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Makin’ the Case For OldSchool

Jeff Brown
3 min read

If what we’ve been through as a country economically has a bright side, it just may be the new, improved vision now available to investors of all stripes. Real estate investors for sure have, or should have added much wisdom the last few years. Many have become enthusiastic students of Old School teaching. In markets like San Diego where real estate appreciation is considered both a redundant phrase and a birthright, this has been a real test of one’s ability to adjust to reality. Since I blew the ink dry on my first license back in October of 1969, making money buying local property here has never been fodder for serious debate — ’till now. One of my favorite readers, a wise and experienced investor, sent me a link showing her region’s residential rents have been taking a hit, and may continue their downward slide — various reasons were given. On the other hand, the prices have been lower than they have since the boom. Buyers have been paying cash, resulting in lower rents due to the lack of loan payments. They’re buying, for the most part, for capital growth. Cash flow is fine, but not their primary goal.

Their thinking is long term. Buying for cash, they don’t really care much, relatively speaking, about how much rent they get, as long as they can keep tenant quality in their comfort zone. This bodes well — NOT — for those facing a mortgage payment the first of every month. They care very greatly how much rent the market will bear. The lesson I learned when this first happened to me back in the day, wasn’t what many have concluded these days. Oh, at first it was, but then one of my mentors made a brutally honest observation.

He said, “A larger down payment, or even the decision to pass on a few investments wouldn’t have changed much. Those in a much stronger financial position than you aren’t hurting as you are. Why? They did two things you didn’t before starting. 1) They correctly surmised their relative financial strength. And 2) They ensured they were backed up for the Black Swan type event not even a crystal ball could foretell. They had major cash reserves from Day 1. You? All you had was faith in the status quo never changing.”

Folks tend to wanna make this stuff as scientifically reliable as possible. Me too. Numbers provide this confidence factor for sure — but it’s so often a false confidence. Know that famous bumper sticker? S*** Happens? We all instinctively understand the sentiment, right? We’ve all been there in many parts of our lives — it’s part of living for Heaven’s sake. Things don’t go as planned, which means your Plan better allow for that fact of life.

Will rents continue to fall in her region? More likely than not, but they’re surely not the Lone Ranger rowin’ that boat. (Come on, who mixes metaphors better?) Many regions, including San Diego, are seeing rents slide. Why do ya think I’m so strong on Texas income property? They’re holding their own most places when it comes to rents, and edging upward in others. But back to the point here.

Old School thinking is what took me to Texas in the first place. Truth be known, for 30 years I had a mental fence around the state. Don’t get me wrong though, Texas isn’t the only region attracting OldSchool folks like me. It’s just my current favorite.

Your Purposeful Plan must, by definition, be long term in nature. It must correctly assess your financial strength. When things change, and this is possibly the most critical lesson I’ve ever learned — you must adjust. When your trusted professional tells you to do something not found in the original Plan — do it. He’s adjusting to reality.

Flexibility is crucially important to anyone’s retirement plan. Without it, opportunities are lost, and avoidable trauma isn’t, well, avoided. Sometimes it makes sense to sacrifice one part of your Plan to better navigate rough seas.

Old School thinking. Amputate an arm to save a life.

Choosing into what markets to invest your capital is one thing. But plunging in without much more than faith in your due diligence and a good down payment just doesn’t cut it. The good old days are just that — old — and gone. Adjusting to the new reality is not an option, it’s a must. This is why I’ve been a disciple of Old School Principles from the beginning.

One of those principles says investing without a Purposeful Plan is the fastest route to chaos. The Old School teaches boots on the ground research. Abundant cash reserves. It holds superior knowledge as golden. It believes reality is not perception — it just is. Perceive it differently at your own risk. Besides, how reliable can your perception be, when you don’t even know some of the questions to ask, much less the answers? Oh, that struck a nerve did it?

Old School isn’t all knowing or magical. It’s not perfect, as it’s certainly not omniscient. But I’ll take it over every other approach, hands down.

Note By BiggerPockets: These are opinions written by the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions of BiggerPockets.