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February 2021 Newsletter

Is Now A Good Time To Buy Real Estate?


Welcome back to our monthly Newsletters! We took January off, because we had many, many changes in our business and personal life, and we were setting everything up for a great year!

The biggest question I’ve been asked over the course of last year, is whether or not real estate is a good investment right now, and the answer is yes! Real estate is always a good investment, but you have to be smart, calculated, and concise.

Today, I wanted to dive into 6 things to be on the lookout for when considering a real estate investment.

1. Are you investing to occupy or rent? Investing in real estate could mean buying to occupy it or to rent it out. That may sound like a trivial distinction, but it’s important in how you think about your purchase and how it’s financed.

If you’re buying a property because you plan to live there, consider whether it makes sense to actually buy rather than rent. Will you be living in the area long term so that it makes sense to lock up your money in a down payment and pay the closing costs and other transaction fees? Many experts suggest that you have to occupy the property for at least seven or eight years for it to really start making sense to buy. I, however, disagree with this statement. Look into house hacking and you’ll find there are many variating ways to buy, occupy, & rent out your purchase!

If you’re an owner-occupier, you’ll also want to consider how big a house you might need in the future. Will your family expand soon and require more space? It may make sense to buy a bigger house then you need now and lock in a low mortgage payment for years. If you’re buying to rent out, your considerations are different. It’s about how much money the property can generate. So you need to understand the rental market as well as the expenses of maintaining the property. In addition, you’ll likely have to put more money down, often 25 or 30 percent, than if you were an owner-occupier, where 20 percent (or even less) is common.

Investors need to be aware of the unemployment in the area of their investment properties. You obviously want to hedge your bets that tenants will be able to pay rent as much as possible. If the property is in an area… deeply impacted by the pandemic, it might not be a good short-term play.

2. Low mortgage rates Mortgage rates are at historic lows, and now some lenders are even offering 30-year mortgages below 3 percent for owner-occupied housing. It’s hard to see such low rates and not reach for your checkbook, if a house already makes sense for you. Such low rates may make owning a house more affordable than renting one, depending on your circumstances. And with the mortgage likely being the single highest cost for a homebuyer, low rates are definitely going to drive purchases.

But rates can cut both ways, too. If mortgage rates rise in the future – certainly a big “if” in the short term, as the Fed has promised to keep its rates low through 2022 – then it could hurt house prices. But with low rates making homes more affordable today, buyers may see a future rise in rates as something worth worrying about when it arrives, if it ever does.

3. Homes are more affordable, or are they? Low mortgage rates may make property initially more affordable, but they may also send house prices soaring, negating the effect of low rates. This effect may be compounded by low inventory in some areas, making buyers scramble for what houses do remain available.

For example, take a $100,000 30-year mortgage at 5 percent interest. The fully amortized monthly payment would come to about $537. With a rate at 3.5 percent, the new monthly payment would be $449. If you were simply refinancing that, you would capture all the value.

However, when sellers see that homes are more affordable due to low rates, they may raise their asking price. At a rate of 3.5 percent, the same buyer could now afford a $120,000 mortgage and pay about the same monthly payment ($539) as before at the higher rate.

Here sellers may account for lower rates by raising asking prices by up to 20 percent. Not only does the rise negate the lower mortgage rate, it also means the buyer must come up with more money down. However, in the real world this process doesn’t happen instantaneously, so buyers may still have time to get real value before the market fully reflects the effects of low rates.

Depending on the circumstances, low rates are not always the cure-all they seem to be.

4. Watch out for a hot market There is never a wrong time to buy a house, an apartment, or land. Rates are once again at all-time lows, buyer sentiment is strong and the level of pent-up demand at the moment is quite high.

More circumspect buyers – and those who don’t have to buy today – may be dubious of such claims, however. The market forces pushing up prices now rarely last long term, because the housing market responds to incentives, such as low supply, and adjusts. That said, real estate investors need to be looking at long-term trends, not just whether the market is hot today.

Residential real estate is increasingly being viewed as a safe haven for both investors and owner-occupant buyers. As key factors for the rise in prices, you have low rates, a shortage of inventory, the increased focus on a residence as work-from-home becomes normalized and investors’ concerns about other real estate sectors such as office and retail.

Yet despite the economic uncertainties – tens of millions suddenly unemployed, for example – the market remains surprisingly robust, though it does depend on the area. Have the prices come down tremendously? No, not at all, because there is still hope that things will change for the better.

In Florida, prices have held firm but many other markets in the U.S. are buyer’s markets, making it an opportune time to invest in real estate.

In the intermountain west, investors continue to pour in. Investors are typically moving money away from coastal cities – San Francisco, Seattle and Portland – and into lower-cost, lower-regulation, high-quality-of-life intermountain states like Idaho, Montana, and Utah.

5. Check your financial situation and ability to make payments A big investment in real estate requires you to have a solid financial position. If you’re owning to occupy, then you’ll want to ensure that you’re able to make the payments, while landlords want enough cash to make repairs and cover a mortgage, if a tenant is unable to make rent.

However, even a temporary disruption to your income may not hold you back. Lenders are aware of gaps in employment and want temporarily furloughed buyers to know it doesn’t preclude them from qualifying for a mortgage.

But given the uncertainties, those looking to invest in real estate can be more conservative in both how they finance a property and what kind of property they do buy. The most important lesson potential investors can take away from the COVID-19 quarantine is to be more conservative with their use of leverage and to maintain higher cash reserves so they weather any sort of tenant default issues.

In uncertain times, It’s good to stick with industries that fall within your “circle of competence.” It’s much easier to understand industries and areas that you’ve had exposure in as opposed to trying to decipher new and upcoming industries that you may not have exposure and expertise in the past.

6. Make passive investments in real estate While many people hear the words “real estate investing” and think of high-ticket houses and apartments, investors can also get started in many other ways that offer attractive returns. One of the most popular is by being a passive investor in real estate. Such passive investing includes buying a stake in a real estate investment trust, syndication (What we do!), REIT, or using an online platform to invest. All approaches avoid the headaches of owning and managing the physical property, and they offer other advantages, too.

For example, by investing in a publicly traded REIT you can start out with as little as $20 or $30, depending on the price of the REIT. There are no commissions on trading your investments, unlike the substantial fees for real property. Plus, the investments are usually incredibly liquid and typically pay regular quarterly dividends, without you having to manage a property in any way.

With a syndication, you get the completely passive approach with all of the benefits of actually owning real estate. You get tax deductions via accelerated depreciation, you get equity, you get quarterly cashflow distributions (who doesn’t love getting mailbox money!), & you get all of the upside in the investment, which typically equates to doubling your money over a 5 year period!

Bottom Line Despite the uncertainties created by the economic climate and the coronavirus, real estate may still prove an attractive investment today, in part due to historically low rates. But remember that a lot of the value of investing in real estate comes in the long term, holding a property and letting time grow your investment. Investors looking to make a short-term score are often disappointed.

People always ask me, when is a good time to invest in real estate, and the answer will always be 10 years ago, 20 years ago, 30 years ago. But that doesn’t mean you’re too late! Start educating yourself now, and figure out what investment in real estate you would like to make and then take action!

Investment Opportunities! Over the past few months, we have grown our portfolio, significantly! We can’t continue to grow without your help. If you have any interest about what a passive investment would look like with us, schedule a call with me and I’d be happy to answer any questions that you may have. If you already know what you want and you are interested in learning more about jumping into an investment with us, schedule a call here and I’d love to discuss how we can make that happen for you!

In the mean time, feel free to check out our other FREE educational resources on our website, such as our Creative Capital Podcast, Blogs, & E-Book over on the home page! We even added a video version of our podcast interviews over on YouTube so feel free to give those a listen! I’m really proud of the way those turned out and hope you guys love it as much as I do!

Mobile, AL Market Updates

Business:

  • Earlier this month, officials at local manufacturer Threaded Fasteners reported another expansion for their rapidly growing, 41-year-old Mobile-based facilities. The media release comes out on the heels of the completed buildout for a new galvanizing plant whose groundbreaking was announced a little over 18 months ago. Some 14.5 acres of new property was acquired at a site situated next to its current production center found at 2650 Schillinger Road North in Semmes. Expectations are to construct a 30,000-square-foot property that will house specialized equipment, bringing the total site investment in the West Mobile facility to $1.7 million. New jobs will also be created with the staffing of 15 more employees on site upon completion of buildout. The new facility’s function is focused on assembling, packaging and fabricating the company’s large anchor bolts, which range from a relatively common two-foot diameter product to cartoonishly large industrial implements topping out at 20 feet in size. Designed for a niche market, the bolts are used by utility and construction companies to anchor highway directional signs, cell phone towers and commercial buildings. The driver behind the company’s latest expansion is reportedly a direct response to the uptick in redevelopment construction work seen from an exceptionally active hurricane season seen this year. Billy Duren, Threaded Fastener president, said the continuous expansions and investments are also part of their “Envision 2030” plan — a long-term company growth goal written in 2016. “It is a roadmap for not only where we wanted to go, but who we wanted to be as a company,” Duren said. “We knew that expanding our manufacturing capabilities in large scale production was the clear next step.” Outside of Mobile County, Threaded Fasteners has seven other U.S. offices in Mississippi, Florida, Oklahoma and Tennessee. Founded in 1979 and originally based in downtown Mobile, Threaded Fasteners currently has 185 people on payroll across all offices, with 111 working locally throughout Mobile County.

  • Philadelphia-based goPuff, a digital delivery service operating in over 500 U.S. cities through 200 fulfillment centers, announced its arrival into the area this past December to serve Mobile and Baldwin counties. Founded in 2013 by two Drexel University students, the company was originally an on-demand hookah delivery service, but later expanded to delivering food and goods ordered through its iOS and Android mobile apps. GoPuff began offering delivery services in Philadelphia before moving into other cities, including Seattle, Boston, Phoenix and Atlanta. In 2016, goPuff raised $8.25 million in a round of funding. In 2019, the company raised $750 million in capital from SoftBank, with a commitment for up to $250 million more. To date, the 8-year-old startup was reportedly valued at an eye-popping $3.9 billion. Since first arriving in Tuscaloosa in 2019, goPuff has migrated into more densely populated regions in the state after setting up micro-fulfillment centers. Current markets include Birmingham, Montgomery and now Mobile. GoPuff primarily delivers goods typically found in convenience stores such as snacks, drinks, household items, toiletries, pet products and baby products like diapers. Beer, wine and spirits are also reportedly available for delivery in some markets. Continuously diversifying, the company launched a beer delivery service called goBeer in December 2015. May 2016 saw the announcement of an alcohol delivery service called goBooze.

  • The latest investment in AM/NS Calvert not only secured the site’s 1,500-plus jobs, but it is also creating nearly 200 new ones. In August, the company announced it would spend $647 million to produce steel slabs — currently made in Brazil — at the Calvert mill. “Being recognized as Manufacturer of the Year is meaningful to our team at AM/NS Calvert, especially as this has been a challenging year for our organization as we navigated the impacts of COVID-19,” Jorge Luiz Riberio De Oliveira, company president and CEO, said. “We are looking forward to the upcoming year as we work toward having an on-site steelmaking facility, which will provide short lead-time flexibility and give AM/NS Calvert a decisive competitive advantage.” Construction is also scheduled to begin this month on the company’s 1.975 million-square-foot manufacturing, office and warehouse addition with a completion date of December 2022.

  • Baton Rouge, La.-headquartered Amedisys Home Health Care, a provider of hospice, palliative and personal care services with over 22,000 employees in 39 states and Washington, D.C., recently relocated their office to 200 W. Laurel Ave. in downtown Foley. The move was reportedly accelerated by Hurricane Sally. They have signed a five-year lease with the BB&T/Trust building. The location employs 10 in-house staff members and 40 out-in-the-field employees according to Janie Black, director of operations.

  • Panama City Beach, Flordia-based senior housing builder Sage Development Group, recently announced the approval of a new senior living development — Seagrass Village of Daphne — to be built in Baldwin County along U.S. Highway 98 at 7293 Dale Road. Expectations for the site are to break ground in the second quarter of 2021 with a grand opening scheduled in mid-2022. The property, situated between the Spanish Fort, Fairhope and Mobile Bay regions, will encompass a total of 135 units: 45 independent living apartments, 45 two- and three-bedroom cottages and 45 assisted living options in a resort-style environment. “Sage Development Group develops senior living properties in communities throughout Florida and Alabama. This project represents the fifth Seagrass Village senior housing development for our company,” Chase Patel, president of Sage Development Group, said. “Within close proximity to major retail and medical providers, the accessibility of this site to the entire region, coupled with the offering of a substantially larger, more modern living option than competitive area communities provide, Seagrass Village of Daphne is targeted for families and residents in the region.” Buildout plans for the property include a wellness center, bistro and pub, private dining room, outdoor dining and a salon and spa. Food services will also be developed in conjunction with onsite health and wellness professionals and will include concierge services for residents. Established in 2005, Sage Development Group is a family-owned business that operates as owner, operator and manager of independent living, assisted living and memory care communities covering Florida, Georgia, Alabama and Virginia.

National City Recognition:

  • Last week, Historic Hotels of America named the Battle House as the Best Historic Hotel in its category (201-400 rooms). Located in downtown Mobile, the Battle House Hotel & Spa has welcomed guests since its opening in 1852. “This is a great honor for the city of Mobile and the state of Alabama,” Battle House General Manager Margo Gilbert said. “Our hotel blends the best in historic architecture and exceptional service. The Retirement Systems of Alabama and Dr. David G. Bronner brought the Battle House back to life in 2007 after a massive restoration, and this award acknowledges the effort put in by our team during an unprecedented year.” Other noteworthy finalists in the category for the award included: The Willard InterContinental (1818), Washington, D.C.; The Candler Hotel Atlanta, Curio Collection by Hilton (1904), Atlanta; Francis Marion Hotel (1924), Charleston, S.C.; Mauna Kea Beach Hotel (1965), Kohala Coast, Hawaii. This is the second year in a row a hotel or resort along Mobile Bay has been honored with a national award from Historic Hotels of America. The Grand Hotel Golf Resort & Spa in Point Clear was named Historic Hotel of the Year (over 400 guest rooms) in 2019.

City Expansion:

  • The city of Mobile has announced it is beginning the next phase of a multi-year construction project that will widen Zeigler Boulevard, with the stated goal of alleviating traffic congestion and creating a safer environment for motorists and pedestrians. Construction of the project’s first phase in West Mobile, from Schillinger Road to Cody Road, began last year and is still underway. Effective Monday, Jan. 4, the next phase will commence near the Springhill area, from Athey Road to Forest Hill Drive. Initial work will start on a section of road adjacent to Langan Municipal Park that runs between Gaillard Street and Forest Hill Drive. Zeigler Boulevard will be widened to four lanes from Athey Road to Forest Hill Drive. It will also include new sidewalks and bicycle lanes on both sides of the roadway. In addition to these amenities, the project will include a raised median in front of Langan Park designed around several oak trees that will be preserved during the upgrading process. Zeigler Boulevard is currently four-laned from Cody Road to Athey Road. With the completion of construction from Schillinger Road to Cody Road, and this next phase from Athey Road to Forest Hill Drive, Zeigler will have four lanes from Schillinger to Forest Hill Drive. “As Mobile’s footprint has expanded westward, the traffic flow through Zeigler Boulevard has continued to increase,” city of Mobile spokesperson Jason Johnson said in a press release. “Expansions to the roadway have been discussed and planned for two decades, and once completed, this project will have a lasting impact on commuters and residents.”

  • As part of the plans for the Restore Act-funded Africatown Welcome Center project, slated for completion in 2023, the city of Mobile has contracted with the University of South Alabama (USA) to conduct a cultural resources study of the property. Once completed, the Africatown Welcome Center will serve as a tourism facility and a central location to welcome visitors to the community. It will be located on Bay Bridge Cutoff Road in the same location as the previous welcome center. This location is across from the Old Plateau Cemetery, which is the final resting place for many of Africatown’s founders. Working with descendants and members of the community, and in anticipation of design and construction, the city and USA will be conducting a cultural resources study beginning this month to ensure that no burials associated with the Old Plateau Cemetery are impacted by the construction of the Africatown Welcome Center. The study will also properly document the history of this important area. This effort will be multifaceted and include a geographical survey of the land, an oral history project with members of the community and a phase one archaeology survey. Information about the historical uses and impact of the property collected during this study will be made available to the community before moving forward with construction. This project is being led by Jennifer Greene, director of programs and projects management with the city of Mobile; Dr. Kern Jackson, director of USA’s African American Studies Program; Dr. Justin Dunnavant of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture’s Slave Wrecks Project; and USA archaeologist Dr. Philip J. Carr. “We are working with the Africatown community and the descendants of its original founders in all of our efforts to spur tourism to this uniquely historic part of our city,” Mobile Mayor Sandy Stimpson said. “That’s why we wanted to take extra steps in this cultural resource survey to ensure we’re properly respecting and documenting that history. I want to thank our team and our partners from USA for helping us get to this important step in the process to build a welcome center for visitors we know are already eager to come see the remarkable story of Africatown firsthand.”

  • South Baldwin Regional Medical Center announced last week they are moving ahead to finalize design work for a $186 million project to expand and modernize the hospital after receiving certificate of need approval from the Alabama State Health Planning and Development Agency. Plans include the addition of a 133,433-square-foot, four-story patient tower with a new surgical department on the first floor with a new dedicated outpatient entrance. The tower’s second and third floors will contain nursing units, including a new, larger intensive care unit. The future fourth-floor shell space can be built out to increase the bed count based on community need. The construction project is reportedly the largest ever undertaken at the hospital. Work on the design, pricing and planning is expected to take most of this year, with site work and renovation starting by the end of 2021. “Our patients count on us for quality, medical services close to home,” Tim Frerichs, M.D., an orthopedic surgeon and chief of surgery for the hospital, said. “With the updates to the facility and increased surgical care areas, we expect to provide even more types of surgery here in the community when the expansion is complete.” The goal for the expansion and renovation is to improve and enhance facilities for better patient care. Redesign plans will include a new entryway, main lobby and improved access to upgraded patient care areas. The exterior facade and finishes throughout the hospital will also be upgraded to reflect the CMS 5-star care rating the medical center currently holds. The heavily scrutinized metric is compiled by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services website (cms.gov) and features a qualitative system that gives Medicare beneficiaries a ranking ranging from 1 star (lowest) to 5 stars (highest). Medical facilities with 5 stars are considered to have superior quality while facilities in the lowest tier are considered to offer subpar resources and quality at best. “With today’s approval from the State Health Planning and Development Agency, we can move forward with this project to enhance the patient experience and support our caregivers in their work to provide compassionate, quality care,” Eric Roach, South Baldwin Regional Medical Center CEO, said. “We extend our sincere appreciation for the support of our South Baldwin Regional Board of Trustees, medical staff members, community mayors, city councils and citizens throughout our service area. Access to quality health care is critical to the success of our region’s economic development. We appreciate the ongoing support we receive from the South Baldwin Healthcare Authority.”

  • Mobile-headquartered Threaded Fasteners Inc. (TFI), a 42-year-old, 100 percent employee-owned company that manufactures, packages and distributes steel fasteners, announced the acquisition of Meridian, Mississippi-based Construction Fasteners in a press release Monday. “We have operated a branch in Gulfport, Mississippi, since 2006 and the construction industry in Mississippi has grown exponentially in the past 15 years,” TFI President Billy Duren said. “This acquisition joins two teams to help better serve Mississippi and neighboring states as construction and infrastructure investments continue to increase. We are thrilled to add to our presence in Mississippi by joining forces with the outstanding team at Construction Fasteners.” The acquisition effectively merges the sales and distribution group from Construction Fasteners to boost TFI’s footprint across the Magnolia State. “There may be a new name on our building, but the old faces will still be here. This has been a seamless experience for us,” Construction Fastener owner and founder Craig Melancon said. “We place a high value on how a company’s culture fits in with ours before we move forward with an acquisition,” Duren said. “Being employee-owned means this is not only a new branch with new employees, but they are going to be new owners of the company.” He went on to say the acquisition marks the opening of TFI’s 11th location to date, and the local manufacturer now employs nearly 200 workers while maintaining over $7 million worth of inventory across the Southeast in Alabama, Mississippi, Florida, Oklahoma and Tennessee.

Market Data:

  • Baldwin Realtors’ Multiple Listing Service (MLS) recently released their year-over-year housing report for 2020. The study indicates, even during a global pandemic and low-inventory market, last year’s real estate growth for the area surpassed sales volume, sales price and total properties sold numbers cranked out pre-pandemic in 2019. The total amount of residential new listings with effective dates in 2020 was 12,720 properties, compared to 13,063 in 2019. A total of 9,214 properties were sold in Baldwin County last year, which is a significant increase of 14.3 percent from 2019 (8,063). Additionally, these properties moved even faster with an average of 95 days spent on the market, compared to 102 days in 2019. Last year’s total sales volume saw the highest increase, at 19.4 percent, totaling $2,835,915,934, compared to $2,375,875,815 in 2019. The average sales prices of residential properties sold in Baldwin County also increased 4.3 percent to $307,457. The average sales price was $294,663 in 2019.

Summary To wrap all of this up, I just want to say that you have the complete ability to decide where you want to be in life 1 year, 3 years, 5 years, 20 years down the road, but you have to make that decision today, and you have to be consistent in chasing that vision you have for your life.

Please, schedule a call with us if you have any questions about real estate investing, syndications, the Gulf Coast Market, want to chat about aviation, me being a drummer, or anything else you can think of! Let’s chat

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