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Posted: 25 Jun 2014 | 6:00 am

One of the true phenomena of the real estate industry is the seemingly never-ending optimism of buyers. Bright, shiny faces that have bought off-plan-taking to heart all those promises in the sales literature - later find themselves adrift in quicksand as the sun starts to set. Only the baying of wolves can be heard, as those dark personal thoughts turn into huge question marks about making it through the night, let alone the coming years.

Even highly intelligent, skilled professionals and financially acute investors often find themselves stalking life outside the lines when the words of the alchemist's turn sour and nasty. Failure is not an option for these overachievers.

There is no such thing as one-size-fits all, and property investment, like life, can turn into a big headache. For some, the rubber really hits the road when they buy from a developer that has goes out of business, or they find themselves with a finished product so under par and offering little in the way of rental returns that they have to repeatedly reach into their pocket just to keep the whole mess afloat.

On days like this, what can you tell those people? Stick it out to the bitter end? Take whatever cash you can get out and run? Lick your wounds and pray for better days ahead? Too many question marks have ruined my concentration...

Flash back to pre-Botox Kenny Rodgers, before he had to hide at home in Bruce Jenner-like shame. "Know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em..." But sometimes the only decision is whether to walk or run. Still, there is a lot of truth in the white-hair songster's gaming adage.

No one really want to hear this, but these days real estate investing is sadly not that different from trip to Marina Bay Sands. Whoever thought prime real estate would go underwater and values shrink to amounts less then the mounting debt. Luckily for any expat investors in Phuket, for example, the collateral damage is limited due to the non-availability of debt. But there is still the risk of all that cash disappearing down the drain on a deal gone bad.

Deciding when and where to pull the plug on a bad property deal is vague and disturbing. While stress and distress might be neighbours, the human nature is to fight for life, and remain optimistic even at the darkest hour. There is no rulebook or training course on when the right time is to cash out or crawl away from a bad trade. My best suggestion is that when things turn upside down, step back, reflect, and be patient, because at the end of the day nobody really knows what to do next.

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