Now that Congress has approved $7.85 billion in Hurricane Harvey relief and sent it to President Trump for his expected signature, the storm’s victims in Texas and Louisiana can now focus more on their future of damage claims and mortgage decisions.
If you were a homeowner whose property was a victim of the storm, loan modifications and a moratorium on mortgage payments both continue to be likely happenings for you in the weeks ahead, real estate investing expert Jason Hartman predicts.
Hartman this week devoted a second episode of his “Creating Wealth” podcast show to post-Hurricane Harvey events and news. He was joined in the podcast by Naresh Vissa, a fellow Platinum Properties investor whose family lives in Houston and watched as Harvey’s devastation unraveled around them. However, they made it through the storm OK.
In addition to discussing what happened to his family in the storm, Vissa joins Hartman in discussing other news and issues important to you as an investor today. Those issues include how President Trump’s economic plan seems to involve devaluing the U.S. dollar in order to increase trade abroad, and, how automation doesn’t replace jobs as some people may think, rather, it creates them.
Hurricane Harvey Part II: How Did the Government Perform?
In a podcast last week that was titled “Houston We Have a Problem … or an Opportunity,” Hartman talked about both sides of that problem-opportunity equation.
First: Yes, Houston will face problems galore in the months ahead because of the unprecedented damage wreaked by Harvey. Secondly, even though they may be aptly called “disaster capitalists,” there also will be an influx of workers to Houston and the rest of Gulf to aid in the recovery. They will reap demands for commodities and building materials, and all of that actually could be a boom to the economy.
In the more recent Harvey podcast this week, Hartman and colleague Vissa talk about how Vissa’s family survived the storm. Formerly from the Houston area, Vissa now lives in Tampa, Florida, where he works as a digital business solutions provider. The rest of his family still lives in Houston, though, and they rode out Harvey’s days and days of relentless rain and eventually came away unscathed.
Fortunately, Vissa says, the driveways and roads in his parents’ neighborhood were remodeled and rehabilitated about 10 years ago.
“I don’t want to say they were remodeled to be flood-proof, but I’ll just say at the time they were remodeled to be state of the art,” Vissa tells Hartman in the podcast. “As a result, my family did not experience even an inch of flooding.”
“But places as close as two miles from their home experienced massive, massive flooding, so they were very, very close to the turmoil,” and his parents’ home “kind of became a safe haven” for their neighbors because it was dry inside.
Between his parents and other family members who live in Houston, Vissa said at least 100 family friends in the area suffered either damage to their homes or to their vehicles.
In addition to the damage it caused to real estate, Harvey’s floodwaters inflicted damage to perhaps as many as 1 million cars in Southeast Texas and Louisiana, many of those beyond repair, auto and insurance industry experts estimate.
“Cars were destroyed or even if they got half-flooded, water got into the engines and they don’t work anymore,” Vissa says. “Homes were destroyed—we know a couple of people had to basically hang on to the roofs of their homes to get to safety or get help.”
“It was definitely the north sides and the south sides of Houston that experienced a lot of flooding.” Making matters worse, two days after the Harvey rains stopped, the reservoirs released more water to ease the strain on them and the areas got flooded again.
“So, it’s just like never-ending bad news.”
Hartman, meanwhile, wonders in the podcast whether the local government prepared properly for Harvey’s arrival.
“It is just shocking to me how this can even happen, really,” he says. “How can the government have screwed up on, number one, not doing an evacuation? I haven’t followed what the government has done or hasn’t done to be a good critic, but I will say, ‘How come they didn’t plan better in terms of like flood control and things like that’? Granted, nothing is ever flood-proof or anything-proof for that matter—disaster can affect anything, no matter how well you plan— but it seems like there was just not nearly enough planning here.”
Vissa notes to Hartman a report from USA Today that as many as 80 percent of those homeowners afflicted by the flooding are not covered by flood insurance. He found little solace in what the report said about federal assistance for those not covered by flood insurance.
“These essentially are loans,” Vissa says of such federal aid. “They’re low-interest loans, so there’s still interest on them, and they’re only allowed to take out loans based on a certain amount of dollars based on their income and a few other things.”
“That’s kind of a problem, because already, a lot of these folks have taken out loans on their mortgages and now they would have to take out more loans from the government to either fix up the home or to pay off the mortgage or whatever it might be.”
If you were such a homeowner getting yet another loan on your mortgage, you may be wondering if you want to keep the property any longer, Visser says.
“I assume many of them are going to be forced to sell their homes.
“Of course, they can just walk away. But then there are going to be a lot of homes for sale, and I’m not sure what their value would be if there’s mold and water and destruction … I don’t know what other choice they have.”
Predicts Hartman: “A lot of them will just walk. The bank will take (the homes) back, and the bank will have to resell them, and this will take many years to work its way through the system. We’re going to hear a lot of stories as to how this all goes in the months to come, and years to come, even.”
“But this is just a giant, giant situation. It’s every bit as big as Katrina. We’ll see. Maybe it will end up being bigger in terms of dollars.”
Hartman donated money for Hurricane Harvey relief to a few different charities in the Gulf Coast and encourages you as a listener and follower of his podcasts to do the same. He didn’t specify to which charities he gave—“you pick out the good ones,” he says. He does share two good websites through which to pick charities and donate to the relief effort, though: Charity Navigator and Guide Star.
Says Vissa of Houston, his hometown: “We wish everybody the best and hope Houston has a very speedy, speedy recovery. Let’s make Houston great again.”
A Weaker Dollar Will Be Good for Trump and the Country
Hartman and Vissa in the recent Houston podcast also discuss a Business Insider story that suggests the dollar is struggling and that such a weakening is “a direct reflection of the prospects for Trump’s economic agenda.”
Hartman says a weakened dollar under Trump may not be so bad.
“If in talking about Trump in the way he talks about trade, I wouldn’t be surprised if Trump wants a weaker dollar,” Hartman says.
When the dollar gets weaker, Hartman explains, American companies get an influx of business from other countries and make money off the resulting exports. “Trump is always talking like how the trade is so imbalanced and how it’s so unfair that we’re buying all of this stuff from other countries, and they’re not buying enough stuff from us.”
“ … That’s a complicated issue, and we’ve discussed it in detail. It’s what’s called the ‘current account deficit,’ and that’s about trade.”
Once a weaker dollar does result in more spending with American companies, that means “more travel to the U.S., more tourism, it brings money to the U.S,” Hartman adds.
“But it also makes it more expensive for us to buy products elsewhere, and I’ve said many times that I think Trump is inflationary, I think Trump is good for employment, I think Trump is good for American jobs. I think a lot more money is going to flow into real estate.”
As a Hartman follower and listener of his “Creating Wealth” podcasts, you know he has taken a few verbal jabs at Wells Fargo as of late. In this latest podcast with Vissa, he takes another at the bank—while also landing a few blows at Tesla. Hartman reveals in the podcast that he has owned Tesla models 1 and 2 and hasn’t been fond of either one of them.
“I like the self-driving aspect—that’s the only reason I bought Tesla numbers 1 and 2,” Hartman says. “But, pathetic, terrible, terrible company, terrible car—almost as bad as Wells Fargo. I’m going to put them in the same category.”
Hartman, in fact, points you and other listeners to a website in which it appears he has played a key role. “To hear your (podcast) host cuss a lot, go to teslascam.com,” he notes. “You can see some videos of me cussing at my car.” (The site does exist, and you may find it quite amusing.)
Automation Will Create Jobs: ‘High Tech High Touch’ Told Us So
Hartman in the latest Houston-related podcast also talks about a report he heard that very morning on National Public Radio—while driving his Tesla, of course. “They cited a census study from maybe 50 years ago or something like that, and of the 271 or whatever job classifications they had on the census from decades ago, only one has become extinct due to automation,” Hartman notes.
And what was that occupation, you ask? It was the elevator operator.
“There have been just a few times in my life where I’ve gotten into an old-fashioned elevator and there was actually an elevator operator that pushed the buttons for you,” Hartman says.
“But, yes, we do not need elevator operators anymore. That has been automated away, that profession, by people being able to push their own buttons. No more ups and downs of elevator operator business.”
Though many people fear that automation will equal loss of jobs, Hartman and Vissa disagree with that notion.
Vissa cites automated teller machines (ATMs) as an example. He saw a recent study that said ATMs resulted in more jobs, because with the machines came a need for more security guards to load them and a need for more branch and other bank managers to manage all of the machines.
He also cited the commercial airline industry and self-driving cars as examples.
“Pilots are necessary for take-off and landing,” Vissa notes, “but once you’re up in the air, it’s all automated. But we still need two pilots at the front of the plane who are there and basically supervising.”
As for automated cars, “When it comes to the truck drivers, any kind of automated transportation, you’re going to have to have some sort of supervisor either before the ride or after the ride who is making sure the car is maintained well, that it’s going from Place A to Place B.”
Just so you as a real estate investor can understand how automation will affect the economy in the future, Hartman references a book, “High Tech, High Touch,” by John Naisbitt.
“I’ve already talked about why real estate is a big deal, because obviously since the beginning of time the three primary rules of real estate have always been location, location, location,” Hartman says. “Those are the three primary value drivers. But, geography is less meaningful than it’s ever been in human history, and with self-driving tech and autonomous vehicles, it’s going to be less meaningful than it is now.”
In Naisbitt’s book, the futurist author’s concept of “high tech, high touch” theorizes that more automation will just lead to more demand, because humans always want more.
“He says that the advancement of jet airplanes, the technology, has only led to more meetings, more in-person meetings, so the high tech has led to high touch,” Hartman says.
“And that’s the thing people tend to forget when they think about automation and how it might hurt them, because automation creates more fulfillment to the endless numbers of human wants and desires.”
Hartman even coins his own term for the “high tech, high touch” theory—“more”-ness.
“When you have easy transportation, there will be just more demand for transportation,” he says.
“I didn’t say more cars necessarily—I said more rides. So that means the cars will have more wear and tear on them. That means more tires, more this, more that, more maintenance, whatever. Because when transportation becomes cheaper and easier, people will just move around more.”
“The high-tech, high-touch that John Naisbitt (first wrote about) in Megatrends talked about how the technology of jet airlines and jet engines has only led to more meetings, whereas before, people just stayed put.”
“And so, all of this automation will create more demand.”
Just as Harvey’s wrath has created a huge demand for donations and other relief efforts for the Gulf Coast.