Are you planning to explore international investments in real estate, but you’re unsure where to begin? Today’s guest is Lauren A. Cohen, a global realtor and cross-border strategist at e-Council Inc. One of the challenges in international investments is accessing financing assets and mortgages. To overcome this challenge, Lauren advises you to acquire capital in other countries by working with the right team who can help you develop cross-border real estate investment strategies. Your strategy encompasses both your short-term and long-term goals, which may include your eventual immigration to the country you’re investing in. Need to learn more about cross-border investment strategies? Then this episode is for you!
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Strategizing International Investments In Real Estate With Lauren A. Cohen
We’re going to be speaking with Lauren Cohen, Esq. She’s an international legal and real estate exchange attorney. We’ll talk about you herea little bit moreand you can tell us about your background and whatnot. The reason why I wanted to bring you on here is that we’ve become very global during COVID. This hankering for us to want to travel globally because we can’t. I’ve always traveled globallybecause I am an international speaker and I love traveling with my husband and stuff. We feel trumpet, but more than ever, we have to get out of the United States, which is sad because we have so much to see here in the US. The fact that we haven’t been going to exotic places in the US is crazy.
I feel like we’ve always been global but now that we are a little more global, this opens up more opportunities. One of the things that I talk about in my coaching programs is the opportunity to have multiple streams of income. I find that loan officers and real estate agents alike have blinders on for what they do on a residential loan officer, commercial loan office, and commercial realtor. There are so many opportunities out there for us to create multiple streams of income that will take us from now and beyond. It is the reason why I was able to retire years ago from origination in lending.
You’re doing a great job of retiring, Jen.
I was retiring from lending from being directly involved with mortgage lending. I did have and do have all these multiple streams of income that I built over the years in the industry. This is why you’re here.
I have a high ticket to live up to.
I’m sure you will and you will live up to it. I’m going to read exactly what it is. I know you can say it, but you help investors develop cross–border real estate investment strategies. You’re working with international people coming here. You’re working with people here going there. You went to law school. Everybody goes into law school and they go, “What is my specialty going to be?” Tell us how it formed from going from law school andwhat you thought you were going to do to where you are now.How did you get into this realm?
I went into law school fully intending to be an M&AAttorney, Mergers and Acquisitions. I want it to be on Wall Street, doing deals, and make deals happen,whether it be Wall Street or Bay Street because I was in Canada. I didn’t care. I wanted to be global, make an impact, or at the deal table. When I was eleven and decided to be a lawyer, I wanted to be a divorce lawyer. I could bosh that.
You’d be making a ton of money there.No matter who you are or what your plan is, what's super important is to have a strategy. Click To Tweet
A lot of money but that wasn’t what drew me. I wanted to be in the deal room and making deals happen. I moved to Florida from Toronto. I wasn’t able to fully use my law license. I had limitations because I wasn’t licensed in Florida. They didn’t recognize Canadian Law Degrees. I didn’t want to go back to law school. I had to find some other ways. I worked in–house for many years. It’s various circumstances.I went onmy second honeymoon.On the way back,my then–husband was expeditiously removed and deported. He was sent away. I was sent home and I was like, “What now?”I had nothing to do with immigration at that time. I grew up in real estate. My mom was a realtor. I always knew there was a real estate component. To make a long story short, after that trip and then fighting to try to get him in the country. That’s a whole other story that we will save for another time.
After that all happened, I had a poll to do something in the immigration world. I ended up getting my own Green Card then becoming a citizen. In the process of that,I decided I’m getting my real estate license because I’m a great referrer. Like you, I’m a great connector. I had grown up in the industry, so I got my real estate license. Through COVID is when it all manifested. I’ve always been doing real estate, helping real estate investors find their path, creating business plans, and helping them get visas. I created a signature program called Immigrate Through Real Estate. It was a matter of circumstances and knowing when you’re pulled in a certain direction and following that pole.
It’s amazing how people can come up with some of these great phrases that I can never come up with. I can come up for other people but never find myself. I had someone on my other show who’s from the UK. He has that beautiful accent. He’s a big guy. He was in the World Wrestling Federation for years. Imagine this big UK guy who starts speaking his cute little language in his accent. He has a show called Wrestling With Real Estate. I was like, “Why do I have something so coollike you too?”
I’d love to meet this gentleman.
You’ll meet him because he’s a real estate investor. It’s amazing how we hang out together. I want to start with the basics of thisfor those that are reading.When we hear international immigration and serve,as loan officers and realtors who are in the residential space,we start cringing a little bit like, “It’s going to be tough. It’s 35% down. What visa do we have? We’ve got to look up the guidelines. Are you a resident alien or not? Do you have a Green Card? What do you have?” It’s so frustrating. People tend to shy away from it. We want to talk about multiple streams of income and not shying away from this. You work with investors specifically. Let’s talk about that.
Let’s say I’m somebody fromCanada. It might be an investor from another state because it’s foreign to me.There are some language barriers in the dialect of our United States of America. I will tell you that. Someone comes down from Canada and wants to invest in the United States.Isit a means topermanently dabble in the United States or come over here and live.I like your opinion from the lending side because you do encounter this.What are some of the challenges, first and foremost, that someone needs to be looking at? I would ask you to go back up to Canada if I wanted to go invest in Canada.
It’s a lot different depending on if you’re going from the US into another country or from another country into the US. Let’s say many countries have access to a treaty investor visa. That’s why I said Canada. Dubai is challenging. Canada, Mexico, UK, Australia, France, Germany, Spain, and Italy are okay. You get the drift. There are many countries that are pretty easy. What that means is you want to start on your path.
One of the challenges is accessing financing, assets, or mortgages. If you are a foreign national, it’s either a non-conforming loan, you have to find other strategies, or pay a huge percentage that is much higher than the percentages that we’re dealing with. It makes it a lot less appealing. Every single day, I’m asked that question, then we have the issue of, what basis are you getting that financing? Are you investing personally or through an entity? How does that entity structure look? You’ll have to make sure that however you’re doing the investment, it doesn’t compromise your tax status in your home country. This is going to be a little different if you plan to stay in Canada, Mexico, Spain, Italy.
You’re not using it as a path to immigrate through real estate versus I want to immigrate. I have somebody texted me madly on Facebook. They don’t have enough capital, but they want to build a portfolio that will enable them to access sufficient capital to immigrate to real estate. That’s a different model because you’re going to be looking at financing differently. You want to make sure that you don’t over–finance yourself and you’re going to have different tax perspectivesso you set up your entity structure with that in mind. What’s super important, no matter who you are or what your plan is to have a strategy. That strategy is a short-term strategy as well as a long-term strategy. Both sets of goals have to be encompassed in that strategy or the strategy is going to fail because it’s not going to meet or satisfy your needs.
It might satisfy them for the short term, but then what happens here when you decide, “I want to immigrate after all.”Immigrate to real estate does not necessarily mean that you have to move. This is interesting. You mentioned itbecause a lot of people don’t realize that there are huge benefits to getting a visa, to run your business, or run your real estate investment portfolio in the US, whether you ever want to move or not. It gives you flexibility, options, and access to a Social Security number, which we all know dictates our lives.
I have donefor nationalfinancing and all that stuff because it does find a way into investor lending, which is what I did, non-owner occupied and lending. I worked with someone who was transferring money. She was a money transferring person. Where she transfers the money and how the foreign exchange piece of that. She also happens to be a real estate agent. She worked on thatperspective of that or spectrum of it. When most people think about buying overseas, it immediately takes us to an HGTV Show.
You’re watchingand say, “Which one are they going to pick, number 1, 2, or 3?” They’re going through there. If I’m thinking about, “I want to start doing some investments overseas because I’m an Airbnb investor.” It’s one of the three things that I do in investing is invest in Airbnb. I want to do an international Airbnb to allow me to go and stay in my own Airbnb in France because I’m going to go to France. Do I always think I have to pay cash? Loan officers and real estate agents have been banking cash during COVID, they’ve got this extra cash, and we want to keep it fluid. That’s the problem with most people.They’re like, “I don’t mind saving and love saving, but we want to keep it fluid. We do not want to buy a $35,000 watch.”
You want to buy a $35,000 property maybe.
Let’s buy that. I bought a $21,000 property with cash. It’s cashflowing $500 a month. Walk us through that and say, “I’ve got a little extra cash. Where can I invest in andwhat would be some of the things I’d have to start doing?”
First of all, if you’re in the US, you can probably get access to funding to invest outside of the US by virtue of your access to a line of credit, HELOC, or some other option that can bring you access to cash and capital in the US to invest overseas. The other thing that is possiblefor foreigners that are coming into the US and need to access capital is there is capital in other countries, but you have to work with the right team. I say team but it’s the team leader that is the key. I did ajointwebinar presentation with my asset protection partner. I didn’t think to reach out to him ahead and say, “We need to do these together because otherwise, you’re going to have these cross–border people that are not going to have the cross-border guidance. I’m going to have these people that need you.”
The tax piece too.
I have a tax expert. The key is here. I’ve been in this space and I’m sure many of the audience will have heard of EB-5. I was in the EB-5 space where the foreign national invests in the US business and creates these ten jobs. They could do it possibly or actively whether it’s a regional center, positive investment, or direct investment, whatever.The point is that through that involvement in EB-5 space for so many years and being one of the foremost EB-5 experts in the country. I created relationships across borders. I am from another country. If you’re investing in Canada, that’s easy. If you’re investing in Mexico, we have developments in Mexico. I’m working with somebody who’s building the project in Honduras,Spain, Israel, and now in India. If the point is that you want to work with somebody who has your back, you can stay in your lane and develop your investment strategy,whoever this person may have those relationships. This doesn’t mean that it’s huge amounts of cash outlay. We love subject to’s.
That’s one of my three ways.
There are going to be a lot of subject to’s when forbearance is over. I thought it would happen by now, that’s because originally the forbearance period was supposed but it keeps being extended. The point is that a lot of people say to me, “You’re a lawyer. What’s my deliverable?”Everybody’s now used to getting a white paper. I’m going to give all of you a gift, real estate investing across borders, but it’s like, “What are you delivering?”At the end of the day, people want something tangible. I’m like, “I’m delivering you my experience and my knowledge. You can’t match that professional knowledge.It’s not something that you can go and buy on the internet. It’s something that comes from many years of working withpeople that don’t understand what they don’t understand and don’t know what they don’t know.
It’s hitting until you hit those walls. You’re not going to know, but trust me, you’re going to hit them and you don’t want to. When you’re going into another country, it’s as important to make sure your structure.The US is perfect and seamless because otherwise, you’re going to pay the IRS all the money that you make in that other country. You’ve got to invest with people that understand both sides whether it’s Dubai, London, Toronto, or Mexico City, I don’t care.
How has COVID affectedcross–border investing these days?
Every deal that I had, I was about to breakthrough.Right after the Marketers Cruise, I had six relatively significant contracts that were signed. Every one of them disappeared because everybody was in a panic. There wasa globalpandemic. They were like, “What am I going to do? How do I invest?”Most of 2020, that was what was going on. There was a lot of political unrest.I’m not saying that the pandemic is over, but we have it under control. Those of us who want to be vaccinated in the US is probably in the process. My mom found out in Canada that she’s getting vaccinated the first week in April. Thank God. She’s been waiting.She’s not exactly under 65. The point is that global pandemic creates fear and fear created challenges. People were like, “I don’t want to do this.” I‘ve never had so many inquiries in my life.
That’s what I said to you.There’s this hankering to travel and to have a place to be. I don’t know why there’s that urge for that because we have that urge now. We’re sayingit’s time that we buy something out of the United States. We don’t want to be trapped in the United States again. That’s why foreign people are doing the same thing becausethey don’t want to be trapped in their country again. If this pandemic were to go on for years, we’d be trapped there toobut it doesn’t matter why it’s happening. For some reason, it is happening. That’s critical. Both of us are eXp realtors and part of eXp real estate. That’s another revenue streamin a couple of different ways.I do some coaching for eXp.
There are some great things that are coming out here with eXp. As an eXp real estate agent, you bring that knowledgefrom the real estateperspective and not from an attorney perspective. We know as loan officers and real estate agents, when attorneys get involved in places they don’t have the knowledge on,it’s very frustrating. Tell us how you areinteracting with residential and commercial loan officers and real estate agents tooin getting some of these things done. Ideally, as realtors, you sell real estate. You don’t just sell to first-time homebuyers, move–up buyers, and that kind of thing. You work with investors and you should be working with foreign nationals. You shouldn’t bestopping yourself from doing that. I feel the same way aboutresidential and commercial loan officers. What is the hardest part about working with loan officers in the United States when it comes to that phone call that says, “Hi, I have a foreign national.”Don't be afraid because foreign nationals can be your best friend. Click To Tweet
They think inside the box. That’s the biggest challenge with anybody, but certainly with realtors and loan officers. Part of the reason I joined eXpbecause it’s international. I joined and we’ve announced we’re going into my favorite countries, Israel, Spain, and Colombia. We’re already in thirteen countries and we have a global presence. Twice a week, I get asked some questions. People thinkI work for eXpbecause of my title. I get paid a salary which I do not but I’m happy to help. The truth is that so many realtors and mortgage loan officers could benefit from having knowledge of how to work with foreign nationals, who to refer them to. Don’t be afraid because foreign nationals can be your best friend.
You build a strong relationship and rapport. They’re not going to be looking around for somebody who’s cutting their commission. They want somebody that understands what they’re doing and that has access to people like me or Jen that can help you to close the deals by the end of the day. That’s what it’s about being in lane. Don’t focus on what country you’re from, I don’t know if you qualify for a visa or what visa you want. Don’t worry about that. Worry about figuring out the strategy that works for that person and then we’ll figure out the rest. The reality is there are so many opportunities.
I don’t even think you know this, but I was appointed as the Chair of the International Investment Committee of the eXp RealtyCommercial. It‘s an amazing opportunity because the eXpCommercial is on the ground floor. It’s like eXpRealty was years ago.When I first heard about it, I was like, “What’s that?”The point is that you’ve got a ground floor opportunity. eXpCommercial is rolling out as a separate division, completely separate from the eXpRealty. The gentleman who heads it up, James Huang, I’ve never seen somebody with so much energy between him and Michael Valdes who’s the President of eXpGlobal. We had a call and he’s like, “I didn’t have my coffee yet.”I’m thinking, “He’s never had his coffee yet.”
What happens when you do?
I thought I was high energy, but he’s like a ball of fire and you can’t help but be drawn in, excited, and motivated. Jen, I’ve had my license for years and have done nothing until I joined the eXp.
We joined eXp for a different reason because I don’t want to be a real estate agent. I use it for other purposes. Mine is mostly recruitingbecauseI feel like it’s a great company and for the ancillary income. I’m always looking for revenue streams. I’m up to twelve revenue streams now. We know that in life, you should have seven to be successful and I’m at twelve.I have a new one starting that I shared with you on your show. It’s a TV show that’s coming out.
Getting back to the core of what this particular episode in the show is to open up doors and opportunities for people to say,“There are more ways to skin a cat than do the same old thing that we’ve been doing.” We are so much ingrained in the trust ofwhat a traditional real estate agent and a traditional loan officer do that we’re missing so many opportunities. This is whyyears ago, I started doing more business for investor loans outside of the traditional financing because I couldn’t get it for myself.
It was out of my own need that I started exploring different opportunities. I’m talking about the fix and flips in the subject to’s and the hard money. Everyone has access to hard money for a fix and flip. You’d need it for all different reasons. My expanded company is all I do.It’s investor financing across the United States. I’m going to be exploring if I can do this across the waters. I feel like I can becausewe have crowdfunding and private money. I know we’re going to be able, so I’m excited about it.
I can help you with that.I know lots of people that need money. That’s what I think it’s all about.
Connecting and networking.
Exploring and being open too because if you’re closed–minded and you want to buy and sell houses, or as a lawyer, think about how many lawyers are working. I’m not working crazy hours, but they’re working crazy hours, they go to work every day, they’re drained, and exhausted. Lawyers have the highest suicide rate of anybody because it’s a draining career. I’m not saying I’m not exhausted, but I’m motivated. I love what I do and the fact that I can take my legal background, my law degree, my law licenses, and have an impact on people. That was what I wanted back in law school.
That’s what all my coaching is about. I’ve talked about it too. It’s all about the fulfillment and the lifestyle business mastery. We want that lifestyle while we have the business.It’s all about fulfillment and we can’t get it from being in this one lane necessarily. A lot of my coaching clients are now buying investment properties. They’re investing in Bitcoin with meand I popped a bunch of money in there. My son gave me a call and he was like, “Have you put any more money into Bitcoin?I don’t, should I?” He does this for a living and I said, “Should I?”
He said, “Mom, you should pop some more money in there.” I didbecause there was a big announcement nowthe big major institutions that we all have, our 401(k) and our mutual funds, can now invest in Bitcoin. Don’t you think Bitcoin is going to go up in value? Those are the types of things that we need to be looking atto ensure that we are taking care of ourselves, our families, leaving that dynasty, and your legacy that you want to be doing. It is about fulfillment.
The only reason I want to invest out overseas is because I want to stay therein my Airbnb. That’s what I want to do. I don’t want to have investment properties where I have apartment buildings and rentals.I don’t want to do any of that. I want Airbnb. I’m a believer that your future is a series of now.What you’re doing is an example of your future. What are you doing now that’s different? You mentioned you’re now digging into the global piece of this, but what’s out there for you personally, not professionally with the eXpor with your law practice? What does the future look like for you?
I originally came up with the idea of building my business before I had my son. I was leaving my husband in Israel when I said, “That’s it. I’m done.” The one that got deported and it was not because of that. I was leaving and I was trying to think of what I wanted to do. In Israel, at the departure lounge, there’s a big ramp. I was walking down the ramp and there’s a big window up above. What do I want to do? I want to be able to be global or live where I want. Before I had a child, I want to be in Toronto,my hometown,be in Israel, my homeland,be in Florida, where my home is, or be wherever I want to be at any given time.My tagline is to invest, live, work, and play across borders, which happened on the Marketers Cruise.
I could give credit to Janetta Anderson who helped me come up with it. She’s another Canadian. My goal personally is to be in Israel. I say that. I’m open about it. I would love to be living there. I don’t know if that’s going to happen before my son goes to college. I don’t want him to have to be in the army unless he chooses to, but I want that truly mobile lifestyle like our friend Mike Wolfe has where I can be, where I want to be, or when I want to be there. I’ll havethe main home, but I love that model. I’ve done it before. I’ve summered in Israel. I don’t know what the summer looks like. We’re playing it by ear. Being there for 6 or 8 weeks, it brings me home, my spirituality home, and that’s where it resonates with me. The fact that the eXpadded Israel. I’m like,”Okay.”
It’s going to happen for you. There’s no question about it. Do you know Drew Berman?
Do you know Paul Finck?
Paul is my coach and Drew is his Network Marketing Division. He runs his entire Network Marketing Division,which I’m part of for several things, more avenues of income. One of the things that Drew says is,“Aphone in hand, toes inthe sand.”That’s life. Before, it was a traveling computer thing or laptop lifestyle. I don’t even want my laptop. I want my phone. That’s what we’re talking about here on this particular episode.It’s helping people understand that there are so many opportunities.Take the blinders off, look at all the opportunities that are available to youout in the market space. I want to say thank you so much for joining us. It was a pleasure getting to know you on the cruise ship. We’d be bumping into each other every place we go. I love it.
There is something to that. We know it.
I love that you’re in our mastermind. We’re going to be talking to each other for thewhole 2021 and if not longer.
You’re stuck with me.
We’re both stuck with one another.
It could be worse.
Lauren, thank you again for joining us. I appreciate it. Those of you that are reading, as always, thank you so much for taking time out of your day to read our blog. We’ve given you another little a–ha moment and golden nugget of something that you could implement if you decide that that’s something that you want to do. I appreciate you taking time out of your busyday to read. We will continue tosupport you, give you new ideas, and bring great people on with us.
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About Lauren A. Cohen
Lauren A. Cohen, international speaker, #1 bestselling author and immigration and business strategist, is an attorney licensed in both the U.S. (TN) and Canada (ON). As an active AILA (American Immigration Lawyers Association) member, Lauren boasts a stellar track record of success. She was also recently recognized as one of 2017’s “Super Lawyers” by Attorney-at-Law Magazine.
Although her role at e-Council does not involve practicing law, Lauren has first-hand knowledge of the visa process, having herself immigrated from Canada, and later becoming an American citizen in 2012. The overriding goal in all of her business endeavors is to help her clients achieve their version of the American Dream. Developing sound strategies designed to sustain long-term growth is a cornerstone of the e-Council Inc. brand.