Market analysis for dummies …

Buying an income producing property is an investment in the underlying economy.

That’s REALLY where the income originates. That’s why we put so much emphasis on market analysis.

Investors who focus exclusively on deal analysis (crunching the numbers on the property) but fail to underwrite the market sometimes end up in a mess.

The context of a deal is the macro-environment … things like interest rates, taxes, energy costs … that affect everyone everywhere.

But there’s also regional factors … local taxes, landlord law, supply and demand, and jobs.

Once all those things check out, you (probably through your boots-on-the ground team) go to the street level and start looking for a deal that makes sense by the numbers.

That’s because a strong market will lift a marginal deal, while a weak market can suck the life out of even a “good” deal.

Market selection matters.

Of course, that’s easy to say. But figuring markets out can be a bit of a challenge.

So we cheat.

While in school it’s frowned upon to sneak a peak at the smart kid’s homework … in the real world of real estate investing it’s actually a preferred practice.

In this case, the very smart folks at Cushman Wakefield recently released a report they call Spotlight on U.S. Employment – A Tale of 35 MSAs.

As you’ll see, it’s about office space. But even if you’re not an office investor, the report is helpful for understanding where jobs are being created … and why.

Remember, market analysis is about economic activity. And even if you’re exclusively an affordable housing investor and your target tenant doesn’t work in an office … remember, high-paying jobs create a ripple effect.

That’s because a six-figure office worker spends a chunk of their income at local businesses … restaurants, healthcare, auto needs, entertainment, etc.

In fact, as Amazon claimed during the highly publicized hunt for their HQ2, each high-paying job creates an additional 4-5 jobs in the local market.

Our point is that tracking the office market can be a good gauge of local economic vibrancy, no matter what type of real estate you’re investing in.

So let’s dig into the report and see which markets look promising …

“While the U.S. economy has added jobs at a steady pace … the growth in employment has not been evenly distributed.”

“ … hotspots … have outperformed the national average … based on local market factors.”

Isn’t that that way it always goes? The world’s not fair … and that’s GREAT …

… because it means well-informed strategic real estate investors can dramatically improve their odds of success simply by being attentive to market selection.

The CW report looks at 35 markets over 9 years and divides them into categories … All-Stars,Over-AchieversMiddle-of-the-Road, and Late-Bloomers (like us!).

The first three are probably self-explanatory. Late-Bloomers are markets whose growth the last four years is substantially higher than the first five years.

We think there might be some real opportunity in Late-Bloomer markets because they’re less likely to attract attention (and competition) from less studious investors.

It’s kind of like a team with a few early season losses that gets hot at the end of the season, sneaks into the playoffs ranked low, and then shocks everyone.

We’re not saying momentum is all that matters, but it happens for a reason … so it’s probably worth a deeper dive.

But let’s start with the five All-Stars …

  1. Dallas
  2. New York City
  3. San Francisco
  4. Riverside / San Bernadino
  5. Austin
  6. Orlando

Dallas is no surprise to us. We’ve been attracted to Dallas since the Great Recession.

At least in the beginning, and even to this day, DFW has it all … business friendly, low-tax, great infrastructure, geographically linked economic drivers (energy and distribution). It’s awesome.

But NYC and SF? High-tax, uber-regulated, very unaffordable. What gives?

We’re guessing it probably has to do with lots of the Fed’s easy money flooding into the financial and tech sectors.

Of course, from an income property investing perspective, neither NYC or SF makes much sense by the numbers or the business climate.

And if someone trips over the cord at the Fed and the printing press stops, it might suck the equity out of those markets. We saw a little of that happen as rates rose and the Fed tightened.

And add to that the recent tax code pouring some SALT on the wound, wealthy folks are leaving … and in many cases, taking their businesses and spending with them.

The point is that just because a market is on the All-Star list for job creation and office space absorption doesn’t make it a n0-brainer market for residential income property investing.

You still need to use your brain.

Meanwhile, we’re guessing the San Bernardino / Riverside market growth is probably distribution related. There’s a zillion people in Southern California … and if you want to ship stuff to them fast, you need nearby distribution.

The Inland Empire is among the most affordable and open areas in California to build these big centers. It’s also not too far from the ports bringing containers of merchandise for domestic distribution.

So ff we HAD to invest in California again, the Inland Empire would probably be on the short list.

But the bigger lesson here is to pay attention to the role of distribution in driving a market’s job growth. It’s one of the shining stars of commercial property investing.

And when you dig deeper, you’ll see distribution is something several top markets have in common … and those jobs aren’t getting offshored … though they could be robotized.

Of course, technology doesn’t necessarily kill jobs … but it can move them. After all, robots need to be built, installed, programmed, updated, repaired.

So that’s just one more trend for a savvy investor to watch carefully.

Among the Late-Bloomers are markets we know and like are Jacksonville and Memphis. Landlord friendly, good numbers, and apparently some good local economics.

What’s educational and fun (at least for real estate junkies) is to look at these “hot lists” and then analyze the markets for similarities and themes.

You’ll often find clues about what makes a market attractive to employers and resilient for investors. Then you’ll recognize these factors sooner in lesser known markets and able to make your move ahead of the crowd.

Just remember … while sneaking a peak at the smart kid’s homework can shorten your learning curve, it’s not a substitute for doing your own homework.

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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Getting in the flow of money on the move …

Investors and their money are attracted to opportunities.  They purchase assets, including properties and businesses, in the pursuit of profits.

That’s probably why YOU are reading this.

It’s why we perpetually peruse the news … looking for clues about where investors, businesses, jobs and money might be going and growing.

After all, where people and prosperity are … demand and capacity to pay for real estate are too.

So when we saw this headline pop up in our feed, we decided to look past the political positioning and see if we could find opportunity …

Jobs Are Booming in Trump Country, But Pay Lags 

Bloomberg, 5/7/19 via Yahoo Finance

“ … the 2,622 mostly rural and exurban counties [Trump] won in the 2017 added jobs at twice the pace as they did under … Obama …”

“Red America overtook Blue America … in 12-month employment growth for the first time in seven years …”

Of course, the article is focused on the political ramifications … which is fine for raising your blood pressure or getting unfriended on Facebook.

But we really struggle with all that red and blue stuff.

When we look out the window from the airplane, we see mostly brown and green.  And when we talk to folks on the ground, it’s true there are different colors … but not blue or red.

Maybe we’re missing something.

In any case, we’re far more interested in discovering the investing opportunities of where “jobs are booming” and why … so we can get in on the action.

The Bloomberg article affirms a trend we’ve been commenting on for some time …

“… the changes are driven largely by a spread of growth to outlying areas typical of the late stages of an economic expansion and a bounce-back in energy production and manufacturing.”

In other words, when people get priced out of expensive areas because of a boom … they move to more affordable areas.

Meanwhile, the resurgences in energy and manufacturing are very important economic drivers to watch.

Energy has been a big jobs driver post-2008 … and continues to play an important role in the creation of domestic jobs.

Meanwhile, the rebirth of manufacturing is affecting some former boom towns whose fortunes fell as American manufacturing went offshore over the last two decades.

It’s no secret President Trump believes the U.S. must re-establish itself as a manufacturing powerhouse.  This makes sense for a guy who made his fortune building things.

What may be less obvious is how Trump hopes to achieve this fundamental transformation of the way America produces prosperity.  But there are clues.

We may or may not agree with Trump’s goals or methods.  But that’s not the point.  What matters is what he’s doing and the effect it’s having.

When we asked then-candidate Trump what a healthy housing market looks like in a Trump administration, he simply replied, “Jobs.”

Of course, back then it was just talk.  Now, just over two years on the job, headlines say …

U.S. creates 263,000 jobs in April as unemployment falls to 49-year lowMarketWatch, 5/3/19

Job openings in U.S. jump to 7.49 million — more proof of ultra-strong labor marketMarketWatch, 5/7/19

While there’s more to the story than we can delve into today, most observers agree those are pretty good numbers.

Of course, to get from interesting to actionable, we need to dig a little deeper …

Our good friend, world-class tax-strategist, CPA and best-selling author Tom Wheelwright wrote this in his recently updated book, Tax-Free Wealth

“ … tax laws … have evolved to become tools of social and economic policy making.”

But this isn’t a anything new …

Way back in 1946, then-Chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York gave a speech and made these shocking admissions …

… taxes … serve … to express public policy in the distribution of wealth and of income … subsidizing or … penalizing various industries and economic groups …

In other words, tax laws move money where the government wants it.

Right now, the tax laws tell us Donald Trump wants money moving to Main Street.

As Tom Wheelwright explains in his presentation at The Future of Money and Wealth, the new tax law makes real estate EXTREMELY attractive for investors.

In fact, many real estate syndicators are having success attracting investors who are just as eager for tax breaks as they are for the profit potential of the deal!

And now that the opportunity zones regulations are becoming more clear (watch for a follow-up radio show on this hot topic shortly) … it’s likely even MORE money will be moving from Wall Street to Main Street.

For a glimpse of what’s coming, we took a look at the Jobs Opening and Labor Turnover (JOLT) report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

Here are some notable highlights … 

“The number of jobs openings increased for total private(+363,000) and was little changed for government.”

“ … largest increases in transportation, warehousing, utilities (+87,000) construction (+73,000), and real estate and rental and leasing (+57,000).”

No surprise there’s a lot of job-creating money going into distribution and related commercial real estate.

What remains to be seen is whether Trump’s tactics will trigger long-term sustainable domestic manufacturing … and the middle-class jobs that come with it.

There’s been some progress, but it takes a lot of capital to create the infrastructure to support serious manufacturing.

But just as the tax law helps attract billions into the shale oil production revolution …

… the Opportunity Zones tax incentives could pull billions into creating the real property infrastructure to rebuild atrophied manufacturing communities.

Money moving from Wall Street to Main Street.  We like it.  And it’s a trend alert real estate investors are watching carefully.

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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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!


More From The Real Estate Guys™…

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

The TRUTH about the June jobs report …

Last week’s U.S. jobs report has been largely reported as positive. 

Of course, real estate investors prefer their tenants actually have jobs, so we agree … any economy creating jobs is preferable to one which isn’t.

Here’s a few of the headlines and some notable excerpts …

June U.S. jobs report beats expectations – Yahoo Finance, July 7, 2017

“The economy added 222,000 jobs in June, more than expected, while …”

“… the unemployment rate rose slightly to 4.4%.”

Weird.  So it looks like the U.S. is still creating more job seekers than jobs. 

Meanwhile …   

“ … the labor force participation rate also rose slightly, to 62.8% from 62.7% in May …”

That’s pretty slight.   

So there’s more people back in the game,  but labor force participation is still among the lowest in 40 years.

Wage gains in June, however, were disappointing with average hourly earnings rising 0.2% over the prior month and 2.5% over the prior year.” 

In May, wage gains were disappointing, rising 0.2% over the prior month and just 2.5% over the prior year … revised down in Friday’s report to show gains were just 0.1% over last month and 2.4% over last year in May.”

Okay …  let’s take a breath and digest some of this …

First, these are just macro numbers … but all real estate is local.  So don’t get too happy, sad, or confused. 

Also, these numbers are seasonally adjusted (no one knows what that really means) and are frequently revised later (as you can see with the May wage gains).

So don’t get too attached to the numbers either.

Still, the numbers are important for a few reasons … 

  • They provide a general idea of the overall direction of things … probably more positive than negative.  It’s the macro sea your investments are floating in.
  • Power players like Wall Street, the Fed, the politicians, corporate CEOs, and credit issuers all think these numbers are important … and they use these numbers to make ivory-tower decisions about interest rates, lending, taxes, and expansion … which affect Main Street investors like YOU.
  • The numbers START you on the path of digging down into LOCAL challenges and opportunities … jobs, migration, taxes, etc.

For example, the Fed sees low unemployment, higher wages, increased labor force participation as a trigger to raise rates and tighten money. 

This sets off a chain reaction  

Wall Street’s extended love affair with bond speculation might be coming to an end … because when rates go UP, bond prices go DOWN.

Conversely, when bond prices go down, rates go UP.

And if you go talk to your friendly neighborhood mortgage professional, you’ll discover that mortgage rates very often pivot off ten-year bond yields.

So headlines like these mean more to real estate investors than you may realize … and sure enough …

10-year Treasury yield highest in 8 weeks as global debt selloff resumes –MarketWatch, July 6, 2017

Why a surge in bond yields could be around the corner – CNBC, July 6, 2017 

We could go on and on … but you get the idea.  

As we’ve been saying for many months, it’s probably a REALLY good idea to carefully review all your debt … and make sure you’re prepared for the potential of rising rates.

The window of opportunity to tighten things up may be closing.  And it’s usually MUCH better to be a lot early than even just a little late.

So that’s some of the macro-picture. 

Now let’s dig into the jobs report and see if there’s some intelligence we can use to identify local challenges and opportunities.

We like this chart from the Yahoo Finance article …

A few observations …

Notice the BIG gainer is Education and Health … followed by a fairly distant Leisure and Hospitaity, which is closely followed by an effective tie for third with Government and Professional and Business Services. 

The TINY contributors are (smallest to biggest) … ManufacturingTransportation and Warehousing, and Utilities.

You can see who the biggest LOSER is … and who’s in the middle.

So what useful insights can we glean from all this?

Big picture, you need to wonder about the REAL strength of an economy which is “growing” in education, healthcare, leisure, hospitality, government, and business services.

Think of it this way …

Is a business that’s hiring file clerks, bookkeepers, IT workers, human resource managers and trainers … actually “growing”?

Sure, they’re growing payroll and overhead.  But who’s bringing in outside revenue?  Who’s actually making things and filling orders?  

These are the activities which make a business profitable.

No wonder the U.S. runs a trade deficit.  The economy is largely overhead and consumption. 

So be careful about buying into a sustainable growth argument about any country, state, region or business that’s not growing by creating products and selling them.

Everything else are support services which should only grow in SUPPORT of real growth … not in place of it.

With that said, it’s obvious from the chart which sectors have the job growth, so regions strong in those areas are probably positioned to have more demand for real estate.

And while it’s smart to cautious in these markets, there’s nothing wrong with taking advantage of growth in areas heavy in support industries … especially if the region attracts money from outside.

For example, government pulls money in from it’s entire jurisdiction.  So properties near government hubs can do well, even if the real productive engine is located elsewhere.

Mining and Logging is interesting for that reason also.  Those commodities are usually sold outside the region.  So they bring money in from afar.  

Meanwhile the jobs are tethered to the geography.  It’s hard to move a forest, natural gas well, or copper mine to China or Mexico.

Also, when it comes to commodity-based real estate investing, you can not only play at the residential and industrial property level … owning the building people live, work and shop in …

… you can actually own the very land that’s producing the commodity.

Leisure and Hospitality businesses located in the right place can also produce jobs and profit locally from prosperity located elsewhere.

If a hotel or resort location has broad and unique appeal, it can pull customers and money in from around the globe.  

 It’s why we like certain parts of Belize, and Orlando.

The lesson here is to dig past the headline numbers and look for the geographic, demographic, and product niches that are out-performing … or have the potential to.

Then start watching from afar.  When you think you see an opportunity, it’s probably time to go on a field trip and build boots-on-the-ground relationships to help you find and manage that uniquely profitable property.

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.

Dallas Jobs are Up and Vacancy is Down

According to the latest monthly review of the Texas economy from the Real Estate Center at Texas A&M University, Texas is leading the United States in economic recovery.    The Texas economy experienced its second month of positive annual employment growth up 0.9 percent from June 2009 to June 2010 compared with a negative rate of 0.1 percent for the nation.

Over the past 12 months the Dallas metro added 27,300 more jobs than it cut.  That is enough job growth to warrant the development of a mid sized city!!!   If a city needs 3 jobs to support every 5 people, 27,300 new jobs justifies a population increase of 45,500 people.  Kids and retired people don’t work but they need places to live. Assuming 2.5 people per household, 45,500 new people need 18,200 additional housing units.

Is the supply of Dallas housing keeping up with the demand?

In the past 12 months Dallas County added 5,351 apartment units and absorbed 7,596.  The numbers show people are absorbing apartments faster than they are being built.  The demand for housing is strong but apartment construction has dwindled because of the lack of construction financing.  This positive absorption is lowering vacancy rate substantially, however rental rates have remained steady.

Dallas hasn’t experienced a boom in rental rates because while demographics are headed in the right direction, Dallas is still burning off a small amount of excess housing that was built during the easy credit building boom from 2001-2007.   Current apartment vacancy rates are around 9%, however if you look at the rate of vacancy for properties that are less than 15 years old and the residential occupancy rate is MUCH better.

Many people forecast a housing boom in Dallas because the job market is forecasted to bring more people to Dallas than the housing market can keep up with.  Land near Dallas job centers is scarce and people are starting to pay substantial rental premiums to live closer to work. Dallas commute times are increasing as people are choosing to live farther into the affordable suburbs rather than pay the higher cost of living associated with living near the city center.  While Texas still has amazing expanses of inexpensive land, none of that land is close to jobs.

Get ready for a Texas sized real estate boom!!!

The Dallas population is growing rapidly as a result of relative economic prosperity while developable land near job centers is scarce.  As traffic commute times increase over the next decade, it will become more desirable and more economical to pay a larger and larger housing premium to live closer to your job.

Statistics for this blog were taken from the real estate research center at Texas A&M University http://recenter.tamu.edu/mreports/

For more information about Dallas, visit our Dallas Market page or find a local market expert in our Resource Network.