Air Date: 03.05.2021
Investing In International Real Estate
Today we speak with foreign investor specialist and e-Council Global founder Lauren Cohen about the ins and outs of investing in international real estate.
Investing in a foreign country can create a clear path to immigrating there. Today we speak with foreign investor specialist and e-Council Global founder Lauren Cohen about the nuances of immigrating through investing and to hear her expert advice on working with foreign investors. We open our conversation by chatting about Lauren’s professional background, as well as how she found her niche in foreign investing. We dive into the specifics of immigrating through investing and why this process requires active management that goes beyond passive investing. Linked to this, we then look into what you can do to best attract foreign capital. From tax laws to asset protection, we explore some of the key factors that foreign investors need to be made aware of. Later, we touch on how important experts are when investing overseas as well as why the US real estate market is so appealing for investors. We wrap up our informative discussion by asking Lauren about her keys to success. Tune in to learn more about foreign investing from an expert in the field.
Key Points From This Episode:
- Introducing today’s guest, e-Council Global Founder Lauren Cohen.
- Lauren shares details about her professional background.
- Hear about Lauren’s expertise in immigration through investing in international real estate.
- How Lauren discovered her niche.
- What it means to immigrate through investing.
- The legal requirements that your business needs to meet to enable your immigration.
- Why passive investing doesn’t create a path to immigration.
- Insights into how you can attract foreign investors.
- Lauren’s checklist on securing immigration visas through active investing.
- Key factors that foreign investors need to be made aware of.
- Whether you need support from non-US tax experts when investing overseas.
- Why the US real estate market is so appealing to foreign investors.
- We ask Lauren about her keys to success.
“You can’t get an immigration visa through real estate if you buy a couple of doors or through passive investing. You have to be running it as a business.” — @eCouncilInc [0:07:18]
“Foreign investors have a different way of thinking. So you have to speak a different language to them.” — @eCouncilInc [0:10:12]
“The number one key to success is to stay in your lane. Focus on what you do best in your business and don’t try to do it all. Because you will fail.” — @eCouncilInc [0:19:10]
Links Mentioned in Today’s Episode:
Lauren Cohen Phone — 866-724-0085
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—Full Transcript Below—
[00:00:33] KR: Welcome to Ritter on Real Estate, the show about how to passively like invest a pro. On each episode, I interview real estate experts who give their top investing advice, strategies, and tools that break down the insights into practical steps to avoid the pitfalls and make better investments. I want to help you passively invest like a pro. This is Ritter on Real Estate, and I’m your host, Kent Ritter.
[00:00:56] KR: Hello, fellow investors. Welcome to Ritter on Real Estate, where we teach you how to passively invest like a pro. Today, my guest is Lauren Cohen. She’s the Founder of eCouncil Global. Lauren is a serial entrepreneur. She’s an international lawyer, realtor, and foreign investor expert. She’s originally from Toronto and now lives in South Florida. Lauren is also a best-selling author and sought-after speaker and she launched her podcast, Investing Across Borders in late 2020.
Lauren and her turnkey team believe in overcoming obstacles and navigating global expansion for business owners and real estate investors, while providing access to unique passive income solutions. Lauren’s overriding goal is to help her clients navigate the path to invest, live, work and play across borders. Lauren’s superpower rests in paving a path to immigration visas to real estate investments. Lauren, thank you so much for being on the show.
[00:01:49] LC: Thanks, Kent. It’s a pleasure to be here. I’m excited to talk to you.
[00:01:52] KR: Yeah. Your topic is very interesting; not something we’ve really talked about on the show and something that I admittedly am not an expert in by any means. I’m excited to chat with you and understand a little bit about what it takes to invest across borders, or maybe even have investors invest with you across borders, and vice versa. Really excited to dig in. Before we do, why don’t you give the audience a little bit of a background and tell us about who you are?
[00:02:19] LC: I’m originally from Toronto, a little bit north of you. Probably a little bit east, right?
[00:02:24] KR: Yeah.
[00:02:25] LC: I moved here. I’ve been in Florida for 20 years. I have been a lawyer for longer than that. I’m a lawyer both in Canada and the US. I’m also a realtor. I have been working with investors from literally all over the world for at least a couple of decades, helping them pave their path to immigrate through real estate and business investment, and invest across borders. Not only in real estate, but also in other businesses. Real estate is always the number one investment path, because everybody wants a piece of real estate and rightfully so.
Even when the market goes down, we know it’s going to come back up. Certainly, through COVID, there’s been some interesting changes, but the market here is super-hot. I’ve been doing this for a long time. My role is to be the concierge, the one-stop shop, the quarterback, the hand-holder for all of what a person is doing in their investment portfolio. In their investing career, creating strategies to help them access passive investment, let’s say, or access passive streams of income as a realtor. I love, love, love what I do, because it really gives me a chance to impact people on multiple levels.
[00:03:40] KR: Yeah, that’s cool. I could definitely tell you’re passionate about it. It’s awesome. I can feel it coming through. What drew your interest to this particular topic? How’d you get started?
[00:03:52] LC: I’ve been a lawyer for a long time. I worked in-house in a corporate setting for many years, and had some career challenges, because I have my law license from Canada and Florida has an issue with that. I found another avenue. Then, my then husband, was actually deported on the way back from our honeymoon.
[00:04:13] KR: Oh, my gosh.
[00:04:14] LC: I was not in immigration at the time. It was the beginning of January 2000, or February 2007. I was not in immigration at the time. It actually was the straw that caused me to go into immigration. I had some interest in, and then he was deported. It was a whole long story. Needless to say, we’re not married. That’s not the only reason, believe me. Anyway, it was a very interesting experience. Very, very harrowing at the time, of course.
I had been writing business plans for several years. I being an immigrant myself, I just put all these pieces together and started being a business expert for other immigration lawyers in the business immigration space. Then, because I got my real estate license and I grew up with real estate, and I’ve always been interested in real estate investing, and I’ve done some myself, of course, I just put the pieces together and created this signature program called How to Immigrate Through Real Estate. I help people invest from every country into the US and into Canada and create strategies and structures around those investments, so that they don’t get caught with the tax bill, or legal bill, or all these other bills that they don’t need to deal with when they’re trying to make money for real estate investing.
[00:05:28] KR: Yeah, very interesting. Your then husband gets deported and that kicks off this passion for immigration. I can imagine that was quite the experience. Luckily, you had the toolkit to deal with it and you developed a business out of it. That’s amazing.
[00:05:44] LC: That’s why my book and my non-profit are both called Finding Your Silver Lining. The book is Finding Your Silver Lining in the Business Immigration Process and the non-profit is Finding Your Silver Lining, because there’s always a silver lining through the clouds of everything and you just have to find it.
[00:06:01] KR: Absolutely. Very cool. You mentioned the topic of immigration through investment. What does that mean?
[00:06:10] LC: Lots of people want to find ways to immigrate, mainly inbound to the US, but also outside of the US. Let’s talk about inbound to the US, because most of your listeners are in the US, and so they have projects. They might be able to have people not passively. In order to get a Visa, you need to be actively involved in running a business. It’s turning a passive real estate investment into an active business, which is where I come in. That’s my power, is figuring out how to develop that strategy.
When they’re running an active business involved in multiple doors, and actually managing it as a business and renting properties and holding properties and selling properties. Maybe Airbnb and other kinds of avenues, commercial properties, apartment buildings. In those ways, there are paths to immigration visas through real estate investing. That’s become my signature program, because everybody’s like, “What?” I just got off the phone with a woman in Mexico and she said, “Well, I was reading that there’s no such thing. You can’t get a Visa through real estate.”
Well, you can, but you can’t do it if you buy a single-family home, or you buy a couple of doors and just unfortunately, passively invest. You have to be running it as a business. That’s the key differentiator.
[00:07:31] KR: Got you. Is that the crux of it? It sounds like, real estate, maybe it sounds like, is one of the most common ways people do this. The idea is you have to be running a business in the US. If you’re doing that, then you can apply for immigration, or you can get to the next step.
[00:07:49] LC: It’s a little more complicated than that. Real estate is only one of many avenues. People buy franchises, they set up restaurants, they set up tire stores, they develop businesses, they set up divisions of their foreign businesses. There’s all kinds of avenues for sure. For a lot of people that love real estate investing, there is also a path to immigration. As a matter of fact, I’m doing a mini course called 10 steps to immigrate through real estate. Eight of those 10 steps are applicable, whether you’re immigrating or not, because you still need to set up your structure. You still need to cross border tax burdens. You need the asset protection guidance. You need all of these critical elements to make sure that your structure is sound, and that it’s going to hold water in your home country, as well as in the US.
[00:08:30] KR: Got you. In my day-to-day, what we’re doing is we are buying large apartment buildings, and we’re syndicating them. We’re bringing in limited partners for the equity on those deals. Is that a situation where these things connect? We could bring in investors internationally? Or is that a situation where that’s too passive?
[00:08:54] LC: You can bring in investors, certainly, but it will be a path to immigration, because it is passive. If they were involved as the manager of the apartment building, and they were the general partner and actively involved in running the business and had a 50% interest, which is a requirement as well, then yes, it could be a path to immigration. That doesn’t mean that foreign investors are not a great potential, JV and other type of partner for you in the passive investment world, because lots of foreign investors don’t have any interest in immigrating, but still need to, or want to invest in US real estate.
[00:09:28] KR: Sure. Okay. If you’re trying to attract international investors, I mean, whether it’s passively, or a far more active thing, I mean, what’s different if you’re trying to attract someone internationally, versus someone that’s in your own country?
[00:09:42] LC: Very different. When you’re attracting, or speaking to investors in foreign countries and Canada’s included in this, because even though it’s so close, people don’t realize how very different Canadians are and their way of thinking and their way of investing and the way of making decisions; slow, more conservative. It’s a different mentality. Being a dual citizen and coming from Canada, I can tell you that it is very different. Canadians are different. They call me the ‘Canadian Whisperer.’
Other countries are even more different. What that means is you have to speak a different language to them. You can’t go to a Japanese investor and talk to them the same way as you could somebody in Wisconsin, okay? If you do, that Japanese investor is going to look at you like you have horns or something. Because they’re like, “What are you talking about?” Subject to, okay. Subject to is a common way to invest here in the US. In other countries, other than Canada, which has it in some places, most places don’t even know what that is. Have never heard of it. They’re like, “You can assume a mortgage without having to qualify for it?” Basically, assume it. Not really.
You can take over that mortgage and you don’t have to qualify and how does that work? What are you talking about? There’s going to be a big area going forward once forbearance ends after COVID. It’s just about knowing who you’re talking to. As a multifamily apartment building developer, or investor, you’re going to talk to them differently, because what you want to do is find a way to appeal to them, that’s going to get them, maybe, to that path to immigration as well.
It’s not only like, “Oh, Joe. We want you to invest. Here’s the opportunity. Here’s the ROI.” Also, the other ROI for you is you may be able to qualify for an immigration Visa. Let’s see how that discussion goes.
[00:11:27] KR: Got you. What does it take to hit those marks to be able to qualify in that way? If I’m talking to an investor and the example you just gave, what would I be telling them would need to happen to be able to qualify from that immigration standpoint?
[00:11:44] LC: Do you want the smart-ass answer, or the other answer?
[00:11:47] KR: Let’s start with smart ass, then and then maybe we’ll back it up.
[00:11:49] LC: Come to me.
[00:11:50] KR: Come to you. All right. Perfect.
[00:11:51] LC: The smart-ass answer is I have a solution. Talk to Lauren, okay. That’s it. Actually, it’s not even only the smart-ass answer, it’s also the smart test answer, because the truth is, if I arm you, which I will with some basic information, it’s like, I’m doing a course next week as I mentioned, and the course is going to make you armed and dangerous. It’s like anything in law. You can give you some tools and some information. At the end of the day, you need to bring in the experts, which is going to be one of my tips I share with you later.
The reality is that it’s like, you have to look at the opportunity, you need to invest in at least five or more doors, actively running it as a business. My general guideline is between a 150 to 200,000, out of pocket, investing in property of about 750 to a million. These are my numbers, These are not government numbers. This is my take on it. By the way, I’m not giving legal advice. I’m just saying.
[00:12:49] KR: Yeah, everyone.
[00:12:49] LC: Then it’s taking that and seeing how that fits into your structure of your business. For some, I might say, and this might work for some of your investors. They want to invest passively, but maybe they want to buy a property management company and run that as their business, as their path to immigration, or maybe something another complementary business, like electrical contracting, or the home stereo systems, or whatever. It’s all about creating a strategy that works for that prospective immigrant and investor and figuring out how to make that a win-win for your investors.
[00:13:20] KR: Got you. Now, I appreciate that and understand, yeah, it’s obviously a very complex topic. At least, like you said, a little bit more education, and then just enough maybe to be a little dangerous. That’s very helpful. What are other things that we need to be considering? You mentioned taxes, you mentioned asset protection. I mean, what are some of the other things that we need to be considering, whether and probably from the perspective of if we’re courting international investors, I mean, what are some of the things that change, or that we need to be aware of?
[00:13:52] LC: The biggest thing every single time will be taxes, because there’s a tax treaty with that person’s home country. How does that tax treaty look? Did they have proper tax guidance? Because the last thing you want to happen, and this happens way too often across the Canadian-US borders, is, you know, American company goes and sells to Canadian people, Canadians their package. Lots of companies do this; small, medium, large. “Here’s our package. Here’s how you invest. Turnkey investing, let’s do it.”
Then the client, the person that you attract, the investor does what you say and this is like I’m saying to you, don’t do this. Does it the way that the Americans do it, goes back to Canada and has a huge tax bill, because they didn’t set up the right structure. You’ve got to set up that right structure that meets the Canadian requirements and it’s not one size fits all, because you’re going to have implications in your home country that the American company doesn’t really care about, because they only care about giving you the structure that works here, but that’s not the structure that works in India, that works in Israel, that works in South Africa, that works in Canada.
You’ve got legal, you’ve got tax, you’ve got crossing borders. Do you need a Visa? You’ve got running a business, you’ve got taking income. All of these things are part and parcel of what goes into your considerations.
[00:15:11] KR: Yeah, sounds like a very complex topic. It changes from country to country, right? Is the advice then that if someone is from a foreign country and looking to invest in the US, do they have to be getting specific counsel as well in their own country, to understand the setup?
[00:15:29] LC: It really depends. Most of the time, we in the US have cross-border tax advisors that specialize in certain countries. Canada is easy. Okay. Britain is easy. Mexico is easy. Israel is easy. Some of the smaller countries might not be as easy. We just need to find some expert that is able to guide the client on that tax treaty. How does that impact you? What’s the best structure? An LLC is treated differently in Canada than here. An LLC is treated differently in England than in Canada than here. How does that look?
[00:16:07] KR: Got you. Now, that makes a lot of sense. I think we all know, there’s an interest in US real estate, from foreign investors. Being able to immigrate is, obviously, sounds like a big one. What are some of the other things that your clients tell you about, why they’re seeking investments in the US?
[00:16:24] LC: Because they have heavily regulated real estate industries in their home countries, because the US real estate industry does have so much opportunity, so many locations, so many options. There’s a lot of ways to earn money, there’s many streams of income, there’s many paths to real estate investing, passive, active. You can usually follow everything virtually, if you’re investing passively. There’s a lot of ways and benefits to investing in the US market.
[00:16:51] KR: Got you. As folks are seeking to invest in the US, it sounds like there’s a lot to consider things to set up. Just even getting your money into the country to make that investment, I mean, that’s a pretty big hurdle, right?
[00:17:04] LC: It is a big hurdle. Yes, absolutely. Because of money laundering issues and all kinds of things related to how they are allowed to export their money from their home country. There’s export considerations. There’s currency conversion considerations, all kinds of different things. Absolutely.
[00:17:19] KR: Yeah, very complex. I think we got to go back to your answer. Talk to Lauren if we need some help in this space. If you have international investors that are interested. There’s a lot of boxes that need to be checked, it sounds like, and a lot of different facets. That’s what you said. You’re serving as that concierge to help them across all those different areas. That’s awesome. Sounds like an amazing service.
As we wind down the show, there’s one thing that I like to get into, an area called keys to success. I’d love to get your answers to some of these questions. First off is, if you only had one question, what is the one question that every investor should be asking their attorney?
[00:18:02] LC: Have you ever worked with a real estate investor from wherever before?
[00:18:07] KR: X country. Got you. Yeah, it sounds like the specificity around the country is extremely important.
[00:18:13] LC: Yes.
[00:18:13] KR: What are you most proud of in your career?
[00:18:15] LC: The ability to pivot. There’s been a lot of pivoting to COVID, through being a single mom, through not being able to find my full potential as a lawyer in my traditional legal career, creating strong relationships through at all that have allowed me to pivot and be successful.
[00:18:34] KR: That’s awesome. That is definitely an amazing skill. What’s a book that everyone should be reading?
[00:18:40] LC: There’s so many books that I love. One of the books that I highly recommend is The E Myth, if you haven’t read it, by my friend, Michael Berger.
[00:18:48] KR: I have. It’s fantastic.
[00:18:50] LC: Every other book. There’s the E Myth for Real Estate Investors. Read that too. There’s the E Myth Revisited. Read the whole series. He’s amazing. He’s the original six of the entrepreneurial book world.
[00:19:02] KR: Yeah. I’ve read the E Myth for Entrepreneurs. It’s an amazing book. Very well. Lastly, what is your number one key to success?
[00:19:12] LC: Stay in your lane. Don’t try to do everything. If you are going to be successful in your business, it’s going to be because you focus on what you do best, which is running your business, investing in real estate, whatever the business is. Don’t try to do it all, because you’ll fail. It’s better to bring in specialists and experts in their fields, because they’re doing what they’re doing for a reason. Don’t try to be a lawyer if you’re not. I don’t try to be a tax accountant, okay?
[00:19:42] KR: That’s a really good one. Awesome. Well, very good. Lauren, thank you so much for coming on today. If folks want to get in touch with you and want to learn more, how can they reach out?
[00:19:51] LC: Well actually, I have a brand-new website that’s just launching. It’s all my podcast, which my podcast is called Investing Across Borders. You can subscribe to that on Apple, or Google, or whatever. My brand-new website is laurenesq.com, which is where my podcasts are featured. L-A-U-R-E-N-E-S-Q.com. You can find me on LinkedIn, on Facebook, on Twitter, on Instagram, pretty much everywhere. I’m very much in the throes of social media. You can reach me directly by calling 866-724-0085. 866-724-0085. If you email me, I’ll give you my personal email, since it matches laurenesq.com. It’s email@example.com. If you email me and ask me for a copy of my Real Estate Across Borders eBook, and tell me that you found me on this lovely show, I will be happy to share that eBook and a coupon code with you. It’s a $47 value and I’m happy to share that with you.
[00:20:57] KR: Fantastic. Thank you for giving that gift to our listeners. We’ll make sure that all of that is linked down in the show notes, so that folks can access all that and get a hold of you. A lot of good ways to get a hold of you, a lot of good content that you’re putting out. Once again, thank you so much, Lauren. Really fascinating conversation today and thanks for being on the show.
[00:21:17] LC: Thank you. It’s my pleasure. I’ll share that with you also. Have a good one. Take care, Kent.
[00:21:21] KR: Thanks. Bye.
[END OF INTERVIEW]
[00:21:23] KR: Thanks for listening to another great episode of Ritter on Real Estate. Hit the subscribe button and make sure you don’t miss out on the content that will make you a better investor. Also, visit kentritter.com for articles, videos, and tools curated just for passive investors. Until next time, this is Kent Ritter with Ritter on Real Estate. Now, go out and invest like a pro.