Ask The Guys – Infinite Returns, Gold, Cap Rates, and Cash Flow

It’s your questions and our answers.

That’s right. It’s time for another segment of Ask The Guys … when we hear about the real-world challenges investors like YOU face every day.

We have another great collection of questions from our loyal listeners … covering everything from infinite returns to gold, proper reserves, compressed cap rates, and cash flow.

Remember … we aren’t tax advisors or legal professionals.

We give ideas and information … NOT advice.

In this episode of The Real Estate Guys™ show, hear from:

  • Your in-the-know host, Robert Helms
  • His go-with-the-flow co-host, Russell Gray

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The ins and outs of infinite returns

Our first question comes from Sean in Durango, Colorado, who wants to know more about the ins and outs of infinite returns.

This is a topic we are pretty passionate about … it was even the theme of this year’s Investors Summit at Sea.

The idea of an infinite return is pretty simple. It means that you’re investing on the house’s money.

In other words, you put up some money for a deal … to buy a property or be in syndication or grow crops … and at some point the deal has paid you back … and you’re still making money.

Maybe that takes a year or five years … but once you get all of your initial capital off the table, everything else that comes in is an infinite return.

Infinite returns are easy to do in real estate … but it DOES take time.

There are lots of different ways to chase an infinite return, like getting creative with financing and syndication … but the core concept remains the same.

You’re earning a return on no money at risk.

Purchasing real estate with other people’s money

Teresa in Claremont, California, wants to know more about using other people’s money to leverage the purchase of real estate.

Does it only work with people who have lots of money for a downpayment? Are there any lenders willing to finance 100 percent of a deal for a buy and hold?

Using someone else’s money doesn’t mean breaking into their house in the middle of the night or stealing from their bank account.

It means showing them the opportunity.

One of the primary sources of other people’s money are lenders. They’re in the business of putting capital to work for their depositors, for their shareholders, and sometimes for themselves.

Lenders put up some of the money for a deal in exchange for some portion of the return or a predictable income stream, like an interest payment.

You can also leverage other people’s money through syndication. If you need $1 million to do a deal, you can raise $100,000 from 10 different people.

There are lots of legal and ethical implications to a syndicated route like this … but it can be a great way to get started passively or if you’re interested in being a full-time real estate practitioner.

A lot of people think they have to have some sort of money to start with to do a deal. It helps … but you don’t have to.

What you do have to have is a deal that makes sense … because it’s going to end up being the collateral or the investment that your equity partners come to.

No matter what, you’re going to have debt … and you’re going to have equity.

The key is to look at how much profit is in the deal and figure out how much of that you can give away to different people for their participation.

And when all of that is done … is there enough leftover for you?

Finding a lender who will cover 100 percent of deal through a loan is tough … and the ones that do will usually be for a primary residence.

Protect your cash flow with reserves

Gary in Scottsdale, Arizona, owns four single-family rental properties.

The question on Gary’s mind is how to deal with the reality of net cash flow … one major expense can wipe out your entire annual cash flow.

It’s real and it happens. It has even happened to us.

We always … always … put contingencies and reserves in our pro formas.

A pro forma is your plan for the property … what you think the income and expenses are going to be.

There are two major places where you will need reserves.

When you buy the property, you can’t put 100 percent of your cash into the down payment and the property. You need to have some in reserve.

Most lenders require this. When you close escrow, they’ll want to make sure that you still have money in your bank account.

We also recommend that you take some reserve capital out of every month’s payment as the rent comes in.

Perform your vital functions … and then put a little bit aside. That amount depends on your projected plan for your property and what needs you anticipate.

The cause and effect of cap rates and interest rates

With cap rates compressing across the country, it has been said that investors should be careful to still maintain a good spread between the cap rate and the interest rate.

Drew in Chicago, Illinois, wants to know if there is a direct correlation between these two factors or if it’s just a general rule of thumb to indicate when a market might be overpriced.

We think this is a great question.

Capitalization rate … or cap rate … is determined using net operating income.

Cap rate doesn’t include anything to do with leverage or your loan … so there is zero correlation between cap rate and the interest rate.

But there CAN be cause and effect.

If interest rates are low and you can borrow money for cheap … you want to borrow more.

And if you want to go out and find a property, you’re going to find a lot of competition because rates are low.

So, you’ll bid up the price for the same amount of income … making the cap rate go down.

Leveraging from gold and real estate

Debra in Alpharetta, Georgia, wants some further insight into leveraging from gold and real estate combined.

Assets like gold and oil are basically proxies for the dollar.

We borrow in dollars. We lend in dollars. We invest in dollars.

When you start looking at the dollar, you see a long-term trend in loss of purchasing power … it’s called inflation.

Real estate investors use inflation to get rich by borrowing money from the future and bringing it into the present when it’s worth more.

So when you borrow … you have effectively shorted the dollar.

You can accelerate that process with gold.

If you look at the history of gold relative to the dollar, it basically stays the same as the purchasing power of the dollar declines.

Gold gives you the opportunity to hold some liquid wealth outside of the banking system and hedge against the falling currency.

More Ask The Guys

Listen to the full episode for more questions and answers.

Have a real estate investing question? Let us know! Your question could be featured in our next Ask The Guys episode.


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.


Love the show?  Tell the world!  When you promote the show, you help us attract more great guests for your listening pleasure!

Are these two commodities trying to tell you something?

We’re still just a little more than a week removed from a mind-blowing 9-day mind-meld with brilliant thought leaders, niche experts, and seasoned investors and entrepreneurs …

… so we’ve been busy catching up on the news and looking at the world through our freshly expanded paradigms.

There are two things bouncing around our brains we think are important, but few real estate investors are paying attention to …

Gold and oil.

Sure, both these “commodities” fit well with real estate in a strategic real asset portfolio.  And if you’re not sure how all that works, you can start with these past podcasts about gold and oil.

But bigger picture, both gold and oil probably drive more of geo-politics than most casual observers realize … and both are quasi-proxies for the dollar.

In other words, when you understand what’s happening with gold and oil, you have insights into the future of the dollar … and some of the things governments are doing to either defend dollar dominance … or break free from it.

Of course, if you earn, invest, borrow, or denominate wealth in dollars, the future of the dollar should be of great interest to you … even if you think of the dollar as being as permanent and reliable as air (it’s not).

As real estate investors, our primary interests (besides occupancy and cash flow) are demographics, migration trends, local economic strength, interest rates, taxes, and the supply and demand dynamics in our local market.

But all of that sits on the foundation of a functional financial system with two primary components … credit and currency.  Gold and oil provide insight into both.

Oil is important at both the macro and the micro level.

In the macro, it takes energy to drive economic activity.  When energy’s expensive, it drives up the costs of everything and is a drag on economic activity.

At the micro level, high dollar-denominated oil prices drive up the cost of living for your dollar-denominated tenants.

But for metros where oil is big business, oil also means local jobs.  Remember, Texas and its robust energy sector were the primary driving force for U.S. job creation coming out of the 2008 recession.

Investors who realized this (like our pal Kenny McElroy) strategically invested in those markets while most people were hiding under the sheets.

So whether or not you’re interested in oil as a direct investment, paying attention to the oil business can be a great way to pick markets likely to hold up well if oil prices rise.

Oil also has a potential impact on credit markets and interest rates.  Billions of dollars of debt has been created to fund shale oil production.

If oil prices drop, it both undermines the ability of regional oil economies to grow … but also for those employers to service their debt.

In the macro, if a big chunk of the debt goes rotten, credit markets could tighten.  Think about what happened in 2008 when sub-prime mortgage debt went bad.

So again, whether you’re an oil investor or not, the oil industry has a direct impact on your real estate investing.

Watching oil helps you see what’s coming sooner … so you have time to position yourself to capture opportunity and mitigate risk.

Of course, the good news and bad news about real estate is it moves slowly.

So while you have plenty of time to be proactive IF you’re paying attention, it’s really hard to act fast if you’re not.  That’s why we pay attention.

What about gold?

On the macro level, gold is a good gauge of how the world feels about U.S. Treasuries and the dollar.

When things get choppy in stocks, paper investors worldwide tend to flee into Treasuries for safety.  After all, Treasuries are backed up by the Fed’s printing press.

Of course, what does the Fed print?  U.S. dollars.

But to quote Watto from Star Wars – The Phantom Menace … 

“Republic credits are no good here.  I need something more … real.”

That is, when investors worldwide are looking for safety … and they don’t trust the paper … they go into gold.

So what does that mean to real estate investors?

Remember, mortgage rates and availability derive from healthy bond markets … most notably, U.S. Treasuries.

The 2008 Great Financial Crisis had its genesis in a broken bond market … mortgage-backed-securities.  When those went bad, frightened investors worldwide piled into Treasuries … and rates fell.

But what happens if investors worldwide don’t trust Treasuries?

You don’t have to wonder.  China came out in 2009 and scolded Uncle Sam about the size of the deficit and all the dollar printing doing on.

Why did it bother them? Because they own TRILLIONS in U.S. bonds.  They don’t want to get paid back in diluted dollars.

But Uncle Sam’s debt, deficits, and printing have BALLOONED since then.

So it’s no surprise that China … along with Russia and several other countries … have been diligently accumulating and repatriating gold.

They’re getting out of dollars and Treasuries to do it.  And who can blame them?

Paper money has an atrocious long-term record as a store of wealth …

 

Interesting Image

Source:  World Gold Council 

Consider this when you think about where you’re storing YOUR long-term liquid wealth.

Meanwhile, there’s just a little more to the developing story of gold … and the story behind the story.  It’s a little complicated, but interesting and noteworthy.

After the 2008 crisis, the world’s bankers got together in Basel, Switzerland to come up with voluntary rules to prevent another financial crisis.  The agreement is called the Basel Accord.

A provision in the agreement, known as Basel III (the agreement’s rolled out in phases) allows financial institutions to consider gold “Tier 1” capital.  So adding gold is supposed to make banks more liquid and stable.

This is a bit of a promotion for gold.  Some observers think this means demand for gold will increase, but we’re not smart enough to have an opinion on that.

But there are a couple of things we are thinking about …

Perhaps most obviously, international bankers apparently consider gold more valuable than simply a “barbarous relic” with no place in a modern monetary system.

Keep that in mind when you hear people criticize the placement of gold in a portfolio. If gold can make a bank more stable and liquid, can’t it do the same for you?

To be clear, we’re not fans of gold as an investment.  It’s just an alternative to cash … a way to store long-term liquidity while hedging against a declining dollar and bank counter-party risk.

But the more interesting aspect of gold’s now elevated role in bolstering the banking system is why it’s necessary in the first place.

Is it because the banking system is still fragile and in need of support?  Is it because the world needs more leverage to expand … and so more collateral to lever?  Why not just use Treasuries?

We don’t know yet.  But we’ll be checking in with our big-brained gold experts to see what they think.

Meanwhile, we encourage you to think outside both the real estate and mainstream financial media boxes.  It seems like oil and gold might be trying to tell us something.

Are you listening?

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.


Love the show?  Tell the world!  When you promote the show, you help us attract more great guests for your listening pleasure!