- March 27, 2020
- Posted by: august19
- Category: Podcast
What is currently happening in the real estate market with this Coronavirus pandemic? What will happen months from now when this is all over? In this episode, Gail Anthony Greenberg and Chris Seveney take a look at the relationship of Corona and note investments – how the former is affecting the latter and how the industry is coping. Tackling how banks will be reacting with this crisis, they discuss how home investors and realtors may handle their transactions. There will be no booking market coming up, but timing can most certainly heal this financial chaos. Join Chris and Gail as they share their note investment insights in the middle of a pandemic.
Listen to the podcast here:
Corona And Note Investments: How Investors Should Cope With Pandemic
This is a rare open mic because we are in the middle of an unprecedented crisis in American. It’ll be fun to look back on in future years. Our snow day from the coronavirus pandemic. It is March of 2020. We’re all in our bunkers. Chris is struggling because he has children and a wife under his roof all trying to stream at the same time.
Thank you for a wonderful intro, Gail. We thought we would come on, hopping on and working from home. I figure I’d spend some time for people to hop on and have questions or things they want to review because a lot of people are working from home. A lot of stuff has slowed down, so people may have time to either do some extra due diligence or be able to float more than their full-time job.
I have worked on my own for years. For me, working from home is normal and it’s very free-flowing. There’s no actual schedule. I start when I start, I eat when I eat, and I do laundry. When you are used to going to an office every day and then you have to work at home, do you find yourself maintaining a rigid schedule? Weeks from now you’ll be swinging from the rafters. You’ll be eating at 3:00 in the afternoon. You’ll be sleeping until noon.
My schedule hasn’t changed. I got up at the same time. The only difference was the commute time. Usually, I eat lunch at 11:30 but I’ve had a lot of phone calls. I’m coordinating stuff. I sat down and have lunch with my family at noontime. For the most part, get up at the same time every morning. I started work earlier than I would. I didn’t have to commute. About 7:45, I started shooting out emails, getting on the phone about 8:15.
I heard a couple of good things. One is no commuting required and also you had lunch with your family. How nice, what a sweet thing.
It’s lunch and breakfast. Nobody killed each other yet. I’m trying to explain to my eight-year-old that it is a school day for him. It’s challenging to say the least. The first thing I did in the morning is I emailed all my attorneys and servicers. I said, “Good morning and I hope everyone’s doing well. I’m inquiring if are you on limited work? What’s your status? What’s the status within local jurisdictions?” If it’s an attorney in regards to foreclosures, forfeitures because a lot of people have read that there’s been a lot of halting of evictions. People are bent out of shape about that, but the reality is the court systems are closed. Even if they didn’t say we’re halting them, they’re halting because nobody’s there.
They can’t be done. It’s funny you say that because I have one scheduled. I wrote to my attorney and it’s in Indiana. That’s a little weird about trying to figure out what’s going on because it’s different in different states. You and I are in the East. You’re in the DC area and I’m in Philadelphia. Pennsylvania was one of the earlier states to shut everything down or at least try to shut everything down. There were 28 total cases of coronavirus in Pennsylvania, which is a very big state, as you know. Seventeen of them were in my county. It’s officially a hot spot. There are 63 cases in Pennsylvania and only 24 in my county. Our status as plague central is diminishing, which is nice. They close the schools for an indefinite period. They said two weeks, but I’m sure they’re going to extend it. The governor asked all non-essential businesses to close. I was driving around thinking, “Let me see how the world looks different.” People are still open. Home Depot was open. I didn’t think that was strictly essential. If you’re in the trades, it’s essential. I thought essential meant drug stores, food stores, banks, gas stations and liquor stores.
You mentioned Home Depot. One of the things that’s important, especially in construction sites, everyone went and was buying up all the masks. On construction sites working with concrete, silica, and drywall, a lot of workers can’t find masks to go to work even. That’s created some additional challenges from things. I work in Maryland in Montgomery County, which has a dozen cases. I live in Fairfax County, Virginia which is the most cases. Virginia is up to 45. Maryland has halted evictions, Maryland closed all restaurants as well. They’re allowing take-out only. It’s one of those things that I agree with you. It’s going to be more than two weeks before these things settle down. With that, Gail, from a note investing, in real estate perspective, what are some of the things that you may recommend to people?
I want to say one thing about the timeline. We have Chinese students living with us and one of them is from Wuhan, which is the official starting point for the virus. I asked them how long they were required to stay home. In China, it was not a recommendation. It was a very solid requirement for everyone. It was about a month. I’m not an epidemiologist but if China had so many cases right out of the gate, the people had to stay home from a month. I’m hoping at least that is our worst-case scenario but I’m not sure we’re as on top of it as they were.
In New Orleans, which is my adopted second home, all they’ve required so far is that the restaurants remove some tables and shove the remaining tables apart, so there’s more distance. They’re closing the bars at midnight, which apparently is early. I didn’t even know I can’t make it past 11:00 anymore to save my life. When they tried to get everyone to go home at midnight, it was complete insanity. The police could not clear the streets. In New Orleans where there are many people who work on an hourly wage, the mayor is not going to take responsibility for closing the restaurants.It's not going to be a snap of your finger where all of a sudden, you're going to see an influx of nonperforming notes at the market. Click To Tweet
It’s going to take the governor stepping in to make that happen. Who can think about note investing at times like this? It’s been something that people have talked about online too. There are a few people taking advantage of the situation. We have seen people introducing courses not just to fill your lonely hours at home. It’s specifically having to do with how to take advantage of a crisis. I have trouble thinking in those terms when I’m in a crisis. Luckily, we haven’t had that many in my lifetime, but something like this is so unusual. In some respects, it’s nice having to stay home. You’re having nice meals with your family.
My son got engaged. He and his fiancé have to stay home for a month. They’re excited about it. It’s exciting for us to be in a business where you don’t have to go somewhere to still have everything working the way it’s supposed to. We are going to be inconvenienced. I am hoping a couple of my REO’s that are under contract to be sold don’t fall through because of the borrowers getting behind. That’s my one selfish requirement that I’m hoping it doesn’t happen. In general, we’re fortunate that we’re in a business that we can always do it from home. You have a real job you have to go to.
It is true that this is something you can do from home. In times like this, it’s something that can still produce to cut in your pocket. I mentioned that because there’s somebody I saw that I know who works in television. They’re a contractor for ESPN. All of a sudden, everything is shut down. They were told, “We’ve got nothing for you until September.” Sixty percent of the population doesn’t have more than $400 in their bank account. If you go to anybody and say, “You had six months before we can do anything for you,” that’s going to cause some serious stress on anybody except for people who are in the top 0.5% or 1% and so forth.
To any middle-class individuals, six months is going to hurt. It’s unfortunate. It’s going to be interesting to see what the government does. One of the things that I been preaching to people is, be patient because people are like, “What if my tenant doesn’t pay? What’s going to happen? They have a mortgage.” It’s like, “We’re only at the middle of March. Let’s see how this thing blows through. If it’s only two weeks, then we’re fortunate. If it’s longer than that, we start looking at some of the options that are available. You can do a forbearance or you don’t have payment for the next months.”
People who teach about your personal finances and how to set it up always recommend that you have six months of salary in reserve as your savings. I’ve looked at those numbers, six months savings. First of all, it’s hard to do for most of the beginning of your life and then when you have kids. That’s a lot of money to sock away. I don’t know that everyone has been successful. This is why because when I would read a number like that, I would think, “What could happen in six months other than you’re in a coma that you would go for six months?” The people at ESPN, unfortunately, are finding out. Someone commented on Twitter beyond the financial, “What are men going to be talking about for the next six months now that there are no sports?”
The other component to that is a lot of people were okay, the economy is doing well. Unemployment is low, not afraid of any type of job loss or be easy to get another job and so forth. This has single-handedly crushed a lot of small businesses. That’s going to be an interesting thing, what’s going to happen with small businesses like restaurants. I’ve seen things about telling people, “Go out and buy a gift certificate to your favorite restaurant.” At least they’re getting some of that revenue because restaurants work on the smallest margin. Them being shut down and stuff is going to hurt.
I’m thinking those employers who are trying to prepay or give sick pay to their employees who can’t work because their businesses are closed. That’s a high hurdle to not to survive as a business but to also try to help your people survive. It’s a high price tag. I had this conversation with my property manager in Indiana. Indiana is a place the whole rust belt. They’ve seen a lot of downturns that were specific to those areas when different industries moved out. When the auto industry failed for a period of time before they were bailed out, the factories were closing. The whole towns were completely out of work.
My property manager was not property managing back then. He was a little tyke. We were talking about the fact that there would be people who would need to have more time to catch up with their rent and wouldn’t be able to pay their rent. We were going to need to formulate a response to that. The message in all of this is if you are counting on your rents to pay your mortgages, you should never be tight in any deal where you have to have everything work exactly right to be okay. If you need every bit of rent to pay your mortgage on a rental property and own bills as income, you can’t be in a situation like that. It’s not safe.
Something is going to get you.
In any situation, you need all the plans to align. There always has to be an escape patch. You have to build that.
I saw someone on BiggerPockets say, “I went out, got an equity line of credit on my house up to 100% that gave me $30,000. I took a $30,000 personal loan from Wells. I took a $30,000 personal loan from PNC and then I had a $15,000 credit card that I use to buy a property.” He was bragging about it on BiggerPockets. I commented there, I wouldn’t brag, I’m like, “This is a horrible business practice.” He’s like, “What do you mean? I’m getting a $140,000 house for $100,000.” I said, “Yes but you’re overleveraged. What’s going to happen if you got two months of vacancies? How are you going to pay your bills?”
We should call that guy. That was before this. It’s like, “What’s the plan?”
My original comment was this doesn’t end well and people asking me like, “Why?” I’m like, “Because you’re overleveraged.”
You’re on the razor’s edge.
People on Facebook, the BiggerPockets group, and see how many people are praying that they get mortgage assistance on their rental properties because if their tenants can’t pay, they’re not going to be able to pay their mortgage. It’s scary. That’s what happened a decade ago where people think, “The banks are going to bail me out.” No, the banks aren’t going to bail you as a normal person out. The banks are going to get bailed out and the bank’s going to bail out commercial real estate.
They’re going to keep it. They’re not giving it to you. It’s exactly what happened after the crash.
They don’t care about you and your $100,000 mortgage. They’ve got a $50 million loan to XYZ Company on a commercial real estate deal. That’s who they’re concerned with not the $100,000 one because you’re $100,000 house is easy to sell. If they lose a few grand, no big deal. There are not many people out there looking to buy those.
They got money and they still foreclosed on everybody. That’s what put us in business as note investors. There are people who have been doing note investing for many years because of the line share of people who got interested was after the crash. In 2010, 2011 when the old-timers that we know for the most part go back that far.
An interest question I’d ask you, Gail, is with everything that’s going on, would you continue to buy notes? Would you stop? Would you pause? What would you do or what are you doing?
The interesting thing is that we’ve all been complaining that there’s such a low supply of stuff that we want to buy. I sense a certain excitement in our community about the fact that this situation dancing on the graves of other people is probably going to lead to more notes being available. More default and bigger pools at the banks that need to be offloaded. We’re weirdly going to be the beneficiaries. I haven’t been buying because it’s been a sellers’ market. You and I were fortunate to get some smoking deals. Since then, mostly, what I see is junk that’s overpriced. I know a few people who have had a little bit of success calling banks. As you’ve talked about several times, the banks have not been in a position where they have to sell a lot of stuff. You might get lucky but you’ve participated in major bank blitzes trying to get banks to let go what they have and it wasn’t that fruitful.Force majeure allows for either an extension or a cancellation of a contract because of an act of God case, pandemics included. Click To Tweet
If I see banks looking to sell, it’s going to be more for liquidity more than nonperforming. That’s why people mentioned all of the Fed dropped a rate down to almost zero. It doesn’t impact mortgages at all for most people at short-term lending that banks can borrow money from. The bigger component to that was they’re going to be buying about $700 billion in bonds back, which is putting another $700 million in buying mortgage-backed securities from the banks. They’re going to be buying this stuff from the banks to give banks money to go out and do some lending. That stuff that they buy back is the stuff that’s not A-grade paper. One of the things that I’ll caution people on too is it’s not going to be a snap of your finger and all of a sudden, you’re going to see an influx of nonperforming notes at the market. I would estimate a year.
I’ll say three years because we have to wait for all the hedge funds to buy and resell, several of them to do that.
You knew how this is going to shake out whether this is a 2, 4, 8, 16-week process. Say it is two months and the Fed doesn’t step in or people have a lot of delinquencies. That was two months plus it’s going to take three plus months and there’s going to be some moratorium. You’re already into the next year. I’m still buying. I’ve always done it anyway. For 2020, the more focus is evaluating and what does a property worth and always discounting that. You have to take a little harder look at that discount because I don’t see home prices going up. There’s not a lot on the market in my area. I was going to go look at a condo in DC that was near my wife’s work that would make a great rental house for sale by owner. I reached out to him and I say, “I don’t need to buy anything. Based on what’s going on, I don’t see pricing going up. If anything, I’m going to see a decline or softening in pricing.”
With it hitting so hard, it’s going to be interesting for areas because he’s working no inventory. If there’s not a lot of inventory, I don’t think there’s going to be a need for people to rush out and have to sell the properties. Where you’ll see more, you’ll see it again is in those secondary markets which are higher rental markets like in Indianapolis that had shot up. If people are all over the leveraged in that area, that’s where it’s going to drag it down. In your major markets, Boston, New York, Seattle, DC, San Francisco, some of these places, they may be getting hit hard with this. It’s not as much a single-family rental market. It might not be as soft and I could be 100% wrong on this, but that’s my opinion.
My son is a realtor in Brooklyn. Apparently, the market has softened there quite a bit even before this. There are cycles anyway apart from whatever specific crisis is going on. They seem to be out of a market after many months of rising appreciation. It reached a point where buyers are saying no. You’re not going any farther.
Somebody put this on Facebook. Rudy mentioned someone has 23 Airbnb rentals in Vegas and they’re seeing major cancellations. Where you might be able to pick up a steal is in some of these vacation destination Airbnbs where people needed that Airbnb income to pay the mortgage on these things and have enough reserves. They’re almost going to be forced to have to liquidate some assets. You’re going to see that in certain areas, especially in some of the lower-priced Airbnbs or in major metropolitan areas because people aren’t using those areas. The whole Airbnb industry is getting crushed. It’s unfortunate because you’ll see hotels bailed out. You could see the cruise lines and airlines bailed out. You aren’t going to see you and me with our three Airbnbs getting bailed out.
Airbnb is leaving it up to owners whether to give people refunds or not.
They changed. They are giving them refunds. VRBO is leaving it up to the owners, but Airbnb has it falling under their extenuating circumstances whether or not to cancel.
No one’s got insurance that’s covering any of this. This is a straight saying to the owners, “We have to give them their money back.”
I was having a conversation with somebody online about adding into contracts a coronavirus clause. I said, “What’s your clause?” One is for properties that are selling. They mentioned that it’s for if there are delays from the title or this and that, then the contract gets extended. People never go look at contracts until they get caught in a pickle. This is a time where you look at your contracts and there’s a term called Force Majeure, which is things like Acts of God. Some people get all sensitive about a hurricane is an act of God. The act of God has nothing to do with religion. It’s a term used for things out of our control. Some of them are even manmade. Forced Majeure can cover some manmade things like union strikes and things like that. Epidemics and pandemics are covered. What it will do is it allows for either an extension or a cancellation of a contract. For example, if you’re buying a home in Miami and they’re in 2017 when Irma came through and the house got destroyed, that would fall into Force Majeure where you could cancel that contract because you need a place to live and it’s going to take them three years to rebuild. I put two properties in my favorite place under agreement.
Is that the same person? How did you sell it?
No. It’s different people. I hooked up with an agent.
I need that agent’s name potentially.
Two of them are under agreement. I don’t think it’s going to, actually an email popped through about signing the revised offer.
Is that for a different amount of money or different closing date?
It was for the title insurance. I want to use my title company to close the thing not theirs because it was a tax sale, CFD, and whole hoopla. The last time I had someone use a regular title company, it kept getting extended. They know what they’re looking at and got it taken care of.
That’s a good moment to repeat for people who haven’t learned this yet. Not all the title agencies are created equal. Not all anything. We’re all aware that banks have very different flavors as far as what they’re looking for in borrowers, what kind of loans their comfortable making. There are some that are very aware. They know real estate and they know all the different ways that people come to own things and all the intricacies of what it means. If you got a tax sale and you didn’t do quite a title, what are the implications? I had that in New Orleans with a vacant piece of property that I was buying. It was acquired. The person I bought it from acquired it in a tax sale. There are title companies that will never give you title insurance on a tax sale property no matter what you do. If you do a quiet type and spend a lot of money, then they will. My attorney was instrumental in hooking up with a policy. When people turn you down, it doesn’t mean that you’re not insurable, it might mean that you need a different title company. Chris has been very helpful in supplying those title companies to these buyers.
Somebody posted some information about Nora’s Coop on California and the world economy. My opinion, which is everyone else’s. Everyone has one. They’re like, “What do you use toilet paper for?” I don’t think anyone knows what’s going to happen with the real estate market until this comes close to a resolution. It’s going to come down to timing. Everyone can agree that it’s not going to be a booming spring market coming up.
It depends if you’re buying or selling.
I’d say either way. The joke I see online is realtor’s new line is, “Can you see yourself quarantined here?” The company I work for have over $1,300 rentals. Fortunately, a few years ago had gone into a lot of virtual tours and everything. People are coming to look at apartments and a lot of people aren’t going to look at houses. People don’t want people coming to the house because if they’ve got it, they touch something and, God forbid, they transmit it or somebody else, you’ll never know. The last thing on most people’s mind is, “I don’t know what you need to buy because if I’m selling, it’s getting pushed anyways.”Focus on the things that are in your control and that you can control. Click To Tweet
You got to put on a hazmat suit outside before they come in.
I was scratching my head about the market, which I don’t even want to see what it is. The last time I checked was down about $1,800. Everything was down on performing notes. Because we talk about possibly an influx of nonperforming notes coming onto the market and maybe causing some price softening, which I still maybe questioned on that even performing notes. Part of me thinks that performing notes will hold value or maybe even get a little more expensive. I’m curious what your thoughts are.
I feel the same way. It’s been a sellers’ market for a while in notes. We’ve been selling. You have and I have too. I’m already noticing a trend that people who would only accept 12% yields in the past. I see them revising its downward. They’re okay with 10%, maybe even 9%. It’s getting harder. It’s been hard to find things at 12% quite honestly. If they’re decent, you can always buy re-performers with not much seasoning at a 12% yield or better. The good stuff, there’s a general agreement that things are getting more expensive. I was going to say distress in our world means opportunity in real estate. It may not be doing the things you do, but there will be some opportunity that presents itself.
We’ve talked a lot about having the agility and not being so single-mindedly focused in one direction that you miss the other opportunities. The people who are in trouble in real estate are the ones that we’ve talked about who are too highly leveraged, who need every nickel coming in consistently to be able to hold onto their properties. The people who are going to lose those properties, who’s going to get them? People who are sitting on cash or who can sell their existing notes for cash if they want to buy rentals. In others, a lot of opportunities coming for us even before the banks release more inventory for us to buy. This isn’t fun in the short-term and I do feel terrible for people who need to go to work every day to be able to survive and don’t have any reserves. That is a bad situation that I hope gets addressed in a bigger way beyond this.
For me, dealing with partials, I used to offer partials at 12% and they’re down to 8%. Maybe 9% at tops. That’s what I’ve been selling in that because it’s what the market dictates. Based on what I’m also being able to buy stuff for, it’s been trending down. It still makes some money on things. From a partial’s perspective, they’re much more secure for the investor because all the risk is on my end, taken by the sponsor. It reduces some of that component to it. You also hit a good point about liquidity and having money and stuff. I sent out an email touching base to people upon getting all these emails from people. Nobody mentioned much about note investing or investing in general and what your business should do. What I talked about in that is making sure that you have cash reserves. If you’ve got 10 or 5 notes for example and you’ve got servicing, insurance, most likely you may not be getting payments in.
If you don’t have any reserves, you’re going to be coming out of your pocket. You’ve got to make sure you’ve got money for the insurance and the servicing. If you scale, it’s going to be much more significant. That’s where I see people also getting in trouble where they run out of money or the JV runs out of money. It’s like, “I can’t do anything, so I have to sell this.” It’s a $30,000 UPB. They’re like, “I need to get $27,000 for it.” It’s like, “It’s worth $12,000. What do you want to do?” They’re like, “I can’t sell it for $12,000.” I’m like, “Every day you’re spending more money on it and it’s not going to increase in value.” Especially on the vacant nonperforming notes. I see a lot of people pray in a sense to get a number, but a lot of times, you’re spending hundreds of dollars a month on that thing to keep it going. People sometimes are dreaming about what they want to get for it. The other component to it is the value of the properties decreasing by the month as well.
I have an REO and it is up for sale. We don’t have a buyer yet. I got a notice from the township that it’s in that we either have to tear it down or fix it. Neither one of which was in our plans or in the budget. We sent them the MLS listing and asked them to give us the opportunity to see it through. We all share the same goal, which is that this blighted property that is a complete problem, we’ll get fixed up and be productive again. We need it to be the buyer who does that, not us because we’re already going to lose money on it. Hopefully, they will relent. You’ll never know if they’ll even open and read my letter. That’s the other thing. They gave me 30 days to do something. Hopefully, they won’t come back after 30 days and immediately come over.
Any final thoughts, Gail?
Don’t panic. We will all be fine. Chris is home with his children. If he can do it, we all can.
We don’t need 500 rolls of toilet paper unless you want a build a toilet paper igloo. All joking aside. Make sure that you’re communicating with your vendors, especially your attorneys, your servicers. Get an update on what’s going on. It is going to be something that you’re going to have to manage day-by-day and see how things go and how things last from that perspective. Don’t be surprised and don’t get upset with the attorney when they say, “The courts are closed.” Whatever happens or things get delayed. I already got one that I was supposed to be hearing on April 3rd. It’s pushed out until sometime in May. That’s all they can give us.
It’s one I’ve been and then back for several months. It’s like, “It’s the reality.” There’s nothing you can do. It’s out of your control. Don’t worry about it. Focus on the things that are in your control and that you can control. It’s still a good opportunity out there to reach out to more investors because a lot of people working from home. See if you’re looking to buy assets to see what people get. We’re putting out a tape of assets and it’s got about $750,000 of UPB already on it. I’m waiting on your stuff, Gail. About $1 million of UPB coming out there. People look into acquiring some more stuff for their portfolio. Some were performing, some nonperforming, so you can get some cashflow coming in as well.
I like to say too on a nonbusiness note that it is a huge challenge but it’s also an opportunity. We’ve been forced to back into a time of life where people spent more time with their families. I’m taking walks of my husband because he’s in the danger age group. We don’t want to go anywhere where there’s a lot of people. The weather isn’t always great but the experience is beautiful of refocusing on things that are important to us as human beings beyond what we do for a living. I hope that people can get past the fear and upset and get into that more peaceful place where they can appreciate some of the weird to say, gifts of a situation like this.
I’ll be the first to admit, when this first started shutting everything down, I was one of those individuals who were like, “Why are they blowing this out of perspective overboard?” It hit me when I had to go to a doctor’s appointment. The offsite to go through was next to the infusion center, which is where people get chemotherapy and cancer treatments and stuff. They literally had a guard in front of the door with the card access on it. Nobody could go through unless they’re accompanied by a physician because it’s not always about you. That’s the one thing that you got to remember. I’m 44 years old and I think I’m in good health. I’m not going to get it. I shouldn’t have any major difficulties, but I also live with my mother-in-law who’s elder. Also, if I give to her, she’s in that bracket that the numbers go up significantly.
Sometimes not about you, it’s about everyone in general. That’s what people got to think about. Also, think about why did you get into notes? A lot of us got into these notes. You hear the same model from people to try and work the borrower to get them repaying on a payment plan. If you have a borrower who’s not performing and then they miss a payment because of this, go back to what you started, you want to try and get them on a payment plan. We’re all not trying to throw people out of houses. Yes, it’s going to impact you when you’re not getting that monthly cashflow. It impacts everybody. It’s impacting them as well. At the end of the day, you’re still better off in the long run, working something out with that borrower than you are trying to go through the legal process.
Learn from the situation, have cash reserves, so you don’t ever feel desperate and have to do something desperate to survive to hold your properties.
Thanks, everyone for joining us. Gail and I will pop on again to talk more stuff on what keeps happening or if people have questions or some random stuff comes up.
Good luck, everybody. Stay cool.
Take care. Stay safe. Wash your hands. Thanks.
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