Ask The Guys – Apartments, Retirement, and Offshore Entities

Our listener questions this week run the gamut from extremely practical to extremely theoretical.

As always, we weigh in on topics that are relevant to YOU … listen in to hear our ideas on apartment management basics, diversification, and more … plus some podcast recommendations and a whole lot of info on one of our favorite places, Belize.

Keep in mind that we are not legal or tax professionals. We do not give advice. The ideas in this show are simply that … ideas.

In this edition of Ask The Guys you’ll hear from:

  • Your deal-hunting host, Robert Helms
  • His tag-along co-host, Russell Gray

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Question: What expenses do I need to budget for as an apartment building owner?

Arnie in Minneapolis has a 20-unit apartment building that provides student housing near a university. He asked us to explain what his basic expenses will be. First, the obvious:

  • Utilities. These can get a bit tricky, though, because the tenants may not pay all the utilities directly. You may have to pay for gas and water, for example.
  • Taxes. Make sure you’ve done your research and know how and when taxes are reassessed in your area.
  • Property insurance. This is a must.
  • Management costs. Consider how much staff you’ll need and whether you want to hire third-party management.

And the less obvious:

  • Marketing and advertising costs. Marketing your property helps cut vacancies. For a college property, brochures may be one option.
  • Legal costs. Make sure you have a legal team in place and a process for handling tenants with bad debt.
  • Maintenance. Small but necessary services like pest control and carpet cleaning can add up.

Although apartment owners have to juggle a list of expenses, there are ways they can make some extra income. Apartments geared toward both college students and other types of residents can offer paid laundry services, parking spots, and even furniture rentals.

Question: I’m a new investor. Should I diversify with different product types and markets now, or later?

This Texas listener started investing in the past year and is trying to hone his personal investment philosophy. Ryan said he owns two single-family homes, but is also interested in commercial, agricultural, and lifestyle properties.

He wanted to know whether it’s wise to start diversifying now or smarter to wait.

The simple answer is it’s up to Ryan. How much completely depends on the amount of time, energy, and focus you have to spare.

Having a great team can be the make-or-break factor.

Beginners are starting without the stable of resources that established investors have, and access to a mentor can make all the difference in whether you’re successful with a specific product class or market.

Being in the hottest niche doesn’t matter much if you don’t have a great team to support you.

We recommend Ryan spend some time poking around.

Diversification is great … but it means two markets, two sets of knowledge, two teams.

A single investor can only know a handful of markets really well, so getting well-acquainted with a single market can be a good place to start.

It all comes down to your goals … and passions.

The more you love a market or product type, the longer you’ll stay in the game.

Ryan, search your priorities and keep figuring out what you really want to do. What’s right for you may be honing in on single-family, or it may be finding a mentor to help you get involved in other markets.

Ultimately, the right choice is completely dependent on YOU.

Question: What do I need to know to get involved with a lending deal?

Steven from Havelock, North Carolina got an offer to be part of a private lending deal … but he wants to know how he can educate himself before he says YES … or NO.

Lending deals come in two forms … private loans, or divided private placements.

They all boil down to the same components:

  1. A piece of collateral against which you’re lending.
  2. A borrower to whom you’re lending money.
  3. A servicing process, to collect payments and distribute money to investors.

Although the basic process is pretty simple, it’s become more complicated since 2008. If you’re underwriting the loan, you need to know as much as you can about the following:

  • The management team’s process
    • How they manage and service loans
    • How they deal with default loans
    • What their basic guidelines are for protective equity
  • Projections for how much the market can pull back before the property in question is underwater
  • The debt-to-income ratio … how much income is available to service the loan

If you’re only investing, not underwriting, you don’t need to know every detail … but you do need to know enough to know that the people doing the loan know what they’re doing.

Take a look at the company’s track record, advisors, and business philosophy, policies, and procedures.

Make sure they have a realistic model for getting you a ROI.

And always make sure you have advisors … a smart legal team can tell you in minutes whether a deal is as good as it looks.

Question: Do you have any podcast recommendations?

Robert from Madison, Alabama said he’s obsessed with our podcast (thanks, Robert!) and also listens to Robert Kiyosaki and Peter Schiff.

He wondered whether we had recommendations for other podcasts in line with our thinking and perspective.

First, a caution … don’t seek out a single perspective!

As a real estate investor, you always want to strive to stand on the edge of the coin. Get multiple perspectives and then let those ideas interact with each other.

Peter Schiff and Robert Kiyosaki are absolutely valuable listening, but they don’t necessarily focus on real estate investing. If you’re looking for practical, tactical advice, consider the following:

Almost every real estate niche has experts producing media … if not podcasts, certainly books and courses.

Other wealth-related recommendations include:

We heard of a great technique for reading books, and we think it applies to podcasts too … read three chapters (or listen to three podcasts or so) and see whether the content grabs you.

If it doesn’t, it’s not worth your time!

Question: Do The Real Estate Guys™ provide mentoring services? How do I find a good mentor?

While we’re honored that Grant, from Denver, Colorado, would like to have us as his mentors, The Real Estate Guys™ do not provide individual coaching or mentoring services.

We coach the syndication mentoring club … a group for investors who have gone to our Secrets of Successful Syndication event and have a good baseline for investing and syndication.

That’s it.

However, we think there are lots of great resources out there for coaching.

Interested in a specific product type? Experts like Gene Guarino can coach you in residential assisted living. Other experts can help with everything from apartment buildings to commercial spaces.

Our recommendation … figure out what kind of help you really need.

Do you want someone to make you stick to deadlines and goals? Someone to give you practical resources? Someone to help you make connections?

Once you’ve identified your needs, take a look at who’s out there and do your research. Check in with former students to see if there’s evidence the program was successful.

Question: Do you have any tips on lifestyle investing in the Mediterranean?

Bob lives near dark and stormy Seattle. He and his wife are nearing retirement and want to spend their winters somewhere warmer … preferably the Mediterranean.

They’re looking for a part-time vacation home, part-time rental situation.

He asked whether we had any tips on researching the cost, feasibility, and process for buying a property in this region.

Unfortunately, we don’t have a lot of experience in this specific part of the world.

But we do have a lot of experience investing all over the world … enough to know that legal structures vary incredibly from jurisdiction to jurisdiction.

The key to success? Always get plugged in with someone who knows the market from a local point of view.

It would be a smart idea for Bob to plan a vacation … narrow down his interests to a specific market and work on making strategic relationships while he’s over there.

Yes, we just recommended a vacation!

Bob also needs to work on building a legal and tax team in the U.S. to deal with sometimes complicated foreign legal structures.

The short answer … worry more about acquiring relationships than acquiring knowledge.

Questions: Belize, Belize, Belize!

We had three listeners ask questions about our Belize Discovery Trip.

Travis, from Maple Grove, Minnesota, wondered whether investors have to be extremely wealthy to invest in Belize.

Along the same lines, Brad, from Bakersfield, California wanted to know the type of investments typically available in Belize … and whether potential investors can work around lack of available financing.

We believe there is a ton of opportunity in Belize … and you don’t have to be über wealthy to take advantage of it.

Belize doesn’t offer traditional bank loans. So investors have a few options.

One option is to go in on an investment with a group.

Another is to refinance a property you own in the U.S. and use the equity to fund a deal in Belize.

No matter the route you choose, be smart about it. Understand the supply and demand dynamics.

Ask yourself exactly what you want … whether it’s lifestyle, cash flow, asset protection, equity, or something else … then visit Belize and see whether the market will help you achieve your goals.

If the answer is YES, the next step is to build a team … and you can do that by joining us on our field trips and getting to know the people who will help you put together a great deal.

Our third question about Belize took a slightly different tack … Craig, from Rosemount, Minnesota asked whether an IBC is the only corporate structure two parties would need to go in on a deal together.

This is a legal question. And we’re not legal advisors.

But we can tell you that although people often use entities to buy properties in foreign coutnries, it’s perfectly acceptable to own property in your name.

If you do use an IBC, you’d have to use an IBC from a different country. IBCs can’t be used to do business in their country of origin.

The bigger question is making sure you understand what you’re trying to accomplish, why you’re doing it, and what the possible ramifications are.

Do your homework. You don’t want to learn a lesson by making the wrong mistake.

Yearning for more in-depth information about IBCs, financing, and buying in Belize? Come on our field trip!

Spend time with Robert and other investors, build relationships, investigate the market, and enjoy all Belize has to offer for three and a half days.

We guarantee you’ll learn something … and have fun too!


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.