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How to Become a Property Investor from Abroad

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Julie Talbot
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If you're looking for a unique way to earn income online while living anywhere in the world, this one is for you. In this article, you'll learn how to grow a property portfolio IN your home country whilst you are OUTSIDE of your home country.

Do you LOVE property? Do you believe in the magic of earning an income from a rental property? But do you think…

“Growing a property portfolio is something I’ll do when I’m back in my home country” or “I can’t possibly buy a rental property in my home country whilst I’m overseas" or… “I don’t want to fly back and forwards there all the time to oversee a property purchase”

Well, that’s what I believed for my first 7 years living in Abu Dhabi.  It’s what I told myself.  

It was my absolute reality.

a woman walking in the sand at sunset with the buildings of abu dhabi in the background
The views from my previous home abroad, Abu Dhabi.

How I Became a Real Estate Investor

Then, one day in 2016, our life turned upside down.  We got the call that every expat and overseas worker dreads.  The unexpected call to say that a close relative in the UK (our home country) is ill.  

In that call, our life turned upside down.  The next few months saw us fly between Abu Dhabi and the UK multiple times and then spontaneously on a 5-day visit there decided that the children and I should stay in the UK for 8 months. 

Our costs soared.

I had to stop my usual virtual work because being solo in the UK with young children I quite simply didn’t have time for it. But, the income from a couple of single lets that we’d bought before we moved overseas still came in every month.  And contributed towards our living costs whilst our life was in chaos.  

That was the jolt that made me ask…“Why have I not focused on creating MORE income like that?

And it was because of all these assumptions that I’d made.  Because I’d told myself real estate investing couldn’t work for our lifestyle.  

So, I flipped my thinking and started to think how CAN I buy more properties like this? Changing my thinking was the game-changer.  

As we returned to our life overseas I was committed to growing my income from property investment. I resigned from my virtual job. BUT my first problem was I didn’t have the capital available at that time to buy a property.  

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Offering My Expertise to Investors

I had a love of property.  An interest in it.  I knew what type of properties made good rental properties, I knew what areas to buy in.  I realized that where I lived there were a lot of people who had the opposite skills as me.  

I could find the right property and set it up for long-term success and they had the capital to start investing in the housing market. They had a desire to have an income from property in the UK.  However, they had no time to do it.  Either because of a day job, a busy life, or just a lack of interest.

This was the perfect workaround for me, and I'm sure plenty like me. By working with investors, I could build my portfolio, hone my skills, and test out this job from abroad, all without needing to having cash flow to make the initial investment.

So, I started to offer my services to them.  Basically offering to use my knowledge and time as a service provider to grow their property portfolio. In exchange for a fee of course.  This business plan was a win-win!  

I grew property portfolios for a few other people and got paid for it. Doing that allowed me to figure out ways of organizing everything virtually, creating a kind of machine that allowed me to do it all while being completely location-independent and without flying back to the UK!  

It meant I could be spending time on UK property, whilst I was outside of the UK, earning an income from this whilst I worked towards getting the capital to fund my own purchases.

a woman working on her computer on the patio, turning back to look at the camera
Now my office is where ever I make it!

The Steps to Become a Successful Real Estate Investor

How can you do this if you want to do the same?

Step 1. Set Yourself up Mentally

Firstly, ask yourself:

  • Do I have an interest in property in my home country?
  • Do I have a bit of time to dedicate to doing this?

If you answered “yes” to both of those then that is the first hurdle.  This could be the perfect job for you.  

The first two steps to becoming a real estate investor today are:

  1. Believe that it is possible.  If you think you can, or think you can’t you are right! As expats, we know mindset is key. It's no different for your job as it is for your lifestyle.    
  2. Get out there, ask around.  Kind of like “I’m thinking about growing a property portfolio in <country> whilst I’m not there.”  Share your passion for property.  See who starts having conversations with you.  This will help you validate if there is demand and get a better understanding of your local market. This will give you confidence.  

Then once you’ve decided this is the path for you, it’s time to make some choices.  

Step 2. Choose How You'll View and Oversee Your Investment Properties

You need to find a way of:

  • Choosing an area of focus
  • Finding the ideal investment property
  • Viewing that property
  • Overseeing the work of buying it
  • Getting it ready as a rental property

To get those five items checked off and done without you needing to step foot back in your home country, you have some options. Choose a way that suits you best. You can either:

  • Systemize / organize a way to do it yourself (this is what I do)
  • Share resources or partner with someone, either as business partners or as your property manager

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Step 3. Focus on the type of real estate you'll create income from

There are many ways to create rental income:

  • family houses
  • student accommodation
  • vacation rental homes
  • social housing
  • commercial real estate

Do some research. Choose one approach that you want to focus on.  Then become an expert on it.  Learn all you can about it from reading and listening to experts.  This will be the model that you focus on and repeat until you master it.  

Step 4. Have a clear WHY

Is it for time freedom, location freedom or financial freedom? Or is it something else?

Understanding WHY you want to create this income will keep you focused and will help you make the right choices on how you want to do things. 

For me I was doing it for time freedom, so I didn’t want to have to fly back to the UK to make this happen. And I didn’t want my phone to ring. So I had to find solutions to make it stay like that. You can find the solutions to make it work for you, based on how want to live your life, you just need to find them.

Step 5. Create your roadmap to profit

This is kind of like packing your cabin bag before you set off on a flight. Only rather than taking a book, a phone, your passport, an emergency credit card, the things you need to “have” in your bag are more intangible — like being aware of what knowledge gaps you have, knowing who you need to have on speed dial, and things like that. 

Admiting you have things to learn isn't a weakness, it's actually a strength. Learn from other people's expertise and do your due diligence when getting your business set up and throughout your journey. It can be a challenging business but, with this attitude, you'll be well on the road to success.

Other things to bear in mind:

  • You need to be able to solve problems.  Not let problems stop you.  It’s like painting with your hands behind your back.  There will be challenges but if you think “How can I…” rather than “Oh no, its gone wrong I’ll have to stop…” each time that happens, you will keep moving forward.
  • Make it your mission to be more knowledgeable about the real estate market in the country where you want to buy than someone on the ground there.  It is possible! 
  • Be aware of regulation or compliance in the country where you are buying and what entity you need to be.  To offer this service for real estate in the UK, for example, you’re classed as an Estate Agent in the eyes of the tax authorities and as such there are some items to comply to with from the tax authorities and from the data commissioners office. 

a brand new white kitchen at a rental property in the UK
A peak into one of my new rental properties

The Lifestyle of Remote Real Estate Investors

If you have a genuine interest and passion for property you can make this work as a digital nomad just as I have. With so many digital nomads working as freelance writers, Pinterest managers, or podcast managers, it's been fun doing something a bit outside of the box.

And, if you do, you have the freedom to be able to create an income from wherever you want to be in the world. You are free to roam!

Having spent a few years setting up how I wanted to do this whilst living in Abu Dhabi and buying property in the UK, we left Abu Dhabi in 2022 to travel the world and carry on growing portfolios for ourselves and a few other investors.  

I don’t have any special skills or talents.  I just have a love for UK housing market.  I have a system and I’m repeating it.  

It has become the perfect “job” as a stay-at-home expat mum (now digital nomad mum) that gives me time and location freedom.

 If you’re interested in finding out more about how to get started with real estate investing, download this handy PDF detailing three things to get in place for anyone wanting to do the same.

Or there is a 60-minute pre-recorded workshop available explaining the system I use to get property viewings organised without flying back to the UK.  Although it is UK specific the same principles could be used for viewing property anywhere in the world though.  The cost of this workshop is £47, which is much cheaper than a flight back to the UK!

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