The Opportunity of a Lifetime – in Real Estate

Markets show no clear direction.

The press, too, seems confused about what stories to follow. One newspaper focuses on jobs. Another thinks Janet Yellen should get more ink. Spain has climbed out of recession, the Financial Times tells us. Another shutdown-danger looms ahead, warns the Wall Street Journal.

We have been connecting the dots between civilisation, barbarism and Fed policy. Not everyone’s cup of tea, to be sure, but it has held our interest for a few days.

But today we back off… We don’t have the energy for deep thinking. Thinking is like mining. It is easier to do on the surface. So, we will think superficially, today. It is more fun too.

We recently returned from south Florida. Everything seemed to be booming again. The restaurants were full. Smiling faces were everywhere. And new apartment buildings, which seemed abandoned four years ago, now have their parking lots full of shiny new cars.

We caught up with an old friend, a savvy real estate investor…

We had a field day for a while,‘ he began. ‘It was unbelievably good. So unbelievable that even my partner couldn’t believe it. We should have been buying up everything. But he got cold feet.

There were lots of rental units on sale…for five or six times rental income. At that price, you couldn’t miss. You could plug in a safety measure -figuring your rental income might go down 25% – but the numbers still looked good.

And I was doing it without financing. No leverage. You can imagine how well you could have done with a little leverage. You could borrow at, say, 4% or 5%. If you bought at five times income, you could spend half your revenue on upkeep and overhead and still come out ahead.

You didn’t have to be a genius. You just had to be in the business and you had to keep your head.

I have a friend down here. He was buying apartment buildings at three times rental income. No kidding. He bought something like 100 units. He made a fortune. In just a few months. He just borrowed the money to buy the things. Now, he can refinance…pay off the loans…and he’s got millions of dollars worth of property.

But now it’s over. Prices are up. There aren’t many distressed situations. I can’t find anything selling for less than six times rental income. And they don’t look very attractive, for one reason or another.

Isn’t that funny though? I mean, how you get hit with a massive financial crisis…and it turns out to be the opportunity of a lifetime? You just have to keep your wits about you. Which is pretty hard to do.

Very hard to do. Whatever the zeitgeist of the time, it’s tough to resist.

At Bonner & Partners Family Office, the family wealth advisory service my son Will and I set up in 2009, we struggled with the same thing. But fortunately, we have recommended high allocations to real estate since the start.

Although the bust is over in America, bubbles are developing elsewhere…especially where they speak English. According to The Economist, house prices are 20% too high in Britain, 46% over fair value in Australia and 74% over fair value in Canada.

In non-English speaking countries, too, real estate booms may be turning into bubbles, thanks largely to government policies. Yes, the authorities are fooling with interest rates…and giving buyers an opportunity.

Britain, for example, has a ‘Help to Buy’ program: The government takes much of the risk of marginal mortgages. Argentina has a buy-the-vote program in which some prospective homeowners are given construction mortgages at fixed rates as low as 2% (pretty darned good in a country where inflation is running at about 25% to 30% a year!).

And in France, buyers have mortgage finance that is sexier than it first appears. An old friend, originally from New Orleans, explained when we were in Paris last month:

They don’t have non-recourse loans. And they don’t have fixed-rate loans. So you think there’s not much you can do. But, in fact, they have something else. The rates are low…and the payments are fixed.

So, what you do is you get a loan at just, say, 2.7% (which is very low). You buy an apartment for $1,000,000. Your mortgage payment is only $27,000 a year. You can rent that apartment out for…maybe…$40,000. So, already you’re not in bad shape. You pay $27,000…and let’s say you only get $35,000 in rent. Rentals here are typically net, net, net… You’re breaking even.

Now, let’s say mortgage rates go up. It doesn’t matter, because your monthly payment is fixed. They just add it on to the end of the mortgage itself. And you don’t really care. You’re breaking even. And eventually, prices rise…and you refinance or pay it off.

Recently, I financed some property in Paris at 2.7% and I took the money and bought property in New York. I know it seems a little crazy, but 2.7% is lower than 4%…and, at that rate, my New York apartment is running above break-even too.

Yes, dear reader, low-interest financing – not low prices – is now the key to the US housing market. Buy well…finance fully…and you can still come out ahead.

More to come…

Regards,

Bill Bonner
for Markets and Money

Join Markets and Money on Google+

Claim your FREE Special Investor Report…

Why Australia is on the Verge of a Decade Long Property Boom

Markets & Money Free ReportImagine you could see — with clarity — what was going to happen in the Australian housing market over the next few years?

This man can.

Dubbed ‘Australia’s most controversial economist’, Philip J Anderson says Australia is headed for another ten years of surging property prices.

If you rent somewhere and want to buy… you’re planning to buy or build… you own a home with a mortgage… or are interested in real estate as an investment… you must get this report.

You’ll learn:

  • How to time your investments to the real estate ‘clock’: you’ll see how the economy moves over time — and why — and can use this to time your real estate investments. Not only will you know when property is cheapest, you’ll never be suckered into buying at the peak and becoming trapped in negative equity.
  • The Secret of The ‘Law of Rent’: Just as gravity is one of the laws of science, the law of rent drives the boom and bust of the property cycle. Learn the secret behind mastering the law of rent and how you can use this unique forecasting tool to create a mass of wealth from property.
  • Why the US property market holds the key to property profits in Australia: As an investor outside the US, you have a huge advantage. In this report you’ll discover why the Aussie property market is inextricably linked to the US. And you’ll learn why grasping the predictable movements of the US property market could make you rich.

To download your free report ‘The 18 Year Real Estate Cycle That Says Aussie Real Estate Will Boom’ simply subscribe to Markets and Money for FREE today. Enter your email in the box below and click ‘Send My Free Report’.

We will collect and handle your personal information in accordance with our Privacy Policy.

You can cancel your subscription at any time.

Bill Bonner

Bill Bonner

Since founding Agora Inc. in 1979, Bill Bonner has found success and garnered camaraderie in numerous communities and industries. A man of many talents, his entrepreneurial savvy, unique writings, philanthropic undertakings, and preservationist activities have all been recognized and awarded by some of America's most respected authorities.

Along with Addison Wiggin, his friend and colleague, Bill has written two New York Times best-selling books, Financial Reckoning Day and Empire of Debt. Both works have been critically acclaimed internationally. With political journalist Lila Rajiva, he wrote his third New York Times best-selling book, Mobs, Messiahs and Markets, which offers concrete advice on how to avoid the public spectacle of modern finance. Since 1999, Bill has been a daily contributor and the driving force behind Markets and MoneyDice Have No Memory: Big Bets & Bad Economics from Paris to the Pampas, the newest book from Bill Bonner, is the definitive compendium of Bill's daily reckonings from more than a decade: 1999-2010. 

To have Bill's reckonings delivered straight to your inbox subscribe to Markets and Money for free here.

Read more

Bill Bonner

Latest posts by Bill Bonner (see all)

Leave a Reply

1 Comment on "The Opportunity of a Lifetime – in Real Estate"

Notify of
avatar
Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted
comment
Guest

Interesting thoughts. Seen similar impacts from low interest rates in Australia. A fairly flat market in some parts over the last few years. 2013 has seen sentiment and optimism re-enter. Increased optimism must be attributable to the increased sentiment. Government grants have also helped in some parts.

wpDiscuz
Letters will be edited for clarity, punctuation, spelling and length. Abusive or off-topic comments will not be posted. We will not post all comments.
If you would prefer to email the editor, you can do so by sending an email to letters@marketsandmoney.com.au