, self-storage, or even parking lots.

Assuming you want to stay in the residential 1-4 space and collect more Fannie loans, you could take on credit partners.  These are people who have virgin credit scores when it comes to Fannie / Freddie, and you partner.

Whew!  If you read all the way to here, you’re a hard core information junkie.  Great!  So are we.  So you keep reading and listening, and we’ll keep reading and talking.  Then let us know what you think on our Feedback page.  And if you love the show, please give us some love on our iTunes page.  Each positive review not only inspires to keep working, it improves the show’s ranking, which is helpful for attracting sponsors to support the effort and VIP guests to interview on the show.

Thanks!  Now, please enjoy the latest edition of Ask The Guys, where believe it or not, there are additional questions discussed that didn’t make it into this mega-blog.  But we’re getting callouses on our finger tips from typing, so enjoy the podcast!

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12/15/13: Ask The Guys – Leverage, Relationships, Technology, and Advice from a Legend

In this episode, The Real Estate Guys™ answer your question with our questionable answers. 😉

And at the end of the broadcast, a living legend in the real estate business answers the question we get asked more than any other.  So tune in and listen up for another exhilarating and informative edition of Ask The Guys!  To put your question in our email grab bag for the next Ask The Guys show, click here to visit our cleverly named Ask The Guys page.

From the Rich Dad Radio Show studios in chilly Scottsdale, Arizona (thanks to our good friend Robert Kiyosaki and his amazing team!):

  • A man who asks nothing and knows everything, your host Robert Helms
  • A man knows nothing and answers everything, co-host Russell Gray
  • A living legend in real estate who shall remain anonymous until revealed at the end of the episode, Mr. X

Okay!  We’ve got another great bunch of questions…thanks to YOU and our email room manager, Walter.  If you know Walter, it’s amazing he can even carry the email bag, much less pull anything out of it.  But he’s a resourceful little pecker…

So right out of the gate we get a question about LEVERAGE.  This is SUCH a great tool in every investor’s toolbox…and we love to talk about it.

The question is simple enough, but the answer, like a fine cut diamond, is multifaceted.

Should you pay cash or get a loan?

Mmmmmm….there’s a lot there.  And to blog on this topic is to write a chapter in a book, so we won’t do that.

Instead, we’ll give you some things to think about, then encourage you to listen to the show.  And if you can, get your hands on a used copy of our temporarily-out-of-print-while-we-look-for-time-to-update-it book, Equity Happens.  We spend a lot of time on the topic of leverage in the book.  It’s also covered in our Real Equity Home Study Course. available here.

Here some of the FEATURES and BENEFITS (that’s sales speak) of leverage:

  • Leverage allows you to own more real estate for less of your own money.  Instead of 100% down on just one property, you can put 20% down on 5 properties.  It’s not complicated…more is better.
  • Leverage allows you to enjoy 100% of the appreciation of a property with only a fraction of your own money in the deal.  So if you put 20% down, you pay for 1/5 a property.  The loan pays for the other 4/5.  But when the property goes up, you get 5/5 of the gain.  Nice!
  • Leverage allows you to SHORT THE DOLLAR.  If you believe that the dollar will continue to fall in value against things that are real (like food, energy, real estate, cars, clothes, labor, etc…), then you don’t want to save dollars, you want to convert them into things that are real.  Ideally into things that produce income.  Even better to go to go into the future and bring dollars into the present and buy more real assets today.  This is called “shorting the dollar”.  Confused?  Click here to get a copy of our special report on Real Asset Investing and see if it helps.
  • Leverage allow you to arbitrage your cash flow.  Arbitrage is just a fancy word for making money on the spread, like a bank does when they pay  you a paltry 1% on your savings and then buy Treasuries at 2.5%.    You can do the same thing when you borrow at 5% and then use the proceeds to buy 8% cash flow (like a rental property), you make 3% profit on the spread.  Fun!

We could go on and on (can you tell?), but hopefully you get the gist of it.  Real estate is a financial tool and leverage is an important financial concept that every investor needs to understand.  So study it.

And when you get good at understanding leverage, you’ll want to enjoy Multiple Mortgasms.

Sorry.  It’s a little crude, but after all, we are The Real Estate Guys, not The Real Estate Gentlemen.  Besides the line was too good to pass up.

So what are we talking about?

In residential real estate, the mortgage market is subsidized by the Federal government.  It’s kind of like what’s happening with healthcare under Obamacare.  The government wants to “help” by make housing more available to the little guy, so Uncle Sam created agencies to “help” the private sector make mortgages cheaper.

How? By providing more liquidity through a guaranteed buyer of mortgages in the secondary market.  That’s where mortgage originators go to sell the mortgages they make.  Remember that while we, as investors, think of mortgages as liabilities…paper investors think of them as assets.  When you OWE the money, it’s your liability.  When you are OWED the money, it’s your asset.

The street names for these agencies who buy (or guarantee) the mortgages are Fannie and Freddie.  Since their introduction to the market (among MANY unintended consequences), most residential lending conforms (a “conforming” loan) to their lending guidelines.  Even when the originator doesn’t plan to sell the loan to Fannie or Freddie.  It’s just nice to have a backup exit strategy.

One of the Fannie / Freddie “conforming” guidelines is they won’t lend to anyone who has more than 10 Fannie or Freddie loans already.  So when you get to 10, you’re “Fannie’d out”.

The point is that if you want to maximize your investing by taking advantage of these cheaper loans, you need to manage your loan portfolio carefully.  So when our listener told us they had just two properties with four loans on them, we knew he didn’t get this concept.  So we talk about it to be sure that everyone learns.

Of course, the segues into the next topic…

With so many properties, vendors and tenants, what software can be used to keep track of it all?  Great question!

Sadly, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all great answer.  And keeping track of all the moving parts is the bane of any business person, real estate or otherwise.  Unfortunately, complexity is the price we pay for prosperity.  Sometimes you just can’t remember all the properties you own or where they are.

Our short answer is to know that most property management platforms are PROPERTY centric.  Most CRM (Customer Relationship Management) platforms are CONTACT centric.  Of course, brilliant developers are constantly creating new and innovative products.  And each year, the products become more specialized as developers target specific niches.  That’s the good news.

The bad news is that there are still so many demographics bigger than the real estate investing community, so no product has come across our desks that we feel we can call, “Neo”…(from the Matrix…”the One”)…

The biggest problem we see with software is that it tries to be smarter than you.  In our case, that’s not too hard.  But when the software locks you into a process, it’s hard to adjust to changing conditions.

So our general advice is to go with something inexpensive, highly supported (lots of gurus who know how to tweak it), and very customizable.  This way, you can adjust it on the fly as you figure out how to use it to best manage your unique situation.  So if you start out with single-family homes, then get into self-storage or Christmas tree farms, your software can be made to fit your needs.

When you buy a program tightly designed for one niche, it may not fit the other.  But you can customize, you can add fields and functions to suit your investing fancy.  You don’t want the technology tail to wag the investing dog.  Investing is the main thing.  Technology is a support function.  Duh.

Lastly, we get a question from someone who just drank the real estate Kool-Aid and wants to make real estate a profession.  We get this one ALL the time.

So rather than recycle answers we’ve provided several times in the past…and because we happen to be in Scottsdale, Arizona…we give a shout to our friend, hero and 2014 Summit at Sea faculty member, the legendary Tom Hopkins.  Tom is gracious enough to drop everything and come into the studio to share a small portion of his immense wisdom.

But we won’t do you the disservice of trying to transcribe Tom’s sage advice, except this Yoda-like notion:  when you decide to do something, don’t try.  Commit.  And when you do, you’ll be successful.  Too many people “try” real estate sales or investing.  Too few “commit”.   “Do.  Or do not.  There is no try.”

So commit to listen to this episode, and then take the next steps to enhance your education, grow your network, and build your support team.  We’re committed to providing all kinds of opportunities to help you, including events, resources and episodes full of great ideas and information.  Thanks for listening to The Real Estate Guys™ radio show!  Tell a friend!

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The Real Estate Guys™ radio show and podcast provides real estate investing news, education, training and resources that help real estate investors succeed. Visit our Feedback page and tell us what you think!

7/11/10: Ask The Guys – Bankrupcty, Tax Liens, Cheap Houses and More!

So we’re wandering around the radio show one day trying to think of something to talk about.  Then we trip over a big bag of email and say, “Hey! We haven’t answered listener questions for awhile. Let’s do that!”  So today’s episode is all about you and your questions.

Taking the stand and promising to answer each question to the best of our admittedly limited abilities:

  • Host and Professional Pontificator, Robert Helms
  • Co-Host and Head of The Real Estate Guys Research Institute, Russell Gray
  • The Man Who’s Forgotten More Real Estate than Most Will Ever Know, the Godfather of Real Estate, Bob Helms

One of our favorite things to do is show off how smart we are.  For obvious reasons, we don’t get to do that very often, but we always look forward to the opportunity.  Then again, if you subscribe to the idea that people learn by making mistakes, we’re REALLY smart!

Anyway, we get lots of questions from people and we love it.  So please keep ’em coming!  Go to Ask the Guys and ask away!  For this episode, we grabbed a handful from the email bag and here are some we found.

(For privacy purposes, we’ve omitted the names, phone numbers, social security numbers, birthdates, drivers license numbers, bank account information, picture, height, weight, race, religion, sexual orientation and favorite ice cream)

I just came out of a Chapter 7 bankruptcy.  How can I get a mortgage?

I found properties for $500 – $1000!  Seems like a no-brainer.  Am I missing something?

Is Dallas a dangerous place?

The Great Recession wiped me out.  How do I get going again?

What do you think of using retirement accounts to buy real estate?

Are tax liens a safe investment?

And our personal favorite:

Is it still possible to buy property for no money down?

Tune in for the answers to these and other exciting questions on this episode of The Real Estate Guys™ Radio Show! (theme music plays here).

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Are We Going to Lose our Fannie?

Sorry.  Can’t help all the Fannie puns.  They’re just too good not to use.

Today the Associated Press published a report “Fannie Mae seeks $15 Billion in US Aid after 3Q Loss”.   In case you’re keeping score, Fannie and her brother Freddie Mac have gobbled up about $111,000,000,000 ( we showed you all the zeroes for dramatic effect) in the last 14 months since regulators seized them.

“So what?” you may ask.  “I’m just a small time investor trying to find a property that will cash flow.”  Great!  You’re in luck because there’s lots of those out there right now.  That’s one of the big benefits of this recession.  Great properties are on sale.

But when you read the AP article, you’ll see they quoted “Fannie Mae” herself as saying, “There is significant uncertainty regarding the future of our business, including whether we will continue to exist, and we expect this uncertainty to continue.”

Wow! Where did THAT come from?  We went digging and found it actually came from page 20 of the 10-Q (you’re welcome…sorry, another stupid pun) Fannie filed with the SEC.  You can find it on Fannie’s web site.  It’s 241 pages.  In case you don’t know, companies issue press releases and say how wonderful everything is, then they file the 10-Q with the SEC in which they need to be much more straight forward.

You may recall it wasn’t too long ago that the now-former Fannie Mae executive team was telling us, “Liquidity problem? What liquidity problem?”  Obviously, Fannie Mae is in trouble today.

Again, so what?

Remember, appreciation is a product of supply, demand and capacity to pay.  In terms of housing in the US, we have builders slowing way down while our population continues to grow.  Last time we looked, people like to sleep under a roof, so we’re guessing that demand is persistent and growing.  The big monkey wrench is capacity to pay.  People without jobs don’t have much capacity to pay.  People whose credit was ruined while they were out of work or who decided to sacrifice their credit to get out of a bad loan can’t really borrow right now.  For the remainder of buyers, Congress is extending a first time home buyer’s tax credit.  Somewhat helpful, but not the big horse that’s been pulling the cart down the road.

As we’ve been commenting on for some time, most of the lending going on is through Fannie, Freddie and FHA.  To the extent that there is capacity to pay in the market right now, it is largely propped up by these three.  If they go away, then what?

In the short term, prices would likely drop. Why?  Less loans mean less buyers.  Duh. In the long term, new players would step in to fill the void.  How do we know?  In a capitalistic society, no problem lingers in the market place for too long before some “greedy” entrepreneur figures out how to solve it for a fee.  Ironically, the thing that keeps many of these “saviors” on the sidelines is they don’t want to compete with the government, who seems to take pride in driving the profit out of everything to “help” people, right up until the private sector collapses.

Oops. Our opinion is showing.

You don’t have to agree.  This isn’t even a matter of how it should be.  It’s simply a matter of how it is and what are you going to do about it.

For now, prices are good relative to cash flows.  Loans are cheap and readily available if you (or your investment partners) have good credit and documentable income.   We think the argument could be made it would be a good time to buy, but plan to hold for 10 years or more .  Remember, the key to control is cash flow.

If Fannie  goes away, we’ll wish we got those good loans when they were here.  An investor can never get enough cheap money.

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The Mortgage Meltdown and Healthcare

What do these two topics have to do with each other?  Well, certainly after the mortgage meltdown the US economy is in need of health care.  Not reform.  Just getting healthy!  But that’s not the topic of this post.  Instead the question is: What lessons from the mortgage meltdown can be applied to the health care debate?  And, as a real estate investor, why should you care?

Without going into an extensive history lesson, here’s a quick recap of the mortgage meltdown:

  1. Government decides to “help” the free market for mortgages by establishing Fannie and Freddie to buy mortgages in the secondary market.
  2. Assured of a buyer for their mortgages, mortgage originators aggressively market them.  They sell it silly.  People buy houses. Values go up and more people buy. Equity happens and life is good.
  3. Private industry sees opportunity and wants to play, but find themselves competing against the “Government Sponsored Enterprises” (GSE’s) Fannie and Freddie.  Mortgage rates are dictated by risk and the implied government guarantee of Fannie and Freddie means mortgages that “conform) (i.e., conforming loans) are cheaper than private industry.  Of course, the consumer will buy the cheaper loan.
  4. Private industry expands into “non-conforming” (i.e. Jumbo, sub-prime, etc) in order to be in the mortgage business without having to compete directly with the GSE’s.  They make money.
  5. In 1999, the Clinton Administration says, “Fannie and Freddie, you need to make it even easier for people to get home loans”, which is code for “lower your standards”.  Fannie and Freddie comply.
  6. Home ownership surges under George W. Bush.  He’s an economic genius.  Home values soar.  Private industry says, “I want some more!” and recruits foreign investors to plow money into “super safe” mortgage backed securities.  The money is directed at sub-prime, alt-a, investors, jumbo, etc.  Now equity is REALLY happening!
  7. Reality sets in.  People who shouldn’t have gotten loans do what people who shouldn’t have gotten loans do: they default.  The sub-prime crisis sets off a chain reaction of well chronicled events that set off The Great Recession.  As a result, the private mortgage business is almost wiped out.  Fannie and Freddie survive on the backs of the taxpayers (the working private sector).

Obviously, there’s a lot more to the story, but what are the lessons?  Here are two of the most important ones:

1. In a capitalistic society, the objective of enterprise is to make a profit.    It’s what motivates the brightest people to work hard and sacrifice to create solutions to society’s problems – solutions that can be sold for a profit.  Profits are what allow people to pay taxes, give to charity, invest in product development and new enterprises that create jobs and enrich society. Profits are not evil, they are essential.

2. When the government, though well intentioned (giving it the benefit of the doubt) enters into competition with private industry, with the goal of making a product or service “more affordable”  (code for reducing or eliminating those evil profits), the result is a) private industry is crushed, taking its jobs with it; or b) private industry is forced to compromise sound business practice in order to survive (like loaning money to people who can’t afford to pay it back) and eventually those unsound business practices result in failure – and the loss of jobs.

And the correlation to healthcare?

The President of the United States has gone on record as stating that one of the “benefits” of a public option is to create a health care insurance program “without a profit motive” to compete with private industry.  When you follow that thought track to its logical conclusion, does anyone see a train wreck?

When you think about how big the health care industry is, you can imagine how many private sector jobs would be lost if it were to melt down too.  And since the private sector economy is the one that pays 100% of the taxes, the smaller it gets, the larger the tax burden will be on those who remain.

Loss of private sector jobs and higher taxes have a DIRECT impact on your real estate investments. When more private sector capital is sucked into government, there is less of it available for private purposes. And what is available becomes more expensive (higher interest rates).

So even though “homes and healthcare for all” are noble and compassionate causes that everyone can support, the methodology of undermining the private sector to accomplish them is counterproductive in the long term IF one is operating in a CAPITALISTIC society.

There is no debate about whether we all want people to have homes, healthcare and abundance.  We all want that.  The debate is whether or not we are committed to capitalism.  If we are (and you should be as a real estate investor), then the solution will be found in the private sector as entrepreneurs work every day in their “enlightened self-interest” to invent, build and sell homes, health insurance, health services and whatever other products or services enhance the human experience.

Diesel engines run great on diesel fuel. Regular gas engines run great on regular gas.  But when you put diesel fuel in a regular gas engine or vice versa, it might run for a little while, but it won’t run well.  Eventually, it will break down and not work at all.

Until someone re-writes the Constitution of the United States, the US is a capitalistic society.  Let’s be careful about injecting incompatible “fuel” no matter how noble the motive.