Paradise in Your Portfolio — Exploring the Resort Market of Belize

We can’t say enough about resort property investing. 

Like all real estate investing … everything starts with market selection. You’re looking for the right mix of supply, demand, location, team, and demographic. 

Belize is one of the most uniquely positioned resort markets in the world … and it checks A LOT of boxes. 

We’re visiting with a U.S. expat who is very active in the Belize real estate market. Is now the right time to put paradise in your portfolio?

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

  • Your resourceful host, Robert Helms
  • His last resort co-host, Russell Gray
  • From RE/MAX 1st Choice Belize, David Kafka

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Welcome to Belize

One of our personal favorite opportunities is markets that are outside of the norm. Today, we’re going to talk about investing internationally … specifically in beautiful Belize. 

For many years, Belize was basically undiscovered. We first started visiting about 15 years ago. 

Since then, Belize has really grown. It’s definitely been discovered … but there are still great opportunities to ride the wave. 

It’s easy to see the possibilities for the future when you look at Belize through the lens of Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, or Hawaii. 

So, the next thing to do is your homework … making sure that the underpinnings, the things that you think you see, are really there. 

When we first went to San Pedro, Belize, there were 600 rooms for overnight accommodations. Today there are nearly 2000. 

Until two years ago, there wasn’t a single branded hotel on the island. Today, one just opened and three more are opening soon. More airlines are coming too. 

Still, it’s not a very populated place. It’s a small market. Belize only has about 4,000 people that call it home. 

Belize has a mainland … with beautiful rainforests, the largest Jaguar preserve in the world, and Mayan ruins … and then there are the islands with white sand and palm trees. 

With any new market, there are stories of investors and developers who have come in and failed. But there are plenty of people also seeing an amazing increase in equity and cash flow in tourism. 

We get it. Thinking about somewhere like Belize as an investment opportunity is an adjustment. But you have to learn to think bigger than your local market.

The hotels, airlines … they all go where the people, money, and opportunity is. Why should a real estate investor be any different?

There are also many advantages to organizing your business internationally … like tax laws. Belize has been a tax haven for a long time. 

So, if you think an international investment might be the next step for you … look at the market drivers and dynamics. Find out if it is going to help you accomplish your personal investment goals. 

Then, it’s time to build a team. 

Building a Team

You want to find people on the ground who really know the market. 

The best people operate in the market on a daily basis and can help you make tactical decisions and strategic introductions to the resources you’re going to need to go from an idea to implementation. 

David Kafka is one of the most successful real estate brokers in the country of Belize. He has one of the largest brokerage offices with about a dozen agents. 

The average real estate office in Belize has less than two people. 

So, how did he end up in Belize?

“Some friends and I decided we wanted to move internationally. I came to Belize on vacation, and I pretty much never left,” David says. 

David didn’t start off in real estate, but he has always liked it. Several times, he has bought a house, fixed it up, lived in it for a few years, and sold it. 

But once he came to Belize, he was ready to go all in. Now, he splits his time between Placencia and San Pedro. 

David says that one of the unique aspects of Belize is that it is one of the sparsest populated countries in this area of the world … but it has lots of land. 

“It takes an adjustment coming from the bustling United States, but I’d rather have no traffic, no air pollution, great food, and great people,” David says. 

The population of Belize is very diverse … ethnically, culturally, and economically. But they all love the area. 

Most of David’s customers want to purchase a house or a condo now while there is a market opportunity, rent it out for a few years or use it as a vacation home, then have the option to move in permanently. 

But he is starting to see more investors who see Belize as an investment opportunity and more than just a personal experience. 

Investment Opportunities 

David says there are many investment opportunities in Belize. 

There are standard vacation rentals and a high demand for affordable housing. 

Many people who owned apartment buildings saw a rise in tourism and turned their workforce housing into accommodations instead. 

It makes sense. A unit that might rent for $1000 a month would rent for $250 a night. 

But these changes are displacing the locals. That’s where the opportunity lies. So many people come to San Pedro for a job and can’t find an apartment within their budget. 

The result is substandard living. 

If an investor can come in and give someone nice, quality living accommodations and affordable pricing, there will be locals, contract workers, and others ready to take advantage. 

The key is … and you’ve heard us say this a thousand times … great property management. 

When you look at the property management side of the equation, long term rentals are more stable and simple than vacation rentals.

So, there’s a balance either way. 

The good news is that there is no reason investors can’t do a little bit of both. 

And don’t forget, there is a lot of land in Belize that is suitable for agriculture, development, or commercial investment. 

“There’s always some land for any budget,” David says. 

To find out about more opportunities for putting paradise in your portfolio … tune in to the full episode!

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Podcast: Paradise in Your Portfolio – Exploring the Resort Market of Belize

Resort property investing starts with market selection … just like all real estate investing. You’re looking for the right mix of supply, demand, location, team, and demographic.

Belize checks a LOT of boxes. It’s one of the most uniquely positioned resort markets in the world.

In this exotic episode, we visit with a U.S. ex-pat who set up shop in Belize and is very active in the real estate market.

Is it time for you to consider putting some paradise in YOUR portfolio? Tune in and find out!


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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Top Real Estate Trends for 2020

Well, hello … 2020! 

It’s a new year and a new decade … and it’s a TERRIFIC time to talk about the top trends in real estate investing. 

Many factors are affecting the path real estate is heading down this year … demographics, economics, technology, politics, energy, and interest rates. 

So sit back and take note … these are the top trends in real estate in 2020. 

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

  • Your trending host, Robert Helms
  • His trendy co-host, Russell Gray

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Trends in single family homes

Today we’re going to focus on some of the top trends that experts are predicting for 2020 in real estate. 

Real estate markets are diverse and always changing. On the demand side, the way that people interact and use real estate is essentially the same … but nuances change and create opportunities for investors. 

On the supply side … we have whatever we have built at this moment and the plans that developers and builders have to put more inventory into the ground. 

When it comes to real estate, you’re always looking at supply and demand and the flow of people and money. 

Let’s start with Realtor.com and its housing market predictions for 2020. Remember that these predictions have to do with single family homes. 

The National Association of Realtors is calling a 4.8 percent growth in home prices and a 1.8 percent decrease in existing home sales. 

That’s a modest growth in price and less sales for a variety of reasons. 

If we stopped right there, you might say that it doesn’t sound like a great real estate market to be in … BUT we’re not stopping there. 

To us, these predictions mean that most of the opportunities are going to come in niches .. and we’ll dive into that later. 

But keeping with the big picture, nobody is predicting a huge rise in interest rates … they’ll probably stay consistent. And overall, mortgage rates will remain low. 

That’s good for a couple of reasons. 

Obviously, to acquire property with leverage, you’d like to see a low interest rate. And if you already have a property with higher interest rates, your properties have better profiles today. 

The National Association of Realtors (NAR) also ranks markets that they see as having a potential increase in growth … both in sales and in price. 

The number one market that they chose only has 0.3 percent growth in sales projected … but 8.1 percent projected in price growth. 

That market is Boise, Idaho. 

Other markets that made the top 10 include Tucson, Arizona; Columbia, South Carolina; Colorado Springs, Colorado; and Memphis, Tennessee. 

Along with growing markets, the NAR predicts which markets will decline in both sales prices and number of sales. 

Those markets include Chicago, Dallas, Las Vegas, Miami, and San Francisco. 

The NAR said that the offset of the decrease in demand in some areas is that there will be new housing starts. 

In fact, according to Fannie Mae’s economic and strategic research group, new home starts will jump from a 1 percent increase in 2019 to nearly 10 percent in 2020. 

Niches that make sense

One trend that we have been talking about for some time is senior housing. 

The demographics are undeniable … look at how powerful the baby boomer generation is moving through all phases of their economic life … and now they’re entering their senior season. 

Anything related to seniors is going to probably be pretty solid for the next couple of decades. 

You hit a season of life where you need some special assistance and accommodations. 

There are lots of places to play … from the 55 and older communities to assisted living and residential assisted living to skilled nursing and memory care facilities. 

There is demand here that will be exceeding supply … and you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to recognize the signs. 

The next niche has some overlap when it comes to seniors … and that’s multifamily.

Multifamily has been huge in terms of demand for many years, and that’s been both good and bad … the bad part is that we’ve had a lot of money chasing a particular set of increasing assets. 

There has been a demand for multifamily on the tenant side and on the investor side … and on the investor side, the demand has meant a decrease in return. 

For 2020, we anticipate growth to be in the niches within multifamily .. like 55 and over apartment campuses or millennials looking for micro apartments. 

Micro apartments are small apartments that cater to younger tenants … usually fairly affordable … in city centers with unique amenities like shared workspaces. 

Another great trend … and one of our favorite niches … is resort property. 

This is a wide niche … but we tend to like the higher end as opposed to spring break on the cheap. 

It’s hard to go out and buy a 400 room hotel … but there are other ways that people are investing in resort properties. 

Some will allow you to own an individual unit that operates as part of a big resort or a hotel. There’s also the segment of vacation rentals in condos or single family homes. 

Not your cup of tea? Maybe take a look at agriculture instead. 

There are so many opportunities to come alongside successful operators in this space and invest offshore. 

The great thing about agriculture is that the underlying industry is probably not going anywhere … every human and animal needs to eat. 

The population is growing … and we are going to need more food. 

Take care with trends

Looking for real estate investment trends can reveal great opportunities. 

The only caveat … and this is true of any property that is use or trend specific … is that if that trend or use changes, it can be hard to repurpose. 

Anytime you are investing in a trend, you want to make sure it’s a trend that has some longevity to it. 

And remember that anytime a niche gets hot … it gets CROWDED. So, the earlier you adopt it, the better. 

For on 2020 real estate trends … listen in to the full episode!

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Adding fuel to the high housing price fire …

High housing prices continue to be a concern in many major markets.

While there are varying opinions on how to solve the problem, history says … and recent headlines concur … that adding fuel to the fire will be the likely “solution.”

Here’s how it works and why it’s likely to create a lot of equity right up until it doesn’t …

First, it’s important to remember prices are “discovered” when willing buyers and sellers meet in the marketplace and cut a deal.

Buyers want the lowest price and sellers want the highest. They meet somewhere in the middle based on the supply and demand dynamic.

When there are lots of buyers for every deal and a seller has the ability to wait for the best price, buyers compete with each other and bid the price up.

When there are lots of sellers relative to buyers, sellers compete with each other by dropping the price or offering more favorable terms and concessions.

Duh. That’s real estate deal making 101.

Of course, the real world is a little more complex … especially when you have powerful wizards working to manipulate the market for whatever reasons.

To our way of thinking, “capacity to pay” needs to be broken out of “demand” when looking at the supply and demand dynamic.

After all, if you’re crawling through the desert dying of thirst and you come across a vending machine with bottled water for sale at $100 per bottle, you’re probably willing to pay.

But if you don’t have any money in your pocket, limited supply and high demand alone don’t matter. You have no capacity to pay.

When it comes to housingcapacity to pay is a combination of income, interest rates, and mortgage availability.

To empower purchasers with more capacity to pay, you need higher real incomes, lower interest rates, money to lend, and looser lending guidelines.

Of course, these do NOTHING to help make housing less expensive.

In fact, they actually make housing more expensive because they simply increase the buyers’ ability to pay MORE.

Yet, this is where the wizards focus their attention. And to no surprise, they have an excellent track record of creating real estate equity (inflating real estate bubbles).

And that’s exactly why real estate is such a fabulous hedge against inflation.

While renters watch prices run away from them, owners ride the equity wave up … and up … and up.

And when paired with debt, real estate becomes a super-charged wealth builder … growing equity much faster than inflation, while still hedging against deflation.

After all, if you put $20,000 down on a $100,000 property and the price falls to $80,000 and NEVER recovers … eventually the tenants pay the property off.

Now your $20,000 investment has grown to $80,000 … even though the property deflated 20 percent.

But it’s hard to imagine any serious sustained deflation will hit real estate absent a catastrophic sustained economic collapse.

Of course, it’s probably smart to have some cash, gold, and debt free real estate as a hedge against catastrophe … but probably not the lion’s share of your portfolio.

That’s because the history and headlines favor higher prices over the long haul.

This brings up a very important point for every serious student of real estate investing …

The ONLY real way to truly lower housing prices in the face of growing population is to increase supply.

But there’s NO motivation for the wizards to reduce housing prices.

They’ll SAY they want to, but they can’t deliver.

Think about it …

No politician wants to face home-owning voters who are watching their home values fall.

No banker wants to have a portfolio of loans secured by homes whose values are falling.

And in spite of their sometimes-public spats, politicians and bankers have a long track history of working together to enrich and empower themselves.

So does it make sense that politicians and bankers are really going to do anything meaningful to cause housing prices to fall?

We don’t think so. All the motivation is to cause housing prices to rise.

And as we saw in 2008, on those rare occasions where housing prices fall, bankers and politicians rally to revive them as quickly as possible.

Your mission is to structure your holdings to maintain control if prices take a temporary dip. And of course, positive cash flow is the key.

Meanwhile, the Wizards are hard at work to make expensive housing more affordable …

This means fostering an environment to increase jobs and real wageslower interest ratesloosen lending guidelines, and get more money flowing into funding mortgages.

Are these acts of frantic Wizards desperate to keep the equity rally going into an election year? Maybe.

But until and if a total financial crisis happens again (which you should be diligently prepared for) …

… we think the bubbliest markets will see softness, even as nearby affordable markets increase as priced out home-buyers migrate.

Nonetheless, keep in mind that real estate is not an asset class … even a singular niche like housing. Every market, property, and deal is unique.

So it’s possible to find deals in hot markets, and it’s possible to overpay in a depressed market. Think big, but work small.

And while the financial media complains about over-priced housing and rings the bubble bell, consider that if housing remains unaffordable to buyers, it only creates more demand for rentals.

The properties you lose the most on are the good deals you pass on because you’re focused on price and not cash flow.

Is the housing boom … like the stock market boom … late in the cycle? Probably. But that doesn’t mean there’s not a lot of opportunity out there right now.

Using Market Metrics to Spot Trends and Opportunities

Markets are always in motion.

Population, economic growth, demographics … these factors and more affect the supply and demand for every property you own.

Without understanding market metrics, investing is like reaching into a lake and hoping you pull out a fish.

But WITH market metrics … the savvy investor can spot trends and opportunities … and bag a winning catch!

Listen in as we explore how to make market metrics work for you.

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

  • Your metric-master host, Robert Helms
  • His laugh-master co-host, Russell Gray

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Crystal balls aren’t real, but market metrics are

Every market is different.

Every city … every neighborhood … even every street has unique attributes of real estate.

When we look at real estate, we’re dealing with many different kinds of markets … niche markets, geographic markets, and demographic markets.

Real estate isn’t a typical asset class. Every deal is unique.

You can choose to throw a dart at the map and buy a property … or you can study market metrics and identify trends.

Most of the information readily available to investors isn’t local … it’s national or state data.

As an investor, you need to learn to take that higher-level data, look at both sides of the equation, and break down what it means for you.

We don’t have a magical crystal ball … but we do know that we can spot important trends if we pay attention to key metrics … and so can you!

Deciphering national statistics

Let’s start by talking about days a property stays on the market.

The National Association of Realtors recently announced that residential properties remained on the market for an average of 36 days in March 2019 … which was down from 44 days in February 2019.

What does this mean for the newbie real estate investor trying to figure out if this is a seller’s market or a buyer’s market?

This is the perfect example of national statistics that give a false impression when you focus on the market at a local level.

Someone in the Bay Area may think that 30 days on the market is forever … but to someone else from Kansas, that seems like selling in record speed!

Remember to dig deeper and look at both sides of the equation. Think about what other factors could be creating this metric.

Imagine that fewer people were listing their homes … that would mean that there were fewer houses available.

If there are fewer houses available but the same number of buyers … then the number of days spent on the market is going to go down.

On the other hand, if there are more sellers than buyers … then homes are going to spend more time on the market.

Three crucial metrics for real estate

Depending on the information you’re after, you pay need to attention to different metrics.

To get a good amount of information, you need a big statistical set.

That’s why most of the data that you read is going to be relating to a bigger group of properties than really affects your market and your property every day.

News pundits often talk about average home price and median home price. These are two different things with very different meanings.

If you have a list of 101 sales that happened last month, the sale in the middle of the list … number 51 … is the median price.

So, if you have the numbers two, five, and seven … the median is five.

And if you have the numbers two, five, and fourteen … the median is STILL five. Median price is NOT the same as the average price.

Another important metric to understand is net in migration.

People are always moving in and moving out of markets. Net in migration means a market where more people are entering than leaving.

More people means more demand for schools, services, shopping, and … housing!

It may seem like a rudimentary concept … but it is essential. If people are leaving a market, demand goes down and so do prices.

Dallas, Texas, is the perfect example of putting a market with net in migration to work for investors.

After the 2008 financial crisis, investors were forced to look at markets differently … and up until this time, Dallas had been boring.

The market had the least appreciation of markets on our radar … but after 2008, stability started to look really, really good.

Dallas had a winning combination of affordability, low income tax, vibrant infrastructure, and diverse economy.

The energy sector was a huge player … and it was one of the few industries that remained solid after 2008. As people moved in for jobs, demand grew.

Now, a decade later, we look at the net in migration, and Dallas has an additional one million residents since we first started looking into the market.

Look to the future

Some of these concepts may seem basic … but in real estate, it’s easy to fall asleep at the wheel. Real estate really does move slowly.

But when you see the headlines, you may feel like the wind is changing fast … and you need to act or be swept away.

Don’t panic. You have time to get in position, study a market, and build relationships.

Keep your focus on the basics … supply, demand, and capacity to pay. Every metric impacts these basic principles of real estate investing.

We can all look at the past and act on what we learn here in the present … but we need to look forward too.

As investors, we ultimately have to take our best educated guess. Market metrics give us the information we need to do our due diligence and act in the best way we know how.


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Forecasting the Future of Real Estate in 2019

Are you prepared for the future?

In our annual yearly forecast episode, we explore the future of real estate in 2019. We don’t have a crystal ball … but we do have great resources and smart friends.

Hear from three real estate experts on the state of the housing market, the effect of changing interest rates, the outlook for commercial real estate, and MORE.

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

  • Your forward-thinking host, Robert Helms
  • His fraidy-cat co-host, Russell Gray
  • Consultant and new home expert John Burns
  • Podcaster and real-estate expert Kathy Fettke
  • The Apartment King, Brad Sumrok

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In the news …

We’ve scoured the news sources and industry journals to see what might be coming in 2019.

The National Association of Realtors predicts in their 2019 Forecast that home sales will flatten and home prices will continue to increase.

The report also says not to expect a buyers’ market within the next five years except in the case of a significant economic shift.

On the other hand, the forecast cautions sellers to be mindful of increasing competition. It notes inventory growth, particularly in high-end housing, but reminds readers of the current housing shortage.

We’ve looked at predictions from various experts. Several of those experts predicted home prices will stabilize or rise at a much slower rate than in previous years.

One expert predicted listings in entry-level markets will remain tight. Yet another predicted industrial markets will continue to sizzle, interest rates will keep rising, and apartment rents will steadily moderate.

We’ve also read an article covering the State of the Market Panel hosted by Real Estate Journals.

The panelists agreed 2019 will be a big year for commercial real estate, including some new industrial and distribution/warehousing opportunities. They noted commercial rates will keep inching up.

Investors should consider opportunity zones and changes in the tax code in 2019. There are far different incentives for investors than for homeowners, and expensive housing means even more people will be pushed from buying to renting.

Predictions for the new home industry from John Burns

John Burns runs John Burns Real Estate Consulting, and he aims to help people in the new home industry understand trends.

In 2019, John says he is, “confident we won’t see construction grow that much.” He notes sales slowed dramatically in 2018, and he believes people will continue to be cautious.

What are builders paying attention to? They’re trying to build smarter with strategies like offsite construction and materials efficiency. They’re also building better by integrating smart-home technology and pivoting toward lower price points.

What about trends in home ownership? John says he thinks ownership is ticking back up. He says the millennial generation has some unique considerations … most want homes, but compared to previous generations, it may take them a bit longer to commit, especially because of increasing student loan debt.

And how do interest rates affect home builders? “It takes a big bite out the market,” John says. If people can’t get mortgages or can’t afford a new mortgage, they’re less likely to invest in a new home.

Take advantage of opportunity zones in 2019, says Kathy Fettke

Investors should look for jobs and opportunities in 2019. There will always be certain companies and cities that will thrive through a recession, says podcaster and Real Wealth Network founder Kathy Fettke.

These areas can provide investors with both equity and cashflow … and with new opportunity zones, there’s also the potential for tax breaks.

Neighborhoods that are flooded with investors because they’re opportunity zones WILL see equity growth, Kathy notes.

But just because an area is an opportunity zone doesn’t mean it’s a guaranteed good deal, and Kathy cautions investors to make sure deals make sense by investigating if they’ll hold out in the long run. That means job sources, stable and growing infrastructure, and good prospects for revitalization.

“You need the city on your side,” she says.

In 2019, Kathy is looking for stable employers that can thrive through a recession … she mentions Netflix. She warns investors not to get ahead of themselves by investing in areas that aren’t likely to improve within 10 years.

Employment is low, and interest rates are rising. We asked Kathy what she thinks will happen in that arena.

She says that while it’s hard to predict what will happen with the Trump administration, investors should keep their eye on corporate debt.

The ’08 recession happened because of a big consumer debt problem … corporate debt might cause trouble in the future. So, take a close look at the businesses that employ renters when investigating a market.

“Our world is changing so quickly,” Kathy notes. “Today is no longer a world where you can invest and forget about it for 30 years.” So in the housing realm, make sure you’re looking beyond the current tenant to say, who’s next? And will they have a job? Look for stability.

Demand and supply in multi-family, with Brad Sumrok

Last, we talked to the Apartment King, Brad Sumrok, educator and investor in the multi-family housing realm.

“I’m still proceeding with caution,” Brad says. But he notes there are many indicators that multi-family will continue to be a good asset.

We asked him whether some of the signs of doom from ’07 and ’08 are happening again in the multi-family space. The short answer? No.

Back then, there was a huge oversupply of housing. Now, there’s a 2-million-unit shortage. Most building now is happening in the A-class luxury space … but that’s not where the demand is. That means there’s an oversupply of luxury housing … but still some great opportunities to provide housing for working-class tenants.

Most people in the B and C class aren’t renters by choice … it costs, on average, $339 more per month to own a home than to rent. For blue-collar tenants, that’s a huge difference. And strict financing is further reducing the number of buyers.

That means more renters, and more demand for housing.

An increasing number of investors are looking at multi-family, which does inevitably mean cap-rate compression. But tax laws are on the side of investors.

“As the market changes, you have to temper your expectations,” Brad notes. Investors can’t expect to triple their equity in three years, and returns are likely to align with historical models.

That means there’s less of a cushion for making mistakes. It’s a strong case for investors to educate themselves before getting into an asset class.

To get educated on the multi-family market, check out Brad Sumrok’s 2019 Apartment Forecast! We wish you lots of equity in the new year.


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Don’t get lost in the lag …

Investors and economists often talk about cycles … business cycles, credit cycles, even news and legislative cycles.

Cycles are the ebb and flow of causes and effects sloshing around in the economic sea we all swim in.  They’re big picture stuff.

For nose-to-the-grindstone Main Street real estate investors, cycles are barely interesting, seemingly irrelevant, and mostly boring.

But a danger for Main Streeters is not seeing something dangerous developing on the horizon.  Another danger is getting lost in the lag.

The lag is the gap between when a “cause” happens and when the “effect” shows up.

For example, in a typical supply-and-demand cycle, a shortage of homes could cause prices to spike.    The effect of the supply-demand imbalance is higher prices, which in turn becomes a new cause.

Rising prices causes builders to increase production … and existing property owners to put their homes on the market … thereby increasing supply.

As supply grows, price escalation slows. If supply overshoots demand, prices might actually fall.  If you’re structured for only rising prices, you might have a problem.

Of course, there are other factors affecting pricing such as interest rates, wage growth, taxes, labor and material costs, availability of developable land, and on and on.

But our point is … an amateur investor often doesn’t see the cause for price escalation (or anything else) until the effect happens.

Once prices rise, they jump in to ride the wave … believing prices will go up tomorrow because they went up yesterday …  and their speculation only adds to the demand and fuels the fire.

At least for a while …

What’s often overlooked is the production pipeline … until the supply shows up and softens pricing.  Near-sighted investors often get lost in the lag.  They’re not sure where they are in the cycle.

It’s what happened to “GO Zone” investors after Katrina and Bakken investors during the shale boom.

Folks bought in during a boom, not considering the “production lag” … and didn’t structure for a slowdown.  When it happened, they didn’t have a Plan B.

It’s a simple example … and before 2008, that was about as deep as our analysis ran.

But the pain of 2008 opened our eyes … and 10 years later they’re still as wide open as we can keep them … because we know there are cycles as sure as the sun comes up.

That knowledge isn’t bad.  In fact, it’s good.  Because when you see the bigger picture, you also see more opportunity.

So we study history for lessons … current events for clues … and we talk with experts for different perspectives.

It sounds complicated … and maybe it is a little … but it’s like the old kids’ game, Mousetrap.

There’s a lot of fancy machinery hanging over our heads …and it’s just a series of causes and effects.  “A” triggers “B” triggers “C” and so on … until it’s in our faces.

But even at the street level with our nose on the cheese, if we watch the machinery, we can see events unfold and still have time to react appropriately.

So let’s go past a simple supply-and-demand example.

Back in 1999, Uncle Sam decided to “help” wannabe homebuyers get Fannie Mae loans … so the government lowered lending standards and pushed more funds into housing.  It seemed like a nice thing to do.

But at the time, observers cautioned it could lead to financial problems at Fannie Mae … even to the point of failure.  It took nine years (lag) … but that’s exactly what happened.  Fannie Mae eventually failed and needed a bailout.

But before things crashed, it BOOMED … and people made fortunes. We remember those days well.  It was AWESOME … until it wasn’t.

Folks were profitably playing in the housing jumphouse from the time the easy money air pump switched on until the circuit blew.  Lags can be a lot of fun.

Because few understood why the party started and why it might end … most thought the good times would roll forever.  So they were only structured for sunshine.

Oops.

People who urged caution at the height of fun … like Peter Schiff and Robert Kiyosaki … were derided as party-poopers.

Of course, they both did well through the crisis because even in the boom they were aware of the lag and the possibility of a downturn … and were structured accordingly.  Smart.

Now, let’s go beyond supply, demand, and mortgages … and look even further up the machinery …

In late 2000, Congress passed the Commodity Futures Modernization Act of 2000.

Doesn’t sound like it has anything to do with real estate … BUT …

This was the birthplace of unregulated derivatives … like those infamous credit default swaps no one in real estate ever heard of …

… until they destroyed Bear Stearns and Lehman Brothers in 2008, while bringing AIG to the brink of bankruptcy, and nearly crashing the financial system.

This mess got ALL over real estate investors in a big and painful way … even though there was an 8 year lag before it showed up.

Remember, for those 8 years a lot of the money created through derivatives made its way into mortgages and real estate … adding LOTS of air to the jumphouse.

Back then, real estate investors were riding high … just like today’s stock market investors.

And those who only measured the air pressure in the jumphouse … ignoring other gauges … didn’t see the circuits over-heating … until the system failed.

Then the air abruptly stopped, the inflated markets quickly deflated, and the equity-building party turned into a balance-sheet-destroying disaster.

And it happened FAST.

Which bring us to today …

The Atlanta Fed recently raised their GDP forecast for the booming U.S. economy.

Stock indexes are at all-time highs.  Unemployment is low.  The new Fed chair says, “The economy is strong.”

Some say these are the effects of tax cuts and a big spending bill.

Makes sense … because when you measure productivity by spending, when you spend, the numbers move.  Spending, or “fiscal stimulus” is an easy way to goose the economy.

But some are concerned this is a temporary flash fed by debt and deficits.

Others say it’s fiscal stimulus done right … kindling a permanent fire of economic growth and activity.

Could be.  After all, Trump’s a real estate guy, so he understands using debt to build or acquire long-term productive assets.

Real estate investors know better than most that not all debt and spending are the same.

Of course, government, geo-politics, and a national economy are a much different game than New York City real estate development.

And there are certainly some cracks showing in all these strong economic numbers …

A strong U.S. dollar is giving emerging markets fits.  Home buyingbuildingappreciation, and mortgages are all slowing.

We’re not here to prognosticate about what might happen.  Lots of smart people are already doing that, with a wide variety of opinions.

We just keep listening.

Our point today is … there’s a lag between cause and effect smart investors are wise to consider.

When lots of things are changing very fast, as they are right now, some are tempted to sit out and see what happens.  Probably not smart.

After all, the air in the jumphouse could last a while.  No one likes to miss out on all the fun.

But others put on sunglasses, toss the umbrella, and go out and dance in the sunshine … without watching the horizon.  Also not smart.

Dark clouds could be forming in the distance which might quickly turn sunshine into storm.

The best investors we’ve met take a balanced approach … staying alert and nimble while enjoying the sunshine, but not getting lost in the lag.

Changes in economic seasons aren’t the problem.  It’s not seeing them coming and being properly prepared.

Until next time … good investing!


More From The Real Estate Guys™…

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

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.

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