Dateline: San Marino
As of today, I’ve now been to all five of Europe’s so-called “micro-states”: tiny sovereign countries ranging from 0.3 to 62 square miles in size. Each has become fabulously wealthy by catering to the rich as a place to live or bank and move capital.
San Marino, for instance, is fully surrounded by Italy, and only accessible by car or bus from the Italian city of Rimini on the eastern coast.
It’s an interesting place in that it’s the only country that has a mutual visa-free travel pact with China, and that it takes up to a full 30 years to become a citizen here.
San Marino is the kind of place that, in many ways, is removed from the rest of the world. They beat to their own drum. But people here are also highly aware of what’s happening in the far larger, bankrupt states — from neighboring Italy to the United States.
While Europe is now swimming in a sea of negative interest rates where bond buyers and even bank depositors often pay the government or the bank to hold their money now, the United States has used a bunch of fudged numbers to create a really strong dollar.
Outside of the British pound, you’d be hard-pressed to find a single foreign currency that hasn’t fallen into the toilet bowl against the US dollar lately.
Where I spend time in Malaysia, the cost of practically everything from rent to iced tea has dropped by almost 20% since Christmas.
Europe, of course, is on sale right now as the Euro approaches parity — an equal 1:1 value — against the US dollar. It’s the best time to visit Europe in over a decade if you hold US dollars because you’ll get so much value for your money.
(Just don’t go to Monaco, where I got stuck paying 35 euros for a hamburger.)
The bottom line? Everywhere from Asia to South America to Europe is dirt cheap right now. I’d encourage you to use this opportunity, not just to travel, but also to invest.
Why investing in the cheapest real estate pays off
One of the easiest ways for someone without a lot of experience to take advantage of the strong dollar is to buy foreign real estate.
Foreign real estate is a great investment and is prized by people in various emerging markets, like China. In many Asian countries, for instance, real estate overseas is as good or better than money in the bank.
On top of that, it’s a great way to protect your money from future confiscation at home, as it’s a lot harder for your government to rip a house out of the ground than to dip their fingers into a bank account.
Of course, if you’re looking to escape and live in another country, buying cheap foreign real estate with temporarily strong US dollars is a great way to establish a low price point and virtually guarantee future appreciation.
Practically every analyst I see quoted in the news these days is saying that the recent strength of the dollar won’t last much longer. A currency can only appreciate so much based on trumped-up economic growth numbers that continually get revised downward.
While the currency wars Jim Rickards talked about at our Passport to Freedom event are very real, it’s not rational that the world’s largest money printing machine would be assigned the title of most valuable currency.
That means buying real estate in another country could generate relatively substantial appreciation in the mid-term merely due to currency fluctuations.
Here are a few of my favorites:
Real estate in Lithuania
Doug Casey has said that he’s a fan of real estate in Lithuania. And I agree for a simple reason: practically every country that entered the Eurozone — from Italy to Estonia — has seen a substantial increase in real estate values.
Prices in the capital city of Vilnius are still pretty reasonable, and the country as a whole is not a bad place to live if that is your goal. Lithuania migrated from its own currency — the Lita — to the Euro in January 2015, and I suspect prices will nearly double in the best areas in the next five years.
Real estate in Colombia
While a lot of my contacts rave about the quality and cheap cost of living in Medellin, much of Colombia as a whole is a good place to invest, as long as you take proper precautions. Medellin is indeed cheap. I’m currently working with a few of my private consulting clients on acquiring properties for as little as $100,000.
If you spend at least $200,000 (or more with co-investors) you can get a Colombian passport in just five years.
As more expats flock to South American markets like Colombia and Ecuador, I believe there may even exist an arbitrage opportunity to purchase properties in Colombian pesos and rent them in US dollars. Even properties in Bogota, the capital city where prices have soared, are relatively inexpensive.
While Colombia is not a panacea by any means, I believe it is one of the most undervalued markets right now, purely because people still freak out when you mention it.
Real estate in Poland
Want to live or own property in a charming city in Europe, but don’t have a lot of cash? Poland is one of the most underrated destinations in Western and Central Europe in my opinion, even though I know several institutional investors in Britain who are pouring huge sums into the country.
Poland has always seemed to be caught in the middle, and it is one of several European Union countries that don’t use the Euro. The Polish zloty is down nearly 25% since I was there just one year ago.
Prices for real estate, even in highly-touristed cities like Krakow, were already quite reasonable by European standards. Now, they’re downright cheap. I recently looked at a one-bedroom place a stone’s throw from the main tourist area… it was only $62,000.
I’m most familiar with Southern Poland, which includes the slightly more expensive city of Wroclaw, where numerous universities create a huge student population, as well as Krakow, which is overrun by American tourists and might be an excellent tourist rental.
I’ve been talking for years about the practically endless opportunities for buying offshore real estate. However, in the era of a strong dollar, now could be your time to lock in record-low property prices and play some low-risk currency arbitrage.
If you’ve been in the market for property overseas, and if you’d like some help, let me know. Now is the time to buy and my team and I are here to assist you.