Markets matter more than ever …

In an age of macro-economic turmoil and stress, the risk of the tide going OUT is far greater than the odds of a rising tide lifting all boats.

So as Warren Buffett famously quipped …

“Only when the tide goes out do you discover who’s been swimming naked.”

And of course, if that happens to be you … it’s often expensive and embarrassing to have your shortcomings exposed.

Anyone paying attention right now expects the tide to go out any time now. In fact, many pundits are shocked the Fed has been able to prop things up this long.

So for strategic real estate investors, market selection matters more now than ever. You can’t count on a rising tide in all markets.

People and prosperity will start to flow away from some markets and flood into others. We’re already starting to see this polarization.

Get it wrong, and there you are in your financial birthday suit with water around your ankles.

Get it right, and your portfolio of “average” properties has you floating in equity and cash flow amidst a flood of demand with capacity to pay.

Long time followers know when we say “markets” we’re referring not just to geographies, but also product niches and demographics.

So it’s places, products and people.

And when times get tough … which is what’s clearly on the weather report …

… the question is: where will people and businesses go, and what kind of real estate will they need?

If you only invest in your own area, this might seem simple.

After all, you know the lay of the land well. You talk to people. You have your thumb on the pulse of the local market.

But if you don’t happen to live in a great investing market … and the local economy or cash flows don’t make sense … then you need to look for clues about markets that might make sense.

For example, Visual Capitalist just put out a nifty 3D map they call …

The U.S. Cities With the Highest Economic Output

   

Of course, these aren’t really cities … they’re metros.

But it’s a great top-down start for homing in on a local geography in which to search for teams and opportunities.

However, this is only a start. There are several other factors to consider when delving into markets … but strong economic activity is a biggie.

So before you jump on a plane and tour the nation, dig a little deeper.

If you’re a residential rental property investor … single or multi-unit … there are several markets you’d probably eliminate from consideration, simply based on their hostility towards landlords.

Losers in this category would be California, Illinois and New York. In fact, of these ten, probably all but Texas and Georgia would get crossed off our short list.

Of course, while the macro-financial strength of a metro is a solid sea and can float a lot of boats …

… trends in the economy and employment also matter quite a bit too.

Remember … the Titanic was a big, powerful ship. Even after it started leaking it still seemed very robust. Many thought it could leak without sinking.

Of course, those passengers who didn’t understand what was happening or didn’t take it seriously were slow to make it to the lifeboats.

By the time the slow-movers were looking for safety, the best spots were all taken. It didn’t end well for them.

Keep this in mind when deciding how to navigate this current crisis.

Another important thing to remember when shopping for real estate markets, jobs and population matter … a lot.

LinkUp.com puts out a lot of great (and expensive) data … but sometimes you get free samples that are useful.

In this case, they did a study of Changes in New Job Openings for a one-month period and created this very cool state-by-state graphic …

 

 

This adds a little color to the analysis … literally. 😉

Our audience knows some of our favorite markets for the last several years are in Florida, Georgia, Tennessee and Texas.

These numbers don’t surprise us because these are business-friendly, landlord-friendly, relatively affordable markets.

Of course, this is just a snapshot … but it’s another clue about where to search for resilient opportunity.

Another fun resource is Zumper.

They have a semi-interactive tool which visually shows internet search volume for where renters are interested in moving to.

Seems like that would be good to know.

Here’s an interesting chart they recently put out …

 

As you can see, there are some new markets to consider adding to the research bin to see how they stack up in terms of strength in economy, jobs, and landlord friendliness.

While we love top-down data … we like to compare and contrast it to “thumb on the pulse” feedback from people who know the market intimately.

For example, we can see from this data that Indianapolis is attracting a lot of interest. We just don’t know WHY.

But we learned from talking with our Boots On The Ground correspondents, Indianapolis has been the beneficiary of people fleeing Illinois.

Our point is that as we continue to navigate this COVID-19 induced cascading crisis … people ALWAYS need certain types of real estate … and residential is always at the top of the list … no matter what’s happening.

People and businesses will move to pursue or preserve quality of life and opportunity … which is about income, expenses, amenities, and climate (weather and business).

In good times and bad, there will always be winners and losers.

Investors who win are more strategic, informed, well-advised and supported, and therefore more aware, prepared, brave and bold … and move smartly and decisively as trends emerge.

To paraphrase Charles Dickens … these are the best of times and the worst of times … and history proves both are ever-present.

So it’s not the circumstances which make times good or bad. Success depends on how well each individual responds to whatever is happening.

The good news and the bad news is … each of our individual destinies remains largely our own responsibility.

If that thrills you, then you’ve probably got skills and a great team … and are looking forward to the impending economic white waters.

If it freaks you out, then it’s probably time to work on your training, tribe and team as a top priority.

The great news is it’s never been easier to find great ideas, information, people and resources. Those all lead to great opportunities.

Thanks for being a part of our tribe … and for reading our stuff. We like it when you reply, give us feedback, comment on our videos. Especially while we’re still in semi-lockdown.

We look forward to getting back into visiting with our audience at live events … but until then, we’ll see you on the radio, podcast, social media and YouTube.

We’re stepping up our content creation now because talking heads on mainstream financial media don’t understand real estate investing.

They don’t talk about real estate investing because it doesn’t promote or protect Wall Street … and real estate is not an asset class or commodity.

But because properties CANNOT be used as chips in the casinos, they’re much more stable in stormy seas. We think that’s going to become VERY attractive.

The right real estate in the right markets controlled with the right financing and managed by the right team is about as good as it gets for building resilient wealth in tumultuous times.

Keep this in mind while watching the storms … and as you focus on the fundamentals, your odds for success go way up.

Until next time … good investing! 

As the world turns …

As The World Turns was one of the longest running daytime soap operas in television history. And yes … there are valuable lessons for investors.

From 1956 to 2010, As The World Turns followed the lives of a fictional collection of high-paid legal and medical professionals.

Unlike other shows in the genre, which tended towards sensationalism …

 As The World Turns was nuanced in drawing viewers into the underlying story-lines. The pace was more real-world than melodramatic.

Perhaps it was this deeper intellectual engagement that captivated the audience for decades.

Of course, technology has changed media.

More noise leads to more sensational reporting in desperate ploys to capture attention. It’s the opposite of intellectual.

Today, much of the world’s story-line comes in sound bites, tweets and posts.

And like Pavlov’s dogs, we’re conditioned for short attention spans …

… expecting anything important to be short, loud, obvious, easily understood, and hopefully entertaining.

If information isn’t sensational, it feels unimportant. So we ignore it.

This could be why day-trading is so popular with many young “investors”. It’s hyper-stimulating.

But the real world changes SLOWLY … though surely … even in the internet age. Before Google, Amazon and Facebook … AOL dominated.

Of course, slowly but SURELY … the landscape of the internet changed … and is having a profound impact on everything … including real estate.

Impatient investors might overlook important slow-moving changes … and then miss opportunities or suffer damage from risks they didn’t even see developing.

For years, we’ve been talking about the long-term decline of the dollar …

… and the persistent collapse of interest rates …

Both have significant ramifications for investors … real estate and otherwise. Just as AOL lost it’s dominance slowly, so might the dollar.

But we’ve covered this often, so we’ll simply continue to suggest the financial system may be approaching a fundamental reset …

… and investors are wise to think outside the dollar while preparing for a temporary credit market collapse.

(Hint: Liquidity is good. If credit markets seize, prices usually crash, and bargains abound until credit markets are restored and prices re-inflate.)

If it’s not obvious, the key is getting in FRONT of the wave. Positioning depends on how nimble YOU are in relation to how fast the wave is moving.

Most ordinary investors are unwilling or unable to stay as liquid as needed to nimbly capture big opportunities when shift happens quickly.

However, when a lot of investors all chip in, then together they can grab a big opportunity quickly … even if it’s something none of them could, would or should do alone.

Of course, being able to buy is one thing. Knowing what and where to buy is another. And the best clues aren’t in soundbites and sensational headlines.

Real estate story-lines are often hidden in boring macro-trends … often only visible to diligent market watchers.

One is the so-called “Amazon effect” … as the growth of online shopping and its resulting shipping boom crushes retail and catapults commercial real estate.

Yes, it’s obvious to everyone now. But it’s been going on for many years … and there’s more to the story than meets the mainstream eye.

Of course, COVID-19 is accelerating this trend … and many others … which is why we did a deep dive into the COVID-19 crisis from an investing perspective.

And consider that before e-commerce started reshaping retail, off-shoring shifted manufacturing and its jobs to far away markets … impacting real estate investing in many markets.

Ironically, COVID-19 might accelerate the return of off-shored manufacturing … which is another slow developing storyline we’re following.

The point is … as the world turns, shift happens … often slowly.

And by the time the shifts become obvious, it might be too late to move into position to capture the best opportunities … or avoid the worst pitfalls.

In 2008, we learned businesses will take jobs to more affordable and business friendly places … even off-shore … to survive in tough times.

Similarly, people will change locations and occupations to find work. Many construction workers from Las Vegas ended up in the oil business in Texas.

Ken McElroy taught us strategic market selection … picking geographies with jobs tied to drivers which are difficult if not impossible to move.

Energy is one of the drivers Ken was focused on coming out of 2008. It’s hard to move an oil well to China. That was a good call.

Of course, oil is a complex and volatile industry so we wouldn’t pick a real estate market driven purely by energy production alone. It’s why we avoided North Dakota during the Bakken boom.

When it comes to geographically linked industry, distribution is one of the most stable because it truly follows the old adage: location, location, location.

Distribution hubs are all about location.

Because even if all the stuff is made in China, India or Mexico, it’s still shipped in boxes moving through domestic hubs to American consumers.

This was true before manufacturing was off-shored. It’s been true while shopping moved from in-person to online. And it’s still true during COVID-19.

Distribution is a boring, stable real estate story-line that’s a little hidden under all the sensationalism of the crisis du jour.

So coming out of the last crisis, we focused on Dallas (energy, distribution, and more), Memphis (distribution), and Atlanta (distribution, and more).

Notice a common denominator? And a decade later, the underlying story-line … and the markets it supports … continues to be strong.

Of course, small investors aren’t buying warehouses, distribution centers, truck sales and service centers, rail hubs, ports, or shipyards.

But small investors and syndicators CAN own the residential rental properties which house the employees of all those places.

This allows you to combine the resiliency of residential real estate with the geographic desirability of distribution to add stability to portfolios in uncertain times.

And best could be yet to come …

When capital is moving into expanding these centers, it usually means more jobs and housing demand in those markets down the road.

BUT … you can’t see these trends early by limiting yourself to tweets, memes, soundbites, or mainstream financial media. It’s all far too unsensational.

However, professionals in commercial real estate often diligently track the slow but large flow of capital and transactions into the space.

Strategic real estate investors watch these mega-trends and use them as clues about where and when to scurry into place …

… ESPECIALLY while short-attention span investors are NOT paying attention or are scattering like cockroaches in the light of uncertain economic times.

So … take a deep breath … you’ve come this far … and ponder these points …

Are the millions of people in the U.S. going anywhere soon?

Is it likely someone will create a technology to negate the need for people to live in houses or have stuff shipped to them?

We don’t think so.

Therefore, even though there’s a LOT of sensationalism in the temporary economic drama … the underlying story-line is as slow and steady as the world turns.

So when we came across this midyear 2020 report on the “Elite 11” U.S. industrial markets, it captured our attention.

The report is authored by a 40-year old commercial real estate firm. It provides insight into commercial space growth indicators in 11 key markets.

Among them are AtlantaDallas-Fort Worth, and Houston.

While DFW led in absorption, Houston led in expansion, and “Atlanta will very likely set a record total square footage delivered … by the end of 2020.”

And they’re all in business and landlord friendly states … compared to others which seem intent on chasing business out.

Remember, a fundamental priority of real estate investing is to pick strong markets and product niches FIRST …

… then build a boots-on-the-ground team … and THEN find properties.

Properties are best chosen in the context of markets and sustainable economic drivers.

So while people may not shop in stores or work in offices as the world turns … it’s highly likely they’ll always need a home and stuff.

So in an unstable world, smart investors will figure this out. Better to be among the early.

Distribution is a real bright spot right now … so while COVID-19 makes the future murkier, it doesn’t erase essential human needs.

And if the current uncertainty frightens short-attention-span investors into staying on the sideline, even though the underlying story-line is stable …

… it’s a chance to stay calm and “be greedy when others are fearful.”

Until next time … good investing!

Winners, losers, also-rans, and the clueless …

If you’ve ever been in a crowd when something surprising happened … or even in a game of musical chairs, you know …

… people respond VERY differently when stressed.

Some think, decide and act very quickly. Experience, confidence, coaching, and maturity are all factors.

Then there are those who act quickly … without thinking. It doesn’t always end badly, but it often does.

With the shoot-first-ask-questions-later group, it’s usually immaturity, inexperience, lack of training, arrogance … even desperation … that gets them in trouble.

Others take way too much time to think … and then act too slowly. They often miss the best opportunities or fail to avoid rapidly approaching danger.

This quintessential “paralysis of analysis” is usually rooted in inexperience and lack of training. But pride and extreme fear of failure is often the biggie.

And of course, they’re the folks who completely freeze under pressure.

They can neither think nor act … they’re the proverbial deer in the headlights … suffering emotional and intellectual overload.

These folks are often in denial … using avoidance and reliance purely on hope as their primary strategy … and abdicating personal responsibility for their results.

Which are YOU?

It’s a hard question. We all want to be Joe Cool … calm, confident, collected, decisive … taking effective action under pressure.

Yet we all have our limits. And sadly, we don’t often discover them or work at expanding them until we fail under fire. Not good.

This is a VERY timely topic because in case you hadn’t heard … the world’s economy and financial system is under EXTREME stress right now.

Some of it is likely to roll downhill onto Main Street real estate investors. So if you’re not stressed yet … get ready.

NOW is a really good time to look honestly at your own investing and emotional IQ …

… not based on your goals, aspirations, ideals, or vision … but rather on your actual history of performance under pressure.

If you’re younger, you may not yet have a resume of stressful investing or business experiences to reflect on.

So use what you have … experience in school, sports, games, and even relationships (they’re stressful!) … to find clues into your psychology.

It can be humbling. But it’s an important exercise.

It’s well known by those who study the emotional side of investing … the art of managing fear, greed, procrastination, and arrogance …

… successful investors are able to act decisively and diligently in times of extreme stress.

That’s because they’ve learned to stay level-headed, think clearly, rely on data and expert advice.

Those who FAIL to keep their cool under pressure usually only win small (if at all) … often lose (often big) …

… and sometimes aren’t even in the game at all … missing opportunities like a little-leaguer swinging against a big league pitcher.

There’s a lot of shift happening right now.

And with a polarized election season now added to the mix, it’s about to get a whole lot shiftier … and emotional.

Our friend Blair Singer says …

“When emotions run high, intelligence runs low.”

Your mission is to remain aware, prepared and rational … so when threats and opportunities pop up, you’re able to act wisely and decisively.

Easy to say. Sometimes hard to do. Yet VERY important to work at nonetheless.

In tumultuous circumstances, it’s natural to want to stop, sit down, or cling to anything or anyone familiar in search of stability.

Sometimes that’s smart. After all, there’s a reason money is moving into real assets like metals and real estate.

But it’s not smart to cling on to obsolete strategies, paradigms, or methods. As things change, you might need to change also.

How do you know what to think and do?

One of our strategies is to watch experienced investors … especially those with access to great advisors and quality research.

That’s why we noted billionaire Sam Zell’s and Warren Buffett’s moves into gold.

You may or may not be interested in gold … but the overt and implied reasons behind big money moves contain clues …

… about the economy, financial system, currency, and interest rates.

All investors, real estate and otherwise, are wise to pay attention to those things.

But while gold and real estate are both considered “real assets” … they are also very different.

Real estate is the opposite of a commodity or an asset class. It’s not uniform in all places. Every property is unique right down to the address.

Yet even seasoned real estate investors tend to think about real estate only in the context of their niche and markets.

If you’re into apartments, that’s what real estate is to you.

Or if you’re into office buildings … or retail … or farmland … or single-family residences … that’s what real estate is to you.

Of course, real estate is also more than a niche …

If you’re into residential real estate in New York, you’re having a certain kind of experience right now.

But if you’re investing in residential real estate in JacksonvilleCentral Florida or Phoenix, you’re having a VERY different experience than those in New York.

Overall, residential real estate … especially housing … is red hot. Housing starts are upHomeownership in the US soars to its highest level since 2008.

But that doesn’t mean every house in every market is on fire. Some are. Some aren’t. Some for good reason. Others … not so much.

It’s the ambiguity of real estate which creates the opportunity. And when shift happens, pockets of opportunity and disaster open up.

The important point here is real estate is NOT an asset class … and as things shift, there will be winners and losers.

So back to billionaire watching …

Reuters reports … sovereign wealth funds are re-thinking once-reliable real estate.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has forced sovereign wealth funds to think the previously unthinkable.”

Perhaps the same thing that happened to Warren Buffett and his position on gold.

“ … the funds are retreating from many of the real estate investments that have long been a mainstay of their strategies.”

“… shifting … funds increasingly investing in logistics space, such as warehousing, amid a boom in online commerce during the pandemic, while cutting back on deals for offices and retail buildings.”

Such shifts in behavior can have seismic effects on the global real estate market …”

Of course, if you’re investing in Main Street self-storage centers or mobile-home parks … you’re likely well-insulated from the “seismic effects” created by the equity repositioning of these behemoths.

But while their moves might not affect you … and you may not emulate WHAT they do … you can still learn from WHY they’re doing it.

They’re responding to the STRESS of COVID-19.

Do you think these behemoths think COVID-19 and its ramifications will pass quickly and the world will soon be back to business as usual? Or not?

After all, Buffett backtracked on one of his most outspoken positions and pulled a page out of Peter Schiff’s playbook … dumping dollars and buying gold.

Similarly, these sovereign funds are shifting HUGE long-term holdings from certain real estate niches (the projected “losers”) into others (the projected “winners”).

As shift happens bigger and faster, winning will require more intelligence and greater emotional control.

If you’re not already diligently developing those things … it’s probably a REALLY good idea to get started soon.

Notice that the big boys aren’t taking a Wait and See approach, but rather they Think and Do. That’s a clue.

Meanwhile … what’s clear is the world is changing quickly … the big boys are making their moves … and old paradigms are being re-evaluated.

Our experience, both good and bad, tells us the informed, level-headed, rational, decisive investors will most likely be the biggest winners.

Think and Do is better than Wait and See.

Ask The Guys – 401ks, Losing Properties, and Preparing for a Bust

That’s right. It’s another episode of our favorite topics from our favorites guests … YOU!

It’s time for another segment of Ask The Guys … and we’re ready to tackle the tough questions. 

We’re touching on 401ks, purging portfolios of problem properties, and how to prepare for what many believe is an inevitable bust. 

And … there’s more!

The best way to learn is from each other. 

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 succeed-or-bust host, Robert Helms
  • His bust-a-gut co-host, Russell Gray

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401k sitting idle

Our first question is from Lenedia in Forney, Texas. She says she has about $16,000 left in an old 401k plan that’s just sitting idle. 

She wants to invest this money in real estate or in another niche that would give her a profit within a year … but she wants to know our advice for a first time investor. 

Well, we don’t give advice … but we are happy to share ideas. 

The duration of the investment is always an important factor. When you’re looking for a return in a short period of time … it limits the things you can invest in. 

When you’re using retirement savings … there are some rules and some risks. 

The best thing you can do as a first time investor is get educated. Invest in investment. The good news is that it doesn’t cost that much. 

In this particular case, you’ll want to learn about 401k plans and how they dictate what you can invest in. 

Maybe you’re at a point in your life where it’s time to start taking distributions from retirement. In that case, you may make different choices about where you invest the money. 

One of the big advantages of retirement account investing is that it isn’t subject to the same taxation.

But again … the most important thing you can do is educate yourself on all the options before you make a decision. 

What to do with non-performing properties

Christopher in Anchorage, Alaska, started purchasing multi family real estate in 2013. Currently, he’s sitting on two unfinished, non-performing properties.

Christopher says he either needs to find a buyer that wants to finish the properties … or an investor willing to front the funds so they can be finished and flipped for a cash out. 

What have we seen in these types of situations?

The real essence of the question is, “How do you get rid of a property you don’t want?”

Anytime you’re looking at an investment decision, you’re looking at its current condition. Whatever it is … it’s worth something in its current state. 

That worth is your baseline. Then, you look at what the potential of the property is … and what it is going to take to bridge the gap between where it is and its potential. 

If you can bridge that gap and make a profit … it may be an opportunity … but it still might not be the opportunity for YOU. 

Have other investors in your life come and look at the property and the market and ask them what they think the opportunity may be. They may see an opportunity that you don’t … or they may want to take it on themselves. 

Either way, it’s time to take a look at how the properties got this way to begin with. Why did this project croak on your watch?

Use it as a learning opportunity … and if you decide to take on the project yourself, you’ll need to be able to explain what happened to other investors. 

When you take the property to market … you may just decide it is best to take a loss on it and move on. Nobody gets through this business clean. 

Extra billions and the bust 

Jason in Merrick, New York, wants to know if we see the recent creation of billions of dollars pumped into the banking system having an impact on real estate. 

In the U.S. and many other countries, there is what we would term quantitative easing … printing money and creating billions of dollars out of thin air. 

Of course, there are ramifications. And there are a couple of things to think about. 

Lots of this capital gets into the system, and it doesn’t get back out again. That’s how it stays contained. 

People have access to the capital through whatever means bid up the assets that are in demand. 

That being said, there’s a lot of motivation on a lot of people’s parts to prop up real estate … because bankers make loans against real estate.

If those loans go bad … if real estate prices drop … the voters that live in those homes get angry at politicians. 

Some politicians are very motivated … that’s why you see a lot of effort to create subsidized financings and easing lending guidelines. 

All that to say that historically, more money being pumped into the system is good for real estate in the long term. 

Sometimes, it does create major disruptions in the credit markets. When that happens, credit markets dry up like they did in 2008 … and that has a negative impact on real estate prices.  

But, if you’re a cash flow investor and you’re controlling your real estate with prudent cash flows and long term structured debt that isn’t going to be called … you can ride that wave out. 

If prices were to crash again, we think it would be fair to expect that the powers that be will do exactly what they did last time … funnel lots of money into real estate until they can re-inflate. 

So, there are a lot of maybes and what ifs … but generally, real estate is the winner when there is more money floating around in the system. 

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.

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