Category Archives: Business

Is Now a Good Time To Invest in the Stock Market?

So far, this is the best October in over 30 years! Does this mean that we have turned the corner? The markets reacted to good news in Europe where they seem to have come to an agreement as to how to solve the financial mess they find themselves in. The only problem is that essentially what they seem to be doing is discounting old debt (bond holders being paid off at 50% or so) and replacing it with new debt somewhere in the area of 1 trillion euros (about 1.4 trillion dollars). Who are they going to for the majority of this funding? China of course. They are the only ones at present with enough cash to handle this type of loan… but will they agree to do it… that is still up on the air.

Meanwhile back in the US, housing is showing a few weak signs of life, retailers are optimistic about the up-coming holidays, oil prices remain below $100/barrel, and corporate earnings generally are beating expectations. The middle east is relatively calm for now and with Muammar Qaddafi out of the way the Libyan revolution is past one more hurdle. The US is withdrawing from Iraq which will save billions of dollars. The Republicans have a large and diverse field of candidates making for interesting debates, and President Obama is working hard to get congressional approval of his jobs bill.

We certainly have seen worse times in the recent past, but I’m not sure that it is time to celebrate. First we need to see a definitive working plan in place to solve the European debt crisis. We need to see a return to increasing real estate prices and a reduction in the massive inventory of unsold houses in the US. We need to see a joint bi-partisan effort in congress to reduce the deficit and get the national debt under control. But perhaps most of all we need to figure out how to create more jobs domestically. One of the reasons that the largest US corporations are doing well is that they have been sending jobs overseas as a means of cost reduction. This will continue as long as it is economically advantageous to do so. Our congress is well aware of these problems, but to date has been more concerned with politics, re-election, and party affiliations than with solving the issues at hand.

In short, while the markets seem to be celebrating, until the major issues listed above are addressed by our congress and some real resolutions are in sight, resulting in a return to confidence, I think that we will continue to see a great deal of volatility in the markets. While I am generally optimistic based on the current news cycle, I think it prudent to keep the seat belt strapped on tight for a while longer as it will probably continue to be a bumpy ride.

The Risks And Rewards Of Investing In The Stock Market

Investing in the stock market can be both very risky (because you can lose the money invested) or very rewarding (because you can earn multiples times your initial investment.) This article explores both of these.

There are some ways of investing that are much riskier than others. The main risk is that you never know what is going to happen. On any given day, the stock market could take a dive and your portfolio could go up in flames. Of course, the market usually recovers to a certain level, but even then you could lose a lot of money along the way. And to make things even more risky, the more money that you invest the more money you stand to lose should something bad happen.

It is also risky to invest in stocks if you do not know what you are doing. Many people have heard the stories of getting rich this way. In turn, they think that the process is easy and dump all of their money into it. Just like anything else that has to do with investing money, there are huge risks putting money in the stock market. The bottom line is that you should start out with small investments if you do not have a lot of trading experience.

On the other hand, the rewards can greatly outweigh the risks if you know what you are doing.

The main reward of investing in the stock market comes in the form of money. If you pick the right investments, it is safe to say that you can make a lot of money both in the short and long term. As you begin to learn more and more about investing, you will find that choosing the best stocks becomes simpler. This is not to say that you will easily make money, but you should get a feel for what is right and what is wrong. And don’t forget that in the long run the stock market return is always around 8-10% so even temporary hiccups such as the dot com bubble bursting in the late 90’s can easily be avoided if you are careful and play it smart.

Another great benefit is the fun factor. Sure, you could store away your money in an online savings account, but what fun is that? When you get involved with the stock market you will feel as if you are giving yourself the best possible chance of hitting it big. And with so much on the line, you will definitely be excited each and every time you check the progress of your investments.

There are some risks and large rewards associated with investing in stocks. If you are careful then you can minimize the risks and maximize your rewards. What are you going to do with your money?

Real Estate Property Investment Series

Croatia is one of the most likely candidates for entry into the European Union within the next few years and as a result it is also one of the more exciting of Europe’s emerging economies in terms of potential property price growth because with pre-EU entry comes serious foreign direct investment and political and economic stability, and post-EU entry comes greater worldwide confidence in a country and a nation’s ability to trade more directly and favourably with the rest of the European Union.

When you add to this positive news the fact that Croatia has 5,835 kilometres of coastline (1,777 km on the mainland with 4,058 km wrapped around its numerous pretty islands) and a Mediterranean climate you have immeasurable tourism potential that as yet is being massively under-explored meaning that there is an entire marketplace for property investors to explore immediately.

From 2007 a number of UK and mainland Europe based cheap flight operators are opening routes across Croatia which will create accessibility and bring more tourists and therefore it is highly likely that this will increase the profile of the nation and result in a flourishing holiday and second home market as soon as the wider world realises just how stunning Croatia is. In the meantime it means there will be a demand for short term accommodation as well as tourism facing faculties and amenities offering an investor diversity.

The World Travel and Tourism Council have placed Croatia in the top five of all nations in terms of annualized real growth figures for travel and tourism demand from 2007 to 2016; Croatia is expected to achieve tourism demand growth of 7.6% a year for the next nine years meaning that here is a market ripe for property investor exploration in 2007.

One thing that may hold some back from committing to Croatia is the fact that unlike in some other emerging markets in Europe such as Romania for example, property prices in the most popular, populated and beautiful towns and cities in Croatia are already fairly high…but mortgages are widely available in Croatia for residents and non-residents and just a little distance away from the main centres of interest there are bargains galore. Another advantage that the ease of availability of mortgages has is that it means the local population has more access to property based finance and the local market in Croatia also demands property stock…this is good news for an investor. Why? Because tourism potential is good, but having a local market willing and able to take real estate stock off an investor’s hands in the future is even better news. Targeting this increasingly affluent nation an investor has a chance of generating sustainable and consistent returns from a commitment to Croatia for the medium term at least.

Another reason why property in Croatia will be big business in 2007 and beyond is because of an increase in the number of international businesses choosing locations such as Dubrovnik and Zagreb in Croatia as centres for near-shoring back office operations for example. Croatians are hard working, intelligent people who will currently work for lower rates of pay that their counterparts in the EU-15 for example and some companies are establishing operations in Croatia to tap into this labour force and are demanding commercial premises as well as pushing up local demand for residential stock.

Levels of foreign direct investment as well as the number of international companies setting up regional hubs in Croatia also represents a positive factor for investors to bear in mind. FDI and more jobs means a growing economy which often results in a more affluent nation who can and will afford rising real estate prices and rental rates as well…Croatia has already attracted leading international companies such as GlaxoSmithKline, IBM and Siemens, L’Oreal and Nestle to establish regional bases there and what’s possibly even more interesting is the fact that Croatia is becoming a centre for UK and EU domiciled overseas commuters.

The whole business environment is changing as the economy grows, there is active interest for commercial property from Grade A office space in Dubrovnik to logistics and warehousing space in Zagreb, and in the main economic hubs there is intense interest for decent property for sale and rent from an increasingly affluent local and expatriate professional class…could an investor want or expect any more opportunity from a single nation?

After the Crash, Buy This Stock

Big bets don’t scare me. One of my first big bets was made from an Internet cafe in Ghana.

For me, this Internet company was different. Its service was something I used every day, allowing me to find exactly what I was searching for on the Internet every time. Before this, Internet search was horrible. This company had no competition. Other than its programmers and its computer servers, it had no costs. And it was being used worldwide. Even in West Africa, everyone was using it. Now, the company was selling shares to investors for the first time through an initial public offering (IPO).

It seemed like a sure thing to me, but most people were skeptical. And it was easy to see why. The Internet bubble had popped in 2000. Wall Street had taken junky companies and sold shares in them, destroying the wealth of so many people. No wonder most investors stayed away even when a really good company’s shares were being sold.

Long story short… I took about 25% of everything I owned and bought Google’s IPO at $85 in August 2004. I don’t own it anymore, but the shares of Google are up 1,400% since then, making it a stock market superstar.

Everyone wants big gains. Now, unless you want to dedicate your life to analyzing and figuring out markets like me, your best bet is to diversify your portfolio. But it’s critical to do it smartly so that you get the highest return possible and still get a shot at some of those high flyers.

When it comes to diversifying your entire investment portfolio, my colleagues tell you to use gold and collectibles to go beyond financial investments. That’s good advice. Some of my money is in gold, and my collectibles portfolio includes gold coins. And then it’s a bit unconventional. I collect antique gadgets – telephones, cameras, typewriters, gramophones and radios from the early 1900s.

Now, when it comes to stocks, you can get instant diversification by buying an index fund. That’s an OK way to diversify. But there’s a smarter way to diversify that I bet you’ve never heard of. The great thing about this way of diversifying is that you get the safety of being diversified and you get a huge increase in returns. For example, in the current bull market, you’d have made 82% more using this way of diversifying.

Better Returns, Same Risk

You see, when you buy an index fund, you’re diversifying through buying a basket of stocks. For example, the “regular” S&P 500 is a basket of 500 of the largest companies trading in U.S. stock markets. Here’s the key thing for you to understand. The S&P 500 is cap-weighted. Cap weighting means that you end up owning more of the biggest companies within the basket.

In the S&P 500, Apple has a market value or “market cap” of around $607 billion. Apple will have a larger effect on the S&P 500’s movement than toymaker Mattel with its $11 billion market cap. That’s because the S&P 500 is market-cap-weighted. Apple is given a higher weighting – 3.25% of the index compared with Mattel’s 0.06%.

Turns out there is a smarter way to diversify the basket of stocks in an index. It’s been proven smarter, because the index goes up more. Way more. And it’s not riskier.

Score: Equal-Weighted S&P 500: 282%. Cap-Weighted S&P 500: 200%.

By simply changing the amounts of stock in the index, you can get 82% more in return, which is pretty great if you ask me.

Don’t Put All Your Stock in One Basket

Equal-weighted means that every stock in the S&P 500 has the same weight in the index – 0.20%. Big stocks and smaller stocks are treated equally. In a bull market, most stocks are going up. So the equal-weighted index goes up more than the market-cap-weighted version because in many cases smaller stocks will make sharper, faster moves higher than larger stocks.

Don’t get me wrong. You definitely want big stocks in your portfolio. But you want newer, fast-growing stocks that can zoom up like Google too. If you use smart diversifying tools such as an equal-weighted index fund, you get the best of both worlds – the safety of big stocks and the growth of newer, smaller companies all in one.

How a Foreign National Can Buy Real Estate in America

Opportunities for real estate investment for foreigners is wide and varied in the United States. It doesn’t matter where you’re from and what currency you’d be using to purchase a property, you have a property waiting for you.

There are generally three kinds of real estate investment available to foreigners. These investments include the commercial estate investment and residential property investment. Residential properties are further classified into single family properties, apartments or condominiums and recreational properties. Regardless of what kind of real estate you are interested in, there are all sorts of tax ramifications, financing options and legal requirements that you have to deal with.

Why Should You Invest in the U.S. Real Estate Market?

You’ve probably heard of the increasing number of foreign real estate investments in the United States. This is not surprising. With the troubles that the real estate investment market is facing in the United States, greater opportunities in real estate investment were opened to foreign investors.

With the dollar’s value in its all time low, foreign investors are finding real estate bargains all over the United States. There are no shortages of deals in this market. More and more distressed properties are being sold everywhere and foreigners are pouring in millions buying these foreclosed or distressed properties. The United States real estate has become a fairly attractive long-term investment for foreign investors.

In November of 2006, the National Association of Realtors released a report entitled “Foreign Investments in U.S Real Estate: Current Trends and Historical Perspective”. The report showed that there has been a steady increase in foreign real estate investment in the United States. This is especially after the euro and the loonie became stronger in the face of the continuous devaluation of the US dollar. Prime bargains were opened to foreigners. Many foreigners have now looked into the possibility of retiring or settling in the United States.

If you’re a foreigner, you would find a lot of reasons why you should invest in the United States real estate market. Aside from the fact that the floating exchange rate has given you a lot of leverage over the bargaining table, the financial market is a pretty good reason why you should invest in the US real estate.

The financial market in the United States in relation to the real estate market is quite liberal and the restrictions against foreign investors are pretty reasonable. This is ideal for foreign companies that are seeking to invest in the real estate market in the United States in order to avoid tariff restrictions and are considering setting up an office or a company in the United States.

Furthermore, despite the devaluation of the US dollar and the wide foreclosures of a lot of property, the real estate market remains to be stable, though slightly shaky, due to foreign investors’ capital appreciation. Domestic real estate buyers may not necessarily share the same opinion, but the market has remained to be strong for foreign real estate buyers. This may be largely credited to the fact that there is minimal risk for them.

Why are Foreign Real Estate Investments Safe and Profitable?

There are a lot of investments you can make, but the safest you can make right now is investing your money in real properties. This is another good reason aside from the fact that you can make a pretty nifty profit, if you like, particularly now with the widespread property foreclosures and seemingly continuous US dollar devaluation. This is especially true if you are going to use the euro or the loonie when making your investment.

But why is US real estate investment safe for foreigners?

It is undeniable that stock investments are not a safe avenue at this point. The recession has not only affected the US economy; the same recession has greatly affected worldwide stock investments. Stocks values are dropping. It is also a fact that even without the current economic situation, stock values fluctuates.

On the other hand, real estate investments are pretty stable if you would compare it to stock investments – or even bond or mutual fund investments. With real estate investment, you’d be putting your money in an investment that would grow in value as years go by.

What are the Benefits of Foreign Real Estate Investment?

US state government supports foreign investments and along this line has formulated various tax breaks to encourage foreign investment on real estate. Many of these tax breaks are not available in many countries. In fact, most countries would frown at foreigners owning real properties within their territory.

Foreign real estate investment in the United States is open to everyone. As long as you can afford to buy the property or at least comply with the mortgage requirements and payments, you can secure for yourself a pretty good property in the United States. Again, with the current economic situation of the United States, this is the perfect chance for you to make an investment.

Another great benefit that you can take advantage of is the availability of mortgage financing. Lenders have opened their doors to foreign investors who are looking into purchasing a property. So, you don’t have to actually deplete your bank account. You can actually secure a mortgage loan and gradually pay it off.

I’m Canadian, What Are My Financing Options?

There is a steady increasing rate of Canadian real estate investors in the United States; and accordingly, the government has made certain that they have attractive financing options available to them.

If you’re Canadian – or if you’re a foreigner – you’d find a lot of reasons why you should buy a piece of real property in the United States. For Canadians, the parity of the currencies or the apparent devaluation of the US dollar is a pretty good reason itself. But how do you finance your purchase?

There are various financing options available to you depending on which state you are in. In Arizona, for instance, you’d get favorable financing terms if you are purchasing a property for recreational purposes, that is, you do not derive any income or benefit from your purchase or ownership. You will be required, however, to sign up a disclosure agreement and give a 30% down payment for your loan. To qualify though for a loan, you may be required to show availability of liquid reserves for a period of three to six months. You may also be required to present a minimum of 3-month bank statement.

If you are purchasing a property for investment, you’d probably meet stricter terms. Requirements may be more stringent. For instance, you could be required to give a down payment of more than 30% and you may be required to show one year worth of liquidity reserves.

Regardless of your reasons, if you feel like you can fulfill the requirements of a financing loan, you can then proceed to actually applying for a mortgage loan. Also, keeping yourself updated with the financing terms flux may be a wise idea.

Understanding the Tax Ramifications of Real Estate Investment

The first foreigner to have ever bought a real estate property in the United States was Peter Minuit. This opened the doors to foreign real estate investors. After a couple of centuries later, foreign real estate investment has grown into huge proportions, accounting for billion-of-dollar worth of industry.

The low risk attached to US real estate market, the availability of countless properties, and the steady market liquidity attract foreign investors in droves. The initial snag, however, is the process of understanding the legal ramifications of foreign real estate investment.

What you have to understand is that foreign investment in the United States can take a lot of forms. A foreigner has various options. He can acquire direct interest. He can acquire an interest in the real estate through a partnership, a corporation, or a limited liability company. The latter is the typical structure used by foreign investors.

Limited partnership or Limited Liability Company offers financial protection or indirect asset protection, especially in cases of bankruptcy, law suits and taxes. Foreign investors are generally taxed on the property as if they hold the property in direct interest.

Ideally, you should secure the services of a real estate accountant to help you out with the tax ramifications, but it would help if you, at least, know the basics before you actually talk to an accountant.

There are tax consequences that you have to deal with when you buy a real estate in the United States. You would need an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number which you will use with all your tax transactions. Your investment in real estates can be treated as a portfolio investment and will be accounted for as an investment income which can either be fixed or a periodic income. This is typically taxed at 30% on gross revenues. This tax though does not apply though to all foreign investors. Tax rates would vary depending on the tax personality the foreign investor opted for. For instance, a corporation would be taxed differently.

Other things that you should take note of are availability and requirements of tax refunds and state tax laws on real estate properties as they may differ from federal laws, among other things.

By knowing all these things, you may save yourself from a lot of hassles when you finally approach a real estate accountant. You’d be in same wavelength when you finally get down to talking business. It is, however, very important that you secure the services of an accountant. You’d have an easier time dealing with the taxes ramifications. You’d also have assistance ensuring that you comply with all the accounting aspect of your investment. This is especially true if you are purchasing a real property for investment purposes.

Do You Need to Secure the Service of a Real Estate Lawyer?

If you are considering buying a property in the United States, you need to secure the services of a real estate attorney – someone who could help you with the legal issues concerning your purchase. It is tempting to forego securing the service of a lawyer to save money, but this could cost you a lot of money in the long run. Make sure that you have an experienced and trustworthy lawyer to help you out. Make sure that you have thoroughly checked out his credentials, profile, history of successful cases handled by him, and other factors that would influence your decision. You could check online and look for a lawyer working within the state where you are considering purchasing a property.

Functions of a Real Estate Lawyer

There is no actual distinctive function for a lawyer in a real estate case. However, you would really need the assistance of a lawyer for various tasks. A real estate lawyer would review the sales contract for you. He would also check on the title and other documents relating to the property. A lawyer would also review your mortgage contract and make the necessary adjustments or corrections. You could also get him to review with you the legal and tax issues concerning the purchase. A real estate attorney could also make the necessary adjustments relating to various expenses and costs involved in the purchase. He would assess your eligibility for tax refunds and draft the documents and statements relating to this.

Putting it simply, a real estate lawyer will be your watchdog. He would guide you through the whole process of purchasing a real estate in the United States in order to make sure that you will be legally protected. You will have a capable and trustworthy liaison to help you out with the contract. He will also face legal disputes if any arise.

Tips on How to Invest in Real Estate Successfully

Now, if you’ve fully bought into the idea of real estate investing in the United States, you might just want to know how to go about investing in real estate successfully. If you want to be successful in this venture, the first thing that you have to avoid is overanalyzing. Of course, it is a good idea to carefully think through your actions but it is a bad idea to overanalyze your investment to nonexistence. You might lose a great opportunity.

Before you purchase the property though, it might be wise to check the property value. If it sits well with you and you can reasonably afford the property, go ahead and make the purchase.

If you are considering the property for a quick flip, make sure that the property is in perfect condition and in good area. This is to ensure that you could double or actually triple your return of investment. If you can inspect the property yourself, do so. If not, a good and trustworthy agent can help you with this task.

Another important thing to remember when you’re buying real estate is good financing. You should take your time to carefully consider all your financing options. Foreign investors can email in their queries to various lending institutions. It is a good idea to make sure that you’ve had their terms and rates on paper because they tend to change these terms and charge you with a lot of junk. Your real estate agent can help you with reviewing the escrow charges.

The bottom line, however, is that it is very important that you do your homework before you actually buy a real property. Investing in real properties in the United States can be profitable especially during these times. In fact, it may be the wisest and most perfect investment you can make right now.