Lessons from a legendary billionaire real estate investor …

Even if you’re a die-hard cash flow investor … more intent on collecting properties than flipping them … it’s still important to pay attention to market cycles.

After all, though you might not plan to “sell high”, it’s sure nice to “buy low”.

Besides, “buy and hold” doesn’t mean you’re not harvesting equity when conditions are ripe … which is usually closer to a cycle top.

So, what is a “cycle”? Why do cycles happen? And what do they look like?

Maybe obviously, cycles are the ups and downs of prices or economic activity. And they always seem so obvious when charted after the fact.

Of course, cycles are hard to see when you’re buried in the weeds of the here and now. That’s why it’s smart to listen to seasoned investors.

Economic cycles … those sometimes severe and shocking ups and downs … happen for a complex variety of reasons … but are rooted in a fundamental pattern of action and over-reaction.

Think of it like a car fishtailing on an icy road …

It starts with a sudden acceleration or braking. Then a cascade of exaggerated actions and reactions take place … with lags in between … as both driver and vehicle strive to find an equilibrium and get back in sync.

Skilled and experienced drivers keep their emotions in check …

… calmly making proven moderate adjustments to quickly regain control and get the vehicle pointed safely in the right direction.

Of course, that’s just one car and one driver.

In a professional race, it’s a cohort of highly skilled drivers. In your daily commute, it’s a diverse collection of amateurs.

In financial markets, there’s an eclectic mob of professional investors, politicians, bankers, business executives, and upper-middle-class workers …

… all subject to greed, fear, and ego.

It’s amazing there aren’t bigger market wrecks more often.

The tell-tale sign of a cycle top is when everyone has piled in … and the prevailing belief is the good times will never end. But then they do.

Professionals recognize this and get out of the way and wait.

There’s an old investing adage attributed to some fellow named Rothschild …

“The time to buy is when there’s blood in the streets.”

Hmmm. Makes you wonder how much money you’d make if you could find a way to trigger such a bloodletting? But that’s a discussion for another day …

For mere mortals like us, it’s simply a matter of watching events unfold … and getting in position to move in when others are moving out.

Of course, you don’t want to “catch a falling knife” … another investing adage which refers to buying a failing investment.

So just because everyone’s selling doesn’t necessarily mean you should be buying. Sometimes there’s a reason an asset goes “no bid”.

Cheap doesn’t mean bargain. There’s no guarantee that something cheap won’t go to zero.

Of course, with tangible assets like real estate, the “zero” scenario is less likely.

Still … when leverage is involved, equity can most definitely go to zero … even if the property doesn’t.

How do you know the difference between an opportunity and a trap?

For clues, we watch smart, seasoned investors like Sam Zell. Fortunately, Sam’s come out of his shell, so he’s appearing more often in media to share his immense wisdom.

So, when we saw this headline pop up, we took time to listen to what mega-billionaire real estate investor Sam Zell has to say …

Sam Zell Says He’s Buying Distressed Oil Assets During the Slowdown
Bloomberg, 11/14/19

What’s nice is there’s a video and you can hear it straight from Sam himself.

Like most brilliant people, he says a lot in a few words. You can watch for yourself, but in short, Sam sees TEMPORARY distress in oil assets. And that’s a GOOD thing.

Now we’re not saying you should invest in oil, although there are some compelling reasons to consider it right now.

But oil is a sector where Sam Zell sees opportunity. However, the lessons are less about oil and more about how Sam recognizes and reacts to market conditions.

Here are some of our key takeaways from Sam Zell’s comments …

Look ahead and anticipate the next boom or bust … and react NOW, not after the fact. In other words, be proactive and get in front of opportunity as it develops.

Always pay attention to the supply and demand factor.

This is a common theme any time Sam Zell talks about how he evaluates opportunity. When supply and demand get out of sync, prices can rise or fall disproportionately. This “gap” creates attractive buying or selling opportunities.

Zell obviously doesn’t think demand for oil is going anywhere soon, even though there’s a temporary over-supply driving prices down.

It’s these “low” oil prices that are creating issues for oil producers … and creating opportunity for investors like Zell.

That’s because, as we’ve noted before, there’s a lot of debt in the oil sector which was put in place when prices were higher.

And just like a real estate investor levering up a property during peak rents … when rental rates fall, debt can go bad fast … creating an urgent demand for cash.

Cash is king in a crisis.

It seems obvious. But it’s hard to sit on “idle” cash when everything’s booming. Yet legendary investor Warren Buffet is sitting on over $120 billion cash right now. Maybe there’s a reason.

Real assets cash flow.

Zell mentions he doesn’t lend. He buys assets. And if you listen carefully, he talks about how cash strapped oil producers are selling cash flow. That’s what Zell appears to be buying.

There are probably many more lessons. Sam’s a fun guy to study. Unlike Buffet, Sam Zell is fundamentally a real estate guy.

And as we learned from Ken McElroy in the wake of the 2008 downturn, the energy sector … and oil in particular … is a huge and important driver of economic strength in several U.S. markets.

So for that reason alone, oil is a sector real estate investors should watch. Right now, oil is energy, and energy is fundamental to all economic activity.

Meanwhile, remember that in both up cycles and down cycles, there are ALWAYS opportunities in real estate.

That’s because every regional market, neighborhood, and individual property is unique … there’s often a lot of room to negotiate a profitable win-win …

…and there’s much a smart investor can do to proactively add value without needing to depend on unpredictable external factors.

We think it’s safe to say that demand for real estate, like oil, is probably not going away anytime soon … no matter what’s going on in politics or trade.

Just be careful to use financial structures you can live within both up and down cycles.

Is THIS what China and Russia are REALLY doing …

It’s no secret the United States has been at odds with both China and Russia lately.

So what?  What does it mean to Main Street entrepreneurs and investors?

Maybe nothing. Or maybe a lot more than you think.

Just a few months ago, Russia dumped a majority of the Treasury holdings.

Three out of the last four months, China has reduced its Treasury holdings.

And now Market Watch reports … 10-year Treasury yield hits 4-month high as bond market sells off …

“ … investors fear China … could sell its Treasury holdings to push the U.S.’s borrowings costs higher.”

Not TWO days later, Market Watch reports … Mortgage rates jump to four-month high as housing hits a bump. 

That’s because, as any credible mortgage professional will tell you, mortgage rates track VERY tightly with 10-year Treasury yields.

So you don’t need to be Sherlock Holmes to see …

… there’s a direct connection between what Russia and China are doing and YOUR Main Street real estate investing.

But it’s bigger than interest rates.  Interest rates are more a reflection of currency and bond markets.

The United States has enjoyed … and some might say abused … a privileged status because of the U.S. dollar’s status as the world’s reserve currency.

China and Russia have both publicly proclaimed their upset over how the U.S. the dollar system … and they’re working to dethrone it.

Some people who are well-qualified to have opinions think …

… there’s a HUGE danger to dollar-denominated investors if the dollar LOSES reserve status.

According to Bloomberg, famed billionaire hedge fund manager Ray Dalio spells out America’s worst nightmare … warning the U.S. “not to take its reserve currency for granted.”

“The idea that the U.S. dollar would lose its status as the world’s reserve currency is an existential threat unlike just about any other to the U.S. government and financial markets as a whole.”

“ … for just about everyone’s sake, we should hope that he’s wrong.”

Last time we looked, hope is not a strategy.

We don’t make this stuff up.  We pull it right from the headlines.  In fact, we’ve been covering it closely for more than five years.

The good news is these things move S-L-O-W-L-Y.  The bad news is these things move S-L-O-W-L-Y.  It’s easy to fall asleep at the wheel.

It’s also easy to ignore or dismiss the people who keep sounding the alarm.

But if you earn dollars, borrow dollars, measure asset values in dollars, or use credit markets in any way … the future of the dollar impacts YOU.

Most Main Street investors aren’t paying any attention at all … 

They don’t study history.  They don’t recognize the warning signs … even though there are clues in the news every day.

They won’t see a dollar crisis coming and won’t know what to do if it happens.  It will strike them like a thief in the night.

But it doesn’t have to happen.  In fact, the more people who are aware and prepared, the less likely it will happen.  And the less severe it will be if it does.

Of course, warnings are only useful if understood and heeded.

Otherwise, you wake up one day and credit markets seize up … asset prices collapse … and all those TRILLIONS in paper wealth everyone is celebrating is WIPED OUT.

Think about how hard you work and study to create profits in your business and investing.

How much time do you invest in studying how to avoid LOSING it all?

If you’re like most investors, it’s not very much.

Riding an uptrend is an easy way to FEEL like a genius … but TRUE investing genius is revealed in the BAD times.

Warren Buffet’s famous quote sums it up …

“Rule #1:  Don’t lose money.  Rule #2:  Remember rule #1.” 

Okay, so you’ve read this far.  Now what?

Well, you probably know we can’t possibly give you a useful answer in just a few hundred words.

If you REALLY want to know, you’ll need to dig in … and invest some time and money in getting up to speed.

It starts with getting your mind around the situation.

If guys like Ray Dalio are paying attention to the future of the dollar … maybe YOU should too.

When it comes to China and Russias attack in the dollar, we created a VERY affordable 48-minute video and two downloadable PDFs which many people have found helpful …

Click here for info about The Dollar Under Attack video and two related special reports.

The video features the opening presentation from our 2018 Investor Summit at Sea™ … which kicked off with two full days focused on the Future of Money and Wealth.

Not only has nothing changed since the original presentation, but the news continues to indicate things are picking up speed.

So it’s not surprising savvy investors like Ray Dalio are concerned and making contingency plans.

Perhaps you should too.  After all, better to be prepared and not have a dollar crisis than to have a dollar crisis and not be prepared.

Until next time … good investing!


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


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Clues In The News – Crisis and Growth Opportunities

Warren Buffet. Also known as the Oracle of Omaha, this investing heavyweight spends a lot of his time doing one particular thing.

It’s not scoping out new investments. Not chatting with folks in the investment industry. Not attending board meetings … although we bet he does spend a bit of time doing all of those things.

This investing genius spends 80 percent of his time reading.

From trade-specific journals to general financial news, reading and listening to the headlines is essential to staying informed. But just as important is reading between the lines.

That’s why we bring you Clues In The News … our take on how recent headlines affect real estate investors like YOU. In this edition, you’ll hear from:

  • Your media examiner host, Robert Helms
  • His (slightly OCD) news peruser co-host, Russell Gray

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Mortgage rates for single-family homes rising

Many articles are saying it … mortgage rates continue to climb and show no signs of stopping soon. Note, this information applies specifically to single-family homes.

This is important news … but before you react, stop and ask yourself the question, “If interest rates were guaranteed to rise, what would I do?”

The answer is probably buy a deal that makes sense today and lock in the interest rate so you get a competitive advantage.

Data from this Redfin survey shows less than 4 percent of potential homebuyers would cancel their decision to buy if interest rates increased … so people will keep buying even if it squeezes their bottom line.

But buying at a too-high interest rate means high cost inputs, higher rents, and potentially more vacancies. Getting in while the interest rate is lower is an important factor for success.

We also suggest you consider the advantages of adjustable-rate mortgages versus fixed-rate mortgages. Adjustable-rate mortgages may start lower depending on the market, but have no certainty of staying the same.

Fixed-rate mortgages, on the other hand, allow you to lock in a predictable rate that won’t rise or fall with the market. And when you’re locked into a rate for 10-15 years, having consistency is particularly important.

An equal concern is the strength of the dollar. If rents are sliding upwards faster than wages, your tenants are in trouble.

That’s why investing in A-class properties can be a poor strategy (more on that later).

Tighter guidelines plus higher mortgage rates can mean good things for landlords because fewer people are buying their own homes. So pay attention and think strategically … because a large part of success is getting in at the right time.

Is the multifamily sector overheated?

Multifamily properties have attracted a lot of money. We’re now hearing from many investors who wonder whether the sector is overheated.

Interest rates are rising, and since multifamily properties typically have 10-15 year loan periods, investors do need to be careful here.

If you’re a multifamily investor, you also need to keep in mind that rising interest rates not only affect you … they affect your tenants too.

According to a CNBC article, half of all renter households pay more than 30 percent of their income in rent. That means there’s no real wiggle room for inflation … and no real wiggle room if YOU need to raise rents.

One apartment developer interviewed in the article above says, “There is an acute crisis headed our way.” We can see this in the high numbers of luxury apartments being developed … and then standing empty.

At the same time, we’re seeing a shortage in B- and C-class housing.

Because of today’s costs, it’s difficult for developers to build new buildings for non-luxury buyers. And Wall Street investors see luxury as a safer investment … even though it typically brings 2-3 percent yields.

If you’re a syndicator, all of this information can help you understand the economic world you’re operating in. A development explosion in the high-end apartment space DOES NOT mean you should be investing in that space.

This information should be the start of your research. Read between the lines, look for the wise voices, and start following them … but mostly importantly, talk to the people who have boots on the ground.

And remember, just because the economy looks bad does not mean investment options are bad. In fact, a downturn can be the best time to buy.

What’s happening on Wall Street?

We like to read trade-specific news. But we also think it’s important to read and watch mainstream financial news because that’s what everyone else is seeing.

The difference, though, is that we always attempt to delve into what’s beneath the headlines.

An article published by Bloomberg notes that Wall Street investors are beginning to snap up cheaper single-family properties they had formerly ignored.

After focusing on a particular niche … “safer” luxury-class homes and apartments … Wall Street is now lowering expectations.

Realize that what Wall Street investors are essentially doing is speculation.

They’re trying to “buy low, sell high” without investing the time and effort to research their product and control outcomes the way real estate investors can do.

But Wall Street’s foray into single-family homes affects YOU … because sourcing inventory is harder when there are more hands in the game.

It is possible to get in front of Wall Street investors … in fact, Wall Street by nature is essentially following in the steps of smart real estate investors.

But now you know what the big players are doing … and you can think about where you can step in before the market becomes saturated.

All it takes to spot the right clues is a bit of attention.

How does the tech industry affect investors?

The retail apocalypse has caused a huge shift in the industrial and office space. Products are being sold online … instead of in buildings.

But the industry behind this shift can bring boons to real estate investors.

According to the National Real Estate Investor, tech firms continue to seek out new markets for expansion.

Expanding tech companies bring huge job numbers wherever they go … and with jobs comes a need for housing.

Other markets, like office and retail space, are also impacted directly and indirectly with population and industry shifts.

To get ahead of the game, look at what factors make a market appealing to tech CEOs. A great example is Amazon’s list of market criteria, although each company will seek out different qualities.

A tech hub creates critical mass. Tech companies not only create tech jobs, but attract and are attracted to various other industries, like airlines and shipping companies.

As you pay attention and understand where businesses are growing, your ability to align yourself strategically with market shifts and new hot spots will improve dramatically.

The headlines in this episode of Clues In The News bring both challenges and opportunities. Now it’s your turn … get out there, do some research, and start reading between the lines! It’s the only way to get ahead of the game.


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.