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The plantation's manager is a fourth-generation farmer in Panama with experience not only growing mangos but also selling them. He has long-standing relationships in place with juice companies in Panama, which are standing by to purchase as many mangos as he can produce. Right now, the majority of juice companies in this country are forced to import their mangos, which is far more costly than buying locally.

In addition, the developer is in contact with groups in the United States, from dried fruit wholesalers to grocery stores, lining up contracts for selling the plantation's mangos directly into the U.S. marketplace, where they would be worth much more than the local Panama juice companies are paying. (Note that current projections for return for this investment are based on the price the mangos are currently being sold for in Panama, meaning that, again, the projections are conservative.)

Phase one of the plantation has been sold out. Phase two is selling at a rapid rate, and implementation is well under way. Thus, again, the planned price increase.

I have asked the developer, however, if Live and Invest Overseas readers could have one final chance to get in on this opportunity at the original phase one launch price of US$33,500. He has agreed and will honor that price for LIOS readers for the next two weeks. Thereafter, the price permanently increases to US$36,500.

You can request more information here.

Lief Simon

Credit Checks And Other Requirements For Renting Overseas

"Kathleen, if I rent an apartment in a foreign country, specifically in Central America, do I have to get preapproved and a credit check?"

--Joseph B., United States

If you're renting short-term, you leave a deposit and pay the rent up front. No credit check or other documentation is required in most cases, as the presumption is that you are a tourist and will leave the country without hassle (that is, the owner doesn't have to worry that you might refuse to vacate the property when the time comes).

If you're renting long-term, it depends on where in the world you're renting. The requirements are generally more lax in Latin America than in Europe. In France, even for a grey-market apartment rental (meaning a rental that doesn't go through a rental agency…those rentals require a stack of documents thicker than your combined tax returns for the last 10 years, everything notarized), you'll have to provide proof of income and/or assets and probably a local guarantor (this for sure if you're not a legal resident of the country). To that end, you may be asked to show tax returns from back home, pay stubs, and/or bank statements.

In Latin America, the formal requirements for a long-term rental are less onerous; still, as a foreigner who is not a legal resident, you might have trouble finding a landlord comfortable renting to you, depending on where, specifically, you're looking. Landlords don't like renting to people who can just up and leave the country overnight. This has happened often here in Panama City, for example, and landlords in this town are gun shy these days.

Credit checks are typically only used and/or useful in the context of a mortgage application…meaning they're relevant only in markets where it's possible for a foreigner to borrow locally for the purchase of real estate. Banks in Panama, for example, will ask for a U.S. credit report from Americans and whatever is available in the UK for Brits when considering a mortgage application.

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Mangos are either the first or the second (depending on the source you believe) most eaten fruit in the world, either before or after tomatoes (which aren't a vegetable but, indeed, a fruit). Undebatable, though, is that mangos are the most popular tree fruit in the world,with the United States importing more than 40% of the world's mango exports.

The U.S. market demand is great, despite the fact that many Americans don't really know what a mango is. This is changing...creating even greater market demand.

In Panama, mangos are in every grocery store both as raw fruit and as juice in boxes. We always have several boxes on our pantry shelves; mango juice is my son's best friend's drink of choice and we try not to disappoint him.

The point is, mangos are simply everywhere in this country, growing wild, growing in back gardens, growing in enormous groves in the Mango Village section of my Los Islotes development, and growing in more and more plantations all the time. Still, the supply can't keep up with the demand. Panama imports a big percentage of the mangos it requires annually for processing (by Del Monte's plant here, among others).

No question, mangos in Panama are an interesting agricultural investment opportunity right now. All plantations, though, are not created equal. Just planting any type of mango tree on any piece of land isn't going to get you the return you're after as an investor. As with any agricultural undertaking, the species of the product, the type of land, and the team managing the plantation are critical factors.

Mangos are sold both as fruit and as pulp for juice processing, and they produce seeds that are ground into a paste (called mango butter) used in pharmaceutical and cosmetic products. The butter has qualities similar to cocoa butter and, like cocoa butter, is good for protecting and moisturizing your skin.

The plantation developer in Panama who I've been getting to know these past four months is working with a local horticulturalist who has been cross-breeding mangos to produce improved species. What he's come up with is a mango with a thicker skin that helps to protect it against insects and that produces a higher percentage of meat versus seeds. Less loss to insects and more meat both translate to higher returns. It's this improved species that the developer in question is using in the plantations he's currently cultivating.

The management company involved is run by a fourth-generation agriculturalist (farmer) who knows more about soil types, fertilizer, fruit species, weather patterns, and everything else that affects farming in Panama than anyone I've met. I think these mango trees are in good hands.

With any agricultural investment, two key factors to profitability are the management company and the sales outlet. Anyone can plant trees and watch them grow, but without proper maintenance (trimming the trees, using the right fertilizer, monitoring irrigation, etc.), the yield per tree will be less than optimal. As I said, I don't think that's a concern here. The management company in this case knows what it's doing.

However, optimal crop production is pointless if you don't have a ready buyer for your product.

As I mentioned, Panama currently imports the majority of the mangos processed in the country by Del Monte and others. These processors would prefer an increased supply of local mangos rather than having to import in the quantities they are, meaning the local market is a big potential sales outlet for any Panama farmer producing quality mangos.

It's also the low-hanging fruit, so to speak, and, certainly, this is where this plantation developer is going to focus to start. However, with some effort, he could potentially make connections with outlets in the United States. His mangos would sell for more there than they will here.

The projections, though, for this plantation's return are figured based on selling the mangos produced only locally. Specifically, the projected 15-year annualized ROI (IRR) is 16.55. However, mango trees can live for 60 to 80 years, meaning your cash flow will continue long past 15 years. A 15-year timeline, though, is reasonable for projecting revenue; beyond that, the projections become too speculative. As mangos grow only in tropical climates, the options for where to farm the trees are limited, so, unless the world's appetite changes dramatically and everyone goes off mangos, demand should continue to push prices up.

A general risk for any agricultural undertaking is lack of irrigation. Mangos, though, are deep-root trees that don't need irrigation once established. Their roots go deep into the ground searching for water, making the trees drought resistant, meaning that, even during an extended Panama dry season, mangos should pull through with little stress...as long as they are planted on good land.

The developer in question does deep soil studies on each piece of property he buys to make sure the land is suitable to mango trees and maximum harvest yields.

I don't recommend agricultural investments that have you investing in shares of a plantation or a harvest. I prefer agricultural investments where you take title to the land the crop is planted on. That's the case here. Investors get titled land planted with 40 to 46 mango trees per hectare.

As the distance between trees must be relatively big (because mature mango trees are broad), the developer is intercropping with grasses to harvest for cattle feed. Like the revenue from the mango harvests, the revenue from the intercropping will be shared with the investor, as you, the investor, own the land.

The management company earns its money from revenue splits after a set crop-care fee. Therefore, the management company earns more as the investor earns more. Again, I prefer agricultural investments structured this way, so that the developer/management company is incentivized to maximize the investor's return.

The minimum investment is 1 hectare. The price is US$33,500 per hectare.

For more details on this just-launched opportunity, you can inquire here.

Lief Simon

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I've been covering this beat for almost 30 years. When I started out writing about retiring overseas, I was considered part of the fringe element. Three decades ago, Americans weren't thinking about retiring to different countries. Three decades ago, this was a crazy idea, and any American considering retiring anywhere other than where he'd happened to be living until that point was looking at Florida or Arizona...not Ecuador or Thailand.

Two important things have happened in the intervening years.

First, it's possible today to be anywhere in the world and remain in real-time, full-time contact with anyone anywhere else in the world. With e-mail and Skype you can communicate daily with family, friends, business colleagues, financial advisors, and your banker no matter where in the world you happen to be hanging your hat at the moment. You can access cash from a bank account in one country (say the United States) through an ATM in any other. You can scan documents, share photos on social media, download reading material from Kindle, and have packages delivered to you anywhere you roam with the help of a mail-forwarding service. You can file your tax return electronically and stay in touch with your broker with regular video chats.

Our electronic age means it's possible to remain connected with an old life while pursuing a new one anywhere in the world. It also means it's easier than ever and ever-easier to identify and explore the possibilities for what that new life might look like. Anyone today who wakes up to the realization that maybe his or her retirement life could be better, richer, fuller, and cheaper lived someplace else needs only go online to connect with loads of recommendations for where and how that fantasy idea could be made real. Google “retire overseas” and you are presented with hundreds of thousands of resources standing by to help you do just that. Retirees 30 years ago and even 10 years ago had a much tougher time finding out about their options and an even tougher time building any infrastructure of support required to pursue them.

Meantime (this is the second important thing that has changed since I began reporting on opportunities for retiring overseas years ago), current-day would-be retirees are worried they don't have enough retirement nest egg to carry them through retirement. They're not confident in the security net of Social Security, as their parents may have been. They probably don't have guaranteed pensions, as their parents may have had. And their retirement investment accounts may not be worth what they were planning for them to be worth.

Today's retiree is concerned about how much he's got and how much he's going to get from Social Security while looking ahead to many years, often, of retirement living. He's also better educated and better traveled than his parents may have been, so, when he begins to take stock of his prospects, his mind is more open than that of any retirement generation that has preceded him. My chances of enjoying a full, fun retirement living where I'm living and how I've been living are risky, he thinks to himself. I wonder what they'd be like living somewhere else...

He goes online to Google, types in “retire overseas,” and he's on his way.

“Is it mostly people who've been retired for some time or people who are just coming up to retirement age who are making this kind of move?” the reporter yesterday also wondered.

I met a gentleman at a conference a few years ago who was considering retiring to Belize. He was 91-years-old.

“I was with the U.S. Navy my entire life,” Joe told me. “I had many adventures with them. Now I think I have one more adventure in me. I'd like to have it in Belize.”

At our live- and retire-overseas conferences, I meet thousands of people each year who are planning for new lives in new countries. Some of these folks are long retired, like John. Increasingly, though, they're also younger, 50-, 40-, even 30-somethings who are exploring their options for reinventing their lives overseas. Why?

Money is a primary motivator, of course. More Americans than ever are realizing that they could reinvent their lives entirely and live how they want, making their own schedules, running their own shows, even from early ages, even with small nest eggs, by relocating to particular places abroad. Some folks are opting out of the corporate world and choosing to live frugally on very little. Some are taking whatever they've got and investing it in a business of their own. Some are going on walkabouts, as I think of it, to find out where the world might lead them if they give it a chance.

Couples with young children, single moms, single dads, women on their own, men and women post-divorce, men and women in mid-life...over the years, I've encountered probably every demographic possibility imaginable. The common denominator is that all of these many thousands of people were keen to start over. Maybe to reduce their cost of living, but, as well, to increase their quality of life.

We Americans are wanderers. We like to climb the next mountain and ford the next river, and we're always intrigued by what might lie just around the next corner. Our parents considered what retirement might be like in Naples, Florida, or Scottsdale, Arizona. We're considering what retirement might be like in Cuenca, Ecuador, or Chiang Mai, Thailand.

Yes, it's a trend.

Kathleen Peddicord
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These days, being off-grid doesn't have to mean a cabin in the woods with no infrastructure or amenities. And that's definitely not the idea at Carmelita. Each house will have solar electricity, but modern solar technology of the kind residents will enjoy at Carmelita supports air conditioning, fans, washers, dryers, refrigerators, and internet (Belize telecom companies provide USBs you can just pop into your computer for internet).

Residents at Carmelita will also have access to communal gardens and orchards that they can work as much or as little as they like. As the property is located directly on the Belize River, water activities are also easily accessible.

The bottom line for residents is that they'll be living in a truly sustainable community but living comfortably and among like-minded company. As Phil likes to say, “Carmelita is where people can be independent, together.”

Just 10 minutes from Carmelita in one direction is San Ignacio (the biggest town in the Cayo and an important local meeting place) and just 10 minutes away in the other direction is Spanish Lookout (the main Mennonite village in the area...the place to go for building supplies and labor). Living at Carmelita, you'll feel like you're enjoying the best of country life (as you would be) while enjoying quick, easy access to grocery stores, restaurants, bars, hardware stores, and services. (I got a great haircut in San Ignacio for US$5 one time I passed through.)

The big news that Phil shared at last week's conference was that the population at Carmelita has this month doubled. Now the first couple to take up full-time residence here is no longer living solo; now they have a second couple for neighbors. Construction at Carmelita is in full swing. Three houses have been completed, three more are under construction, and another four are planned to break ground soon.

Most of the 44 owners to date are intending to live at Carmelita. On one hand, this is great news, as it means a real community is taking shape. On the other hand, it means a shortage of rental properties, and Phil reports an emerging demand.

This revelation has prompted Phil to launch a new phase in Carmelita that he's calling the River Club.

The River Club will be a riverfront eco-resort consisting of 30 one-bedroom, one-bath casitas. These units work for either part-time living or as a rental investment. Phil is so confident in the growing demand for this kind of rental and, as a result, in the rental returns he's projecting that he launched the River Club offer at last week's conference with a guarantee.

Specifically, Phil offered the first five buyers at the River Club a guaranteed return of 10% per year for the first three years. Phil had four takers. Now he has agreed to make the remaining fifth unit with the three-year guaranteed return available to the general Live and Invest Overseas readership.

Prices start at US$59,000 for courtyard units and go up to US$69,000 for the riverfront units, making this an affordable investment. Units come furnished, including solar, water, and wastewater systems and appliances. It's a fully turn-key opportunity at a very appealing price.

Even if you don't get the remaining unit with the guaranteed return, your rental returns should be strong considering both the continued growth of tourism in the Cayo and the coming demand from other Carmelita buyers needing accommodation while they build their own homes. For more information, you can inquire here.

Lief Simon

P.S. Belize is one of the 24 markets we will be featuring during our upcoming Global Property Summit taking place in Panama April 14-16. More information here.

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The current opportunity, though, is bigger. In the current global financial climate, not real estate in general, but real estate overseas, specifically, is the smartest thing you can do with your capital, be it ear-marked for investment or retirement.

Bottom line, real estate overseas is the ultimate diversification strategy at a time when diversification beyond U.S. markets and outside the U.S. dollar is more important than ever before in our history and certainly more important than ever before in our lifetimes. No matter how many kinds of investments you hold, if they're all U.S.-based or all U.S. dollar-denominated, you are not diversified. You are at the mercy of U.S. markets and events, and no investor wants to be that vulnerable.

Specifically, here are nine reasons why you are smart to be considering this idea right now:

Reason #1: Like real estate anywhere, real estate overseas is a hard asset, and, in the current investment climate, hard assets are the most sensible investment class, the best choice for storing value long term...

Reason #2: As with real estate anywhere, you're buying with the hope of capital appreciation, but you can also be buying for cash flow, an important current investment agenda...

Reason #3: Real estate overseas provides portfolio diversification—diversification of currency, diversification of market, and diversification of asset type (rental, raw land, productive land, condo-hotel, etc.)...

Reason #4: Real estate overseas provides the opportunity for you to position yourself to profit from both expanding and crisis markets...

Reason #5: Real estate overseas can double as a retirement plan—today's investment can be tomorrow's retirement residence...

Reason #6: Real estate overseas can double as a holiday home, an investment that you and your family are able to use and enjoy from the day you make it...

Reason #7: Real estate overseas can be part of a legacy of wealth that you leave to your heirs...

Reason #8: Real estate overseas is safe and private, one of but two remaining asset types that an American need not report to the IRS every year...

Reason #9: A real estate investment overseas can bring tax advantages, including deductions you can take on your U.S. tax return...

Reviewing this list of reasons to buy real estate overseas, you notice that, big picture, it breaks itself down into two categories—category 1: investment; category 2: lifestyle. Very different agendas that, for the best results, should be considered in unison.

Another thing to notice about this list of reasons to put your time and money into the acquisition of real estate overseas is that, fundamentally, as I've explained, it's all about diversification—diversification of your portfolio and your assets, but diversification, too, of your life, your retirement, and your legacy.

We are living at a time that presents the opportunity to take the investor's profit agenda, combine it with the live-better-for-less agenda of the retiree, and transfer it overseas. An opportunity to use overseas real estate as both an investment vehicle and a strategy for a new and better life, both immediately and longer term in retirement. Overseas real estate amounts to the surest strategy for creating and preserving legacy wealth while simultaneously reinventing your life and rescuing your retirement. Thanks to global market events of the past half-dozen years, many options exist right now for where to buy to make money while also making a new life. Further, thanks to our Age of the Internet, it is possible today to seize these opportunities easily and cost-effectively to build a new life while staying in real-time touch with family, friends, business concerns, and investment portfolios from the old one.

The best case is when you are able to find a piece of real estate in a place where you want to spend time, short term on vacation and long term in retirement, that also holds out the potential for an investment return, in the form of capital appreciation, rental return, or both. This perfect storm of objectives should be your ultimate goal. A holiday home on the beach of Nicaragua can become little more than a headache and a carrying cost if you ultimately decide you can't abide life in the tropics.

Then there's the potential tax upside. The travel associated with scouting for, purchasing, and then managing (in the case of a rental) a real estate investment overseas is tax-deductible.

Years ago, I knew a lady named Janet who bought land on the southwestern coast of Ireland, in Kerry. On this land Janet built two houses, one for her personal use and one to rent out. Each summer, Janet took a trip to Kerry to check on her rental property and to meet with her rental manager. During the visit, she stayed in one of the two houses she'd built, her Irish home. The income from renting out the second of the two houses covered the carrying costs and then some for both properties, with money left over to subsidize Janet's annual holidays on the Emerald Isle. Then, every April 15, Janet was able to take those travel costs as deductions on her U.S. tax return.

These fundamentals will be the starting point for the discussions during our first-ever Global Property Summit taking place in Panama April 14-16. For this one-of-a-kind How, Why, And Where To Buy Real Estate Overseas event, we have invited our top property experts, advisors, and resources from more than 20 top property markets. These are the world's most respected and successful property investors, folks with decades of experience buying, selling, and making money from global real estate.

Whether you're a would-be first-time buyer or a seasoned pro, you want to be in the room to hear what they have to say.

VIP registration for this event is nearly sold out; as of this writing, I believe six VIP places remain available. Go here now for more information. Or contact our Conference Manager Alexis Bates directly by phone at 1(888)627-8834 ext. 2 or by e-mail at PropertySummit@liveandinvestoverseas.com.

Kathleen Peddicord

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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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