Profitable Niches – Real Estate Development

In this episode of our Profitable Niches series, we’re starting from the ground up. Inventory of homes is tight in many US markets, and returns are diminishing. Enter real estate development.

Our guest, Jay Hartley, saw an exciting opportunity to expand his business into the real estate development space, and he’s got a wealth of knowledge to share.

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

  • Your stately host, Robert Helms
  • His developing co-host, Russell Gray
  • Returning guest, Jay Hartley, real estate developer and property manager in Dallas-Fort Worth

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Beginning with the basics

One of the questions we ask in our seminars is which is more risky: buying an existing building and renovating or building from the ground up? The truth is, there isn’t a right answer to that question.

From inheriting problems in an existing property to building too much or building something the market doesn’t want, there’s a lot to consider when deciding whether to build or buy. The key is knowing the market, the demand, and the supply.

One of the most exciting things about real estate development is the number of entry points. Throughout the lifecycle of a property, there is value being added. Taking raw land from a zoned area to a lot with utilities and a finished building are all steps in the process.

For those who find themselves in a market with a lot of demand but a squeeze on supply, real estate development can be a FANTASTIC way to add more houses into the market, whether or not you hold on to that inventory long term.

Shifting your investment mindset

Jay Hartley is known as one of the best property managers in the Dallas-Fort Worth real estate market. He began like many investors with buying and renting fixer uppers.

Eventually, inventory started getting tight, prices escalated, and returns diminished. That’s when Jay took his first steps into development.

“We had to look at the marketplace and see where the opportunity would be to add inventory,” Jay says. “We started looking at acquiring vacant lots that were already in subdivisions and doing what they call infill.”

Infill meant building one or two homes on lots in subdivisions and then either renting or selling those homes to investors as turnkey properties.

It wasn’t long before Jay’s successful turnkey model got plenty of competitors and Jay took it to the next level. He utilized the economies of scale by getting into bigger developments and subdividing tracts of land. That’s also when he started building his network and expanding his education.

“I had some clients in the building business,” Jay says. “I took them to lunch and started picking their brains.”

Jay soon learned it was a smart idea to partner with a few builders early on. But then the key to sustaining his business was to keep his contractors busy with his projects so he didn’t lose them to other projects.

Real estate development doesn’t necessarily mean you’re the one swinging the hammer. In many ways, it’s orchestrating OTHER contractors and moving parts to complete a job. That also means managing labor.

“One of the biggest issues we’re dealing with right now is having labor ready and available,” Jay says. “If we don’t keep them busy, we lose that framer, we lose that concrete guy, we lose that roofer. We try to set them up to go to one job site to the next to keep them busy and on my job.”

As the deals got larger, Jay had to deal with the growth spurt in his business. He was always known as the property management guy, but had to shift his mindset as he shifted into real estate development. One of those moves was toward selling properties rather than buying and holding.

“I’m not afraid to sell them anymore,” Jay says. “I was a collector before, and it was tough for me to wrap my head around selling them.”

But, with some help and guidance, he was able to work through those mental roadblocks and scale up his business!

Get rich in a niche with a network

Rolling with changing markets is what makes an investor successful long term. Even though Jay was doing really well in property management, he saw a need for more inventory in the market. So, he became one of the people to create it! That has also set him up to know about lots of different types of real estate, and it’s another tool in his toolkit.

“It’s not about what I’ve done. It’s about who I’ve met,” Jay says.

Building a network of people with all kinds of unique backgrounds is a way to tap into their experience. Jay says you can take classes and watch videos, but watching flipper shows on television doesn’t mean you know how to flip a house. Partnering with people on a build job, however, is worth its weight in gold.

And that’s the essence of most development. It’s done through syndication and joint ventures. You can partner up with people who have the land, capital, or expertise you need, and you can put together a great deal.

Jay started out financing his own projects, but it wasn’t until he started tapping into syndication that his business really took off. He attended a few of our programs on syndication and sales, and they catapulted him into success.

“I’ve been in real estate all my life,” Jay says. “The training there, I didn’t think I really needed it. It was enlightening … it gave me the tools and the ability and the confidence to talk to clients and investors and pitch!”

Jay’s journey has been propelled by his ability to be ambitious and coachable. The ability to shift and adapt to new markets is how he keeps his skills sharp and his business growing.

If you’d like to learn more about real estate development and property management in the Dallas-Fort Worth market, get on the inside track with Jay. Send an email to dallasdeals (at) realestateguysradio (dot) com, and we’ll connect you with Jay and his expertise!

And, we hope to see you at some upcoming events. Secrets of Successful Syndication and How to Win Funds and Influence People are packed full of information that you won’t want to miss. Register now!


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 Changing Role of the Real Estate Agent

Are real estate agents obsolete?

These days, you can search listings and tour houses entirely through internet platforms. You can also list and sell properties using mobile phone apps.

It’s safe to say our processes for buying and selling properties have completely changed with technological innovation.

In this new landscape, however, real estate investors need real estate professionals on their side … now more than ever.

In this episode of The Real Estate Guys™ show, we’ll explain why the most CRUCIAL relationship you’ll ever have as a real estate investor is with your real estate agent.

You’ll hear from:

  • Your sprightly host, Robert Helms
  • His ancient co-host, Russell Gray
  • Eight-decade investor and broker, Bob Helms

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What is the role of the real estate agent?

First a definition … when we say real estate agent, broker, or professional, we’re referring in general to a person representing you, for a fee, in the purchase or sale of a property.

The role of the real estate agent has really evolved over the past several decades. In the past, only real estate agents had access to listings … but now, anyone with internet access can look up property prices on Zillow.

Although the WAY real estate agents function has changed, the core job of a real estate agent hasn’t changed at all. Real estate agents exist to represent YOU.

Their three main roles:

  1. Representative. Agents represent clients as a third party, at arm’s length. Someone who is not emotionally or financially attached to a deal can usually negotiate a better number.
  2. Fiduciary expert. It is the agent’s duty to hold clients to the highest legal level possible.
  3. Counselor. Agents are experts in empathy and adding value. They provide access to key individuals through their networks and can give you valuable information about the neighborhood you’re investing in.

Agents provide value by interjecting the available information with their accumulated wisdom and connections.

And if you really think about it … how much time can you spend developing negotiation skills for a deal you’ll only do four or five times in your lifetime?

Real estate professionals do the same transaction four or five times … every WEEK. They’ve built up skills and knowledge and have their thumbs on the pulse of the real estate world.

Negotiation is a learned skill

Negotiation is critical to good deals.

It’s even more critical when a deal starts to go sideways.

When a loan doesn’t come through or your financing falls apart, you have to get creative. But how can you get creative with no experience?

And just as importantly, how can you successfully navigate an emotionally negative event?

There’s a real art form to negotiating a win-win deal, and often the best option for a successful negotiation is having a professional do it for you.

A skilled professional can play a neutral role, win the trust of both the buyer and the seller, and figure out deal breakers and makers for both parties.

Critically, an agent doesn’t just broker sales. They’re your advocate. It’s their job to work with both sides … but get you a leg up.

A skilled salesperson can help people get over buyers’ remorse and help them implement the decision they have already made. And that could be the difference between a deal and no deal.

A win-win outcome IS possible … when you’ve got a professional who can suss out the objectives of each party involved in the deal.

A broker IS worth it

We weren’t surprised when we read new research from Collateral Analytics that shows properties sold by agents net a higher final price than homes sold by owners.

In fact, homes for sale by owners receive 5.5 percent less than those sold with the help of agents.

Some of you may be thinking, “What about agent fees?”

If agent fees are approximately equivalent or even slightly more than the difference between the sale price you would have gotten with them and the price you would have gotten without them … then you’re netting a similar deal for SIGNIFICANTLY less time and effort on your part.

Part of being a real estate investor is getting yourself into what we call deal flow … giving up tasks, delegating, and forming networks so the best deals flow straight to YOU.

Delegating tasks to a broker can actually MAKE you money, if your resulting deal flow gets you access to better deals.

It’s extremely important to understand that your business as a professional real estate investor is building a network of people who will feed you money, deals, and information … and have your back when you need support.

And you find people who’ll have your back … by having theirs. That means supporting your agent.

We’re big believers in building relationships to infiltrate a market. Find a way to form two-way relationships. Make other happy so they’ll want to make you happy too!

Don’t go at it on your own

So, what’s changed? One of the biggest changes these days is that brokers do less research.

It’s less about the data agents have at their fingertips … and more about the wisdom they can offer you.

Real estate agents and brokers play the same game they did decades ago. It’s all about negotiation and selling skills.

One more pro to having an agent on your side … professional brokers have both errors and omissions insurance AND a legal team.

They know where landmines are and can help you navigate new and unfamiliar markets without making a legal misstep … or spending a ton of money on a real estate attorney.

If there’s anything you get from this episode, we hope you realize it doesn’t pay to be penny wise and pound foolish.

The best professionals won’t cost you money … they’ll make you money. So, don’t be afraid to pay for the services you need.

And once you find a trustworthy professional, get everything you can from them. Build a relationship. Seek their advice. Eventually, YOU’LL be the one they start bringing unlisted deals to.

Kudos to all the real estate professionals out there.

Don’t have an agent yet? Consider this your challenge to get out there and find one!


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.

Avoiding Bubble Trouble – Tips for Hot Market Investing

“Are we in a real estate bubble right now?” Trust us, we’ve heard this question asked a LOT lately.

In this episode of The Real Estate Guys™ show, we’ll dive into that question.

We’ll discuss:

  • The three components that converge to create market bubbles
  • Why real estate is a good investment class for avoiding bubble trouble
  • How to react in a hot market … AND
  • How to prepare for when prices inevitably do deflate

You’ll hear from:

  • Your bubbling host, Robert Helms
  • His falling-a-bit-flat co-host, Russell Gray

Listen



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Are we in a real estate bubble?

Our primary caution to you is that all-time highs do NOT equal market bubbles.

It can be difficult to parse whether a bubble is, well, bubbling up. Here are the three different components to rising prices:

  1. Leverage. Financing means pulling money from the future to bring in dollars today. But the ready availability of money can end up driving prices higher, even though many loans are fashioned to make things more affordable.
  2. Disparity between supply and demand. When there’s more demand than supply, prices go up … even if the price no longer matches the value of the commodity.
  3. Inflation. Inflation causes currency to literally lose its purchasing power. So it takes more currency to buy the exact same things.

When you see runaway price increases, take a minute to consider what the cause is. Is the fundamental value of the property increasing, or is rampant speculation driving prices up?

When the factors above start to change, the price of a property can increase … or decrease … significantly. So pay attention.

Don’t get so caught up in a hot market you get blinded to the actual value of an investment. Buy because it makes financial sense … and not because everyone else wants to buy.

If you don’t know better, it’s easy to believe you shouldn’t be buying anything right now.

But real estate is a very different investment than most. Every single deal is unique, which means YOU have a ton of flexibility to add value to a property.

Real estate allows you to negotiate on the front end, manage operations on the back end, and analyze any given property on its own individual merits, instead of just looking at the market or asset class as a whole.

Real estate is not a commoditized asset. That gives you the power to strike individual bargains.

Tips for buying in a hot market

The vast majority of investors invest in stocks and bonds. They’re used to having zero control. As a real estate investor, there’s a lot you can do to position your portfolio for success.

Avoid the bubble mentality. Don’t buy because everyone else is buying.

Don’t treat properties like commodities and hope something good will happen. Pick your investments individually, and make sure you have a Plan A … and a Plan B and Plan C.

Then, do a sound analysis and underwriting.

Wondering whether there’s a difference? There certainly is.

Analysis means gathering the numbers and putting them together to get an estimated return.

When you get a pro forma, make sure you double-check the analysis … the math isn’t always correct.

Underwriting goes one step further. A proper underwriting process pulls third-party financial statements to verify the numbers from the analysis match reality.

It’s very important to underwrite all of your deals. Do this by gathering all the information you can from trustworthy parties … financial statements, rent rolls, copies of rental agreements.

You can even go a step further and verify information with tenants independently.

Next, you need to make sure your assumptions hold water. Check the property tax, the property condition, and maintenance schedule.

Evaluate the total cost of an investment, including needed rehab.

Last, look at your potential revenue. Evaluate rents to see if they match market rates, and see whether there’s any opportunity to make improvements and increase revenue.

A note … you CAN’T underwrite your way out of risk. But to minimize risk, you want your eyes as wide open as possible.

How to position your existing portfolio

Underwriting is important when making a new investment, but what can you do about your existing portfolio?

Quite simply, you can go through the same process you would with a new purchase.

Use zero-sum thinking to ask yourself whether you’re getting the most from your investments.

Look at the numbers … cash flow, debt and interest rates, and equity. Is there any room to improve the property?

You might think about moving some equity around. Many real estate investors think the only option for accessing equity is selling a property or doing a 1031 tax-deferred exchange … but you have a third option.

Consider a cash-out refinance, which allows you to transfer equity from a developed property to a market or property type with upside potential.

To proactively strategize about bubbles, separate your equity from your properties.

But be cautious … always do underwriting and analysis on potential purchases. You do run a risk when you thin out your equity, so make sure you hedge your bets as much as possible.

Making a risky purchase could mean being locked into a property when equity and cash flow decrease during a downturn.

So, ensure you have a plan for holding on to the properties you purchase in the event the market crashes and you go underwater.

Time heals a lot of wounds … we’ve seen many investors hold onto properties during a downturn only to make a killing once the market starts perking up again.

It may well be that the market you’re in has bubbled to the point where selling makes sense. When considering where to put your equity, be cautious and be smart.

Roll with the highs and lows

There are quite a few things you can do to protect yourself from the downside of bubbles and benefit from the upside.

  1. Seek out recession-resistant pricing. You want to look at rent pricing that is just below the market median. This is the sweet spot … you’ll get people coming down from the top in bad times and people coming up from the bottom in good times.
  2. Follow the barista rule. Some markets are more affordable than others. If your barista can afford to live in the same area they work in, that market has recession-resistant pricing that isn’t artificially inflated.
  3. Be in a position to pick up bargains when the downturn comes. Have the wits to pull some chips off the table when the market’s at the top so you can make a killing when the market deflates and there’s blood in the streets. In other words, keep some liquid equity close at hand when the market starts getting hot.

Bubbles aren’t bad … markets naturally rise and fall. You just have to be resourceful enough to catch the waves.

Now go out and make some equity happen!


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.

A big story keeps getting bigger …

We’re just two weeks removed from an epic educational and networking experience at the New Orleans Investment Conference.

While we were there, we threw a little private party and Robert Kiyosaki, Peter Schiff, Chris Martenson, and Brien Lundin all showed up to hob-nob with our listeners.  Very fun.

During the conference, Robert Helms emceed a fascinating panel called The Future of Money, with panelists Doug CaseyDanielle DiMartino Booth and Chris Martenson.

(Side note: Chris Martenson, Brien Lundin and Peter Schiff are all confirmed for the 2018 Summit at Sea™ … and we’re still recruiting several other VERY notable speakers.)

It’s clear the future of money and wealth is on the threshold of MAJOR change.

For most people “the dollar” is synonymous with money because their income and wealth are denominated primarily in dollars. So the future of the dollar is an important topic.

Right now, the U.S. dollar is the world’s reserve currency … and Treasuries are considered the safest, most liquid place to save excess dollars.

Treasuries are Uncle Sam’s IOUs.  They’re technically called bills, bonds, and notes … but they’re all debt.

Treasuries also play a major role in how market interest rates are determined … so if you’re a user of debt, the future of Treasuries affects you also.

Yields (rates) and prices of Treasuries are a function of supply and demand.

Like apartment buildings, when investors bid prices UP, yields (like cap rates) fall. 

You may already know it, but just in case, the math is simple:  Income / Price = Rate

For example, $60,000 net operating income on an $800,000 property is a 7.5% cap rate. 

If investors bid the property up to $1 million, it’s $60,000 / $1,000.000 = 6% cap rate.

So high demand creates upward pressure on prices, and downward pressure on yields (cap rates).  Make sense?

The same with Treasuries.  As long as demand is robust relative to supply, interest rates are low.  Strong demand for Treasuries means low interest rates.

If anything substantially alters the supply / demand equilibrium in Treasuries, YOUR asset values and interest rates will feel it.

Lots of government debt means lots of Treasuries for sale.   We’re pretty sure that’s not changing soon.

But TOO MUCH supply means lower prices.  Just like when lots of houses in a neighborhood are for sale at the same time.

DEMAND for Treasuries comes from private investors (small and large), and political investors (governments and central banks).

Private investors buy Treasuries to park large amounts of cash, use as gambling chips in the Wall Street casinos, or serve as collateral in complex financial transactions.

Governments also buy Treasuries as a place to park their reserves.  China and Japan are at the top of the list with over $1 trillion each. 

Treasuries are denominated in dollars.  So countries buy dollars with their own currency, or sell things to the United States and get paid in dollars … then use those dollars to buy Treasuries.

To keep the worldwide economy going, Uncle Sam issues lots of Treasuries and the Fed prints lots of dollars.

As long as everyone trusts the dollar, it’s all hunky-dory.  And this is why so many of our big-brained friends are concerned. 

As we chronicle in our Real Asset Investing special reportChina’s been making substantial moves to undermine the dollar as the world’s reserve currency.

We recently commented on this … and the story continues to unfold.

Here’s the quick backstory …

When the dollar became the most trusted currency on earth in 1944 it was backed by gold.  In 1971 Uncle Sam defaulted on the gold backing.

Not surprisingly, the world dumped dollars which triggered excessive inflation (rising prices, loss of purchasing power).  The U.S. quickly came up with a plan to save the dollar.

Uncle Sam made a deal with Saudi Arabia … for oil to ONLY be sold for dollars and the Saudi’s would invest their profits in Treasuries.  Clever.

Then the Fed raised rates to nearly 20% to “break the back of inflation.”  If you wonder why inflation is scary, look at life in Venezuela right now.

Inflation is caused by too many dollars in circulation relative to goods and services available.

High interest rates slow borrowing.  It’s a long story, but new dollars are born when you borrow.  Reducing borrowing slows the birth of new dollars.

High interest rates also suck excess dollars into banks and Treasuries, as people and nations save for yield (interest).

These moves shifted demand for the dollar from Uncle Sam’s savings (gold) to the oil and bond markets. 

Back then, the U.S. had the biggest manufacturing economy, most productive workforce, the strongest military, and very little debt.

Of course, MANY things have changed … and more change is likely coming to an economy near you.

Today, no one cares about gold … except China and Russia, who are accumulating hundreds of tons a year.  Hmmm… that’s interesting.

Coincidentally, Russia and China are the #2 and #3 military powers in the world behind the United States.

China is now the largest manufacturing economy and top importer of oil.  Russia is the #2 seller of oil … behind (wait for it …) Saudi Arabia.

Russia and China recently made a deal to trade oil in Chinese currency (the yuan) … instead of dollars.   

China already has major oil producers Iran and Venezuela on board the petro-yuan train.

And now there’s talk China will “compel” the Saudi’s to deal in yuan too.  When you’re the big customer, you have negotiating leverage.

China also recently announced plans to create a yuan-denominated oil contract, which some say is a big step towards creating a robust yuan-backed bond market.

And to top it all off, it’s been reported China is flirting with the idea of backing those petro-yuan contracts with gold.

The Chinese are infamous for seeing a good idea and copying it. 

Right now, it seems China has reverse-engineered the dollar’s rise to dominance and is simply copying it … and it looks like they’re making steady progress towards their goal.

The BIG questions are …

What does it mean to YOU and what can YOU do to grow and protect YOUR wealth?

Of course, that’s a HUGE discussion and we’re working on something BIG to address it.

For now, when you think about the future of money and wealth, here are some things to consider …

Investors, many probably born after 1971, are piling into Bitcoin … driving it up at an insane rate.

Motives we’ve heard for Bitcoin-mania include moving wealth into an “asset” which can’t be simply printed out of thin air.

Interestingly, Bloomberg reports that online searches for “buy Bitcoin” have exceeded “buy gold.” 

Some use the border-less nature of Bitcoin to escape capital controls and discreetly move wealth out of totalitarian jurisdictions. 

Of course, some are buying Bitcoin simply because “it’s going up” and they want to strike it rich in dollar terms.

Meanwhile, plans have been announced to launch a Bitcoin futures market … just like already exists for gold.  

Ironically, futures markets are the very mechanism many pundits claim gold prices are suppressed with … to discourage those concerned about the dollar from seeking safety in gold.

We’ll see what happens to Bitcoin.  Meanwhile, Russia, China and several other nations continue to accumulate gold.

As for the U.S., it’s all about the red-hot stock market.

Of course, as our friend Simon Black points out, the top performing stock market is Venezuela. So a booming market isn’t necessarily the bellwether of a healthy economy.

Where does real estate fit into all this?

History says real estate fares pretty well when shift happens.

Even in chaotic financial times, people still need a roof over the head, crops still need to grow, commerce goes on … and real estate is at the center of human activity.

Of course, that doesn’t mean all real estate investors everywhere make it. 

We took it hard in 2008 because we weren’t prepared for a sudden shift.  We’re working hard to be better prepared today.

One thing’s for sure … there’s never been a more important time to get SERIOUS about your financial education and strategic network.

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.

Expecting the Unexpected – Investing in Uncertain Times

Real estate investing is full of ups … and downs. If you haven’t experienced the downsides, we guarantee you will eventually.

As a real estate investor, you have to be on top of your game. You didn’t get into this business to pull the sheets over your eyes … you’re here to build wealth, and that requires planning and preparation.

You can’t bet on disasters NOT happening … they most likely will. Careless investing is a sure recipe for a crash. Careful investing, on the other hand, will help you survive crashes without losing the wealth you’ve accumulated.

In this episode of The Real Estate Guys™ show, we discuss how YOU can prepare for storms that come out of nowhere. You’ll hear from:

  • Your careful host, Robert Helms
  • His criminally cautious co-host, Russell Gray

Listen



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The nature of real estate

The real estate market is naturally volatile. Economies change, local markets evolve, natural disasters arise … sometimes overnight.

The downsides are ALWAYS looming.

But real estate investors are always looking for the upsides … sometimes so intently that they forget to look at the downsides too.

We caution you to do your due diligence AND have a back-up plan.

Some excellent words of wisdom are to always have a little cash on hand. The downsides are rarely in your control … but you can control your ability to react when they arise.

Four ways to be prepared for a downturn

As real estate investors, we weigh risk and reward every time we look at a deal. But some risks aren’t so obvious.

Being a successful investor means playing defense and offense at the same time.

While you can’t predict the future, you can take practical steps to make sure you’re ready to fend off threats and take advantage of smart deals.

Step No. 1: Get in touch with a demographic that can weather a storm.

Tapping into the right demographic is the key to recession-resistant investing.

It’s a smart idea to look at markets where someone who is a bit under the median income can afford to live.

In tough times, people who are well-off can downgrade to your market. And in good times, people on the lower end of the income scale can move up.

Either way, your area will be in demand.

Many factors can cause a downturn … rising interest rates, slow wage growth, tax increases, or geographic factors to name a few.

Downturns aren’t solely due to nation-wide economic slowdowns. Make sure you pick a demographic that can resist small ebbs and flows in your market.

Step No. 2: Invest in towns that have multiple “stories.”

Every town has something it’s known for.

Even better is a town that’s known for many things … the stories that draw people and growth.

A big industry would be one story. Two big industries? Even better. A major sports team might be another story.

Don’t bet on a single story. Make sure the jobs in your market are tied to multiple industries … that way, when one industry fails unexpectedly, you won’t see a mass exodus or decline.

And be sure an area is appealing for more than one reason.

Step No. 3: Monitor your inputs.

Look at what inputs make the numbers on your financial statement move. These are the inputs to keep track of.

Compile data, set up alerts, and don’t be remiss about digging deeper when an alarm goes off in your head.

All the information you need can be found in one way or another. The internet is a treasure trove of data. Your local Chamber of Commerce is another resource for keeping track of essential information.

Don’t be casual … especially if you’re an experienced investor. Treat every deal like it’s your first.

Monitoring your inputs can help you stay ahead of the curve and react to changes before others even know there’s a threat.

Can you see the advantage?

Step No. 4: Key into experts.

We live in the information age … it’s almost ridiculous how much information is available.

But some of the best information comes from people who have been in your situation and figured out solutions.

Listen to and read information from multiple sources … even if you disagree.

Learn what other people are saying BEFORE you interject your own opinion.

You can’t expect the unexpected if you only listen to people who share your point of view.

Navigating the three rings of risk

We’ve learned a lot over the years.

One piece of advice we think highly of is to always own a property or two with no loan. The return won’t be as high … but you can sleep at night.

In investing, it all comes down to the rings of risk.

Every investor should have three rings of risk in their portfolio.

The center ring is your livelihood. It should be isolated from all the other risks you’re taking.

The second ring is those bread-and-butter properties that bring cash flow and provide long-term equity growth from modest appreciation.

The third ring is where your risky investments happen. You should only expand into this area after you’ve established the first two rings of your investment portfolio.

In the outer ring, you can be more speculative. You may lose quite a bit in this ring … you’re taking on way more risk. But you could also win big.

Another thing to keep in mind is your Plan B.

In any short-term play, make sure you have a Plan B and even a Plan C to take you through the long term.

Sometimes the market changes in the middle of your play. In that scenario, financing structures and a property’s ability to cash flow can be really important.

If you are house rich and cash poor, it may be time to sit down with a financial advisor and considering refinancing so you can leverage the equity you have in your properties.

You may also want to consider selling and buying new properties so you can get some cash on your balance sheet.

When the market turns, you want to be in a position to snatch up a bunch of cheap real estate … and you won’t be able to do so unless you have cash on hand.

Another consideration to take is whether to diversify your liquidity. If the dollar falls, precious metals will retain their value … and the more wealth you have, the more important it is to put your equity in a stable medium.

Your best strategy is a strong network

Knowing how to sell is the essential survival skill in a tough market.

We’re hosting our yearly How to Win Funds and Influence People event this year … a workshop that teaches participants negotiation strategies that result in win-win deals.

We host events like these because networking is SO important. The best way to prepare for the unexpected is to get around smart people and take note of their strategies.

Getting around people who’ve been in your shoes is essential … and most successful real estate investors are more than happy to share what they’ve learned.

We don’t only host events for investors like you … we also attend them! We’ll be at the upcoming New Orleans Investment Conference learning about all things investing with some of our most knowledgeable investor friends.

Join us!

Your net worth is defined by your network. Make those crucial connections, and you have the key to staying strong through ups AND downs.


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.

Property Management – The Key to Profitable Investing

Buying a property is one thing. Operating it is another.

Many investors buy property but fail to think about where their money will really be coming from … the tenants.

If you can’t take care of your property or your tenants, your income stream will be in big trouble. That’s where a property manager comes in.

In this episode, we invite a special guest to discuss the finer points of developing your property management philosophy.

He’ll offer tips on how to find a stellar property manager, what to expect from your property management company, how to manage a team, and MORE.

You’ll hear from:

  • Your philosophical host, Robert Helms
  • His phil-o-what? co-host, Russell Gray
  • Property management professional, Ken McElroy

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Why do real estate investors need a property manager?

We want to make it really clear … property managers are the unsung heroes of the real estate business.

As a real estate investor, your money is coming from your tenants.

Property managers interact directly with tenants. A good property manager will maximize the return on your investment by finding … and retaining … paying tenants.

If you’re a new investor, you may be fulfilling the role of property manager yourself. As your investments increase, however, you’ll soon find it necessary to outsource property management tasks to someone else.

Every real estate investor is running a business. If you want to grow your business, you need to make sure that every vital function is scalable as you move up the ladder and acquire new investments.

Overall, scalability means two things:

  1. Making sure that every aspect of the business you handle personally is either scalable (you can handle more of it as you get more properties) or can be delegated
  2. Making sure the people you rely on are also scalable

Make sure the system you set up has redundant life support systems. In other words, if one part of the system fails, you have a back-up plan to ensure everything is running smoothly and your cash flow won’t be interrupted.

And make sure your property manager has a back-up plan too and won’t be overwhelmed when you add to their workload.

Your property manager is essential to your process.

We’d caution you to consult with property managers BEFORE you even purchase a property … they have their fingers on the current state of the market and know what’s happening now.

And make sure you are not only thinking about how your property manager can help YOU, but also how you can help your property manager.

What does a property manager do, exactly?

Property managers are responsible for two essential tasks:

  1. Finding, vetting, and placing tenants
  2. Providing ongoing support for the tenants and property

Different property managers have different philosophies on how to fulfill these tasks.

You can approach working with your property manager in several different ways:

  1. Establish your own policies and require the manager implement them
  2. Pick the right person and let them do their job, using their own established policies
  3. Work with your property manager to establish a routine that’s somewhere in between.

Whichever route you choose, you want to keep your main goals in mind … to keep your property manager happy, to keep your tenants happy so they stick around, and to keep your property in good shape … and, just as important, to make sure your cash flow is stable.

Sometimes, the best option can be trusting your manager’s experience and letting them decide maintenance and marketing strategy.

Picking a property manager can be tricky, but the VERY LAST criteria you want to use when shopping for a good manager is price.

DON’T pick the cheapest property manager.

If your property manager is poorly paid, they’ll be unmotivated to do a good job, and you’ll end up losing more than you save.

Don’t begrudge your property manager the money they get for doing the easy jobs, like handling long-term tenants.

You want your property manager to be happy … it’s a win-win for both of you.

The bottom line is that real estate is a people business, not a property business.

Your managers and tenants aren’t widgets. Value them, and they’ll value you.

Want to help your property manager without giving them a raise? Consider referring them to other investors in the market for a manager.

Referring a good person or company is a win-win-win for you, your investor friend, AND your property manager.

Pro tips for property management

Ken McElroy started managing properties as a college kid who wanted a free place to stay.

Today, he runs a 250-person property management company that manages properties in Washington, Oregon, and California.

We asked him what he’s learned about property management over the years. Here are some key questions and answers:

What are the basics of finding a good property manager?

First, look for experience. Collecting rent is harder than you think.

Second, look for people who can hold down the rules without being too confrontational.

What should investors expect from good property management?

Two things:

  1. The return you budgeted for
  2. No issues

Ideally, Ken says, there should be no reason for you to call your property manager … in other words, your property manager should be responsible and responsive enough to handle issues as they arise and get you your return.

How do you manage a large team?

Ken’s company employs 250 people who work at the corporate office or on the ground at the properties.

“The key to everything is communication,” Ken told us.

One of his strategies is to have on-site managers hold daily meetings with all staff members, including workers responsible for maintenance, landscaping, and leasing.

Is it better to outsource maintenance and repair services or hire in-house teams?

This comes down to what the residents need.

Retention comes first, says Ken, and to retain tenants, managers want to handle any issues immediately.

A tenant will not want to stick around if you don’t handle a broken heater or jammed plumbing as quickly as possible.

Whether in-house vs. outsourced is better ultimately comes down to what strategy will allow your property manager to solve problems immediately.

What’s your client retention strategy?

Ken implements a policy of making sure one of his employees reaches out to every resident, every month.

He also hired a relationship manager to contact new tenants about the move-in process right away.

And he has his team reach out to tenants well before their lease is up … six months before, in fact … to check in and get tenants thinking about renewing their lease.

He shoots for a 50 to 60 percent retention rate.

What kind of tenant screening do you do?

Ken runs a criminal background check and a sex offender check. Someone with terrible credit and multiple evictions is obviously not the ideal tenant.

What advice do you have for new investors?

Going into property management as a new investor with no prior knowledge can be a recipe for disaster.

If you really, truly, have the time and can show up, you could successfully be both owner and property manager, says Ken.

But if you’re just doing it to save money or don’t have time to have your boots on the ground, disaster is a certainty, not a possibility.

The golden rule of property management

We love talking to Ken because he has a “No BS” policy. He has a ton of experience, and he’s not afraid to share it.

He’s also always looking to learn. For example, he’s been incorporating social media into his marketing strategies over the past few years and is always looking to learn how to use new technology.

If you want to read a whole book of tips and tricks, we highly recommend you check out his book, The ABCs of Property Management.

Looking for more property management advice? Check out Terry’s Tips for Happy Tenants, a report compiled by business owner Terry Kerr that you can find on our website.

Want to know our golden rule for flawless property management? Treat each tenant like they’re gold.


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.

Impact of Zoning Policy on Prices and the Path of Progress

Zoning, zoning, zoning.

It’s a big deal in cities like San Francisco and New York … but what is it, and what impact does it really have on YOUR real estate investments?

In this episode of The Real Estate Guys™ show, we’ll discuss the way zoning can limit available land and have a huge impact on supply and demand cycles.

To zone in on this issue, we invited a special guest to present his take on how zoning has affected property markets in the U.S.

Listen in! You’ll hear from:

    • Your zoning-in host, Robert Helms
    • His zoned-out co-host, Russell Gray
    • Economist and Cato Institute fellow, Randal O’Toole

Listen



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Supply and demand isn’t so simple

Supply and demand seems like a simple concept. But there are a surprising amount of inputs that affect both sides of the equation.

Capacity to pay can crimp demand by limiting the number of people who CAN buy property, regardless of whether they WANT to buy.

And on the supply side, market factors restrict how much property is available to sell for a particular use.

It can be difficult to identify why markets with thriving demand and appropriate supply are so successful compared to similar but less profitable areas.

But part of real estate investing is identifying factors of success … before an area starts booming. Little details, like school district boundaries and zip codes, can have a huge impact.

Other government designations, like zoning restrictions, can have a monumental effect on housing value.

What happens when zoning rears its ugly head

Zoning has a tangible impact on the cash flow you can generate.

When previously residential areas are rezoned for commercial use, real estate investors can net quite a bit more bang for their buck.

On the other hand, failing to take into account zoning restrictions can completely crush attempts to make a profit.

For example, the owners of one church in Palo Alto found out the hard way that the building wasn’t zoned for commercial use.

In that case, the church had to stop leasing space to a dozen commercial tenants after the city cracked down on them for violating zoning restrictions.

So why do cities have zoning in the first place? And why do some cities have strict zoning requirements, while others, like Houston, have almost none?

Zoning allows the government to plan the future of certain areas in order to maximize the impact of public transportation, designate areas for certain use types, and even increase land values.

It doesn’t matter whether or not you’re a fan of the government butting their heads into property owners’ decisions about what to do with their land.

The truth is, there’s not a lot you can do about it … except use zoning (or the lack thereof) to your benefit.

Zoning is an important factor in the flow of people and money into and out of certain areas.

It’s your job to pay attention to zoning so you can invest in the areas that attract people and money.

Don’t get caught up in the way you want the world to be.

You invest in the real world … and confronting the brutal facts is the only way you can make good decisions.

What a public lands expert has to say about zoning

We were honored to chat with Randal O’Toole, an economist and senior fellow at the libertarian think tank Cato Institute. Randal focuses on urban growth, public land, and transportation issues. He gave us a bit of a backstory on zoning.

Randal said zoning began in 1947 with Britain’s Town and Country Planning Act … and quickly spread across the world.

Randal has strong opinions about zoning … and we appreciate his point of view because we think it’s smart to expose ourselves to a variety of perspectives.

Randal noted that in the U.S., anyone can own land … but what you can DO with that land is limited.

For example, some areas in California are zoned for minimum density. This means owners need to develop properties that will accommodate a certain number of people.

He also noted that there are no markets in the U.S. that are short of land itself … areas with highly reported housing shortages often suffer from a lack of developable land.

In the Bay Area, for example, 17 percent of land has been urbanized and 20 percent is set aside for public parks.

That leaves a whopping 63 PERCENT of land that is privately owned, but undevelopable due to zoning restrictions.

California as a whole is the most heavily populated state in the nation … yet 95 percent of its population lives on 5.5 percent of the state’s land, and it’s not because there isn’t land to spare.

It’s Randal’s belief that government restriction of land use creates a steep supply curve, causing huge fluctuations in pricing and eventually creating bubbles in the housing market.

Zoning requirements created the huge housing bubbles that led to the economic recession of 2008, Randal said, and are the reason that places without land regulation didn’t get hit as hard as other areas.

Randal also noted that zoning results in an exodus of low-income people who can no longer afford markets where zoning has driven values up.

This phenomenon hits vulnerable populations particularly hard, pushing people from highly zoned cities like San Jose to low-zoning cities like Houston.

Relaxing land-use laws, Randal suggested, would reverse the transfer of wealth from the poor to the rich and make land ownership more equitable across the board.

But changing those laws will require the courts to take action.

Interested in Randal’s take? You can read more of his work, including books on home ownership and government planning, at the Cato Institute website.

Zoning as a factor in housing market bubbles

We think Randal’s take on the economic crisis of 2008 is pretty fascinating.

We spent all of 2008 trying to figure out what caused the housing bubble. Traditional theories focus on the economy, the federal government, and the banking industry.

Randal has a completely different take. It’s his view that crisis-level housing bubbles are caused by the restriction of property supply, limiting the ability of the market to meet demand.

And Randal’s theory makes sense … the economic crisis affected different markets much more severely, and the ones that were impacted the most had the strictest zoning policies.

Our take is that a combination of economic and zoning factors caused the recession.

Although zoning may seem like a small factor, it’s something we’ll be paying a lot attention to going forward.

How to profit from zoning restrictions

Zoning isn’t necessarily all bad.

Pay attention to zoning restrictions, and you can find BIG OPPORTUNITIES.

When areas that have outgrown their original use are rezoned, investors are presented with a chance to increase property value.

Take the meatpacking district of New York City, for example. An area formerly used for, you guessed it, industrial meatpacking operations, is now a thriving mixed-used area packed with residential and commercial properties.

But sometimes, bureaucracy can’t keep up with the evolution of society.

As an entrepreneurial guy or gal, it’s your job to look at the market and evaluate what it needs.

Don’t get confused or infuriated. Pay attention.

Ask yourself:

  • Is a neighborhood on the verge of transitioning from one use type to another?
  • Can you influence the zoning of a property (for example, by stepping down the zoning)?
  • How can you meet demand and stay within the zoning restrictions of your city?
  • What zoning practices do the markets you’re interested in follow?

From one perspective, zoning can be a big problem. From another, it can create golden opportunities.

It’s up to you to decide which perspective you’ll take.


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.