10/26/14: Halloween Horror Stories – Terrifying Tales from the Trenches

Real estate investing isn’t always sunshine and unicorns.  In fact, sometimes it’s downright scary.

But in every terrifying trial, there’s usually a valuable lesson…IF you’re willing to push through to the finish and then reflect on the experience.

In this episode, we cobble together a series of interviews with real life real estate investors.  We ask for their most blood-curdling horror story, how they got through it, and what they learned.

In the broadcast crypt for this monster mash of terrifying tales…

  • Your crypt keeper and host, Robert Helms
  • His hunch-backed henchman, co-host Russell Gray
  • Atlanta, Georgia real estate investor and turnkey property provider, Ken Corsini
  • Orlando, Florida real estate investor and turnkey property provider, Greg Bond
  • Grand Rapids, Michigan property manager and real estate entrepreneur, Justin Bajema
  • Lancaster, Pennsylvania real estate investor, Dave Zook
  • Houston, Texas real estate investor, Dr. Eric Tait
  • Atlanta, Georgia real estate investor and turnkey property provider, Michael Keefe
  • California based investor and real estate broker, Jerry Hicks

You can tell by the line-up we have a lot of ground to cover…and we don’t want to spoil the suspense by revealing too many of the details.

So, we’ll just offer the following tips and teases:

When Ken Corsini found himself suffering from a case of disappearing equity, he found out that you always need to do your due diligence…and you should never buy a property just because it has a tenant.

And when Greg Bond discovered that pets and property can be a messy business, he learned that tile could be his new best friend.

Justin Bajema echoes Ken Corsini’s epiphany that you always need to do your due diligence, and adds how important it is to know what you are…and aren’t…willing to do to make a profit.

Dave Zook is another investor who also understand the importance of due diligence.  And when you’re up against something that’s a little deeper than your level of understanding, you’d do well to make sure you have an advisor who’s experienced in the problem you’re facing.

Now up to now, it’s been fun and games.  Even though the stories up to this point have been painful and expensive, we’re only talking about losing time, money…and maybe some hair.

But when it comes to the case of Arkansas real estate broker Beverly Carter, there’s nothing to laugh about.

If you’re not familiar with the story, the short of it is that Carter met an unknown prospective client…alone…at a vacant property in a remote area.  In hindsight, it seems like a bad idea.

But for Beverly Carter, there is no hindsight…because she didn’t live to learn the lesson.  Tragically, she was later found murdered.

And even though the alleged perpetrator has been apprehended, that’s a small consolation for Beverly Carter’s family.

One of the most valuable lessons from Beverly Carter’s horrible fate is how important it is to be aware, prepared and trained.  Because you never know when danger may appear.

Next, Dr. Eric Tait explains how a fatal stabbing took place in one of his rental units…and how important it is to have proper policies in place.  He also found out that a group of committed owners and local law enforcement can work together to reduce trouble.

Then, Michael Keefe shares how his attempt to save a few hundred dollars on legal fees ended up costing over $50,000…all for the lack of three little words.  What is that…over $16,000 per word???

Lastly, Jerry Hicks relates the story of putting together a large syndication to do a real estate development project in the San Francisco Bay Area…only to find out his lead investor really didn’t have any money.

Jerry was able to use bankruptcy laws to buy time to get the property sold and make all the other investor whole.  Lots of lessons there, but the big one is to make sure you know your investors are qualified before they are in position to ruin your deal.

Tune in and hear all the frightening details…direct from the investors who paid the price for the lessons.

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9/14/14: Sustainable Income Through Sustainable Offshore Agriculture

Sustainable real estate investing can be rewarding in more ways than oneWhen it comes to cash flow from real estate, we LOVE “sustainable”.  There’s nothing worse than vacancy and turnover to ruin your income stream.

Of course, your income comes from tenants.  And if the cost of living (food, gas, healthcare) is going up faster than their wages, it puts pressure on your tenants’ ability to pay rent.

If it goes on too long, it becomes unsustainable…and that’s bad…for both your tenant and for you.

Happily, there’s usually a solution to most of our investing dilemmas.

What if your tenants actually benefited from inflation?  And once planted, tended to stay in place for a very long time?

That’s the topic of this episode of The Real Estate Guys™ radio show.

Serving up a hot cup of conversation this week:

  • Your connoisseur of conversation, host Robert Helms
  • His peon of palaver, co-host Russell Gray
  • International entrepreneur and investor, special guest David Sewell

Investing 101 says if you buy what everyone else is buying when they are buying it, you’re going to pay more…which potentially lessens your returns.

It doesn’t mean you can’t make money.  And the opportunity window isn’t an on/off switch.  There are shades of grey.

As you may recall, demand for real estate slowed, then temporarily died as we entered the Great Recession.

As we’ve come out of the Great Recession, demand for real estate has gradually grown.  And with that growth, it’s been harder (not impossible) to find the same quantity and quality of deals.

Turnkey operators we talk to tell us their margins are shrinking and it takes more offers to land a property.  Simply stated, it’s more competitive.

Of course, right now it’s still worth doing in many markets…especially where you have properties available at or below replacement costs, relative affordability, low interest rates, and great property management.

With all that said, another tenet of investing is to look for value before others see it.

Smart investors look for value that others overlookWhen the real estate market was crashing in 2008-10, our friend and Summit at Sea faculty member Ken McElroy (Robert Kiyosaki’s Rich Dad Real Estate Advisor) was on a shopping spree.

During that window of opportunity, he acquired over $300 million of under-performing apartment buildings.  He didn’t have a lot of competition, so the price was right.  And he had the capital and operational savvy to immediately improve financial performance.

So Ken and his investors did very well by buying undervalued assets before they were popular.

If course, now in 2014, apartment cap rates (operating cash flow in purchase price) are lower because apartments become popular and more investors started competing for them…driving prices up.

It’s a simple concept, but it still amazes us how many people like to wait to buy at the top…all the while ignoring alternative markets and product types that haven’t yet attracted mainstream interest.

That’s a big introduction to tee up our conversation with David Sewell.

David is a Canadian native, who has been living in Latin America for the last 25 years.  A former Canadian naval officer, David has been around enough of the world to recognize opportunity when he sees it.

In this case, he’s discovered an income producing real estate asset class that’s under-performing.   And just like Ken McElroy, he’s found that by adding capital and operational savvy, there’s money to be made.

Except we’re not talking about residential apartments.  We’re talking offshore coffee farms.

We find the premise…stimulating.

And after meeting David a few years back at a conference, we’ve been staying in touch.  We’ve been fascinated by farmland investing and how it fits into a real asset investing strategy.

David’s business model is simple:

He and his team find and acquire locally owned coffee farms in places renowned for ideal coffee growing conditions.  They subdivide the farmland and sell it off to investors.

A substantial portion of the sales proceeds are used to upgrade the operations and convert the farm from producing lower value commercial coffee to high premium “specialty” coffee.

The idea is to reduce operating expenses, increase volume of production and raise the price per pound of coffee.  When you put that all in the pot and brew it, you get a tasty cash on cash return…without leverage.

Nice.

Sustainable investing produces profits while benefiting people and the plantTo make it even better, there are some distinct tax and asset protection advantages to owning income producing assets offshore.

And to top it all off, there’s a nice social benefit.

When the farm operations rehab is done, the original farm operator makes more money, has better working conditions, enjoys more stability, receives employment benefits and ends up with better skills.

So it’s not just the farm being fixed up… and the profit for the investors is more than just money.

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8/8/10: Don’t Say I Didn’t Warn You! Peter Schiff Reveals How He Predicted the Crash

WHO KNEW the crash was coming? Lots of people have been reverse engineering the causes of the financial crisis.  It’s easy(er) to be smart when operating from hindsight.  But when someone gets it right for the right reasons BEFORE the event occurs…well, that’s just impressive.

Peter Schiff is one of the few guys who called it way in advance. Not only that, but he put it in writing in his 2006 book Crash Proof (the updated version Crash Proof 2.0 is now on our recommended reading list).

Even more impressive is that Schiff appeared on a whole host of TV shows sounding the warning.  But people literally LAUGHED at him, as you’ll see in the 10 minute video below.  And there are many other videos of Peter aggressively debating all kinds of people – including next week’s guest on The Real Estate Guys™ Radio Show, Steve Forbes.

Featured on this week’s episode:

  • Your host, Robert Helms
  • Co-host, Russell Gray
  • Fund manager, economist, author and outspoken commentator, Peter Schiff

Politics aside (Schiff is running for the Republican nomination for Senate in Connecticut –  with the endorsement of Steve Forbes!), considering what Peter predicted and what actually happened,  how can you not be at least curious?   It was that curiosity that had us go to Las Vegas for Freedom Fest in July, where we were exposed to many economists who follow the Austrian school of thought.  There isn’t any way in a blog post to explain all we learned, but a recommended homework assignment is to review the major tenets of the Austrian viewpoint versus Keynesian.  We think you’ll find it very interesting, if not highly enlightening!

What we’re really interested in is being able to best anticipate macroeconomic influences that are likely to impact the value of our real estate, the strength of the jobs market, the growth of wages (which fuels growth in rents); and the cost and availability of loans.  We don’t care if you’re Democrat, Republican, Libertarian, fans of rap or a drinker of light beer (okay, we find the last one a little offensive) -if you have something to say that proves true and makes sense, we’re interested.  Peter Schiff is a guy that has proven true and seems to makes sense.

So for this entire show, we ask Peter to tell us to our face how he knew the crisis was coming and what’s going to happen next.  Based on his track record, we think he’s a guy worth listening to.  Check it out and let us know what YOU think!

The Real Estate Guys™ Radio Show provides ideas, perspectives and resources to help real estate investors succeed.

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8/1/10: Economics, Politics and Real Estate – Interviews from Freedom Fest 2010

If you’re one of those who take The Real Estate Guys™ to the gym, make sure you carbo load first! This one’s a whopper!  Our radio audience only got an hour, but the podcast audience gets the whole enchilada.  That way whether you like American or Mexican, there’s something for everyone.

A few weeks back, we went to Las Vegas for the 7th Annual Freedom Fest conference.  This was our first time and we weren’t sure what to expect.  But after our previous interview with event founder, economist Mark Skousen, we thought it would be worthwhile.  It turned out even better than we thought!

After being near the epicenter of the financial earthquake which rocked the real estate portfolios of even the most experienced investors, we’ve put a big emphasis on studying economics.  Who cares if you’re expert at fixing up properties, managing tenants or putting together syndications if property values are crashing, tenants don’t have jobs, loans aren’t available, and people are too scared to act?

So we started looking for people who saw it coming, put their predictions in writing and got it right for the right reasons.  Hindsight’s often 20/20, but seeing the storm coming while there’s still time to shutter the windows is better.  You might not be able to avoid bad economic weather, but with advance notice at least you can prepare!

We looked at the lineup of speakers at Freedom Fest and decided this would surely be an eye-opening experience. We were especially excited about Peter Schiff, author of Crash Proof 2.0 (a highly recommended read!).  Schiff called the crisis for the right reasons – and way ahead of time.  We’re happy to say we got a lengthy interview with Mr. Schiff to see what he’s thinking now – which is the feature of our next show.

While we’re boasting about awesome interviews, we also had a chance to talk with billionaire CEO of Forbes Magazine and former Presidential candidate, Steve Forbes.  That interview is coming up in a couple of weeks, so stay tuned!  The best way to be sure you don’t miss any of our exciting episodes is to subscribe to our podcast via iTunes (shameless plug). 😉

Today’s episode is about talking to LOTS of people! It was like one of those speed dating sessions.  Robert sat at the microphone from early morning to late at night, and Russ rounded up a long line of interesting people to interview.

Featured in this episode of The Real Estate Guys™ Radio Show:

  • Your host, Robert Helms
  • Co-host and cat herder, Russell Gray

And a long parade of very special guests (in order of appearance):

Jeffrey Verdon, Attorney, talks about estate planning and asset protection strategies utilized by wealthy individuals; including off-shore entities and a very interesting technique for funding life insurance.

Dave Fessler, Energy & Infrastructure Expert for the Oxford Club.  Dave discusses his views on the future of energy and infrastructure and their impact on jobs and the economy.  He also comments on “the paradox of thrift” – how consumer savings is actually fueling the recession.  He tells us how long he thinks it’s going to last, and where he believes America’s best chance for job creation are right now.

Bob Bauman, Attorney, Former U.S. Congressman, Founder of The Sovereign Society; shares his thoughts on offshore investment, asset protection, second citizenship and the growing interest many people have in diversifying globally.

Vernon Jacobs, CPA, is an expert in international taxation.  Vern tells us what to consider when investing or employing asset protection strategies offshore.

Robert Barnes, Attorney, is part one of two back to back interviews with lawyers from a premier tax and investment fraud law firm that went 3 for 3 (that’s pretty good!) in three of the top four high profile tax cases in the U.S. (you’d recognize the names).  Mr. Barnes reveals the worst thing you can do when contacted by the IRS.

Robert Bernhoft, Attorney, is part two of our tax and investment fraud attorney interviews.  Mr. Bernhoft describes what you can do to proactively avoid problems with both your investors and regulators; and shares how his firm uses specialized “non-litigation” techniques to recover misappropriated funds without going to court.

Steve Hochberg, Chief Market Analyst for Elliott Wave, works closely with Robert Prechter.  Prechter’s 2002 NY Times best seller, Conquer the Crash, accurately predicted the current financial crisis.  While everyone is running scared of inflation, Steve says DEFLATION is actually the big near term threat.  He believes we are “on the precipice of the greatest stock market decline of our lifetime.”

Patri Friedman, Executive Director and Chairman of the Board of The Seasteading Institute.  A city on the sea?  Really??? Before you write it off as Looney Tunes, go to their website and look at their management team.  These guys are all brilliant.  We’re talking Stanford, Harvard, Yale.  Wow.  Have you heard of Pay Pal?   Yeah,the founder is on their board.  And why were they at Freedom Fest?  Take a listen!

Leon Louw, Executive Director of the Free Market Foundation, all the way from South Africa!  Why?  To raise money to advance property ownership rights for blacks in South Africa. For what it’s worth, we didn’t see any evidence of racism at Freedom Fest, though it was full of “tea baggers”.  Obviously, Leon felt people at the event would be supportive of his cause. From our observations he was right.  But this isn’t a political interview. any more than our show is political.  We just  want to understand what people are thinking and doing, and how it creates or undermines real estate opportunities.  Think about the ramifications on demand in a market where a large part of the population, formerly locked out, suddenly has access to buy property.  Very interesting stuff.

Terry Coxon, author of Unleash Your IRA, shares a powerful concept for maximizing your Individual Retirement Account.  We thought we knew all about this topic, but Terry shares a strategy we hadn’t considered. Now we’re hyped to read his book.  With the demise of home equity, and a growing number of people predicting a tough stock market (at best); and lending getting even tighter from financial reform, we think IRA’s and rollover 401k’s are one of the BEST sources of private investment capital.  That makes this a topic worth exploring!

Ron Holland, editor of two financial newsletters and 30 year financial industry veteran, has something to say on the topic of IRA’s.  And it’s concerning.  He shares what he thinks is the greatest threat to your retirement account.

Terry Easton, author of Refounding America and contributor to Human Events. Terry is an uber-conservative / Libertarian and has a lot to say on the topics of economics, politics and real estate.  We came to hear a lot of opinions and it just so happens that Terry has a lot of opinions.  But since they come from a long history of study and involvement, we think they’re worth listening to.

All in all, Freedom Fest was a great experience and we’re very likely to attend next year’s event.  We met great people, got valuable insights, and had our paradigms stretched (we’ve been icing them since we got back).  Most of all, we see the economy and real estate from a much broader perspective.  As we continue to seek out markets, opportunities and product niches to invest in, we are convinced a bigger perspective will pay huge dividends.

Remember – our next two episodes feature our interviews with Peter Schiff and Steve Forbes!

The Real Estate Guys™ Radio Show provides ideas, perspectives and resources to help real estate investors succeed.

7/25/10: Entrepreneurs in the New Economy – Getting Paid to Solve Problems

Do you remember the old “new” economy? That was the one where technology companies could go public without profit.  In some cases, they didn’t even need revenue. Ahhhh, those were the days.

The new “new” economy (the Great Recession one) hasn’t been nearly as fun – unless you’re an old school entrepreneur.  That’s the kind who looks at problems as opportunities.  Guys (and gals) like that are having a lot of fun right now because there are opportunities galore coming out of the Great Recession.

The Real Estate Guys™ headed off to Freedom Fest in Las Vegas a few weeks back.  We heard that money manager / economist / author / Senate candidate Peter Schiff would be there (among many other people with very strong opinions about the U.S. economy) and we wanted to do some interviews.  We’re happy to report we got lots of great stuff, including Mr. Schiff and the CEO of Forbes Magazine, Steve Forbes.  Watch for those interviews in future broadcasts.

So we fly into Las Vegas in our private jet (the one operated by Southwest Airlines), and get to the convention venue and start setting up our booth.  Before the event had even started, a man stops by and sees our banner for Belize (we were promoting our upcoming field trip to Belize) and asks a few questions.  The short of it is that we find out he’s working on a very exciting project in the Caribbean – one that solves a problem we’ve been trying to figure out too.  Russ gets so excited that he hugs the guy. Very weird.

After the appropriate apologies and some follow up male bonding, our new friend agrees to do a radio interview.  And that’s what this broadcast is all about.

Manning the microphones for this edition of The Real Estate Guys™ Radio Show:

  • Your host, the Larry King of real estate radio, Robert Helms
  • Co-host, our “I love you, man” booth babe, Russell Gray
  • Special Guest, Investment Banker, Entrepreneur and assault victim, Jeff Villwock

Any time we get around smart people, we jump on the opportunity to talk with them. In this case, Russ literally jumped on Jeff.  When Jeff recovered, we got him on the mic, so you can listen to what he’s doing, where he’s doing it and why.  There’s lots of lessons to be gleaned!

Freedom Fest is an event that attracts people with strong political opinions.  In many of the interviews we did there, those opinions come out.  Great!  We think the world works better when people respectfully debate important issues.  Sharing ideas is among the most sacred of our freedoms, especially if you’re radio guys.

We also realize that the U.S. (the bulk of our audience) is pretty polarized right now.  Now, we love our entire audience and our show isn’t political.  However, policies affect economics and economics affects real estate. There shouldn’t be a serious student of real estate who can look at the last several years and deny that.  So politics are going to get into the discourse from time to time, which is a very good thing.

We think these Freedom Fest interviews are great.  If you disagree with the political views of our guests, don’t let that get in the way of hearing what’s being said.  Here’s why:  a big part of real estate investing is understanding demographics and human nature. How people think and believe affects where they (and their money) will be moving.  Even if you disagree with them, if they believe it, it will affect their actions. So YOU need to understand them (even if you disagree) if you want to anticipate their behavior.

Did we mention that Jeff’s project is in St. Kitts?  It just so happens that St. Kitts is one of the stops on our upcoming 9th Annual Summit at Sea!  So we ask Jeff if we can visit his project as part of our already planned real estate shore excursion in St. Kitts. Not only does Jeff agree to allow us to visit, he says he’ll meet us there and show us around.  Awesome!

Once again, we’re reminded of the importance of getting out of our cubicles and into the world where real people are. No doubt that virtual networking is powerful, but just as phones did not replace face to face meetings, neither will social media replace conventions as a great place to make important connections.  This is one of the reasons we attend trade shows and promote our field trips and the Summit at Sea™.  It’s a great way to get to know great people in the real world.  We hope to see YOU at one very soon!

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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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9/27/09: The Real Estate Guys Answer Your Questions

Every day we get emails from our listeners.  Some like to tell us how awesome we are (oh, go on!), but most have questions.  We’re working on some new ways to be able to be more responsive.  So keep those emails coming!

For this week’s show, we decided to grab a few question out of the email in box and talk about them on the air.  Joining host Robert Helms in studio are his trusty sidekick, Russell Gray and “The Godfather of Real Estate” Bob Helms.

We kicked off the show  commenting on Ben Bernanke’s pronouncement that “technically speaking, the recession is over.”  Yippee! Right?!?

After having fun with that, we reached into the mail bag and pulled out a question about which U.S. markets are “best” for appreciation right now.  Our crystal ball wasn’t warmed up, so we chatted on this one awhile.  It’s a question that comes up all the time and though easy to ask, it’s hard to answer.  So we talked about the conditions we look for to cause appreciation, how today’s economic environment affect them, and some specific markets we’re watching.

Another question that is salient to the times was about the availability of financing in today’s market.  There are certain product segments and demographics that can’t find financing, while others have abundant financing available.  Obviously, when you know where the money is flowing and why, you can position yourself in its path and do well.  Having just been at the Rich Dad Real Estate Summit with Ken McElroy, Robert Kiyosaki and several veterans of investing and finance, we had some fresh insights to share.

The next question was also all too common in today’s economy.  “I have a property that is upside down with negative cash flow, what should I do?”  As Kenny Rogers sang, “You gotta know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em, know when to walk away, know when to run.”  Lots of people are struggling with the issue of “strategic defaults” and its ramifications.  (Side note:  The Real Estate Guys wrote a free 18 page report What You MUST Know Before Attempting a Loan Workout to help people in this situation understand their options.

The discussion of  what to do with an upside down negative cash flow property had us reflecting on the previous discussion of where’s the appreciation most likely.  It also lead directly into another topic:  The Price of Maintaining You Good Credit.  Good credit has never been more important, but if you have lots of negative equity and negative cash flow, how much is it really costing you to maintain it?  This is a very timely topic and we tossed around our thoughts on the subject.

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The Real Estate Guys™ radio show and podcast provides real estate investing news, education, training and resources that help real estate investors succeed.