Lief Simon is co-founder and investment director of Live and Invest Overseas. He is the Editor of the Offshore Living Letter and Simon Letter. He has lived and worked on five continents and traveled to more than 60 countries. In his long career as a global property investor, Lief has also managed multi-million dollar portfolios of rental properties, for others and for himself.
- Who is Lief Simon?
Lief grew up in Phoenix and his goal in high school was to specifically go to graduate school and get an international management degree. He didn’t really know what that meant at the time, but the opportunities that came out of that degree were what opened the doors to him being able to move overseas for the first time 21 years ago.
Lief knew that he got bored easily, so a career in accounting or some sort of office wasn’t something that he was interested in, even at the age of 14.
- What lessons did you not learn during your formal education?
It’s easier to find real estate listings because of the internet, but if you’re looking at an English listing for a property in another country, you’re probably seeing the most overpriced property in that area. You have to be able to drill down to the local pricing if you want to start investing overseas.
The easier something is in looking for real estate, the higher the price. You pay a premium for convenience. Lief has no problem making an “offensive” offer because it means actually getting closer to the proper price.
Most Americans are willing to pay whatever the price on the price tag is, they don’t typically negotiate, but for other cultures that doesn’t hold true. In many cultures, negotiation is expected and with real estate there is almost always some room for movement on price.
Another big lesson is that outside of the US, make sure you use a real estate attorney to help with your deals. In many countries there aren’t as many protections for buyers and there are rarely any safety nets so you will need some help investing overseas.
- How has your relationship with fear changed?
Lief has always been a little more aggressive than most people, if he can live with the worst case scenario he will move forward. Many people aren’t comfortable with the worst case scenario, if they even consider it.
- What did you gain from your formal education?
If you want to compare opportunities you have to find your Internal Rate of Return (IRR). If you’re a real estate investor your annual yield is your IRR, but with other types of investments like teak plantations that can be quite difficult because you can’t just compare the cash flows. Having a handle on certain accounting concepts has been an asset.
As Lief gets older he’s become less focused on capital appreciation and has started looking at agricultural opportunities. The timeline on those investments is much longer, but it gets away from some of the challenges of finding a good deal in real estate.
- Investing Overseas
If someone were to try to learn the process of investing overseas on their own, the first thing they should do is look for a real estate attorney and an english speaking real estate agent. A rental manager will also be important. The main thing to remember is that if you’re buying a rental property, make sure it’s one that will actually rent in the market you are buying it in. Ask the property manager what kinds of properties they work with if you need direction.
Sometimes learning things on your own is not worth the time and energy without having a guide to show you the shortcuts. Investing overseas is one of them.
- Lief’s Takeaway
Pick a country where you think or know that you want to spend some time to look for potential real estate opportunities. If you like the idea of living in a particular country that’s a good place to start, rather than looking on the internet for the best marketing opportunities or yields available.