When it rains, it pours …

If you’re a mass consumer of financial punditry as we are, you’ve probably heard the term “black swan”. 

In the context of investing, a black swan is some completely unexpected event that has a substantial impact on financial markets and investors …

… like back-to-back mega-hurricanes which wreak many hundreds of billions of dollars of damage.

Even as the millions of affected people are working through the enormous task of sorting through the damage and cleaning up the mess …

… investors far away from the stricken areas are assessing the potential ramifications of these huge and unexpected events.

As we discussed in a recent broadcast, there’s certainly opportunity and a role for investors to play in helping these areas bounce back from disaster.

But it could be the affliction isn’t purely physical.

Consider this recent CNBC headline … 

Harvey’s hit to mortgages could be four times worse than predicted—and then there’s Irma

“As many as 300,000 borrowers could become delinquent on their loans after Hurricane Harvey …”

“The sheer volume of homes hit by Hurricane Irma will likely cause an increase in mortgage delinquencies as well …”

The article references a report produced by Black Knight Financial Services … so we took a look and found these notable excerpts:

More than 3.1 million properties are now included in FEMA-designated Irma disaster areas, representing approximately $517 billion in unpaid principal balances.”

“Harvey-related disaster areas held 1.18 million properties – more than twice as many as with Hurricane Katrina in 2005 – with a combined unpaid principal balance of $179 billion.”

That’s $696 billion of mortgages that could potentially go bad because property owners are underinsured, have negative equity, or are owned by displaced people in financial distress.

For context, according to this 2007 article from Associated Press:

“Subprime mortgages totaled $600 billion last year [2006], accounting for about one-fifth of the U.S. home loan market. An estimated $1.3 trillion in subprime mortgages are currently outstanding.”

In other words, the value of outstanding mortgages on ONLY those properties inside the disaster areas is over half of what the TOTAL of ALL subprime mortgages were leading into the 2008 financial crisis.

But, you say, all those mortgages aren’t sub-prime.  Prime borrowers wouldn’t walk on their mortgages … potentially triggering another debt crisis … would they?

Of course, no one knows what property owners affected by the CURRENT crisis will do … or how helpful banks and the government will be this time …

… but thanks to a research report by the National Bureau of Economic Research, we know the REAL reason people defaulted on their mortgages during the 2008 crisis was … lack of equity.

“ … data show that the crisis was not solely, or even primarily, a subprime sector event.”

“… but … a much bigger and broader event dominated by prime borrowers …”

“Current LTV is a powerful predictor of home loss, regardless of borrower type.” (LTV is loan-to-value)

“… the role of negative equity remains very powerful.”

Basically, people who own underwater properties (no pun intended … okay, maybe a little intentional) are more likely to walk on their mortgages.

So if that’s true, and these afflicted area properties lose substantial value, it’s possible the next “storm” will be a surge of bad mortgages … to the tune of hundreds of billions of dollars.

In other words, it’s not just the mortgages on PHYSICALLY damaged properties, but ALL properties in the region whose values are dragged down …

… the way prime borrowers’ properties were dragged down by sub-prime borrowers’ foreclosures in 2008.

Does this mean another bad mortgage fueled financial crisis is looming?

That’s hard to say.  If Wall Street has once again levered to the moon and issued trillions in derivatives against these mortgages, then things could get ugly.

However, this potential crisis is different than last time …

One major problem leading up to the 2008 financial crisis was household debt service payments as a percent of disposable personal income was sky high.

Back then, borrowers across the United States were tapped out.

Sub-prime borrowers were at the margin.  So when teaser rate loans reset higher, mortgage payments became unaffordable and sub-prime borrowers defaulted.

But these defaults were scattered over many markets because it wasn’t a geographic problem … it was demographic. So MANY markets were affected.

When prices fell, they took the values of prime borrowers’ properties with them … and prime borrowers began to default too … not because of affordability, but because of lack of equity.

Each new default put more downward pressure on home values, eroding more equity, and drawing more prime borrowers into default.

Today, at least according to this chart from the St Louis Fed, debt service to income is much lower.

Of course, if interest rates rise, wages fall, or inflation erodes purchasing power,  once again, borrowers at the margin could default … and that could trigger widespread defaults and collapsing prices.

But that’s a worry for a different day. 

As far as the fallout from these hurricanes, our bet is defaults and falling values are likely to happen primarily only in the affected areas.

However, we also suspect any spike in defaults is likely to be mitigated quickly because of the lessons gleaned from 2008.

Lenders know playing hardball with distressed borrowers only makes the problem worse. We’re guessing they’ll be much more flexible with loan workouts and short sales this time.

And because this is a physical disaster, not a financial disaster … government aid is likely to be fast and generous … at least on behalf of homeowners.

Plus, Uncle Sam knows if they don’t put out the fire fast, it could quickly spread and burn up their banker buddies.  We doubt they’ll let that happen.

Better to bail the bankers out BEFORE an implosion by helping afflicted property owners and preventing price crushing foreclosures.

So … with all that said, we think there could be some serious TEMPORARY downward pressure on prices …

…and opportunities for private investors to step in with fresh funds, pick up some bargains, and help distressed property owners out of untenable situations.

That’s because owners of investment properties may not get the same level of help as owner-occupants.  They’ll need to turn to private capital for assistance.

Fortunately, both Houston and most of the affected markets in Florida were strong investment markets before the disasters.

And in spite of the horrific damage, most of the basic market fundamentals remain unchanged.  So when rebuilt, they’ll probably solid investment markets.

Even better, these areas are likely to see a spike in economic activity as money is invested in reconstruction.  A lot of money will be pouring into these regions.

So we’re watching these areas carefully … because when the window of acquisition opportunity opens, it may only last for a short while.

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.

Yet another BRUTAL storm forming …

And the hits just keep on coming …

We know you’d like investing to be simple and drama free.  We do too.

But while real estate investing itself is a simple activity … the economics of real estate investing has become more complex.

There’s a LOT going on in the world.   Some things interconnect by cause, and others by effect … meaning they don’t appear to be related, but then converge.

As Jim Rickards points out repeatedly … economies and ecologies are complex systems.  They are difficult to understand and even more difficult to predict.

But even though no one can say with certainty what will happen, it’s still important to take precautions when it’s clear SOMETHING BIG is coming …

… just as Floridians watched Irma and prepared, not knowing fully what to expect.  Better to be prepared and not have a disaster than vice versa.

So let’s take a look at what’s forming on the horizon …

Hurricanes Harvey and Irma

While the total financial and human impact of these back-to-back disasters is yet to be calculated, one thing’s for sure …  it’s going to be expensive.

Short term disruptions to gas prices and orange futures aside, disasters like these redirect HUGE amounts of capital … which has a ripple effect.

For example, money insurance companies might otherwise put into financing NEW multi-family apartments in other markets …

… will now pour into re-building properties damaged and destroyed in Houston and Florida.

Federal money which might have been focused on infrastructure spending or tax cuts will also be redirected to damage recovery.

And it’s likely the demand for construction labor and supplies will rise, driving up total construction costs in many markets … not just those affected by the storms.

That’s because just as demand for concrete in China creates price increases in the U.S. … the demand for reconstruction resources will probably be felt throughout the United States.

Distressed inventory

Just like the financial disaster of 2008, there may be many problem properties coming out of all this … because many weren’t insured for flood damage.

Federal aid may help some of those homeowners.  It’s less likely such relief is offered to investors who were under-insured.

While it’s no fun to profit from someone else’s loss, there’s a role for profit-seeking capital to play in repairing damaged communities.

We wouldn’t be surprised to see tax breaks, loan subsidies or other incentives offered to entice investment capital to flow into affected markets … like when New Orleans was hit by Hurricane Katrina.

The Debt Ceiling  

In other news, President Trump and Congress managed to get the debt ceiling temporarily increased … while raising the prospect of simply eliminating it all together.

Talk about calling a spade a spade.  The ceiling hasn’t capped spending … ever.

Now billions of dollars are ear-marked for hurricane relief, and everyone can take a short break from “worrying” Uncle Sam might default on his debt.

So it looks like it’s back to over-spending as usual. Not surprisingly, the dollar’s year-long fall has resumed velocity.  

Then again … maybe the dollar’s fall (and gold’s rise) is part of a bigger story which has nothing to do with U.S. business-as-usual deficit spending …

Gold-backed yuan already finding friends

As we recently noted, China announced plans to settle its oil trade in yuan.

And to entice sellers to accept yuan, the Chinese are backing it with that “barbarous relic” … gold.

Days later, oil-rich Venezuela announced they’d start using yuan … and other currencies … to “free us from the dollar.”

It’s no surprise Venezuela would jump at this.  After all, just two weeks earlier President Trump signed an executive order sanctioning Venezuela … whose economy is 95% oil.

But as we note in our Real Asset Investing report, China began its plan to supplant the dollar way back in 2010.  So none of this is new.

And the first country to sign a bilateral trade agreement to “renounce the U.S. dollar” was … wait for it … Russia … followed by Brazil, Australia, and a LONG list of others.

We think this is a HUGE story that few in mainstream financial media are covering.  But we are.

In fact, we’re putting together an emergency conference call with Brien Lundin and Chris Martenson to discuss the ramifications … so stay tuned for that!

Is the U.S. dollar doomed?

This is the big WHY IT MATTERS … especially for Americans and everyone denominating wealth in American dollars.

Like Hurricane Irma, no one can say exactly if, when, or how disaster will strike.  And it’s possible the winds will change and the storm will miss your portfolio.

But what if it doesn’t?  Right now, the winds appear to be headed your way.

Are YOU ready?  Are you getting ready?  Many people don’t even know what ready looks like.  That was us 10 years ago.

It’s a complex problem so there’s no simple solution.  If there was, it probably wouldn’t be a problem.

Peter Schiff has been warning about this for years. As has Robert Kiyosaki, Richard Duncan, Simon Black, Chris Martenson, Jim Rickards, David Stockman … and the list goes on and on.

Each has their own ideas about when … and how to prepare.

There’s no one-size-fits all answer because everyone’s situation, portfolio, investing IQ, advisory network, access to deals, and investment objectives are different.

MISSION: POSSIBLE

Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to get informed, educated, connected and activated … as quickly as possible.

And if you think getting educated is time consuming and expensive … it’s nothing compared to being ignorant and apathetic.

When storm clouds form on the horizon, some decide to pay attention and take pre-emptive steps.  There’s no guarantee of safety, but their odds are better.

Others only hope for the best, but don’t prepare for the worst.  Yet the higher the stakes, the more important it is to be preemptively cautious.

The storm warnings are loud and clear … for everyone paying attention.

But storms often approach slowly … and because most blow over … it’s easy (yet dangerous) to assume every storm will.

Slowly at first … then all at once

Longtime listeners know we’ve been watching this whole story unfold for years.

We talked about the very real possibility of China making a run at reserve currency status almost two years ago.  We said then we’d keep you informed and so we are.

Now things are picking up speed.  So if you’re new or haven’t been all that interested … NOW is the time to accelerate your understanding.

If you’ve read this far, we trust you’re interested and concerned … as you should be.

So we STRONGLY encourage you to SERIOUSLY consider attending BOTH Brien Lundin’s New Orleans Investment Conference (coming up FAST!) and The Real Estate Guys™ 2018 Investor Summit at Sea™.

These events each feature lots of big brains … with critical perspectives every serious investor needs to have to help understand and navigate these stormy times.

Sure, these events are capitalist ventures … we each make some money producing them.

But we’re not after your money … we simply use to it for event costs and to pay some bills along the way.  Your support makes these events possible.

We organize events so we can get brilliant minds in one place at one time.  And the only way to make it affordable for us … and you … is to share the cost with hundreds of others.

So yes, we need your help.  And in exchange YOU get access too!

With that said, these events are happening with or without you. Your absence or presence, while nice for us, could be LIFE-CHANGING for YOU … and that’s true of most important ideas, opportunities and relationships.

So with the winds of sea change blowing fiercely on the horizon, it’s a good time to consider carefully whether or not investing in preparation is a good idea.

We think it is.

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.