May 24

The NY Mag has an excellent, sorry depressing, article about “Dr. Doom” Nouriel Roubini prediction of an extended depression.

In September 2006, Nouriel Roubini told the International Monetary Fund what it didn’t want to hear. Standing before an audience of economists at the organization’s headquarters, the New York University professor warnedthat the U.S. housing market would soon collapse — and, quite possibly, bring the global financial system down with it. Real-estate values had been propped up by unsustainably shady lending practices, Roubini explained. Once those prices came back to earth, millions of underwater homeowners would default on their mortgages, trillions of dollars worth of mortgage-backed securities would unravel, and hedge funds, investment banks, and lenders like Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac could sink into insolvency.

His predictions for 2020 are far more dire

A decade later, “Dr. Doom” is a bear once again. While many investors bet on a “V-shaped recovery,” Roubini is staking his reputation on an L-shaped depression. The economist (and host of a biweekly economic news broadcastdoes expect things to get better before they get worse: He foresees a slow, lackluster (i.e., “U-shaped”) economic rebound in the pandemic’s immediate aftermath. But he insists that this recovery will quickly collapse beneath the weight of the global economy’s accumulated debts.

Go read the article

Apr 30

https://www.naahq.org/news-publications/explaining-breakdown-1-rent

Apr 09

As an industry, rental housing providers must be present to PREVENT harmful legislation, because it is much more difficult to be made whole after the fact.

If the government does something that causes a large number of owners to fail, those owners will not have financial resources to fight back. They will be merely trying to feed their families.

This is not just bad for the owners that lost, but bad for tenants as well. In the years after the 2008 crash, there was a significant consolidation of rental ownership in Milwaukee. The city went from around 36,000 individual owners down to ~23,000 at a time that homeownership plummeted. Today Milwaukee has 41.8% owner occupancy. Nationwide that number is 65.1%.

Consolidation and owners doing what they could to survive the ’08 crisis has driven rents up significantly.

Those owners that come out of 2020 intact will likely be stronger than today. But not necessarily as municipalities will suffer more financially this go-round than in 08.

Owners that don’t fare well in the next few months will continuously be looking over their shoulders, hoping Jeff Bezos’ latest robot doesn’t take their job at the Amazon warehouse.

Or our government can keep printing trillions of dollars of new money and when end up like Venezuela where a quart of milk costs 4,200 bolivares, 11% of the monthly minimum wage. In 1990, a VEN bolivar was nearly equal to USD.

Hyperinflation, while bad for working folks, is good for those who enter it with assets and debt. Your debt remains in old dollars that you are paying off with new, cheaper dollars. Your assets acquired before the inflationary cycle will rise in value.

Look at what happened in the US during the late seventies and early eighties with annual inflation and interest rates on standard bank loans hit 18% in 1980. I was buying everything I could get my hands on. It was a risky, but good play when interest rates corrected and I could refinance at low rates like 12% APR. Yes, you can make money on rentals financed 90% at 18% APR. But you do have to pay almost nothing.

Look at average new home prices Dec 1977, when I started in real estate, $52,700 to Dec 1987 at $111,800.

Then look at historic interest rates. They were “cheap” in 1975 at 8.8% and cheap again in 1986 at 9.3% with a belly of 18.6% early 1981.

Yes, I do laugh when I hear investors fretting over half percent fluctuations in rates.

I’ll end this overly long post with there will be a huge risk to some, but also huge opportunities for others in this economy that we’ve never seen before and have no idea how it will turn out.

Nov 30

In 2006

Everyone: “The market is high, aren’t you going to sell and make a killing?

Me: “Nope, don’t know where I would put the money if I did sell.

In 2009

Everyone: “Wow! you must have lost a lot of money due to the real estate crash!

Me: “Nope, I did not sell, I’m not selling, occupancy rates are the highest I’ve seen and rents are going up.

If you are in this for appreciation or flipping, the fluctuations in real estate values directly impact you. If you are a buy and hold owner, then the market does not impact you as much.

My buddies who sold out in 06, 07 and thought they made a killing, lost a lot when the stock market corrected, plus paid taxes on the sales. Those of us that stayed in the rental game did okay.

Property values and rental returns do not move in unison.

In forty years I’ve seen the worst housing markets being the best rental markets, as long as you bought right and financed right. In 05 and 06, when anyone who could fog a mirror was given a mortgage, we saw double digit vacancy rates.

So strong housing markets can actually be bad for the rental market.

Nov 29

From the Milwaukee Journal :

A new report from RENTCafe found that West Allis registered a 14.6% increase in average rent rates from just one year ago.

Per RentCafe, Milwaukee saw a 4% increase. Their report for WI is at:

https://www.rentcafe.com/blog/rental-market/local-rent-reports/wisconsin-rent-report-october-2019/

4% for Milwaukee sounds about right. 14.6% for West Allis is surprising.

But if the proposed MPS budget goes through with its expected 64-134% property tax increase, then I expect that Milwaukee rents will skyrocket, all the while profitability will decrease.

Jun 20

Since yesterday’s post on Milwaukee rent stats I’ve spoken to a number of people, both landlords and tenant advocates, who felt rents had significantly increased in Milwaukee over the past couple of years.

I took a look at this using Rent-O-Meter’s rent analytic tool.  (I highly recommend this tool for accurately  setting residential rents) In moderately priced neighborhoods both on the Southside and Northwest, their data is showing that for two bedroom units rents have actually dropped quite a bit from 2016.  Three bedroom unit rents remain stable.

Not sure what to attribute this to.  There has been a softening of occupancy levels over the past year or so, which nearly always causes price corrections.  No money/low money mortgages are reappearing.  That temporarily drives up vacancies, but as we saw in 2008, that bubble pops.

 

 

Rent-o-Meter data NW Milwaukee

Rent-o-Meter data NW Milwaukee

Jun 19

Rents have not changed significantly in Milwaukee (2008-2012) compared to 2013-2017)

What has changed significantly is the number of people paying over 35% of their income in rent.  That percentage DROPPED from 50.1% in 2008-2012 to 45.9% in 2013-2017.

While there is still room for improvement, it looks like the financial status of Milwaukee’s tenants is improving.  This is a good thing for all.

Table is from the US Census Data:

Milwaukee Rental Data From US Census

Milwaukee Rental Data From US Census

Jan 20
Note, this began as a discussion between myself and another well known Milwaukee investor.
 
I have been an investor in Milwaukee real estate since the seventies. I have seen the market roller coaster many times. My belief for the coming months is:
 
In the next 12-18 months, we will get to near 2008 levels of correction both the mid-upper end of the market and the lower end, with the middle being less affected. Trump could make it worse, or Trump could make it better. It is not in Trump’s nature to not be involved an issue of this potential magnitude.
 
Mid-upper, 350k-1.5M range depending on the location, valued home sales will suffer as interest rates rise and the limits on tax and interest deductibility make them less affordable for those who are currently, marginally able to have such a home. In some markets, such as south FL and NYC, we’ve already seen discounting in the upper segment. It will get worse. Not many people, including politicians, feel sorry for the overextended Yuppie with the leased BMW in the drive of his McMansion that is filled with furniture bought on credit while working at a job he got with his degree that came with a significant college loan debt.
 
Low value (sub 100k) homes will take the hit as wages have remained static and interest are rising. We have been returning to “soft” underwriting. This is a segment where homeowners are more likely to quit when it gets hard. Those owners will fail. Unfortunately, no one in power truly cares when a poor family loses their home. The Dems say they care, but many secretly rejoice as each failure allows them to increase their political base by verbalizing outrage and empty promises of help. The Reps loyalty is more to the bankers than the homeowners. Rand Paul cannot change the world by himself.
 
Learning from the 2008 debacle, the government will prevent the full-on implosion of the middle. Too much economic and political damage if the voting class loses their homes again. But I still expect a 10-20% discount when owners must sell.
 
Throughout my career, when owner-occupied housing has suffered, rents and/or occupancy rise. Beginning in 2008 and continuing to this day, we’ve seen the most robust rental market of my career. In 2005-2007 we had our worst vacancy rates as every good tenant was suddenly, and temporarily, a homeowner.
 
When the economy is terrible opportunities abound.
 
In Carter’s 1980, prime rate was 21% at one point. Nobody was buying, well nobody but me and a few of others. I bought a hundred fifty units in the ten years between 79 and 89 when owner-occupied mortgage rates were consistently over 10% and rental mortgages near impossible to obtain.
 
In 79-89 we bought properties that worked at the 10-12% interest we were paying. I structured my buys so that I survived and made enough to support my family. When rates fell, values increased. Interest rate chart.
 
The longer the downturn goes on, the higher number of tired landlords, or their estates, will be seriously motivated to sell. They will create ways to make to make sales happen. Much of my purchases in 79-89 were owner financed because banks were not even enthusiastic about lending to owner-occupants at the time.
 
The combination of Amazon and remote working arrangements killed most commercial property value. My daughter does something important for AT&T corporate. She has worked from her living room for the past five years, and AT&T sold her former office.
 
The Chinese are selling off their US holdings.  WSJ: Chinese Dumped $1 Billion of U.S. Real Estate in Third Quarter, Extending Recent Retreat (Dec. 4, 2018)
 
Millennials don’t buy homes. They live in mom’s basement, or they rent. 
 
My three-year view:
 
I have good feelings about residential rentals across most segments. This will only hold true if:
• You have fixed rate financing; or
• You structured your purchases so that they still cash flow at 12% interest.
 
I think flipping will be a flipping foolish thing to do for the foreseeable future. Even if you are buying well today, you are buying higher on the price curve than you will be selling at three to six months from now.
 
Keep your powder dry for the next six to twelve months, i.e., hoard cash. Opportunities will abound.
 
Warren Buffet: “Be fearful when others are greedy, and be greedy when others are fearful.”
 
Jimmy Buffet: “If life gives you limes, make margaritas.”
 
Further reading: (A lot of WSJ pay-walled articles, but they do some of the best research.)
 
 
 
 
 
 
Aug 29

For years I struggled with setting rents. Too much under market rents and the properties did not perform as well as they could. Too much over market rents, they sat vacant and do not perform as well as they could. There seems to be a theme developing here. 😉

To succeed you need to know what others are charging for rent in your very specific market. To that end, we spent a lot of my time, my staffs’ time and effort trying to collect comparable rents.

Ten, fifteen years ago our team manually enter details from for rent ads in the local papers, Craigslist, Zillow and anywhere else we found them. Then we would combine that information with city property records, trying to get an accurate view of what the market rent was for a particular unit. This was expensive and annoying.

We tried freelance data collectors through oDesk (now UpWork) to collect and correlate the records. Better, but still costly and the results still were not exactly what I wanted.

Then I saw promise in AI and Machine Learning, using tools like BlockSpring. Better results, but then Craigs and others started blocking automated collection tools.

We went back to manual data collection where we had to and automated what we could.

We were doing the rent surveys once or twice a year due to the hassle and costs. Quarterly would be better to catch trends.

I had looked at Rent-O-Meter in its early days. It seemed promising but had far less data than even our rudimentary data set.

Last October I relooked at Rent-O-Meter. Wow. We have been using it ever since.  They have both a free version and a free trial of the “Pro” version that goes for about $200 per year.  Setting one rent wrong will cost you more than that. You may want to take a look.

Note: while this may sound like an ad for Rent-O-Meter, it is not.  I’m just a happy, paying customer of theirs.

Jul 11

A worthy read:

Evictions: They Are Not The Terrible Landlord’s Fault

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