Halloween Horror Stories 2019

Another year … another Halloween … another classic collection of creepy catastrophes from our listeners. 

The stories you are about to hear are all true … terrible, but true!

And while these investors paid the price, YOU don’t have to … if you learn from their experiences. 

Tune in for terrifying tales of toil, trouble, and real estate!

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

  • Your spooky host, Robert Helms
  • His cooky co-host, Russell Gray 

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Halloween horror stories … and important lessons learned

Welcome to another bone-breaking edition of Halloween horror stories! 

Alarming anecdotes and deals that went wickedly wrong can contribute compelling lessons for real estate investors. 

It’s our annual edition of Halloween Horror Stories!

Real estate is a messy business … but this episode isn’t designed to scare people off. Instead, it’s a way for us to share tribal knowledge. 

Somebody paid full price for these lessons … so you don’t have to. 

The never-ending cosmetic refresh

Curtis Drake and Ryan Pedit acquired a property in a market that they were previously in. It was light rehab … and they wanted to do the cosmetic piece. 

They met with their on-the-ground property management company and went over the timeline and expectations for the updates. They closed on the property … and took off. 

But the whole project went sideways with no revenue income. 

What they learned was that they were doing things that were outside of their management’s wheelhouse. That team typically just managed property … they didn’t handle cosmetic overhauls. 

Many property managers have a bevy of contractors in their network. So, when you say you want to do some light rehab, they think, “Yeah, we can do that.”

But rehab isn’t the same as upkeep. 

Curtis and Ryan also share the importance of having a written agreement with dates and times established. Their handshake agreement left them without any leverage to fall back on. 

Should have built from scratch

Loe Hornbuckle has been on the show before. He is a super syndicator … but even he has a horror story to share. 

Loe did a project where he bought an existing assisted living facility. There was a lot of due diligence involved … but even then, some things slip through. 

Turns out the property had an illegal fire suppression system that was not caught by any of the previous inspections. 

Instead, it was caught when they filed for a permit to expand the property footprint into the garage. 

Loe began working with the city to resolve the issue. It took six weeks for the city to articulate why the system hadn’t been caught and what the next steps needed to be.

Turns out the city allows certain fire suppression systems in single-family homes and others for businesses. When the property applied for a permit, the city thought it was an SFH. 

But the property actually had an assisted living component … and with a certain number of residents, a different class of fire suppression systems is required. 

So, Loe and his team had to rip out the old system and install a new one … about $15,000 worth of unexpected cost … and they lost 15 to 16 weeks of time. 

Lessons learned … there may be more to your due diligence than you think. Really focus and take account of the physical pieces of the building.  

Just because something has been checked off … it doesn’t mean it’s correct. 

Another lesson Loe walked away with is that there is power in building from the ground up. 

When you purchase an existing property, there are things you will need to tear out and replace. Sometimes, you might as well start from scratch. 

Tragedy turns into lawsuit 

Our good friend and wonderful attorney Kevin Day shares one of his own client’s horror stories.

This particular client had an apartment building. One of the tenants had a boyfriend who was home babysitting her son, left food on the stove … and went to sleep. 

A fire started, and only the boyfriend was able to get out. The family went after the apartment owner in a lawsuit. 

It ended in a settlement with insurance, but there are lessons to be learned. 

Kevin says the big lessons are to separate targets. As you do your business and estate planning … remember that privacy is important. 

The lower profile you have … if they don’t know you have five other rental properties … the less of a target you are.  

Fully occupied … or not

Patti Hussey and Andrew Thruston from PJ Hussey … a property and construction management team in Phoenix, Arizona … have their own Halloween horror story to share. 

The team was taking on a 28-unit apartment complex in the northeast portion of Phoenix. 

One thing they noticed was that all of the tenants’ leases were month to month. 

It was a hundred percent occupied with rents through the roof … but the day the deal closed, they lost 10 tenants. 

The previous owner was calling tenants and telling them that they were free to move into the next property. The strategy was to build up residency in these multi-family apartments, sell them … and then move tenants to the next property. 

Everything was to give the allusion of high residency. 

The PJ Hussey team jumped in and worked to fill apartments with appropriate leases … but it was challenging. 

The big lesson the team took away is to really be careful how you do your vetting. Talk to the tenants and ask them how long they have been there. 

If things look suspicious … trust your gut. 

For more Halloween Horror stories … and lessons learned … listen to our full episode!

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Unconventional Funding Solutions for Real Estate Investors

Lending is a big part of real estate investing … but sometimes your situation doesn’t fit the traditional lending mold. 

If you … or your deals … require out-of-the-box funding … have no fear!

There is a great, big, wide world of alternative funding solutions just waiting to be discovered. And the payoff can be just as big. 

Today, we’re sitting down with a veteran loan broker who is here to share the details of some of the creative loan products available for unconventional real estate investors. 

It’s time to optimize your portfolio … and find new ways to claim needed capital. 

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

  • Your fund-finding host, Robert Helms
  • His fun-loving co-host, Russell Gray 
  • Investor and financing strategist, Billy Brown

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Locating leverage and getting cash for deals

One of the most important questions in real estate is … where do you get the money?

Great news! Things have changed in the lending world … and today, there are opportunities like never before … all while protecting your equity. 

One of the first challenges many investors have to figure out is leverage. Leverage is what helps us magnify returns. 

In a nutshell … it means the bank loans you money so you don’t have to come up with all the money to buy real estate. 

Leverage is like a chainsaw. It’s a great tool … but if you use it wrong, it can cut you. 

So, today we’re going to focus on alternative funding solutions. 

True investing is about focusing on cash flow. If you do that, then you can weather pretty much any storm. 

Right now, the market is pretty hot. There are people out there who have wisely built a nice portfolio … but now they have five, six, seven, or more loans and they can’t get any more. 

And yet the rates are down. That leaves those investors staring at a lot of cheap money that they can’t get their hands on. 

So, those investors look at the equity they have in their current properties … and they want to get at that equity. 

If you’re not liquid … you’re going to be like a kid locked out of the candy store. 

If the credit markets seize up … all that fabulous equity that you have disappears. But if you have strong cash flow … you’ll weather it. 

How can you liquefy equity? How can you take advantage of lower rates in your portfolio and free up money so you can continue to invest? 

Loans designed for investors

Billy Brown is a seasoned investor and loan officer who specializes in helping investors and syndicators figure out the finances of investing. 

One of the big problems Billy sees is that investors get successful, start to build their portfolios … and then get what we call Fannie-d and Freddie-d out. 

They no longer conform to those guidelines Russ was talking about. They suddenly have a hard time getting a loan. 

Billy has the ability to sit down with these people and help them be able to take individual loans and restructure that in a way that frees up their qualification. 

“I love infinite returns,” Bill says, “so that’s how I wear my hat. I focus on how we can use the tools available to us inside lending and our lending partners to go create infinite returns.”

Billy has a few different strategies in place to help people access equity. 

The first is portfolio lending. 

There are a lot of portfolio lenders out there. Banks and non-banks will do it. The idea is to take everything and put it together as an investor loan. 

The rates might be a little bit higher … but what it buys you back is the qualification of those loans. Plus, you get the option of one loan servicing multiple properties. 

This type of loan is better than going through Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac because it is designed for the job you are trying to do. 

You go from 9 or 10 loans with 9 or 10 mortgage payments that may or may not be escrowed down to one mortgage with escrow … and a whole bunch of cash. 

Billy says that if you have a simple written rule or schedule of real estate owned and your personal financial statement, he can come up with a plan fairly quickly. 

“Usually within 48 hours I have a pretty good idea of whether I can get you a recourse or non-recourse option and set out the strategy,” Billy says. 

Billy also says that these portfolio loan options are fun because they are designed for investors and have a cash flow of their own. 

Special considerations for special loans

What happens if you want to sell one of your properties?

Billy says that is one of the first questions he asks when he consults with investors. “Are there any ugly children in this portfolio that you want to get rid of? If so, leave them out of the loan.”

This type of lending option is really designed for the investor that wants to buy and hold a portfolio and keep hanging on to it for at least 3 to 5 years.

The reason there is a prepayment penalty is that lenders put a certain amount of resources, time, effort, and capital to be in a position to collect the interest rate from you. 

Lenders want to make sure they’re making a return … so you can’t use this type of portfolio strategy and then turn around in 10 days and sell it without paying a heavy fee. 

So if you’ve spent the last several years acquiring a portfolio of single family homes that are working for you … but you would like to have access to the capital … this is probably a great tool. 

Each lender has their own set of circumstances … and most require you to have property management. 

The property manager is the least respected and most important person on your team. 

If you have commercial properties, you probably already have management in place … but if you have single family homes, you could still be managing yourself. 

“That’s a great way to learn for the first couple of years, but eventually you want to hand that job off,” Billy says.

Discover the method that works for you

No matter what your circumstance is, Billy and his lending network can help. 

“We can do anything from $100,000 cash out refinance of a single family rental up to a $100 million CMBS loan,” Billy says. 

To learn more about unconventional funding solutions for investors like YOU, listen in to the full episode!

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A divergence in the farce …

In our last edition we took a look at this chart for clues to where we’re at in “the cycle” …

Housing Price Index to Production Wage Index
Interesting Image

SOURCE: FEDERAL RESERVE ECONOMIC DATA HTTPS://FRED.STLOUISFED.ORG

(The data came from the Fed, but the chart was put together by The Heritage Foundation here)

You can see a tight correlation between wage growth and property prices from 1991 to 1999.  Then something happened to create a divergence.

That divergence blew into a BIG gap between wages and housing prices … with home prices inflating much faster than wages.  At least until the middle of 2007.

Then something else happened which crashed housing prices … and not just back down to the wage trend line …

… but housing prices dipped well below the trend line (“over-corrected”), hitting bottom in 2011 and starting a new “bull run” in early 2012.

That’s when Warren Buffet famously proclaimed on CNBC 

I’d Buy Up ‘A Couple Hundred Thousand’ Single-Family Homes If I Could

Warren Buffett 2/27/12

Smart guy.  Obviously, when you look at the chart, the timing was perfect.  And most folks who were buyers in 2012 are sitting on piles of equity today.

But now it’s clear the correlation between housing prices and incomes remains broken.  Housing prices are once again stretching the limits of incomes.

No wonder there’s pressure to lower taxes, interest rates, and oil prices!

The only way to keep this party going is to make those relatively anemic household incomes control bigger loans.  And to no surprise …

Average U.S. mortgage size hits record-high $354,500

Reuters, 3/13/19

Does this mean housing prices are about to crash again?  Maybe.

It’s said history doesn’t always repeat itself, but it often rhymes.  That’s a catchy way of saying people often find new ways to make the same mistakes.

Then again, smart people learn from their mistakes so they can avoid making them again.

In this case, go back and look at the chart.  But instead of focusing on housing prices, focus on incomes.

What do you see?

Incomes are slowly, consistently, persistently, steadily … rising.

Of course, if you look at the CPI (inflation) chart below, you can see the cost of living is also rising …

Interesting Image
So just because people are making more money, it doesn’t mean they’re getting ahead.

In fact, folks who don’t own inflating assets which can be sold or borrowed against to supplement their incomes … are falling further and further behind.

So what does it mean, what can we learn, and what can we do to survive and thrive?

These are all topics of a much bigger discussion.  We covered some if it in a recent radio show.

For now, here are a few suggestions to consider:

Focus on investing and underwriting for cash-flow …

Yes, you’ll make more money on equity.  But equity is a by-product of cash-flow.  The more cash-flow, the more equity.

More importantly, conservative cash-flow gives you staying power when asset prices temporarily collapse.

Think of equity as a fun, but fickle lover … and cash-flow as the loyal, predictable partner you can build a life with.

Sequester some bubble equity for a rainy day …

Rates are low.  Lending guidelines are softening.

This indicates there’s a lot of motivation (desperation?) to get more debt in the system … a sometimes-telltale sign we’re nearing the end of a boom cycle.

Of course, when you harvest equity from properties, it’s important to be smart about using the proceeds.

We think it’s best to create cash-flow (have we mentioned this is important?) … along with liquidity, and safety from volatile markets and financial systems.

We could do an entire series on this one topic … and in fact, we’re working on it.

Something like … “knowing what we know now, this is what we wish we would have done heading into the 2008 financial crisis.”

Yes, we know the title needs a little work.

Watch for signs which signal shifts …

Shift happens.  It’s painful when you’re on the wrong end of it, and that usually happens because you missed the sign … not because it wasn’t there.

In 1999, Uncle Sam pressured then semi-private Fannie and Freddie to lower their lending standards to help marginal borrowers buy homes.

It worked.  Home ownership … and prices … went way up.

In 2001, the Alan Greenspan Fed threw gasoline on the fire by pumping in billions (which was a lot of money back then) into the system to reflate the stock market after the Dot Com crash.

But a lot of the money ended up in bonds … mortgage-backed securities in particular … and ultimately into housing … inflating an equity bubble.

Oops.

In fact, Greenspan tried to jawbone the markets into prudence.  But he’d already spiked the punch bowl … and everyone was in full-blown party mode.

More recently, the Fed tried to take away the current punch bowl by raising rates … and took a lot of criticism.

When you see interest rates and lending standards falling, it’s a sign.

Study history … and talk with smart, experienced people …

 Everything is 20/20 in hindsight. It’s easy to predict the past.

But as it’s been said …

 “Those who don’t know history are doomed to repeat it.” – Edmund Burke

That’s why we encourage attendance at live events like the New Orleans Investment Conference and the Investor Summit at Sea™.

These are great places to connect with like-minded folks, have our perspectives broadened, and get into great conversations.

But even if you’re a dedicated homebody, invest in finding a local tribe of similarly interested people to study and talk with.

You’ll learn more faster in conversations with others compared to simply gorging yourself on terabytes of content.

It’s important to use conversation to process what you consume.

Enjoy the sunshine, but pack an umbrella …

We’re not saying a crash is coming.  But no one can say it isn’t.

It seems to us the best plan is to prepare for sunshine or rain.  In practical terms, this means ….

… organize some liquidity and keep it insulated from both market risk and counter-party risk …

… build a solid brand and network with well-capitalized potential investors …

… fortify the cash-flows and financing structures on your keepers …

… jettison assets you think already have their best days behind them …

… study history, watch for clues in the news, and mastermind with smart investors.

Because you’re only better off for doing all these things whether the party continues or comes to an ugly end.

And this is probably not a good time to get too over-extended.

Besides, even if you’re interested in aggressive personal wealth building right now …

… it’s arguably faster and safer to build rapid wealth through syndication rather than getting personally over-extended.

Until next time … good investing!


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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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Main Street needs Main Street investors …

When the 2008 financial crisis hit, the mortgage industry was at the epicenter … and the disruption of funding feeding real estate crushed housing values.

But it’s important to remember, the problem was NOT real estate.

After all, people still needed and wanted places to live.  So the demand for housing remained stable.

It was credit markets that failed.  And in a credit-based economy, everything stops when credit markets seize up … including home loans.

Without a steady influx of fresh debt to fund demand, prices collapsed … taking trillions in equity with it.  And it wasn’t just real estate.  Stocks tanked too.

Mortgage and real estate is just where it started.

The double-whammy of teaser rate resets … and the resulting big monthly payment hikes which sunk a lot of homeowners …

… and then the negative equity led to a rash of defaults by even prime borrowers …

… all of which caused a credit market contagion that scorched financial markets world-wide.

Of course, this all created huge problems for Wall Street, the banks … and for Main Street.

So Uncle Sam and the Federal Reserve got heavily involved to “help” … and to no surprise … Wall Street and the banks came out on top.

The banks needed relief from realizing their losses on their financial statements, while finding a fast path to re-inflating values.

After all, property values are the collateral for all those mortgages.  And when values drop, borrowers walk … along with the prospects of loss-recovery.

So Wall Street rallied and raised many billions of dollars to buy up Main Street houses …

… even as millions of homeowners were being demoted to the rank of tenant.

So now instead of collecting mortgage payments, they collected rent.

As a real estate investor, you probably think that’s better.  Who wants to be a lender, when you can be an owner … enjoying tax breaks and building equity.

But Wall Street doesn’t think like you … and that’s our point.

Today, those Wall Street buyers are landlords.  And by some accounts, they’re not doing a very good job for the Main Street tenants.

Shocker.

Don’t get us wrong.  We’re all for investors stepping in to clean up a mess.

Investors are like the white corpuscles of the economy … bringing capital to damaged areas and healing blight and distress.

It’s one of the reasons we’re excited about Opportunity Zones.

We just hope Main Street investors and syndicators don’t get pushed aside again by the wolves of Wall Street.

The issue is there’s a BIG difference between the way Wall Street money and Main Street money behaves.  And it’s not about savvy … it’s about heart.

Big money guys (and gals, we suppose) have a way of looking at things.

Remember this classic 2012 quote from mega-multi-billionaire and legendary investor Warren Buffett …

“I’d buy up ‘a couple hundred thousand’ single-family homes if I could.” 

Of course, we all know money’s not the gating issue for Buffet.  He can buy anything he wants.  So what could his hesitancy be?

Maybe he agrees with Sam Zell, who’s been quoted as saying this in 2013 …

“An individual investor can buy 25 houses and monitor them. I don’t know how anybody can monitor thousands of houses.”

Really?  We know Main Street investors like Terry Kerr at MidSouth Homebuyers who successfully manage thousands of houses.

So it’s not impossible to manage a big portfolio well. You just need to be committed to doing it … one tenant at a time.

The folks we know who excel at single-family property management really care about their tenants as human beings … and deal with them as individuals.

They’re focused on creating cash-flow as the PRIMARY investment result … as opposed to simply a necessary evil to offset holding costs until a capital gain can be realized at sale.

Buffett and Zell are smart guys.  Buffett saw the opportunity in single-family homes … but had the good sense to know he wasn’t the right guy for the job.  Ditto for Zell.

Big money moves in broad strokes, which is fine when you’re dealing with commoditized assets and you can buy and sell in bulk.

But real estate … especially single-family homes … is not an asset class and can’t be effectively commoditized.  And neither can property management.

We think Main Street tenants are much better served by Main Street landlords … like YOU … so long as you remember the main thing is happy tenants.

Happy tenants means longer tenancy, less turnover and vacancy, and better real-world cash flows.

Of course, you don’t need to be a small-time investor to build a portfolio of single-family homes.

When you learn to syndicate, you can combine bulk money with individual property investing … and build a portfolio of hundreds or even thousands of homes.

Being big isn’t bad.  Wall Street’s problem isn’t its size.  It’s its mindset.

As the legendary Tom Hopkins says …

“Don’t use people and serve money.  Use money and serve people.” 

Because when you do, you’ll end up with both.

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.


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