The future of interest rates …

Interest rates are a big deal for real estate investors … for many reasons.

The first and most obvious reason is because interest rates are the price of the money you borrow to invest with.  Higher rates mean higher payments and less cash flow.

Of course, even when you pay cash for your properties, your tenants probably carry consumer debt … car loans, credit card, and installment debt …

Higher rates mean higher debt payments for your tenants, so less of their monthly budget is available to pay you rent or absorb rent increases.

Also, your property values, exit options, and liquidity are all affected by interest rates.

Higher rates mean buyers have less capacity to bid up comparable properties … and fewer buyers can afford to buy your property when you’re ready to sell.

For these reasons and others, most real estate investors and their mortgage advisors pay very close attention to interest rates …  especially when financing or re-financing.

But there are other very important reasons for real estate investors to care about the future of interest rates …

Interest rates are a barometer for the health of both the currency and the overall economy.

Last time we looked, most real estate investors transact and denominate wealth in currency (dollars for Americans) … and your rental properties, tenants’ incomes, and overall prosperity all exist inside of the broader economy.

So the potential for big changes to either the currency or the overall economy matter to real estate investors just like they do to paper asset investors.

In fact, based on the amount of debt most real estate investors use, interest rates are arguably even MORE important to real estate investors.

We’re just a couple of days away from our Future of Money and Wealth conference … with nearly 400 people coming … and right now we’re thinking a lot about the dollar and interest rates.

Peter Schiff is speaking.  Peter wrote Crash Proof in 2006 and released it in 2007.  Back then, he loudly warned of an impending financial crisis whose roots would be in the mortgage market.

Sadly, back then we didn’t know Peter, and we didn’t read his book.  Then 2008 happened, and we were blindsided by the financial crisis.

So now we read more … a LOT more.

We make time to listen to people like Peter Schiff, Robert Kiyosaki, and Chris Martenson.  And we work hard to share them with our audiences.

A very interesting book we just finished is Exorbitant Privilege by Barry Eichengreen.  He’s Professor of Political Science and Economics at Cal Berkeley.

Eichengreen published Exorbitant Privilege in 2011, which means he probably wrote it in 2010.

Keep this in mind as we share these prophetic excerpts from Chapter 7, “Dollar Crisis”…

“What if foreigners dump their holdings and abandon the currency [dollar]?  What, if anything, could U.S. policymakers do about it?”

“It would be nice were this kind of scenario planning undertaken by the Federal Reserve and CIA … it would have to start with what precipitated the crash and caused foreigners to abandon the dollar.”

Note:  Eichengreen probably didn’t know at the time that James Rickards, former attorney for Long Term Capital Management (the hedge fund at the center of the near financial meltdown of 1998), was participating in precisely this kind of planning, which Rickards describes in his book Currency Wars, published a year after Exorbitant Privilege.

Back to Eichengreen’s prophetic 2011 commentary …

“One trigger could be political conflict between the United States and China.  The simmering dispute over trade and exchange rates could break into the open …

“… American politicians … could impose an across-the-board tariff on imports from [China].”

WOW … Eichengreen wrote that at least 7 years before this March 22, 2018 headline from CNBC:

Trump slaps China with tariffs on up to $60 billion in imports: ‘This is the first of many’

Back to Eichengreen in 2011 …

“Beijing would not take this lying down.”

CNN Money on April 3, 2018:

China to US: We’ll match your tariffs in ‘scale’ and ‘intensity’

Eichengreen in 2011:

“Or the United States and China could come into conflict over policy toward rogue states like North Korea and Iran.”

If you’ve been following the North Korea drama, you probably know this one’s been back and forth.

Last summer, China seemed to side with North Korea.  Then they tried to take a neutral position.

But recently Kim Jong Un paid a secret visit to China.  Of course, no one really knows what that was about.

But based on recent trade policy it seems the U.S. isn’t sucking up to China for help with North Korea.  So maybe the U.S. and China disagree on North Korea?

Now STAY WITH US … because the point of all this is … according to Eichengreen …

China’s relationship with the United States and the U.S. dollar has a DIRECT impact on the future of YOUR money, interest rates, and wealth.

And if you’re like most Main Streeters, you may not completely understand the connection …

… just like we didn’t understand what Credit Default Swaps had to do with our real estate investing in 2008 … until everything suddenly imploded …

… despite reassurances from the wise and powerful man then behind the curtain of the Federal Reserve, Ben Bernanke.

And the point here isn’t Iran, or North Korea, or tariffs, or trade wars … it’s about whether China gets upset enough with the U.S. and opts for the nuclear option …

Eichengreen in 2011:

“… China [could] vent its anger and exert leverage … by … dumping [Treasuries] … would send the bond markets into a tizzy … interest rates in the United States would spike.  The dollar would crater … could cause exporters, importers, and investors to abandon the dollar permanently.”

Obviously, there’s a LOT more to this topic than we can cover today.

Our point for now is that way back in 2010-11, Eichengreen envisioned a scenario in which conflict with China could create a dollar crisis.

As you can see, today’s headlines are living out his concerns.

When you read Eichengreen, like Jim Rickards, he talks about things reaching a tipping point … where everything happens fast.

We lived that in 2008 and it was NO FUN.  But that was only because we were on the wrong end of it.  While we got slammed, others made fortunes. They were informed and prepared.  We weren’t.

So be cautious of normalcy bias and complacency when it comes to contemplating the possibility of a dollar crisis.

Better to be prepared and not have a crisis … than to have a crisis and not be prepared.

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.

North Korea and you …

With so much craziness in the world, we thought we’d consider what it might mean for real estate investors.

After all, why should paper asset investors get all the thrills of global instability?  Real estate investing might be stable, but it doesn’t have to be boring!

Biggest sword competition …

You may have heard that U.S. President Trump and North Korean Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un recently publicly compared sword sizes.

Since both the U.S. and North Korea are nuclear powers … this has the world understandably jittery.  Though things seem to have calmed down the last few days.

Still, geo-political jitters usually amplify the two basic emotions of investing … fear and greed.

Scared money tends to flee to “quality.”  (Trapped money flees to Bitcoin … but that’s a different discussion …)

Frightened investors are more concerned about preserving capital and purchasing power (which aren’t necessarily the same thing) … than making a profit.

For much of recent history, a flight to quality meant piling into the U.S. dollar and U.S. bonds.

But with another debt-ceiling debacle on the horizon, record debt at every level, pensions in crisis, huge unfunded liabilities, and an economy sending very mixed messages …

… it’s not inconceivable the world might not continue to see the U.S. dollar and bonds as the financial fallout shelter of choice.

Meanwhile, greedy money tends to focus on front-running the scared money, and buying up the scared money’s abandoned assets at bargain basement prices.

As for real estate investors …  we sit on the sideline munching popcorn and collecting rent checks.

But that doesn’t mean there aren’t risks, opportunities and lessons for real estate investors to learn from all the drama.

War is expensive …

We recently discussed the potential shift from “monetary” stimulus (cheap money funneled from central banks to the financial markets) …

… to “fiscal” stimulus (government spending funneled into the economy on infrastructure and military spending).

Now we’re not saying Uncle Sam is purposely pursuing war to stimulate the economy.  That would be far too cynical for two happy-go-lucky real estate guys.

But IF more war happens, it’s sure to be expensive.  And because Uncle Sam already operates at a deficit and has no savings (technically “broke”) … it means a lot more borrowing.

The big question is … from whom does Uncle Sam borrow?

This matters because whom Uncle Sam borrows from to pay for more war … and how it’s done … will probably impact asset prices and interest rates.

Watch your monitors …

If Uncle Sam issues bonds (borrows) and the bids are soft, interest rates rise.  It also says something about the way the world views the dollar (not good).

Of course, this means rising interest rates in the whole swimming pool … including good debt (your mortgages) and bad debt (your tenants’ credit card and car loans).  Either or both of those affect your bottom line.

Another sign confidence in the dollar is declining will be a spike in gold prices.  

If gold catches a bid, it could mean scared money would rather hide in a barbarous relic with no yield … over stacks of paper with pictures of dead people printed in green ink.

(Not sure how green paper is less useless than yellow metal … but that’s a different debate …)

But if big money prefers gold over greenbacks, it’s a clue about the direction of the dollar.

And assuming your assets, liabilities, and income are all denominated in dollars, we’re guessing the value of the dollar is of interest to you … or should be.

Pre-emptive strike …

So what do you do when you don’t know what’s going to happen?

Here are some things to think about …

Uncle Sam already has a huge debt problem.  Another war doesn’t change anything … it just speeds it up.

In the short term, a flight to quality could be temporarily good for the dollar and drop rates by creating demand for both dollars and bonds.

If rates fall for a season (and even if they don’t … they’re pretty low right now), it might be a great time to back up the truck and load up on lots of good debt … and use it to acquire assets that conservatively yield more than the cost of the loan.

That’s effectively going “short” the dollar based at a time of temporary strength.

You can also go a little further short by adding some gold to the mix.  But remember, gold isn’t about profit … it’s about preservation of purchasing power.  

Sure, a falling dollar causes gold to go “up” in dollar terms, but so does everything else, so more dollars doesn’t put you ahead … it just keeps you from falling behind.

Side note …

If you’re not really sure about gold or how it fits into what you’re doing, join us when we speak at the New Orleans Investment Conference in October.   

Some of the biggest brains in precious metals and resource investing will be in New Orleans … along with our friends Robert Kiyosaki, Simon Black, Peter Schiff and Simon Black.  It’ll be like an Investor Summit at Sea™ reunion!

Back to our story …

Something else to consider carefully right now are the markets you’re invested in … because the idea of “flight to quality” applies to real estate markets too.

People and businesses will move to where they can get a better life at a better price.

We like affordable markets in low tax, business friendly, fiscally sound states …

… places with good infrastructure (transportation, utilities, medical, education, resources), strategic location (distribution, travel hub, geographic amenities), and diverse economic drivers.

Also, take a look at your current debt and equity structure.

It might be wise to harvest excess equity and lock in low long-term rates on properties you’re committed to owning long term.

You can then use the proceeds to pick up additional properties in growth markets … or add some cash, precious metals, or high-yield private mortgages to add some diversification into your portfolio.

Stay calm and invest on …

It’s easy to freak out when the world is weird.  But it’s been weird before and it’ll be weird again.

Meanwhile, unlike so many other styles of investing, real estate allows you to hedge most probable outcomes.

Plus, there’s the time-tested assurance that virtually every major power player in the food chain has a vested interest in supporting real estate.

No one wins when real estate loses … and even as we learned in 2008 … if a bomb goes off in real estate, the powers-that-be move heaven and earth to fix it as quickly as possible.

Sure, there’s risk.

But it’s risk that’s largely understandable, reasonably mitigated and … so long as you’re structured to weather the occasional economic storm …

… real estate is arguably the most stable and easily operated investment vehicle available to everyday people.

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.