Land Banking as a Wealth Strategy

John D. Turley

CEO, RE/MAX Caribbean & Central America (CCA) Region. Investor. Mentor. Educator. Public Speaker

January 7, 2023

High inflation is a problem for mainstream investors in the United States. Inflation is a portfolio killer because it wreaks havoc on the stock market.

The knee-jerk reaction is to put money in fixed-income assets with a guaranteed return. This is a terrible strategy considering inflation was last clocked at 7.11% – after five rate hikes by the FED in 2022. A guaranteed return doesn’t mean you’re guaranteed to make a profit – especially if you’re considering putting your money in a CD, Money Market Account (MMA), high-yield savings account (HYSA), treasuries, or any other fixed-income asset. When considering the current inflation rate, fixed-income assets will lose you money.  

Putting money in a CD, MMA, HYSA, or treasury that pays at best 4.6% (5-year CD, according to nerdwallet.com) results in an annual loss of 2.5% annual loss.

Fixed-income assets are not the way to deal with inflation.

Banking is the right idea to deal with inflation, but it’s not the traditional type of banking that will save your portfolio; it’s land banking. What is land banking? It’s exactly as its name implies. It’s an investment strategy where you buy land and then sell when the value increases. Because property values – especially in high-demand, high-growth locales – typically outpace inflation, it’s a great strategy for battling inflation.  

Besides acting as a buffer against inflation, land banking can also be a lucrative real estate investment strategy. Think of it as a buy-and-hold strategy without the tenant and broken air conditioner issues. It’s a strategy that’s been around for more than 500 years and one that has made millionaires for countless investors.

John Jacob Astor became America’s first multi-millionaire using this strategy. He purchased large tracts of land in New York. Today, that area is known as Manhattan. Aston saw the potential of that tract of land and was one of the few people at the time to see land banking as a great opportunity. If John Astor’s net worth resulting from the sale of that land was measured in the present day, it would amount to over $100 billion.

Land banking is not the first strategy that comes to mind when investors consider real estate, but it’s a valuable strategy investors should consider – especially in offshore locales.

Land banking requires patience (minimum holding periods of at least five years). Still, it’s entirely headache free because land requires no maintenance, which is a distinct advantage over traditional real estate investments. Land costs nearly nothing to own. Compared to commercial and residential properties that require maintenance and upkeep, land banking is becoming more and more appealing to savvy investors.  

Investors considering land banking should consider investing offshore. That’s because of the relatively low property tax rates. In Belize, the property tax rate for unoccupied land is 1%. In Mexico, it’s 1/10th of 1%. The low property tax rates can only improve the bottom line and rate of return when it comes time to sell the property.  

Real estate investing without having to deal with deadbeat tenants and toilet and plumbing repairs? Yes, please!  

The ultra-wealthy have been using land banking to build and insulate wealth for years. While mainstream investors have been stressing over their up-and-down 401k’s in a volatile stock market, smart investors have been sitting back and watching their land values go up while the rest of the market goes on a roller coaster ride.  

While many investors rush to fixed-income assets to “preserve” their assets, ultra-wealthy investors have been diversifying with offshore land to insulate their portfolios against uncertainty, downturns, and inflation. Even as they’re protecting their portfolios with land banking, these savvy investors are also watching their wealth grow as the value of their land holdings grow. And in hot offshore markets, their wealth only accelerates that much more.  

With its hot growth and growing popularity as a tourist and retirement destination, Belize is ideal for land banking. With booming development activity, acquiring a piece of land in Belize or any other offshore locale with subdivision potential and then holding that land to eventually break it up into smaller titles and selling them off for a profit can be a highly lucrative strategy.  

Land banking has long been used by smart investors not only for wealth building but also for portfolio protection. In addition, this strategy is ideal in a stable and quickly developing offshore locale with low tax rates and laws favorable to foreign investors. That’s why investors interested in land banking should consider Belize.

3 Best Practices for Selling Your House This Year

3 Best Practices for Selling Your House This Year | MyKCM

A new year brings with it the opportunity for new experiences. If that resonates with you because you’re considering making a move, you’re likely juggling a mix of excitement over your next home and a sense of attachment to your current one.

A great way to ease some of those emotions and ensure you’re feeling confident in your decision is to keep these three best practices in mind.

1. Price Your Home Right

The housing market shifted in 2022 as mortgage rates rose, buyer demand eased, and the number of homes for sale grew. As a seller, you’ll want to recognize things are different now and price your house appropriately based on where the market is today. Greg McBride, Chief Financial Analyst at Bankrateexplains:

“Price your home realistically. This isn’t the housing market of April or May, so buyer traffic will be substantially slower, but appropriately priced homes are still selling quickly.”

If you price your house too high, you run the risk of deterring buyers. And if you go too low, you’re leaving money on the table. An experienced real estate agent can help determine what your ideal asking price should be.

2. Keep Your Emotions in Check

Today, homeowners are living in their houses longer. According to the National Association of Realtors (NAR), since 1985, the average time a homeowner has owned their home has increased from 5 to 10 years (see graph below):

3 Best Practices for Selling Your House This Year | MyKCM

This is several years longer than what used to be the historical norm. The side effect, however, is when you stay in one place for so long, you may get even more emotionally attached to your space. If it’s the first home you bought or the house where your loved ones grew up, it very likely means something extra special to you. Every room has memories, and it’s hard to detach from the sentimental value.

For some homeowners, that makes it even harder to negotiate and separate the emotional value of the house from fair market price. That’s why you need a real estate professional to help you with the negotiations along the way.

3. Stage Your Home Properly

While you may love your decor and how you’ve customized your home over the years, not all buyers will feel the same way about your design. That’s why it’s so important to make sure you focus on your home’s first impression so it appeals to as many buyers as possible. As NAR says:

“Staging is the art of preparing a home to appeal to the greatest number of potential buyers in your market. The right arrangements can move you into a higher price-point and help buyers fall in love the moment they walk through the door.”

Buyers want to envision themselves in the space so it truly feels like it could be their own. They need to see themselves inside with their furniture and keepsakes – not your pictures and decorations. A real estate professional can help you with tips to get your house ready to sell.

Bottom Line

If you’re considering selling your house, let’s connect so you have the help you need to navigate through the process while prioritizing these best practices.

Avoid the Rental Trap in 2023

Avoid the Rental Trap in 2023 | MyKCM

If you’re a renter, you likely face an important decision every year: renew your current lease, start a new one, or buy a home. This year is no different. But before you dive too deeply into your options, it helps to understand the true costs of renting moving forward.

In the past year, both current renters and new renters have seen their rent go up based on information from realtor.com:

Three out of four renters (74.2%) who have moved in the past 12 months reported seeing their rent increase. The strain from recent rent hikes isn’t exclusive to renters who have recently moved. Nearly two-thirds of renters (63.2%) who have lived in their current rental between 12 and 24 months, and likely renewed their lease, have also reported increases in their rent.”

And if you look back at historical data, that shouldn’t come as surprise. That’s because, according to the Census, rents have been rising fairly consistently since 1988 (see graph below):

Avoid the Rental Trap in 2023 | MyKCM

So, if you’re considering renting as an option in 2023, it’s worth weighing whether this trend is likely to continue. The 2023 Housing Forecast from realtor.com expects rents will keep climbing (see graph below):

Avoid the Rental Trap in 2023 | MyKCM

That forecast projects rents will increase by 6.3% in the year ahead (shown in green). When compared to the blue bars in the graph, it’s clear that the 2023 projection doesn’t call for an increase as drastic as the ones renters have seen over the past two years, but it’s still above the historical average for rent hikes between 2013-2019.

That means, if you’re planning to rent again this year and you’ve not yet renewed your lease, you may pay more when you do.

Homeownership Provides an Alternative to Rising Rents

These rising costs may make you reconsider what other alternatives you have. If you’re looking for more stability, it could be time to prioritize homeownership. One of the many benefits of owning your own home is it provides a stable monthly cost that you can lock in for the duration of your loan. As Freddie Mac says:

Monthly rent payments may increase over time, but a fixed-rate mortgage will ensure that you’re paying the same amount each month. With a fixed-rate mortgage, your interest rate is locked in for the life of loan. Steady payments allow you to budget wisely and make plans for the future.”

If you’re planning to make a move this year, locking in your monthly housing costs for the duration of your loan can be a major benefit. You’ll avoid wondering if you’ll need to adjust your budget to account for annual increases like you would if you left your housing payment up to your landlord and their renewal cycle.

Homeowners also enjoy the added benefit of home equity, which has grown substantially. In fact, the latest Homeowner Equity Insight report from CoreLogic shows the average homeowner gained $34,300 in equity over the last 12 months. As a renter, your rent payment only covers the cost of your dwelling. When you pay your mortgage on a house, you grow your wealth through the forced savings that is your home equity.

Bottom Line

If you’re thinking of renting this year, it’s important to keep in mind the true costs you’ll face. Let’s chat to see how you can begin your journey to homeownership today.

Wondering How Much You Need To Save for a Down Payment?

Wondering How Much You Need To Save for a Down Payment? | MyKCM

If you’re getting ready to buy your first home, you’re likely focused on saving up for everything that purchase involves. One cost that’s likely top of mind is your down payment. But don’t let a common misconception about how much you need to save make the process harder than it could be.

Understand 20% Isn’t Always the Typical Down Payment

Freddie Mac explains:

“. . . nearly a third of prospective homebuyers think they need a down payment of 20% or more to buy a home. This myth remains one of the largest perceived barriers to achieving homeownership.

Unless specified by your loan type or lender, it’s typically not required to put 20% down. This means you could be closer to your homebuying dream than you realize. According to the National Association of Realtors (NAR), the median down payment hasn’t been over 20% since 2005. In fact, the median down payment today is only 14%. And it’s even lower for first-time homebuyers at just 6% (see graph below):

Wondering How Much You Need To Save for a Down Payment? | MyKCM

Learn About Options That Can Help You Toward Your Goal

If saving for a down payment still feels like a challenge, know that there’s help available. A real estate professional and trusted lender can show you options that could help you get closer to your down payment goal. According to latest Homeownership Program Index from Down Payment Resource, there are over 2,000 homebuyer assistance programs in the U.S., and the majority are intended to help with down payments.

Plus there are even loan types, like FHA loans, with down payments as low as 3.5%, as well as options like VA loans and USDA loans with no down payment requirements for qualified applicants.

To understand your options, be sure to do your homework. If you’re interested in learning more about down payment assistance programs, information is available through sites like Down Payment Resource. Then, partner with a trusted lender to learn what you qualify for on your homebuying journey.

Bottom Line

Remember, a 20% down payment isn’t always required. If you want to purchase a home this year, let’s connect. You’ll also want to make sure you have a trusted lender so you can explore your down payment options.

What Are Your Goals in the Housing Market This Year?

What Are Your Goals in the Housing Market This Year? | MyKCM

If buying or selling a home is part of your dreams for 2023, it’s essential for you to understand today’s housing market, define your goals, and work with industry experts to bring your homeownership vision for the new year into focus.

In the last year, high inflation had a big impact on the economy, the housing market, and likely on your wallet too. That’s why it’s critical to have a clear understanding of not just the market today, but also what you want out of it when you buy or sell a home. Danielle Hale, Chief Economist at realtor.comexplains:

The key to making a good decision in this challenging housing market is to be laser focused on what you need now and in the years ahead, so that you can stay in your home long enough that buying is a sound financial decision.

Here are a few questions you can start thinking through as you fine tune your goals for 2023.

1. What’s Motivating You?

You’re dreaming about making a move for a reason – what is it? No matter what’s happening in the market, there are still many compelling reasons to buy a home today. Your needs may have changed in a way your current house can’t address, or you could be ready to step into homeownership for the first time and have a space that’s truly your own. Use what’s motivating you as a guidepost in partnership with an expert advisor to help make sure your move will give you a lasting sense of accomplishment.

2. What Does Your Next Home Look Like?

You know you want to move, but how would you describe your dream home? The available supply of homes for sale has grown, and that could mean more options to choose from when you buy. Just be sure to keep your budget in mind and work with a trusted real estate professional to balance your wants and needs. The better you understand what’s essential and where you can be flexible, the easier it can be to find the home that’s right for you.

3. How Ready Are You To Buy?

Getting clear on your budget and savings is essential before you get too far into the process. Working with a local agent and a lender early is the best way to make sure you’re in a good position to buy. This could include planning how much to save for a down payment, getting pre-approved for a home loan, and assessing your current home equity if your move involves selling your existing house.

A Professional Will Guide You Through Every Step of the Process

Buying or selling a home is a big process that takes expertise to navigate. If that feels a bit overwhelming, you aren’t alone. According to a recent Harris Poll survey, one in five respondents see a lack of information or knowledge about the homebuying process as a barrier from owning a home. Don’t let uncertainty hold you back from your goals this year. A trusted expert can bridge that gap and give you the best advice and information about today’s market.

Bottom Line

Let’s connect to plan how your dreams for 2023 can become a reality.

Applying For a Mortgage? Here’s What You Should Avoid Once You Do.

Applying For a Mortgage? Here’s What You Should Avoid Once You Do. | MyKCM

While it’s exciting to start thinking about moving in and decorating after you’ve applied for your mortgage, there are some key things to keep in mind before you close. Here’s a list of things you may not realize you need to avoid after applying for your home loan.

Don’t Deposit Large Sums of Cash

Lenders need to source your money, and cash isn’t easily traceable. Before you deposit any amount of cash into your accounts, discuss the proper way to document your transactions with your loan officer.

Don’t Make Any Large Purchases

It’s not just home-related purchases that could disqualify you from your loan. Any large purchases can be red flags for lenders. People with new debt have higher debt-to-income ratios (how much debt you have compared to your monthly income). Since higher ratios make for riskier loans, borrowers may no longer qualify for their mortgage. Resist the temptation to make any large purchases, even for furniture or appliances.

Don’t Cosign Loans for Anyone

When you cosign for a loan, you’re making yourself accountable for that loan’s success and repayment. With that obligation comes higher debt-to-income ratios as well. Even if you promise you won’t be the one making the payments, your lender will have to count the payments against you.

Don’t Switch Bank Accounts

Lenders need to source and track your assets. That task is much easier when there’s consistency among your accounts. Before you transfer any money, speak with your loan officer.

Don’t Apply for New Credit

It doesn’t matter whether it’s a new credit card or a new car, when you have your credit report run by organizations in multiple financial channels (mortgage, credit card, auto, etc.), it will have an impact on your FICO® score. Lower credit scores can determine your interest rate and possibly even your eligibility for approval.

Don’t Close Any Accounts

Many buyers believe having less available credit makes them less risky and more likely to be approved. This isn’t true. A major component of your score is your length and depth of credit history (as opposed to just your payment history) and your total usage of credit as a percentage of available credit. Closing accounts has a negative impact on both of those aspects of your score.

Do Discuss Changes with Your Lender

Be upfront about any changes that occur or you’re expecting to occur when talking with your lender. Blips in income, assets or credit should be reviewed and executed in a way that ensures your home loan can still be approved. If your job or employment status has changed recently, share that with your lender as well. Ultimately, it’s best to fully disclose and discuss your intentions with your loan officer before you do anything financial in nature.

Bottom Line

You want your home purchase to go as smoothly as possible. Remember, before you make any large purchases, move your money around, or make major life changes, be sure to consult your lender – someone who’s qualified to explain how your financial decisions may impact your home loan.

Financial Fundamentals for First-Time Homebuyers

Financial Fundamentals for First-Time Homebuyers | MyKCM

Are you prepping to buy your first home? If so, one of the steps you should take early on is making sure you’re financially ready for your purchase. Here are just a few of the financial fundamentals you’ll need to focus on as you set out to buy a home.

Build Your Credit

Your credit is one element that helps determine which home loan you’ll qualify for. It also impacts your mortgage interest rate. While there are many factors that go into your mortgage application, a higher credit score could lead to a lower monthly payment in the long run.

So how do you make sure your credit is in the best shape possible when it’s time to buy? A recent article from NerdWallet lists a few tips you can use as you work to build and strengthen your credit. They include:

  • Tracking your credit and disputing any errors that show up on your reports.
  • Paying your bills on time. This includes making loan payments and paying down any open lines of credit.
  • Keeping your credit card balances low. Paying more than your minimum monthly balance when you’re able can help.

Automate Your Savings for Your House Fund

You might also be wondering how you can achieve your down payment savings goals. Bankrate provides buyers with a number of tips to help you save, including searching for down payment assistance programs and ways you can save more, faster. As the article says:

“One of the best ways to save for anything — including a down payment — is to set it and forget it. If you receive a regular paycheck, ask your employer to direct a portion of that payment into a savings account. If you’re a freelance worker or independent contractor, set up a recurring transfer from a checking account to a savings account to establish the routine.”

Get Pre-Approved

As you prepare for your purchase, you’ll also need to have a good grasp on your budget and how much you’ll be able to borrow for your home loan. That’s where the pre-approval process comes in.

Pre-approval from a lender lets you know how much money you can borrow for your home loan. And having that knowledge, plus an understanding of your savings, can help you decide on your target price range for a house.

From there, you can start browsing for houses online and see what’s available in your area in that general price point. This can help you really understand your options so you can start to picture your future home.

For Customized Advice, Build a Team of Professionals

Finally, the best way to make you’re prepared for your purchase is to connect with trusted real estate professionals. Having expert advisors in the industry will help you make strong decisions throughout the homebuying process based on your specific goals, finances, and situation. They know the market and can guide you toward the home of your dreams.

Bottom Line

If you’re ready to get the homebuying process started, let’s connect so you can begin to build your team of professionals today.

What Makes a House a Home?

What Makes a House a Home? | MyKCM

There’s no denying the long-term financial benefits of owning a home, but today’s housing market may have you wondering if now’s still the time to buy. While the financial aspects of buying a home are important, the non-financial and emotional reasons are too.

Home means something different to all of us. Whether it’s sharing memories with loved ones at the kitchen table or settling in to read a book in a favorite chair, the emotional connections to our homes can be just as important as the financial ones. Here are some of the things that make a house a home.

1. You Can Be Proud of Your Accomplishment

Buying a home is a major life milestone. Whether you’re setting out to buy your first home or your fifth, congratulations will be in order when you’ve achieved your goal. The sense of accomplishment you’ll feel at the end of your journey will truly make your home feel like a special place.

2. You Have Your Own Designated Happy Place

Owning your own home offers not only safety and security, but also a comfortable place where you can relax and unwind after a long day. Sometimes that’s just what you need to feel recharged and content.

3. You Can Find the Space To Meet Your Needs

Whether you want more room for your changing lifestyle (like retirement, dedicated space for a hobby, or a personal gym) or you simply prefer to have a large backyard for entertaining, you can invest in a home that truly works for your evolving needs.

4. You Can Customize Your Surroundings

Looking to try one of those decorative wall treatments you saw online? Tired of paying an additional pet deposit for your apartment building? Or maybe you want to create an in-home yoga studio. You can do all these things in your own home.

Bottom Line

Whether you’re planning to purchase your first home or you’re ready to buy a different home to meet your needs, consider the emotional benefits that can turn a house into a happy home. When you’re ready to make a move, let’s connect.