As Wayne Gretzky once famously said, “a good hockey player plays where the puck is, while a great hockey player plays where the puck is going to be.” This is true of every competitive endeavor: most individuals will pursue an objective while always remaining a step or two behind, while the best will position themselves to intercept that objective—that is, they will keep themselves a step or two ahead of their objective. This is, of course, easier said than done, but with patience, practice, and some intuition, most individuals can learn to anticipate where ‘the puck’ will be and how to be the first one to reach it.
For our purposes, we will consider the puck metaphor in terms of the economy and housing. There are innumerable influences affecting where the puck will be and when it will be there, and oftentimes it will be heading in a direction you don’t want to follow. This happen to me right before the housing collapse, when I had just started acquiring real estate and making plans to start adding rental properties to my investment portfolio. I saw where the market was going, and as much as I wanted to stay in, I knew it was time to exit the market and weather out the storm. I sold my real estate holdings (including my primary residence!), moved into a rental house for a few years, and once I was confident the market had bottomed out I decided to start rebuilding my real estate portfolio.
I don’t believe the economy or housing market have returned to full health, but I believe they will eventually. The very slow economic recovery has offered me a chance to really study the market and anticipate where things will be in five to ten years and beyond. I know interest rates and house prices have nowhere to go but up, and I know that with current demographic trends we will start seeing massive demand for rental space as Millennials move out of their parents home and start families of their own. In fact, demand for rental units is already red-hot and will only continue to increase.
For now, I am positioning myself and my financial resources to take advantage of the market as it will look several years from now. I am skating to where the puck will be. But what many people may not realize is that they may currently be standing precisely where the puck is heading. That is, they may be able to take advantage of the present market to accomplish their immediate financial goals. For example, with interest rates incredibly low, it’s a perfect time to buy a house either as a first home or a rental property. With money still relatively ‘loose’ it’s a great time to take out a HELOC or a cash-out refinance to upgrade a kitchen or bathroom and add value to an existing home.
Few people realize how unique our current lending and housing climates are and how to take advantage of them. They can’t even see the puck heading right toward them! But if they know where to look, they’ll be able to see it. And if they dedicate themselves to learning the fundamentals of economics, investing, and real estate, they’ll be able to anticipate where the puck will be years or even decades into the future and how to make sure they’re in the right place to intercept it.