Finding Turnkey Rentals in Positive Cash-Flow Markets

When it comes to positive cash-flow, there are two things more important than your investment property … your market and your team. 

Our good friend Terry Kerr at Mid South Home Buyers knows this better than anyone. 

Terry and his team have cracked the code for consistent cash-flow from rental homes in one market … and are expanding into another!

We sat down with this world-class investor to find out why, where, and how he is creating positive cash-flows with turnkey rentals. 

In this episode of The Real Estate Guys™ show, hear from:

  • Your cash-flow crazy host, Robert Helms
  • His go-with-the-flow co-host, Russell Gray 
  • Owner and founder of Mid South Home Buyers, Terry Kerr
  • New investor contact at Mid South Home Buyers, Liz Nowlin

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Market, team, and cash-flow

We’re talking about a resilient market that has been a great cash-flow area for YEARS … Memphis, Tennessee. 

When we first looked into the Memphis market it was a little blue-collar town and the bankruptcy capital of the United States. 

Price points were low … and on paper it looked like cash-flow was solid. 

Many investors are suspicious of high cash-flow markets … they often mean high expenses, high turnover, tough demographics, and difficult management. 

But when markets get overheated and financing goes away, what really matters is cash-flow.

You can make money in these types of markets … you just need to have the right team. 

A team that has … for us … stood head and shoulders above the rest has been Terry Kerr and the experts at Mid South Home Buyers. 

Terry and his associate Liz Nowlin run the gold standard investment operation in the Memphis area. They have over 2,500 homes … and a waitlist of eager investors hoping to partner with them. 

So, Mid South Home Buyers is expanding into a new market … and they’re here to share what they’ve learned in Memphis … and their predictions for future opportunities. 

Creating turnkey investments

Terry is Memphis born and Memphis raised. He started buying and flipping properties … and ended up forming a property management business. 

Now, his team at Mid South Home Buyers purchases homes, renovates them, leases them to residents, and sells them to investors. 

Terry and his team have some creative approaches to the process. 

Homes are outfitted with the same fixtures … saving time and purchasing power. 

And they now purchase materials directly from suppliers … basically building their own personal hardware store … opening budgets to more rehab for each property. 

Essentially, they’re creating turnkey investments. They find the property, figure out what needs to be done, do it, and find a tenant. 

Not to mention that they manage about 2,700 houses in Memphis, too!

It’s all about becoming more efficient … and efficiency leads to cash-flow. 

The biggest … and really only … complaint we hear from investors is that Terry and his team only operate in Memphis … but now they’re delving into another market. 

They’re moving to … Little Rock!

Making the move to Little Rock

We’ve had our eyes on Little Rock for a while now. It’s definitely a market on the move. 

Little Rock is about two hours away from Memphis … and it’s a greater population that covers a greater area. 

The Little Rock properties will look just like those in Memphis … the same renovation materials, same fantastic price-to-rent ratios, and the same long warranties and occupancy guarantees. 

“We’re going to be doing the same top of the line rehab with slightly under market rents to give us the best occupancy rate. Right now in Memphis, we’re at 99.4 percent occupancy,” Terry says. 

But in any venture … it’s important to expand to meet investor demand without compromising quality. 

“It took us several years to make the jump to Little Rock, because we wanted to make sure that our systems and foundations were built correctly,” Terry says. 

If the rehab is high quality … then the resident is happy. When the property doesn’t break down for the owner … then the owner’s happy … and they buy more properties!

Since Little Rock is so close to Memphis … Mid South Home Buyers can keep central command in the same location.

Arkansas has excellent tenant-landlord law and tons of houses in the “goldilocks construction style” … not too big, not too small. 

“We’ve got a lot of beautiful brick houses between 1,000 and 1,500 square feet, three bedroom, two bath, ranch-style homes built on a slab. It’s a good, low-maintenance construction style,” Liz says. 

And the really great thing? All of these Little Rock properties will be offered straight down the waitlist … music to investors’ ears!

Advantages of a turnkey operation

There are several advantages to considering a turnkey operation … one where everything is done for you. 

First, you have a quality renovation every time. 

When you work with a company like Mid South, which holds every renovation to an identical standard, you know what you’re getting. 

Mid South homes have a brand new 30-year roof, new water heater, new furnace, new air condenser, and everything from door knob handles to ceiling fans with bumper to bumper one-year warranties. 

Second, it’s easier to keep accountability in one place. 

Since Mid South is there from start to finish, they can offer you a lifetime occupancy guarantee … if your property is vacant for more than 90 days, they start paying you rent on day 91. 

“And we’re proud to say we’ve never spent a penny on that. because our properties don’t stay vacant that long,” Liz says. 

Third, you can see what you’re getting … in every phase of the process … before you invest. 

When Mid South clients take advantage of viewing the inventory in person before buying … it pushes their confidence through the roof. 

“I give potential investors a tour of our offices and show them houses in four stages of renovation, so they walk away with a great understanding of our business model,” Liz says. 

And, they get a taste of some world class barbecue … it is Memphis after all. 

Whether it’s your first investment or your 400th … turnkey rentals could be the positive cash-flow solution you’re looking for. 

Listen in to the full episode to learn more!


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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Beware of bubble genius …

Hard to believe it’s nearly 10 years since Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac collapsed and were taken over by Uncle Sam.

Time flies when you’re getting rich.

It’s been a GREAT run for residential real estate investors … especially apartment investors.  Free money in the punch bowl can really juice up a profit party.

But after 10 years of equity happening to real estate bull market riders … it’s a good time to think about where we are, where things are headed, and what to do next.

And looking forward comes in two parts:  external and internal.

The external is the world of variables outside your control.  Like driving down the freeway, there are lots of other drivers whose actions affect YOUR safety and progress.

But the key to your success isn’t what’s going externally. It’s how YOU navigate those external circumstances … based on what’s going on inside of you.

It’s about financial and emotional intelligence.

Because what you think and believe affects what you do … and what YOU do has the greatest impact on the results YOU experience.

One of the biggest dangers of riding a wave of easy money into gobs of equity is thinking you’re an investing genius.

We know … because it’s happened to us … and we see it happen all the time.

It’s much harder to be humble, curious, teachable and innovative when you already think you’re smart.

It’s important to know the difference between luck and skill.

True financial genius is being able to make money when everything externally is falling apart … like a pro race car driver deftly navigating a multi-car melee at 180 miles an hour.

That’s REAL skill.  Anyone can rocket down an open road.

Fannie Mae’s chief economist Doug Duncan told the audience at Future of Money and Wealth he thinks recession is likely in the not-too-distant future.

And Doug made those comments after reminding everyone his last year’s Summit predictions were all essentially spot on.

So based on both his pedigree and track record, Doug’s qualified to have an opinion.  And we’re listening.

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

The sun’s been shining on real estate investors for ten years now.  Maybe you’re one of the many who’ve made tons of money.  We hope that trend continues.

But as our friend Brad “The Apartment King” Sumrok reminds us … it’s time to approach today’s market with a little more sobriety.

Money and margins are both getting tighter.

This means paying better attention to detail, increasing your financial education, and being careful not to rationalize marginal investments to bet on positive externals.

In other words, beware of being a bubble market genius … and thinking what worked in a bull market will work when things change.

Better to work on sharpening your skills at finding and creating value.

Of course, real estate is FULL of pockets of opportunity … the polar opposite of a commodity or asset class where everything’s the same and moves together.

Real estate’s quirkiness befuddles Wall Street investors … but thrills Main Street investors.

A case in point are apartments …

On the one hand, lots of brand new inventory is coming on the market … and it’s putting pressure on landlords to offer profit reducing concessions.

On the other hand, more affordable existing stock is attracting lots of interest… from both tenants and investors.

So “housing” isn’t hot or cold.  And neither are “apartments”.  Real estate defies that kind of simplistic description.

Of course, it takes financial education to recognize the difference between momentum and value.

It also takes time, effort, and relationships to actually find the markets, team and properties to invest in.

For most people, that’s way too much trouble.  They’d rather sit in their crib with their trading app … or turn their financial future over to a paper asset advisor.

That’s all peachy until rates rise, recession hits, and paper prices plunge.

History … and Doug Duncan … says the inevitable bear market is getting closer.

Of course, as we’ve previously commented … when paper investors get nervous, one of their favorite places to seek safety with return is real estate.

So for active and aspiring syndicators … it really doesn’t get any better than right now.

Think about it …

MILLIONS of baby-boomers are retiring.  They need to invest for INCOME.

And they’re sitting on stock market equity, home equity, and retirement accounts …

… holding many TRILLIONS of wealth needing to (literally) find a home withreliable income and inflation protection.

Their paper asset providers will try to meet the need, but their toolbox isn’t properly stocked.  They can’t do private real estate.

But as boomers struggle at squeezing spendable money out of sideways or stagnant stock markets, they’ll look towards dividends and interest.  Cash flow.

The challenge with dividend stocks is … in a volatile market, investors face capital loss on share prices.  Worse, dividends can be cancelled.

Compare this to rental real estate, which produces far MORE reliable income than dividends with LESS price volatility.  And no one is cancelling the rent.

So dividend stock investors would LOVE income property … IF it just wasn’t so darned hard to find, buy, and manage.

What about bonds and bank accounts for income?  (Try not to laugh out loud)

Remember, a deposit is a LIABILITY to a bank.  When you deposit money in the bank, the bank needs to create an offsetting ASSET … a loan.

But the Fed has stuffed banks full of reserves … and there aren’t enough good borrowers to lend to.

Banks don’t need to offer higher interest to attract deposits.  So they don’t.

As for bonds …

Yes, it’s true bond yields are edging up, which means bond holders earn a little more income … but at a what price?

Rising bond yields also mean falling bond values.  So bond buyers are understandably very nervous about capital loss on their bonds.

WORSE …, bonds carry the added risk of default or “counter-party risk.”

A bond default is TOTAL loss. Yikes.

Real estate to the rescue …

The relative safety and performance of income property or income producing mortgages secured by real estate is extremely attractive right now.

The biggest problem for passive paper investors is real estate is hard to buy, messy to manage, and takes more financial education than just knowing how to click around an online trading app.

And THAT is the BIG opportunity for skilled real estate investors to go bigger faster with syndication.

Whether you decide to explore the opportunities in syndication or not … it’s important to stay curious, alert and proactive.

Most real estate investors we know are preparing for the next recession … because that’s when true financial genius pays the biggest rewards.

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.

Rising rates, oil, and an angry Amazon …

Even though the Fed skipped a rate hike last meeting, someone forgot to tell the 10-year Treasury yield, which has broken over three-percent … DOUBLE where it was just two years ago.

In case you don’t know, the 10-year Treasury yield is arguably the single most important interest rate on Earth … certainly for real estate investors.

Of course, oil broke over $80 a barrel last week also … in spite of dollar strength.  So while dollar-denominated gold dipped … oil rose.

It makes us wonder what oil will do if (when) the dollar starts falling again!

Now before you check out, let’s consider what all this means to Main Street real estate investors.  

Obviously, interest rates matter because most real estate investors are liberal users of mortgages.  Higher rates mean higher payments and less net cash flow.

But as we often point out, rising rates also affect your indebted tenants.  Higher rates mean bigger payments on credit card, installment, and auto debt.

And speaking of auto-debt, sub-prime auto loan defaults have spiked above 2008 levels.  It seems consumers at the margin are starting to struggle.

Now back to oil

If you’re an oil investor … or you buy real estate in areas whose economies are

strongly supported by the oil industry … higher oil prices can be a GOOD thing.

For everyone else, it means gas … and all petroleum derived products … andanything produced or transported with oil-derived energy … are all getting more expensive.

And for your working class tenants … the cost of filling up their commuter cars is getting worse too.

So until all this “wonderful” inflation makes its way into wages, working class people are still getting squeezed.

All that to say, it’s probably a good idea to tread lightly on rental increases unless you’re very sure your tenants can handle it.

But of course, these are the fairly obvious concerns.  But there’s something even MORE ALARMING circling on the horizon …

Pension Problems Potentially Pinching Property Owners

(Sorry.  Peter Piper purposely pressured us to print that prose. ‘pologies …)

In a recent post, we highlighted a SHOCKING proposal by the Chicago Fed to punish property owners by imposing an additional one-percent property tax … to pay for Illinois’ severely under-funded pension plan.

Of course, Illinois isn’t only the place with pension problems, so be on the lookout for a punitive tax proposal coming soon to a neighborhood near you.

This is why we continually point out it’s REALLY important understand the markets you’re in.

It’s like buying a condo in a troubled complex, but never bothering to review the HOA financials …

YOU might be hyper-responsible, but if the HOA’s in trouble … you could be too, because they have the the power to assess YOU to pay for it.

As we pointed out at Future of Money and Wealth, governments sometimes do desperately dumb things when they’re facing financial challenges.

Don’t Slap an Amazon

The latest case in point comes to us from the super-city of Seattle … home of Amazon, Starbucks, Boeing and several other mega-employers.

You may have heard, the city council of Seattle voted 9-0 to impose a “head tax” on all businesses doing over $20 million in GROSS revenue.

The original tax proposed was over $500 per person.  But after businesses complained, they backed off to “only” about $275 per head.

The purported purpose of the tax is helping the homeless, which is a noble cause.  But regardless of how you or we feel about it, what matters is how the employers feel … and they’re NOT happy.

Amazon fuming after Seattle votes to tax high-grossing corporations to help the homeless

“ ‘We are disappointed by today’s city council decision to introduce a tax on jobs,’ [Amazon Vice President Drew Herdener] said in a statement.

 “ ‘While we have resumed construction planning… we remain very apprehensive about the future created by the council’s hostile approach and rhetoric toward larger businesses, which forces us to question our growth here…’ ”

 Starbucks Corp., another of the 300 businesses that will have to pay the job tax, seconded that.

 Think about this …

These are two pre-eminent brands and major economic drivers for Seattle and its surrounding neighborhoods … and there are 298 other big businesses also affected.

While they’re not likely to all pack their bags and move out in the middle of the night, Amazon’s comments make it clear they’re also not committed to staying or growing.

Again, it doesn’t matter how YOU feel about these companies, the homeless problem, or the role of government in redistributing wealth …

… what matters is how employers feel and what they choose to do when slapped with taxes or regulations.

Because if these companies go in search of a friendlier environment, one area will lose current and future jobs … and others will gain them.

As real estate investors, we want to be on the right end of that shift.  That’s why we’re always watching for clues in the news.

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.

Profits, jobs, and opportunity …

In spite of rising rates and concerns about bubbles … real estate is looking pretty good right now.  At least the right real estate in the right markets.

Of course, “real estate” can mean a lot of different things.  In this case, we’re talking about good ol’ fashioned single-family residences.   Houses.

Yes, we know mortgage rates are rising.  But that just means it’s harder for renters to buy a home … which keeps them renting … from YOU.

And if you proceed with caution, there are some reasons to pursue single-family homes even though prices have recovered substantially from the 2008 lows.

Consider this Yahoo Finance headline:

Small business earnings hit all-time high, NFIB declares

“Small business earnings rose to the highest levels in at least 45 years last month, according to the results of a survey from the National Federation of Independent Businesses (NFIB) …” 

“ …  the 17th consecutive month of ‘historically high readings.’”

That’s good news for small business owners … and for the U.S. economy.  It’s commonly believed that small business drives a majority of job creation.

So perhaps this CNBC headline isn’t a big surprise …

Job openings hit record high of 6.6 million

Of course, job creation is good for landlords.  It’s a lot easier for tenants to pay rent when they actually have jobs.

But there’s the issue of wages.  Even though the unemployment rate fell below 4% … which is considered “tight” … wages still haven’t risen substantially … yet.

Meanwhile, life is getting more expensive as rising interest ratesgas prices and healthcare premiums are among several factors squeezing household budgets.

While jobs are good, it’s hard to save up for a down payment when living costs are going up faster than paychecks … which keeps people renting.

And if all that isn’t a big enough challenge, there’s the problem of high housing prices.  Obviously, higher prices also make it harder for renters to become homeowners.

So all that’s not horrible news for landlords … especially those who are investing in more affordable markets and property types.

But there are two more parts to the story …

First has to do with a deeper dive into the jobs market.  The April jobs report didn’t seem great at first blush.

But in the past, the reports looked great at first, then you’d drill down and discover the jobs created were low-wage service industry jobs.

Notably, recent jobs reports reflect a subtle but important shift in the composition of jobs.

So while the quantity of jobs created might be not bad … the quality is actually looking pretty good.

According to this Wall Street Journal article, manufacturing added 24,000 workers in April … after adding 22,000 and 31,000 in the last two months.

“While manufacturing employment has been generally declining for decades, hiring picked up in the sector over the past year.” 

Way back our 2011 blog, What Washington Could Learn from Real Estate Investors, we argued that not all jobs are equal. We like what’s happening.

Seems to us if the American economy can keep this up, it’s a tailwind for housing … in spite of rising rates, inflation, and high debt levels.

And speaking of wind …

As we discussed at length during Future of Money and Wealth, the entire financial system is based on debt.  So to grow the economy, debt MUST grow.

The why and how of all that is too big a topic for today’s discussion, but if you take it at face value, it really explains a lot.  It also has some big ramifications for real estate.

After 2008, lenders ran away from real estate … but debt still needed to expand.  So new debt-slaves borrowers were needed.

Student debt soared.  Sub-prime auto loans spiked.  Credit cards hit record highs. Corporations borrowed heavily to bid up their own stock.

But today, students are reconsidering the value of a financed college education.  Auto sales are slowing.  Credit card losses are mounting.

Corporations are slowing down their borrowing … with nearly 14% of the largest companies unable to pay their interest payments from earnings.

In fact, a recent Bloomberg article quotes Gregg Lippman of “Big Short” fame as saying corporate debt will trigger the next financial crisis.

“ … corporate debt and equities will face the biggest pain when the next downturn comes. Investments linked to consumer debt, unlike the last crisis, will be relatively safe …”

“The consumer is in much better shape than corporates. Consumers are less levered than they were pre-crisis. Corporates are more levered than they were pre-crisis …”

So let’s wrap this all up and put a bow on it …

If it’s true debt MUST expand, lenders will be looking for where they can make loans.  Remember, your debt is their “investment”.

There are already tremors in the debt markets.  Lenders will be looking for quality.

Similarly, there are tremors in the stock markets.  Investors and consumers will be looking for an alternative for their wealth building (remember, consumers consider their home an investment).

So we think there’s a good chance the focus will shift to real estate again.  Just like it did in the early 2000s.

Yes, we know the run-up from 2000 – 2008 ended badly.  But not for everyone.

If you buy the right markets, use sustainable financing structures, and pay attention to cash flow, there’s an argument to be made that single-family homes still have solid potential for long-term wealth building.

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.

The margin is calling …

Shhh … do you hear it?  It’s the margin calling …

“Margin” is a term we hear all the time but can be a little confusing … because it means different things depending on the context.

But margin comes up often in financial conversations because it’s an important concept … and worth taking a look at.

In stock trading, margin is debt secured by the stocks you’re buying.  It’s like the way real estate investors use mortgages to acquire property.

Typical margin leverage with stocks is fifty percent.  So you put in half and borrow the rest.  If the stock goes up, you get to keep ALL the gain … just like real estate.

BUT … if the stock goes DOWN … you get a “margin call” … which means you need to bring in cash to restore the loan-to-value ratio.  No fun.

We’re sure glad that doesn’t happen in real estate!

The term “margin” has another important meaning.  It’s the “edge” or “fringe” … things that are farthest from the center of the target.

So when you think about your personal budget, you have things at the core … food, clothing, shelter, medical care, etc.

Out at the far edges … the margin … are highly discretionary, non-essential expenditures.  These are things you can easily live without, but you enjoy when you’re flush.

These are the first things to get cut when you’re squeezed.

Households, corporations, even governments all have “core” expenses and activities … and “marginal” expenses and activities.

Again, when prosperity recedes … things at the margin fall off the target.

Our point in all this is you can learn a lot about the direction of the economy simply by watching what happens at the margin.

Make sense?

That’s why this headline caught our attention …

Rising Home Prices Push Borrowers Deeper Into Debt

– Wall Street Journal, April 10, 2018

“ … higher mortgage rates make homeownership out of reach for many,

pressuring lenders to ease credit standards.”

“ … rising debt levels are a symptom of a market in which home prices are rising sharply in relation to incomes, driven in part by ahistoric lack of supply that is forcing prices higher.”

Hmmm … some of that doesn’t make sense to us.  But before we go there, consider this headline …

Home builder confidence slides for fourth straight month

– MarketWatch, April 16, 2018

“The 69 reading is still quite strong. In the go-go days of the housing bubble, between 2004 and 2005, sentiment averaged 68. Still, the fact that confidence is declining so steadily is notable. When NAHB’s index started to fall in late 2005, it was one of the signals that foreshadowed the coming housing bust.”

“ … builders are keeping the pace of construction slow and steady. And they’re worried about their costs.

And then there’s this one …

US home building rose slightly in March, led by apartments

– Associated Press via ABC News, April 17, 2018

“… driven by a big 16 percent gain in apartment buildings. Single-family home construction slipped 3.7 percent.”

“There is a severe shortage of existing homes, which has pushed up

prices in cities around the country … That’s lifting demand for new homes.”

Again, a few things here that don’t make sense to us.  And we could probably write a book just on the excerpts from these three news articles.

But let’s see if we can unpack all this briefly …

First, rising mortgage rates and prices are causing people at the margin of prospective home-ownership to remain tenants. Not great for them, but not bad for landlords.

Usually when prices rise based on DEMAND, builders ramp UP production to profit by selling into the increased demand.

So it seems to us home-builder confidence should be growing.  But it’s not.

That makes us think the number of people who can afford to buy isn’t growing either … it’s shrinking.

That’s because when prices rise faster than incomes, the ability to borrow eventually peaks.  Falling interest rates can delay the problem by getting more mortgage for the same payment.

But now that rates are rising, it seems people at the margin are getting pushed off the back of the affordability bus.

That may also explain why apartment building is growing, but single-family home building is declining.

It may also explain why Freddie Mac is lowering lending standards.

They can’t create jobs or increase incomes, but they can make it easier to borrow in spite of rising rates … and they are.

Freddie’s making it easier for first-time home buyers to get in and push up the market from the bottom.  It’s like the air inlet in an inflatable jump house.

The concern is when lower lending standards act as the air pump trying to compensate for higher interest rates and insufficient income … how long can the debt inflation go before it tapers off … or worse?

Don’t get us wrong.  We LOVE passive equity.  It’s fun to buy a property and just watch the equity grow.

But the market giveth and the market taketh away … unless you’re smart enough to get your equity off the table with cheap long-term debt while both are still available.

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

The sun is shining on real estate right now.  Enjoy it. But be sure you’re preparing your portfolio for stormy weather.

It’s probably smart to have some cash on hand … to be prepared for credit markets to tighten unexpectedly … and to lock in long-term rates where you can.

It’s also wise to pay close attention to cash-flow and avoid dependence on market factors to increase rents or values.

Make sure your deals pencil TODAY … based primarily on things you can reasonably control.

Sure, you might have to walk on some marginal deals … even though they’d be “winners” as long as the tide is high and the sun is shining.

But if the tide goes out and the storm comes, then marginal boats sink.  And if they’re tethered to your best boats, they ALL sink.

Now if you just can’t resist taking a chance on a marginal deal … consider structuring it so it can’t take down the rest of your portfolio if things don’t go as planned.

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.

Home prices surge … and subprime is BACK …

We’re just two weeks removed from our incredible Future of Money and Wealth conference … an it was an EYE-OPENER.

(If you missed it, you’ll be glad to know we video-taped the ENTIRE event and it’s in postproduction right now.   Click here to pre-order at a really great price.)

Meanwhile, now that we’re getting back to our normal routine, we noticed some real estate related news that looked interesting …

Home prices surge to a near four-year high, Case-Shiller shows 
– MarketWatch, April 24, 2018

“Rather than moderating, as many economists expected, home prices are accelerating.  The 6.8 percent annual gain … was the strongest since mid-2014.”

“ … finally broke above the peak it last touched in 2006.”

Hmmm …. is that good?

It kind of feels good.  Then again …

Subprime mortgages make a comeback—with a new name and soaring demand
CNBC, April 12, 2018

“The subprime mortgage industry vanished after the Great Recession but is now being reinvented as the nonprime market.”

A rose by any other name?

“allow … borrowers to have FICO credit scores as low as 500 … can take out loans of up to $1.5 million … can also do cash-out refinances … up to $500,000. Recent credit events, like a foreclosure, bankruptcy or a history of late payments are acceptable.”

“ … will also securitize them for sale to investors.”

Uh oh.  We’re having flashbacks …

“Big banks are also getting in the game, both investing in the securities and funding the lenders …”

Like “too big to jail fail” banks?

“It’s large financial institutions. A lot of people with private capital sitting on the sidelines …” 

Okay.  Let’s take a deep breath and try to figure out what’s really happening, and how it might impact all us lowly Main Street real estate investors …

First, does this mean another grandiose sub-prime implosion that drags the global economy into yet another Greater Recession?

Not sure we’d bet on that happening again.  At least not the same way.

Peter Schiff tells us he thinks the real crash will be the dollar.  He thinks when the debt markets implode, central banks will destroy the dollar in a vain attempt to reflate asset prices and save banks.

Wow.  That’s pretty apocalyptic.  But hey, it’s Peter Schiff.

James Rickards thinks the stage has been set to replace the dollar on the world stage with the IMF’s SDR.  Not sure what that means?  Read Currency Wars and The Death of Money.

But no one we’ve talked to think it’s all going to happen in a day. It’s a process.  And if you’re paying attention, you can see it coming and take pre-emptive action.

Of course, that’s a big topic and too much to dissect in this missive.  That’s why we hosted Future of Money and Wealth … and video-taped the whole thing.

Some of what we learned is that as the dollar begins to fail, dollar denominated bonds would fall out of favor.  After all, who wants to loan “strong” dollars today and get paid back late with weaker dollars?

Foreigners buy fewer U.S. longer-dated Treasuries at auction 
– Reuters, April 23, 2018

Well, THAT’S interesting.

Less bidders on bonds usually means interest rates rise …

Mortgages, other loans get pricier as 10-year Treasury rate tops 3% 
– USA Today, April 24, 2018

Okay, that’s getting closer to home … literally.

But usually when the world isn’t buying bonds (and yields rise) … the money goes into stocks and stocks go UP.  But they went DOWN.

Hmmmm…. it seems the paper players of the world aren’t wild about bonds or stocks.

Since stock investors aren’t piling into bonds for safety, where are they going?

Could be cash … for now.  That would explain the aforementioned, “… a lot of people with private capital sitting on the sidelines.”

We can’t claim to be paper asset experts … far from it.  But it seems to us if there’s cash on the sidelines, the issue isn’t liquidity as we’ve heard some say.

And if there’s plenty of cash … and plenty of stocks and bonds to buy … then maybe the issue isn’t liquidity or inventory, but quality.

Think about Detroit real estate at it’s worst.  There was PLENTY of properties.  And they were cheap.

You could buy a whole house for $2500.

But few did.  In fact, they bull-dozed lots of properties because on one wanted them.

The problem wasn’t price or availability, it was quality … or lack thereof.  No sale.

So MAYBE paper asset investors are a little afraid of stocks and bonds right now.  Maybe they’re starting to look for more real alternatives.

That’s what happened at the turn of the century.  Stock and bond investors poured into real estate and mortgages.  From their perspective, they’re safe.

Real estate is like that loyal, sometimes boring best friend in high school.  When things are free and easy, you hang out with your party pals … but when life gets hard, it’s that old faithful best buddy you lean on.

There’s a LOT of debt in the world right now.  More than ever before.  Much of it created in the last 10 years … providing the jet fuel for some pretty powerful paper pricing runs.

Of course, some of the cheap money has also made its way into real estate.  So real estate’s been good too.

But it’s quite possible the party is coming to an end.  Rising rates and declining stock prices could be warning signs.

And yes, a slowdown will probably impact real estate PRICES … especially for homes, which get overbid in good times.

However, incomes and rents are often less affected by downturns, making income producing properties much more stable in slowdowns.

And if you’re smart enough to lock in low cost long term financing, you’ve got a real competitive edge in a rising interest rate environment.

Meanwhile, if history is any indicator, when the paper party ends … it usually means an increased interest in real assets … especially real estate.

At least for now, it seems to us the volatility caused by rising interest rates is a MUCH bigger deal to the paper crowd than for real estate investors.

BUT … even Main Street investors should be paying attention to Treasuries, interest rates, the dollar, gold, and energy.  They’ll provide early warnings for bigger concerns real estate investors should be aware of.

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.

Apartment Market Forecast 2018

An essential part of being a real estate investor is finding the perfect combination of market and product type. But markets, product types, and even financing are CONSTANTLY shifting.

How can you read the tea leaves and see what’s in store?

Today, we offer some help in the form of Brad Sumrok. Brad has been investing for 16 years. These days, he also spends a significant amount of time teaching investors how to get into the multi-family space.

In this episode, we discuss choice gems from Brad’s annual Apartment Market Forecast. We’ll also look at what makes a good market and how YOU can get started … or move upwards … in multi-family investing.

In this episode of The Real Estate Guys™ show you’ll hear from:

  • Your princely host, Robert Helms
  • His jester of a co-host, Russell Gray
  • The apartment king, Brad Sumrok

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Three factors of the perfect market

Let’s begin with some background.

Sixteen years ago, Brad made his first real estate investment. He didn’t start out with single-family homes … No, Brad’s first investment was a 32-unit apartment building.

Today, Brad teaches beginning and potential investors how they too can make a mark in the multi-family space with his popular Rat Race 2 Retirement courses.

Last year, his students purchased 37 apartment buildings in 14 different markets!

Along with his results-producing educational program, Brad produces a yearly Apartment Market Forecast … a data-driven report that looks at which markets in the U.S. are hot for apartment investors … and which are not.

The forecast can be divided into two main parts … old markets that still hold water, and new markets that hold opportunity for multi-family investors.

Brad gave us the run-down of his most important factors for investors.

“When I look at investing, I look at three things,” he says. “The deal, the market, and the management team.”

We asked him to dive into what makes a good market … and why.

Brad said he does tend to like big primary markets in general because of their diverse economies. But he avoids some large markets like Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, and Boston because of laws that are unfavorable to landlords.

For Brad, landlord-friendly laws and strong economies are two major keys to an ideal market.

Brad says investors can find good deals in the suburbs within an hour of many major markets. While city centers may be too hot right now, surrounding areas have a bit less competition.

Besides landlord-friendly laws, Brad says there are two other major factors investors need to consider … asset appreciation and rent growth.

Together, these factors can help investors choose the perfect market.

Some markets, like Cleveland, Kansas City, and Detroit, have higher than average cap rates but negative population and job growth.

Investors want to look for a market that boasts positive scores in all three areas. Some of Brad’s top picks for asset appreciation, rent growth, and landlord friendliness are Dallas, Tampa, Jacksonville, Orlando, and Phoenix.

Many investors worry that even in excellent markets, competition has heated up too much and they’ve missed the party.

To that, Brad says, “If you invest in your education and surround yourself with a good team, the odds are in your favor to make profitable investments.”

Investors need to understand that all ships rise … and sink … with the tide.

In good times, rents and occupancy will be high. And in bad times, apartments are a safe haven because there is always a need for housing.

Choosing and financing properties

What kind of properties does Brad advise his students to invest in?

The answer is simple … B- and C-class assets.

The reason? In central urban cores, there is too much supply and not enough demand, resulting in high vacancies and low yields.

Outside the city core, investors can still buy for less than they can build. And if you choose your market smartly, job and population growth will guarantee a demand for affordable housing.

Brad says he generally advises investors to plan to hold on to a property for at least five years.

And in terms of loans, he notes it’s essential to have predictability in financing. He works with students to help them obtain 10-12 year fixed-rate loans with an 80 percent loan to value.

It can be hard to find that type of financing in smaller markets and for smaller properties.

But it gets easier, says Brad, when investors realize they don’t need to fork up all the money by themselves.

That’s where syndication comes in.

To earn more and work less, turn to syndication

Without syndication, many investors run out of money.

Syndication not only allows investors to do bigger deals … it also offers economies of scale.

Larger properties with at least 60 units allow investors to hire a management company with the right level of cost to benefit.

At that size, management costs usually end up at about 5 percent of income, and possibly less if you have more units.

Plus, you get more data, more support, and more resources … for a smaller percentage of your revenue.

It’s part of what Brad calls “the magic of apartments.” Management costs for single-family homes, by comparison, usually run about 8-10 percent of your gross income.

Why not a 40-unit apartment? Forty units is enough to pay for a full-time person … without fully utilizing their time or efforts. But 60 is just about perfect.

Another benefit of buying big is that you DON’T have to do everything yourself. When you do a syndicated deal with other investors, your main responsibilities shift from the nitty-gritty details to regular communication with your management company about big-picture trends and issues.

The premise of multi-family investing is really the same as single-family … but financing, managing, tenant-landlord laws, inspections, and other factors are a bit different.

All that is learnable, however. To get educated, start by checking out Brad’s webinar. He’ll discuss why apartment investing is great for building passive streams of income, how YOU can get started, and what his top market picks are for 2018.

Investors evolve with education

In Brad’s own words, “Anyone can do it.” He told us there will always be competition, but even in today’s economy, there are still so many markets that make sense.

“Investors just have to step up to the plate and take a swing,” Brad says.

Just as you evolve as an investor, so do markets evolve … slowly, over time. Sometimes the shift happens so slowly … or so suddenly … that investors don’t see it coming.

That’s why folks like Brad are so important. He knows the apartment market space incredibly well, stays up to date … and is always willing to share his knowledge with other investors.

And although not every investor takes the same path to wealth that Brad did, there’s something EVERY investor can learn from Brad’s recommendations and suggestions for what makes a good market and a high-return investment.

As real estate investors, we have to take educating ourselves seriously. Whether that starts with a podcast, article, webinar, in-person event, or a training seminar like Brad’s, education is the one thing that can help YOU become an effective, efficient investor.


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.

Weird happenings and the squish factor …

We got a fascinating boots-on-the-ground report from a friend of ours traipsing about Hong Kong … and no, this isn’t about Hong Kong.

“My Big Short moment …” was the subject line.

“The Big Short” refers to Michael Lewis’ book and the recent movie of the same name, which both tell the tale of events leading to the 2008 financial crisis.

Our friend went to an “open house” for a pre-development condo tower. Prices STARTED at $700,000 USD for a 216 square foot condo. Crazy.

Non-Hong Kong residents pay an ADDITIONAL thirty-percent “speculation” tax. Ouch.

We’re guessing government is trying to discourage global hot money from bidding up properties and pricing out locals who need places to live.

Our friend reports these condos are only fetching $2,000 per month rent. Even with today’s low interest rates, those numbers make NO sense.

Nonetheless, our friend says bank financing is available … with 40% down.

Apparently, the banks aren’t completely insane.

However, he says the developer is offering much more attractive 30-year, 15% down, “teaser rate” financing. It starts at prime less 2% for years 1-3, then prime less 1% for years 4-5, and then prime plus 1% for years 6 forward.

Now, for those around pre-2008, these loans sound hauntingly like the infamous 2/28 loans which triggered the mortgage meltdown.

But it gets better.

Apparently, the demand for these tiny, grossly expensive condos is so high, the developer set up a lottery system for buyers.

A prospective buyer must pay $100,000 HKD to enter for the CHANCE to buy a unit. And there’s nearly THIRTY wannabe buyers for each unit!

Does all that sound just a tad overheated?

Of course, Hong Kong’s not the only place real estate values are out of control. Last week, we made mention of growing concerns about Canada’s housing boom.

Does this mean real estate investors should hibernate until things calm down?

We don’t think so. But we certainly aren’t suggesting anyone buy into over-heated markets or product types.

So what’s going on?

When an economy gets flooded with cheap money, prices get bid up because the ratio between money (technically currency) creation and product creation favors money.

More money chasing the same goods means prices rise.

But prices don’t rise everywhere on every item across the board. It depends on who gets the cheap money and what they do with it.

There’s a bazillion factors affecting how excess money gets into circulation. No one really knows for sure where it’s going to pop-up.

We call this “the squish factor.”

If you squeeze a water balloon that has enough elasticity, it will squish out between your fingers … somewhere. But you don’t always know where.

And if you push it back in one place, it pops out another. Again, you don’t always know where.

Speculators try to guess where it’s headed, and front-run it. They’re called the “hot money”. Their goal is to get in and out early, and let the late-to-arrive and late-to-leave crowd take the lumps.

And you never know where the next bubble will pop-up … or recede.

The reason bubbles recede is because there’s nothing REAL underneath them creating value.

So when the hot money leaves to front-run the next asset class, the air comes out of the current bubble … and it’s pricing recedes to the true value based on income.

The big short of it (sorry, we couldn’t help it) is … value is based on income.

Rents of only $2,000 per month can’t possibly justify a $700,000 value. All the excess value is from hot-money “air” … and the only exit is the greater fool or the poorhouse.

So what’s an investor to do?

First, let’s make a distinction between an “investor” and a “speculator”. The former focuses on cash-flow, while the latter focuses on capital gains without adding value.

“Investors” use currency to acquire assets which produce cash flows. Acquiring assets is the objective.

Conversely, “speculators” trade assets to acquire currency. Acquiring currency is their goal. Buy low, sell high, collect currency. Repeat. The cash flow comes from the sale of assets, not the holding of assets.

By those definitions, an “investor” would NEVER buy one of those Hong Kong condos. The numbers preclude it. They just don’t make sense.

But hot money speculators will … and apparently are. At the margin of the hot money is the dumb money. The dumb money gets in and out late … if they can get out at all.

We know. We’ve done it. It’s VERY tempting because the profit can be BIG and FAST. And when you win, it feels GREAT. But …

So, YES … it is possible to make HUGE gains getting in and out of a bubble asset. Be it stocks, bonds, commodities, currency or real estate.

It’s also possible to make a lot of money in a Ponzi scheme or at the craps table. But it’s not investing.

We’re NOT saying capital gains are bad. Far from it! We LOVE equity. But REAL equity comes from CASH FLOW and holds up MUCH stronger when the tide of hot money recedes.

So while speculators are drunk with cheap money in the bubble casinos … sober investors are poking around boring markets looking for cash-flows and value-add opportunities with multiple exit strategies.

The great news is cheap money spends just as well in the boring markets and product types, but there’s no hangover after a binge. Values up. Values down. Cash flows fairly steadily.

With all the weird happenings in the global financial markets, it’s more important than ever to stay sober and focused on finding real value … markets with sustainable drivers and nice boring cash flows.

The irony is that when the air comes out of the over-heated markets, some of the hot money will flow into those boring markets. Which is a fun ride for those already there.

Meanwhile, many of those markets aren’t over-crowded … yet.

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.

7/4/10: Profiting from Your Vacation – Exploring New Markets in Your Bathing Suit

Most people don’t get into real estate investing because they like tenants, toilets and all the tribulations you go through. And most of the time, they don’t get into properties they would like to live in or visit on vacation.  In fact, most investors would be happy if they never saw their properties.  That’s probably why stock investing is so popular.  You just buy a line item on your brokerage statement.  You never visit the company or meet the management.  It’s all very sterile and anesthetized.  Maybe that’s why you almost can’t feel it when the stock market gives you a networthectomy.  But we digress (how unusual).

Anyway, with summer time in full swing and people heading off for a well-deserved vacation, we thought it would be refreshing to talk about how to combine real estate business with vacationing pleasure.

In the radio mini-van, headed to the beach of broadcasting for fun in the sun and investing too:

  • Your host and mini-van driver, Robert Helms
  • Captain Speedo, Russell Gray
  • The Godfather of Real Estate, Bob “Board Shorts” Helms

Before we hit the road of conversation we do a quick check of the packing list.  Did we remember to pack our investor mindset?  What about our notebook to keep track of our ideas, conversations and those all important (potentially) tax-deductible expenses?

We’re all good, so off we go!

Since most people don’t vacation in C-class neighborhoods, we start our conversation on the idea of resort area investing.  But as soon as we jump out of the mini-van, we are faced with that ugly limiting belief, “I can’t afford it”.  It’s easy to look at real estate in a beautiful area and disqualify yourself before you even get started.  So we talk about how to push through the traffic of doubt in one’s mind by asking the question, “How can I afford it?”

We decide to ride this train of thought and talk about the importance of getting the right answers and advisors, by learning how to ask the right questions. Bad questions yield bad answers.  It’s like, “Which Speedo looks best on Russ?”  That’s a bad question (and worse visual) with no good answer.

Of course, we can’t miss the opportunity for some shameless self-promotion, so we hang a u-turn on the notion of making one’s vacation an opportunity to look for real estate.  What about the idea of using a real estate trip as a vacation? Many of our listeners have come with us on our Investor Summit at Sea™ or field trips to Belize, Cabo San Lucas or other fun places we’ve gone.  Even though the main purpose of the trip is to look at real estate, is it against the rules to have fun?  So, when time and budget is limited, it just makes good sense to leverage your vacation / real estate “research and development” budgets.

We have a fun time with this show.  We think you’ll like it too!

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