Now the Fed’s up to $400 billion …

Last week the Fed pumped over $200 billion of freshly printed cash into the repo market.

Since then, the Fed’s upped the ante to $400 billion … and counting.

For those young or asleep during the 2008 financial crisis …

… back then, the Fed provided an infusion of $85 billion per month to keep the wheels on the financial system bus.

Today, they’re pumping in nearly that much PER DAY.

That’s MIND-BOGGLING.

They’re trying to keep interest rates DOWN to their target. Of course, interest rates matter to real estate investors. We typically like them low.

But this isn’t about real estate. It’s more about banks who hold debt (both mortgages and bonds) on their balance sheets.

As we explained last time, when interest rates rise, bond values fall

… and a leveraged financial system with bonds as collateral is EXTREMELY vulnerable to collapse if values drop and margin calls trigger panic selling.

The Fed seems willing to print as many dollars as necessary to stop it.

And that brings us to an important question …

If the Fed can simply conjure $400 billion out of thin air in just a week … is it really money?

This matters to everyone working and investing to make or save money.

For help, we draw on lessons learned from our good friend and multi-time Investor Summit at Sea™ faculty member, G. Edward Griffin.

Ed’s best known as the author of The Creature from Jekyll Island. If you haven’t read it yet, you probably should. It’s a controversial, but important exposé on the Fed.

In his presentation in Future of Money and Wealth, Ed does a masterful job explaining what money is … and isn’t.

In short, money is a store of energy.

Think about it …

When you work … or hire or rent to people who do … the energy expended produces value in the form of a product or service someone is willing to trade for.

When you trade product for product, it’s called barter. But it’s hard to wander around town with your cow in tow looking to trade for a pair of shoes.

So money acts as both a store of value and a medium of exchange.

The value of the energy expended to create the product is now denominated in money which the worker, business owner, or investor can trade for the fruits of other people’s labor.

This exchange of value is economic activity.

Money in motion is called currency. It’s a medium of transporting energy. Just like electricity.

When each person in the circuit receives money, they expect it has retained its (purchasing) power or value.

When it doesn’t, people stop trusting it, and the circuit breaks. Like any power outage, everything stops.

So … economic activity is based on the expenditure and flow of energy.

This is MUCH more so in the modern age … where machines are essential to the production and distribution of both goods and information.

Energy is a BIG deal.

This is something our very smart friend, Chris Martenson of Peak Prosperity, is continually reminding us of.

Here’s where all this comes together for real estate investing …

New dollars conjured out of thin air can dilute the value of all previously existing dollars.

It’s like having 100% real fruit juice flowing through a drink dispenser.

If someone pours in a bunch of water that didn’t go through the energy consuming biological process of becoming real fruit juice in a plant…

… the water is just a calorie free (i.e., no value) fluid which DILUTES the real fruit juice in the dispenser.

Monetary dilution is called inflation.

Legendary economist John Maynard Keynes describes it this way

“By a continuing process of inflation, government can confiscate, secretly and unobserved, an important part of the wealth of their citizens.”

Inflation waters down real wealth.

Fortunately, real estate is arguably the BEST vehicle for Main Street investors to both hedge and profit from inflation.

That’s because leverage (the mortgage) let’s you magnify inflation’s effect so your cash-on-cash ROI and equity growth can outpace inflation.

Plus, with the right real estate leverage, there’s no margin call. Meanwhile, the rental income services the debt.

Even better, the income is relatively stable … rooted in the tenant’s wages and lease terms. Those aren’t day-traded, so they don’t fluctuate like paper asset prices.

Effectively, you harness the energy of the tenant’s labor to create resilient wealth for yourself. And you’re doing it in a fair exchange of value.

Of course, the rental income is only as viable as the tenant’s income.

This brings us back to energy …

Robert Kiyosaki and Ken McElroy taught us the value of investing in energy … and markets where energy is a major industry.

First, energy jobs are linked to where the energy is. You might move a factory to China, but not an oil field. This means local employment for your tenants.

Your tenants might not work directly in the energy business, but rather for those secondary and tertiary industries which support it. But the money comes from the production of energy.

Further, energy consumers are all over the world, making the flow of money into the local job market much more stable than less diverse regional businesses.

It’s the same reason we like agriculture.

While machines consume oil, people consume food. Both are sources of essential energy used to create products and provide services.

So when it comes to real estate, energy, and food … the basis of the investment is something real and essential with a permanent demand.

Though less sexy and speculative, we’re guessing the need for energy and food is more enduring than interactive exercise cycling.

Real estate, energy and agricultural products, are all real … no matter what currency you denominate them in.

And the closer you get to real value, the more resilient your wealth is if paper fails.

Right now, paper is showing signs of weakness. But like a dying star, sometimes there’s a bright burst just before implosion.

Remember, Venezuela’s stock market sky-rocketed just before the Bolivar collapsed.

Those who had real assets prospered. Those who didn’t … didn’t.

Are we saying stocks and the dollar are about to implode? Not at all. But they could. Perhaps slowly at first, and then suddenly.

If they do and you’re not prepared … it’s bad. It you’re prepared and they don’t … not so sad. If they do and you’re prepared … it could be GREAT.

Real assets, such as well-structured and located income property …

… or commodities like oil, gold, and agricultural products (and the real estate which produces them) …

… are all likely to fare better in an economic shock than paper derivatives whose primary function is as trading chip in the Wall Street casinos.

So consider what money is and isn’t … the role of energy in economic activity … and how you can build a resilient portfolio based on a foundation of real assets.

“The time to repair the roof is when the sun is shining.”
John F. Kennedy

Until next time … good investing!


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


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The Fed pumps $200 billion into system in THREE days …

It’s been a busy week of alarming financial news!

Of course, events that rattle financial markets sometimes barely register to real estate investors. That’s because rents and property values aren’t directly involved in the high-frequency trading casinos of Wall Street.

So while paper traders frantically scramble to avoid losses or skim profits from currency flowing through the machinery …

real estate investors calmly cash rent checks and wonder what all the fuss is about.

However, as seasoned investors discovered in 2008 …

Wall Street’s woes sometimes spill over and become Main Street blues … primarily through the linkage between bond markets and mortgages.

So even though the Saudi oil almost-crisis garnered a lot of attention …

something BIG happened in an obscure corner of the financial system which has alert observers concerned …

Repo Market Chaos Signals Fed May Be Losing Control of Rates
Bloomberg, 9/16/19

Repo Squeeze Threatens to Spill Over Into Funding Markets
Bloomberg, 9/17/19

And no, this isn’t about people losing their cars or homes. It’s about systemically important part of the financial system.

Before you tune out, remember …

… when you see words like chaos and losing control and “spill over” in the context of interest rates and funding markets … it’s probably worth digging into.

When credit markets seize up, asset prices collapse. While this is troublesome for Main Street … it’s DEVASTATING to the financial system.

And when the financial system breaks down, it affects EVERYONE … even smug real estate investors who might think they’re immune.

So grab a snack and let’s explore what’s happening …

Wall Street operates on obscene amounts of collateralized leverage. Real estate investors use leverage too, but there’s an important distinction.

There are no margin calls on real estate. So when property values collapse temporarily for whatever reason, positive cash flow let’s you ride out the storm.

Not so in bond markets. When the value of a bond that’s pledged as collateral falls, the borrower faces a margin call.

This means the borrower needs cash FAST. This is a risk of the game they play.

But when traders are confident they have ready access to cash at predictable and reasonable prices, they stay very active in the market.

This is important because healthy markets require an abundance of assets, cash, buyers, sellers, and TRUST to keep things moving.

When any one falters, markets slow down … or STOP … credit markets can freeze, economic activity stalls, and it hits real estate investors too.

The head Wizard at the Fed says not to worry … just like they said about the sub-prime problem back in 2007.

Fool us once, shame on you. Fool us twice, shame on us.

But we’re far from expert on the repo market, so we encourage you to read up on what it is and why everyone’s talking about it.

Meanwhile, we’ll hit the high notes to get you started …

In short, the repo market is where short term borrowing happens. It’s like a pawn shop where market participants hock bonds to raise some cash.

But when repo rates spike like this …

image

 

Source: Bloomberg

… it means there’s not enough cash to go around.

Cash is like oxygen. You can live for a while without food (profit) or water (revenue) … but when you’re out of cash, it’s game over.

No wonder Wall Street freaked out …

‘This Is Crazy!’: Wall Street Scurries to Protect Itself in Repo Surge
Bloomberg, 9/17/19

Of course, we don’t really care if Wall Street takes it on the chin.

But when craziness on Wall Street has the potential to spill over to Main Street, we pay attention.

In this case, the situation is dire enough the Fed stepped in with $53 billion of emergency cash … in ONE day.

This is the first time since the 2008 financial crisis the Fed’s needed to do this.

The next day they added another $75 billion.

Then the Fed announced another rate cut … and hinted at more rate cuts … and suggested a willingness to print more money.

Then the VERY next day …yet ANOTHER $75 billion.

$53 billion here. $75 billion there. Pretty soon you’re talking serious money … in this case about $200 billion in THREE days … and quite possibly a serious problem.

So what? What does any of this mean to real estate investors?

Maybe not much. Maybe a lot. We certainly hope the Wizards behind the curtain pull the right levers the right way at the right times.

But if this is a pre-cursor to The Real Crash Peter Schiff is concerned about, things could become more complicated than “just” a 2008-like collapse of asset prices.

As we chronicle in the Real Asset Investing Report and the Future of Money and Wealth video series, the world’s faith in the Fed and dollar were shaken after 2008.

Meanwhile, negative interest rates on nearly $17 trillion in global debt is a symptom of a huge bond bubble today.

Here’s why …

Just as rental property cap rates fall when investors bid prices up … so do bond yields fall when investors bid bond prices up.

And just like when over-zealous real estate speculators bid property prices up to negative cash flow … so over-zealous bond speculators have bid bond prices up to negative yields.

Negative yields are a symptom of a speculative bubble.

These unsustainable scenarios typically end badly when there’s no greater fool left to bid the price up further.

And then, when the market goes “no bid” … prices collapse. Bad scene.

Remember, bonds are the foundation of the credit market and financial system.

This repo problem is like finding a big crack in the foundation of your favorite property.

The bigger concern is the size of the building sitting on the faulty foundation … and how much it might take to patch the crack.

So here’s the inspection report …

Global debt is around $250 TRILLION. These are bonds … many of which are pledged as collateral for loans … creating an almost incomprehensible amount of derivatives.

Worse, many of those pledged bonds are subject to margin calls.

This is a HIGHLY unstable situation and operates largely on trust.

Think about what happens if bond prices fall …

Borrowers who pledged bonds are upside down and need to raise cash fast.

When they get to the market, they find there aren’t enough dollars to go around. Cash starved sellers start discounting to attract buyers … causing rates to rise.

Again, it’s just like trying to sell an apartment building in a slow market. As you lower the price, the cap rate (yield) goes UP.

As yields rise, bond values everywhere fall … triggering more margin calls, more demands for cash, more desperate sellers … and a dismal downward death spiral.

And then it spreads …

As the demand for cash grows, anything not nailed down is offered for sale … often at a steep discount to compete for a limited supply of dollars.

This is contagion … falling prices spreading like wildfire across daisy-chained balance sheets.

Yikes. (Of course, if you have cash, it’s a shopping spree)

Enter the Fed’s printing press to save the day. But this ONLY works long-term if the market TRUSTS the Fed and their printed product.

In 2008, the world worried as the Fed took its balance sheet from $800 billion to $4.5 trillion. And that was just to paper over the now relatively small sub-prime mortgage mess.

It worked (temporarily) partly because the world didn’t have much choice. Dollars were the only game in town.

Today is much different than 2008. The world is wiser. Alternatives to the U.S. dollar and financial system exist or are being developed.

And the SIZE of the potential implosion is MUCH bigger than 2008.

Meanwhile, the Fed has already returned to lowering rates … and now is injecting substantial amounts of fresh cash into the system.

The question is … can the Fed print enough dollars to paper over a serious bond implosion … and if they do, will the world still trust the U.S. dollar?

Perhaps this is why central banks have been loading up on gold.

Coming back down to Main Street …

Whether the repo market is a canary in the coal mine signaling looming danger … or just a friendly wake up call to stay aware and prepared for something else later …

… there are some practical steps Main Street real estate investors can take to build a little more resilience into their portfolios.

First is education. The more you understand about how things work and how to recognize warning signs, the sooner you’ll see shifts so you grab opportunity and dodge problems.

It’s why we constantly encourage you to study, attend conferences, and get into meaningful conversations with experienced investors.

Next, it’s important to pay attention.

Most of what’s happening is widely publicized. But things are easy to miss when events don’t seem directly relevant to your Main Street life. They often are.

From a practical portfolio management perspective, it’s probably a great time to lock in low rate long-term financing, cash out some equity and retain a good level of liquidity.

When prices collapse, cash is king … and credit doesn’t count.

Be attentive to cash flows in current and future deals.

Invest in keeping your best tenants and team members happy. Look for ways to tighten up expenses and improve operations. Cash flow is staying power.

Focus on affordable markets and product niches supported by resilient economic, geographic, and demographic drivers.

Real estate is not a commodity or asset class. Certain markets and niches will outperform others. Be strategic.

Most of all, stay focused on the principles of sound fundamental investing. Be careful of having too much at risk on speculative plays.

As we’ve said before, an economy can be strong based on activity, but fragile based on systemic integrity.

If the system breaks down, then economic activity slows … sometimes dramatically … and if you’re only geared for sunshine, the storm can wash your wealth away quickly.

Until next time … good investing!


More From The Real Estate Guys™…

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A divergence in the farce …

In our last edition we took a look at this chart for clues to where we’re at in “the cycle” …

Housing Price Index to Production Wage Index
Interesting Image

SOURCE: FEDERAL RESERVE ECONOMIC DATA HTTPS://FRED.STLOUISFED.ORG

(The data came from the Fed, but the chart was put together by The Heritage Foundation here)

You can see a tight correlation between wage growth and property prices from 1991 to 1999.  Then something happened to create a divergence.

That divergence blew into a BIG gap between wages and housing prices … with home prices inflating much faster than wages.  At least until the middle of 2007.

Then something else happened which crashed housing prices … and not just back down to the wage trend line …

… but housing prices dipped well below the trend line (“over-corrected”), hitting bottom in 2011 and starting a new “bull run” in early 2012.

That’s when Warren Buffet famously proclaimed on CNBC 

I’d Buy Up ‘A Couple Hundred Thousand’ Single-Family Homes If I Could

Warren Buffett 2/27/12

Smart guy.  Obviously, when you look at the chart, the timing was perfect.  And most folks who were buyers in 2012 are sitting on piles of equity today.

But now it’s clear the correlation between housing prices and incomes remains broken.  Housing prices are once again stretching the limits of incomes.

No wonder there’s pressure to lower taxes, interest rates, and oil prices!

The only way to keep this party going is to make those relatively anemic household incomes control bigger loans.  And to no surprise …

Average U.S. mortgage size hits record-high $354,500

Reuters, 3/13/19

Does this mean housing prices are about to crash again?  Maybe.

It’s said history doesn’t always repeat itself, but it often rhymes.  That’s a catchy way of saying people often find new ways to make the same mistakes.

Then again, smart people learn from their mistakes so they can avoid making them again.

In this case, go back and look at the chart.  But instead of focusing on housing prices, focus on incomes.

What do you see?

Incomes are slowly, consistently, persistently, steadily … rising.

Of course, if you look at the CPI (inflation) chart below, you can see the cost of living is also rising …

Interesting Image
So just because people are making more money, it doesn’t mean they’re getting ahead.

In fact, folks who don’t own inflating assets which can be sold or borrowed against to supplement their incomes … are falling further and further behind.

So what does it mean, what can we learn, and what can we do to survive and thrive?

These are all topics of a much bigger discussion.  We covered some if it in a recent radio show.

For now, here are a few suggestions to consider:

Focus on investing and underwriting for cash-flow …

Yes, you’ll make more money on equity.  But equity is a by-product of cash-flow.  The more cash-flow, the more equity.

More importantly, conservative cash-flow gives you staying power when asset prices temporarily collapse.

Think of equity as a fun, but fickle lover … and cash-flow as the loyal, predictable partner you can build a life with.

Sequester some bubble equity for a rainy day …

Rates are low.  Lending guidelines are softening.

This indicates there’s a lot of motivation (desperation?) to get more debt in the system … a sometimes-telltale sign we’re nearing the end of a boom cycle.

Of course, when you harvest equity from properties, it’s important to be smart about using the proceeds.

We think it’s best to create cash-flow (have we mentioned this is important?) … along with liquidity, and safety from volatile markets and financial systems.

We could do an entire series on this one topic … and in fact, we’re working on it.

Something like … “knowing what we know now, this is what we wish we would have done heading into the 2008 financial crisis.”

Yes, we know the title needs a little work.

Watch for signs which signal shifts …

Shift happens.  It’s painful when you’re on the wrong end of it, and that usually happens because you missed the sign … not because it wasn’t there.

In 1999, Uncle Sam pressured then semi-private Fannie and Freddie to lower their lending standards to help marginal borrowers buy homes.

It worked.  Home ownership … and prices … went way up.

In 2001, the Alan Greenspan Fed threw gasoline on the fire by pumping in billions (which was a lot of money back then) into the system to reflate the stock market after the Dot Com crash.

But a lot of the money ended up in bonds … mortgage-backed securities in particular … and ultimately into housing … inflating an equity bubble.

Oops.

In fact, Greenspan tried to jawbone the markets into prudence.  But he’d already spiked the punch bowl … and everyone was in full-blown party mode.

More recently, the Fed tried to take away the current punch bowl by raising rates … and took a lot of criticism.

When you see interest rates and lending standards falling, it’s a sign.

Study history … and talk with smart, experienced people …

 Everything is 20/20 in hindsight. It’s easy to predict the past.

But as it’s been said …

 “Those who don’t know history are doomed to repeat it.” – Edmund Burke

That’s why we encourage attendance at live events like the New Orleans Investment Conference and the Investor Summit at Sea™.

These are great places to connect with like-minded folks, have our perspectives broadened, and get into great conversations.

But even if you’re a dedicated homebody, invest in finding a local tribe of similarly interested people to study and talk with.

You’ll learn more faster in conversations with others compared to simply gorging yourself on terabytes of content.

It’s important to use conversation to process what you consume.

Enjoy the sunshine, but pack an umbrella …

We’re not saying a crash is coming.  But no one can say it isn’t.

It seems to us the best plan is to prepare for sunshine or rain.  In practical terms, this means ….

… organize some liquidity and keep it insulated from both market risk and counter-party risk …

… build a solid brand and network with well-capitalized potential investors …

… fortify the cash-flows and financing structures on your keepers …

… jettison assets you think already have their best days behind them …

… study history, watch for clues in the news, and mastermind with smart investors.

Because you’re only better off for doing all these things whether the party continues or comes to an ugly end.

And this is probably not a good time to get too over-extended.

Besides, even if you’re interested in aggressive personal wealth building right now …

… it’s arguably faster and safer to build rapid wealth through syndication rather than getting personally over-extended.

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 wins …

Real estate investing can be lonely.  Very few financial conferences or commentators even talk about real estate … much less endorse it as a wealth building vehicle.

So real estate investors huddle together in obscure corners of the financial community … quietly making money and muttering about the trials and tribulations of tenants, toilets and 1031 tax-deferred exchanges.

But recently, mainstream financial headlines seem to be painting a rosier picture of real estate …

Several news outlets published articles referencing this Bankrate.com article and survey which says Americans prefer real estate over cash, stocks, gold and bonds …

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The article says …

“… for the third consecutive year real estate is the favorite way to invest money not needed for at least a decade …”

“… home prices have gone gangbusters recently, climbing back above their record pre-crisis levels … according to CoreLogic.”

Click Bait and Switch

But then the balance of the article is essentially dedicated to telling readers why the survey respondents are wrong for preferring real estate over stocks …

“Still, ‘it’s a rather poor investment,’ says [a] RBC Wealth Management financial advisor.  ‘It’s highly illiquid, and markets aren’t always rational.’”

“One study … found that housing only returned 1.3 percent per year after inflation from 1900 to 2011, while stocks tended to perform more than four times better.”

As you might guess, RBC Wealth Management deals in paper assets.

Their trite critiques of investment real estate reveal a lack of understanding at best … and a dishonest bias at worst.

Let’s break it down.  Because whether you’re raising private capital to invest in real estate …

… or just trying to convince your spouse or in-laws real estate is a viable alternative to stocks, bonds and mutual funds …

… it’s important to be able to rebut the financial fake news bias against real estate.

Liquidity – LOL

The flip side of liquidity is volatility.  When traders can move in and out of an asset quickly, it makes the asset price volatile.  So liquidity isn’t automatically a good thing.

The survey asked about money “not needed for at least a decade” … so liquidity isn’t what investors are looking for when they buy real estate.

Besides … to say housing is “illiquid” is inaccurate. 

“Illiquid” means “not easily converted into cash” and “of a market with few participants and a low volume of activity”. 

Sure, you can’t day trade houses … but we see that as a plus.  It keeps prices more stable.

And when you can usually sell a house at a fair market price in about two months, that’s hardly “illiquid”.   Drop the price, and you’ll sell it faster.

Market Rationality – ROFL

A paper asset promoter saying real estate “markets aren’t always rational” … are you KIDDING???  That seems a LOT like the pot calling the kettle black. 

Way back in the 90’s before the dot-com stock crash, Alan Greenspan famously accused stock market participants of “irrational exuberance”.

Of course, a few years later the stock market crashed … and scared investors flocked TO real estate in the early 2000’s.

With the stock market at nose-bleed levels today, we’re guessing that’s why people are preferring real estate over stocks again.

Only Returned 1.3 Percent – LMAO

The idea that “housing only returned 1.3 percent per year after inflation” is so off the mark it borders on absurd.

The argument is the PRICE of a home in 1900, adjusted for inflation to 2011, only grew on an annual basis of 1.3 percent …

… and that during that same period, stocks grew by “about four times that.”

This argument assumes the only financial benefit of real estate ownership is price appreciation, which is a false premise.

We won’t bore you with all the math, but you should grab a calculator and do it all so you can quickly blow-up this ridiculous idea that stocks beat real estate over the long haul.

Here it is in simple terms …

Leverage

When you put 25 percent down, you own property at 4:1 leverage.  So 1.3 percent appreciation is a 5.2 percent equity growth rate.

Right there, you’re even with “about four times that”.  But wait!  There’s more …

Cash Flow 

Also missing from the comparison of stocks versus real estate is the rental income.  

Even if you’re before tax positive cash flow is only two percent, with 4:1 leverage, your cash-on-cash rate is 8 percent. 

Amortization

A 30-year fully amortized loan at 5 percent reduces the loan balance (i.e., builds up equity) at a rate of over 2.6 percent per year.

Add 4:1 leverage, and you’re growing equity at over 13% per year.  Now you’re destroying stocks.

We’ll skip tax benefits, which make it even BETTER, and let you tally the total. Any ONE of the three beats “four times that” all by itself.  Together … it’s a wipe out.

People Aren’t Stupid

Main Street investors have common sense … and at this stage of the information age, they’re able to research and fact check quickly.

They know stock prices are being propped up by cheap money and corporate buybacks … and with the Fed raising interest rates, the party might be ending soon.

The Bankrate.com survey reinforced what our anecdotal conversations tell us … Main Street investors are nervous about the stock market. 

Their preference for cash over stocks for a ten year hold says a lot.  Main Street is looking for safety and surety.

And Main Street investors like real estate.  They understand real estate.  They TRUST real estate.

But it’s not just Americans seeking financial safety in real estate.  Foreign buyers just purchased a record amount of U.S. houses.

Real estate is where people park money for long term wealth development and preservation.

Go with the Flow …

Even though home ownership in the U.S. remains at decade lows, it’s actually a boon for real estate investors.  Less homeowners means more renters.

For flippers and syndicators, real estate is highly regarded and in demand.  Money wants to be in real estate … so there’s a big opportunity helping it get there.

And while anything can happen, it seems the appeal of real estate isn’t abating any time soon.

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.

Forecasts, fallacies and fortitude …

As of this writing, the Fed hasn’t yet announced their economic forecasts or whether they’ll raise interest rates.

The talk on the street says the Fed will raise by 25 basis points (.25%).

History says a recession is coming … because 10 of the last 13 times the Fed engaged in a rate hike campaign, that’s what happened. They’re not particularly skilled at “soft landings”.

The Fed also has a dismal record for economic forecasts. They chronically see sunshine even when clouds are forming. But that’s not why Wall Street pays attention to them.

Day traders, hedge fund managers, and other players in the Wall Street casinos fixate on the Fed … hoping to be on the right side of whatever flow of cash results from anything they do or say.

Their mantra is “buy low, sell high” to generate cash flow. It’s a fast-paced, high stakes game perfect for adrenalin junkies.

It’s also a game which generates brokerage fees, highly taxable capital gains, and big bonuses. So both Wall Street and Uncle Sam love it.

Meanwhile, real estate investors sit off to the side … casually interested in what the Fed does … but much more concerned with collecting rent, watching expenses, and managing cash flow.

Cash flowing real estate is pretty boring. And super sexy. Like a faithful wife or girlfriend.

But if the Fed’s likely hike is signaling a higher probability of recession, what’s a real estate investor to do?

Here are some thoughts gleaned from a Business Insider article quoting legendary real estate investor Sam Zell

“Sure, I’m always looking for unlocked potential … but everybody wants to look at how good a deal can get. People love focusing on the upside. That’s where the fun is. What amazes me is how superficially they consider the downside.

For me, the calculation in making a deal starts with the downside. If I can identify that, then I understand the risk I’m taking. What’s the outcome if everything goes wrong? What actions would we take? Can I bear the cost? Can I survive it?”

Zell also says, “… taking risks is really the only way to consistently achieve above average returns … in life, as well as in investments.”

In other words, success is not about avoiding risk, but rather in understanding, accepting and managing risk … and only taking it on when the upside is worth it and you can afford the downside.

Here are some things for real estate investors to think about in preparing for the possibility of recession …

Consider increasing liquidity

Right now, there’s a lot of equity in both stocks and real estate. If you’ve got excess equity on your balance sheet, it could be an ideal time to convert some of it to cash.

Yes, it’s tempting to be fully deployed in good times. But if things slow down, cash is king. And if asset values fall, the market’s going to take the equity anyway. Better for you to grab it first.

Emphasize durability of cash flow

It’s a lot more fun to push rents to increase net operating income, and you should always look to optimize income. But earn it by delivering better value and not just by riding a hot economy.

If times get tough for your tenants, they’ll start looking for value. When they do, make sure they find YOU at the top of the list.

Look for ways to trim expenses, lock in solid tenants with competitive longer-term leases, and restructure debt with an emphasis on stability.

You may leave a little on the table, but consider it recession insurance.

Gravitate towards affordable markets

If recession comes, businesses and households will be much more aggressive in seeking value.

Once you know you’re competitive in your current markets, consider expanding your portfolio into markets that are likely to be popular with people and businesses looking to save.

Over-priced markets and properties will probably recede. While affordable markets and properties will likely benefit from increased demand.

Watch for “Sea Change”

Sometimes recessions are just bumps on the road of business-as-usual.

Sometimes recessions are part of a much broader transformation.

There are MANY things going on in the world which are far from business-as-usual. Like recessions, they can be unnerving, but they also create opportunity.

The dollar’s future as the world’s reserve currency, technology’s impact on labor, unprecedented global debt, the ascent (and now slowing) of China … are some of the many macro-factors we pay attention to.

Each of these has the potential to change the investing landscape in substantial ways.

Consider this CNBC headline …

‘Made in China’ could soon be ‘Made in the US’

“Contrary to widespread belief, China isn’t the cheap place to manufacture that it once was, and rising costs have been forcing manufacturers to explore new countries to make their goods.”

The article quotes the president of a Chinese textile firm …

“Add in the possibility of a lower corporate tax to as little as 15 percent, as proposed by Trump, and the U.S. becomes a no-brainer for many manufacturers …”

Could hard times in China lead to a resurgence of the U.S. rust belt?

Here’s the point …

Recession in and of itself isn’t necessarily a “bad” thing. It’s an event. In fact, it’s a regularly recurring event.

Recession isn’t necessarily universal or global. In other words, it doesn’t affect all industries, people or locations the same way at the same time.

A recession in one place can lead to a boom in another and vice-versa as people, businesses and money flow to and from challenges and opportunities.

Like winter, a recession is a season. It may not be as fun as the sunshine, but for the prepared it’s not a big deal.

Going back to the wisdom of Sam Zell … acknowledging the reality of the downside isn’t a reason to hunker down and do nothing. Doing nothing has its own downside.

The world is full of very real threats … and that’s GOOD. It creates movement from which pockets of opportunity emerge.

Because, as Sam Zell says “… taking risks is really the only way to consistently achieve above average returns …

Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to become a well-informed and diligent risk-taker.

Until next time … good investing!


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