Coronavirus could be coming to Main Street …

By now you’ve probably heard about the coronavirus. It’s big news and appears to be getting bigger … and there are MANY angles on the story.

Of course, we’re just The Real Estate Guys™ … not the virus guys … so we’re not qualified to have an opinion on the health risks or odds of a global pandemic.

But whether the coronavirus is truly an existential threat to all humanity … or just another run-of-the-mill frightening event that fades into obscurity …

… it’s certainly creating some economic upheavals all investors (even real estate investors) should be paying attention to.

And as long as we all survive long-term, the coronavirus crisis is raising notable concerns and creating short-term opportunities.

To be clear, we’re not making light of it … or suggesting that economic consequences are the most important aspect of the coronavirus story.

But since we don’t have the expertise or ability to change what’s happening or to advise on how to avoid the health risks … we’ll just focus on the investing considerations.

It’s safe to say the coronavirus could be the proverbial “Black Swan financial pundits constantly obsess about.

No one saw it coming, and then … BOOM! It’s here. And it’s already having a profound effect on stocks, bonds, currencies, and commodities.

Of course, the big question is … what does the coronavirus mean to real estate investors?

In the short term, it creates an opportunity …

As freaked out paper asset investors jump into safe havens, lots are ending up in U.S. Treasuries.

This is bidding bond prices UP, driving bond yields DOWN …meaning interest rates are falling.

This pulls mortgage rates down and provides real estate investors with an opportunity to restructure existing debt and take on new debt

… and lock in those low rates for the long term.

Meanwhile, some safety seekers are piling into gold … and we think there’s two parts to that story … maybe three.

First, gold is the ultimate safe haven because there’s no counter-party risk (assuming you take physical possession) and you avoid specific currency risk.

In other words, you can store wealth in gold, and later convert it into ANY currency … not just the one you bought it with.

American brains often tilt here … because they only think in dollar terms. But the rest of the world doesn’t.

Sure, the U.S. dollar is still considered the “safest” currency … but as we explain in our Future of Money and Wealth video, “The Dollar Under Attack” … there are reasons to be careful of the dollar long term.

And enough investors in the world appear to agree … and they’re bidding up the price of gold in their flight to safety. That says something about the dollar.

But the BIG coronavirus story isn’t falling interest rates, spiking gold prices, or crashing stock markets …

As is often the case, investors and mainstream financial media pundits fixate (and trade) the symptoms … sometimes missing the real problem.

There’s a YUGE difference between a booming economy and a strong financial system.

During this U.S. election cycle, you’re likely to hear about the “booming economy” … and it’s true.

But even more importantly, it’s NECESSARY … and that’s the concern.

A global economic slowdown isn’t just inconvenient … it’s systemically dangerous on an epic scale.

This is what our big-brained friends help us understand and navigate.

The world is piled nose-high in debt … most of it at very low interest rates. And yet, it’s barely being serviced.

There are many tapped out “zombie” businesses who don’t even earn enough profit to pay their interest … which means their debt is a slow-growing cancer.

A spike in interest rates or a decrease in prices or economic velocity accelerates their demise … but that’s just the beginning.

Besides the obvious ripple effect of job losses through communities and supply chains … some of which would affect Main Street real estate investors …

… the potentially bigger problem is the ripple effect through financial system balance sheets which are holding bonds as ASSETS … assets they’ve borrowed against.

This is EXACTLY what happened in 2008 with sub-prime mortgage bonds.

It wasn’t the direct losses from a relatively small number of sub-prime defaults that imploded the system. It was the contagion because those modest losses were magnified by leverage.

But unlike real estate, when the collateral (the sub-prime bonds) declined in value …

… Wall Street loans come with cash calls when the “margin” between loan and collateral value shrinks too much.

Margin calls exploded throughout the system … forcing everyone to sell everything to raise cash. This crashed prices, triggering more margin calls …

… creating a vicious downward cycle until the bottom fell out.

So the Fed (and other central banks) stepped in with MASSIVE amounts of “quantitative easing” to put in a bottom and stop the free fall.

They printed trillions and bought the “toxic assets” no one else wanted. And as we now know, they’ve been unable to withdraw the patch.

After 10 years, the Fed tried to “shrink their balance sheet” and “normalize interest rates” (i.e., stop propping things up) …

… and they failed miserably on both counts. In fact, they recently had to take emergency action to blow it all back up.

So there’s a LOT of air in the financial system right now … all propped up by record levels of debt … which can only be serviced by a “booming economy”.

And that booming economy keeps the frailty of the system off many commentators’ radar … while “alarmists” like Robert Kiyosaki and Peter Schiff don’t get much media time to warn people.

That’s the way it was in 2008 … and that’s the way it is now.

The setup is the same as 2008 … just bigger. WAY bigger. And it’s all rooted in gobs of global debt …

China has taken on enormous debt to fund its phenomenal growth the over last two decades.

The coronavirus could push China into even greater debt … not to grow … but just to prop things up as their economy slows.

Corporations took on records levels of debt to fund stock buybacks over the last decade. Of course, this helped boost stock prices, but is it reliable wealth?

Households are also carrying record levels of debt … probably feeling rich because of high home and stock equity on their balance sheets.

Sure, inflated assets can make people feel rich … boosting consumer confidence … but how stable is it?

Equity is awesome … but it’s fickle. The coronavirus is writing a reality check for stock investors right now.

Meanwhile, the coronavirus is shutting down factories … even entire cities … which MASSIVELY slows economic activity … with global ramifications.

It’s like if you had a gigantic credit card with triple your annual incomes in consumer debt …

… but are barely able to make the payments working 60- or 80-hour weeks … and then your hours are cut.

Now instead of just getting by … you’re being swallowed by the debt.

Except it’s not just you … or a single corporation … or a few thousand sub-prime homeowners … or even a tiny country with a small global economic footprint.

It’s the ENTIRE globe … and it’s emanating from the second largest economy on the planet.

It’s hard for China to be the manufacturing engine of the world with closed factories and entire cities quarantined.

That means they use less energy, buy less commodities, export less products … which means shippers have less to ship, retailers have less to sell, and on and on.

ALL those businesses and employees in the chain … many of which are loaded with debt … take a big pay cut … putting all that debt in danger of default.

To “save” it all, central banks will need to print like crazy … and gold prices tell us smart investors are concerned about that.

Gold is at record highs against EVERY currency in the world … except the U.S. dollar (yet).

Ironically, the financial contagion has the potential to spread FAR faster than the coronavirus itself.

YIKES.

Okay, take a deep breath. It’s not Armageddon.

But as you might guess, a scary place to be is in investments that are front-line to fragile financial markets.

That’s probably why alert investors are exiting into safer havens.

Well-structured real estate investors are likely to fare better than most paper asset investors … because real estate’s fundamental model is far more stable.

Think about it …

Do you see any headlines that say, “Rents are crashing as coronavirus spreads” or “Tenants break leases to escape coronavirus”?

We don’t.

So while paper asset investors are watching their 401k wealth go up and down like a roller coaster …

… real estate investors are quietly endorsing rent checks.

But it’s not just the cash flow of real estate that makes real estate stable …

It’s the priority in people’s lives to make those rent payments … and the ownership of a physical, tangible asset that doesn’t disappear in crisis.

Yes, if the coronavirus destroys humanity, demand for rental property will implode. But that will be the least of your worries.

And if the financial system implodes … as bad as that sounds … it will be bumpy for awhile … but a new system will be put in place.

So as long as you’re structured to weather the storm 

… with competitive rents and great customer service in markets with solid infrastructure and fundamentals …

… and stable underlying financing with enough cash flow cushion to absorb temporary softness 

… you might not get richer on your current holdings, but you can probably ride out the storm.

Of course, if you’re properly prepared, you’ll be in position to go bargain shopping in such a storm … which is exactly what Ken McElroy did in 2009-2012.

The world is volatile. Real estate is relatively stable compared to most other investments. But you still need to see the big picture and think ahead.

That’s why we hang out with people like Robert Kiyosaki, Peter Schiff, Ken McElroy, Brien Lundin, and other super-smart people.

After all, it only takes one good idea or heads up to make or save you a LOT of money when things get crazy. And you never know what that’s going to happen.

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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The REAL cause of rising rates …

Maybe it’s just us …

But as we’re preparing for our Future of Money and Wealth conference … (our way of sharing our epic Investor Summit at Sea™ faculty with more people) …

… we keep seeing headlines that make us think there’s more happening in the financial world than just a little stock market volatility …

From Bloomberg on February 7th:

Dollar Will Stay Weak If China Has Its Way, Morgan Stanley Says

There’s SO much we could say about that one headline …

… in which a major U.S. financial institution acknowledges both China’s desireand ability to weaken the almighty dollar.

But we’ll restrain ourselves (for now) and ask a more mundane, but relevant question …

What does a weak dollar mean to real estate investors? 

We’re told a weak dollar is good for U.S. business … because it makes U.S. products cheaper for foreigners to buy with their now relatively stronger currency.

Okay, so maybe that’s good for local economies that depend on exporting.

And maybe it helps landlords in those areas because more export sales might mean more jobs and higher wages for local workers (your tenants).

But a weak dollar also means imports are more expensive for U.S. consumers.  All that stuff made in China now costs MORE for U.S. buyers.

Last time we looked, tenants buy a lot of stuff made in China.  If they’re paying more for it, then they have less money available for rent increases.

So a weak dollar is bad if it leads to consumer price inflation …

And sure enough, from CNBC on February 14th:

Consumer Prices Jump Much More Than Forecast, Sparking Inflation Fears

According to the report …

“Markets reacted sharply to the news, with stocks sliding and government bond yields rising.”

“Bond yields rising” is just fancy talk for rising interest rates.

If you talk to any savvy mortgage broker, they’ll tell you mortgage rates pivot off of 10-year government bonds.

When bond yields go up, so do mortgage rates.

And to no surprise comes this Market Watch headline on February 15th:

Mortgage Rates Rise to Nearly Four-Year High on Inflation Concerns

As Robert Kiyosaki always reminds us, real estate investing is about debt and cash flow.

Your mission is to acquire more of both … but with a positive spread.  So if the debt costs you 5%, you want the cash flow to be at least 2-3% higher.

But when rates are rising, and tenants are being squeezed by inflation, your spread might compress.

Long-time followers know we’ve been advocates of locking rates long term because of the probability rates would turn up.  Now it seems they are.

If the trend continues, short-term adjustable loans could get uncomfortable.

Real estate investors not paying attention may be unprepared for higher rates.

But the mini-news cycle above illustrates an important lesson …

If you understand how these things fit together and their domino effect … you can see them coming … and prepare.

A weak dollar leads to inflation which leads to rising rates.

We could spend a lot more time explaining all that, but that’s the gist of it.

While it played out in the above headlines in just over a week … often these trends chug along over months or even years.

So, it’s easy (but dangerous) to fall asleep at the wheel.

Of course, it isn’t just the 10-year bond that’s signaling dollar weakness.  So is gold (rising), and oil (rising), and even cryptos (exploding).

But as mentioned earlier, for us … the MOST interesting part of the story is China … something we’ve been talking about for over four years.

Morgan Stanley, as reported by Bloomberg, essentially acknowledges that China’s economic size and strength are now able to influence the dollar … and YOUR interest rates.

Of course, U.S. policy also plays a substantial role, and piling on gobs of debt isn’t helping.

The point is that the future of money and wealth is evolving rapidly right before our very eyes … in ways far more profound than just routine economic cycles.

What’s an investor to do?

We think the right real estate, structured with the right debt, will prove to be one of the most attractive investments in the months and years to come.

But lazy or naïve investors seeing only “higher wages” and a “strong economy” and position only for sunshine are living dangerously.

Right now, we’re convinced every serious real estate investor should be paying close attention to the future of money and wealth.

That’s not a sales pitch for our event.

We created the event because headlines have been telling us for years something’s coming … and it’s getting closer every day.

So we’re getting in a room with the smartest people we know for two full days to focus on what’s happening and how to play it for safety and opportunity.

Stay alert, informed, optimistic, and pro-active.

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.

11/28/10: Ask The Guys – Thankful For Your Questions

After we stuffed ourselves with heaping helpings of holiday food, we came into the studio to feast on your fabulous questions – all of which we’re most thankful for!

Sitting at the radio banquet table:

  • Your holiday host and head turkey carver, Robert Helms
  • Co-host and big butterball turkey, Russell Gray

Week after week we gather up questions from our listening audience.  When our email bag gets stuffed like a holiday turkey, we reach in and grab a bunch to chew on.  Then we dedicate a show to regurgitating our responses.

In this eight course buffet of brilliance, we take on several rich and satisfying queries.  Some are tough, while others are as easy as pie.  When it was all said and done, we had a very full episode!

  • How do I know if a four unit residential property is a good deal?
  • Is a beach condo in San Diego a good investment?
  • What is the best way to pick a real estate company to list my property with?
  • How do I find a good mortgage company?
  • Are the non-profit organizations set up to help borrowers with loan mods any good?  What about the “HOPE hotline” and REST report for help with loan mods?  Do I really need an attorney?
  • What investment strategies work for foreign buyers of US properties?
  • How long will interest rates stay low?

To get YOUR question in for a future episode of Ask The Guys, visit www.realestateguysradio.com and click on Ask The Guys (very clever, eh?)

The Real Estate Guys™ Radio Show podcast provides education, information and training to help investors make money with their real estate investments.

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