Lauren: Good afternoon everybody. This is Lauren Cohen, helping people invest live, work, and play across borders. I’m an international lawyer and licensed Realtor, and I am here today with my guest on Investing Across Borders, Laura Alamery. Laura is and has been a real estate investor for over 30 years. She now mentors new and experienced real estate investors, not just nationwide, but globally, just like me. Laura has experience in all aspects of residential real estate from wholesaling, to buy and hold, to fix and flip, to raising private money, which is a big deal these days, from acquisition to disposition of properties, Laura has a team of investors and partners with a proven track record who can do it all just like me. So, we are great partners. Laura, please describe your experience in real estate investing and how did you get started?
Laura: Yeah, well thank you, firstly for having me on this podcast. I am originally from Italy I came to United States in 1985, and I actually started in Hawaii. I was there from 1987 to 1991, and I became a licensed broker in Hawaii, and I started dealing with residential real estate. But I also started buying my own properties fix them up and flip them. So, I started with a townhouse in 87 that upgraded to a house, a few months later. Real estate was going crazy in Hawaii at that point, the prices were doubling every year. And by 91, when I moved to the mainland I had quite a bit of capital, and I started buying rental properties. So, I got into rental properties but also doing a lot of the creative financing strategies, like wholesaling lease options, and also subject to contract for deed and all kinds of owner financing, so I included a portfolio of over 16 properties in about 18 months.
Lauren: Wow that’s impressive!
Laura: Yes, all multi families by the way from two years restoration. So, I had over 40 doors. And then I went into fix and flipping as well. And by 95, for now wholesaling was still not really a well-known strategy. Then I started wholesaling around 94/95 as well. I went through buying whole fix and flip and wholesalers. I went backwards into it. And then I went into private money syndication back in 2001, which was raising private money, and then we started also buying at auctions and doing new developments. So, I’ve done all kinds of different things along the way.
Lauren: How many countries have you worked with, in other words how many people from how many countries? You mentioned international, has there been any country you really don’t touch or are hesitant about, or anything like that.
Laura: No, most has been Canada, you know that a lot of people from Canada want to invest here in the United States.
Lauren: And I wonder why?
Laura: All right, also from Europe I’ve had several from Europe now living here in South Florida. Of course, we have a lot of people from South America. They want to invest in South Florida as well. So, I would say Europe, Canada as being a big portion and south from South America as well.
Lauren: Cool. So, when you bring together your team, which is probably a turnkey team, what’s the most important piece for you, is it price or value?
Laura: As far as the service providers?
Lauren: Do you shop based on the price or the value. In other words, if you had two service providers, but one was more hands on and charged higher fee for that, what would you think is more important when you’re
delivering the service to the end user. Is it value or price?
Laura: Well, it’s value. I will say you know that sometimes you want to
cut corners on price, but you don’t get the right advisors. With real
estate, you can get the most affordable type of real estate, but then it’s
also the type of property and probably will give you more profits in the
long run, sometimes you pay a little more to get the better quality.
Lauren: Absolutely. I think that’s it’s quality over quantity and I’ll
take quality any day of the week. Tell us about a faux pas that you made
in your earlier days of real estate investing. Was there some big mistake
or aha moment that happened for you?
Laura: I think a lot of times I don’t follow my gut feeling on things you
know I think women ….
Lauren: I’m with you there.
Laura: We have a keener thing about getting that gut feeling you know, so
with all the knowledge you get, and you acquire the knowledge, and at the
end of the day, what does your gut tell you? Is something up or is this
something you should go forward with. And I think not trusting myself and
listening to our people that were not an expert in real estate, but you
know they thought that they had the shading, so it was probably one of my
mistakes. However, the best thing of that is also being around the right
people, you know, being around people that were very inspirational, they
were very gregarious, like when I was in Hawaii, I worked in this real
estate company. There were 75 agents and 74 were women. And they were
ahead of their times, but they were very aggressive. They were go-getters
and last year I went to Hawaii, and I met up with one of my original
mentors you know 95 years old.
Lauren: Oh, my goodness.
Laura: And she’s still active in real estate.
Laura: A luxury real estate broker on the island, and the moral of the
story is that you’ve been in real estate you live a long and happy life.
And she still remembers me from back in the 80’s, but I was around a lot
of the right people too. I think that’s what really helped to get me on
the right path to success.
Lauren: 100% because they say that you’re defined by the five people that
are closest to you both in family and professionally. Do you still have
your real estate license?
Laura: Not right now, I’m kind of licensed in New York, I live in Florida,
but I’m not licensed here. I still do business in Missouri as well. Mainly
I’ve done business in Pennsylvania recently and I do business in Florida,
but yes, I don’t hold my license at this point, as an investor I feel like
I can move more freely, without having a license, especially when I move
across several states.
Lauren: It really depends on what company you’re with and what your goals
are, I had my real estate license for 13 years, and I until very recently,
not even written a deal. I’m a referral agent and I love referring
business, I’m a great connector and we’ll get to know each other better
and be referring a lot of business back and forth. So, I’m very excited to
finally, actually be putting my license use so I guess we’re kind of going
in the opposite direction there because I haven’t used my license and now,
I am and you’re not. You’re not licensed anymore but maybe we can talk you
Laura: Yeah, I’ve been thinking about it but it’s easier to sometimes do
without having a license.
Lauren: Yes, I know as a lawyer. Believe me, I know sometimes there’s so
many restrictions on what you can and cannot do. And a lot of people that
don’t have their law license are really doing a lot more. Let’s just say
that I am because of my license kind of crazy. Was there anything in your
background especially coming from Italy that prepared you, did you grow up
with real estate or what prompted you to make that first investment? Was
it just a gut feeling again?
Laura: Honestly, I can’t really think that far back as far as what
prompted me, I’ll say that living in Hawaii and seeing all the wealth
around me and seeing that a lot of the people that were making money had
been in real estate, and there was talk all over at the end of the 80’s
like I said that within about a year prices doubled, I bought the
townhouse for $180,000 in 1987 sold it about 15 months later in 1989, for
240,000, without doing almost any work to it. And then I took this money
and bought a house for 340,000, sold it a year later for 435,000. I then
took the money and brought it into probate, and I made $75,000 flipping
the contract. But what was what was happening right there again with real
estate the way it was, I saw that was the closest path to get to start
making money. You know as a college student back then I was looking to
really knock out student loans. I said, well, this sounds like a good
business for me to do whenever I have time available and build up some
capital. Obviously, that ended up being much more than just building up
some capital, it became my full-time profession.
Lauren: So, what you’re dealing with, mostly Canadians but people from all
over the world, why do you think real estate is good for pretty much
anybody, especially in the US, what is it about real estate that’s so
appealing would you say for anybody from anywhere?
Laura: Well, there are so many ways to make money with real estate right,
so it’s about firstly what is your interest? Are you looking for immediate
capital? Are you looking to build more of residual income and what is
really your interest right now and then you can choose the strategy based
on what your goals are? But one of the things I like about real estate,
when I started in real estate, I was only 23 years old, as a college
student. It was a way for me to say I can get into business without much
money, without much capital, and really build up a career, and that’s what
I did. You know, I started as an agent but then I quickly switched to an
investor especially when I saw my own townhouse deal, having more than
$100,000 gain that sold me to say this is a good business if I can do one
of these to be doing well. And so that’s what they really sold me into it,
that anybody can start in real estate from any country and come to America
and start doing real estate to make so much money, you don’t have this
opportunity anywhere else.
Lauren: Especially, we’ll talk about Canada, so in Canada, other than in
certain places like, as we’ve discussed. We have a coaching program in
Canada and the US, but we teach people mainly how to invest in what’s the
equivalent of subject 2’s in Canada, and there’s only certain places where
those are going to be viable depending on the equity and the upside and so
on. However, the prices in Canada are often cost prohibitive, in terms of
your ability to get into real estate investing, because not everybody can
afford a half million-dollar average price point house, as an investment
property. Whereas when it comes down to the States you can get three, four
even five houses for that same amount of money, and suddenly you’re
dealing with an economy of scale and the volume and the opportunity
becomes down much greater. So even if one property isn’t increasing in
value as much, you’re going to have cash flow from the other properties
and it’s going to all turn itself around. So, it’s an important thing. On
top of that there’s a lot of places all over the world where the economy
despite COVID and all the impact in the US, the economy here is still
strong and real estate will always come back, right? That’s not true
everywhere, and people need something secure, and real estate is a
tangible asset, unlike other stocks, for example, that t, have suddenly
took a huge hit because you know real estate will always come back. Not
every Cruise Line stock or travel industry stock is going to come back.
So, it’s a matter of deciding where to put your money and diversifying
your interest as much as possible. So, Laura what are you most proud of,
would you say in the real estate world of course.
Laura: I would say I’ve been able to reinvent myself, you know, to be in
your business as long as I have over 30 years, and going through a lot of
recessions and changes in presidency and economy, with everything going
on, and always trying to reinvent myself, staying ahead with what is going
on, right now looking out into the future, what is the next best thing?
I’m doing research right now what is going on in 2021, so I can position
myself better as a real estate investor, to take advantage of some of the
little things that are going to be happening. Although there is not going
to be a bubble crash like everybody thinks I really don’t think so, there
is much different scenario today, what was going on in 2007 and 2008.
And so, to understand those and position yourself and get to be to the
next best thing, is what is going to make you survive and thrive as a real
estate investor. That’s what I think I’ve been doing well over the last 30
Lauren: Yes, being ahead of the curve, anticipating changes before they
occur. Yes. What are the three best tips of advice that you would have for
a foreign investor investing in US real estate.
Laura: I would say definitely find a lawyer, an attorney, somebody that
can help you set up the correct business entity.
Laura: This is going forward, because you really don’t want to get
yourself in trouble. You really don’t want to cut corners here in doing
something that’s going to get you in trouble where you’re going to have to
Lauren: So many do, so many do. And then they invest their personal name
and then there’s huge tax implications and look, Canadians are probably
the guiltiest because, what happens is there’s so many, you know this
Laura, I’m preaching to the choir. Canadians are hugely impacted by
American real estate investment companies that offer turnkey investments,
and then, the Canadian invest, and they think that they’re getting all
these tax breaks and benefits, but then when it comes time to file their
taxes in Canada or another home country, Canadians just happen to be the
easiest because of our proximity and so on. And you’re hit with this huge
tax bill. And there’s nobody, there’s no recourse, you can’t go back and
say what you told me wrong, because the reality is you needed to get that
tax advice. And so that’s what you’re saying that tax advice, that
corporate advice, what entity do I set up with, how do I set it up, where
do I set it up? It’s a strategy. So yes, I totally agree with that first
tip, you’ve got to set up the correct structure.
Laura: And I would say that, that one isn’t the number, one to set up the
correct structure. You know, eventually somebody that knows the market,
because real estate in the United States is much different to real estate
in Canada and real estate in France and Italy, They’re all different
markets, they’re unique to that country. So, you need to find somebody
that can guide you locally on what you need to do, and how to find
properties, how to evaluate properties, how to write the contracts and so
forth. You can’t just, say okay it’s the same everywhere, it’s not.
Lauren: Or pull it off the internet.
Laura: Right. No, exactly, you need to find somebody that has the
experience and has worked across borders, you know, but first of all, get
your ducks in a row, get a business entity, get the right tax advice, and
then you can move forward and find somebody who can teach you with local
advice, what works, actually in this country. Yeah, I cannot teach on how
real estate works in Italy I have no idea.
Lauren: Well, I know how real estate works in Canada and I do know how to
teach you how to invest in certain properties, but if you want me to
advise you on why the Canadian Real Estate Market, especially in Ontario,
is so crazy, I’d go back in time to when I was a kid, and my mom was
selling real estate and this was still just as crazy then that’s a long
time ago longer than I care to remember. So, Laura, do you have any
parting statements or parting thoughts for our listeners?
Laura: Well, the best thing I can say to anybody is you’re never going to
know everything about this business, just take one step at a time. But get
your preliminary bases covered. This is very important, and then don’t try
to reinvent the wheel. This is a business you can make a lot of money, but
you can also lose a lot of money. When I started in this business took me
about eight years from 87 to 95, to really build a business where I could
feel I feel like I could rely on full time. That was more like a touch and
go, do a deal here, do a deal there, but to build a business where every
year I have a certain type of income it took me about eight years. Now I
can get my students to do that in 6 to 12 months.
Lauren: Right. You’re holding their hand.
Laura: Right. I’ve tested it, I know what works, I know what doesn’t. We
are all honestly revamping our marketing, now we’ll wait till the leads
are ready. Right now, the way we find leads is not the same we used to do
a year ago because of all this that has been going on this year. So, you
know, you can go on YouTube and listen, you can go now on these podcasts
and you can get a general idea, but at the end of the day it could be very
risky to get your strategy because you don’t know whoever it is, has
really tested them. So that’s the biggest thing I can say be careful.
Lauren: Be careful. And once you commit to working with somebody, stick
with them, don’t forum shop. Don’t say oh this one said this, and now it’s
too bad because you’re going to make yourself crazy. It’s kind of like
when something happens to your child and you look it up online, you’re
going to be overwhelmed with the answers, they could have pleurisy God
forbid, or you know whatever and or this whole thing with COVID, oh I have
COVID! You know, you can make yourself nuts. So, how do people reach you?
Laura: Well, my main website is lauraalamery.com, and you will find I have
a lot of different articles and training, I have a lot of information it’s
been around for about 10 years now, and you can go on the website and as
well I have a lot of different articles. You can also contact me through
the website and download a free e-book that I offer about the seven steps
to real estate investing, how to set up a business, you know, especially
virtually, we’re doing a lot of virtual investing right now, even moving
forward. So, there is a free e-book to see right on the homepage, please
download it, it’s about how to get the system setup.
Lauren: Laura thank you so much for your time. It’s been a pleasure. And
we’ll be posting this soon, and I look forward to connecting with you
further. So, thank you again have a wonderful rest of your day.
Laura: Thanks for having me today. Thank you.