Jun 17

https://www.cnn.com/2020/06/16/success/rents-are-dropping-us-cities-coronavirus/index.html

“I’m seeing rents are down 10% to 20%, with higher-end and luxury units taking the biggest hits,”

Considering that the typical owner’s net operating income after mortgage, taxes, insurance, utilities, repairs, employees, is 7-9% there will be a lot of failures, of both owners and municipal budgets.

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.

Feb 04


For many reasons I’ve felt that much of commercial real estate is a poor investment. From Amazon keeping people out of stores, to increasing work from home arrangements. My daughter does an important job for AT&T. She has worked from her living room for many years, since they closed their main Brookfield office.

Now there is one more reason for companies to abandon commercial space – pandemics .

“It’s a good opportunity for us to test working from home at scale,” said Alvin Foo, managing director of Reprise Digital, a Shanghai ad agency with 400 people that’s part of Interpublic Group. “Obviously, not easy for a creative ad agency that brainstorms a lot in person.” It’s going to mean a lot of video chats and phone calls, he said.

Bloomberg 2-2-2020

Dec 14

The is a great, worth the time to read, article on landlord regulation over at BiggerPockets.

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.

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.)
 
 
 
 
 
 
Jul 11

A worthy read:

Evictions: They Are Not The Terrible Landlord’s Fault

Apr 12

From today’s Milwaukee Journal Schneider: Desmond’s ‘Evicted’ is a flawed masterpiece

The article misses the mark in some aspects.
 
Homes in Milwaukee’s poorest areas often can be bought for as little as $8,000, with rents running upwards of $500 a month. In virtually no time, landlords can own the properties free and clear and the rent they collect is pure profit — as long as they can collect. As succinctly put by one of the landlords featured in the book, an African-American woman named “Sherrena,” (pseudonyms are used throughout the book) “The ‘hood is good.”
 
This furthers the misperception that landlording is a “get rich quick” scheme. Sherrena made statements to Desmond that sent up red flags, at least to us in the industry,  that she was already in the throes of failure at the time of the interviews.  

Attorney Heiner Giese did the research to discover Sherrena’s identity.  She was not becoming wealthy on these properties.  Instead, Sherrena began losing her buildings to foreclosure shortly after the Desmond interviews and was out of business well before the book was published.  Many of her properties have since been razed.

However, Schneider does recognize a fact that is missed by many who look at rental housing and urban issues from the outside

 

Further, despite the book’s grim portrayal of landlords, one can only imagine how far these neighborhoods could fall if landlords weren’t there to keep at least some semblance of order. If housing laws were to squeeze the amount of money property owners could make on their rental units, they may simply abandon these homes altogether, leaving a lawless landscape devoid of structure.

 

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