12/12/10: International Real Estate for Resort, Investment or Safe Haven – Pros and Cons of a Changing Landscape

Whew!  That’s a big title.  But it’s fitting for a big topic – one that reminds us that the world is not only getting smaller, but is changing rapidly.

Money, jobs and people are moving around the world like never before. And while fewer people may feel rich coming out of this recession, there are other good reasons many are still looking at international real estate – both as an investment strategy and a safe haven hedge against inflation.

While we were at the International Property Congress in Miami Beach, in addition to talking big picture economics with National Association of Realtor’s Chief Economist Lawrence Yun and Federal Reserve Bank VP Thomas Cunningham (see our 11/21/10 show), we sat down and talked about who’s buying international real estate, where and why.

Behind our well-traveled microphones for an international chat-fest:

  • Your host, the internationally renowned Robert Helms
  • Your co-host and internationally obscure Russell Gray
  • The man who has seen more changing landscapes than a migrant farm worker, the eternally international Godfather of Real Estate, Bob Helms
  • Special Guest #1: International Property Journal reporter, Kevin Brass
  • Special Guest #2: Representative from SECOVI, a Brazilian real estate trade association, Flavio Amary

It’s no secret that every country in the world has it’s own unique strengths and weaknesses.  As the dominant economy in the world, Americans have long enjoyed a uniquely stable and high quality of life.  It wasn’t necessary or commonplace to travel abroad.  Even today, the  majority of Americans do not have passports.

However, the world is changing.  The US dollar, while still the dominant currency, is facing serious challenges.  Job losses, deficit spending, an aging populace and huge unfunded entitlements are all piling up on Uncle Sam.  Meanwhile, other countries are emerging as powerful economies in their own right – most notably China.

But this isn’t an episode about the woes facing the US.  These aren’t the first challenges and they won’t be the last.  Every country has its ups and downs.

This episode is about discovering how and why the dynamics of the world’s economies are changing the way people are approaching real estate.

While we’re more traveled than the average American, we took the opportunity while in Miami to connect with Kevin Brass.  Kevin has been covering the international real estate industry for over 20 years and his articles and analyses have been regular features in the International Herald Tribune and the New York Times.  Today, Kevin writes for the International Property Journal.  His work takes him all around the globe and keeps him connected with many industry leaders worldwide.  In this episode, Kevin shares his perspectives on the changing landscape of international real estate.

We also discuss some recent changes to the once vaunted tax and privacy advantages of Panama, who recently entered into an information sharing agreement with the United States.  Tax and privacy advantages are often a prime motivator for people to acquire real estate and move to a particular country.  Is what happened in Panama a portend of things to come?

Of course, what would an episode on international real estate be without an interview with someone with one of those really intriguing accents?  We were privileged to find someone who not only sounds really cool, but has some very useful things to share with us about the robust economy of Brazil.  If you haven’t been paying attention to Brazil, you may be surprised to hear about what’s happening there.  Hint: not everyone’s in a recession.

Buone Feste, Boas Festas, Felices Fiestas, Frohe Festtage, Wesołych Świąt, Bonnes vacances, Sarbatori Fericite and Happy Holidays!

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11/21/10: Real Estate Economics – Interviews with the Federal Reserve and National Association of Realtors

As we’re guiding our real estate sailing ship through the choppy economic seas of the past few years, we’ve learned the wisdom of having a lookout watching the horizon for threats and opportunities.

We also like to compare notes with other sailors – especially those whose lookout platforms are higher up than ours.  They can see more and farther than we can.  That’s very helpful when trying to catch a wave or avoid a storm.

So we dove at the chance to interview some high profile people – to find out what they can sea, sea, sea from their higher vantage point.

In beautiful Miami, sitting on the dock of our radio bay, watching the tide roll away:

  • Show host and captain of the good ship Equity, Robert Helms
  • The cut rate first mate, co-host Russell Gray
  • Chief Economist of the National Association of Realtors®, Dr. Lawrence Yun
  • Vice President and Associate Director of Research for the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, Thomas Cunningham, Ph.D
  • President Elect of the National Association of Realtors®, Moe Veissi

Wow!  What an all star line-up!  After watching each of their presentations to the Congress, we decided to chase them down for a quick conversation that we could share with our listeners.  Though they’re all busy men, each was gracious enough to sit down for some one on one with Robert.

Dr. Yun kicks off the show with some comments on the US housing market.  He’s the first economist on earth to see and analyze the housing data gathered by the National Association of Realtors®.  He’s also able to combine the statistical data with lots of relevant anecdotal data – since he interacts regularly Realtors® around the country.  He points out some of the reasons he believes the worst of the storm is past.

Next, we talk to Thomas Cunningham of the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta.  Unless you’ve been in a coma the last two years, you know that the Fed has been very active in trying to stimulate the economy with lower interest rates, expanded credit facilities to banks and that mysterious “quantitative easing”.  What does it all mean?  Our mission is to find out!

While economics and monetary policy is interesting, it’s pretty high in the clouds.  So we wrap the show up with a lively conversation with the energetic President-elect of the National Association of Realtors®, Moe Veissi.  Moe shares his thoughts as he transitions from local real estate practitioner to the helm of the world’s largest trade association.

It’s all good stuff, so listen in – and be sure to tell a friend!

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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9/26/10: Tracking International Trends – CEO Insights from the Nation’s Largest Local Association

Every day, jobs, money, people and business are going global. Some come to the U.S. and some leave.  Some go both ways.  Maybe you’ve fantasized about cross-border transactions, in which case you may need to seek professional help.

Because we’re us, we get to meet all kinds of bright, experienced and interesting people. It counter balances us.   The latest smart person we’ve met (wait until you see how many letters come after her name!) is our guest for this episode.

Revealing their deepest thoughts on this subtle topic:

  • Your head therapist, host Robert Helms
  • Your head case, co-host Russell Gray
  • Special call-in expert, CEO of MIAMI, Teresa Kinney CAE, CIPS, GRI, RCE, TRC

Teresa Kinney, CEO MIAMI

To avoid confusion, even though she wears the title of CEO of MIAMI, Teresa isn’t an official from the city of Miami.  She’s CEO of MIAMI (notice the ALL CAPS) which is comprised of several organizations: the Residential Association, the Realtors® Commercial Alliance, the Broward County Board of Governors, and the International Council.  You can learn more at www.miamire.com.

What impresses us most is that MIAMI is a top gateway for international real estate both coming into and going out of the United States.  So if you’re interested in international real estate, MIAMI and Miami are great places to get connected.  In fact, there’s a big international real estate event coming up October 30-31 featuring National Association of Realtors® Chief Economist Lawrence Yun, and The Real Estate Guys™!

Now some people think tracking markets and trends is a drag, but we like it! Astute investors watch for economic and demographic trends in order to effectively pick markets and properties poised to perform best over the next 10-30 years.

Located in the #1 hub for global real estate, CEO Teresa Kinney oversees the largest local association of Realtors® in the nation.  With access to all the statistics, plus gobs of anecdotal data from over 23,000 agents, Teresa has more insight into international real estate activity than just about anyone else! Of course, we couldn’t wait to ask her a zillion questions.  Tune in and find out what she has to say!

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Part 1: Report from the National Association of Realtors Conference

This is Russ. I just got back from 3 days in beautiful San Diego where I attended the NAR Annual Conference.  Robert drew the short stick and had to go to Belize to handle some business. Poor guy.

In case you don’t know, the National Association of Realtors is the world’s largest trade association, boasting well over a million members. Pretty good for an industry that’s been at the epicenter of the “world financial crisis”.

I noticed the AP reported on FHA Commissioner David Stevens’ speech at NAR.  They said that Stevens told the Realtors “that concerns the agency is headed for the same financial trouble that snared Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and the subprime sector are unwarranted.”

Really?

I didn’t hear the speech because I was more interested in what people on the front lines were thinking and feeling about the market.  Besides, we’d already commented on our observations about FHA in two previous blog posts: Are We Going to Lose our Fannie? and Hey FHA! Your Fannie is Showing. You can find those in the Clues in the News category.

Why should you care about FHA? As quoted in the AP article, Stevens said it best, “Without FHA there would be no (housing) market, and this economy’s recovery would be significantly slower.”

The surest sign there’s trouble is when a bureaucrat comes out and tells your there isn’t  (“Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain!” ).  Especially when all evidence says there is.  It’s even worse, when the “no problem” evidence provided is (again, from the AP article), “the agency has $31 billion in capital – $3.5 billion more than it had a year ago.”  But (and it’s a big one), how does that compare to the number of loans insured?  The AP article says that FHA has insured nearly a quarter of ALL new home loans made this year.

Consider these recent FHA related reports:

11/10/09 MiamiHerald.com – “FHA moves to boost condo market – The FHA recently announced more lenient, albeit temporary, underwriting guidelines for condo projects”

11/12/09 DSNews.com (reports to the mortgage default servicing industry) – “The FHA told Congress and reporters Thursday that its cash reserve fund had deteriorated to $3.6 billion – the lowest it’s been in the agency’s 75 year history.”

11/13/09 Wall Street Journal – “The FHA’s Bailout Warning – Whoops, there it is. – Critics of Fannie Mae & Freddie Mac were waved off as cranks and assured that the companies would not need a taxpayer bailout right up until the moment that they did.”

11/14/09 AP – “FHA Boss: FHA is not the new subprime” (this is the article written at the NAR conference that I opened up talking about). Hmmmm……I’m having déjà vue all over again…again.

Not to be redundant (okay, maybe a little redundant), but Supply and Demand only work when there is capacity to pay.  If 100 people are starving and there’s only 1 Big Mac for sale, one would think that the price would get bid up, right?  But that assumes (dangerous word) that those people have the capacity to pay. If they don’t, the price won’t rise.

The lesson?  Stevens is right (for now) that FHA money is a BIG part of housing.  If it goes away or is tightened, then there will likely be a dip in prices as less people can compete for available properties.  Does that mean stay away?  Not necessarily.

Eventually, private money (and there’s lots of it!) will make its way back into mortgages. Why? Because it’s profitable and real estate is real and the demand for it is forever. But until the sands stop shifting, private money will stay away. It’s no fun to play a game when the rules keep changing. As long as private lenders think they will have to compete against government (taxpayer) subsidized non-profit lenders, and/or that legislators will impede or negate their rights to recourse under the contract (i.e., stop a foreclosure or force a modification), then private money is going to stay away.

And who can blame them? But, (oops, my opinion is showing), even though all this government tinkering is designed to lessen the pain (ironically caused by government tinkering), it will also prolong it.  But I guess private money is coming to the rescue one way or the other, since taxes take private money and funnel it into housing through the government via bailouts.  Not my first choice, but that’s the way its working right now.

For joe schmo investors like us, bread and butter properties in highly populated markets with good transportation, education and economic infrastructure still make sense – as long as they cash flow and you’ve got reserves to allow you to own for 10-20 years.  Because when private money does come back and is added to all the new money we’ve added through stimulus, it’s very conceivable that prices will go up.  But if you have positive cash flow, amortization (pay down of today’s cheap loans over time), and tax breaks, you will still look good in 20 years.  And who doesn’t want to look good in 20 years?

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