Real Estate News & Commentary

How to Thrive in the Current Market by Shifting Your Strategy

Expertise: Business Management, Mortgages & Creative Financing, Landlording & Rental Properties, Real Estate Investing Basics, Personal Finance, Real Estate Deal Analysis & Advice, Commercial Real Estate, Personal Development, Real Estate News & Commentary
228 Articles Written

I often hear people complaining that there aren’t enough deals right now. Maybe they’re struggling with how to make money in the current market—or maybe their old model just isn’t working as well as it did in the previous cycle. It begs the question: How well do they understand their market?

Want more articles like this?

Create an account today to get BiggerPocket's best blog articles delivered to your inbox

Sign up for free

Most real estate markets are localized and geographic, and there can be multiple sub markets. For example, I’m sure the luxury housing market is much different than the affordable housing market.

So, what about you? Do you understand your current market well enough to take full advantage of this market cycle?

Work With What the Market Gives You

Your job as an investor is to work with what the market gives you, so be careful of trying to put a round peg in a square hole. Many of us experienced a severe downturn in the housing market after 2008, and it continued for several years. Some areas normalized more quickly than others. Some states worked through their distressed mortgages more rapidly than other states, and some areas may not have been impacted that much at all.

Responding to ’08 and ‘09, some investors facing this mostly-distressed market adopted strategies like short sales, REOs, pre-foreclosures, and buying at auctions. Those strategies worked well for several years. But don’t base your business only on auction buying in 2018! In other words, I think real estate investing can go sideways when investors try to apply outdated models and strategies that worked in a down market to a new up market (and the reverse is also true).

So, when I hear complaints these days that “there aren’t as many deals,” “prices are too high,” or “there’s too much competition,” how much of that is based on being a little too attached to certain strategies that just aren’t working in an up market? As I said before, your job as an investor is to work with what the market gives you.

Keeping an Eye on Real Estate Market Trends

Over the years, I’ve realized the importance of keeping your pulse on the real estate market where you’re doing business. The good news is there are many vital signs that can tell us what’s going on in your current real estate market and how it compares to the rest of the country. One of my favorite authors on the subject is Robert Campbell, writer of Timing the Real Estate Market. In the book, he gives us five vital signs that show what the current local market is doing:

  1. Existing Home Sales
  2. Building Permits
  3. Mortgage Loan Defaults
  4. Foreclosure Sales
  5. Interest Rates

The good news with the real estate market is that it changes slowly, much more slowly than the stock market. As things change, you may have time to react and craft a strategy for the coming cycle. And remember that investors who think that things will just remain the same probably started investing after 2011.

Related: 5 Strategies for Finding Deals in Today’s Hot Market

So, my first advice is to look at your current investing strategy, determine your real estate market (i.e. buyer’s or seller’s, increase or decrease in market time, whether values are increasing or decreasing, etc.), and look at what the vital signs are telling you about the next six to 12 months. Then, determine the best strategy. My business coach always tells me that a given strategy is usually only good for 12 to 18 months.

Be Proactive

Once you have an idea what is going on in your market, it’s much easier to be proactive. You’ve checked the hard economic data. You’ve checked with other experienced real estate agents, appraisers, contractors, and investors to see what they’re seeing. Now, maybe it’s time to come up with a new game plan. If you’re normally a buy-and-hold investor in a down market, maybe it makes more sense to do some fix and flips instead (until prices come back down), especially if the prices in your market keep going up and demand is still high for housing with limited supply and low market time. This probably makes sense if there’s population and economic growth with relatively low unemployment and interest rates in the short term.


Related: “I Live in a High-Priced U.S. City. Can I Still Invest in My Local Market?”

I know our strategy with notes is much different in up markets. We tend to hold more re-performing assets since they’re going up in value due to increasing equity coming back into the marketplace and increasing pay histories, whereas in a down market we sold almost everything that became re-performing so we could go back to market to buy more.

What’s Your (Next) Strategy?

So, what’s your strategy for today’s market? Maybe you’re house hacking because prices are too high and you need higher rents. Or maybe you’re focusing on high-end flips. Or maybe you’re virtual wholesaling in another market. Perhaps you’re even venturing into commercial or multifamily.

I’d love to hear if (and why) you’re changing your strategy for today’s market—and more importantly, what do you think you’ll be doing two years from now?

Please share below!

Since 2007, Dave Van Horn has served as president and CEO of PPR Note Co., a $150MM+ company managing funds that buy, sell, and hold residential mortgages nat...
Read more
    Jessie Huffey from Sandpoint, Idaho
    Replied over 2 years ago
    Our strategy has been to shift locations. I hate buying in a sellers market but I love the equity my properties are providing in my market. So, I decided to diversify and invest several states away where it is still a buyers market. We will be closing on our property next week for 30% under list price. And based on trends and data, I believe this market will appreciate soon, I’m just happy to be getting in before it does!
    Dave Van Horn Fund Manager from Berwyn, PA
    Replied over 2 years ago
    Congrats on the shifting strategy Jessie! Hope the appreciation angle works out for you. I tend to feel the same way, which is why my company buys nationwide.
    Shane Seeley Contractor from Geneseo, IL
    Replied over 2 years ago
    Dave, Thanks for your insight. I’m new to RE investing so my first step is figuring out what my market is doing in detail so I can accurately form a strong strategy. You mention some good things to look for and I’ll definitely be checking out Robert Campbell’s book. Thanks for the post.
    Dave Van Horn Fund Manager from Berwyn, PA
    Replied over 2 years ago
    Thanks Shane, best of luck on all your future investing endeavors!
    André Anderson Real Estate Agent from Saint Paul, Minnesota
    Replied over 2 years ago
    Thank you for writing about this topic, Dave. A lot of times we see the concept of focusing on one particular method of investing. It is refreshing to see a reminder like this to adapt. While focus is necessary to become familiar and succeed in a certain style of investing, some investors definitely get too narrow-sighted in a market that might demand more agility and diversification of strategy & tactics. Great post, thank you for your insights!
    Dave Van Horn Fund Manager from Berwyn, PA
    Replied over 2 years ago
    Thanks André!
    Cornelius Charles Investor from Oxnard, California
    Replied over 2 years ago
    Thanks for the write up Dave. We currently have less than 1.5 months of inventory in our market (Ventura County). Even when we were getting “leads” from our marketing, we were almost always between $100,000 – $150,000 between what we could offer and what the seller was expecting. Not to mention, if they put their house on the market, most times they can probably get close to what they are looking for. For those reasons, I have shifted most of my marketing efforts to my wife’s realtor business and away from our investor marketing. My wife can make almost as much in commission as some of the local investors were making in profits on flips, with a lot less risk. I will still continue to grow our online presence on the investing side for when the market eventually turns.
    Alicia H. Rental Property Investor from Oreland, Pennsylvania
    Replied over 2 years ago
    Wow, you’re market is REALLY tight! But it sounds like you and your wife have adapted to the cycle that your market is in. Kudos to you!
    Cornelius Charles Investor from Oxnard, California
    Replied over 2 years ago
    Thanks Alicia. We’re trying to. Most of her business comes from referral, but we’re trying to ramp up her marketing for new clients.
    Dave Van Horn Fund Manager from Berwyn, PA
    Replied over 2 years ago
    Interesting, good point about the low risk/high reward with the realtor business. I often say sometimes the best investment isn’t learning something new but strengthening what you’re already doing and making it better!
    Josh Collins Engineer from Woodbury, MN
    Replied over 2 years ago
    I am a bit enamored by @Cornelius Charles comment above. I’ve never before thought of becoming a realtor as an investment strategy. I’m impressed that Mr. Charles is making lemonade out of lemons. I don’t think he made the conscious decision to do this as an investment because the market sort of dictated that he change his focus. But I think it’s very interesting for those of us who don’t have partners/spouses that are realtors. This might be the strategy for investing in those markets that “the numbers don’t work”. Thanks for providing me with a eureka moment, Cornelius.
    Cornelius Charles Investor from Oxnard, California
    Replied over 2 years ago
    Thanks Josh. Just to clarify, my wife has been a full time realtor for a few years. We’re just trying to focus more of our marketing time/dollars on realtor marketing vice investor marketing.