By Adiel Gorel
Many investors are asking, now that interest rates have gone up by 2% relatively quickly, and home prices are up significantly from a couple of years ago, whether buying single-family rental investments is still something to consider.
The main point, at the heart of the matter, is that we can get a 30-year FIXED rate loan when buying single-family homes (technically 1-4 residential units) in the United States. This point is so dominant, it supersedes any other consideration. Surprisingly few investors seriously take this dominant factor into consideration.
For some who have read other materials I have written, the following is a bit of a repetition, but it’s well worth understanding this point fully. The 30-year fixed-rate loan does not usually get its due as an amazing financial tool that should be utilized by any savvy investor who can get it. For many foreigners, it is incomprehensible that in the US we can get a loan that will never keep up with the cost of living for 30 years. During that period, essentially everything else DOES keep up with the cost of living, including rents. Only the mortgage payment and balance (which also gets chipped down by amortization) do not keep up with inflation.
You can talk to many borrowers who have taken 30-year fixed-rate loans and after, say, 14 years, realized that although there are 16 years remaining to pay off the loan, the loan balance AND the payment seem very low relative to marketplace rents and prices. The remaining 16 years are almost meaningless since in many cases (statistically and historically) the loan balance will be a small fraction of the home price and not very “meaningful.” Just to get some perspective, most other countries on Earth have loans that constantly adjust based on inflation. Both the payment and the balance track inflation all the time—usually with no yearly or lifetime caps as adjustable loans have in the US.
The power and positive effect on one’s financial future gets magnified when you consider that in 2022, we are still in a period in which interest rates are very low. While investors cannot get the same favorable rates as homeowners, it is nevertheless quite common nowadays to see investors getting a rate of between 5.75% and 6.25% on single-family home investment properties. From a historical perspective, these are very low rates. Most experts think that, in the future, mortgage rates will rise further. From a historical perspective, even 7.5% is considered a relatively low rate.These days, you can “turbo boost” the great power of the never-changing 30-year fixed-rate loan by locking in these still-low rates, which will never change. If in the following year's interest rates indeed go up, you will feel quite good about having locked under-6% rates forever.
Once you have gotten your fixed-rate loans, two inexorable forces start operating incessantly: inflation erodes your loan (both the payment and the remaining balance), and the tenant occupying your SFH pays rent, which goes in part towards paying down the loan principal every month. These two forces create a powerful financial future for you.
Many of us have been “spoiled” during the COVID Pandemic that started in 2020. The Fed lowered rates to the very lowest point in the history of the US. Homeowners could get loans at 2.75%, and even a bit less. Investors could get loans at 3.5%, 3.75% or 4%. Happy times. Recently, rates rose quite quickly. Homeowners now get loans at 5% or slightly more. Investors get loans at about 6%, depending on credit. It feels like the sky is falling, but it’s important to retain the historical perspective. These rates are still historically very low. Recall also that currently, inflation is at 8.5%. Inflation is your “best friend” when you have a fixed-rate loan since it constantly erodes the true value of your payment and remaining loan balance. Getting a 6% FIXED rate loan when inflation is over 8% is quite favorable.
The 30-year fixed-rate loan is so meaningful in changing your future that it works well over the long term, almost regardless of the interest rate. Obviously, the lower the rate, the better. However, by way of an example, when I began investing in the 1980s, interest rates on mortgages were at 14%. Every single investment home I bought back then (and I always made the minimum possible down payment) started out with a negative cash flow. Nevertheless, it was clear to me that since the loan was FIXED, the payment would remain the same, but everything else would keep up with inflation. That meant, to me, that within a couple of years, the negative cash flow would turn into break-even, and a couple of years after that, it was likely to turn into a positive cash flow. A couple of years after that, the cash flow was likely to be a stronger positive, etc.
Those notions came to fruition exactly as I had seen them. I started celebrating every time one of my homes got to “break-even.” I knew that from then on, the cash flow would be even more positive, on average, as the years would go by. Even with a 14% interest rate, the system worked. Those homes changed my financial life enormously.
Of course, when rates went down, I refinanced. First, I refinanced down to 12%, then came the magic “single-digit” time, when I refinanced to 9.95% and was ecstatic about it.
I have thousands of investors’ success stories that I hear all the time. One small example is the Silicon Valley engineer who bought 16 homes, then 13 years later saw his loan balances were under 30% of the home values, despite there being 17 years still remaining on the life of the 30-year loan. He sold 4 of the homes, paid his taxes, and used the proceeds to pay off the small remaining 12 loans, retiring on the strength of 12 free and clear homes. Many of these success stories, including his, are from people who started buying when rates for investors were between 7.75% and 8.25%.
Many investors are also taken aback by the price increases that took place during the Pandemic. They feel they are being hit by high prices AND higher interest rates.
One very important thing to remember is that while I am writing this (May 2022), inflation is at 8.5%.
Some people are concerned about starting out with only a break-even, or a very slight positive cash flow when making 20% down payments. They have gotten accustomed to starting out with a healthy positive cash flow, even with a mere 20% down payment, during the super-low rates era. However, the INITIAL cash flow is just that: initial!
As time goes by, the mortgage payments remain the same. However, rents rise, on average, with inflation. These days there is a huge demand to rent single-family homes in the suburbs, with a yard and room for a home office. There is more demand than supply in the rental space, and rents are going up quite furiously across the nation. Even if rents only rise with inflation, inflation these days is quite high. Either way, the cash flow gets better and keeps getting better as the years go by, while you build equity in the home, changing your future. I look at these investments as long-term. They will very likely change your future, but they need 10, 12, or 14 years to get to the desired result. In the beginning, the “cash flow” that has the most meaning is your own income: the income from your W-2 job, or your small business, in addition to what your spouse may earn as well. THAT is what pays for your food, transportation, utilities, and kids’ expenses at the present. In the future, when the rental homes can get you to retire powerfully, the equation flips, and then the rental homes will provide the very meaningful “cash flow” you can retire on, as I describe in the example above.
The mistake many new investors make is thinking that they MUST have immediate large positive cash flow at the outset, despite not really needing it, since they generate sufficient “cash flow” in their jobs. This thinking may create a situation whereby an investor never gets started. Possibly a book the investor had read might have put the idea in their head that initial cash flow is the primary thing to look for. Ten years later, I see people expressing great regret at never having started due to these notions. Some people resort to buying inferior properties in inferior locations, seeking a “better initial cash flow.” Buying bad properties usually doesn’t end up that well.
Today, as in any time I have seen, is an excellent time to acquire single-family rental homes, finance them with the astounding 30-year fixed-rate loan, and then let time pass while inflation does its thing. We will talk about it in more detail at our upcoming quarterly event, complete with a Q&A.
© 2022 Adiel Gorel
One of the worries landlords have these days, is that due to the Covid-19 situation, some tenants who may lose their job, will be unable to pay rents.
We have already addressed this (banks also allow leeway in mortgage payments etc.). However one point to consider is the following.
Unemployment benefits have been beefed up aggressively by the government. Once people who are unemployed or partially employed start getting their unemployment benefits (hopefully any minute now), and due to the enhanced payments, many people will earn about as much as they did while they were employed. Especially in the median income territory, where a lot of our tenants live.
This is something to consider, as the fears may have been over-blown. The unemployment payments are slated to be serious, and make a big difference. The idea behind them is that unemployed or partially employed people, could pay rent, buy food and gas etc.
On the issue of the government stimulus overall, the US government has just come out with a stimulus of over 2 trillion dollars. The Fed is also injecting liquidity into the financial markets, to the tune what appears to be 4 trillion dollars. The Government is already seeking a second stimulus (possibly having to do with massive infrastructure once people can be out and work), also seemingly to be about 2 trillion dollars.
With all these trillions of dollars essentially just being “printed by the government”, any economist will tell you that it will very likely create inflation. Possibly a strong one, once things are recovered.
At the same time, interest rates are close to being the lowest in history.
Once again, you can buy a single family home now, with a 30-year fixed rate loan at maybe the lowest rate ever. Then the home price is likely to go quite a bit higher just due to inflation (not even counting real appreciation). The mortgage does NOT go up with inflation, of course. Thus, as I always say, the 30-year loan gets eroded by inflation, and your equity gets built up faster thanks to inflation. Hard assets benefits during inflationary times, and are usually the safe havens investors go to. Single family homes are not only a hard asset , but an undeniable necessity (as opposed to office buildings, for example, since people can work from home. From HOME! Yes they need a home). Also, they are the asset class on which the fixed rate loan, which never changes with inflation for as long as 30 years, can be obtained.
When inflation hits hard, you will likely feel pretty smart having bought single family home investments, with fixed rate loans.
In an article on the front page of the Wall Street Journal on Saturday, August 11th, titled “Stronger Inflation Eats Into Paychecks”, by Josh Mitchell he discusses how rising inflation creates more expenses across the board, lowering the actual standard of living for most people. This is always true. Even in years when inflation is “lower” than it is right now. Inflation constantly erodes the buying power of the dollar and weakens people’s ability to live to a certain standard they may be accustomed to. Inflation is likely to also exist in the United States for the foreseeable future, due in part to the large budget deficit, and is unlikely to abate. In fact, as the article mentions, it is now accelerating.
As I wrote about in my books, mentioned in my upcoming public television special “Remote Control Retirement Riches With Adiel Gorel”, and specifically in my booklet (which is part of the package for pledgers who help support public television stations) called “How to Harness Inflation As Your Ally”, the very act of buying a solid, affordable single-family home in the right market (please refer to the same source materials, including the booklet “Where to Invest?”), and financing them with the incomprehensible 30-year fixed-rate loan, which NEVER keeps up with inflation, actually REVERSES the effect inflation has on you.
Instead of eroding your income and buying power, when you have a 30-year fixed rate loan on a single-family home (technically these loans are possible to obtain on 1-4 residential units), inflation keep eroding BOTH your fixed monthly payment, AND the loan balance (which goes down gradually with the 30-year amortization principal payments as well).
When inflation constantly erodes your DEBT, obviously you owe less in terms of real dollars. This is an integral part of why rental single-family homes in the United States (to the best of my knowledge the only country where such loans exist), can improve your financial future, enable you to have a potentially far more powerful retirement, send your kids and grand-kids to college (as many have done using this investment style under our guidance), and actually have a constantly rising average net worth (long term, since local fluctuations both up & down in prices can vary that temporarily). In addition, you are building up to the future when either the loan balance looks so small it can just be paid off (usually well before 30 years are up), or the loan is paid off and now there is one more free and clear home providing income for the rest of your life.
I recently came back from speaking and meeting with investors in a foreign country. They are simply SHOCKED at the fact that United States investors can get the 30-year-loan (which is why I called it “incomprehensible”. Foreigners can’t understand why U.S. investors don’t get and many of these “gifts” as they possibly can. The foreign investor usually cannot get these “miracle loans.” Ironically foreigners can appreciate what these loans really mean and how they turn inflation into your ally, instead of your foe, more clearly than most Americans.
Starting this weekend, on August 18th my Public Television special “Remote Control Retirement Riches With Adiel Gorel” will start airing on various Public Television stations across the U.S. In the San Francisco Bay Area the special will air on KQED. A partial list of the air times in various markets (the list gets updated all the time) is here. For additional air times for KQED click here.
In an article published in the San Francisco Chronicle from February 7th by Christopher Rugaber (AP Economics Writer), called “Why Investors’ Fear of High Inflation is Probably Overblown,” Mr. Rugaber explains inflation by going into the pros and cons of higher and lower inflation. He provides an overall concise glimpse of the situation as it is currently. The Fed’s dilemma with increasing taxes in the face of strong employment and rising wages is certain to bring inflation to the economy. However, he also discusses how inflation assists borrowers.
Of course, at ICG, we constantly talk about how inflation erodes the 30-year fixed-rate loan. This, in turn, becomes the borrower’s ally in reducing the real buying power of the loans fixed dollar amount. We will talk about this and many other important topics during our ICG Quarterly 1-Day Expo near SFO on Saturday 3/3/2018.
Our expert speakers will cover topics including the new tax law and how it pertains to real estate investors, how to buy rental homes out of a self-directed IRA, and how to use insurance as the first line of defense of protecting your assets. There will also be lenders available to discuss what they have available and what you can expect over the next several months. Property management, legal expertise, and one-on-one’s can be found as well. And as always, we offer a lot of question and answer time. Market teams from the most relevant metro areas in the US will be present. Everyone mentioning this blog will receive free entry. Please email us that you read this at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Up until the beginning of 2012 there were some states that lead the way as far as investor interest: California, Nevada, Arizona and Florida. That interest on the part of investors was justified, as these four states were the most clearly noticeable examples of recession housing prices. These four states were the “poster children” for extreme housing price collapse.
During 2012 and 2013 all four states exhibited strong housing price appreciation. Phoenix led everyone with a 70% jump. Las Vegas wasn’t far behind and California process improved rapidly. Florida prices went up but the uptick was tempered by far slower judicial foreclosure processes in Florida, as opposed to the quick and efficient trustee sale in the other three states.
Now, in the middle of 2014, Florida prices have improved quite a bit and yet, due to the slow foreclosure process, which creates a steady trickle of supply into the marketplace, Florida is still a place where investors look to buy. However buying in Arizona, Nevada and California has slowed significantly for now.Other states, which have not experienced such extreme price swings, are now becoming attractive investor destinations.
A prime example is Oklahoma City, with low unemployment and the benefit of the oil & gas industries. Rents are high and property taxes are low. Similarly, other “middle of the country” markets in states like Kansas and Missouri are starting to attract more buyers, as is the state of Texas (with a strong economy, high rents, but also very high property taxes and insurance rates) and states like Ohio.Overall it is possible that soon the effects of the recession will no longer be dominant and marketplace demand by investor will revert to parameters before 2008.