Previously, I told StreetAuthority readers about two of the most famous land deals in history. And while most history buffs know the story behind the Louisiana Purchase and the cession of Alaska to the United States by Russia, my point in relating those two stories was to illustrate the timeless wealth potential of real estate that still makes for a smart investment to this very day.
Neither of these two famous land purchases I recounted earlier compares with the real estate coup that was orchestrated by a man named Peter Minuit in May 1626. Legend has it that Minuit, a representative of the Dutch West India Co., bartered some goods worth 60 Dutch guilders to local Indians in exchange for what is now the island of Manhattan.
Now, this tale is part truth and part folklore. Surviving letters do indeed document the transaction but don't specify what was traded (contemporary deals involved beads, cloth, gunpowder, kettles and knives). Some believe the natives may have just been passing through from Long Island.
In any case, early sources originally estimated the purchase price at the equivalent of $24. Even when adjusted for inflation (around $950 in today's dollars), the Dutch still paid less than what a decent parking spot might go for today.
Neither party seemed to think the deal was one-sided. The local tribal chiefs probably didn't recognize the concept of land ownership and may have been primarily interested in securing military protection and a future trading alliance. As for Minuit, he ended up losing his job and returning to Europe in disgrace.
But at the time, few locations are as desirable as the spot where early Dutch settlers once built a wall to protect against invading forces -- now the very heart of the world's financial hub.
I wonder what Peter Minuit would think of Manhattan today.
Property sales in New York are currently closing at prices in excess of $4,000 per square foot.
That ranks among the world's most valuable property.
These figures are based on high-end luxury condos and other residential property, but grade-A commercial property is pricey as well. And demand for space in this densely populated market is soaring: New York real estate prices have appreciated 47% since 2005.
But the Big Apple isn't alone -- just try renting an office in Atlanta, Chicago or Los Angeles.
Real estate can be a sound, durable investment -- not to mention a great way to protect against the ravages of inflation and a depreciating dollar. And its low correlation to equities can provide some buoyancy when the economy deteriorates and stocks are sinking.
Now, most of us don't have the bankroll to buy an office tower, an apartment complex or a retail shopping center. But as I've mentioned before, even single family homes can be a sound investment -- provided you have the time, money and experience to find the right property, fix it up and rent it out to reliable tenants.
Thankfully, I may have found the next best thing.
There's a way you can profit from high-dollar real estate today -- one that requires little upfront capital from investors and that has the potential to deliver inflation-protected gains averaging 10% a year and yields of 6%, 7%, 10% and higher.
If you read last week's essay, you know I've been calling these investments "Eisenhower Trusts." That's because, thanks to a law passed in 1960 under President Eisenhower, a special investment vehicle was created to give individual investors access to a wealth-shielding tool previously reserved for America's privileged -- namely, trusts.
So what are "Eisenhower Trusts"? Simply put, these are dividend-paying securities that invest in valuable assets like real estate -- even better, it takes minimal upfront capital to invest.
Most investors buy these investments for their rich dividends. The average "Eisenhower Trust" offers an annual dividend yield of about 6%, triple the average 2% yield paid by the S&P 500. And because they are required by law to pay out 90% of their income as dividends to shareholders, they are not subject to corporate income tax.
Why does this matter? Because it frees up more cash for these special investments to acquire more assets, pay down debt and return more capital to shareholders.
Many of these investments are easy to find -- you just have to know where to look. And best of all, you can trade them just like you would any stock, bond or mutual fund.
Bottom line, if you're interested in growing and protecting your wealth in a serious way, you need to be looking at real estate. The big rebound in housing has been one of the best stories of the year, and I think now may be one of the best opportunities in a generation to get in.
P.S. -- I've been pounding the table on real estate for months now to my High-Yield Investing subscribers. Many of them already own "Eisenhower Trusts" and are raking in thousands of dollars in dividends every year. If you'd like to learn more about these special investments and how they could provide you with a high-yield income that potentially doubles every four years, check out this special report.