According WIKIPEDIA, TRENDS MAGAZINE is the leading economic magazine in Belgium.
FROM HET ZOUTE TO MIAMI BEACH : SURFER ON THE WAVE. Excerpt from the article of Philippe Coulée “Positive ratings for double return products” appeared in Trends Tendances of 11/10/2012.
At the same time an article dated September 22 th appeared in full in the French daily L’Equipe entitled,: « Is it time for Florida, now ? ». It announces that apartment prices are on the rise there and this since 13 consecutive months before reminding that the American Dream has trumps that are very real, especially fiscal trumps, for European investors with (some) cash. The French daily quotes Jean-Marc Goossens, lawyer at the bar of Brussels, specialized in Amercian real estate law (legislation, taxes, setting up companies) on behalf of French investors in Florida. Not only French, by the way: the Belgian lawyer functions as Family Officer for Belgian families, affluent or less so, who are a bit disappointed by the Belgian meteorological and economical climate.
He has by the way a solid address book in the The Zoute area, where he made the biggest succes of his life buying a beautiful apartment that has rapidly quadrupled in value. “At that moment, I said to myself, together with my friends: why didn’t we buy the entire street? Well, you see the same thing happening in Miami now. And you don’t want to miss out on an opportunity twice…”, he explains.
Among his clients is the son of a rich industrial who had a small property portfolio in Belgium which he has sold in order to buy a splendid waterside villa in Normandy Island. “At the moment he is negotiating his villa in Knokke for around four million euros. And he bought his villa at Miami Bay, with pool and quay, for 2,6 million… dollars. Together with his wife and two children he left everything behind. We have created a branch of his Belgian company with him, which he oversees from Miami Beach. He now scarcely pays 25% on his revenue, while over here he paid over 50%. More recently, I took a retired couple of restaurateurs from Knokke over there who are buying for the second time already, enchanted by the rent and the rapid surplus value their investment is yielding”, he smiles. The role of the business lawyer – who is paid a flat rate, no matter the invested amount – is a far cry from that of the ordinary real estate broker: he accompanies his clients, whom he wishes to bond with, from the organisation of the trip to the possible resale. « At heart, I never had any interest in real estate nor Miami, he resumes. I gave general advice in matters such as international investments. When the stock market crashed, I had to adjust, just like my clients did. I went back to the origin of the crisis to take apart its mechanism, and I realized very quickly that when the market recovered there were a lot of opportunities to be realized here. A lot and fast.”
At the time the latter studied multiple markets : Spain, Portugal, Ireland, New York, California (which he knew) and Miami (which he didn’t know). “I came to Miami in the midst of the crisis and I quickly realized that the micromarket held a maximum of positive vectors. I identified interesting goods there without waiting for business to start again. I had capital to invest for a few loyal clients; moreover you could play double winner with the dollar euro parity. And that is not nothing when you choose the right moment… I started a network on my own: I selected four local and thrustworthy partners, real estate experts, who are paid by the vendor ; I found lawyers specialized in fiscality, in immigration also, because I have more and more investors who take the step and come and establish themselves here. I even have as partners a bookkeeper and an enterpreneur in construction, if necessary.”
To illustrate the flexibility of this new investor’s goldmine, the lawyer tells the story of this couple of pensioners, who left for the place to invest in a second residence under the sun and who, after only months, asked him how they could stay there indefinitely. “We found them a little gas station with two employees in which to invest so they could get a Green Card. The business even turns a small profit, after paying salaries. Without that, as owners only, that would be impossible. Except in the areas affected the most at real estate level, in the most remote corners of the USA. But there, nobody wants to buy.”Is it still the right time to invest? What makes the difference, according to Jean-Marc Goossens, for a foreign investor who embarks: transparancy and easiness to negotiate. All real estate to be sold and rented is centralized and listed on the internet in a completely official and exhaustive manner. You can check everything for sale, the price and the rents charged in a building, floor by floor. “Like this, you can see at how much you can make profitable a purchase and where the prospects to rent out incites you to invest. There is no black market; there is no need for it because taxes on surplus value dropped at around 10% and all fraud is punished severely by imprisonments. No notary either, nor registration duties: the transaction occurs between buyers accompanied by their lawyers and a completely neutral closing agent (in general a lawyer). The transaction costs do not exceed 3%.” It’s unbelievable…
Financially speaking, cash is the winning word today for owners and bank establishments who get rid of requisitioned buildings in case of insolvability. “You can still do great business at the moment, and without great risk. At the end of 2008 the bottom was reached. People were certain it would go up again, but nobody knew that this would happen as fast as it did. Moreover, it goes up first in the most high-risk neighbourhoods. Those who did the best business came, as I did, at risk, in the midst of the financial crisis. Back then it was four times cheaper than it was at the Belgian coast. I bought an apartment for a Belgian investor for 250.000 euros which was posted only months earlier at 1 million dollars. And this didn’t do him any harm. It is already worth double it’s purchase price…
The almost total absence of new developments since three years has grown local demand and has caused prices to rise. And real estate projects resume in large numbers : we’re talking about 10 billion dollars worth of construction sites over a mile scarcely five years from now. And for the investors who want a return over 4% and an even faster return on investment, in the order of 11%, you have for instance Nevada and Las Vegas : the prices there have dropped even lower than in Miami, there is no income tax either and the Property Tax doesn’t exceed 1%”, Jean-Marc Goossens resumes by way of example.