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Will COVID-19 Cause A Recession?

As we all observe and fear the Coronavirus, we see many cities under “shelter-at-home” restrictions, and many “non-essential” businesses closing. Then on the other hand, the Fed lowered rates almost to zero, and mortgage rates, after a short spike, are starting to settle down near the lowest point ever. Some people fear a recession is likely to follow, and if we remember the recession of 2008, I think it’s quite possible. That depends, of course, on the length of the lock-down.

If a recession does occur, let’s point out some of the differences between the recession of 2008 and the next recession, if it hits.

Before the 2008 recession happened, there was a major boom in many states. Home prices in states like Arizona, Nevada and Florida went through the roof. The media was shouting “It’s a bubble! It has to burst!” Prices of homes in Phoenix, for example, nearly doubled from the beginning of 2004 till the middle of 2006. Not all states participated in the party, for example, Texas and Oklahoma have not gone up very much during that time.

When the 2008 recession hit, the markets that went down precipitously were, of course, the exact markets that had participated in the 2004-2006 boom. Places in Arizona, Nevada, Florida, and other states. Prices tanked and crashed quite a bit. However not across the board, states like Texas and Oklahoma did not go down very much during the recession of 2008.

By contrast, at the present time, especially in affordable markets like Oklahoma City, Tulsa, Baton Rouge, Central Florida, parts of Atlanta, Raleigh and others, there are currently no price bubbles. No major boom has happened, Thus the likelihood of a major price crash in such markets is much slimmer than the markets which crashed in the 2008 recession. There are very high priced markets now, the expensive markets in San Francisco, for example (which has already started going down in price last year). In such markets, there may be a stronger effect on prices. Also, when you invest in a brand new home in a good area in Oklahoma and pay $170,000. You are buying the home not much over the basic construction and land cost. Again, the probability of an “intrinsic value” home like this going down much is small. By contrast, a $2M home in San Francisco, which cost $900K to build, has a lot of “air” in the price, with a higher likelihood of prices going down in San Francisco.

The recession of 2008 was created by housing. Lenders released all limits, and loans were made to virtually anyone that was human, almost regardless of credit or ability to pay. Some loans were up to 125% of the value of the house. This bad debt, called “sub-prime”, was then packaged among other debt, and amazingly, the credit agency gave these packages high ratings, as if it was a quality debt product. Then these faulty packages sold on Wall Street, and financial wizards found way to leverage them enormously. Once defaults on the bad loans started to hit, the entire structure unraveled.

By contrast, at the present  we are still under the Dodd-Frank Act, which was drafted after the 2008 recession. Borrowing is now much harder and lengthier than it was before the 2008 recession. Even borrowers with great credit are finding the current loan processes frustrating. The amount of sub-prime loans is minuscule relative the period preceding the 2008 recession, and steps were taken to make the abuses with rating agencies be much harder to repeat. Thus the next recession is likely not to be caused by bad loans. It is clear that if another recession comes, its effects on rental home investing will be quite different than the recession of 2008.

I believe that the best way to invest in real estate is to buy brand new homes, in affordable large metropolitan areas, where the rent numbers match well with prices. Then finance the homes with a fixed-rate loan. To the best of my knowledge long term fixed rate loans like we get here in the US don’t exist elsewhere. The monthly payment and the mortgage balance never change with the cost of living, while everything else does. That means inflation constantly erodes the true buying buyer of your debt, making your debt ever smaller in real dollars.

For these kinds of homes, purchased anywhere from $150K to $250K, I believe the effects of the next recession will be minimal. Rates are very low, however, so fixed rate loans will retain these great rates forever.

The act of buying good rental homes in large metro areas and holding them as rental for the long term, where  the loan erodes, is a future-changer. It does not change your future instantly or even within a short time, but over the long term, this strategy is a powerful future changer. I have seen people retire well, send kids to college, and look much stronger financially thanks to these simple yet powerful investments.

Since these investments show their power over the long term, and since the interest rates are so favorable now, and since a possible impending recession is unlikely to have effects on prices like the 2008 recession, I believe this would be a good time to invest.

As an extra “bonus”, the virus fear creates more flexibility with sellers, including builders, and the ability to negotiate better prices.

I would be happy to discuss it with anyone who may wish to inquire further.

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Coronavirus and Single-Family Home Investing

 

As we read, daily, about the spread of the Coronavirus (now also called Covid-19, but I will use Corona throughout), we are all concerned about the spread, mortality rates, means to protect ourselves and so on.

The stock market has taken a massive plunge over the past few days, on Coronavirus fears and how they may affect the economy.

Certain industries are already affected, the Olympics may be cancelled, and vacation spots are suffering due to flight and vacation cancellations.

As the stock market goes down, people who own stock feel less wealthy. However, it is reported in many sources that heavy stock concentrations in one’s portfolio occur in the upper quarter of income in the US.

Due to the virus fears, people become less mobile, fly less and stay put more.

The lure of the safety of one’s home gets more into focus.

In the affordable markets in which we invest, the type of homes we buy as investments are the type of homes purchased by homeowners who are squarely in the middle of the pack in terms of income, and even below. It is quite possible that a good segment of this population may not feel less wealthy. Their desire for a home will likely not diminish, and that means the demand for the type of homes we invest in is likely to stay strong.

The Fed is Already hinting that they are considering lowering interest rates to help the economy in the aftermath of the Coronavirus economic effects. That is at a time when interest rates are already some of the lowest in history. If rates go further down, the homes will become yet more affordable, with a potential for even greater demand, and even price appreciation. It is also possible that demand may be increased as some people move out of stocks and seek an alternative investment.

The organic need for families to have a place to live is not likely to diminish in the face of the Coronavirus. If people buy these affordable homes, especially with lowered rates, it bodes well for us investors. If people rent them, it also bodes well for us, as our vacancy rates go down.

There may well be adverse effects such as a dearth of workers due to tighter border controls and less travel, a dearth of building materials which usually arrive freely from all over, including the far east, and other shortages. Ironically, even these adverse effects are likely to increase prices, as supply may struggle to keep up with the usual demand.

This is a good lesson for us about the risk of investing in “vacation rentals”. Many younger investors may not be aware, or have forgotten, the devastating effect of the last recession on vacation rentals. I constantly talk to investor wondering why they shouldn’t buy vacation rentals. Just as in a recession, vacations are a luxury, and this luxury is one of the first to get dropped when circumstances are difficult. Even Airbnb’s may experience pain during a recession, as well as, possibly, in the face of the virus scare.

Investing in single family homes in good areas in large metropolitan areas in the Sun Belt states for affordable prices, looks even more solid in the face of difficult circumstances, relative to vacation rentals. That is one of the reasons this is what we focus on.

One of the reasons I have been so steadfast about investing in single family homes is their vast future benefits, in addition to their great relative safety.

Morgan Stanley just released, on February 28th, a 3-scenario report as to how the virus spread may affect the economy. Currently they are estimating what they call “Scenario 2”, in which the recovery we now experience is stunted in a relatively minor way before means are attained to stop the spread of the virus, as the most likely senario. The 3rd and worse scenario may lead to a recession (albeit after all the checks and balances congress installed after the major 2008 recession, I believe a future recession to be quite a bit milder than the last one, especially since one of the reasons for the severity of the 2008 recession was the massive amount of sub-prime loans, a phenomenon that has been greatly reduced by congress since, and is not nearly as prominent currently.

We have seen prices of homes in many markets drop sharply during the recession, but we also know that simply holding on to the homes, while the 30-year fixed rate loan continues to be eroded by inflation, gets us out of that cycle and into the correction. I myself have already experienced it several times in my investing career.

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The American Dream is Growing. Are You?

Family Buys American Dream Home

For years, it’s been widely accepted that owning a home resides at the core of the American Dream, yet studies conducted by the Urban Institute report that 53% of millennials today cannot afford a home as they can’t even afford a standard 20% down payment. Between escalating healthcare costs and burdensome student loans, the average millennial would take up to two decades to save up for a down payment. The dream of owning a home may seem to be crumbling, yet based on these startling numbers, it is clear that the desire for financial stability is as crucial as ever.

While roughly 80% of millennials don’t expect to receive benefits from current Social Security policies, the pursuit of financial security and growth is still very much attainable through home ownership and rentals. Thanks to the magical 30-year fixed loan rate, maximizing savings’ funds can be done through remote control retirement, one of the many innovative strategies to be presented at the ICG Real Estate 1-Day Expo in San Francisco, U.S.

Dealing with the Unstable Concept of Financial Stability for the American Dream

As inflation and increased cost-of-living may pose as threats to buying a home, single-family home rentals revive the financial success “dream” as the most liquid type of real-estate on the market. Join us this September 7th, 2019 at South San Francisco Conference Center to learn how to leverage single-family rentals to your financial benefit while:

  • Getting experts’ strategies and opinions
  • Navigating taxes, loans, new markets, and more
  • Networking with like-minded investors
  • Exploring new market trends
  • Participating in collaborative Q & A.

Just as technology advances year after year, it’s only natural that real-estate markets evolve with each generation, yet the result of a sound investment is a constant: financial success. Despite the negativity surrounding real-estate, there is still much to be discovered. Luckily, we are devoted to doing just that.

Whether it be through podcasts or interactive conferences, ICG is can help you invest in single-family rentals and guide you through a minimum-risk process designed to fit even the most inexperienced and/or busy rental owner. No matter your age, it’s not too late to start investing in your future. Register today before space runs out and build your own future on your own dream.  Learn more with our podcasts and webinars in our Membership area where we outline strategies in more depth.

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Wisely Putting Down Payments on Single-Family Rental Home Purchases

One House too many? There's no such thing when investing in your future! - Down Payments

A few times a week I talk to investors planning on putting a large down payment on the purchase of a single-family rental home. The goal is to have a better “cash flow”. It may sound logical – the greater the down payment, the smaller the loan, and hence the monthly payments. However, the foundational piece of buying rental homes in the United States is the “gift” called “the 30-year fixed rate loan”. This loan sounds like a miracle to most foreigners, since neither the monthly payment nor the mortgage balance EVER keeps up with the cost of living around the world, while everything else does.

The magical 30-year fixed rate loan

The 30-year fixed-rate loan is at the heart of life transformation for investors when the homes are held for 10 years or more (preferably over 15). The loan keeps getting eroded by inflation (or CPI– the cost of living), while the home, rent, and everything else keeps requiring more dollars to buy (hence in dollars, their value goes up – even without intrinsic appreciation). The 30-year fixed rate loan starts looking quite puny after 12, 14, 16 years. It may be years before it is paid off, but since it never keeps up with the cost of living, inflation hammers the real value of the loan.

These loans are a great financial gift, with future-changing potential. Why, then, would you want to make the gift smaller? Especially at today’s low rates? The answer is, you don’t. A larger down payment will mean the magical loan will be smaller.

May be wise not to exceed 20% down payment

This is not fully utilizing the power of the fixed-rate loan, and it means the borrower has expended more of their scarcest resource: cash! Even very wealthy people, who can afford to put down a large down payment or buy for cash, choose to put down less money. They do this to leverage their cash with the 30-year fixed-rate loan.

I think that in normal cases, a 20% down payment should not be exceeded. The small additional cash flow due to having a smaller loan is insignificant at the present time. Right now, your main “cash flow” should come from your own earnings (salary). It is later in life during retirement that the rental homes can replace your income.

In cases of big 1031 exchanges, with not enough properties to identify, or in cases of not being able to get the FNMA loan anymore, then larger down payments are merited and that is a different blog post. I still think the down payments should be less, rather than more, in any circumstance. Currently, in our Membership area on our website, we have podcasts and a webinar that discuss loans and cash flow in depth. You can learn more about it at icgre.com/members

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Some Markets Starting to Shift from Seller’s Markets to Buyer’s Market

Culdesac Single-Family Homes Shifting from Seller's Markets to Buyer's MarketIn a Fortune Magazine article by Chris Morris, published in February,  it is reported that in January 2019, there was more inventory available and houses sat on the market about a week longer than in January 2018.

As of January, there was an available inventory of 1.59 million homes overall, versus 1.53 million in December 2018.  Of course, the article is lacking by treating the entire country as one monolithic real estate market. Needless to say, there are hundreds of markets, and they don’t always perform in lockstep.

Nevertheless, there is a subtle shift, even in mentality, that is more favorable to buyers as opposed to sellers, who until recently reigned supreme. Since we are primarily buyers  (and then we hold for the long term), a buyer’s market is a positive for us.

Adjusting expectations

It is interesting to note, and one of the reasons I am posting this blog based on an article several weeks old is that while in January 2019 sales were flat, in February 2019 sales surged up, but then dropped only slightly. This is likely to continue to lower rates and sellers having to adjust expectations. Overall, we can see that while there is a shift towards buyers in many markets, the market is still hovering near a relatively stable point. With the low-interest rates and more friendly sellers, this becomes a positive for the investor.

We like to buy brand-new homes. Clearly, the sellers for us are builders. Some builders don’t want to sell to investors. Our market teams successfully convince the builders that it pays to work with our investors, as they get good volume from us. As the mood changes, these very builders may become more receptive to working with buyers, and perhaps even offer more incentives.

This will be discussed in more depth in a podcast on our Premier Members area soon. We will also talk about this during our next ICG Real Estate 1-Day Expo on May 18, 2019

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Is a Downturn in the Air?

Downsize and Downturn image blogAs we head into spring, there is a saying, “…spring is in the air.” And that is not the only thing being felt in the air. There seems to be a persistent notion that the “real estate market” has been going up for too long and is due for a correction. People also point out that the last big recession started in 2008, and perhaps the “cycle” is indicating that the new one may be upon us.

 

Of course, there really is no “real estate market” in the United States. There is the Phoenix market, the Dallas market, the Kansas City market, and the markets in every other metro area, such as Los Angeles, San Francisco, and so on. Not every local real estate market behaves in the same way others.

 

All markets do not experience a boom

 

Even during the major boom of 2004 to 2006, not all markets went through the boom. Some entire states “sat out” that of that one.  Similarly during the big recession, between 2008 and 2011, not all markets tanked. In fact, most of the markets that tanked were the ones which had boomed before.

 

Some states did not move down very much, even during the recession. This is an important point. If the San Francisco Bay Area (for example) does go down and corrects for its fast rise over the past few years, it is not “an automatic” that affordable markets like the Sun Belt states, (like the markets in which we invest) will do the same.

 

During past recessions, the rentals actually were better than usual. The reason is likely that if a tenant had been saving up to buy their own home, during a recession they are likely to shelve those plans till better times. Thus, even more, people rent than during stable conditions. Even if a downturn hits, the investor would likely benefit by just sitting and doing nothing, letting the loan balance pay down and get eroded by inflation, while enjoying lower vacancies.

 

How the Dodd-Frank bill helps

 

In addition, measures taken by congress after the last recession, like the Dodd-Frank bill, have mitigated the unbridled risk in lending that existed prior to the 2008 recession. My belief is if and when a downturn occurs, its magnitude is likely to be lesser than the last time.

 

One of the riskiest things, ironically, is that people delay buying solid investment homes, especially with today’s fantastic interest rates. I have met people from my past who never got started because there was always a recession around the corner, or a boom, or some other news item. Some of these people can be quite regretful 14 years later, realizing they could have changed their financial future but didn’t.

 

We will discuss this and many other issues at our 1-Day Expo on May 18th. I will also address this topic during our first webinar tomorrow–our official launch of the Members area on our website! Learn all about it and get on board at icgre.com/MEMBERS. Join us and stay informed!

 

 

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Buying a Home to Live in Versus Renting

Buying a Home to Live in Versus Renting

 

A classic question I get when talking to a would-be real estate investor is: “Shouldn’t we buy a home to live in first before buying investment homes?”

The answer is – it depends on where you live.

When considering owning your own residence, there are various layers of reasoning.  Some are logic and numbers-based.  Some are emotional, traditional and familial.

Owning your own home can be associated with safety, security, having “arrived”, satisfying family members’ aspirations, the stability of having a (hopefully) permanent place to live, and so on.

Of course, everyone has a different set of emotional considerations when it comes to owning a home.  These vary from person to person and, needless to say, are hard to quantify.

In this post, I will address the logical, numbers-based approach to the question of whether to buy your own home as your first real estate move, or rent and buy investment homes instead.

The numbers tell the story when considering buying a home

If you are considering buying your own home, the price of the home matters, the rent required to rent that same home matters, the local property taxes matter, the mortgage interest rates matter, dwelling insurance rates matter, and even the new 2018 tax law weighs in.

If you live in a market where property taxes are relatively low (say, between 1 and 1.7 percent of the home price per year), and insurance rates are reasonable, then if you are considering buying a home under about $400,000, that should be a “no-brainer” as your first step.  Between $400,000 and $500,000 would still be a reasonable range to consider buying the home.  In such a market, once you step up to the $500,000 range and above, the math may well start to turn as you climb higher in price, in favor of renting a home in the area in which you live.  Following that, owning rental homes in more optimal markets makes sense.

Watch out for high property tax and high insurance rates

In markets where the property taxes are high (like in Texas and Oregon), and insurance rates are high (Texas again, for example), the “no-brainer” number may shrink to $300,000 or so, while the range above which you may consider renting your own home while buying affordable investment homes in other markets, will likely be $400,000 or above. This is because with high expenses for property tax and insurance, (which as a homeowner you would be paying) the overall numbers and logic “turn the corner” faster.

Certainly, in expensive areas like the San Francisco Bay Area, Los Angeles, San Diego, New York City and others such markets, it is usually far more logical to be a renter, while owning rental properties in affordable markets, where rents are actually quite high as a percentage of the home purchase prices.

Our next quarterly expo is December 1st near San Francisco Airport. Email us at info@icgre.com and add “Read your blog post” in the subject line and come as my guest. We will get back to you with registration information. Learn more about the event at icgre.com/events.

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Where to Buy Rental Homes in the United States

We have discussed, in a previous article, why investing in Single Family Homes is a superior investment, especially for the busy professional (which most of us are).
We discussed the benefits of buying single-family homes using the unique 30-year fixed rate financing available ONLY in the United States (foreigners are amazed that we can get loans where nothing keeps up with inflation for as long as 30 years, meaning inflation keeps eroding the real value of our debt while the tenant is gradually paying it off for us). The 30-year fixed-rate mortgage is only available on 1-4 residential units, making single-family home rental investments even more attractive.
We also discussed how owning a portfolio of single-family rental homes can change everyone’s financial future. It can facilitate sending your kids to a great university, it can retire you sooner and more powerfully, and overall it can create a financial safety net for your future.
Single-family homes are easier to manage than other property and are usually occupied by families with kids, who go to local schools and serve as an anchor of stability to keep the family renting for a longer time. Single Family Homes are also possibly the most liquid real estate since when you put it up for sale your potential buyer pool is essentially everyone in the marketplace. It is still considered the “American Dream”, a dream which is attainable in many markets in the United States.
Where should we buy our single-family home rentals? To begin with, we can focus on large metropolitan areas. Large metropolitan areas are usually comprised of a number of cities (for example the Phoenix metro area includes cities such as Chandler, Mesa, Gilbert, Scottsdale, Avondale, Peoria, Glendale, and others). A large metropolitan area usually has good economic and employment diversity and a large pool of industries and employers. This is likely to create employment opportunities and economic stability. A large metro area also is likely to have a diversity of education, culture, culinary and many other facets of life, which can be attractive to a larger pool of residents and create a stable place in which to live.
Next, it is always instructive to study the demographic trends in the United States. Even before we had the World Wide Web and search engines to facilitate research, demographic information was available through multiple sources, including the US Census. It is evident that as far as overall demographic movements, the Sun Belt States are the states which usually experience net growth in population on an ongoing basis (those states in the sunny, southern part of the US, such as Nevada, Arizona, Texas, Oklahoma, Utah, Colorado, Florida, and other southern states.) Not all Sunbelt states keep growing on a net basis, but many of the big ones do, and that would be one criterion on which to base our geographic choice.
We will continue on “Where to Buy Rental Homes” in part 2 of 4 of this article. We will also discuss these subjects and much more during our ICG Quarterly 1-Day Expo on Saturday, December 2nd, 2017 near SFO. We will have experts discuss Asset Protection, Tax planning for year-end, 1031 Exchanges, special loans for investors (including foreign investors and investors who own over 10 properties), and a lot more. To register, please email us at info@icgre.com and mention this blog. You can attend for free with a guest.
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The Sun Still Shines in Florida!

Florida has emerged as the “Go To” state in 2014.
 
While Arizona and Nevada are excellent; Texas, Oklahoma and a slew of other states, are relatively stable. It’s Florida that embodies the post-recession sweet spot.
 
The home prices in Florida markets are still way below the bare construction costs. Even though there is steady price appreciation, values are still very attractive relative to new homes. We have already touched upon the reason: the foreclosure process in the state of Florida is judicial and has been extremely slow. As a result, the flow of homes into the marketplace is more steady than in Trustee Sale markets.
 
Despite the great demand, this balancing out of the supply of homes has created a more tampered growth environment for the state of Florida. Many great markets will emerge after the recession effects wear off. For now, the sun shines on Florida!
 
Don’t forget to visit us at our incredible 1-Day Expo THIS SATURDAY, March 8th, near the San  Francisco Airport. Details are on our website: www.icgre.comWe will have rare speakers, tons of education, lots of Q&A and many experts present. In addition, some of the hottest markets in the nation will be represented. A day not to be missed!
 
Looking forward to seeing you on Saturday!
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