The Confident Contrarian

An Interview With Frank McKinney

Is real estate an “insider’s game” these days? Did so many folks lose their shirts trying to get rich during the Bubble Years that they’ve been scared out of the market forever?

In his interview with well-known “daredevil real estate artist” Frank McKinney, Jason Holland, managing editor of Early to Rise, gets to the heart of the matter.

McKinney bought his first fixer-upper nearly 25 years ago for $50,000, and sold it a few months later for a $7,000 profit. These days, this South Florida resident is one of the country’s premier builders of oceanfront spec homes valued in the tens of millions of dollars. He just finished the world’s largest and most expensive ($24.3 million!) certified green home.

He’s also a five-time bestselling author (his latest book is Burst This! Frank McKinney’s Bubble-Proof Real Estate Strategies) and self-described “philanthro’capital’ist” who did relief work in Haiti both before and after the recent earthquake.

Jason: Hey, Frank. Thanks for making the time to get together with me for this interview. Let’s start with a question that we keep hearing from our readers: Is this a good time to get into in real estate?

They see so much in the news that tells them, “Yeah, now is the time.” But they’re confused — maybe intimidated — by all the foreclosures and short sales. Or they were burned when the bubble burst a couple of years ago and are reluctant to get back in the game. What’s your take?

Frank: In my new book, Burst This!, I went back and studied in great detail past real estate cycles. I studied ’74 through ’76… ’79 through ’81… the late ’80s to the early ’90s… another cycle in ’97… 2001 through 2002… and then the most recent one starting in ’08 through this year.

And what I learned is that before we can answer the big question — the money-making one — we need to change our mindset. We need to become what I refer to as Confident Contrarians. And we need to earn our PhD in what I call Paradoxicology.

Jason: You’re losing me here…

Frank: What I mean by this is that when everybody is running for the exit, screaming for their lives and waving a white flag splattered with their own blood, they need to calm down and walk slowly through the exit.

Jason: I think I see where you’re going with this…

Frank: In other words, when we see a cycle like the one we have just gone through, we should remember Warren Buffett’s words: “When everybody’s afraid, it’s time to get greedy. When everybody’s greedy, it’s time to be afraid.”

Point is, the American dream will never die. It didn’t die in the ’70s with the oil crisis… or in high-interest years of the late ’70s and early ’80s. (If you bought a home back in 1981, for example, you likely had a 16-17 percent mortgage.)

Then there was the S&L meltdown in ’89, ’90, ’91 — another credit crisis that was a heck of a lot worse than what we just went through.

But people have very short memories.

Jason: Why are so many people running scared right now?

Frank: The onslaught of negative news exacerbated investors’ fears. That caused what I consider to be an over-correction in the real estate market.

Jason: So the mainstream press is just as wrong now as when it was blindly cheerleading the industry a few years back. What does that mean to the average investor?

Frank: The calm and cool-headed investor will see that these are truly, truly the millionaire-maker days. These are the low-hanging fruit days. But they are numbered, Jason. They will be gone as quickly as they’ve come.

Jason: So when should people get in?

Frank: You don’t want to try to time the absolute bottom of the market. So you start now. But not by buying property. You start by educating yourself — so when the time comes, you’ll be hyper-sure that you’re making the right purchase. Listen, if you’re new to real estate, or you’ve been burned before, the last thing you want to do is lose money on your first deal or on your first deal back into the business.

I’d say you should spend six months learning. You make your money in real estate the day you buy not the day you sell. So to make sure you’ll be buying the right properties, you need to be in there accelerating your learning curve now.

Jason: Late-night TV is full of infomercials that promise to teach people how to make a lot of money on short sales and foreclosures. What do you think of them?

Frank: Some are very good. Others are not. I would be careful about investing thousands and thousands of dollars in some course given by somebody who really can’t “walk the walk.”

Where should people go to educate themselves? My recommendation is to start by finding a reputable local real estate investment club. There are some really good ones across the country. I’ve talked to, maybe, hundreds of them over the last 20 years. They weren’t around when I was learning my craft. Had they been, I think I would have started making money a lot faster.

Anyway, you get a schedule of their speakers. Most of them will be talking about some form of “how to invest in real estate and how to do it right.”

You go. You pay $20 or so to get in. But you don’t sign up for anything just yet. You sit in the back of the room and listen.

Eventually, you will hear someone speak — on short sales or foreclosures or what have you — who makes you feel confident that they really know what they’re talking about. To learn more, you know you’re going to have to invest some money in their service or program or seminar to fast-track your ability to pull that trigger within the six months that I say it should take to bring yourself up to speed. But when you’ve found someone good, you should absolutely spend that money.

Jason: Let’s say a potential investor has put in the time to educate himself and feels ready to make that first deal. What’s next?

Frank: First thing you do, you take a grade school compass — that pointy thing with a pencil on the other end of it — and you poke the pointy tip into a map… right where you live right now. Then you draw a five-mile-radius circle around your house. That’s where you start to look for deals — within five miles of where you live.

You get in your car and drive the neighborhoods you’re already familiar with. You don’t need to be getting on a plane to buy foreclosed properties in some other state. That’s a dangerous proposition, because you don’t know that market. You’d be relying on somebody else to teach you about that market. And what if they’re wrong?

So you start with a five-mile radius around your home. And if you can’t find anything there, you go to 10 miles. You might jump to 20 miles. Then 25. And, eventually, to 50. I’ve made my career, a 25-year career, within a 50-mile radius of where I’ve lived in South Florida.

As a first-timer, you don’t need to be focusing on buying 50 properties, or even five. You need to be focused on buying one… and buying that one right.

[Ed. Note: Visit www.Burst-This.com or www.frank-mckinney.com to learn more about Frank McKinney and his books, including Burst This! Frank McKinney’s Bubble-Proof Real Estate Strategies. (You can even read sample chapters.) All proceeds from Mr. McKinney’s book sales go to his Caring House Project Foundation.

Frank McKinney is an expert panelist with the Liberty Street League, ETR’s members-only wealth building newsletter. It’s dedicated to teaching the most lucrative under-the-radar ways out there to make money. Real estate, precious metals, commodities, off-shoring, financial privacy, stocks, bonds, options, Internet business… the Liberty League covers it all, and much, much more.

Join the League today as a trial member and you get a copy of Michael Masterson’s New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestseller, Ready, Fire, Aim, totally FREE. Find out more here.]