Welcome to Investing Across Borders with Lauren Cohen. Every week she will share valuable information that you need to know in order to successfully invest in real estate and other business endeavors in North America. We believe in helping clients invest, live, work, and play across borders. And now, your host, Lauren Cohen.
Lauren Cohen 0:26
Good morning, everybody. It’s been a minute since I’ve been interviewing some people on this wonderful podcast investing across borders. I am your host, Lauren Cohen, international, legal and real estate expert teaching you how to invest live, work and play across borders. And today I’m here with my new friend whom I met about a month ago out in Washington, DC. Yes, I got on a plane and so did Gary and we met in Washington DC at what’s called an eXp sprint. What the heck is an eXp sprint? Well, eXp is the cloud based brokerage with which most of my listeners know I’m very closely aligned with on many levels. And those of us that attracted more than three people in a certain month were invited to go to the sprint. And it was basically two half days of intense speakers and learning. And Gary was one of the speakers. And Gary just moved me because his thought process and his positioning and his everything is just completely aligned with me. And he’s a major investor, a major real estate mogul. And he’s built quite a team. And he’s doing international transactions just like me. So Gary, please say hello, and welcome to invest in cross borders.
Gary Wilson 1:36
Hello, and thank you very much for having me on. It’s a pleasure for me to do this. It’s also humbling for me to be able to speak to so many accomplished people. It’s, you know, I enjoy sharing and teaching. It’s what I do now, like a lot of people, once you’ve been in industry for decades, you sort of take on that teacher role. That’s how my life’s evolved. And so thank you again, for having me. I’m eager to share.
Lauren Cohen 1:57
Thank you so much, Gary. It’s funny, it’s true at a certain point in our careers, we become teachers, whether by choice, or just because it happens by circumstance. And I’m in the same position and I love educating, and indeed we’ll talk a little more about this, but into being with eXp, it allows us that opportunity, me as the chair of the international investment committee, you as the coordinator of, how many states are your team members in right now?
Gary Wilson 2:26
Collectively, 124 people that are in 24 states, soon to be 26 by next week.
Lauren Cohen 2:33
And how many countries?
Gary Wilson 2:34
I’ve served clients from 13 different countries, that team right now is in the US and in Canada, too.
Lauren Cohen 2:40
So US, Canada and also India, right?
Gary Wilson 2:43
We do have agents that are from India, but they’re here in the States.
Lauren Cohen 2:47
Ah, got it. Okay, cool. Well, we love being with eXp because obviously, especially for me, being an international lawyer, I have partners that I actually just spoke this morning with my newest partner in Israel, India, South Africa, Colombia, Mexico, Canada, for obvious reasons. And obviously the US and so many other countries we’re about to open. We are just opening in Germany, I think this week, and Japan. So we’re in 17 countries, soon to be 20. And it’s really exciting to be a part of this international cloud based brokerage. Gary, give us the 30,000 foot view of your background because like me, you could probably spend an hour just talking about all of your amazing accomplishments. Like for example, at age 40, he retired as the corporate vice president of mergers and acquisitions at a national banking company. He retired at age 40. Now what the heck is going on? How many times have you retired since then?
Gary Wilson 3:42
Yeah, the funny thing is, I think I’m gonna keep doing what I’m doing until I go to heaven I guess. Because really, I’m having fun. We call it work, but to me, it’s not really work. I’m just sharing, and giving, and having fun. And I do it from anywhere I want. Last week I was in Sarasota, Florida and I was in Atlanta, Georgia. Next week I’ll be up in Maine, then I’ll be in Virginia the week after that. North Carolina and St. Thomas in September. October, Pennsylvania and then back to North Carolina, and November in Las Vegas. So pretty much live the dream life. The way I got started is very very fortunate. I had a college roommate in my freshman year name Socrates. His parents were Greek. We’re still friends today after 40 some odd years. And his dad was a big investor for Virginia, and when we graduated I worked at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia, 20 minutes from the beach. We said, we’re going to get a beach house, we’re going to live the life and be bachelors and the whole nine yards. And his dad said, Don’t be idiots. He said you’re gonna buy a house and you’re gonna rent out the additional rooms and you’re gonna start building wealth today and if you boys do what I tell you to do, you won’t have to work for anybody else when you’re 35 years old. And of course, we’re 22 and 23, so we did everything EXCEPT what he told us. We bought a boat, then we had to buy something to tow the boat. And then I got married and moved away two years later.
Lauren Cohen 5:16
So much for your bachelor life, man.
Gary Wilson 5:18
Exactly, yeah. So I got into banking pretty heavily. I went, you know, mergers and acquisitions and to help a major bank grow across the US, and at 35 years old, I’m waking up thinking, I am not happy. I mean, that was the proverbial skeleton gathering cobwebs into corporate and kept promoting me, I was all the way up. We weren’t reporting directly to executives on these deals. And it was an ego boost. But I had a cot in my office. That’s how bad it was. And I thought, this is crazy. So I started investing, going back to what Mr. Domet had told me, and by 40, I have the properties over five years, I was able to retire. Since then, I built a portfolio of five different holding companies, and a total of seven businesses related to real estate title, you know, brokerage, property management, appraisal…
Lauren Cohen 6:05
Everything interconnected. So that one plays off the other and everything helps that bottom line at the end of the day.
Gary Wilson 6:11
Yeah. And then people wherever I would go, you know, I want to get invited to be on the radio or be on TV or speak at someone’s event. And as time went on, I realized everybody’s asking me questions. So I was by default, taking on the role of teacher and I decided to create material on my life’s experiences. I wrote seven books, six training programs. And the reason I ended up at the eXp was, by having my own brokerage, I did a big merger with another big brokerage company, they gave me the freedom to be able to build my own team, which is what I did, but it was very restrictive. It was an old model real estate company, old model, right, horse and buggy. But every company is like that, I’m not gonna… century 21, Berkshire Hathaway, it’s multiple companies all follow the same old model, what eXp did was gave me the entrepreneurs framework, the business persons framework, to launch a national team, without all the restrictions and barriers and bureaucracy and politics and all that red tape stuff. And I was able to grow everything. I told you about my team. Now, it’s all been done in the last year, I could never have done that at any other company, in that timeframe, ever. It’s just not possible with the old framework. So it allows me to grow and expand and serve people, you know, eventually all over the world. Teaching what I teach, helping the investors line up with the agents, which is a critical relationship, usually there’s no training on that. And so this allows me to further that cause, create that network with investors, and the right kind of agents who are trained to work, we call them investor agents, they’re certified. That’s really the short version of how I got to where I am, here today.
Lauren Cohen 7:48
Well, I think it’s brilliant. And it gives me great confidence to be able to refer my investors to you and your team in the different states in which you’re located. Because I know that you’re going to understand investor talk. I’ve had some issues referring some of my clients that are investors, and maybe they use OPM other people’s money, or they have different creative strategies for financing, and the agents are like, Whoa, I don’t know what, no, I want to just get a traditional mortgage, you know, FHA, whatever. And it’s like, sorry, that doesn’t work, especially not for my investors, most of whom are coming from other countries. So you know, it’s a challenge. And last night, it’s funny, I was on a webinar with two of my colleagues, one of whom is a client and one of them isn’t yet but he just met me last night. And so a woman was hosting it and then the three of them, she and the two gentlemen, are all major real estate investors, all from Canada, all investing in the US and we were talking about specifically what are the challenges when you’re investing across borders, because we have challenges when you’re investing domestically, but those are magnified when you’re going across borders because you have all these compliance issues and tax issues and legal issues and all kinds of stuff, AND financing issues as well. And so working with a team like yours that understands and that has you as their guide and their teacher, their muse, it makes a huge difference. So I thank you for being there and being available and being willing and open to share your wealth of knowledge with us. I will say, I think out of everybody that spoke at the sprint, your talk resonated most with me because I’m more about the bottom line, and the service and education, than I am about… you know, I guess I’m very into attracting agents but it’s just not the educational components. The platform that eXp offers, the opportunities to be an entrepreneur in the real estate world. I’ve had my real estate license for 14 years, you know when’s the first time I had a transaction? Besides when I first got it, and I had a friend who flipped a couple houses. The first transaction was in November. Why? Cuz I didn’t do anything I just had my license, it was kind of dumb. But now I’m doing a lot of stuff. I have 22 referral agreements out there, one of which is with you and your team. So that’s awesome. And certainly we’ll be having many, many referral clients for you. Tell me, you mentioned about being the gringo prince. Tell me what the heck is that about, the gringo prince?
Gary Wilson 10:37
Oh, yeah. So one of my goals was to reduce my tax burden. Okay? Push it a lot, a lot of taxes. And to me it’s a privilege to pay tax that means you’re living in a great country, and we have great roads and you know, education and medicine, all that. But at certain point it gets to be like, okay, we’re getting a little extreme here. So I started looking around in what can I do to legally reduce my taxes.
Lauren Cohen 11:07
Legally is the key there.
Gary Wilson 11:09
Yeah, and not create complications in my life and not have to give up citizenship and, and be somewhere else 180 days, all this kind of stuff. And, you know, there’s a whole body of knowledge out there, for everybody listening. You know, there’s a lot to learn, but it’s easy to learn, if you’re willing to look for the information, if you’re willing to learn about it. And I would highly recommend, no matter what you do, you’re probably going to end up dealing with another international attorney, perhaps to set up trust and so forth. But always learn yourself first, so you know what it is you’re talking about. Okay, so Costa Rica for example, right now at the time of this interview, prices are very favorable compared to almost anywhere else. I mean, even NON resort properties in the US are now more expensive than resort properties in Costa Rica. So my first exposure is when my daughter graduated high school, I sent her there for her high school graduation trip. It was basically an educational trip, and they had to do some service, they went to Guatemala to build schools and plant trees and things like that. Then they got to have fun in Costa Rica. So I said, Okay, I’m gonna look into Costa Rica. The other thing I like about Costa Rica guys is this. I’m not really a coffee aficionado, but I do like coffee and the best coffee I’ve ever had is from Costa Rica. Bar none, absolutely the best. So in any case, we’re looking at properties in Costa Rica. Turns out you can take a business incorporated in Costa Rica and get a much favorable tax structure for your business. Now if you’re going to take advantage of their other laws, you have to become a citizen, which means you have to relinquish your US citizenship. I didn’t want to do that. So we were looking at properties, looking at single family homes initially. Beautiful on the mountains, in the jungle overlooking the ocean, every view price, got a view trails down to the ocean infinity pools, beautiful indoor outdoor architecture, just amazing. And we started to look at Okay, well if we can do that, why don’t we look at some multi units. Okay, so we should look at a multi unit, and one thing led to another and then the number we’re looking at in buying entire resort and so I got the nickname. Saying that I’m going to be the prince of Costa Rica, you’re going to own your own resort people to fly down and hang out with you and go to seminars and surf with you and stuff like that. And that’s what that came from. But we came back full circle, here’s what we did. I do not want to give up my US citizenship. You know, I want to keep that, my family’s here. My children are here. I want to be a grandfather. My parents are still around, thank God for that. So in any case, we’re looking for a strategy now where we can own the property there, but we won’t realize all the taxes. And by the way, Costa Rica is not really viewed as a tax haven for US citizens. It can be based on their corporate tax laws. But in any case I love the water, I love to surf. I’m not very good at it. In fact, I’ll tell you, when I turned 50, I joined the over 50 legal surfing competitors in Virginia. That year I was ranked the ninth worst surfer in Virginia.
Lauren Cohen 14:12
I would have been the million worst surfer. Or the first worst, the worst worst sorry.
Gary Wilson 14:18
That’s what that term was. I you know, I love them. I love to go down there. I love this. I will tell you if you go down to the beach with food, make sure keylock colors because the monkeys are highly intelligent and they will find a way in your in your course and your food and you’ll come back and your foods All right. It’s just it’s just a quirky little thing. There in the trees. There’s howler monkeys, there’s sloths, there’s all kinds of birds. It’s just a beautiful, amazing place. But I think we’re at the end of the day I just want to go there enjoy it and not be tied up in business. I want to go there to escape and I’ll maybe I’ll be the prince of my own home We’ll see.
Lauren Cohen 14:53
It’s interesting because I have been speaking with the eXp about opening in Costa Rica. My PR person who actually went to my college in Toronto, a tiny bit older than me, but it’s funny how life works. And she lives in Costa Rica. Her husband is Costa Rican, he’s actually in real estate. And I’ve been like, really intrigued by everything. There’s a lot of Canadians living in Costa Rica, because it’s easier than coming to the US. Unless you work with me. But it’s interesting to see that, you know, no matter what, everybody does make mistakes. And it’s through our mistakes that we learn how to be better, and how to improve and how to help others avoid mistakes. You know, as most people know that listen to my show, my ex husband was deported on the way back from our honeymoon. And that’s what prompted me to become an immigration lawyer because I didn’t want other people to face a similar fate and have to deal with all of the BS of losing their husband on the way back from their honeymoon. That was really quite there wasn’t exactly in my plan, let’s just say. So out of all the countries you’ve worked with, could you share one story of an interesting for an investor exchange that was memorable that you’d like to?
Gary Wilson 16:15
Yeah, so I have a couple of clients from Israel, Ami, and Joel. And when I first met them, this was back in the early 2000s. They were new to the states and you new to investing. So we had, I had taught them personally, how to flip homes and pick up small rentals and things like that. And lo and behold, turns out they really wasn’t just those two, they were really acting on behalf of a much larger contingent in Israel, bringing in a lot more money. So when I was still pretty new approaches at the time, I was a seasoned investor. But as far as brokerage transactions, really we were dealing with, you know, duplexes for plexes flipping homes and things like that real simple residential level projects really well, like any good investor, I’d started growing into the bigger properties myself, personally, I don’t want to do nine units, 2078 units, 90 units. And these guys wanted to do that. I’m thinking, well, you weren’t gonna get the money. And they showed me basically a proof of funds, it was $50 million. I’m thinking, Oh, my gosh, you know, that that’s a lot of money.
Lauren Cohen 17:16
It’s not just a fix and flip
Gary Wilson 17:20
So long story short, it was a great learning experience for me developed other relationships. One of my best all time clients ended up being I can’t mention his name, but he was one of the Managing Directors for you. UBS financial worldwide, nice. And I became one of my best clients. He’s, he’s not retired us and has a consulting business. But well, what that taught me was this, whenever opportunity comes your way, always say yes, it may look like a stretch for you. It may be a stretch for you in practical terms, but you still say yes, because every nobody’s born with all the solids, you have to develop it through life’s experiences and transactions. So we develop a great lifetime long term relationship. And lo and behold, years later, I started seeing them on infomercials on TV and night tiny guy with a mother with some other consultant was paying them to do testimonials for them. So it just goes to show you never never judge a book by its cover. Never question always give everybody the opportunity and the benefit of the doubt. And like I did with ami and Joel, when it turned into a lifetime relationship, that’s, you know, in the old days, the kind of money we’re talking about, I could have retired off of, for one relationship, and it led to so many other relationships. Another client from that same relationship was a, his father has started a company that the son, my client had franchise to over 650 franchises worldwide. And that, of course, as you might imagine, lead to other relationships. So interesting story, but that one experience that one, the two clients together, Ami and Joel is what led you to a lot of what I’m experiencing today, one sheet, one single deal, one single client, you know.
Lauren Cohen 19:01
So I think the moral of that story is don’t judge a book by its cover and known assume, right? Because especially and this is particularly true. I mean, I work with a lot of Israeli clients, and Israelis have a very laissez faire, laid back usually, like attitude, but they’re very driven business. And, you know, having spent as much time in Israel as I have, it’s always like, they’re always living as if there may not be a next moment. They live each moment to the fullest and that’s how they do business. Now, sometimes, that pisses Americans off because it’s a very different mentality. And so there’s clashes but if you can learn to work with Israelis and make them your friends, which I’ve done since the beginning, when I first had my first transaction with an Israeli and I was like, Okay, it’s not One size fits all. But now that I’ve spent so much time there, and I’m very in my heart, and I’m very, it’s really important, very, very designer stick. I think that also makes a difference. Because, as I talk about, culture is so indicative of how business is done. And if you think that you can approach people the same way, if they’re in India, or if they’re in Israel, or if they’re in South America, or if they’re in Canada, you can’t, and Canadians think Americans are the same, and they aren’t. So it’s really about just learning how to approach those those differences and embrace them. Right, Gary, and that’s where your success comes from. Because you opened your heart and your mind and your business to them.
Gary Wilson 20:45
Yeah, Amu and Joel, these were the guys that were feet on the ground, getting the remodeling done. That’s like you said, Don’t judge a book by its cover, because what they brought to the table was tremendous. And, what’s interesting is the whole thing about, I was born in Germany, and when I had my own children, one of my wishes for them, to both study abroad, so they both studied in Europe, when they were in university, and they learned a lot. One of the things you learn, is Americans tend to really be very, like the interpretation of time, when we say I’ll meet you in a minute, we literally think that means 60 seconds, you know, I’ll meet you in one minute. Well, most people want a world that just means something like more like, in a moment, I’ll be there. And that can be five minutes, or 10 minutes, or half an hour, you know, so it can be frustrating for Americans. And to that, we’re just so strict and regimented, and almost demanding. We want it, we want it now. Where, most people in the world, it’s more fluid, you know, you let things happen naturally, you definitely are ambitious. They’re hard workers. There’s the one thing about the German army and really, this release in general, kudos to them, turned out are very, very good custodians, with what they’ve got, they manage the resources as well, they bear, your legs are more relaxed than we are. But they’re also very determined, and they’re very focused on achieving their goals. And because we’re such good custodians, with the resources, they generally achieve their goals.
Lauren Cohen 22:12
Look at this tiny little strip of land, in the middle of a very bad neighborhood with people that hate them, feed us on every side. And yet we are the ones that are still thriving. And that’s why it’s a startup nation. This is not about Israel, but a time. I will say that about most of my Israeli clients over time, most not all have been real estate investors that were getting visas, not getting visas, whatever, but Israelis understand the value of real estate and so do Indians and so do Canadians. But if you don’t, and if you overlook that you’re missing a great potential part of your portfolio, which could be a driver as it is for you, Gary, how many kids do you have, by the way?
Gary Wilson 22:55
I have two children, and one step-child.
Lauren Cohen 23:01
Gary Wilson 23:02
Not yet. I’ve placed my order, I’m waiting for the deliveries.
Lauren Cohen 23:07
Okay, well, that’s good. You don’t have a lot of control over that delivery date now. It’s like new home construction. It’ll be ready when it’s ready. So Gary, any parting words for our guests about investing across borders? Some tips? How do they reach you?
Gary Wilson 23:25
Yeah, absolutely. So, if you’re listening from a different country, you know, Canada, Germany, any country, when you invest in the United States, just like every other country, there’s generally a federal law or national and under state or provincial law, same thing I state so when you invest in the United States, we have some great tools to help you determine precisely, exactly where to invest. We literally can show you where money is leaving, where money’s coming to, everything. But what I’m getting at here is that it’s the state level, you’ve got to really pay attention to the different rules, regulations, and overall, just be prepared because not every bank is going to fund a foreign investor. To say, some of Barclays Bank some of the bigger banks, TD Bank, out of Canada, but you have to look for those and be prepared to place on hold, you know, even $100,000 on a small duplex purchase held in escrow because a site that things go sideways, they want that in reserve to keep things going while you’re getting your fair share I mean just be prepared to put a substantial amount of money in reserve somewhere in the US Bank. That’s one thing to consider. Also, align yourself with people like Lauren, she’s an international attorney she understands US law, she understands Canadian law understands Israeli law. So absolutely align yourself with the right people. And then on our team, I’m blessed to have people on my team from all walks of life all over the world.
Lauren Cohen 24:56
Yeah. Living here in the US, immigrants just like me.
Gary Wilson 25:00
Absolutely different cultures, different languages, different religions, male, female, young, old, you name it. And so we really, are trained these agents are trained to identify, analyze and negotiate deals that are maps. I’m an investor to remember, I’m not always a broker investor for 35 years. I created this because I was frustrated. But now we have the team of agents halfway across all over half the states in the country. So by the way, I did one quick aside here that did write a white paper on foreign investors investing US about six years ago, I can make that available. It’s just a simple white paper here. Okay, great. Here’s the 10 things you need to know now, here’s the state links and things like that. But if you want to go to the website, it’s rewgw.com
Lauren Cohen 25:51
You’ve shared that with me. So we’ll have it in the show notes for sure.
Gary Wilson 25:54
Yeah, the whole length of real estate with Gary Wilson. You don’t have to spend time if you don’t, if you just want to stick your toes in the water, you can get free books in the members area for free for 30 days, they grab all the recordings, everything on 1031 exchange, using trust to invest in real estate which everybody, okay, get all that and more importantly, connects with whatever investigations and I coach them personally, they know what they’re doing. And you wouldn’t want to put your hard earned money with any other resource.
Lauren Cohen 26:26
Okay, it’s a pleasure to have you. Thank you so much. I’m looking forward to being interviewed on your show next week. And we’ll definitely be trading clients referring clients. It’s so nice at eXp to have this network of up to 62,000 agents, roughly last year. And just having these collaborative relationships like we have and knowing that I can trust that my client is going to be looked after with the same kid gloves when they go to Gary and his team that his clients would be looked after when they come to my team. So it’s a pleasure I thank you. I look forward to doing a lot of business with you and helping each other grow our respective businesses both at the eXp and in our own backyards and internationally. Obviously, I am Lauren Cohen International, legal and real estate expert inviting you to subscribe to my podcast. We’re on Apple, Google, all the major podcast networks, investing across borders. And please if you would give us five stars so that we can keep our rankings going. And feel free to reach out anytime we are actually about to launch our website, investingacrossborders.com but in the meantime, you can always find me at Laurenesq.com. Gary, thank you again. Have a wonderful rest of your day everybody. Thank you. Bye for now.
Gary Wilson 27:47
Take care God bless.
Thanks for listening to Investing Across Borders with Lauren Cohen. Make sure to check the show notes for any links and for guests contact information. If you have questions for Lauren, please reach out to her at FOUNDER@ecouncilglobal.com. If you enjoyed today’s episode, please subscribe, rate, review, and share the podcast with a friend.