Ep. 152 – Evie Brooks – Real Estate Investing in Panama
Have you ever thought of investing in real estate outside of the US market, specifically in Panama? What if you learned that it’s a booming real estate market that’s only getting better?
Investing in Panama can be easy, affordable, and suitable for anyone planning to relocate to Panama or add to their real estate portfolio.
In this episode of the Secure Your Retirement podcast, we have Evie Brooks, an elite Real Estate Investment Educator, entrepreneur, and former Advanced Trainer for “Rich Dad Poor Dad”, who now specializes in Panama real estate for expatriates.
Listen in to learn why you need to invest in international investing education to avoid losing money to scammers.
In this episode, find out:
- Evie on her career in real estate investing and her passion for educating on the subject.
- Why she ended up in Panama for real estate investing and why it’s a good investing market.
- The healthcare situation in Panama and why it’s way more affordable than the US.
- How to invest in real estate projects in Panama and become an expert in the field.
- How Evie and her team make investing in Panama easier for international investors.
- Why you need education before investing internationally to avoid losing money to scammers.
- The types of lifestyles to consider in Panama if you’re considering relocating.
- “Being able to invest in Panama is simple if you know where to go and who to contact.”– Evie Brooks
- “Do it the right way and you won’t spend near what you would lose if you try to figure investing in Panama on your own.”– Evie Brooks
Get in Touch with Evie:
If you are in or nearing retirement and you want to gain clarity on what questions you should be asking, learn what the biggest retirement myths are, and identify what you can do to achieve peace of mind for your retirement, get started today by requesting our complimentary video course, Four Steps to Secure Your Retirement!
To access the course, simply visit POMWealth.net/podcast.
Here’s the Full Transcript:
|Radon Stancil:||Welcome everyone to our podcast this week. Murs and I told you that we will try to bring on guests from time to time that we think can add great value as you are trying to plan for and live throughout retirement. And today we have a very interesting topic and a very interesting person to be able to discuss this with us, Evie Brooks. Evie, first of all, thank you so much for coming on and chatting with us today and sharing with us some of the things that you’re involved in.|
|Evie Brooks:||Thank you Radon and I appreciate you guys having me on.|
|Radon Stancil:||Great. The topic today is this idea of why would we want to invest in real estate in another country or another place instead of doing it here in the United States? And what are the good reasons to do that? That’s kind of the context of what we’re talking about. And I know that you have a large amount of what you do is in Panama so we’re going to get all into this. But I guess just to get us started, we want to get a little bit of your background. How did you get into real estate after you got out of college? How did that happen for you?|
|Evie Brooks:||It just was a fluke. I was pregnant with my first child unexpectedly and was way sicker than anybody should be. I was 87 pounds at six months. And so for this first six months, first two trimesters, I did not work at all. And then I started having enough energy from chocolate milk and fresh fruit, to be able to get a job. And one to my girlfriends said, “I can get you a job that has maternity benefits,” even though I was already pregnant. And so I went to start in commercial real estate management and asset management in Atlanta, Georgia, right off of Northridge Hills and I have never looked back since. I’ve been in it ever since. I stayed in corporate America for four years, I left there, went out on my own and I’ve been on my own ever since.|
|Murs Tariq:||Very nice. And so the idea, so real estate investing in general, I would think could bring some anxiety because it’s a big commitment, buying up real estate and hoping that either the asset grows or that you can spend some income off of that asset. It’s a whole different ballgame for a lot of people but then, and I think we’ll get to this, but you took it to a next level, which is not just inside the US, but outside of the US. Which is, I can only imagine has a whole lot of different nuances and things that you need to be thinking about and knowing the area and everything like that. We’ll get into that but I know that you also, and you may still currently work as a trainer for the Rich Dad Poor Dad, which we know is a book that teaches about growing wealth and good practices there. Tell us a little bit about that.|
|Evie Brooks:||No, I don’t teach with him anymore. And 2014, I left the organization but I was teaching with the Rich Dad Poor Dad organization from 2003 until 2014. And I love it because I am truly an educator at heart. That’s what I love doing, is teaching people how to have success in business. And real estate just happens to be the vehicle that I chose from very early on. And I ended up in that industry simply by again, another fluke. A friend of mine that was teaching with them called and said, “You need to come over here.” And I was absolutely not interested at all. My business was going great. My real estate investing was going wonderful. And he just kept on pestering to me about it. And so I said, “If I will come and listen one time, will you leave me alone?”|
|And that’s what happened. I went to a weekend event, a three day, an Elite training event for the Robert Kiyosaki organization. And I was sitting there in the back of the room the whole time going, I can teach this class better than that person that’s up there teaching it. And that’s how I got started. And so I really enjoyed my time doing that. I loved doing it, had thousands of students all over the place. And I had the fortune of getting the assignment in Costa Rica and that’s how I got into the expat market, investing internationally. And that was a great experience and a great running in Costa Rica until 2008. When 2008 hit, Costa Rica got squashed because it’s a tourism only country. And I held on and held on two until 2012 when I finally crossed the border and went to Panama and Panama’s not a tourism only country. In fact, tourism ranks number five or number six on the list of the economic factors or revenue producing incomes that produce the strong GDP that they have in Panama. And so that’s how I ended up in Panama.|
|Radon Stancil:||Let’s talk about that. It’s quite interesting. When you think about this idea of going to Panama or going anywhere else and saying, “I’m going to either move there or I’m going to invest in real estate there,” it begs the question, why is it that you feel, obviously you feel Panama is a great place to invest. Let’s ask the question, why is Panama such a great place to invest?|
|Evie Brooks:||Why Panama? That is a great question and it’s one that I get a lot. And after looking at many different countries and researching different countries to represent from all the way from Belize, to Croatia, to Ecuador, to of course Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, even Brazil. I visited Brazil and spent a lot of time there. I chose Panama because there’s a number of reasons. First of all, the GDP has been so strong for so long, starting in after 2008, the GDP ran an average about six and a half percent, all the way up to 11% per year. Actually over 11%. Of course, we got hit with corona, like everybody else in 2020 but they are reestablished and restored and they’re projecting over a 9% GDP this year in Panama. That’s the one thing.|
|Of course, you’ve got the Panama Canal. Well, the Panama Canal is going to continue to operate no matter what happens and that a very important route of transportation to get goods all over the world. And so that is just a key component that’s never going to go away. Then we’ve also got the Cobre copper mines in Panama, which were discovered years ago, just a huge vein of copper in Panama, in interior of Panama that just about two years before COVID hit, they had started actually mining the copper and pulling it out, after years of preparing and getting ready for that. And they are projecting that for the next 40 years, the Cobre copper mines will actually bring in more revenue into the country of Panama than the Panama Canal itself. Between the two of those, and then you have the trickle-down effect of the requirements of all the needs for everything from housing, to commercial office space, to cars and food and everything else, you have a booming opportunity there.|
|Murs Tariq:||Yeah, that all sounds good. How’s the healthcare there? I’ll tell you a quick story before you answer. We just spoke with someone the other day and he was born and raised in the Croatia area, back then it was Yugoslavia and it split up into a bunch of different places. But was in the US for a while. Long story short, they had to get some dental work done and they were quoted basically somewhere around 24,000 to get it done in the US by of the dentist or what they decided to do was go back to Croatia and get it done for, I think the number was maybe around three or $4,000 to get the same work done. How is it over there in Panama? Because you kind of hear these stories about our healthcare system being a little expensive and you can get just as good care in other places outside the US. How is it over there?|
|Evie Brooks:||That is absolutely true. In fact, we are working on preparing a medical tourism side of our business in Panama because we do have a lot of people that come into Panama for medical care. There are two Johns Hopkins affiliated hospitals in Panama called Pacifica Salud. One of them is brand new, was just built in the Costa del Este area. And the medical cost that you can find, let’s just assume you’re talking dollars for dollars and no insurance. You can anticipate that you’re going to pay somewhere between 20 to 35% of what you would pay in the United States for those same services. Everything from dental, to cosmetic, to joint replacements, to whatever. You’ve got good hospitals. We call them the American hospitals, which are the John Hopkins hospitals. And then you’ve got great opportunities.|
|Now you can also get wonderful insurance plans that are international insurance plans. That’s what I have and mine is through a company called Cigna and I pay less for it than I would for just a regular policy here in the United States. But it covers me in every country that I travel to in the world and my deductibles are lower and my prescriptions are lower. Now I have to be outside of the country six months and one day, every year but for COVID, they waived that one requirement so I was able to do whatever I needed to do in the United States. I’m not very sick, so I don’t have a whole lot of doctor bills. But they did waive that requirement in the United States for that period of time. It’s just a wonderful policy.|
|Radon Stancil:||Nice. You gave us a really good reason as far as when we ask you why invest in Panama. Can you now tell us the how? How do you make money investing in real estate in Panama?|
|Evie Brooks:||Well, of course you’ve got short term rentals, long term rentals, vacation rentals, you’ve got pre-construction opportunities, you got government subsidized housing programs. For example, nobody knows what that means. The government is building a 150,000 small 500, 600 square feet, typically 50 to 60 meter type homes for Panamanians. They’re giving the up and coming generation of Panamanians or anybody that has not qualified for home ownership before, the opportunity with a preferred interest rate, typically less than 2%, to be able to get into these homes with virtually no money down. $500 is all they have to put down and get into these homes to have home ownership. And they need a 150,000 of them right now in the country. And so the government subsidizes the developers to do this in one of our developers that we work with because we bring so much business to them for the high end, expensive high rise, La Maison, the Fendi building and the Armani buildings and the YOOs, the high end projects.|
|We do so many millions of dollars of business with them for that, that I insisted that they give us a little gravy on the side for these small projects too, because a lot of people are just looking for a real secure project. And these are very simple. It’s a 50 or $65,000 investment. You are guaranteed 11% return on your money. You’re going to be in between two to two and a half years on one of these projects. You’re in, you’re out. You never take possession of the property but the property is collateral. Everything’s nonrecourse if you do loans but these are not loans. You’re just investing in that property. And you get paid that 11% every year, twice, at six months and at 12 months, five and a half percentage each time. You see returns on your investments right away.|
|Then you have, of course your cap rates, you have your rental return on investments, typically seven, eight, 9% is the typical range that you see for that. We have pre-construction where you get in and you get out at construction when it’s finished. You get in when it starts and you get out about three years, four years, five years at the most. And you look at typically making somewhere around, anywhere from 20 to 35% on an annual basis with those types of projects. And of course, none of these can be guaranteed, because we do not have a crystal ball and we don’t know what tomorrow holds, except for the government subsidized program at 11%.|
|These are just all the different types of projects that we have. We do everything with our company, from A to Z, from helping you learn how to get your visas, to bringing your animals, to furnishing your apartments or your condos, to property management, to buying a car, to anything that you need. It’s just a turnkey program and we educate our investors. That’s what we are doing is educating them on how to invest internationally, how to become an expat or accomplish whatever their goals are.|
|Murs Tariq:||Got you. You listed off a bunch of different options and ways that you can get into the real estate side, whether it’s really just fronting some of the money for a cash flow back and a return of what you put in or maybe owning property and going down the rental line as well. My question is, how do you even get to a comfort level of doing this? I guess, one notion is you could go out there and you could go walk around and tour around and find stuff yourself. That seems like it would be next to impossible to do. Another one is maybe you kind of partner with someone that knows the area really well and then I guess what you’re kind of talking about, what your company does is does a lot of the work for you and a lot of the hand holding for you to make it as smooth as possible. How does anyone start this whole process?|
|Evie Brooks:||Well, that’s what we’re here for is for people to come through to us and let us walk through the process with them. We do private tours with people that’s looking to invest and we have basically three types of investors. You have those that’s becoming expats, expatriates, they’re wanting to get a residency or a citizenship in another country, those that want to plan B or what I call a bug out plan. They’re in a country where they feel like they may not want to stay there permanently. They want to get out. And so those people, a lot of times are planning in advance and they use it for a rental in the process until they need it or want to be there. And then you have those that are looking just to diversify their investments. They’re looking to have real estate in a different country, a different location and move some of their funds offshore.|
|Now we work with people from around the world, from Austria, Australia, Israel, South Africa, of course Canada, all over the place. The majority of our market is North America because that’s where I do most of my marketing. But we have people that find us from around the world all the time. And they’re wanting to, so many people, especially during the COVID period, wanted to relocate some of their liquid funds and get them outside of their home country, just to feel more secure. Diversifying those real estate portfolios, we’ve had a lot of that. And that’s our three primary. Of course we have families that’s wanting to move there, just explore, that kind of thing. You’ve got all kinds of stuff, but those are the three primary.|
|And being able to invest in Panama is simple if you know where to go and you know who to contact and we have the whole power team. We have everybody from attorneys, to accountants, to drivers, to whatever you need, already established and in place. And do you have to use ours? No. We give you referrals of who we use and you’re welcome to use those. But what I have done is I’ve vetted everybody from the developers all way down to the attorneys. And if I find that any of the power team members ever overcharge one of our clients, they are one and done. They don’t get a strike two or a strike three. And I have literally gone through 10 attorneys in 10 years. I went there in 2012 and I’ve told them, “You give me a price, this is what you’re going to charge. If I find out that you charge any of my clients more than that, then you’re done.” And it’s happened nine times.|
|Now, the attorney I have now I’ve had for two years and I haven’t had that problem but you’ve just got to be careful when you go into another country. And that’s why we feel like you’re going to spend a lot of money for your education one way or the other, do it the right way and you won’t spend near what would lose if you try to figure this out on your own. Because when you come into that country, they see gringo and they see dollar signs. And so you have to just be cautious and careful about that. And so we work with the largest, the oldest, the most financially secure developers in Panama. We’ve worked out deals with them, where we have projects that are below fair market value. Now we don’t get anywhere, typically three, five to 7% of any particular project, because obviously they can’t sell at those prices. But because of the amount of business that we bring to them, they give us incredible deals. They just walking in off the street, you are not going to get, you’re not going to know about, you’re not going to have access to.|
|You have to go through our program to be able to get those. You have the US based dollar economy there, which is something that gives a lot of people comfort. You do not have to speak the language. It is nonrecourse loans. The developers have put together developer financing programs, so they don’t have to go through the bank. You don’t even have to have a good FICO score. You don’t have to have a tax return. You don’t have to have the kitchen sink. You don’t have to have anything except sign a contract and send your deposit. And we try to leverage those investments so that they’re putting down 10%, 20% or 30% maximum. And that way people are able to leverage, instead of paying, let’s say $250,000 for one property, they can pay $50,000 for five properties and have five times the revenue, the income, the appreciation, the forced appreciation, those types of things.|
|Radon Stancil:||Let’s talk a little bit about, and we talked about investment. And you mentioned in what you’ve explained, this idea of somebody relocating. Let’s go with this idea that somebody wants to relocate. And obviously, let’s just talk in the terms of where we are right now. We’re in the United States, a person’s thinking about retiring but then they hear about this idea, if they relocate somewhere else, wherever that might be, it could potentially be more affordable. Could you kind of give us maybe some comparables of maybe what a person might need here to live and compare that to what it would cost to live in Panama?|
|Evie Brooks:||Okay. Well, you’ve got a wide spectrum there, everything from A to Z, because you can go in and live like the Panamanians and live on a shoestring, truly but most Americans don’t want to do that. They want to have the standard of living that they are accustomed to, but maybe just downsize or maybe they don’t mind paying 200 or $250 a square foot for a condominium on the ocean that’s all marble and everything’s top of the line, magnificent views and beautiful. Or you may have somebody that’s looking for a property that’s only 700 square feet and they’re paying $175,000 for that. It depends on the individual and that being an oceanfront property. It depends on the individual person what they want, but you can live very, very comfortably for 2,000, $2,500 a month.|
|And of course, if you live in properties, I live in a beautiful building right on the Panama Canal, overlooking the ocean and just have magnificent views. And the building is just absolutely, marble wall to wall and floor ceiling in the bathrooms and stuff like that, just gorgeous. My cost is going to be higher. It’s going to be much less than which you would find in comparable type of locations in Miami and Los Angeles and in Ontario or Montreal, or Chicago, or some of these other places. Your costs are typically going to be anywhere from half to typically you’re looking at three to five times less than what you would find in those major cities for comparable type of a projects. It depends on the individual and what they really want.|
|Murs Tariq:||Well, that sounds very attractive, I would say. And I think you’ve given us a lot here. I think the listeners have gotten a lot to think about if they’ve ever been interested in trying to go outside of the US for real estate. It seems like you’re a good resource here. If someone is interested to learn more about you, your company and how it all works, how do they reach out to you? Or how do they find you?|
|Evie Brooks:||Well, there’s two ways. eviebrookspanama.com is just an opt in page. It’s got a little short video on there and it tells about what’s going on with Panama and what’s happening. And then when they fill out that opt in, if they’re interested in having a private conversation with me, I will have a 30 minute conversation with them. Number one, to see if this really is right for them, what they’re looking for, if it fits into their plan of action. And then if so, we continue to move forward and we will create a full business plan with them based on what they’re wanting to accomplish with their real estate investing. And then if you want to just go to the website, it’s mypanamavacationrealty.com and it has a lot of pictures and information about the mentorship program and the rental properties, some of the rental properties that we have in our portfolio, just a lot about the business as a whole.|
|Radon Stancil:||Well, we will make sure that we put both of those. And you did say eviebrooks.com, is that what you said?|
|Radon Stancil:||Eviebrookspanama.com. That way we’ll make sure that that and the other is as well, in all of the show notes on our website, so that people, if they decided they want to go check you out, they’ll be able to do so. But it has been very, very enlightening. And we certainly appreciate you coming on and sharing with us and our listeners, this very interesting and different way of dealing with retirement.|
|Evie Brooks:||Well, thank you for having me. It was my pleasure.|