111: Should you Invest in a Hot Real Estate Market?

The real estate market in Colorado has been crazy. Median prices in my town have jumped from $110,000 to $280,000 within 5 or 6 years. My town has some of the lowest prices in the area! With real estate prices increasing so fast, I decided to stop buying residential rental properties and focus more on flipping. I stopped buying rentals for a number of reasons, but the biggest one was that I could not cash flow on properties anymore. On this episode of the InvestFourMore Real Estate Podcast, I talk about the current real estate market, including how crazy it is in Colorado, how the rest of the United States is doing, how you should invest in a crazy market, and why you cannot use national trends to decide how to invest locally.

Are we in another housing bubble?

Many people think we are in a housing bubble because housing prices are high. When prices increase like they have, they can decrease just as fast. However, just because prices are high, it doesn’t mean we are in a bubble. You have to look at many other factors to determine what prices may or may not do. Even the experts who study economics and the housing market disagree on what will happen and cannot predict the future. I am an REO agent who sells foreclosures for banks, and I’m an investor. For many years after the housing crash, experts were predicting a tsunami of upcoming foreclosures, which would cause another crash. That tsunami never happened. In fact, the exact opposite happened, and housing prices increased at a frightening pace.

I am not an economist or a housing market expert, but I could see the crash coming in the early 2000s. People were getting loans that were 120 percent of the value of their house. Everyone became a house builder and flooded the market with inventory, and it was easy to get a loan. I bought my first house in 2002 when I was 23 years old. I was a real estate agent at the time, with up and down income. I got a stated-income loan for my house, where I basically told the lender how much money I made, and they were okay with it. The lending industry is much different now, and getting a loan is much more difficult. There is also much less building going on, which means less inventory and a completely different real estate market. I don’t think high prices mean the market will crash, and in the current market, I don’t see a crash coming. Things may cool down, but I don’t see a crash.

Should you invest in rental properties when the market is hot?

One thing to consider is that every real estate market is different. Just because housing prices are going crazy in Denver does not mean they are rising in Memphis. If you plan to invest in real estate, you need to look at your market. I have heard that Miami may be in a condo-construction mini bubble. That mini bubble will not affect the Colorado market if it crashes. I stopped buying residential rentals in 2015 because I could not cash flow in Colorado anymore. I was buying houses costing from $100,000 to $130,000 that needed $15,000 in work and renting them for $1,300 to $1,500 per month. Now, I would have to buy those same houses for $200,000, put $20,000 of work into them, and maybe earn $1,600 per month in rent. Rents have not come close to keeping up with housing values. Since I couldn’t cash flow on those properties, I stopped buying them. That does not mean that every rental-property market is bad.

I have considered buying rentals in another state or buying commercial real estate instead of residential. Many people ask me why I do not buy multifamily properties, but multifamily properties in Colorado have even worse rent-to-value ratios than single family! You should base whether you invest in rentals on many factors besides housing prices. Look at rent-to-value ratios, tax rates, market conditions, and economic outlooks.

Should you flip houses in a hot market?

I have focused on flipping instead of buying rentals because of local market conditions. I think you can flip houses in any market. I would love to have more rentals than I do based on my plan to purchase 100 rentals by 2023. I still want to buy long-term rentals, but building my flipping business has been fun as well. I went from selling 5 to 10 flips per year to selling 18 flips in 2016, and I have already sold 17 flips halfway through 2017. If I find a new market to invest in, a new sector to invest in, or our market changes, I will have a lot of money available to invest into rentals.

While I think you can flip houses in any market, you also have to be careful flipping in a hot market. Many investors went broke betting on appreciation. I never buy a flip assuming it will go up in value. I assume it will sell for as much money as it is worth when I buy it, and if values increase, that is a bonus. I also am conservative with my ARV (After Repaired Value) and assume my flips will need more work than I think. This year, I have been able to buy flips from the MLS, wholesalers, foreclose auctions, and from direct marketing. My average profit per flip has increased this year thanks to rising prices, but I have not changed my buying criteria. You can flip in a hot market, but do not get caught assuming prices will go up!


Real estate is always changing. Real estate markets change, financing changes, the way you find deals changes, and the competition changes. I think real estate is a ton of fun because you have to constantly tweak how you do things. Just because prices are going up does not mean they must come down. If you are waiting for a market crash, how do you know when the bottom will happen? I will keep investing in any market, even though the way I invest may change. Soon, I will start a Facebook Coaching Group on how to find deals. If anyone is interested in learning more, send me an email to [email protected].

[0:00:13.9] MF: Welcome to the InvestFourMore Real Estate Podcast. My name is Mark Ferguson and I am your host. I am a house flipper. I flip 10 to 15 houses a year, I own 13 rental properties with a goal to buy 100 by 2023. I’m also a real estate agent. I’ve been licensed since ’01, I run a team of nine and we sell close to 200 houses a year.

So on this show, we like to interview house flippers, landlords and the best real estate agents in the business. So stay tuned for some great shows, if you want more information on my rentals, on the numbers, how I buy properties, check out investfourmore.com.


[0:00:58.9] MF: Hey everyone, Mark Ferguson with InvestFourMore. Welcome to another episode of the InvestFourMore real estate podcast. I’m glad you could join me and hopefully you learn a few things from the show.

Today, we’re going to talk about the current real estate market, housing prices and if it’s a good time to buy, sell, what you should do when housing prices are going crazy and we’re also going to talk about if we will see another crash. Is a crash imminent? Because prices are so high. Or is this a completely different scenario than we saw 10 to 12 years ago? I’ll talk about all of that here shortly, before we get into that, I just want to mention that the book Jay Scott and I wrote, the book on negotiating real estate should be available in audio book form very soon.

In fact, by the time this is published, this podcast goes live, it might be available, it’s all been submitted to audible, they’re just doing the final touches and hopefully that is available soon. I completely rewrote my fix and flip book so if you bought that in the past, unless you bought it in the last two or three weeks, it’s a completely new version out there, it has about 50 or more pages, that will become an audio book as well soon.

Again, it takes a couple of months to get it recorded, get it edited, get all of that taken care off but hopefully that’s available here in the next couple of months. I plan to do the same for my agent book as well. I’m in the process of rewriting it and hopefully I can make it an audio book too.

I know a lot of you want the audio books and want to be able to listen to it in your car. I also encourage you to read, I don’t know if you guys saw my article, I think it’s last week, about novels and how much they help you, you don’t have to read my books, I can understand wanting to listen to business books, success books, I do the same thing.

Do make sure you have time to read even if it’s novels, even if it’s fiction. It does something in your mind where it helps you focused, helps you relax, helps you think about the big picture of life. Make sure you're doing that. Alright.

Alright, moving on to this podcast.

First, I want to talk about the housing market. I’m in Colorado which one of the hottest craziest markets in the country, I know a lot of other markets are similar to us, a lot of markets are completely not similar, very stagnant.

The median price in Colorado in 2011 was right around 110,000. It was very low. It was after the foreclosure crisis, housing prices have obviously come down a lot, it’s kind of the prime time for when I was buying all my rentals.

Well prices had been rising basically every year since then. Right now, housing prices, the median pricing in Greenly, where I have most of my rentals is 284,000. Prices have gone up almost 200%, in six, seven years. A crazy amount and it’s basically every year they’ve gone up 20%, sometimes more than that and every year, you kind of think, it’s got to slow down and just has not done it.

There’s a number of factors that are driving those housing prices to increase. One of them, the biggest one is inventory. We have from 80 to a hundred houses for sale at any one time right now in a city of 100,00 people. There’s simply no houses to buy.

They’re not building enough, there’s hardly any low income housing so if people want to buy houses, they’re just forced to pay more and more because there’s so many more buyers than there are people selling.

It’s kind of a completely different scenario than what we saw in the housing crisis in the mid-2000’s. Early 2003, 2004, 2005, we saw a huge building boom here in Northern Colorado. Building thousands and thousands of houses. Land was cheaper, water was cheaper, it was easier to get projects approved by the city.

There was more money available for financing these projects. Tons of houses were built and they overbuilt. They built way too many houses for the people who are here and to kind of compensate for that overbuilding, you know, lenders would finance more, it’s kind of a combination of overbuilding and then really easy to get financing at the same time.

Combining those two scenarios caused housing prices to go up in the early 2000’s. It was a completely different – sorry, it wasn’t because there weren’t enough houses for people, it was because almost anybody could buy a house and prices kept going up and people saw that it would go up forever, it was just a very weird scenario.

Eventually, the banks realized that these were not good loans, they’re starting to foreclose, they started to fault. When they started losing money, they took a second look at the lending guidelines, what was going on and things all came tumbling down.

It was all, I kind of think of the housing crash as you know, false demand caused that crash. It was a demand driven by bad lending guidelines and it wasn’t a real you know, economic boom, it was kind of a false boom like if the government were to settle and give everybody tax refunds 100% for the year you know?

You can’t obviously sustain that but for one year, create a big boost in the economy. This housing market is completely different. If you have not read my article or heard my podcast with Dennis Sisterna, really good information from him, he works with Investability, really smart guy, really admire the way he writes, the information he has, the research he does. I wrote an article on when will there be another housing crash?

He gives me some awesome data in that article about credit scores, about loans, about new construction. Basically, people keep saying to me, I see it on Facebook, I see it all over, “oh here we go again, another housing crash”, prices are high, lending guidelines are getting lower again, everything’s going to come crashing down.

Well, he has a little different story based on numbers not just you know, conjecture because housing prices are high and because lending programs are different but based on numbers. Yes, there are sub-prime loans available, there have been sub-prime loans available for decades.

Not every sub-prime loan program causes a housing crash. Right now, credit scores, average credit scores if you take anybody you know? Obviously can say someone got a loan with a 400 credit score, somewhere in the country, you know, maybe it happened. One person does not cause a housing crash.

The average numbers of the people who are getting loans, average credit scores are way higher than they were before the housing crash in the early 2000’s, way higher. It’s just a huge difference, it’s not even close as far as the quality of loans. That’s something to look at, to think about is yes, you can get sub-prime loans, they are available.

But the fact is, very few people are actually getting those loans. When the banks don’t want to lend to people with sub-prime credit because they can’t sell those loans to secondary market which would happen before the whole crash was caused because banks got all these loans, they packaged them up, sold them on a secondary market, kind of sold them on Wall Street, these other investors bought them, they kept buying and buying them so lenders kept getting more and more of these bad loans.

Well now, people know. You know, the investors who bought those loans on Wall Street now know not to just to buy everything, they want a certain guidelines to buy. The banks can’t sell these bad set prime loans. Because the investors won’t buy them so they’re much more careful on who they lend to, what the credit scores are, just because those set prime loans are available, does not mean they’re actually being completed, they aren’t.

Like Dennis mentions, the current average credit score for borrowers is 739. Back in 2009, the average was 686. We’re really seeing a huge jump in the quality of credit much better.

One thing to look at too, is the lowest 1% of mortgages, the bottom of the bottom, who is getting the lowest credit scores for loans. Right now, is still averaging 622. Over a 620 credit score. That is not so prime. The lowest 1%.

That means that less than 1% of people are actually getting set prime loans. The average range in 2001 before the housing crash happened, 490. You’re comparing before the housing crash, the lowest 1% of people getting loans had a 490 credit score, now, they have a credit score of 620. Huge difference.

[0:09:50.0] MF: The quality of loans are much better than they were before, there’s no denying that, even though these programs are available, it does not mean the banks are using them and there’s still nothing close to what was available before the housing crash.

Something else to look at is new construction. Like I said, there’s no houses for sale here. They’re just not building enough. That’s because land is more expensive, the city’s permits are more expensive, they’re more of a pain to get projects pushed through. Water’s more expensive here, water’s so expensive in Colorado.

A water tap will cost you, you know, 30, 35,000 here in Colorado or you know I was looking at properties in Florida, you get a water tap for like 1,500. I was like what are you talking about? How are you going to get a water tap for $1,500? It’s because there’s so much water there.

Unlike Colorado where we’re kind of the top of the mountain, you know, the only water we get is what falls in Colorado from the sky, there’s no rivers or from other states. We don’t have a whole lot of water here.

[0:10:43.5] MF: They aren’t building very much. Other places are seeing the same thing, some places are building a lot but for the most part, they’re building much less than they were before the crash as well. In 2005, new home sales were at 1.28 million. They built well over a million houses.

2015, they built 500,000 houses. Even though 2015 was the height of the recovery, things are booming, things are going well, they built less than half the houses they did in 2005. They are not building enough for current demand and those are the two factors you really need to look at when trying to figure out, hey, are we going to see a crash? Are things going to come tumbling down again?

Or, maybe things are different. One, this new market is driven by low supply. There aren’t enough houses, they are changing that, they aren’t building a tremendous amount of housing unlike the last crash where they built record numbers of houses to meet that demand, they aren’t doing it this time.

Two, lending guidelines are much better, sub prime’s almost nonexistent. Even though it’s possible, banks just aren’t lending to those people which means a lot of the houses are getting mortgages, they’re much more stable, much less likely to foreclose.

Something else to look at are the hedge funds that are buying homes. A lot of people think you know, hedge funds buy all these houses, I decide to sell them all at once then I’ll destroy the housing market.

Well first, these hedge funds are very smart, they’re run by very smart people who handle billions of dollars, they’re not going to sell all the houses at once and cut off their own legs by destroying their own housing markets.

They do sell, they’ll sell off slowly and secondly, these hedge funds own their properties in cash for the most part. Some of them are backed by loans but these cash purchases. It’s not like, if housing prices go down, they’re going to default on their mortgage and all these foreclosures will come up.

They’ll just still have houses they own with cash. A lot of the investors who bought when housing prices were so low. Many more bought with cash than with financing. When you saw the last housing crash, a lot of those foreclosures were from investors who were getting 5% down loans, sometimes 0% down loans for investors. Virtually impossible now.

It’s almost impossible to get a 5% down loan as an investor. Almost impossible to do 0 money down as an investor. Those investors are putting at least 20% down, many of them putting 25% down and a lot of them are paying cash.

It’s a much more stable market than what it was before just because housing prices are going up, does not mean it’s going to crash. If you look at the national averages that kind of charge that show what housing prices have historically done for the last 50 years, there’s a huge jump in the early 2000’s, mid-2000’s when prices jumped way above what the average should be.

Then they crashed and dropped below what they should be. This is huge bump and huge dip. Well, we’re seeing another big jump again but in many places, I think on a national average, we’re right at where that historical housing prices should be, maybe slightly higher.

It’s not like we’re way overpriced compared to historical averages. Some places like Colorado, possibly California, Seattle, they may be way above their historical average where they should be but you know, every market’s specific and has different things driving it, that’s something else to consider.

You know, if you live in Atlanta, if you live in DC, if you live in New York, if you live in San Francisco, you live in Portland, Seattle, Denver, Arizona, Las Vegas, Memphis, Indianapolis, all of those markets will be completely different.

You know, you’ve got to look at your individual market, see what’s going on there, look at the inventory numbers, look at the building numbers, look at demand, look at supply, figure out what’s happening in your own market, don’t just judge what you’re doing based on a national level because even in the last housing crash where so many places saw tremendous downfalls, there were places that did not see huge downturns.

Washington DC did very – was very steady through it, some of the mid-west areas were very steady. Even some places like Texas were kind of steady through that down turn where other places saw huge crashes, you have to look at the individual markets, see what’s going on.

[0:15:01.3] MF: Well, my whole point, just because housing prices are going up does not mean they’re going to crash, I would not be saving your money and sitting on the sidelines just because you’re waiting for a crash, I don’t think that’s a good idea. Now, if there’s other reasons you think your particular market’s overpriced, if you think they’re bad signs for your market, maybe that’s a good idea.

Maybe you need to move to a different market. But, just because prices are high doesn’t mean you should be sitting around. I don’t think that’s a good idea and I don’t think we’re going to see a huge crash either. So, let’s get into some of the individual types of investing.

Rental properties, I stopped buying rentals for the most part, residential properties two years ago in 2015 because prices got so high here, you could not cash flow with them. That is something to consider, that is something prices will affect.

I didn’t stop buying just because prices are high, I stopped buying because rents did not keep up with prices, there was simply not much money to be made and I’m a huge advocate for cashflow. When I was buying my rentals, you know, five years ago, I’d pay 100,000, 120,000 for those properties, put 15,000, $20,000 of work into them. And then rent them out for 1,200, 1,400 a month.

They’re a great numbers, they almost all meant the 1% rule where rents were 1% of the purchase price plus repairs. However, prices started going up and up. Now, you know, those are really good deals I got back then, I worked really hard, got really good deals.

[0:16:31.5] MF: I can still get really good deals right now, as you can see, I’m flipping a lot of houses which I’ll talk about here shortly. But, even by getting a really good deal, right now, maybe I pay $200,000 for a similar house that I’m talking about that I bought back then.

Put $20,000 of work into it. I’ve got $220,000 kind of is my money into the property, that house might rent for 1,500, maybe, 1,600. The ratios are so different. Rent is much lower compared to what prices are, if I was to pay full retail for that property and not get a good deal so it’s all fixed up.

I might be paying $260,000 for that house that rents for $1,600 a month. The numbers just aren’t as good as they used to be and that’s why I stop buying rentals here. I wish I could buy more and have this plan to buy a hundred rentals but if the numbers don’t make sense, I’m not going to force myself into bad deals.

Of course, I’m still working on things, I bought the commercial property this year, I’ve got another commercial property under contract, getting some other ways to buy rentals so I have not given up but have taken, you know, a small break on buying rentals while trying to figure out this market, what to do with things.

[0:17:45.1] MF: Again, that’s something you should consider as well and that’s all going to depend on where you’re investing. You’re investing in California, it’s almost impossible to make money in rentals depending on if you're in southern California.

Same thing for the northwest, Seattle, Portland, so hard to make money on rentals. New York City, so hard to make money, New Jersey’s tough because taxes are so high. Chicago’s tough because taxes are so high and you’re worried about the government failing.

All these things to consider. However, if you’re in the mid-west, if you’re in Indianapolis, Kansas City, if you’re in Florida, Georgia, Alabama, maybe the numbers still work, maybe those rents are high enough compared to the purchase prices, you can get a good deal, you might not see huge appreciation but you can still get solid rentals that will make money and maybe you will see some appreciation as well in some areas.

Sitting on the side line, just waiting for things to crash, I mean, maybe they’ll crash, maybe they won’t but you can’t base your whole investing strategy on that, I think you’ve got to look for different scenarios, other places to invest, you know, maybe turn key investing is an option.

Again, when you do that, you’re probably not going to get an awesome deal but you're going to get cash flow. Those are some things to consider with rental properties

I still want to buy rentals. I really need to look at out of state again more but for right now, we’re kind of focusing on the commercial thing. Okay so then, there’s the idea of flipping. I mentioned flipping, I focused from rentals to flips because the market changed so much. I was buying three to five rental properties a year.

It’s a lot of fun, I love buying rentals and the cash flow they’ve provide. They’ve been really well for me but when I stopped buying rentals, I kind of had extra money. I just kept putting more and more of it into the business, into the flipping business flipping more houses. Where I was buying three to five rentals a year, I think I was flipping what, eight to 12 houses a year in that range.

My best year ever was 12. Well since I stopped buying rentals last year I flipped 17 houses – it was 18 houses and this year so far I’ve already sold 17 flips. I’ve got two more under contract to sell this year. I’m going to come close to selling 30 flips this year. So while it sucks that I haven’t bought any rentals, I’ve been able to put that money put into flipping.

Still make money, kind of build up this cash that I have in the business and when I do figure out exactly where I want to buy rentals maybe the market cools off, maybe I find that perfect place, I can implement that money, put that money to work, buy more rentals and have quite a bit to invest or I can just keep building the flipping business bigger and bigger and bigger.

[0:20:33.4] You know I have a couple of different options with it. So just because the market is hot, because it’s changed doesn’t mean you have to sit in the sidelines and do nothing. You can change strategies, you can look at different ways to do things, look at different ways to take advantage of the market and I would say just because the market’s hot that is not maybe money I’m flipping.

I am still looking at what prices are right now. I don’t ever count on prices to go up to make money. You can get yourself in trouble flipping that way. Do not count on the markets to keep going up. That’s how you get in trouble. That’s how you go bankrupt when the market does turn, if it cools down, if it drops a little but as of right now, I think I have 13 flips going which is actually one of the lowest numbers I’ve had all year.

I had up to 20 going earlier this year, I have like I said two more under contract to sell. I have three more that I am buying in the next month. Things are going very smoothly, the flipping business. Nikki has been an awesome project manager, my contractors are doing very well. I don’t remember if I mentioned this before or not but we hired another fulltime employee.

Who’s working on properties for us, kind of like our own contracting crew, we have two fulltime employees, a couple of part time employees on that right now so that’s awesome, amazing and I love having those people so much nicer working with the contractors. So that’s going great. That is going really well.

[0:21:51.5] Now as far as real estate agents, a lot of people might think, “Oh awesome time to be an agent, the housing market is booming, prices are going up, you are probably making so much money selling houses” not the case. Our team is doing well, we’re doing fine but in this market it’s so strange because there’s so few houses for sale.

If there’s no houses to sell, it’s really hard to make money as an agent because that’s how you make your money in selling houses. So when we get listings, it’s great. Really easy to sell them. My flips are really easy to sell right now. We are selling most of our houses in one or two days above asking price even when we price them high, thinking we’re at market value.

But if you don’t have listings you just have buyers, it’s really, really tough to get deals done, to find houses for them. It takes a lot of work for that buyer to get them a good deal. So on the agent side we did hire a new agent last month. Who’s been doing great. I had another agent lose us which was sad to see but we wish him all the best and you still can make money in this market.

Even with the low housing prices – sorry low inventory not low housing prices. You can still make money as an agent. It’s a little tough time to start because there’s so few houses but if you have your business set up well as an agent, you should be able to make money in any market up, down, low inventory, high inventory, there are ways to build your business, things you can do to make money no matter what’s going on.

[0:23:17.3] Alright, so my plan like I said, I don’t try to predict the markets. I do look at them. I see what’s going on. I try to stay a step ahead of what’s happening. In the last housing crash, we did see signs that things were going to come tumbling down. We saw banks’ lending a 120% of the value on investment properties and rentals and owner occupant properties.

We saw crazy guidelines for who could get a loan, credit scores, state of income loans for people to not have to even show bank stamps for what they made. They just said, “Hey I make 50 grand a year” “Can you prove that?” “No” “Well that’s okay, you don’t need to” and still give you a loan. It was crazy what was happening and a lot of people just question.

I could not believe the people who are getting loans, the type of loans that are being handed out. Now it’s completely different in the industry. I don’t see the same things happening. So I would not worry about a crash, of course you want to plan for the worst. I’d still buy for cash flow. Do not count on appreciation, although it’s great it’s a nice bonus but don’t count on it.

Make sure the numbers work and look at the market on a regional basis. Look at your regional level, what’s going on there, some people said Miami is being overbuilt. It’s in trouble. Maybe, I don’t know. I’m not there, I haven’t looked at their numbers but if you are in Miami and they’re building too many condos on demand and things are sitting, maybe.

[0:24:39.9] You can have a regional crash. You can have a city that sees prices start to drop. Maybe that happens and things slow down in Seattle for some reason. Although I’ve heard it is not slowing down at all there. You have to look at the region, you can’t just say nationally housing prices are too high it’s all going to crash. Look at the numbers, figure out what is happening in your area.

Figure out the best way to invest, how to handle it whether it’s rentals, flips, whether it’s your career as an agent, you’re wholesaling. You know it doesn’t affect you too much just see to make sure you know if the market is going up or down. That you are not basing the prices you need to get on appreciation. I think the best way is to assume prices will stay the same as what they are right now.

If they go up, great. If they don’t then you are still safe. Alright, that’s all I’ve got. Thank you again for listening. Of course, be sure to leave me comments, leave me reviews, let me know what you think. I try to respond to everybody. If you are on Facebook then InvestFourMore Facebook page, we are posting all kinds of cool stuff all the time.

I try to respond to everybody personally on that page as well. Yeah, I hope to hear from you guys. Hope you enjoyed the podcast and we’ll talk again soon, thanks.