Saturday, January 12, 2008

What My Vacation Taught Me....

We just got back from 19 days in Vietnam with a quick excursion into Cambodia. It was a great trip with lots of surprises and delights, beautiful sunsets spent on white sand beaches and excellent food.

Anyone planning to go should visit Ha Long Bay for the incredible caves and kayaking also don't miss Ho Chi Minh it's one of the most interesting culinary cities I have been to - try the street vendors if you are up for it.

After the hectic and successful year we had in 2007 it was nice to be able to take a trip like that. (Actually what I am most thankful for is a business where proven systems and an incredible team allow me to leave, come back nearly 3 weeks later and find everything going like clockwork)

As an avid traveler the writing in International Living or Conde Naste invokes countless dreams of villas in Greece or a secret beach front hideaway in Costa Rica.

This lovely write up for a $59,000 Belize beach front property makes me want to sell up now and head south,
"This little English-speaking Caribbean gem is tucked just under Mexico’s east coast behind the second-longest reef on the planet, making it an ideal scuba destination. The reef keeps the beaches smooth and inviting, and the hundreds of cayes, or islands, off the mainland are a treasure trove for explorers and island-hoppers." International Living

We spent a lot of time on the trip playing our own "International Living" game. We would pick a property, any property and give it a write up like it had never seen before.

My favorite on the 6 hour cruise we took up the Mekong River:

"Live your retirement dreams overlooking the majestic Mekong. Just steps away from the river banks, watch fisherman float by in wooden dugouts as they go to catch tonight's dinner. Spend your days in a hammock or exploring the beautiful historic town you live in...."

There are properties like that all over Vietnam but perhaps at dusk and dawn you must "Deet" yourself against the swarms of malaria carrying mosquitoes, or maybe the swell from the river deposits about 1 ton of discarded plastic onto your river bank each day.

Different seasons, different times of the day and even local festivals can turn your paradise into hades for a while. You should visit your property night and day, rainy season and dry season to make sure you are buying your dream home and not a nightmare.

For example one boutique hotel we checked into at night was gorgeous, great furnishings and a balcony that looked over a bustling street filled with cyclos and street vendors energetically selling their wares. The next morning the cacophony was unbelievable. If you know anyone who has been to Vietnam ask them about the "honking".

My point is that if you are looking at buying an international property your due diligence must go above and behind what you did for your home, back home. The romance you read in the property description may elude you at times.

International Living or another organization like it can certainly offer a wealth of information and local knowledge. But, like any investment it's important to realize what the motivation of the promoter is. Perhaps their expertise lies in the information or services to help you locate your dream property or on the other hand, perhaps they profit purely from commissions brought by inducing a sale. There's nothing wrong with that either- if you're getting what you paid for (I've never purchased a property through International Living or any other similar organization; therefore I am not endorsing nor criticizing their services) in fact this may be EXACTLY the expertise needed to get you started on your second home or new retirement home dreams.

"'ll be introduced to real estate agents who can tell you about the local market and take you to see properties currently for sale; expatriates already living in the country, who can tell you why they decided to make the move and what they like (and don't like) about their adopted homelands; bankers; economists; attorneys; businessmen..." International Living

What I learned on my vacation is one great sunset does not make an awesome investment property. You've got to come back and visit it during the off-season, festival times and see what the locals are like when you're not just a tourist spending your money... Quite often you may find that a month long holiday is enough time, you don't need to buy the ranch too.

Our next trip will take us to mainland China - I can't wait to find out what I will discover there..

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