Avoid getting caught in this trap …

A long, long time ago in a world without video games, we played a boardgame called Mousetrap. Since a picture’s worth a thousand words …

image

To see it in action, click here.

As you can see, Mousetrap is a pretty elaborate set up where an initial action sets off a chain reaction of subsequent actions …

… until finally the unsuspecting mouse is caught in a descending trap.

Credit markets are a lot like Mousetrap …

… and the further back you can see through the chain of events, the more likely you are to see what’s coming … and avoid getting trapped out of position.

The Great Financial Crisis of 2008 taught us how dangerous it is to keep our noses myopically to the real estate investing grindstone … falsely aloof and insulated from the turmoil of credit and currency markets.

When the trap fell, we were caught … illiquid and upside down … with not enough time to react.

So we’ve learned to pay careful attention to the machinations of the markets. And right now, there are a lot of moving parts.

Depending on how long you’ve been watching, some of the action may seem disconnected and even irrelevant to your daily real estate investing.

Be careful.

Gold, oil, trade, tariffs, currency, and bonds are far more intertwined than most folks realize … and they all conspire together to impact credit markets and interest rates.

And last time we looked, credit markets and interest rates are very important to serious real estate investors.

By now, you’re probably aware the Fed dropped interest rates for the first time in 11 years.

Granted, it wasn’t much … only 25 basis points (.25%).

But the stock market didn’t like it. And neither did President Trump, who was unabashed in his displeasure with the Jerome Powell led Fed.

So that’s one piece of the puzzle.

You’ve also probably heard that the U.S. and China have been engaged in an economic pissing contest for quite some time.

Here again, President Trump is displeased with China’s trade policy with the U.S. and he’s been using tariffs to goad them to the negotiating table.

But the last round of talks didn’t end well, so Trump slapped more tariffs on the Chinese exports to the United States.

Once again, the stock market didn’t like it much.

Let’s take a time out here to remind ourselves that when money flees the stock market, it usually ends up in bonds. As demand for bonds goes UP, interest rates go DOWN.

Then, as interest rates do down, investors go back to stocks in pursuit of yield, and everything reverses. It’s an ebb and flow of funds which creates a degree of equilibrium.

Or at least that’s how it usually works …

Sometimes, when investors don’t like either stocks or bonds, they buy other things for safety … including gold and real estate.

This is a far more interesting development and something we discussed at length in a recent commentary.

But that was before China allegedly punched back at Uncle Sam’s latest tariffs by allowing their currency to fall below the politically significant 7:1 ratio to the dollar.

Now before your eyes glaze over, it’s not as complicated as it seems. And as we’re about to point out, it has more of an impact on your real estate investing than you may realize.

When China allows its yuan to weaken relative to the dollar, it takes more yuan to buy a dollar. More significantly, it means dollars will buy more Chinese goods.

In other words, it makes Chinese goods cheaper for Americans … effectively negating the punitive impact of U.S. tariffs. It’s like blocking the punch.

The Trump Administration wasn’t happy about China’s “block” and, for first time since the Clinton Administration, decided to brand the Chinese as “currency manipulators”.

Without getting into the weeds, it means the conflict is escalating … and the two heavyweight economies are turning a gentleman’s disagreement into a street fight.

With the two economies highly intertwined with each other … and very influential around the globe … this altercation has the potential to impact virtually everyone world-wide … including Main Street real estate investors.

Of course, we’ve been talking about this since 2013 when the clues in the news made it clear the dollar is under attack by China (and Russia).

We’re not telling you this to brag. We’re simply saying these are events which many people have seen coming … and have been preparing for.

And it’s not over by a long shot.

So if want a broader context for what you see reported in the daily news, you might want to check out our Real Asset Investing report and our Future of Money and Wealth video series.

And if you’re not sure why all this matters to a lowly Main Street real estate investor, consider this headline …

China could unleash this weapon on the financial markets to wallop the USYahoo Finance, August 6, 2019

“They [China] could start selling Treasuries which is what they use to benchmark the yuan to the dollar and that would be the doomsday scenario.

(By the way, Russia’s already done it, but they’re small fry compared to China.)

“While China has reduced its holdings of Treasuries in recent years,
any amount of pronounced dumping could send U.S. interest rates skyrocketing.

Remember, this is Mouse Trap …

Think about what “skyrocketing” interest rates would mean to an economy bloated with record levels of consumer, corporate, municipal, and federal debt.

As we discussed exactly one year ago, America’s debt could be an Achilles heel China could attack by dropping the interest rate bomb.

Back then, this was considered an extreme view … highly unlikely because dumping that many Treasuries at once could cost China billions.

But China’s been stocking up on gold … perhaps as a hedge against collapsing the dollar?

And when you consider the cost of “war” … even a trillion dollar loss is less than what the U.S. has spent in the Middle East.

So it’s not too far-fetched to think China might consider the loss just the cost of winning the trade war.

Let’s bring it back down to Main Street …

We’re not saying interest rates will skyrocket. But they could. There’s a lot more room to rise than decline.

And if China is playing a different game than Uncle Sam thinks, they may make a move few expect.

Is your portfolio fortified to withstand a sudden spike in interest rates?

“The time to repair the roof is while the sun is shining.” – John F. Kennedy

Think about it. Pay attention. Inspect the roof … and make repairs.

Until next time … good investing!


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The foundation of liberty …

As the United States celebrates its independence this week, it’s a good time to consider something of utmost importance to real estate investors …

Property rights.

After all, if you can’t safely, securely own private property … then there’s no hope of accumulating wealth and personal prosperity.

Private property ownership is the foundation of personal wealth.

Of course, most Americans today assume the right to own private property is the natural order of things … like the sun coming up every day. It’s always been there and always will be.

But a quick trip back through history shows that until the United States shocked the world with the radical notion of sovereign individuals …

… most people lived in societies where only royalty and elite owned and controlled property.

In fact, many of the terms we use every day are derived from this very system of elitism.

Contrary to common belief, the “real” in “real estate” doesn’t mean real or tangible … it means royal … as in king.

So “real estate” really means “the king’s property”.

The king’s subjects (the common folks) didn’t own any property … they only worked the king’s property in exchange for keeping 75% of the literal fruits of their labor.

Of course, by contrast to modern society’s tax rates, you could make the argument that keeping 75% is pretty good! But that’s a discussion and debate for another day.

Another common term, which is somewhat self-explanatory, is “landlord”.

Because even though the land was owned by the king, he needed loyal insiders to help him manage it all … keeping the workers (serfs) productive and paying their taxes.

The “lords” of the land were effectively agents of the king, conveniently positioned in the flow of revenue from the produce of the land to the coffers of the king.

Ironically, even though today there’s technically no “king”, and individuals can “own” private property, the system is still essentially the same.

Working class folks go to work and then pay about 25% of their paycheck to the landlord.

So if you’re not King Uncle Sam and collecting a slice of the workers’ pay through direct taxation (which was originally unconstitutional) …

… the next best thing is to own rental real estate … where as both a property owner and landlord, you collect a piece of the worker’s productivity too.

And as Tom Wheelwright so accurately explains, the tax code is a big part of what aligns the individual property owner with Uncle Sam.

The “king” shares a slice of his tax revenue with the landlord in the form of tax deductions … which incentivizes you to provide housing to the working class folks.

The BIG difference between the old feudal system with its kings, lords, and peasants … and the American experiment where individuals are sovereign … is in the old system, there was no path for a peasant to become a lord.

But the American Dream is where the common people, through their own initiative and efforts, have the right and opportunity to go from rags to riches without regard to birthright.

It may not be a perfectly level playing field, but it’s a heck of a lot better than what most people throughout history have had access to.

This revolutionary concept has unleashed more innovation and productivity than any other economic system in history … and people worldwide are largely all better off because of it.

So while the United States is far from perfect … and today’s adaptation of the American system has probably deviated quite a bit from what the founders originally envisioned …

… the American Dream still has people worldwide striving to get into the United States to get in on the action.

And every time YOU exercise your unalienable right to own private property and create prosperity for yourself and your family, while providing housing for working class people who aren’t ready to be “lords” yet …

… you celebrate and reinforce the system that makes your prosperity and theirs possible.

Sure, we may disagree about a lot of the strategies and tactics for keeping opportunity open for all, but if you’re truly interested in individual prosperity …

celebrating, exercising, and protecting private property rights should be something we can all agree on.

Until next time … good investing!


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Beware of bubble genius …

Hard to believe it’s nearly 10 years since Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac collapsed and were taken over by Uncle Sam.

Time flies when you’re getting rich.

It’s been a GREAT run for residential real estate investors … especially apartment investors.  Free money in the punch bowl can really juice up a profit party.

But after 10 years of equity happening to real estate bull market riders … it’s a good time to think about where we are, where things are headed, and what to do next.

And looking forward comes in two parts:  external and internal.

The external is the world of variables outside your control.  Like driving down the freeway, there are lots of other drivers whose actions affect YOUR safety and progress.

But the key to your success isn’t what’s going externally. It’s how YOU navigate those external circumstances … based on what’s going on inside of you.

It’s about financial and emotional intelligence.

Because what you think and believe affects what you do … and what YOU do has the greatest impact on the results YOU experience.

One of the biggest dangers of riding a wave of easy money into gobs of equity is thinking you’re an investing genius.

We know … because it’s happened to us … and we see it happen all the time.

It’s much harder to be humble, curious, teachable and innovative when you already think you’re smart.

It’s important to know the difference between luck and skill.

True financial genius is being able to make money when everything externally is falling apart … like a pro race car driver deftly navigating a multi-car melee at 180 miles an hour.

That’s REAL skill.  Anyone can rocket down an open road.

Fannie Mae’s chief economist Doug Duncan told the audience at Future of Money and Wealth he thinks recession is likely in the not-too-distant future.

And Doug made those comments after reminding everyone his last year’s Summit predictions were all essentially spot on.

So based on both his pedigree and track record, Doug’s qualified to have an opinion.  And we’re listening.

“The time to repair the roof is when the sun is shining.” 
– John F. Kennedy

The sun’s been shining on real estate investors for ten years now.  Maybe you’re one of the many who’ve made tons of money.  We hope that trend continues.

But as our friend Brad “The Apartment King” Sumrok reminds us … it’s time to approach today’s market with a little more sobriety.

Money and margins are both getting tighter.

This means paying better attention to detail, increasing your financial education, and being careful not to rationalize marginal investments to bet on positive externals.

In other words, beware of being a bubble market genius … and thinking what worked in a bull market will work when things change.

Better to work on sharpening your skills at finding and creating value.

Of course, real estate is FULL of pockets of opportunity … the polar opposite of a commodity or asset class where everything’s the same and moves together.

Real estate’s quirkiness befuddles Wall Street investors … but thrills Main Street investors.

A case in point are apartments …

On the one hand, lots of brand new inventory is coming on the market … and it’s putting pressure on landlords to offer profit reducing concessions.

On the other hand, more affordable existing stock is attracting lots of interest… from both tenants and investors.

So “housing” isn’t hot or cold.  And neither are “apartments”.  Real estate defies that kind of simplistic description.

Of course, it takes financial education to recognize the difference between momentum and value.

It also takes time, effort, and relationships to actually find the markets, team and properties to invest in.

For most people, that’s way too much trouble.  They’d rather sit in their crib with their trading app … or turn their financial future over to a paper asset advisor.

That’s all peachy until rates rise, recession hits, and paper prices plunge.

History … and Doug Duncan … says the inevitable bear market is getting closer.

Of course, as we’ve previously commented … when paper investors get nervous, one of their favorite places to seek safety with return is real estate.

So for active and aspiring syndicators … it really doesn’t get any better than right now.

Think about it …

MILLIONS of baby-boomers are retiring.  They need to invest for INCOME.

And they’re sitting on stock market equity, home equity, and retirement accounts …

… holding many TRILLIONS of wealth needing to (literally) find a home withreliable income and inflation protection.

Their paper asset providers will try to meet the need, but their toolbox isn’t properly stocked.  They can’t do private real estate.

But as boomers struggle at squeezing spendable money out of sideways or stagnant stock markets, they’ll look towards dividends and interest.  Cash flow.

The challenge with dividend stocks is … in a volatile market, investors face capital loss on share prices.  Worse, dividends can be cancelled.

Compare this to rental real estate, which produces far MORE reliable income than dividends with LESS price volatility.  And no one is cancelling the rent.

So dividend stock investors would LOVE income property … IF it just wasn’t so darned hard to find, buy, and manage.

What about bonds and bank accounts for income?  (Try not to laugh out loud)

Remember, a deposit is a LIABILITY to a bank.  When you deposit money in the bank, the bank needs to create an offsetting ASSET … a loan.

But the Fed has stuffed banks full of reserves … and there aren’t enough good borrowers to lend to.

Banks don’t need to offer higher interest to attract deposits.  So they don’t.

As for bonds …

Yes, it’s true bond yields are edging up, which means bond holders earn a little more income … but at a what price?

Rising bond yields also mean falling bond values.  So bond buyers are understandably very nervous about capital loss on their bonds.

WORSE …, bonds carry the added risk of default or “counter-party risk.”

A bond default is TOTAL loss. Yikes.

Real estate to the rescue …

The relative safety and performance of income property or income producing mortgages secured by real estate is extremely attractive right now.

The biggest problem for passive paper investors is real estate is hard to buy, messy to manage, and takes more financial education than just knowing how to click around an online trading app.

And THAT is the BIG opportunity for skilled real estate investors to go bigger faster with syndication.

Whether you decide to explore the opportunities in syndication or not … it’s important to stay curious, alert and proactive.

Most real estate investors we know are preparing for the next recession … because that’s when true financial genius pays the biggest rewards.

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.

North Korea and you …

With so much craziness in the world, we thought we’d consider what it might mean for real estate investors.

After all, why should paper asset investors get all the thrills of global instability?  Real estate investing might be stable, but it doesn’t have to be boring!

Biggest sword competition …

You may have heard that U.S. President Trump and North Korean Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un recently publicly compared sword sizes.

Since both the U.S. and North Korea are nuclear powers … this has the world understandably jittery.  Though things seem to have calmed down the last few days.

Still, geo-political jitters usually amplify the two basic emotions of investing … fear and greed.

Scared money tends to flee to “quality.”  (Trapped money flees to Bitcoin … but that’s a different discussion …)

Frightened investors are more concerned about preserving capital and purchasing power (which aren’t necessarily the same thing) … than making a profit.

For much of recent history, a flight to quality meant piling into the U.S. dollar and U.S. bonds.

But with another debt-ceiling debacle on the horizon, record debt at every level, pensions in crisis, huge unfunded liabilities, and an economy sending very mixed messages …

… it’s not inconceivable the world might not continue to see the U.S. dollar and bonds as the financial fallout shelter of choice.

Meanwhile, greedy money tends to focus on front-running the scared money, and buying up the scared money’s abandoned assets at bargain basement prices.

As for real estate investors …  we sit on the sideline munching popcorn and collecting rent checks.

But that doesn’t mean there aren’t risks, opportunities and lessons for real estate investors to learn from all the drama.

War is expensive …

We recently discussed the potential shift from “monetary” stimulus (cheap money funneled from central banks to the financial markets) …

… to “fiscal” stimulus (government spending funneled into the economy on infrastructure and military spending).

Now we’re not saying Uncle Sam is purposely pursuing war to stimulate the economy.  That would be far too cynical for two happy-go-lucky real estate guys.

But IF more war happens, it’s sure to be expensive.  And because Uncle Sam already operates at a deficit and has no savings (technically “broke”) … it means a lot more borrowing.

The big question is … from whom does Uncle Sam borrow?

This matters because whom Uncle Sam borrows from to pay for more war … and how it’s done … will probably impact asset prices and interest rates.

Watch your monitors …

If Uncle Sam issues bonds (borrows) and the bids are soft, interest rates rise.  It also says something about the way the world views the dollar (not good).

Of course, this means rising interest rates in the whole swimming pool … including good debt (your mortgages) and bad debt (your tenants’ credit card and car loans).  Either or both of those affect your bottom line.

Another sign confidence in the dollar is declining will be a spike in gold prices.  

If gold catches a bid, it could mean scared money would rather hide in a barbarous relic with no yield … over stacks of paper with pictures of dead people printed in green ink.

(Not sure how green paper is less useless than yellow metal … but that’s a different debate …)

But if big money prefers gold over greenbacks, it’s a clue about the direction of the dollar.

And assuming your assets, liabilities, and income are all denominated in dollars, we’re guessing the value of the dollar is of interest to you … or should be.

Pre-emptive strike …

So what do you do when you don’t know what’s going to happen?

Here are some things to think about …

Uncle Sam already has a huge debt problem.  Another war doesn’t change anything … it just speeds it up.

In the short term, a flight to quality could be temporarily good for the dollar and drop rates by creating demand for both dollars and bonds.

If rates fall for a season (and even if they don’t … they’re pretty low right now), it might be a great time to back up the truck and load up on lots of good debt … and use it to acquire assets that conservatively yield more than the cost of the loan.

That’s effectively going “short” the dollar based at a time of temporary strength.

You can also go a little further short by adding some gold to the mix.  But remember, gold isn’t about profit … it’s about preservation of purchasing power.  

Sure, a falling dollar causes gold to go “up” in dollar terms, but so does everything else, so more dollars doesn’t put you ahead … it just keeps you from falling behind.

Side note …

If you’re not really sure about gold or how it fits into what you’re doing, join us when we speak at the New Orleans Investment Conference in October.   

Some of the biggest brains in precious metals and resource investing will be in New Orleans … along with our friends Robert Kiyosaki, Simon Black, Peter Schiff and Simon Black.  It’ll be like an Investor Summit at Sea™ reunion!

Back to our story …

Something else to consider carefully right now are the markets you’re invested in … because the idea of “flight to quality” applies to real estate markets too.

People and businesses will move to where they can get a better life at a better price.

We like affordable markets in low tax, business friendly, fiscally sound states …

… places with good infrastructure (transportation, utilities, medical, education, resources), strategic location (distribution, travel hub, geographic amenities), and diverse economic drivers.

Also, take a look at your current debt and equity structure.

It might be wise to harvest excess equity and lock in low long-term rates on properties you’re committed to owning long term.

You can then use the proceeds to pick up additional properties in growth markets … or add some cash, precious metals, or high-yield private mortgages to add some diversification into your portfolio.

Stay calm and invest on …

It’s easy to freak out when the world is weird.  But it’s been weird before and it’ll be weird again.

Meanwhile, unlike so many other styles of investing, real estate allows you to hedge most probable outcomes.

Plus, there’s the time-tested assurance that virtually every major power player in the food chain has a vested interest in supporting real estate.

No one wins when real estate loses … and even as we learned in 2008 … if a bomb goes off in real estate, the powers-that-be move heaven and earth to fix it as quickly as possible.

Sure, there’s risk.

But it’s risk that’s largely understandable, reasonably mitigated and … so long as you’re structured to weather the occasional economic storm …

… real estate is arguably the most stable and easily operated investment vehicle available to everyday people.

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.