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Plus, the Istrian Peninsula, we'd observed for some time, serves up some of the most delightful scenery on this planet. The land seems to rise up to embrace you. Everywhere you look, something nice is growing—olives, grapes, figs, tomatoes, pumpkins, blackberries, wildflowers... Even the buildings seem to be of the earth, built of its white stone and red clay. In some parts of the world, Nature outdoes herself. In others, that which man has built is impressive. In Istria, Nature and mankind have worked together over centuries, starting with the Romans, to create a land of delights you have to see to appreciate.

So, that rainy morning in that muddy farmyard, with Kaitlin (and I'm sure others, too) questioning our sense, Lief and I decided that we'd found the old white stone house that fit our bill, made an offer to the Istrian owner, and agreed the terms with a handshake. The seller sealed the deal by making a gift to us of lavender oil his wife had bottled.

Then we returned to our lives and got distracted. Finally, recently, nearly a decade later, we got back to Istria, to check in on our little stone farmhouse and to see how things have changed on this peninsula in the intervening years.

And we were happy to find that we're as enamored of this region now as we were back then. This sun-soaked peninsula continues to offer an appealing Old World lifestyle amidst one of Europe's most impressive landscapes and at a more affordable cost than across the way in Italy.

Before you're ready to retire, you're likely to notice places around the world where you'd like to be able to spend time. Not just once every several years or so in a hotel, but more regularly, as often as possible, in the company of your family and friends, and in a place of your own. That's the realization we made years ago in Istria, Croatia.

When you identify a destination that meets this description, I recommend you take stock of it bigger-picture, considering, first, whether that destination is also a place where you think you might like to spend time in retirement and, second, if the real estate market there presents potential for capital appreciation or cash flow. If the answer to either of those questions is yes (and certainly if the answer to both of those questions is yes), then you've found your ideal second home overseas.

In our case, with Istria, the answer to both those taking-stock questions was enthusiastically positive, and, so, we proceeded to stake our small claim. We invested in a little farmhouse because Lief and I agreed that this is a place where we can see ourselves coming back to long term, a place we'd like to make part of our eventual retirement plan.

When it comes time to flip the switch to retirement, Lief and I hope to have organized our lives so that we're able to move around during that phase of life among a handful of destinations where we most enjoy spending time, with established infrastructure in each so that we can come and go as residents, not tourists, with friends and connections, social circles and, important to us, homes of our own. When making your own plan for retirement overseas, the starting point, key to the success of the adventure, is to be honest with yourself as to what kind of lifestyle you're after.

When Lief and I ask ourselves what kind of lifestyle we want in retirement, the answer is: varied. City and coastal, Caribbean and highland, spring and summer, fall and winter, developed and emerging, sophisticated and raw, refined and gritty, we appreciate it all. So we've conceived a retirement plan, that we've been working for some years to engineer, that will allow us to enjoy it all, perpetually, in turns.

Whatever your plan, I encourage you to start developing it as soon as possible. An easy first step can be the purchase of a piece of property in a locale where you want to be able to spend time now and that you think eventually could become part of your retirement plan. Meantime, whenever you're not using the property yourself, it could be generating cash flow from rental, and, over time, it could be increasing in value, too. Your future retirement residence could be a nicely appreciating asset on your balance sheet.

That's the ideal situation—when the holiday home-cum-retirement plan you buy also qualifies as an investment. This was what tipped the scales for us with the farmhouse purchase in Istria. The old farmhouse we bought came with a bit of land. On that land, we'd daydream, we could cultivate olives, figs, even grapes. Maybe we could try making our own wine! We could go for long hikes in the hills, exploring the medieval villages nearby, by day, then read by firelight come evening.

Croatia's Istrian peninsula is a wonderland of vineyards and olive groves. If you've any romance in your soul, I defy you not to fall in love with this region that the ancient Romans called Terra Magica, the Magic Land. Perhaps the best part is that, unlike Tuscany, the region of Italy that Istria is most often compared with (with good reason, as the geography and the history of these two regions have much in common), the average person can afford Istria, where you can buy a small, renovated cottage with lookouts over a valley and vineyards, perfect for regular visits, for rental, and for retirement, for as little as US$100,000.

Retiring to Croatia, you'd be in good company. Diocletian, the only Roman emperor to abdicate his position (that is, to retire) was also the first person to retire overseas. Diocletian built a palace on the Dalmatian coast (his birthplace was Dalmatia), the location of current-day Split, and it is here, with the glorious Adriatic Sea spread out before him, that he chose to live out his days.

Kathleen Peddicord

P.S. A holiday home-cum-retirement plan that also qualifies as an investment is the global property investing trifecta. Identifying and following through on such a multi-agenda purchase will be one important topic of discussion during our second-annual Global Property Summit, taking place in March 2015.

In addition, we'll be using our 2015 Global Property Summit as a forum to introduce three new property investment markets we've been tracking and vetting, markets of considerable opportunity that you should be looking at right now.

We'll be opening registration for this, the only property event on next year's calendar, within the next week. Meantime, go here now to get your name on the Hot List for special discounts and VIP perks.

Continue reading: Motivations For Relocating Overseas

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April 22, 2014

"Kathleen, I was reading your best places to buy and wondered why you had not suggested Turkey. I myself am selling a property there right now, at a loss I might add.

"They are overdeveloping in parts of Turkey just like they did with Spain, in particular around Alanya. I am unsure if I have done the right thing by deciding to sell now, having heard that it is the best time to buy and that prices are likely to go up!

"I wondered if you had any thoughts on this. Also many Russians are buying into this area, and I do hear that some people are selling because of that alone. I would really appreciate your thoughts.

"Thank you so much."

--Beth N., United States

Resident global property expert Lief Simon replies:

I haven't paid much attention to the Turkish real estate market until recently. I know that, yes, as you suggest, some parts of that country's coast have been developed like the coast of Spain has been developed—which is to say badly and without proper planning.

However, I do think there could be opportunity in Turkey now and that prices could be poised to appreciate. Kathleen and I are planning a two-week visit to the country in early July. I'll have more to report then.

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I'm all for making money off our international real estate purchases, of course, but annual yield and long-term ROI aren't typically the tipping points for me when it comes to choosing one piece of real estate over another.

When we arrived in Waterford, Ireland, some 16 years ago as newlyweds, we were eager to launch our new life on the Auld Sod, and I had a clear picture of what that life was to look like. I wanted a big, old, Georgian-style stone house with land around it for chickens, maybe a couple of horses, and a garden. I never articulated this vision to Lief, for I assumed he shared it. How little I understood my new husband.

Lief's vision for our first joint property purchase overseas had more to do with diversifying outside the U.S. dollar and into the punt (this was Ireland pre-euro) and buying into one of the fastest-appreciating real estate markets on the planet at the time than it did with a love of classic Irish Georgian architecture. The house we eventually purchased, LaHardan House, met all my criteria and delighted Lief, because, thanks to the property's sorry state of repair, the price was under-market. I got a renovation project; Lief got a great deal.

Seven years later, as we planned our move from Waterford to Paris, we wondered what to do with our Irish country home. Sell it? Or continue to hold and rent while we were away? Lief made the call. Time to get out of this frothy market, he determined. It's nearing its top.

We sold LaHardan House for three-and-a-half times what we had invested in it. I'd made the purchase and carried out the improvements. Lief timed the sale. He sold just before the Irish property market began to settle. (It has since collapsed.)

Likewise, in Paris, I selected the 300-year-old apartment in the historic center of the city that I wanted to buy. Lief was happy to go along with the purchase, because, as with LaHardan House, the state of the property meant the price was nicely below market. Again, I carried out the renovations, the finishing, and the furnishing, and then, fast forward a few years, as we prepared for our move to Panama City, again, we faced the question of what to do with the place.

Hold, Lief determined in this case. An historic city-center apartment in this market will retain its value, and we'll be able to rent it out for a reasonable yield while we're elsewhere. The yield has materialized according to Lief's projections, and the hard asset remains ours.

This has become the secret to the most successful global real estate buys we've made over the past 16 years. No, we haven't employed this strategy for every purchase--sometimes Lief has bought purely for investment in places where I have no interest in spending time and at least once I've bought a family holiday home that never would have held up under Lief's spreadsheet scrutiny. These purchases weren't necessarily mistakes, but they've proven the least successful from an investment point of view.

Lief may have another take on why this is so, but here's mine: Global real estate investing is both a science and an art. To enjoy the greatest level of success at it, you must analyze the market and run the numbers, yes, but you also must take a step back from the spreadsheets and view the purchase from a more personal perspective.

Is this a place where you'd enjoy spending time and is this a piece of property you'd be happy to own even if it were never worth a dollar (or a euro or a peso) more than you paid for it and even if it never yielded you a single percentage point of return?

More sobering, is this a place you'd be OK being stuck with? You should recognize with every foreign property purchase you make that there's a chance not only that the value might never increase, but also that it might fall. What if the market turns and your house (or beachfront lot, etc.) becomes worth significantly less than you have invested in it? We've all been made painfully aware over the past several years that this isn't a theoretical question. Real estate values sometimes fall. Sometimes they fall far and hard.

If you own a piece of property you don't like in a market where you don't want to spend time, what happens if it's no longer valuable as an investment?

Then it's no longer valuable, period.

If, on the other hand, you choose your markets and your properties not only because they're places that hold out investment potential, but also because they're places where you want to spend time, then, if the investment return doesn't materialize as you were expecting it to, you're still disappointed, yes, but all is not lost. You don't mind holding on until the market cycle moves more in your favor.

I think of it as balancing the numbers with the romance. Lief and I stumbled into this global real estate investment strategy and, over the years, we have put it to the test again and again. We've made together now more than three-dozen real estate purchases around the world. Coincidentally or not, the ones we most appreciate—because we've spent time in them with our family or because (as in the case of the 150-year-old stone farmhouse on the side of a mountain in Istria, Croatia, that remains, despite all my best intentions to renovate it, a near-ruin) we dream of the day we and our children will be able to enjoy them—are also the ones that have proven the most profitable investments.

Kathleen Peddicord

P.S. This Spreadsheets and Romance strategy for buying real estate overseas will be an important topic of conversation during the first-ever Global Property Summit we’re planning for April 2014.

We’re finalizing the details of what is shaping up to be the biggest overseas real estate event of the year. All attendees will receive a free copy of my newest book, “How To Buy Real Estate Overseas.”

In addition, because we respect the wisdom of considering any foreign real estate purchase as a team (husband and wife, father and son, two brothers, two sisters, two business partners, etc.), we will be inviting every attendee to bring a significant other for a significant discount.

You can register your early interest in the event here.

When shopping for a piece of real estate overseas, it’s important to balance the investment projections for return against your personal interest in spending time in the place where the property is located.

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April 17, 2013:

"Kathleen, we saw you on Fox Business Channel. Very impressive. Thanks for letting us know you would be on."

--Armand B., United States

***

"Kathleen, enjoyed watching you on the Bloomberg interview! Well done.

"In the interview, you focused on Panama. Have you changed your opinion on Belize in favor Panama considering citizenship, ease and taxation of consulting business, currency, financial stability, and cost of real estate/living?

"I almost have my wife convinced to make an exploratory visit to Belize. Should I flip her over to Panama?"

--Randy J., United States

No, no, I haven't changed my position on Belize, not at all. Both Belize and Panama are great choices. Which one might be better for you depends on what you're looking for.

Belize is my top pick for a place to go to leave the rest of the world behind and one of the best places in the world to pursue what I refer to as a resilient lifestyle. Also, the language in Belize is English, which can be a plus if you intend to do business.

Belize is also a tax haven...but so is Panama. And the way is well paved in both countries. That is, both Belize and Panama are home to sizable and growing expat communities.

The healthcare is better in Panama than in Belize.

In Panama, the folks speak Spanish (mostly) but use the U.S. dollar as their currency, meaning retirees have no exchange rate risk, which can be a big plus.

Panama is a country mid-boom. Belize is, has been, and I'd say always will be boom-free.

Residency is easy to establish in both countries. Note, though, that neither the pensioner's visa in Panama nor the QRP in Belize leads to citizenship. Other residency options in both countries can, though.

Again, both Belize and Panama are great choices. It all comes down to what's important to you.

***

"Kathleen, I'm working on a very long to-do list and planning to make my move to Panama first week of July. Very exciting and just a bit scary at the same time. 'Ballsy' for a single woman 69-years-old, but what the hey? Life should be an adventure, and I'm all in."

--Libby H., United States

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I could not have written this global property adventure memoir without the help of my husband, Lief Simon. Lief has been my number cruncher, tax advisor, currency converter, spreadsheet guru, and partner for every overseas real estate investment I've made throughout my career.

With one exception--the accidental developer experience I found myself involved with a few years before I met Lief, on the south Pacific coast of Nicaragua. For that adventure, I have Bill Bonner and Mark Ford to thank, and I do.

In the pages of this new book, I also share stories of the overseas real estate adventures of friends with personal experience living, buying, and selling in the countries I feature, especially Paul Terhorst, who gives brilliant insights into why Argentina is the lovable basket case it is, and Lee Harrison, Lucy Culpepper, Ann Kuffner, Wendy Justice, and Coley Hudgins.

The book will hit bookstores and be available for purchase online starting in April. Meantime, you can order a pre-release copy of "How To Buy Real Estate Overseas" on Amazon now for just US$15.48 (that's 38% off the release price).

Over the coming weeks, in advance of the book's appearance in bookstores across America and online wherever e-books are sold, I'll share excerpts...to tease and tempt you (I hope) into wasting no time ordering your copy!

More soon.

Kathleen PeddicordContinue Reading:

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Kathleen Peddicord

Kathleen Peddicord is the founder of the Live and Invest Overseas publishing group. With more than 25 years experience covering this beat, Kathleen reports daily on current opportunities for living, retiring, and investing overseas in her free e-letter.

Her book, How To Retire Overseas—Everything You Need To Know To Live Well Abroad For Less, was recently released by Penguin Books.

Read more here.

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