Evie Brooks (Atlanta, GA, and Veracruz, Panama) is an elite Real Estate Investment Educator, Keynote Speaker, Investor, Coach, Mentor, Entrepreneur, and former Advanced Trainer for “Rich Dad Poor Dad”, who now specializes in “All Things Panama”, including real estate and organic, sustainable agriculture investments.
Evie Brooks Real Estate Background:
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“Utilize the funds that you have in pension plans, IRA’s, & 401ks, in real estate” – Evie Brooks
Evie Brooks: Hello, Best Ever listeners, and welcome to the Best Real Estate Investing Advice Ever show. I am Theo Hicks, and today we’ll be speaking with Evie Brooks.
Evie, how are you doing today?
Evie Brooks: I am good. How are you doing?
Theo Hicks: I’m doing well, thanks for asking. Thank you for joining me. A little bit about Evie — she’s a full-time investor and former advanced trainer for Rich Dad, Poor Dad, which is probably the number one best ever book we get on the show and probably for most real estate investors. So everyone knows who the Rich Dad, Poor Dad is. She has 24 years of experience in domestic and global real estate, and she’s currently investing in over 13 countries and 30 US states. She is based in Atlanta, Georgia, and her website is http://eviebrookspanama.com/.
So, Evie, do you might telling us some more about your background and what you’re focused on today?
Evie Brooks: Real Estate just runs through my veins. It is what I do. It’s my playground, my sandbox, if you will. And I accidentally stumbled into it right out of college. I was supposed to go to law school and ended up pregnant my first semester and was so sick I could not complete that journey, and ended up in real estate as a fallback and I’ve never looked back.
I stayed in corporate America for four years in asset management and property management commercial. And then I went out on my own and that has been my focus ever since. I started of course domestically, locally in my home state in Georgia, and then I expanded throughout the United States. And then I started doing international once I started teaching with the Rich Dad, Poor Dad Organization. And I started in Costa Rica. The big crash happened in 2008, I held on until 2012 and then I moved over to Panama, and it has been a whirlwind ever since that time, and looks to continue to be that way for many years to come.
Theo Hicks: Thanks for sharing that. So we’ve talked to people on the show before about investing in their own backyard, we’ve talked to people before about investing out of state, but it’s not every day, we get to talk to someone who is investing out of the country. So you kind of mentioned you started doing this during your time with Rich Dad, Poor Dad and traveling around, but can you get more specific as to why you decided to transition to investing out of the country? Why did you decide to not strictly stay in the states and invest? What’s the benefit you saw?
Evie Brooks: Well, when I was teaching with the Rich Dad Organization, initially, I was teaching domestically and they had an opening to teach in Costa Rica and Latin America, and I immediately jumped on it, because I love being there. It’s tropical, it’s warm, the ocean, water… So I immediately jumped on that opportunity and I started teaching the international investing portion of that training program in Costa Rica as an elite trainer.
In my very first trip, I purchased property myself, I started my first project, I ended up with over 750 acres total in Costa Rica, with projects that we were doing in Costa Rica because of the experience of international investing and the opportunities. So we really tapped into, for that market, the expat market; people from not just US, but North America, Canada as well, but all around the world; people that are looking for (and still) a Plan B or investments outside of their country or tax breaks and things like that. So that’s how it all started.
Theo Hicks: So you were teaching a course on how to invest internationally. So you applied the course to yourself and then—
Evie Brooks: Absolutely.
Theo Hicks: Okay, that makes sense. So can you tell us about your first deal? You said it was 200 plus acres of land. How did that come to be? So you land in Costa Rica for your training and then you have the land. Can you tell us about the steps in between?
Evie Brooks: Well, the first project that I purchased was only about 25 acres, and that was the first trip there. And then when I realized what the opportunity was going to be with that, I found a one acre parcel right on the ocean. I mean, just right on the front of the ocean. So I bought that one. And then I found another just raw piece of land that was 750 acres, and it was a huge undertaking because there were not even roads to get back to the land. So we had to bring in the roads and the utilities and the telephone poles and all that kind of stuff. So ultimately, we ended up with an over 700 acre master-planned community that we were developing in Costa Rica, until the big 2008 crash. And that was an interesting time.
Theo Hicks: So for that first 25 acre deal, are there real estate agents in Costa Rica? Is that how it works, or is it through some other avenue that you find these deals?
Evie Brooks: Yes, but not along the lines of what we think of as real estate agents in the United States. They don’t have the MLS, and it’s kind of like anybody can just stick up a sign “I’m a real estate agent” for the most part, especially at that time. So I wasn’t looking for real estate agents. I had my Costa-Rican attorney who worked for our company full-time, that would go with me, and we would just start looking for land. I do this everywhere I go, whether I’m on vacation in Belize or in South Florida, I’m always looking for real estate deals. So that’s what we were doing, and we found this big piece of property that we realized would be an opportunity for a large expat community, with all the amenities and things like that and that’s how it came to pass.
Theo Hicks: And you mean you’re literally in a car, just driving up and down the street with really no plans but just looking?
Evie Brooks: Exactly.
Theo Hicks: And then do you see the land or are there signs that are up?
Evie Brooks: There are signs. Of course, they were in Spanish and I didn’t speak Spanish. Just poquito, just enough to get by. But my real estate attorney was Costa-Rican, and so she was taking me everywhere she knew. She knew the market. She knew what we were looking for and so we were just out seeking for treasure.
Theo Hicks: That’s awesome. And so all of the deals you have done, have they been found through this method or are there other ways you’re finding deals too, like the word of mouth type of talking method?
Evie Brooks: A lot of word of mouth, of course. Everybody knows what I do and they’re always sending me opportunity. Now that didn’t happen initially right out of the gate. But as I became now known and people knew what I do and became an instructor for the real estate with the Robert Kiyosaki Organization, of course, I get referrals and recommendations all the time. But to this day, I will still take a whole day and just go drive — let’s say, I want to purchase land on Lake Lanier in north of Atlanta; I’ll just go out and start driving and all the little fingers up and down the roads behind where all the [unintelligible [00:09:08].06] are looking for a local treasure.
Theo Hicks: How do you fund these international deals? Is it through syndication, are you raising money? And then if you are, how does the process for raising money internationally differ from raising money in the US? Is it easier? Is it harder?
Evie Brooks: Well, we did a 506 Reg D for our Costa Rica project, and it was a US 506 Reg D but the project was actually in Costa Rica. I am not doing syndications at this point any longer. It’s so intense for effort, work legalities, rules and regulations… That the stuff that we work with now, I have connected with some of the largest developers, most well-known financially stable, financial debt-free developers in Panama, and have worked with them over the last eight years to put together owner financed type situations for our particular investors.
Most of the Expat type of investors that we’re looking are just looking for investments $200,000-$300,000, $1 million or just looking for a retirement home, a vacation home, that type of thing. So we’re now doing these large developments like the one that we did in Costa Rica… And I also did another one up in North Dakota, that I still have right now that we’re working on, but in [unintelligible [00:10:20].05] So it depends on the project itself and how much funds are required and needed, but I haven’t done a syndication since we did the Costa Rica project.
Theo Hicks: I’m sorry, I should have asked this earlier, what is an expat?
Evie Brooks: An expat, an expatriate; people from around the world that’s looking for a reason to leave their country, either on a resident basis or even change their citizenship or getting dual citizenship because of the benefits that’s associated with that. So you have people all around the world, even more so now after Coronavirus, than what we had before. We’re just getting swamped with people that’s like, “Okay, I was supposed to retire in two or three years, I was furloughed, I’m not going back, we’re ready to get out of here. We want to go somewhere else where the cost of living is less, the standard of living is comparable to what we’re used to, the taxes, we’re not going to have to have these taxes before we get our citizenship,” those kinds of things.
Theo Hicks: Perfect. So can you maybe give us an example of one of these expats who are using you to — let’s do an investment deal. So they’re trying to invest out of their country. Give us an example of how this works. How much money are they putting down? How does the seller financing structure work? What’s your ongoing involvement? Or is it just upfront, then you’re done? Can you maybe just walk us through a sample deal so I can get a better understanding of how this works?
Evie Brooks: Okay, first of all, with my clients, I’m never done. If somebody invests in a deal that I am involved with, as well as — typically, all these projects I’m invested in as well… But they’re going to get in or get out or they’re going to hold on to it for a period of time, or they want to rent it… We are all things Panama. We do everything from A to Z; from helping them getting their citizenship, their residency, finding a car, getting their legal visas, or their citizenship process… Now, of course, we’re not attorneys, so we can’t do that, we don’t provide financial advice. But we’ve got our power team in place and we can send them to the appropriate people to make sure they’re not getting taken advantage of; because we’re green guys, people see us coming and they see dollar signs. And so we’ve vetted all of these people.
But as far as the financing programs, with the deals that we’ve put together, you can get bank financing internationally, but it’s gotten a lot tougher, especially since the Dodd-Frank laws and the money laundering issues and all that kind of stuff. So it’s a long process and you pay more for the money internationally if you’re not a citizen of the country. So we started working with our developers. And every project is different, even with the same developer. You might have a project in the city and then another project out on the Gold Coast on the ocean that’s two hours away and they’re going to have two completely different structures. But the bottom line is you can put down 10%, 20% or 30% in a particular project, the owner will carry the financing for anywhere from 5-10 years. If you roll out and buy another one of their properties, then they will in some cases finance the first property to the second buyer, or they will always give them the option to do owner financing when they roll into their new property. So people are like, “I’m not ever going to get to a place where I’m stuck and I have to have the funds to pay this principal balance off.” It’s interest-only payments every single month, and those interest rates — in the last year we’ve had one particular project that we had three quarters of 1% interest, interest-only. So a penthouse on the ocean is less than $250 a month.
Theo Hicks: Like 0.75.
Evie Brooks: Yes, 0.075, it is three quarters of 1%. The average right now is about 4% for developer financing, but back in the day when the interest rates were higher, we would pay 7% interest rate. Then once a year, during the duration of the time that you own that property, you’re going to pay a principal pay down, which typically is somewhere between 5% and 7%. So let’s say you owe $200,000 on a property after you’ve put down your 30%, and that 30% was paid over three years, okay? So you have a $200,000 balance, you’re going to pay 5% per year or $10,000 per year principal pay down, one time per year. So it’s interest only each month, and then a principal pay down. Now there’s all kinds of different options and opportunities. Sometimes there’s a lease to purchase option. It depends on the project, the developer and the timing. I will say that with Coronavirus and everything it’s happened we might have some pretty interesting opportunities and promos coming up in the near future.
Theo Hicks: So you’re in a lot of countries, and it sounds like you’ve been to a lot of countries. I was reading your website beforehand and you’ve done a lot of talks in other countries. What would you say is the one hidden gem country, whether it’s someone living there or investing there, that — obviously, if someone has probably heard of this country before, but maybe not a country that they would expect to be a good place to either live or a place to invest; maybe it’s the same place, maybe it’s here a hidden gem for a place to live, maybe it’s a hidden gem for a place to invest… But what’s your answer for that?
Evie Brooks: Well, if I were emotional only and that’s what I was looking for, I would go to the Caribbean. There’s no question about it, because the crystal blue, beautiful ocean water and the sand and just the views. But I can never think like that. I’m always thinking bottom line.
Panama is absolutely, unequivocally in my opinion, the best place, and the reason why is Panama is on a tear. And the reason why is when the Panama Canal expanded in 2016, four years ago, for the supertankers to come through, the flow of money coming into that country has just been obscene. Now, you add to that the new Cobre copper mines that have started mining the copper, the copper mines are projected over the next 40 years to actually bring in more revenue than the Panama Canal. And when you look at what’s happened in Panama since the crash of 2008, the GDP has been obscene.
In 2009 it was the lowest that it has been, all the way up until we got hit with Coronavirus, and we don’t know what it’s going to look like on the other side of that. But it was 4% in 2009, all the way up to over 9.5% over the years between 2009 and 2020.
So it’s all about the opportunity, the bottom line, the growth, projections, those types of things. And can people come there and have a career? Can they come there and start a business? Can they come there and have the tax deductions that they’re looking for? So I’ve looked at many different factors that people are looking for, and we can just check off the box on just about everything in Panama.
Theo Hicks: Okay, Evie, what is your best real estate investing advice ever?
Evie Brooks: My best real estate investing advice ever is to utilize the funds that you have in pension plans, IRAs, 401(K)’s and there’s ways to do this, in most cases, not in every case, in real estate… Having that underlying asset, especially in an international country, you’re just setting up protection for that [unintelligible [00:17:07].28] plan and those retirement funds.
I’ve never personally had an IRA or 401(K). And I know that sometimes you ask what is the best book you read recently and I’m going to tell you, it’s Who Stole my Pension? by Edward Siedle and Robert Kiyosaki. It just came out on the first of this year. And what’s happening with pensions and IRAs, 401(K)’s around the world is astounding right now, and if people really understood that, you just need to protect that money. And I have never had a 401(K) and an IRA because I’ve always been in control of my own funds, and my own retirement, and I’ve built a far greater retirement by doing this instead of putting it into a 401(K) or IRA type of structure.
Theo Hicks: Okay, are you ready for the best ever lightning round?
Evie Brooks: Okay, let’s do it.
Theo Hicks: Okay, Evie, well, you’ve already answered the first question, which is what’s your best ever book, and that was Who Stole my Pension? So the next question is, if your business were to collapse today, what would you do next?
Evie Brooks: I have two answers for that. I’ll really go and start all over in real estate again, in a realistic term. If I was just living in La La Land, I’d do what I wanted to do as a child, which was being a marine biologist.
Theo Hicks: Nice. Tell me about a deal you lost money on, maybe the most money, and then why did it happen? And then what lesson did you learn?
Evie Brooks: The deal that we lost the most money on by far was the Costa Rica deal because of the crash of 2008. No doubt about it. We lost as a group of investors, we were 506 Reg D investors, we had 63 investors, we lost over $13 million. I personally lost over $750,000 in that deal.
And the lesson that I learned was never, ever, ever to do an investment in a tourism only country. But again, I will never go to a country where vacation and tourism is the number one stream of income or the only real opportunity. Now, I said earlier that I’d love to be in a Caribbean country like Grand Cayman, but it’s tourism. That’s all they really have to offer. But I would never invest there because of that experience and having lost what we lost. And it wasn’t just the financial loss, it was the emotional stress of having to deal with that.
Theo Hicks: And do you apply that same logic to domestically as well, you won’t invest in a city that’s dominated by tourism, or is it just internationally?
Evie Brooks: You know, I’ve always thought about investing in the big cities, even downtown Atlanta, New York, places like that, and I never have, and I’m going to tell you how grateful I am right now. I’ve always been in the suburbs, because like I told you earlier, I love water. So I’m always investing where I’m on the water, like Lake Lanier in Atlanta, for example. In Florida, I was in Fort Myers, Cape Canaveral area. So I’m always going to areas where there’s water, and boy, am I thankful right now, because everybody’s racing out of the major cities to get to the suburbs right now.
Theo Hicks: Yeah. On the other end, let’s talk about your best ever deal. This could be best ever in regards to the most money or best some other way… But what’s the best ever deal you’ve done?
Evie Brooks: Absolutely, unequivocally the agricultural investments that we’re doing where you’re basically in an AG deal where you don’t have to hold the [unintelligible [00:21:01].13] personally. You’ve got somebody else doing it, you do a reverse Co-Op with a large, very renowned farming company. We are working with several of those from different areas; Colombia, Panama, Mexico, Peru… And you have the ability to get into what I’m now calling one of the greatest buzzwords of all time, which is [unintelligible [00:21:22].14] And when we stop and think about what’s happened with the Coronavirus, food was the greatest — and toilet paper… [laughs] It was the biggest demand that we saw; and you saw the shelves just empty off and people were terrified that they were not going to be able to get food. And it’s not a fad, people are going to continue to eat every day always from now on, and as the population continues to grow, there’s going to be a big demand for that.
Although it’s not as challenging and exciting, because it’s not hands-on, you forget it, you make the investment and wait for your returns from the produce production to come in. It is absolutely, in my opinion, one of the best investments that we can have, especially for that safety net that we’ve been talking about with what’s happening in our world right now.
Theo Hicks: What is the best ever way you like to give back?
Evie Brooks: I work with a number of different organizations, but I like to work with the Salvation Army and then American Breast Cancer. Also, different patriot companies that help those wounded warriors that have been hurt and cannot continue to function and have a normal life.
And then my biggest thing is I love educating; educating other people and teaching people about the real estate investment strategies and how they can actually, personally, control their financial futures through real estate if they really understand what they’re doing.
Theo Hicks: Well, on that note, what’s the best ever place to reach you to learn more about the international investing, the agricultural investing and more of the teachings that you have?
Evie Brooks: Well, if you go to eviebrookspanama.com – and there’s a little 11 minute video; if you watch that, I do offer a free one hour mentoring session with you. You have to watch that video, because we want to make sure it’s right for you and it’s right for us. And then we’ll do that one hour just to kind of evaluate, is this a path that you should take, that you need to take, that you’re ready to take? And then from there, we’ll proceed into whatever it is that you’re looking for, what your goals are.
We also do a three-day, four-night VIP tour in Panama. And that is an intensive boot camp, boots on the ground, educational program that we do. And we also discuss that in that video, and you can find out more about that there. And we do offer a one-third discount for that if you come through the video.
Theo Hicks: Perfect. Well, Best Ever listeners, just make sure you take advantage of that one hour session. So, Evie, thank you for joining us and walking us through your, in my opinion, unique investment strategy of investing in other countries, in agriculture… I’m definitely going to have to check out that video, because we’ve only been able to talk about this in 20 minutes, and I know it’s obviously a lot more in-depth than that.
But you talked about the reasons why you started investing out of the country. We talked about your first few deals. I really liked your driving for dollar strategy that you apply everywhere, but you had the Costa Rican attorney who knew the area very well, and you just got in a car and drove around looking for land, and you got a 25 acre deal, and then a one acre deal, and then the 750 acre deal through that… And then now you’re getting your deals through word of mouth, obviously.
We’ve talked about the way these deals are financed. That’s seller financing, interest only, one time a year principal paydown. And then you talked about the hidden gem being Panama. Obviously, in your website name you talk about the video about Panama, the private tour of Panama, and then your best ever advice was to leverage the IRA, 401(K) type funds and then use that to invest in real estate.
So thank you for joining us. Again, I really enjoyed this conversation. I always like talking to someone about something that’s again, unique and new, and something that I don’t know anything about. So that’s always fun.
So Best Ever listeners, as always, thank you for listening, have a best ever day and we’ll talk to you tomorrow.
Evie Brooks: Thank you so much.
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