As the world turns …

As The World Turns was one of the longest running daytime soap operas in television history. And yes … there are valuable lessons for investors.

From 1956 to 2010, As The World Turns followed the lives of a fictional collection of high-paid legal and medical professionals.

Unlike other shows in the genre, which tended towards sensationalism …

 As The World Turns was nuanced in drawing viewers into the underlying story-lines. The pace was more real-world than melodramatic.

Perhaps it was this deeper intellectual engagement that captivated the audience for decades.

Of course, technology has changed media.

More noise leads to more sensational reporting in desperate ploys to capture attention. It’s the opposite of intellectual.

Today, much of the world’s story-line comes in sound bites, tweets and posts.

And like Pavlov’s dogs, we’re conditioned for short attention spans …

… expecting anything important to be short, loud, obvious, easily understood, and hopefully entertaining.

If information isn’t sensational, it feels unimportant. So we ignore it.

This could be why day-trading is so popular with many young “investors”. It’s hyper-stimulating.

But the real world changes SLOWLY … though surely … even in the internet age. Before Google, Amazon and Facebook … AOL dominated.

Of course, slowly but SURELY … the landscape of the internet changed … and is having a profound impact on everything … including real estate.

Impatient investors might overlook important slow-moving changes … and then miss opportunities or suffer damage from risks they didn’t even see developing.

For years, we’ve been talking about the long-term decline of the dollar …

… and the persistent collapse of interest rates …

Both have significant ramifications for investors … real estate and otherwise. Just as AOL lost it’s dominance slowly, so might the dollar.

But we’ve covered this often, so we’ll simply continue to suggest the financial system may be approaching a fundamental reset …

… and investors are wise to think outside the dollar while preparing for a temporary credit market collapse.

(Hint: Liquidity is good. If credit markets seize, prices usually crash, and bargains abound until credit markets are restored and prices re-inflate.)

If it’s not obvious, the key is getting in FRONT of the wave. Positioning depends on how nimble YOU are in relation to how fast the wave is moving.

Most ordinary investors are unwilling or unable to stay as liquid as needed to nimbly capture big opportunities when shift happens quickly.

However, when a lot of investors all chip in, then together they can grab a big opportunity quickly … even if it’s something none of them could, would or should do alone.

Of course, being able to buy is one thing. Knowing what and where to buy is another. And the best clues aren’t in soundbites and sensational headlines.

Real estate story-lines are often hidden in boring macro-trends … often only visible to diligent market watchers.

One is the so-called “Amazon effect” … as the growth of online shopping and its resulting shipping boom crushes retail and catapults commercial real estate.

Yes, it’s obvious to everyone now. But it’s been going on for many years … and there’s more to the story than meets the mainstream eye.

Of course, COVID-19 is accelerating this trend … and many others … which is why we did a deep dive into the COVID-19 crisis from an investing perspective.

And consider that before e-commerce started reshaping retail, off-shoring shifted manufacturing and its jobs to far away markets … impacting real estate investing in many markets.

Ironically, COVID-19 might accelerate the return of off-shored manufacturing … which is another slow developing storyline we’re following.

The point is … as the world turns, shift happens … often slowly.

And by the time the shifts become obvious, it might be too late to move into position to capture the best opportunities … or avoid the worst pitfalls.

In 2008, we learned businesses will take jobs to more affordable and business friendly places … even off-shore … to survive in tough times.

Similarly, people will change locations and occupations to find work. Many construction workers from Las Vegas ended up in the oil business in Texas.

Ken McElroy taught us strategic market selection … picking geographies with jobs tied to drivers which are difficult if not impossible to move.

Energy is one of the drivers Ken was focused on coming out of 2008. It’s hard to move an oil well to China. That was a good call.

Of course, oil is a complex and volatile industry so we wouldn’t pick a real estate market driven purely by energy production alone. It’s why we avoided North Dakota during the Bakken boom.

When it comes to geographically linked industry, distribution is one of the most stable because it truly follows the old adage: location, location, location.

Distribution hubs are all about location.

Because even if all the stuff is made in China, India or Mexico, it’s still shipped in boxes moving through domestic hubs to American consumers.

This was true before manufacturing was off-shored. It’s been true while shopping moved from in-person to online. And it’s still true during COVID-19.

Distribution is a boring, stable real estate story-line that’s a little hidden under all the sensationalism of the crisis du jour.

So coming out of the last crisis, we focused on Dallas (energy, distribution, and more), Memphis (distribution), and Atlanta (distribution, and more).

Notice a common denominator? And a decade later, the underlying story-line … and the markets it supports … continues to be strong.

Of course, small investors aren’t buying warehouses, distribution centers, truck sales and service centers, rail hubs, ports, or shipyards.

But small investors and syndicators CAN own the residential rental properties which house the employees of all those places.

This allows you to combine the resiliency of residential real estate with the geographic desirability of distribution to add stability to portfolios in uncertain times.

And best could be yet to come …

When capital is moving into expanding these centers, it usually means more jobs and housing demand in those markets down the road.

BUT … you can’t see these trends early by limiting yourself to tweets, memes, soundbites, or mainstream financial media. It’s all far too unsensational.

However, professionals in commercial real estate often diligently track the slow but large flow of capital and transactions into the space.

Strategic real estate investors watch these mega-trends and use them as clues about where and when to scurry into place …

… ESPECIALLY while short-attention span investors are NOT paying attention or are scattering like cockroaches in the light of uncertain economic times.

So … take a deep breath … you’ve come this far … and ponder these points …

Are the millions of people in the U.S. going anywhere soon?

Is it likely someone will create a technology to negate the need for people to live in houses or have stuff shipped to them?

We don’t think so.

Therefore, even though there’s a LOT of sensationalism in the temporary economic drama … the underlying story-line is as slow and steady as the world turns.

So when we came across this midyear 2020 report on the “Elite 11” U.S. industrial markets, it captured our attention.

The report is authored by a 40-year old commercial real estate firm. It provides insight into commercial space growth indicators in 11 key markets.

Among them are AtlantaDallas-Fort Worth, and Houston.

While DFW led in absorption, Houston led in expansion, and “Atlanta will very likely set a record total square footage delivered … by the end of 2020.”

And they’re all in business and landlord friendly states … compared to others which seem intent on chasing business out.

Remember, a fundamental priority of real estate investing is to pick strong markets and product niches FIRST …

… then build a boots-on-the-ground team … and THEN find properties.

Properties are best chosen in the context of markets and sustainable economic drivers.

So while people may not shop in stores or work in offices as the world turns … it’s highly likely they’ll always need a home and stuff.

So in an unstable world, smart investors will figure this out. Better to be among the early.

Distribution is a real bright spot right now … so while COVID-19 makes the future murkier, it doesn’t erase essential human needs.

And if the current uncertainty frightens short-attention-span investors into staying on the sideline, even though the underlying story-line is stable …

… it’s a chance to stay calm and “be greedy when others are fearful.”

Until next time … good investing!

The horrible housing blunder …

If you sometimes feel like a small fish in a very big ocean … it’s because you are.

There are LOTS of big, bigger, bigger-still, and downright ginormous other fish … some with very sharp teeth … circling all around you.

There are also mostly hidden forces creating powerful currents and waves … speeding you up, slowing you down, or taking you completely off course.

That’s why we look for clues in the news.

And because mainstream financial media doesn’t cater to Main Street real estate investors, we need to stay alert to notice things often hiding in plain sight.

In a recent trek through an airport on our way to speak at an investment conference … a notable magazine cover hit us in the face like a brick …

The Horrible Housing Blunder
Why the Obsession with Home Ownership is So Harmful
The Economist Jan 18-24, 2020

If you’re not familiar, The Economist is one of those highbrow publications ginormous fish and wave-makers are reading.

The Economist articles provide insights into how powerful people think about small fish like us and the things we care about … like housing.

In The Economist table of contents, the housing blunder topic is introduced this way …

“The West’s obsession with home ownership undermines growth, fairness and public faith in capitalism.

“Housing is the world’s biggest investment class … at the root of many of the rich world’s social and economic problems.

Wow. We didn’t know home ownership is so harmful to our fellow man. We’re ashamed.

But before we dig in, take a minute and simply consider their conclusion …

…and what happens to YOU if powerful people decide to implement policies to protect the world from the evils of housing.

Now you know why we pay attention.

So, on page 9 of The Economist, under their “Leaders” section (think about THAT) …

… they assert housing markets CAUSE both sudden economic crashes AND chronic economic “disease”.

Then they support their conclusion by claiming “a trillion dollars of dud mortgages blew up the financial system in 2007-08”.

Maybe you’ve heard that one before.

Of course, they make no mention of the trillions of dollars of Wall Street concocted derivatives of those dud mortgages …

(Warren Buffett called derivatives “weapons of mass financial destruction” … NOT the mortgages underneath them)

They also don’t account for the dangerously weak lending “standards” (we use the term loosely) Wall Street used to entice weak borrowers.

Nor do they mention the reckless, speculative and highly leveraged bets placed using those mortgage derivatives by arrogant gamblers in the corrupt Wall Street casinos.

Of course, the greed behind all of it is simply a “derivative” of the moral hazard created when everyone in the market KNOWS the Federal Reserve will paper over any problem with freshly printed “money”.

Back to The Economist special report on the horrible housing blunder …

Besides the terror of housing threatening the entire financial systemThe Economist says …

“… just as pernicious is the creeping dysfunction … housing created …” which they define as …

“… vibrant cities without space to grow; aging homeowners sitting in half-empty houses …

… and a generation of young people who cannot easily afford to rent or buy and think capitalism has let them down.”

So it seems cities which selfishly vote to preserve green space for themselves, their families, and the environment are … financial terrorists.

As are old folks who have the gall to stay in the homes they raised their children in … long after the children have successfully (and presumably permanently) moved out.

And speaking of all those independent young people … apparently because of these selfish homeowners, they can’t “easily” afford to put a roof over their head.

Of course, there’s no mention of the terror created through government sponsored student debt which both inflated the cost of college and enslaved a generation into inescapable debt …

… making home ownership … or even renting … far from “easy”.

Ummm … sorry, but how is that housing’s fault?

And what do the social scientists at The Economist suggest is the answer to the horrible housing blunder?

For that we need to flip over to page 44 where we discover that …

“Over the last 70 years, global house prices have quadrupled in real terms.”

For those keeping score, 70 years ago was 1950. Store that for future reference.

“Real terms” means adjusting both incomes and prices for inflation. In other words, prices rose four times faster than incomes.

The solution to all these ills is threefold says the author …

First, is “… better regulation of housing finance …” so that “… people are NOT encouraged to funnel capital into the housing market.”

Yes, every business person knows when you need MORE of something you should starve it of capital. Brilliant.

Next is … wait for it … a better train and road network” to “allow more people to live farther afield.” …

… because who doesn’t enjoy riding public transportation 100 miles a day to go to work?

And last but not least, our personal favorite …

“… abolishing single-family-home zoning, which prevents densification …” and “…boosting the construction of public housing.”

Makes sense (not) because clearly, the only thing better than riding public transportation to and from work for hours a day is coming home to relax in “the projects”.

Of course, as you’ve probably discerned, we think the whole thing is absurd.

But while it’s laughable, it’s also scary … because this is the way those ginormous fish think.

Worse, they’ve assigned the symptom (high housing prices and stagnant real wages) to the wrong disease … so they’re prescribing the wrong medicine.

Housing prices took off in the ‘50s because Bretton-Woods handed the U.S., and then in 1971, the entire world, a completely unaccountable ability to go into unlimited debt.

Worse, it requires the perpetual, unrelenting growth of debt … or the system collapses.

So the wizards must continually find new ways to fabricate affordable debt 

… through mortgages, student loans, government spending, endless wars, or (insert boondoggle of your choice) …

… plus, 40 years of falling interest rates … to zero and beyond!

It would take so much more space than this modest muse permits to delve deeper into the mindset, motives, and methods of the wizards behind the curtain …

… and to explore the MANY opportunities for Main Street investors who are aware and prepared.

For now, we simply encourage you to PAY ATTENTION and THINK. And look for every opportunity to talk with others who are doing the same.

Way back in January 1988, the cover of The Economist boldly warned the world to “Get Ready for a World Currency”.

As we chronicle in our Future of Money and Wealth video, The Dollar Under Attack, and is easily seen through MANY headlines since …

… the dollar’s role as currency of the world is steadily being attacked RIGHT NOW by both friendfoe, and technology.

Here in January 2020, The Economist is overtly prodding the world to take on the threat of housing …

“Bold action is needed. Until it is taken, housing will continue to weaken the foundations of the modern world.”

This hits us all right where we live and invest. We should all be paying attention.

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



Broadcasting since 1997 with over 300 episodes on iTunes!

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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 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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The disrupted American Dream …

One of today’s most popular buzzwords is “disruptive”.  It describes an event, idea, or invention that upends the status quo in some aspect of life or society.

“Disruptive technology” is used for everything from Amazon to Uber.

And as we’ve previously discussed, many of these things impact real estate and investing.

But disruption transcends technology.

Donald Trump’s election and Brexit are two examples.  The world appeared to be on one course … then boom.  A new direction.

So, political norms, societal norms, government and business models …almost everything is being disrupted right before our eyes.

In fact, disruption is so commonplace, it’s become the new normal.

But really, disruption is nothing new.  It goes back to pre-historic times.

The wheel was disruptive … and revolutionized the world (sorry, we had to…)

Farming was disruptive.  It changed the entire societal model … accelerating labor specialization, commerce … even banking.

The printing press was disruptive … connecting human minds past and present at greater speed, for lower cost, and with greater accuracy than ever before.

The U.S. Constitution was disruptive … protecting private property rights for the common man … the foundation on which all personal wealth is based.

That’s a personal favorite. 😉

Radio, telephone, personal computing, the internet, smart phone … all disruptive … each one taking idea sharing to never-before-seen levels.

Trains, automobiles, and airplanes all disrupted the transportation norms of their time … allowing people and their possessions to circulate faster and less expensively.

Now blockchain technology … at least for now … is threatening to disrupt how freely money and wealth circulate.  And governments have noticed.  Uh oh.

Of course, history shows with every disruption, there are winners and losers.

For every railroad baron or millionaire automobile maker, there were thousands of wagon-makers and liveries put out of business.

So while disruption isn’t new … the rate is unprecedented.  The world we live and invest in is evolving at a dizzying pace.

Blink and you miss huge opportunity.  Or worse, you get wiped out by a trend you didn’t even see coming.

The faster the world is going … the further ahead you need to look.

 So with this mindset, here’s a headline that caught our attention …

Why it makes more sense to rent than buy – Market Watch, 1/13/18

Obviously, a real estate headline.  But disruptive?  Seems pretty mundane.

After all, the rent vs. buy debate has been going on forever … usually linked to temporary circumstances favoring one side over the other at the time.

But this article references two interesting reports …

One is the ATTOM Data Solutions 2018 Rental Affordability Report.

It notes … buying a home is more affordable than renting in 54 percent of U.S. markets, but 64 percent of the population live where it’s cheaper to rent.

Hmmm …

Looks like folks prefer to rent where they want to live than buy where the numbers make sense.  Apparently, buying just isn’t that important to them.

Which leads to the second report, A Revision of the American Dream of Homeownership.

This one’s a premium report, so the link’s to the press release … but look at the title … “a REVISION of the American Dream”.

The idea that something so foundational as the American Dream is being … disrupted … is something worth thinking about.

Market Watch did another article based on this report … “Renting is better than owning to build wealth – if you’re disciplined to invest as well.”

Some might say it’s a hit-piece on real estate to entice millennials to put their savings in the stock market rather than a home.

But that would be cynical.

More interesting is the possibility there’s really a disruptive trend developing in terms of the way society views home ownership.

Consider this …

We have a friend who’s a very successful millennial, who can easily afford to own any kind of car … several of them … if he wanted to.

He doesn’t.

Now that he’s discovered ride-sharing, he sees no value in owning a car … not as a status symbol or an investment.

We’re not suggesting this guy’s viewpoint represents the millions of millennials out there.  But it’s worth noting.

Millennials are a big, powerful demographic rolling through the seasons of life … just like the baby boomers did.

Except millennials aren’t like Boomers …they live in a different world and view it through their own lens.

Career, opportunity, family, community, home ownership … roots … are very different today compared to 50 years ago.

In a world where you may change jobs a dozen or more times in a career, and you operate in a global economy, with a social network that’s not local, but virtual …

… home ownership can go from being stabilizing to burdensome.

The sharing economy is changing the way people think about the value of owning things they simply want the use of.

Absent paradigms of ownership, sharing is arguably more efficient.  But for the first time in history, it’s logistically possible.

No generation before has had as many options for sharing as there are today.  

And while pay-per-use seems like a no-brainer when discussing a depreciating asset like a vehicle, Market Watch isn’t the first to argue a home isn’t a great investment.

The pioneer in the “your home is not an asset” mindset is none other than our good friend (and boomer), Robert Kiyosaki.

Of course, Robert’s an avid real estate investor, so his issue isn’t real estate.  It’s about respecting the difference between consuming and investing.

Investing is about profit.  But when you consume, you want value … the right mix of quality, service, and price.

Some people rent their residence because they get a better value, have less responsibility, enjoy more flexibility and variety …

… and it frees up money to invest in rental properties.  They get a better ROI.

So they own real estate … just not the home they live in.

If there’s a new attitude about home ownership working its way into the marketplace, it could lead to a new experience in landlording too.

Because now you might have more affluent, well-qualified tenants competing for longer term tenancies in nicer properties in better areas.

Stable people with good jobs and incomes, who want to live and keep a nice home in a good area, but don’t want the responsibility of home ownership … can be great tenants.

They can also be a way for you to collect premium properties while someone else pays for them.

It’s a trend we’re watching.

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.

Disruption in the Real Estate Industry

These days, it seems like industry and social changes are happening at a faster pace than ever before.

Take the emergence of companies like Uber and Lyft. Unheard of just a few years ago, these businesses allow everyday drivers to repurpose their cars and moonlight as freelance drivers to earn some extra change.

While the rise of ride-sharing companies has been great for people who want to put their cars to use, as well as people who need a convenient, affordable ride, it’s been a major disruption to the taxi industry.

In this episode of The Real Estate Guys™ show, we’ll examine nine major disruptions to the traditional real estate industry and discuss the way these changes affect YOU.

On the show, you’ll hear from:

  • Your champion-of-change host, Robert Helms
  • His right-hand man, Russell Gray



Broadcasting since 1997 with over 300 episodes on iTunes!

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Major disruptions to traditional industries

Most disruptions don’t appear out of nowhere … even if it seems like they do.

Major trends tend to evolve slowly.

The upside? You have time to react and get in on the game before you’re left behind.

The downside? If you aren’t keeping your eyes wide open, it’s easy to miss what’s going on.

Our first major trend is one that gained popularity quickly over the past few years … and is now on the tip of every vacationer’s tongue.

  • Trend #1: Short-term vacation rentals

Airbnb. Everyone’s heard of this company, and for good reason.

Companies like Airbnb allow homeowners to rent their homes to vacationers for a night or a fortnight.

For regular homeowners, say a person who’s purchased a vacation rental they only use two months out of the year, short-term vacation rentals offer a way to make money in today’s sharing economy.

And for real estate investors, Airbnb offers a completely new model for hospitality … and often, a drastically higher rate of return.

But for competitors in the traditional hospitality industry, Airbnb presents an unwelcome disruption to an established market.

After all, hotels can’t usually match the amenities, home-like ambiance, or affordable rates of Airbnb options.

So the hotel industry is responding … often by attempting to quash short-term vacation rentals in a given area.

  • Trend #2: Modular housing

When modular housing first appeared, it was synonymous with “shoddy.”

Today, modular housing means something totally different.

In fact, in many ways modular housing has become the best option for low-cost, high-quality homes.

New technology has allowed modular building companies to become hyper efficient, producing consistent results with less overhead than traditional building methods.

Obviously, this trend is also disrupting a big industry … traditional building and construction businesses.

These companies know what they’ll do about this trend… try to stop or circumvent it. The real question is, do you know what you’ll do?

  • Trend #3: Worker housing

In some cases, it isn’t a new technology that’s disruptive … it’s the economy. Consider overcrowded, high-priced areas booming with new companies like San Francisco and Vail, Colorado.

In these markets, the demand for housing is there … but the market isn’t responding (or can’t respond, due to geographic barriers).

In some cases, this has opened up a new industry … worker-specific housing, created solely to provide homes for workers flocking to burgeoning technology markets.

In the most extreme cases, however, no one is stepping up to the table. Take Google, for example.

The company recently installed modular homes near their Silicon Valley campus to provide temporary, affordable housing to new employees.

But Google’s solution isn’t permanent … it’s a patch on a problem that will only get worse.

The real solution? Either someone has to figure out a way to add affordable housing to already packed markets … or companies have to make the move to more affordable markets.

As with any trend, we want you to take note … and look for the opportunity in the situation.

Changing technology tools offer new techniques

Although in many ways, the real estate industry hasn’t changed significantly compared to years past, technology tools for homebuyers have expanded dramatically in the Internet age.

First, it was online MLS programs that expanded access to home listings. Today, technology is racing to fill needs and wants as they arise, changing the way real estate works every day.

  • Trend #4: Online property analysis and walkthroughs

It’s easier than ever before to buy a property without ever stepping foot in it.

Advances in technology, like virtual reality programs that let potential buyers examine homes from a distance, have made physical walkthroughs unnecessary.

Buyers also have a vast array of constantly improving data available to them online.

Sites like Zillow show home values, and it only takes a push of a button to find an area’s crime rates and school statistics.

  • Trend #5: Social media marketing

While online technology rapidly increases the information available to potential homebuyers, some sellers are taking advantage of Internet trends to get a competitive edge.

Real estate professionals like our friend Ken McElroy use popular social media sites to create interest instead of relying on traditional advertising techniques.

This approach allows sellers to reach key audiences … while driving the costs out of marketing and acquisition.

What’s the benefit of being able to cut edges this way? Well, we hope it’s obvious … finding ways to cut overhead only increases your bottom line … and will help you stay above water if and when we hit a tight market.

Financing, lending, and brokering like never before

Along with new ways to research and market homes come new ways to buy and sell them.

  • Trend #6: Online brokerages

The online-only trend doesn’t just stop at walkthroughs … these days, companies like Reali operate real estate brokerages entirely online.

As technology advances have made information more readily available to the interested public, traditional realties have seen an overall decrease in commissions.

There are two things real estate agents can do … find a way to redefine their role in the market, and/or find a way to do more transactions.

As new business models facilitated by technology emerge, it’s your job to consider how you’ll re-position yourself to maintain your value proposition.

Although your position and tasks may change over time, your income doesn’t have to change if you adapt.

  • Trend #7: Crowdfunding

When it comes to buying and financing real estate, new lending models have proved a big disruption to a major industry … the banking world.

In particular, crowdfunding and peer-to-peer marketing allow people to exchange money without utilizing banks at all.

Instead, buyers and sellers can come together without a middleman.

Refiguring traditional ‘rules’ for a changing world

It’s easy to fall asleep and miss the little ripples technology makes in the real estate world … but we think it’s more fun to stay awake and watch them turn into waves.

If you want to be active and efficient in a slow market, NOW is the time to make your move.

That way, you’ll have a competitive advantage when you really need it.

In a constantly changing world, it’s YOUR job to rework the rules.

  • Trend #8: Nomadic workers

While workers are still flocking to big companies in overcrowded cities, on the other end of the spectrum, technology has enabled many folks to work nomadically.

For more people than ever before, it’s possible to work wherever the heck you want.

How is this trend a disruption? It forces sellers to look beyond local buyers and consider the amenities that will draw nomadic workers to an area.

If investors take this trend into account, they may find demand in places they never would have suspected otherwise.

A changing world requires you to consider so much more than just the roof you put over tenants’ heads. You have to look at the bigger picture.

  • Trend #9: Cryptocurrencies

Last, but not least, we find the rising cryptocurrency trend of the past few decades intriguing.

There are over 2,000 cryptocurrencies … and in markets with unstable (or even potentially unstable) currency, investors often find cryptocurrencies a logical option.

In our constantly evolving world, there’s so much to think about!

It’s YOUR job as investor to avoid being complacent … to stay aware so you can counter disturbances before they arise … or even better, turn them to your advantage.

Coming up on the radio show, our best ideas on how to navigate when there are storm clouds on the horizon.

Until then, 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.

Brian Buffini On Success And Future Of Real Estate Agents

Brian Buffini Success Tour


Real estate investors and their real estate agents have a symbiotic relationship. They need each other to thrive. Few know this better than Brian Buffini.

Today, both investors and their agents face challenges and opportunities created by technology, economic cycles and demographic shifts – just to name a few!

In this episode, we look at real estate investing through the eyes of a man who’s trained more real estate agents worldwide than anyone else. Plus, he’s a lifelong investor and a great American success story.

So tune in to be enlightened and inspired as Brian Buffini shares lessons from his life as an investor, agent, trainer and entrepreneur.

Discussing the symbiotic relationship between real estate agents and real estate investors:

  • Your experienced real estate agent, investor and show host, Robert Helms
  • His grateful for the great mentors co-host, Russell Gray
  • The Godfather of Real Estate, Bob Helms
  • Master Real Estate Agent Trainer, Brian Buffini




Broadcasting since 1997 with over 300 episodes on iTunes!

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(Show Transcript)



Robert Helms: Welcome to the Real Estate Guys Radio Program – I’m your host, Robert Helms. Joining us this week, as usual, co-host and financial strategist Russell Gray –

Russell Gray: Hey Robert –

Robert Helms: And the man we call the Godfather of real estate – he’s been investing in real estate in 7 different decades – Bob Helms –

Bob Helms: Good morning, guys! Great to see you both!

Robert Helms: Yes indeed! We’re here in beautiful San Diego, California. Always a great place to come and super excited because our guest today hails from this part of the country, and it just so happened that our schedules came together – and we’ll tell you all about him before we introduce him, but – we’re talking today about the role of the real estate agent; we are very pro professional.


Avoiding the “Discount Agent”

You hear a lot of folks that say that you can save the commission if you don’t use a real estate agent. Or, here’s the thing – here’s how you negotiate – none of that. We are all about loyalty, getting great agents in the market you’re in, and sticking with them – because a great agent never costs you money; they make you money.

Russell Gray: Well I mean if you think about it, if you had a major health issue – brain surgery, heart surgery, cancer – something like that – do you want the cheapest doctor? Do you want the least motivated professional? Or do you want the person who can charge a premium, because they’re great at what they do?

I mean, at the end of the day, price doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re getting the best, but most of the time the best don’t work cheap.

If you think about the amount of money you’re going to make on a piece of real estate over the lifetime of ownership, one or two percentage points on the front end is inconsequential. And if that’s the difference between success or failure in your deal, you don’t have a deal.

Robert Helms: Well, not only that – you want your agent to have the gumption to get up every day and the incentive to work with you. Right, Bob? You sold real estate for 1,000 years – and there’s certain clients that you would be happy to take their call, and there’s other folks that you see their name on your cell phone and you go I think I’m busy right now.

Bob Helms: I know I’m busy right now – it’s just a matter of anticipating who you’re going to work with, your reputation precedes you. You only get one. You need to take care of it, and you need to make sure that the people you pay aren’t all about discounting.

Discounting is a terrible, terrible burden to pay, because you don’t get what you think you’re getting with people that discount. I want to pay people extra – not short – because I want them to earn it.


The Business of Relationships

Robert Helms: Such an interesting mindset, you know. I always tell people that you should ask the agent if they’ll take less, and if they do, then don’t use that agent – because if they’re going to cave in on their commission the minute you meet them, what’s going to happen when they’re negotiating on your behalf?

There’s a lot to be said for developing great relationships. And of course, this is a relationship business.

If you’ve heard the show a lot, you’ve heard us harp on that – but we’re in the business of relationships, and one of your primary teammates is your agent.

Now, if you’re a real estate investor, you may have more than one agent – and that’s because you have more than one product type, or more than one marketplace. If I’m buying property in two states, then even legally I need two different agents.

What you don’t want is two or three agents in the same market competing. It sounds like a good idea – I’m going to get three agents working for me, and that’ll really get them motivated to – who can bring me the best deal.

That’s the worst way to motivate an agent. In fact, you want to develop a loyalty relationship so that you’re the one – you’re on their short list – they call when they get a great deal.

Russell Gray: You know I think it really comes down to understanding what the real estate agent is going to do for you. What you’re really doing is you’re buying into a network.

This is somebody who’s taken the time to go out into a community and to get to know that community – to build a brand – to build a reputation – you know, they talk about farming and real estate – the idea that a real estate agent – and anybody listening to this probably has that going on.

They’re getting solicitations in their mailbox, and they’re having people knock on their doors and hang fliers and things – there are people who work certain geographies, and they begin to build up their reputation. After a while, people begin to trust them – and so when it comes time to list their property, they’re going to do business with that person.

If you want to have the opportunity to find that deal – the guy that controls the inventory – you’ve got to have the guy who has that brand – who has that reputation. Really, that’s what you’re hiring.

Sometimes we forget – we think, “Oh, we’re just going to hire somebody to manage my transaction.”

Your relationship with your agent is so much bigger than that – that’s why I’m really excited to hear from today’s guest – because Brian is just the king of going out and building that brand and building that network and creating those relationships with the community to where you have access.

As a real estate investor, I’m looking for the person who’s got control of the inventory, so I can be at the top of the list in terms of when that good deal shows up.


Building Referrals is Key

Bob Helms: Well, great real estate agents bring a lot more to the table than just experience. Experience is urgent – it’s necessary – but much more important is their attitude.

It’s where they come from. They’re looking for referrals; they want to get them and give them. You only get that on one basis – as our guest today will say.

You have to earn it. It has to be an important part of who you are, and how you go about that. If I’m interested in maintaining – keeping – a client, I’ve got to take good care of that client. It doesn’t take a lot, but surprisingly a lot of people never bother to do it.

Robert Helms: You know, naturally, Bob, I think – looking back at the time we sold real estate together – you just did that. I mean, you weren’t trained to go get referrals; you just had a genuine interest in people, you did a great job for them, and they did what people do when you do a great job for them.

They worked with you again, they told their friends, they told their neighbors – and you built a referral based business – without a handbook or a training course.

Bob Helms: Well if you look at what happens if you’re not that attentive, and you’re not paying attention – it’s called, you don’t get any referrals. As a matter of fact, you do a transaction as an agent – and you think you did a pretty good job.

But the question happens – now what? Did they call you the next time around? Did you continue to touch them? Did you continue to be somebody who was delivering service to them?

And many agents are shocked when not only did they not get a referral – they didn’t get the next deal directly from that client, and it’s just a weakness in the system.

And it’s so easy to overcome – if you pay attention, you can do all the business you want to do.

Robert Helms: It’s amazing – and the worst thing that happens as a real estate agent is when you drive by a house that you sold, and someone else’s sign is in the yard. That tells you you’re not doing the job.

So how is it that you as an investor find the right agent? How do you keep the right agent? How do you change agents when you need to? Those are all things we’ll be talking about today.

When we come back, you’ll meet our guest. Many years ago, we had a chance to go to a seminar given by this gentleman, and I had been in real estate already many years. We were quite successful; top 1% of our company – but he blew me away with the simple idea of asking for the referral, and building the business.

Today, Brian Buffini has trained more than 3 million agents in more than 35 countries, and he’s going to share some wisdom with us.


Background on Brian Buffini and the Buffini Company

Robert Helms: Please welcome to The Real Estate Guys radio program the amazing Brian Buffini. How are you sir?

Brian Buffini: I’m great. Thanks Robert – thanks for having me.

Robert Helms: Oh, absolutely. You know, we haven’t seen each other in quite a while. I went to your amazing one day event, and then went to the turning point in Monterey – just the end of our real estate career, if you will, and I have to say you worked me out of a job.

Brian Buffini: Great. (laughter)

Robert Helms: We took what you taught, and really embraced that, and did extremely well – and today, we don’t sell real estate. Happily, we spend our time investing in real estate instead.

But what’s amazing – and if you will, because our audience, I’m not sure, is clued into what you do – but your story’s amazing. You didn’t start in San Diego. You started in Ireland. How’d you get here?

Brian Buffini: Well I – born and raised in Dublin, Ireland. I came to America in 1986 on a vacation. I had two very specific goals – I wanted to get a suntan, and meet sun tanned girls.

Robert Helms: Alright!

Brian Buffini: And so I ended up – I’m still kind of pasty, and I married a black girl, so it didn’t quite pan out the way I was hoping, you know?

So I came out here – I was selling t-shirts on the beach – down and off of Pacific Beach, off a cart. I actually was moving $50,000 worth of t-shirts and sweatshirts a month, so it was pretty good.

So I always liked to sell, and while I was here, about three weeks before I was going home to Ireland, I got in a motorcycle accident. I got broadsided by a car, and I was in and out of the hospital for the next two years. $252,000 in medical bills and expenses, 19 years old, 7,000 miles away from home, and my family was pretty poor – you know, didn’t have a lot of money.

So, I found myself in that spot. And so, when you have no money, when you’re totally broke, you don’t know anybody, and you don’t have any discernible skills, the obvious choice is real estate.

Robert Helms: Yes.

Brian Buffini: So that’s what I did. And so I dove right in. And while I got my license, the first home I ever bought – I bought myself. And I had – I had no money, back in the day – this is 1987 – the beginning of ’87.

And – one page contract, used three credit cards – which I wouldn’t advise today – but I was a painter’s son, so I knew how to fix and work with properties. And I spent $14,822, and the reason I know that is because I had $15,000 on the credit cards.

Robert Helms: Wow.

Brian Buffini: Bought a house for $106,000 – and put 14+ grand into it, sold it for $169,000. And so that was my first transaction.

After that, that was kind of the path I was on, where I later developed a methodology, as you know, for developing referrals as a real estate agent, but I also never lost – and have never lost my pension for buying and investing in real estate. In fact, when I leave here today, I’m going to go put a deal together. So, real estate’s been very, very good to me.

Within the next three years, I was debt-free, thanks to both owning real estate and selling real estate as an agent. And within the year after that I was the number 5 real estate agent in the state of California – the year after that I was number 5 real estate agent in the country. By 26 years of age, I owned $6 million worth of real estate, and I was selling 100 homes a year.

You know, from that point on, that was the foundation from which I eventually built what is now Buffini Company – the largest coaching and training company in the world.

Brian Buffini referrals

And we train not just realtors, but business people all over the world now. But it was from that foundation – and I still love real estate. I still train real estate agents. I still own real estate. I still buy real estate – I’m not a big fan of selling real estate – I’m a big fan of holding onto real estate – that’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.

Robert Helms: Awesome. Good stuff. Well, not everyone makes the transition from success in the business to mentoring – and really, the idea of that – what you did was successful, now how can I share that with other people? How did that part of the business come about?

Brian Buffini: What happens in real estate, as you know, is that people go to conferences and conventions all the time, because it’s either that or work. So, hey, there’s somebody coming to town with a free seminar – let me do that.

So there was a number of conferences and speakers and events around, and I eventually – you know, I was the top salesman for Remax, for example.

So they brought me in and they asked me to sit on a panel. And I would share a very simple process of how I developed trust with my customers, how I exceeded their expectations, and how I got them to send me referrals, and why I was selling 100 homes a year.

And all of my business was referral; I had 0 advertising budget. I would finish this panel, and there’d be 500 people in the room, and it seemed like 490 of them were standing in line to talk to me and going, how do you do this? How do you this? How do you do – that sounds like me. I want to have – I want to take care of my customers. I want to do a great job for people. And most do.

But the industry was teaching cold call, door knocking, you know, the lead trainer at the time had a phrase – “Find ’em, fleece ’em, and forget ’em.” So what I was talking about was somewhat contrary to that.

Robert Helms: Yeah.

Brian Helms: And so I did a number – for two years, I volunteered at least one day a month that I would speak, whether they were seminar speakers, or real estate conferences that I would get requested – and I would do that.

And it was my way of giving back to the industry. But I’m also a businessman – and after two years, and my phone is blowing up, and people are sending me letters and emails, I go, you know, I think I might do this.

Robert Helms: Yeah

Brian Buffini: And I wasn’t going to do it on a grand scale – I decided I was going to do it here in San Diego. So on February 14th, 20 years ago, 1996, I held an event that I promoted in three weeks – and I’d just sent out a letter – a fax [laughter] – to all of the people I’d done a transaction with, and I said, hey – a lot of times people have asked me, hey, how do I do what I do? And so on and so forth. I’m going to come and share with you. And I did a free seminar, right here in Mission Valley, San Diego. And 460 people showed up.

It was probably to this day – and we’ve done over 2,000 seminars – it’s probably the most meaningful event I ever had, because it was all people who knew me, who I had done business with, and I had established a relationship with.

And they were like, I’m here because I watched you, and I’ve watched you do your craft. I’ve watched you – how you’ve treated me. You know, I would send every agent I was ever on a transaction with – I would send that agent a personal note, during the transaction, and after the transaction. I believed in a cooperating spirit.

It was never – we could negotiate and be tough in a negotiation, but it was always about working for our clients and being pros. And so that first event – some of the top pros in San Diego said, “man, you’re on to something”.

And so I gathered a few guys together and we started, and we said all right, maybe we’ll do a few more of these. Within 12 months, we were seeing 3 to 4,000 people every month. Our events were sold out all over the country. Companies came and sponsored the events. I built a coaching program, and a training program.

Then, every time someone had a need – I never said oh I’m going to build this product and sell it to people – every time they said, “Man, I really need help with this – ” and we’d ask them why, and we’d give them ideas, and we’d give them all of our stuff for free, and then we ended up systemizing it.

So, today, we have 15,000 members that are in a coaching relationship with us. They sell 1 out of every 8 homes in the United States, and 1 out of every 7 homes in Canada.

We have a couple hundred staff up the coast here that are great coaches and mentors and trainers that provide all of the resources these folks need. I think, when you try to provide – when you try to make a buck, and everybody should make a buck – we’re all capitalists here – but I think when you try to make a buck, you’ll end up stuck always trying to make a buck. But if you try to fill a need, you have a chance to build a business.

brian buffini work by referral

But if you meet the need, and then really are genuinely interested in the person on the other side of the need, now you create advocates.

Our company grew, at one stage, no less than 40% a year for 10 consecutive years, as today without a single dollar of advertising. We’re a $50 million a year business today that has no advertising budget.

We have a lot of advocates. We have a lot of people who believe in what we do, it’s helped them, and then they tell their friends. I know it’s kind of quaint, but doing the right thing, in the right way for the right motives, produces the right results. You can be a good guy and win.

Robert Helms: It’s what Jim Rohn would call enlightened self-interest. So capitalist for sure, but if you’re not providing value – and I love the – I don’t want to miss this nuance – we talked at the start of the show about how important the relationship is between a client – a home buyer/seller/investor, and their agent. But it’s bigger than that, right?

We often say that this is not a business of competition. It’s a business of cooperation. Sure, we might go up against each other on a listing every now and then, but more often than not, agents need each other to provide inventory.

So this idea of not only is the relationship with the client – but with the other agent – that’s gold right there.

Brian Buffini: Well, it gets to probably three different things, right? There’s 1.25 million realtors in the United States. There’s another double that amount for number the people with a license, see. So there’s 2 and a half million real estate licenses running around the United States.

The challenge is, if you get into the transaction – and again, this is – you have new agents, and so on and so forth. But if you get into a transaction with someone who’s desperate – you get into a transaction – Ben Franklin said, “It’s hard for an empty purse to stand upright.”

So what happens then is, everything’s a panic. Everything’s a freak show. It’s three days before the closing, a storm comes through, you get the call at 8 o’clock at night, the fence fell down – the fence fell down. They’re freaked out, they’re panicked – I told the seller I’d pay half, I told them you’d pay the other half. Those are the kind of calls where I say, “I’m sorry, I have a bad connection” – you know?

But a lot of agents are coming from a place of desperation. Last year – and the National Association of Realtors doesn’t want this coming out – but the average sales agent in the United States last year made about $35,000 – gross commissions. Now when you get a NAR number, they include broker revenue in there.

So if you get a sales agent who grossed $35,000 and then has to pay their broker split, and whatever else, it says the average agent in the United States last year took home 20 grand.

Now here’s the thing – if you’re dealing with someone who’s making 20 grand a year, and there’s a $5- or a $10,000 commission on the table, they’re pretty desperate. And so that’s part of the challenge. And so, you know, God’s created all people equal, but not all realtors are equal.


Look for the Real Professionals

Brian Buffini: What you’re looking for are the pro’s. If you’re a pro, you want to be a pro. And I don’t care – we work with new agents all the time.

We have a new agent training program that the average new agent sells 12 homes in their first 16 weeks of real estate. That’s a great start to a career. But their fundamentals – they are professionally sound. They are taught what to do and how to do – how to serve the customer – how to build a database.

If you’re looking for an agent and it’s – ok, they’re the cheapest; you guys were talking about this – they’re the most available – they might be the most problematic. And so that’s the agent that’s freaked out during the transaction. You want someone who’s a pro. You want someone who’s a rock.

You want someone who says, “You know what, Robert, I’ve got to be honest with you. I don’t think you should buy this one. I don’t think you should buy this one, because I don’t think you’re going to get out of this one.”

The amount of people I’ve told in my career I’ve told in my career not to buy, or, “You know, I don’t think now’s a good time to sell, for you, based on your needs.” You can do that. It’s hard for an empty purse to stand upright – the full purse can look someone in the eye and say, “You know what, maybe not now. Because I’m more interested in a relationship.”


Respecting Your Client – A Top Priority for Being Professional

One of my top clients in my whole life was a real estate investor. And I was – here I am, I’m 19 years of age, I’m doing an open house, in a drive by community in San Diego, ok? And I’m not talking about pizza, ok. This lady walks in the door – she’s about 5 foot tall, about 250 pounds, a little Mexican lady – Anna Deleon. She has sauce down the front of her shirt. She walks in, I say, “Hello, how are you doing?”

We walk through the house. She asks a lot of good questions – some I didn’t know – and I said, “You know, I don’t know the answer – but I’m going to find out.”

I followed up with her. I got her her answers. I wrote her a note to thank her. I followed up a week later, “Hey, did you have any questions, so on and so forth.”

She goes, “You. You come to my house. You come to my house, tonight.” So I go to her house that night.

She goes, “Here’s the house I want to buy.” A house I hadn’t seen.

She goes, “Do you have an offer?” Now I had you know done two or three deals at this stage. I pulled out the contract. She kind of helps me through writing out the contract. Anna Deleon bought 10 homes – one for each of her grandchildren.

Now I didn’t have the courage until about the third sale to ask her, why in the hell she was talking to me. Cause I was 19. I obviously didn’t have as much experience to share. She said this – she goes, “I go to these houses all the time – the cars, and the nice BMW in the driveway. You followed up with me. You treated me with respect. You always showed eagerness.”

And she said, “When you told me that you didn’t know the answer, and then you found out the answer, I trusted you.” That woman taught me the real estate business. She taught me how to be a real estate investor.

She made me a fortune. I was actually the executor for her estate years later, and I didn’t know how much real estate she owned, but she owned a lot – a lot of real estate. Buying, holding, built herself a fortune – bought every one of her grandkids a house.

She’s walking in open houses, and the realtors wouldn’t give her the time of day, because she was a heavy set Mexican lady with spaghetti sauce on her shirt.


Trends in Technology, and Millennials in the Market

Robert Helms: Great, great lesson there. People shouldn’t judge, but they do. And if you will instead treat every client as though they had the potential to be your best client, amazing things will happen for you.

Well, Brian, you sit in a really interesting seat, because you have 15,000 agents across the world, plus people that come to trainings – and that’s just the members, right?

So you kind of have your pulse on what’s happening on the agent side. And as we’re seeing huge changes in technology, potential changes in the market, conflicting information about where the economy’s going, we’re in an election year – let’s talk about the things you see have changed for the real estate profession.

Brian Buffini: Well I’ve done 15 major media interviews in the last 40 days. And so we’ve been on a little bit of a blitz. For a reason.

Brian Buffini: And because every one of these – whether it’s CNN Money, or Money Magazine, or whoever else we’ve done this interview with – they all have two questions. Tech, tech, tech – and the Millennials are coming. And the Millennials are coming. It’s like the Russians are coming. The Millennials are coming.

A great example is I had this interview with a gal from CNN Money, and she’s just blasting away. She’s like, “the real estate business needs interruption. The real estate business is about to get Uber-ized.” Because this was the theme of her story.

“Real estate agents are a thing of the past, and by the way there’s 80 million Millennials – there’s far more than the Baby Boomers – and Millennials don’t pay for anything.”

And she’s going on, and she has her position, and I’m like, “Look, I’m in this business 30 years so I’ll give you my best. But she’s blazing away – blazing away. So finally I said – we were not seeing eye to eye – but so finally, I asked her this question. I go, Can I ask – can we stop on this for a second – kind of stopped the interview. And I said, “Do you own a home?”

Silence. So I go, “Hmmm. Are you looking for a home right now?”

She goes, “Yeah.”

“I thought you were.” I said, “Are you a Millennial?”

“Yes I am.”

I said, “Are you using technology and apps to search for properties and look?” I go, “Great, let me just walk you through this.” I said, “I’m just going to give you the top 10 things that can go wrong on a real estate transaction.” I go, “This is just the highlights – this is not down into the weeds.”

I started going through, from appraisals, to the negotiations, to the home inspections, to the title report, to the financing – that underwriters really don’t go to heaven – all of these different things – and we go through all of these different – and I said, “Look, this is just the tip on the iceberg.”

Now I said, “You’re a Millennial. Just to give you a little context on that. Millennials represent about a third of the buyers – but they only represent one of the sellers. Can I ask you this question? You’re looking for a home, you want to do it yourself and trust your app – here are the 10 things that are going to wrong. I’ve done thousands of real estate transactions and something happened on every one of them where the stuff hit the fan.”

And I go, “Let me ask you this question – a couple things. If you go and find this property – you’re a Millennial, right? You don’t believe in paying for anything,” I said, “What are you paying for? The seller pays the commission in real estate.”

So I go, “Where is that to start with?” I go, secondly, “Don’t you want someone to hold your hand and walk you through the minefield of all these things that are going to go wrong?” I go, “Let me just tell you this – there’s a commercial that says there’s an app for this – let me tell you, there’s not an app for when the stuff hits the fan, and you need to walk through the details of a real estate transaction.

That’s where you need a person – a skilled pro who has knowledge, who has expertise, and has the personal character to care enough about you to put your interests first, and walk you through it – because they get their jollies from seeing you moving into that home and handing you the keys.”

I go, “That’s the deal.” And I go, “So if you think that’s going to be outsourced to some app,” I go, “maybe.” But I said, “I’ll say this. The statistics don’t bear out.”

I said, “They’ve been keeping track of for sale by owner statistics since 1970. We have more technology than ever before. We have more resources than ever before, and last year – 2015 – was the lowest number of for sale by owner since they kept history. Ever. Since they kept a record of it.

Robert Helms: Do you remember when the MLS came out, and it was supposed to be public? And agents were freaking out, because we had the book to start with, and then we had the 300 bod dumb terminal, and we had the information – and we thought, the minute we give that to the public – we’re done – this business is over. Realtors are more important than ever before today for the reasons you just said.


Competition Creates Opportunities; What Competition is doing for Real Estate

Robert Helms: Hey, let’s talk about what’s happening on the other side of the business which is that, competition in any business creates a great opportunity for the consumer to have choice, but it also changes the nature of the game. Right?

Take your business. When we were heading into the hot real estate market back in ’05/’06, I remember going to one of your big events – things were huge. There were a lot of people in your business.

When the downturn came – not so many people in your business. So, today, what are you seeing from that perspective – the competition and what that is doing for the real estate community.

Brian Buffini: Well, I believe competition makes everybody better. And efficiency gets driven through the market.

That’s one of the things that technology does. I mean, I’m an American by choice – I’m an American citizen, but I bleed green still – so I still have a little bit of a stranger in a strange land perspective. And I see this with Americans particularly – which is, a fascination with technology, and almost an abdication to it: “Oh my God, this is going to do this. This thing is going to water my lawn and do my dishes for me.”

The truth is that technology makes things more efficient. Like you were talking about, the MLS books. Well, now it’s on a person’s phone with Zillow.

I used to be lost, most of my career, trying to use Thomas’ Brothers map. And now, I’ve got Siri telling me, “turn left Brian – you’re lost”. I mean, I think I would have sold twice as many homes, honest to God, if I’d have had GPS. It makes things fantastic.

And there’s a neat thing online if you check it out called “The Evolution of the Desk,” and it shows the desk in 1980, and the desk today. And what the efficiencies that technology brings to the table. So, what are we watching in real estate? What are we watching in the world?

I used to go travel all over the world – get out, get a cab. You never knew what you were getting, who you were getting, what language they spoke, or where they were taking you – is it the shortest route? The longest route? And am I going to get mugged at the end of it?

Now along comes Uber. Now Uber, they do the technology. It’s on your phone. They show the little car’s coming, and it’s a clean, black car, yada yada. Now, the Uber driver – he has abdicated the lead generation part of his business to Uber. So because of that, he has to pay Uber 25%.

You have to count the cost. Uber doesn’t own any cars, they don’t hire any drivers, they don’t pay a lot of expenses; they generate leads. They’ve brought something more to the market. That technology has made it better – it’s better for the consumer. There are technologies and processes in real estate today that are more efficient for both the consumer and for the agent.


brian buffini on real estate apps like Zillow


So, for example – I’ll give you an example with Zillow. Zillow is for realtors – realtors really have some mixed emotions about Zillow. And one of the reasons for it, is that a lot of the information is not that accurate. You know, they’re off by square footage – it’s available, it’s unavailable – so on and so forth. But let me share with you this – consumers love it. Love it.

Consumers don’t care if it has hardwood floors or doesn’t have floors or marble – they’re just looking. It gets you.

You know, the folks that used to be the nosy neighbors, now you actually get to find out – you know that house you have no business going in, because you don’t qualify to even drive up the driveway? You get to check it all out. Consumers love it.

So, the “Zillows” of the world – and there’s many of these now – have created far more interest in real estate. They’ve created far more exposure to real estate. But here’s what we’ve found. 92% of people start their search online – 89% of those who start their search online get an endorsed professional – they get a referral. By the way, with Millennials, it’s higher; people think Millennials are different. Millennials are actually more committed to old school referrals than Baby Boomers.

Millennials are the first generation to grow up with the infomercial as part of their DNA. They watched it as children. They’re immune to sales pitches.

So the old realtor who goes, “Come into office for 20 minutes – I need to see you.” You’re not getting the Millennial into the office. You’re going to have to meet them at a coffee shop. The dynamic is 1) they are far more educated, 2) they have a great frame of reference, so they know a good deal when they see it, and then 3) they’re looking for someone they can trust when the opportunity arises.

Now, I will say this to you; that I believe the future of real estate – and we train 200,000 realtors in the US and Canada alone every year. I’ll say this. What you’re going to see, is an increased pressure on commissions.

What I actually believe you’ll see – people have been saying for years that the real estate agent’s going out of business – the real estate agent is going nowhere. The pressure is going to be at the real estate brokerage level. And it’s the real estate brokerage that’s getting squeezed. And that’s where – that model is what’s actually getting interrupted. The old brick and mortar office. 

84% of realtors who are affiliated with a brick and mortar office, now consider their primary office their home. Because, we used to have to come into the office – examine the microfiche – ok? Like James Bond. Now I’ve got everything I need on my phone.


Technology Increasing Effectiveness and Efficiency

I interviewed Neil Armstrong, years ago, at one of our events. He said he went to the moon with less technology in the cockpit of Apollo 11 than was on my cell phone.

brian buffini on millenials using iphone

So now, the technology and the speed of the information – the ability to communicate – Docusign – my Gosh, if Docusign had been around in my early days – my wife wouldn’t have known how many properties we would have bought. That’s all I have to say. The fact that I had to have a discussion about every time I wanted to buy an investment property – they eliminated – but Docusign, “honey, you’re on file!”. You know?

So, it’s made things more efficient – made things more effective. You guys did a great job of talking about value today – talked about not getting the discounted broker and so on and so forth.

But I would say this – I believe commission pressure is a thing of the future. I think realtors need to have a long term perspective.

If you have listeners that are buying multiple properties, then a realtor should take a look at it as a business arrangement, and should say, this is a bulk deal arrangement.

If you’re Suzy homeowner and you’re not buying another home for 10 years, you’ve got to pay the freight. But if you’re going to buy – do a deal with me every quarter, or whatever else – we’ve got to look at a different arrangement.

Now I would also say – and to support what you guys said earlier on – is a lot of times investors – they’re watching the dimes and counting the pennies, and they need to, because you’ve got to be careful to make money on real estate.

But, on the way out, you’ve got to realize that the average real estate agent sells a home for 14% higher than someone selling it for themselves. And so, their commission is more than covered – because of their ability to promote and market.

They’re going to get multiple offers – multiple people interested – and more people means more interest, more interest means it sells quicker and faster at a higher price.

So, I do believe there’s going to be more pressure in the marketplace for realtors. It might not be, “Oh, I’m going to sell it for 3% or 4%.” It might be, “I’m going to give you $1,000 off,” or “I’m going to do this,” or “I’m going to do that,” or “I’ll help with this closing cost,” or whatever.

But I think the other side is – you want to make sure you’re working with a real pro, because they’re going to make you more money than they cost you.

Robert Helms: You know in any business, as efficiencies come in, and it becomes easier to do the business, then it’s fine that the previous model changes. I don’t think there’s any objection to an agent saying, “Well I’m stuck on a figure,” right?

I mean, commissions are negotiable, by law. And it’s really – you go to different marketplaces, and there are different practices. We’re in a lot of international markets where commissions are 10% typically. It’s like, “Wow!”

We often say, “Yeah just so you guys know if you decide to buy in this country, typically the agents get paid 10%.” And an agent will pipe up and say, “Yeah, and we haven’t had a raise in 10 years.”

But, if I can do – as an agent – if I can do more business, if I can reach more people, and if I can do it more efficiently, then shouldn’t the cost come down for everybody? So it’s not getting – you’ve got to get your mind around – doing more business and having your bottom line increase is more important than what the gross commission is.

Brian Buffini: Well, I just think the future is this – you’re going to see a smaller amount of realtors doing a higher amount of business. That’s just the way it is. And you’re going to see an awful lot of agents who do a very small percentage. That continues on. I mean, when somebody says to me, “How big is your market?”

I’ll have consultants come in and they’ll say, “How big is the market in the United States?”  

And I say, “It’s 400,000 agents.”

And they go, “No, there’s almost a million three agents…” and I go, “No, there’s a million three people who are affiliated with the National Association of Realtors who have a license, but they’re not my customer.”

They’re not my customer. My target is the 400,000 people who’ve made this their career, who are solid pro’s, who get it done, who make a good living at it, and who might need to improve their skills – get better, have a better quality of life – we can help them with that.

Robert Helms: Now Brian, I know we do have listeners who are in the profession, and in case someone’s interested in finding out what you guys do in terms of coaching, and your programs, and your amazing live events – what’s the best way for them to find that out?

Brian Buffini: Go to – they’ll find everything they need to know, live events. We have teams of people.

I think I’ll do 8 live events this year, but the company probably puts on 50. And so, we have a team of coaches, trainers, and everything in between. Our marketing that we provide for agents goes to 1.5 million homes every month. So, we ring the bell for a lot of people.

Robert Helms: And it’s amazing stuff – I’ll tell you. We didn’t really get into that part of your business. But if you’re in the business – whether you’re a lender, a real estate agent professional, even an affiliated person – like title company and all those folks – check it out. It really did a ton for our business last year selling retail. So, great, great stuff. Great to have you on the program, finally!

Brian Buffini: My pleasure. You guys are doing a fantastic job.

Robert Helms: Thank you, sir.


Show Recap

That’s Brian Buffini from beautiful San Diego California – amazing to hear from Brian Buffini.

Russel: Oh, absolutely. The guy’s an icon in the business. It reminds me of the first time I met Tom Hopkins – and of course, Tom’s a little bit longer in the tooth, but these guys are legends in the business.

And even if you’re out there listening and you’ve never heard of either one of them, I think the thing that you need to understand is that they’ve affected you. There are people out there who have conducted transactions on your behalf that have been trained by these guys.

What I love in both cases – with Tom and his sales ability – very excited to spend time with Tom on the Investors Summit at Sea coming up, but with Brian, and just his whole concept of building your network, working through referrals, and taking care of the customer first. All of those things that he was talking about, is so powerful – because it translates not just into real estate – right?

I came out of the mortgage business. Many of my mortgage reps were using Brian Buffini’s training. They made me a lot of money. Brian Buffini made me a lot of money; and that’s awesome.

But you know, we teach syndicators. You just got done talking about The Secrets of Successful Syndication.

At that seminar, one of the major things that people learn how to do in the syndication business – because even though the new laws have been passed – and it’s possible to advertise – syndication – raising private money – is very much a business about networking.

And if you don’t know how to network – and it’s a skill – if you don’t know how to network, some people are gifted in naturally, like Bob here – right? But if you think that it’s something that people are just born into – it’s not that way. It is a skill – it’s a learnable skill – and there’s nobody – and there’s nobody better at teaching it than Brian Buffini.

Robert Helms: This is what’s great – when you talk about advertising for syndication – yeah, we had shows on that – that’s wonderful. Real estate agents have been able to advertise for a long time. And they have. And who gets the business? Do you pick a realtor by their ad? Or by a relationship?

The great agents who service their clients well – it’s not that they’re trying to figure out how to get a referral – it occurs naturally.

What Brian does is he helps people in that process. You may have a great heart to help people, and you may do great business as a real estate agent, and those of us that have investment property – we want a great agent like that. That doesn’t necessarily mean they have the skills or the tools to get the word out. It’s going to happen – but it can happen much better if you have a program, and a system.

Of course, just the fact that we have so much in common – I was sitting here just thinking man, we have so much in common with this guy, at so many levels. And just a really great opportunity to hear about his takes on the business, because he does have this perspective of training a couple hundred thousand agents a year, and coaching 15,000 agents – that’s a lot of agents!

Bob Helms: There’s not a lot of people I know who are better connected to the real estate space – and he’s been doing it for years. The thing about him is that he’s so consistent. He has the skills and the tools, and he’s compassionate. But, he understands what makes it work is to deliver. You have to deliver what your client needs. If you do that consistently, you won’t have any shortage of business; you’ll have all the business you can handle.

Robert Helms: So as an investor, as we kind of wrap up, I think there are some things to take away from this show that are critical. One is that your relationship with your professionals is critical. You’re the executive producer; you’re the quarterback of your implementation team on real estate investing.

You’ve got to find sharp folks. You’ve got to find the types of agents that will get up early, stay late, sniff out deals, and bring them to you. But it’s a two way street.

Russell Gray: Well, yeah. Certainly it is. We talk all the time about how one of the great ways you can tip somebody in your vendor circle – the people who are providing you services – is to give them a referral. It doesn’t cost you anything except the risk that you take that they don’t do a great job. But if you believe in them, and they’ve done a good job, and you want to say thank you, you don’t always have to write a bigger check – right? Sometimes it’s just giving them the referral – giving them your influence – and that’s really the point, right?

He talks about teaching real estate agents how to – and business professionals in general – how to build their brand – how to build their worth – their value – by growing their network; the number of people that know them, like them, trust them, and know that they’re in the business – right?

Well, you can do the same thing as a real estate investor – and you should, because every single service provider that you work with is plugged into a whole network of people that you don’t know – and that’s all part of the deal flow.

That’s all part of access to intellectual capital – people who know how to get things done – and it’s all part of your growing your network, because of the 6th degrees of separation concept; the idea that somebody knows somebody who knows somebody who knows that person that has exactly got the right answer or the right resource that you need to solve your problem or advance your agenda.

So, learning how to master the art of networking and building your business through referral is something that applies to everybody listening to the show, no matter what you do for a living – investor, real estate professional – business of any kind.

Bob Helms: Somebody who is really good at referrals does a lot more than simply give you the name of an agent somewhere. I could pick maybe 6 agents that I could send you to. What I want is for you to have the outcome you want. So I can’t just give you a name; I’ve got to do enough work to make sure that they have the tools, the skills, and are a good match for you, or else there’s no reason to make that referral.

Robert Helms: Yeah, so just make sure as you’re out there, and you’re looking for ages and marketplaces, that the best place to go is for a referral. You’re going to search out a great agent or a marketplace, and then the other side of it – be that referring person, as well. Oh by the way – Brian’s a great guy, as well.

If you haven’t yet done so, there’s plenty of time for you to register for the 14th annual Investor Summit at Sea 2016.

Excited about this. It’s just right around the corner. But you do have to move – there’s time, but there’s just not a lot of time because we’re down to a few cabins. It’s going to be absolutely extraordinary. We’ve G. Edward Griffin – the author of The Creature from Jekyll Island coming; Tom Hopkins coming back with us for his third year; and also, joining us for his third year, the amazing Robert Kiyosaki.

You can get all the details on our website and click on events. Big thanks to Brian Buffini for sharing his wisdom. Until next week, go out and make some equity happen.


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How Google Glass Could Revolutionize Real Estate Sales

As Google Glass prepares to move from testing into production, real estate agents and app designers are excited about its potential to revolutionize home buying. Trulia announced an early app in June, and other real estate websites such as Zillow soon followed. Just as the Internet revolutionized home selling by helping buyers view listings and get estimates, Google Glass enhances this capability by adding a portable, hands-free view and interface. Basically, anything a smartphone or tablet can do for real estate buying, Google Glass can do potentially better. (Photo by tedeytan via Flickr)

Viewing Local Listings

Current apps support home shopping using smartphones and tablets. One app category naturally suited to Google Glass is GPS-guided local listing displays.

Say you want a home with a certain number of rooms at an approximate price within a set distance of a specific zip code or GPS location. Existing apps let you browse databases of websites such as for homes matching your criteria.

Google Glass combines this with a hands-free view. Imagine you’re physically standing in a neighborhood you want to move to and Google Glass uses your GPS coordinates to project a display of all suitable listings within a set number of blocks. Alternately, instead of physically traveling to the location, you could enter a desired geo-position and get a virtual view. A worker preparing to relocate from the United States to a company branch in Mexico or China could look at properties without leaving his current residence.

Virtual Walk-Throughs

Another natural fit for Google Glass is apps providing virtual property walk-throughs. Multimedia virtual tour technology has been around as long as the Internet, and has produced sophisticated software integrating photos, slideshows and videos with social media into a complete digital marketing package. To this equation, Google Glass potentially adds virtual walk-throughs with a hands-free view that more closely approximates live touring.

Picturing Yourself in Your New House

A creative app designer could take virtual walk-throughs a step further by integrating animation. High Fidelity co-founder Ryan Downe has demonstrated how Google Glass can control an animated avatar representing the user. Substituting photography for animation, this can let real estate agents provide home buyers the experience of watching themselves walk through their new home, much as car salespeople offer buyers test drives.

Visualizing Your Future Home

This application of Google Glass can be expanded even further by applying virtual home design software such as the type home improvement chain Lowe’s uses to let property owners visualize how they want to improve their homes before buying supplies. A Google Glass real estate app could elevate such software to allow buyers the ability to visualize how they might use an existing property or build on undeveloped land.

Hands-free Communication with Agents and Lenders

Another category of apps Google Glass can support is those that facilitate unified communication between buyers and agents, or lenders. Existing apps let agents keep in touch with buyers through email contact lists and instant message notifications on their smartphones. Google Glass can leverage the same communications tools in a hands-free environment.

Guest post contributed by Michael Blackmon – Michael started building apps when he was in college. His clients are mostly in the outdoor industry, so he can travel to all the beautiful places in America. Every time he writes off travel expenses on his taxes he snickers.

1/13/13: Embracing Change in the New Year – Getting Investors Up to Speed

Technology is changing the way people live, work and play.  Now that’s not a bad thing, but it’s easy to get left behind.

But just like calculators made doing math different, those who use them most effectively understand the basic mathematical concepts behind the speedy calculations.

So what does that have to do with real estate investing?  That’s what this episode is all about.

Talking tech and embracing change on location in sunny San Diego:

  • Your talkative and embracing host, Robert Helms
  • The Godfather of Real Estate, Bob Helms
  • Special guest, internet marketing guru, Pol vanRhee

Since Bob started investing only moments after God created dirt, we start out the conversation capturing Bob’s observations about the impact of technology on the business of real estate.  You can bet he’s seen a LOT of changes over the centuries.

In the beginning “high tech” was a calculator.  That’s a big step up from those old mechanical adding machines.

Then copy machines replaced carbon paper.  Really.  We’re not making it up.  People used to take two pieces of paper and put a dirty piece of paper in between them and type…or even write by hand.  Then the dirt from the middle sheet would make impressions on the bottom sheet and presto!  Instant copy.  Amazing.

Then things picked up.  Word processors replaced typewriters.  Fax machines became all the rage.  Then everyone had a desktop computer.  Before long, there were pagers, cell phones, laptops, smart phones, tablets and implants.

Okay, we’re not at implants yet.  At least not for communication.  Then again, a nice set of implants says something…but that’s a different discussion.

Did we mention the internet, and search engines and social media?

You get the idea.  More change is coming faster.  It’s easy to get overwhelmed.

But remember…technology is primarily designed to make the basics of human activity more efficient, which doesn’t necessarily mean it’s more effective.  There’s a big difference between being efficient and being effective.

Efficiency is about getting things done fast and right.  Of course, you can be highly efficient doing the wrong things – and that’s not very effective.

Effectiveness is about getting the right things done faster. Which brings us back to focusing on the principles behind the technology.

Real estate is a relationship business.  Sure, there’s lots of data and financial analysis.  There’s records to create, share and store.  But the CORE of the business is connecting with people and doing business.  From that stand point, all business is based in relationship.  Yet, we contend that real estate is different.


Because homes and offices are PERSONAL.  And the numbers are BIG.  There are emotions involved and people want to work with people they like and trust, in relationships where they feel understood.  You might buy a book or a pair of socks on line, but a $300,000 four-plex?   You probably want to talk to someone.

Yet with all this wonderful technology at your disposal, it’s easy to forget the human factor.  Technology should ENHANCE your relationships, not replace them.  It sounds obvious, but it’s really easy to forget.  Why take the call, when you let it roll to voicemail?  Why call back, when you can text or email?  Be careful.

Beyond that, even the holy grail of marketing, “word of mouth” has a new meaning because of technology.  Someone may simply forward an email, share a link, like a page, tweet a URL, etc.   Your mission is to make that easy for your tenants to tell other prospective tenants about your property.  And to be keenly aware of how quickly bad customer service can spread.  There’s little margin for error in today’s connected world.

Pol vanRhee explains how the internet allows people to perform research, seek out products and services, and share information with unprecedented speed.  This means you have more competition when you’re searching for deals or marketing your properties.  It can be good or bad, but that’s not the point.  It’s here, like it or not.

So get ready!  It’s a brand new year and there’s lots of change and opportunity on the horizon.  Open your mind and arms and get ready to embrace it!

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