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Best Places to Invest Right Now — 'The Wandering Investor'

10 May 2020

We recently welcomed Maurice from 'The Wandering Investor' to chat about how the global downturn will impact investment prospects across a wide range of assets — international real estate, gold, uranium, oil, and more.

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Check out the Remote Ventures YouTube channel for fresh videos on international real estate, personal investing, stocks, taxes, and more

We recently welcomed Maurice from 'The Wandering Investor' to chat about how the global downturn will impact investment prospects across a wide range of assets — international real estate, gold, uranium, oil, and more.

The Wandering Investor is a consultancy that helps people internationalize & diversify their life and savings. Maurice’s investment approach is heavily based in doing on-the-ground research to develop in-depth strategies around international real estate, precious metals, obtaining second residencies, and offshore banking.

To learn more about the Wandering Investor, check out the blog:

Matt: Maybe you can tell us a little bit about yourself and "Wandering Investor."

Maurice: Yeah, sure, so I worked in corporate for approximately seven years, mostly in Africa until the age of 30. And after a while, I decided that I wanted to go out on my own and explore the world, so I left and started investing full time. So literally just traveling around a lot and doing property deals. I got involved in crypto, the stock market, commodities, and so I've been doing this full time for a few years. And my friends were always asking me, "Oh, what do you do? "How do you do it?" So I just started a blog last year for fun, and I started getting quite a few hits, and people started asking me questions, so eventually I just turned it into a part-time consultancy. So it's called

Matt: Awesome, so also if any of your viewers are watching this, I'll go ahead and give you a little background about what "Remote Ventures" is. So we're kind of an algorithmic investment fund focusing on real estate, with a focus on emerging markets. Right now, a lot of Colombia and Turkey, and we kind of price it. And then we also have this YouTube channel where we like to talk about investing in real estate or just international investing in general, and that's kinda why we wanted to have you on, because we saw your blog, it seemed really interesting, and I thought it would be interesting to have you on and pick your brain.

So, do you have any kind of projects that you're working on right now that are interesting, that you're excited about? I know you're in Nicaragua at the moment...

Maurice: Yes, Nicaragua is one of the few countries in the world that has no lockdown whatsoever, so people are just regulating themselves. Approximately maybe half the restaurants are still open, most bars are closed, but the government isn't forcing anyone to do anything. People are just trying to behave on their own. So being here is quite nice in the sense that I get to travel around. So that's kind of my lockdown project. But, honestly, the project right now is just trying to save your money. I think that should be anyone's project. It's saving your money, trying not to get completely obliterated in this market, and also preparing for what's to come. I think that's very important: preparing for what's to come.

Matt: That's interesting. So I just wanted to jump in on the Nicaragua stuff, seems pretty interesting. So how is it kind of being a foreigner in Nicaragua? Have you been welcomed? Have people have been more negative? Are they worried about foreigners right now with everything that's going on?

Maurice: People are extremely friendly. They just want to keep a bit more distance than usual, which is understandable, so it's harder to interact with people normally, just like anywhere else in the world. People are very friendly, very helpful, and what's interesting about this country is it's the second poorest per capita GDP in the western hemisphere, so there's a lot of potential upside, and the government is extremely welcoming when it comes to foreign investors. So it's very easy to get a residency permit, an investor visa as well, so that you can stay long term. And when you live here, when you become a tax resident of Nicaragua, it has a territorial tax system, which means that you only pay taxes to the Nicaraguan government on your Nicaraguan source of income. So if you have some online shop or you freelance overseas, et cetera, you don't need to pay any taxes to the Nicaraguan government. Yeah, you get to live in a beautiful country, friendly people. You have beaches, you can go hiking on volcanoes. There's Panama, which is not too far away, which is a good base, a good airport. So, yeah, Nicaragua is a good option.

Matt: Yeah, it's beautiful. I spend a lot of time in Costa Rica next door, which is also a really beautiful country.

So what markets do you think are going to be impacted the most over the next 12 months? Which markets you think are just going to get totally obliterated? Whether it's real estate, or stocks, or whatever you want to talk about.

Maurice: I think it's important to just come from a complete, from a background of complete ignorance. What we're seeing right now is unprecedented. It's completely new. This mixture of potential depression with massive central bank action and government action, we don't know how the world is going to emerge from this. So anyone going around saying that they know is talking nonsense because no one knows. So what we can look at is more the likelihood of certain things happening.

In terms of real estate, I would stay away from real estate in countries that are that are oil rich. To buy would be a terrible, probably a terrible place to be putting your, to be buying real estate right now. So it's hard to say at this point which countries are going to get hit harder, but, yes, oil countries are going to get hit hard. Also probably countries that had a lot of leverage in the system are probably going to get hit harder than others. Emerging economies that had balance of payments issues are going to face more problems with their currencies. So you probably have to look at countries where, that are going to be less impacted, that are hard currency denominated, and that didn't have too many loans in the system.

But generally across the board, people are going to get hit. It's just a matter of which places are going to be worse than the others. Already I'm seeing, for example, I spent a lot of time in Budapest. I'm seeing rents being down 30% just in long-term rents because no one's doing Airbnb anymore. All the Airbnb owners are trying to lock in long-term tenants, so people are fighting for the few long-term tenants out there that are willing to move during a lockdown. So it's not looking very promising for real estate in the short-term.

Matt: Interesting, I want to delve into Budapest because that's actually one of the cities we were looking at. Do you think there's going to be an opportunity where say six months from now a lot of these people that are running Airbnbs, they're just going to be flat on their backs, and they're going to be dumping all these properties basically at a big discount? Are you looking for that, or do you think that's just going to flood the market so much it's not even going to be worth buying?

Maurice: I'm seeing a lot of this by September, October, etc. It might be a falling knife. You might just be catching a falling knife. So I don't think, there's going to be so much inventory on the market that I don't think there'll be a need to rush. We don't know what the next phase of the world economy is. Are we going to have a big recession? Are we just going to have another crazy depression? No one knows.

I'm not in the business of trying to catch falling knives, so I'll just be sitting back and watching.

Matt: Gotcha, so then maybe in the reverse, do you see anything positive? Like, do you see any kind of positive markets? Do you see anybody doing really well? Are there any glimmers of potential here?

Maurice: There are a few markets that look quite appealing. Again, this is not any investment or financial advice. Gold looks quite promising when you see banks printing trillions of dollars, trillions and trillions. Just think of what's going to happen to the shale industry in the States; it's crazy. So is the government going to let it go bust? If it goes bust, the banks are going to go bust too because they have so many loans on the on the books, so they're going to have to put trillions. Again, I stopped counting the trillions. It's starting to become a little crazy. So is it crazy to think that gold might do well in such an environment, or silver? I don't know, but I don't think it sounds very crazy. So that's one market I'd be looking at.

The uranium market is quite interesting as well these days.

Matt: I'm not following that market. Tell us a little bit more about what your thoughts are on uranium.

Maurice: It was in a bear market for many years. So essentially the mines were producing a lot less than the actual demand for uranium by utilities, and they were just running down inventory. We're gradually going to reach a point where inventory is going to start running quite low, and the big utility companies are going to have to renew their uranium contracts, so there's potential for upside. I mean, uranium is up, I think, 25 or 30% year-to-date already.

Matt: Yeah, I can't think of another asset class that's been doing that well. Let's dial this back maybe to when times are more normal.

What do you look at when you're evaluating a market? I know that you were talking about Nicaragua, and you're evaluating it because you thought there might be a lot of upside because of how poor it is. Maybe you can delve in a bit more about what kinds of things draw you to different markets, whether it's gold, uranium, real estate markets, whatever that might be.

Maurice: I take a very macro approach, so I try to keep abreast of political developments, of economic developments, financial developments. It's really about the macro aspect, and then I zero in, and I see, okay, this place has quite a few positive factors that I'm looking for going on. Let me go there, and let me explore. So Nicaragua is one of them, so I'm here. Great, interesting. Will I invest here? Probably not right now.

So that's my approach — macro, zero in, and then go spend some time on the ground. And when I spend time on the ground, I don't just go in there for three, four days. I'll go to a country for a month or two, hang out, take my time, create a little life here, and I really get a vibe for the country, meet people doing business here, et cetera. I feel like it's the best way to approach it.

Matt: Now are you spending time, do you have a real estate agent there? Do you have a local Nicaraguan? How do you like to find kind of the more local stuff instead of just being a tourist there?

Maurice: Surprisingly, just going on Facebook, looking at the local real estate's listings, and just contacting the sellers directly is often the better way than contacting some foreign real estate agents.

Matt: Yeah, we've found basically anytime a real estate agent speaks English, it probably means you're going to be paying three times as much for the price.

Maurice: In some cases, you definitely have to be careful.

Matt: So for "The Wandering Investor" in 2020, what do you see? Like, the big milestones. You have big things that you have planned or anything you want to tell our viewers about?

Maurice: Yeah, sure, so I'm continuing to develop the the website, so, really, it's about helping people make sense of international real estate, precious metals, obtaining second residencies as well, and offshore banking. I think this is going to be increasingly important, is where do you store your wealth? Do you want to have your wealth in countries that are going broke, that are incessantly printing, and that have increasingly socialist policies? Is this where you want to have your assets? And I'd say, is this where you want to have fixed assets? Even more so. Do you want to have a home? In Spain or in France, for example, in France, the whole procedure of selling a house can take four to six months. So even when you sign an agreement with a buyer, it's going to take you four to six months to get your money out of the country. So if you see things turning wrong.

You don't have much reaction time, you're done. So I'd say probably the biggest priority for people should be to really look around them and see how their neighbor's reacting, and do they want their money in such an environment? And, if not, where can they go? I understand if you're a doctor, et cetera, it's hard to move. Yeah, but if you're somewhat independent, move. Just leave; go somewhere else.

Matt: You have any suggestions of any places that you like right now?

Maurice: It really depends on the individual. Some people just want to pay zero taxes no matter what. Other people are comfortable paying a little taxes to be in beautiful little countries in Europe, et cetera. And then there's where you live and then there's where you have your assets, which is a different, which is a different topic, and then also where you bank. You can live in a country with some taxes and with a great quality of life, somewhere in Eastern Europe, and then have your assets offshore in places without too many taxes and in very safe banks. So, actually, I'm working on an e-book right now on banking where I'll be listing a whole bunch of banks that can be, bank accounts that can be opened in person and also remotely.

Instead of spending hours on Google trying to find out which banks accept non-residents, et cetera, because it's a minority of banks worldwide that actually accept non-residents, and also how some people are going past capital controls, 'cause I think capital controls are likely to become more common, especially in some emerging economies, and potentially why not in some rich countries. If things go wrong in Italy, there might be an Italian euro and then the rest of the euro, so how do you get your money out? Rather, how are other people getting their money out? And then you need to speak to your advisor to see if it's legal in your country.

Matt: Yeah, that is a big problem. I remember during 2008, I think it was Iceland. They capped how much money, they were taking money out of people's bank accounts. It's very scary where you keep your money, certainly. Cool, well, thank you for coming on!

Remote Ventures is an international real estate investment company building software to help you scout foreign markets, find up-and-coming neighborhoods, identify and analyze properties, close deals, and turn them into cash-flowing investments.

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