Sunday, November 15, 2009

Gold and California Vacant Land as an Investment Hedge against Inflation

Gold and precious metals have been and still are the best hedge against inflation. But you have to look at precious metals as a paper asset versus silver coins and gold bars. Initially, what is a hedge against inflation? An inflation hedge is an asset that loses little value in periods of rising prices. It therefore holds its value and purchasing power during an inflationary period. Investors expecting inflation will typically buy this asset type to hedge against rising prices. Precious metals will actually increase in value since they are such an ideal inflation hedge.
The best way to address this question is to look at real assets versus financial assets. Real assets have intrinsic value, which is value of their own. They have direct or indirect usefulness like cars, wheat, corn, gold, real estate, land, and even appliances etc. Financial assets are a claim of profit of a firm, family or government. They would be stocks, bonds, mortgages, trust funds and the likes. Generally, real assets like gold, vacant land, and other commodities are a better hedge against inflation. These real assets have a value of their own, and are not devalued when everything else is inflating in price. Ideal hedges should hold their value over time and not lose their value. Produce and cars lose value over time, while precious metals (gold, silver, palladium), and vacant land and even wine will hold its value.
Another key element of an inflation hedge is its marketability. Is there a market for the commodity at virtually any given time? There is a market for soybeans, heating oil, gold and land, but things like shoes, furniture, and stocks have a limited market, and re-sale market. Another feature of a good hedge is its divisibility. Essentially can the asset be broken down into smaller portions? A house, car and land can not be broken down, but gold, gas, and agricultural products can be.
The best hedge against inflation has been and will continue to be gold, but we are referring to the hard asset of coins, bars, and even a mine that you own. Holding gold in stocks, ETF’s, or shares in a gold or silver mine is a financial asset and not a good hedge. Real Estate like a rental house, apartment, or vacant land is a good hedge but not the best, since it is not as marketable and not divisible like gold and other commodities.
The problem is the availability of gold coins and bars and nobody but a farmer will hold perishable commodities like wheat, or corn in their back yard. We think vacant land is a good alternative as an inflation hedge for investors since it is inexpensive, available and it will hold its value until inflation ebbs. It also doesn’t need to be maintained, will not deteriorate, and it can’t be rustled or stolen.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

The General Eminent Domain process by a Government Agency on your Property

Typically, when the government wishes to take your property by eminent domain, you can expect them to engage in the following steps in about the following order. This is a straight forward process, but untypical cases do occur. The government may also be forced to pay moving or lease expenses as part of the process, but certainly not required in vacant land eminent domain. There has been and will be a number of eminent domain actions by Los Angeles County in Antelope Valley in the recent past and many proposals for the future.

The government agency will contact you usually by mail to express interest in your property and scheduling an appraisal or environmental assessment of the property.
They will then appraise the property, and any improvements. The appraiser will be by their approval though. You can engage your own appraiser at the government expense also. Once appraised the government agency will make an offer to purchase the property. They will include a summary of the appraisal which they use to make their offer. A subsequent notice of public hearing to adopt "resolution of necessity" to acquire your property by eminent domain will begin. A Public hearing is announced and held to adopt the "resolution of necessity" to acquire your property by eminent domain. The Eminent domain case is filed in the court with jurisdiction and a notice is served to you the property owner. A deposit by agency of the probable amount of just compensation is paid into court and motion by agency for early possession of the property. This would be the appraiser’s figure, which they likely offered you before they took you to court. Then discovery procedure proceeds where any depositions and documents are gathered. This is where you the property owner provide your appraiser documentation. At this point both sides are attempting to get the fair market value. The government attempts to get an agreed settlement on the fair market value before going to trial. You should have a good case for more money before the last step which is the trial date. If settlement cannot be reached, then a trial of the eminent domain takes place before a jury who will determine for both parties the expected fair market value. The jury returns verdict and judgment is disclosed. The government agency then will compensate the property owner the jury’s judgment of the fair market value.

In most cases a settlement is agreed to and completed before a trial. Eminent domain can be desirable and undesirable for the property owner. If you look at real estate as a commodity then getting fair market value for the benefit of public use is a very good exchange. But if you are losing a home that has been a anchor for your family, or a business which you grew from the ground up then eminent domain can be a bitter pill, and anything but fair.