You can invest in real estate without being a landlord through real estate investment trusts (REITs). Today’s guest is Matt Argersinger, who joined the Motley Fool in 2008 as part of its analyst development program. In this episode, Matt discusses with Moneeka Sawyer why investing in real estate is much safer than investing in the stock market and why you don’t need to be a billionaire to start investing in real estate through REITs. It offers you the option of investing with as little as a hundred dollars! If you’re an income-seeking investor, you may want to know that REITs have a high dividend yield because it pays out 90% of the profits to investors in dividends. Excited to learn more? Join in the conversation and find out how you can start investing in REITs today!
I am excited to welcome to the show, Matt Argersinger. He is the Lead Advisor of Mogul. He joined The Motley Fool in 2008 as part of the company’s Analyst Development Program. He’s worked on numerous full-investing services including Stock Advisor, Rule Breakers, Million-Dollar Portfolio and Supernova. He helped establish The Motley Fool Germany and also appears regularly on The Motley Fool Podcasts including Market Foolery and Motley Fool Money. In addition to stocks, Matt and his wife, Jean, own and manage a few income properties in Washington DC and have an interest in several commercial real estate developments.
He’s excited to use that experience and his full-investing knowledge to help Mogul and Millionacres members find the best real estate opportunities. Matt earned a degree in Economics from Brandeis University. He lives in Washington DC with Jean and his beloved King Charles Spaniel, Daisy, who we’ve heard about before. Other than hunting for investing ideas, Matt enjoys traveling, skiing, mountain climbing and board games that take at least four hours to complete. Welcome to the show, Matt.
Thank you so much for having me, Moneeka. I’m happy to be here.
Ladies, you met Deidre Woollard with The Motley Fool. She was with Mogul. Is that true, Matt?
Yes, she’s with Mogul. She’s the editor at large for Millionacres.
You heard about the amazing thing that happened. It wasn’t amazing for them. It was amazing for me. I got rated in their top ten podcasts to listen to for real estate. I did a happy dance because I’ve had this long relationship with The Motley Fool since 1994 when their very first book came out. You guys started me on my journey in investing. That’s what started the whole path to the building wealth paradigm that my husband and I have followed. You’ve been a big part of my life. For you guys to reach out to me was like God reaching out down his hands saying, “You have won. You are awesome.” That sounds weird. I don’t know how to express it. Anyway, I’m excited to be talking to you, Matt. This is fun. I want to talk about you in a second, but I want to talk about the difference between what Deidre talked about and what you’re going to be talking about.
With Deidre, she spoke about our mobile service, which is a real estate service design for accredited investors. It’s looking for deals in the private market, oftentimes, deals where you need a substantial amount of capital to get started. What I’m excited to announce is that we launched a new service called Real Estate Winners, which is designed for more beginning investors or investors looking to gain a bigger exposure to real estate within their stock portfolio. It’s a service where you can get started quickly for hundreds of dollars or thousands of dollars, no matter how much you want to invest. All you need is a brokerage account and you can get started. It’s our way of reaching out and trying to broaden the number of people who can invest successfully in real estate. Overall, what we’re trying to do with Millionacres is to help people get happier, richer and smarter through real estate investing. Deidre probably said that many times. I’m going to say it a lot too. It’s our guiding light.
Each company has their mission. You want to make sure that everybody is consistent with that mission. Give us a high level of your story of how you got to where you are now working with Real Estate Winners.
I started with The Motley Fool in 2008. I’ve worked mostly on our stock investing services at The Motley Fool. I loved it. I had a great time. I worked closely with David Gardner, one of the Founders of The Motley Fool. Over that same time when I was doing that, my wife and I were investing in real estate. We bought our first property in 2009 in Washington DC. It was a house we lived in but it also had an income property attached to it. I love telling the story because one day we bought the house. We were figuring out how to rent the property, the income apartment. My wife read this article. It was the New York Times at the time and said, “There’s this new company called Air Bed and Breakfast. They’re expanding.” Now we know that as Airbnb.
At that point, there were three Airbnb listings in all of Washington DC. We thought, “This is interesting. Let’s try renting this income property through Airbnb. People like to come to DC for short periods of time. Let’s try it.” That was successful. We listed it on Airbnb. Within a week, we were booked for six months. It was amazing. That was the catalyst for us to invest in more properties and follow that same short-term rental approach. We did that several times. Now we own several income properties in DC.
Eventually, we also were able to invest in some commercial properties. For example, a self-storage facility out in Colorado and a big apartment building that’s being developed in DC. We expanded. As I’m working at The Motley Fool, I’ve got this sidetrack of real estate investing going on with myself and my wife. A few years ago, I sat down with a few colleagues at The Motley Fool and said, “Real estate is this big asset class. It’s three times the size of the stock market.” If you add in single-family homes and commercial real estate, it’s three times the size of the stock market. It’s a huge asset class.Through crowdfunding or real estate investment trusts, there are so many ways to get involved in real estate investing. Click To Tweet
It’s not as volatile.
That’s right. It has all these great things. I met with some colleagues and said, “Let’s try to do something with real estate investing at The Motley Fool. We’ve been so focused on stocks. We got real estate out here. A lot of investors want to know how to invest in real estate.” That was the genesis of Millionacres. We launched the site a couple of years ago. We’ve been building new product since and trying to get more people to invest in real estate.
Thank you for that. I’m glad you guys did move into that asset class because it is huge. Deidre talked a little bit about when you look at the dynamics of how many women are investing in real estate as opposed to men, the percentages are low. There’s a huge asset class and huge opportunities on many different levels and women aren’t getting in. I’m proud to say that because of my show and several other leaders in the industry that are now women, we’re seeing a lot more women flooding in. I love it but still, we are the minority investors in real estate. I want to see that expand because of the potential.
The great thing is I feel like real estate now is more accessible than it’s ever been. It was that asset class that not just women but any individual investor who had never done real estate looked at it and said, “How do I get involved in real estate investing? Do I have to save for a down payment for years? If I ever wanted to buy a commercial property, I have to be a millionaire. There’s no way.” The beautiful thing about now is that through crowdfunding or Real Estate Investment Trust, there are many ways to get involved in investing in real estate and getting exposure to this asset class. It has a great track record over time. It’s less than half as volatile as the stock market. If you’re tired of the up-and-down swings in the stock market, real estate is certainly a great option.
I want to point something out. I had this conversation with my dad. He loves stocks and they’ve done phenomenally well. David, my husband, loves stocks and we’ve done phenomenally well. Thank you, Motley Fool. I’m not dissing on the stock market but I will say this. Unless you understand it, the volatility can get you. Let me tell you a little bit about what I mean by that. Let’s say you put in $50,000 in the stock market. It goes up to $100,000 in 3 or 4 years. It doubles, then there’s a huge crash. In 2008 and 2001, there have been some big crashes in the stock market because it was so volatile. It goes down. Let’s say it’s at $25,000. You’ve lost 50%. It feels bad because you lost $75,000. Let’s say it doubles again. Now you’re at $50,000 right where you begin, but it says that it’s doubled.
The volatility is what happens with it. The thing is the difference between the stock market volatility and the real estate market are two big ones. The first one is it’s liquid in the stock market. When that thing crashes and you have this emotional response, what do most people do? “Get me out of here. That was scary.” If the real estate market crashes, you can’t sell usually. You can file for foreclosure, which most people won’t do if they can avoid it. You’re forced to stay in for recovery. Here’s the thing. You don’t take a loss or a win until you sell. There’s forced longevity in real estate. The other thing is leverage. Let’s talk about what happened in 2006, 2007 and 2008. The stock market was going gangbusters. This happened in 2001 too just before the bust of the boom. Do I have those dates right?
Yes. Starting in 2001, the dot-com crash had started.
Before that, what happened was the stock market was going up. People were so excited and they were starting to margin their accounts. When you margin an account, what you do is you take the amount that you have and buy double the stock. You’re at 50% leverage. What happens is if you’re at 50% leverage and the market is going up, you’re making double the money. That’s exciting. What happened in the bust was that those accounts were leveraged and then the stocks dropped. The problem is when the stocks drop, all the brokerage firms need to come up with the money so they call your margin. People ended up owing hundreds of thousands of dollars on a stock they never owned fully. They owned 50%.
That’s what the problem was with the stock market. It’s not that you couldn’t hold on to good stocks. It was a lot of people were margined so they got called on that. The other thing was the freak out of, “Even though it was a good company, look at the way the stock market tanked.” Let’s compare that with what happens in real estate. In real estate, we put 20% down and we’re margined to 100%. We’re margined 4 or 5 times. What is that, Matt? Is that 4 or 5 times?
It’s 4 or 5 to 1. Usually, you keep 5% down.
If the value of the home drops, you don’t ever get called on that margin. You keep making payments. You get to hold on to that property. You get to watch it recover if you stay in. When we talk about the volatility of the stock market versus the real estate market, there are a lot of things involved in that. There are a lot of reasons that real estate is a much safer investment. I’m not dissing on the stock. We do a lot of it. We don’t margin on the stock. There are some things that we do to keep ourselves safe. Ladies, I just wanted to give you perspective because it was top of mind. My husband and I were talking about this. When you’re investing in real estate, that’s what happens. If you go with Millionacres and they’re talking about REITs and stuff like that, understand that you’re investing and somebody else who’s making those same decisions. How that works relative to volatility is still relevant.
Your points are so spot on. We did a study once that looked at America’s billionaires. It turns out that none of us is a billionaire. Maybe some of your readers are billionaires. If you looked at the billionaire families that have sustained their wealth for decades, almost all of them are in real estate. They were never forced to sell and panic emotionally. They couldn’t offload their properties. They invested in properties. Oftentimes, they’d roll them over, put 1031 and save on taxes so you save on capital gains They kept rolling into real estate and holding on. That’s such a key point. If we talk about REITs for a moment, REITs are like stocks. They are traded in the public market. A lot of people will think, “What’s the difference between a REIT and a stock? It’s probably just as volatile.” They’re not.
If you look at the historical performance of Real Estate Investment Trust and the data that goes back over 50 years. Not only have they outperformed the stock market, but they’ve also done about 50% of the volatility of the average stock. You’re investing in a REIT. Most of the time, you’re getting a nice dividend out of that so you’re getting income. The stock doesn’t move nearly as sharply as your typical stock. It’s a lot easier to hold on. You’re building wealth over time and you’re getting income. I love that part of the stock market because it gives you exposure to dozens or hundreds of real estate properties. If you’re investing in a retail REIT, you’re getting exposure to hundreds of retail properties. If you invest in a multifamily REIT, you’re getting exposure to hundreds if not tens of thousands of apartment units around the country.
There are going to be downdrafts in certain markets or there’s going to be volatility in the overall market. Over time, that should build wealth. The volatility is so much less that you can sustain your investment in that and not get panicked out of it. It’s a great option for any investor. We know on the Millionacres side, a lot of people were thinking about retirement. They look at REITs as a way to generate a nice, steady income in a lower volatility part of the market. That’s one of the benefits of real estate investing.
Let’s define what a REIT is and how it works.
REIT stands for Real Estate Investment Trust. They were formed by Congress in the 1960s as a way for the average individual investor to buy into a pool of real estate. Nowadays, there are hundreds of REITs. They’re all structured so that they don’t pay taxes at the federal level. In order to qualify for that, they have to pay out 90% of their after-tax income in dividends. That’s why your typical REIT has a pretty high dividend yield. That’s because 90% of the profits from its real estate operations pay out to investors in dividends. It’s a great option for an income-seeking investor. Over time, the REIT category has grown. Now, it includes things like data centers, for example. There are data center REITs.
If you ever drive on a highway, you’ll often see a big tower that looks like it has dishes or rays on it. Those are often cellular towers. There are several REITs that only invest in cellular towers, wireless towers. As we roll out 5G and we use more data on our phones, those towers are being used. You can invest in those in Real Estate Investment Trusts. It’s expanding. There are self-storage REITs that only invest in self-storage facilities. There are all kinds of ways to get exposed to real estate. REITs are a very efficient and profitable way to do that.
The historical track record is so great. In fact, Moneeka, we look at this all the time. If you look at the last twenty years since 2000, the average REIT has returned twice the return of the S&P 500. It was remarkable. If you think about that, we had this massive financial crash in 2007, 2008, which a lot of us think was real-estate driven. It was to a certain extent but even through that, REITs have outperformed the stock market and with lower volatility. I’m biased but if you ask me where do I invest most of my money when it comes to the stock market, I tend to do it with REITs.
Give us some real and clear comparisons between investing in a REIT versus other real estate investing opportunities.
If I’m starting out as an investor and I’m thinking about where am I going to invest and I wanted to get exposure to real estate, I could invest in a rental property. That often takes a big down payment. Generally, your mortgage options on a rental property are not going to be as good as they are if you’re buying a primary home. That can be a big burden to take on. The commercial side of real estate is very big. You have to approach it with millions of dollars and it’s very expensive to get into. REITs offer you the option of investing as little as $100 or $1,000. All you need is a brokerage account. Instantly, you buy a basket of REITs and you got exposure to hundreds of real estate properties around the country.
It is probably the cheapest and most efficient way to get exposure. You can also invest in real estate stocks. Let’s think about Zillow, for example. Everyone knows Zillow. They’re publicly traded and you can say to yourself, “I can invest in Zillow. That’s a real estate company that’s publicly traded.” With that, you’re investing in a stock. Hopefully, you understand how Zillow’s business works. You’re going to face some serious volatility by doing that. I buy a REIT instead. A REIT that I’m familiar with is Mid-America Apartment Communities, which they’re the biggest apartment owner in the country. They own most of the apartment buildings in the Southeast and Southwest parts of the United States where a lot of people are moving these days. They’re a good performer over time and consistent. They pay a nice 3% dividend. That to me seems like a great way to play the real estate market rather than the high-flying or other expensive alternatives in the market.
You brought up a good point about one that you were interested in. How do we decide what kind of REITs to get into? With stocks, we all know there are a lot of different resources to get information. How do you do that with REITs?By investing in REITs, you don’t have to be a hands-on landlord. All you need to do is sit home and collect a dividend check. Click To Tweet
There are a lot of ways. When I am learning about a REIT, I find what I’m interested in. Go to the company’s webpage. We’ll use the example I had, Mid-America Apartment Communities. You can Google Mid-America Apartment Communities Investor Relations. That’ll take you to their website where they have presentations. They’ve got press releases and filings. You can get to know the company a little bit, the history of the company and how many properties they own around the country. One of my favorite things and it’s easy to do is if you look at the long-term track record of the stock. The ticker for Mid-America is MAA. Look at how they performed over time. If you look at MAA, over the last twenty years, they’ve delivered a great return to investors. They’ve had the same leadership in place the entire time.
You can have confidence, “I’m getting a great return from this REIT. I know I have a management team there that’s been in place for over twenty years.” They’ve been through many economic cycles and yet the stock continues to outperform. It’s a good bet that Mid-America is probably going to continue to perform well in the future. My tip is always if you find a REIT that you’re interested in learning more about, go to the website, learn more about the REIT. See how that’s done over time for investors. If you have a REIT that’s been around for at least ten years and it’s performed well, it’s a good bet that REIT is going to continue to perform well for investors. Especially if you see it has raised its dividend over time, that’s another good indicator that it’s a well-managed REIT that’s raising the amount it’s paying to investors over time. You can use it as an opportunity to earn income and grow as the stock grows.
The other thing that happens is with the stock market, we’re hearing about stock all the time. It’s culturally something that people find interesting to talk about. You might say, “I’ve heard about this company called Google and they spun off ABC. I want to check that out or this weird company called Amazon.” You hear about this culturally out there in the world but we don’t hear about REIT. Where can we go to even start? I might be interested in a REIT to do research on, but how do I even find out what I should be looking at especially if there are thousands out there? It can be confusing.
One place to start, it’s a little boring but if you look up the National Association of REITs, Nareit, they have a website. It’s not the greatest website in the world but they have a lot of information about REITs on that website. You can go check it out. There’s a lot of great information. If you want to find out some great investment ideas in the REIT space, go to Millionacres.com. That’s our free website. We have dozens of articles we’re publishing every day, at least a few each day on REITs. We have several writers who focus full-time on finding great REIT ideas and stuff in a marketplace. They’re writing articles every day and putting reports out there.
The URL to go to would be Blissfulinvestor.com/millionacres.
Start there. Nareit is a great service out there. The links you put out for Millionacres, use that as well because I think you’ll find some great timely articles on REITs if you’re looking for ideas.
When you sent me the information, it says, “Real Estate Winners’ advisors identify a select group of real estate investments and REITs that are at the heart of some of the biggest demographic and technological trends shaping society today to generated returns of 15%, 18% and even 21% annually.” Could you talk a little bit about that?
If we think about real estate, it can seem quite boring. It’s rental properties, office buildings, retail, hospitality, hotels. Some interesting parts of the real estate market are seeing tremendous change. We’ve already talked about data centers and cell towers, for example. When we think about data usage and cloud computing, there’s real estate infrastructure behind those big trends that you can invest in. Industrial is an interesting one. When the average person thinks about industrial, they think of a factory, manufacturing plant or something like that.
In real estate, there are also some interesting facets of industrial if you think about warehouse space or logistics centers. Think about how much time people are spending at home and ordering online these days. There’s real estate out there that’s benefiting from that trend. The returns you threw out. We’ve identified companies with our Real Estate Winners service that we think are benefiting from these trends. We do our projections of those returns that we think investors can get with the dividend. Those are some of the returns we’re finding.
Real estate isn’t boring if you’re earning 15%, 18% or over 20%. That’s possible out there. You have to do your due diligence, get to know the company and the management a little bit, see how they’ve done over time, and if there are some tailwinds behind it. One of the reasons I like Mid-America and keep coming back to that name is because if you think about the country at large, there’s this big Sun Belt migration going on. A lot of people are moving to places like Florida, Texas, Arizona, away from the traditional Northeast or Coastal cities. I’m looking for companies that own a lot of real estate in these places where people are moving to. I like to say, “Real estate follows people. It follows capital.”
As people move to these places and income flows to these places, real estate is going to follow. A lot of these places are underserved in terms of how many apartments they have available or other types of properties. There are some big trends out there in real estate. In 2020, we accelerated a lot of them and we’re going to see those play out in 2021 and beyond. What we’re doing in Real Estate Winners is trying to identify those trends and put money behind them.
We’re going to be talking about that, ladies, more on EXTRA. He’s going to talk a little more in detail about those trends, where they’re going to be looking, and where we should probably look in 2021 to take advantage of the trends that already have some momentum. I’m excited to talk about that in EXTRA. Talk a little bit about the premium subscription service. There are Mogul and Real Estate Winners. You have a few different things. You started by talking about that. I want more information. I want to know all about it.
Under the Millionacres umbrella, we’ve got a service called Mogul. That was the first service we’ve launched. That is what we think about as our go-anywhere real estate service. We’re looking at REITs like we talked about. We’re looking at the stock market, but we’re also looking at private opportunities. There’s this whole world of crowdfunding now. Some of your readers might have heard of Fundrise, CrowdStreet or maybe some of the other big platforms out there. These platforms are coming out with private real estate deals all the time. We wanted to develop a service that would help investors navigate these platforms and figure out what the best deals are among those platforms. With those deals, you often have to be an accredited investor. You have to come to the table with a pretty high income or net worth.
It can be pretty prohibitive. That was one of the reasons why, in addition to Mogul, we launched Real Estate Winners. Real Estate Winners is geared toward the person who’s either new to investing, maybe new to the stock market or new to REITs, or wants more real estate exposure to their portfolio and wants to do it in a very cheap and cost-effective way. That’s the beauty of what we talked about as well. You don’t have to be that weekend landlord that my wife and I spent a lot of time at. With a small amount of money, you could get exposure to some great portfolios of real estate managed by professionals. All you need to do is sit home and collect a dividend check, hopefully. It’s great. That’s what we’re trying to do. Those are our two big services behind Millionacres.
Deidre talked a lot about Mogul and that was more of the crowdfunding piece. With Real Estate Winners, which is what your focus is, that’s more of this beginner investor, which is more for REITs and that sort of thing. Ladies, I want to tell you a little bit more about how to find out more about Millionacres. You know that I’m a huge fan. You can go to BlissfulInvestor.com/millionacres. There is a free gift there waiting for you. It’s the Ten Best Real Estate Investments. Go check it out at that website. Get your free gift and start studying. For me, when I talk about blissful investing, you know that a lot of it has to do with low stress and low-time commitment. That’s what bliss feels like. Everybody can define bliss how they want to. From my perspective, it is a hands-off, high-return thing that I focus on so much. This is another one of those ways to accomplish that. Go to that website and download the report. Matt, are you ready for our three rapid-fire questions?
Always. Let’s do it.
Give us one super tip on getting started investing in real estate.
First and foremost, decide what kind of real estate investor you want to be. Do you want to be someone who’s hands-on, who likes to get their hands dirty, doesn’t mind dealing with tenants face-to-face and getting involved in real property, really challenging? If it has huge rewards, great. If you’re instead on the blissful side, you’re more of a hands-off and you want to identify some nice trends in the real estate market, decide on that. Maybe REITs or other options in the public markets are probably the places to go. That’s the first thing you do. Decide what kind of real estate investor you want to be. After that, you can find the right path to get started.
What is one strategy for being successful in real estate investing?
You touched on it earlier, which is being able to hold on. If we think about the stock market and REITs, we get excited about buying, investing and putting money into work. We get dividend checks. It feels great. What happens when volatility or the inevitable downturn comes? Being able to steel yourself against that and accept the fact that now and then the stock market is going to drop like it did last March 2020. It’s going to drop 20%, 30%. It’s going to drop fast. How you act in those kinds of moments determines how much wealth you’re going to be able to accumulate over time. If you can hold through, even take advantage of some of those downturns, you’re going to come out great. If you’re someone who can’t, panics and sells at those moments, you’re going to do some real disservice to your portfolio and returns. Emotion, I don’t know if it’s a skill or what, but it’s the hardest thing to maintain to be an investor. If you’ve got the right emotion and you can steel against those downturns, you’re going to be very successful.
I often say on this show I love Warren Buffett’s quote, “If you can’t control your emotions, you can’t control your money.” That’s what we talk about with Blissful Investing is learning how to manage your emotions so you can handle those challenging times. Even when the market has dropped and you freaked out, that you don’t live in that place. You’re able to bring yourself back to the bliss equilibrium where you can make rational decisions rather than emotional decisions. What would you say is one daily practice that contributes to your success?
Finding time to go for a walk, get fresh air and do a little exercise. My brain is always so full because I’m always thinking about things, reading about companies or working on a project. I’ve got so many things dancing in my head all the time and the idea of being able to shut it all down for a little while and go for a walk. It’s easier these days with the pandemic because here I am at home with my wife. We have a two-year-old son and being able to go spend a little time with him and clear the head, and then come back to work. A lot of us are stressed out even in non-COVID times. The ability to disconnect for a while, get some fresh air, exercise the brain and the body a little bit and come back to work. If you can do that and fit that in for at least 30 minutes a day, it has made a huge difference to me. It will make a huge difference to your readers as well.
This has been awesome. Thank you for all that you’ve offered in this portion of the show, Matt.
Ladies, we’ve got more coming in EXTRA. We’re going to be talking about the potential growth of investment classes that expanded in 2020 and have continuing potential in 2021. If you are not subscribed to EXTRA but would like to be, go to RealEstateInvestingForWomenExtra.com and you get the first seven days for free. You can take a look and see if you love it. If you don’t, no obligation at all. Thank you for joining us. I look forward to seeing you next time. Until then, remember, goals without action are just dreams. Get out there, take action and create the life your heart deeply desires. I’ll see you next time. Bye.
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Moneeka Sawyer is often described as one of the most blissful people you will ever meet. She has been investing in Real Estate for over 20 years, so has been through all the different cycles of the market. Still, she has turned $10,000 into over $5,000,000, working only 5-10 hours per MONTH with very little stress.
While building her multi-million dollar business, she has traveled to over 55 countries, dances every single day, supports causes that are important to her, and spends lots of time with her husband of over 20 years.
She is the international best-selling author of the multiple award-winning books “Choose Bliss: The Power and Practice of Joy and Contentment” and “Real Estate Investing for Women: Expert Conversations to Increase Wealth and Happiness the Blissful Way.”
Moneeka has been featured on stages including Carnegie Hall and Nasdaq, radio, podcasts such as Achieve Your Goals with Hal Elrod, and TV stations including ABC, CBS, FOX, and the CW, impacting over 150 million people.