Looking for a House and Office In A New Country - Caleb Jones

As most of you already know, in January of 2021 I am finally moving out of the Collapsing USA for good. My current plan is to live in my primary home in either Australia or New Zealand for six months, then be in Hong Kong for approximately three months, then spend approximately three months in the USA, all under a five flags model where I will not be affected (as much as normal residents) by the laws or taxes of any of these three nations.

I just got back from a two week trip where I:

– Took a long look at homes in two cities in Australia: Gold Coast and Brisbane.

– Took a long look at office space and a few apartments in Hong Kong.

In this article I will cover my methodology in terms of what I’m looking for, how I’m conducing my search, and what I found.

Criteria for My New Home

In terms of my primary home (six months a year), this is what I’m looking for, listed in no particular order:

  • Tolerable, mild climate, with not a lot of rain. I live in the Pacific Northwest USA where it rains almost all year long and I can’t stand it anymore.
  • Low humidity. Warm weather is fine. Warm weather + humidity is unacceptable.
  • Low crime.
  • Low pollution, quality environment.
  • Quiet, relaxed vibe. This is because I’ll be spending three months a year in crazy Hong Kong where I will be plenty stimulated.
  • A nice view. This is because my current home in the USA has a fantastic, breathtaking view of the Columbia Gorge and I don’t want to give that up. This new home has spoiled me!
  • Nearby water, either a river, lake, or ocean, ideally clearly visible from my back yard.
  • An actual detached house; no apartments, condos, or flats. Since Pink Firefly and I will be in apartments the rest of the year (Hong Kong and the US), we really want a house for our home base.
  • 4-5 bedrooms. That would be a master bedroom, an office for me, an office for PF, a guest room for visiting family (both parents and grown children), and a fitness room / media room.
  • Two separate kitchen areas. This is to maintain my OLTR marriage logistics for minimum drama, as I explained here.

To conform to five flags, I can not own this home. I must rent it. This is because I can’t have any assets in the primary country where I live (my Country A). If I own the home, I’ll be subject to their laws and taxes. No thank you.

I’ll simply purchase rental real estate elsewhere (likely Cambodia or Thailand, perhaps even the USA in the short term), pay for it in cash out of my investments, and have the rental income from this pay the rent of my Australia home. Pretty much the same thing as having a paid-off house.

A fantastic thing about living in Australia is the weakness of the Australian dollar as compared to the US dollar. AUD is worth about 30% less than USD. Australia jacks up their prices to adjust for some of this, but with rental real estate, that’s not really the case.

That means that $3000 rent in Australia only costs me around $2100 in US dollars. Pretty damn awesome. Since my income is in American dollars (which is the way I want it, at least for now) I can get into a much bigger house in Australia for much less money. Yet another benefit of five flags; benefiting currency differences and geoarbitrage rather than getting screwed by them like everyone else.

It’s true the American dollar is doomed long-term as America slides towards collapse, but in the short and medium term, the US dollar will actually do very well, as I’ve discussed on this blog before. During the next worldwide recession, most counties will, very stupidly, flock to the US dollar, jacking up its value.

It’s also true that I incur a possible risk if the Australian dollar increases in value, but Australia is due for a huge real estate collapse soon. That will be great for me, an American who isn’t an Australian citizen and who rents Australia real estate in US dollars that come from outside Australia.

It’s pure win all over the place.

Gold Coast

Gold Coast is Australia’s version of Miami. It’s a beautiful beach with nice apartment high-rises. The people are very chill (as always in Australia) and the women are very hot, far better than Melbourne or Brisbane and on-par, or perhaps even a little better than Sydney.

Gold Coast also has lots of man-made mini-rivers and canals so that most of the homes there actually have water right in their backyards, which is very neat.

The problem is the houses there look very odd. They’re built in a squat, ugly, angular style, and they look old, even the nicer, more expensive ones. If I wanted to get an apartment in Gold Coast, I’d be sold. But I want a house, so I was forced to pass.

If you drive about 30 minutes north, there’s an area called Hope Island where the homes are more expensive but are also more normal-looking. One of them I toured is the picture for this blog article. These homes are much better, and most of them have the water-in-the-backyard.

I really like this area. I will revisit it later this year, this time with Pink Firefly with me, to confirm we both like the area.

Brisbane

Brisbane (pronounced “briz-bin”; say it right or you’ll look weird!) is Australia’s third largest city behind Sydney and Melbourne, sporting about 2.4 million people, roughly the size of my hometown of Portland. It’s just under an hour’s drive north of Gold Coast.

For some reason, I figured Brisbane would be a boring city, but was wrong. The buildings are very new, clean, and modern. There’s plenty of activity there and there’s lots to do (though there is no beach). I was very, very impressed.

I didn’t have time to actually get out of the city and tour the neighborhoods, but when PF and I return later this year, we’ll do the necessary research and go look at some homes we like in some of the more quiet neighborhoods.

Living in Brisbane would be preferable to living in Gold Coast since A) the homes look more normal and B) travel will be much easier. There are very few international flights in and out of Gold Coast’s tiny airport, but with Brisbane’s airport it’s no problem at all. It’s also a surprisingly good airport; Australia has definitely upped their infrastructure game in the past five years. Good for them.

In the next installment in this five flags series, I will describe what I did in Hong Kong, analyzing apartments, office space, and even long-term stay hotels for when I start spending three months a year there.

More to come.

17 Comments on “Looking for a House and Office In A New Country

  1. Great article.
    Do you have a methodology for someone still trying to figure out where to live? That is, how do you analyze a location to determine if you want to live there? I know a lot of it is personal preference, but it is hard to know a place after walking around for a week.

    Do you go to supermarkets? Do you go to any local events? Talk to expats? What places are essential to visit? Hot do you analyze medical care? Internet bandwidth? stuff like that…

  2. Do you have a methodology for someone still trying to figure out where to live? That is, how do you analyze a location to determine if you want to live there? I know a lot of it is personal preference, but it is hard to know a place after walking around for a week.

    So much of it is personal preference I doubt my advice would have any meaning for you.

    Do you go to supermarkets?

    Oh yes.

    Do you go to any local events?

    Yes.

    Talk to expats?

    Yes, but that’s not always an option.

    What places are essential to visit?

    Varies per location.

    Hot do you analyze medical care?

    The internet.

    Internet bandwidth?

    Whip out your phone and your laptop in multiple locations, run speed tests, and make some notes.

    And what happens to the properties you rent while you’re elsewhere?

    Property, not properties. The only property I will rent 12 months out of the year will be my primary home in Australia. All the rest I will only rent as needed.

    As I’ve discussed before, I will have to ensure that my overall tax savings is more than the amount of wasted rent (which it should be).

  3. Caleb, around how many years from today are we talking about regarding “short”, “medium”, and “long” term value of the US Dollar?

  4. BD, glad to hear you are going to Australia man. Love to see you whenever you are free.

    I’ll be doing more seminars there soon.

    Are you leaning towards Australia over nz?

    At the moment, yes. Easier travel (Australia is closer to everything) and none of this 15% sales tax on everything stuff. But I still really like NZ.

    Caleb, around how many years from today are we talking about regarding “short”, “medium”, and “long” term value of the US Dollar?

    I don’t know. I’d already be a billionaire if I did. My wild guess (that could be totally off) is that 2-10 short/medium is years and long is 10+ years.

    As always, I have no idea when things are going to happen, I just know they will eventually happen.

  5. How are you going to spend 5+ months in AUS or NZ without a long term visa (which would make you a tax resident)?

  6. Gooday Caleb – good to hear you are heading back this way for more seminars as I missed the February one, I was on holidays with a mate for his 50th, booked quite some time ago.

    No worries regarding flights out of the Gold Coast, just use the airtrain from anywhere down to halfway along the strip (Varsity Lakes) to to Brisbane airport
    https://www.airtrain.com.au/
    This line also runs through the CBD so living on the coast and heading into the city is not a major though it is an hour 20 minute trip from the end of the Gold Coast line into town, probably not something you would want to do every day.
    I’ve not visited for a couple of years (resident in Perth) but the traffic could be pretty ordinary in peak times, train being a better option if you are near a line or live on the Brisbane river and use the ferries. Check the flood maps though……

    No doubt you already know but the humidity can be pretty high in summer but that is when you would be in HK and the USA?

    The property thing, well, probably but from my reading of the situation a big fall in capital values and rents is more likely to affect Sydney and Melbourne as they have had the big increases in value in the last 5 to 10 years. They are also Australia’s largest property markets so receive most of the media commentary and analysis. I have a rental property in suburban Brisbane and it has not changed in capital values for 10+ years and the rent has barely kept pace with inflation. Which of course is not to say it can’t decrease in value or rent! That is entirely possible especially if the Australian/Brisbane economy slows down and unemployment starts to increase, which may be starting to happen already as it appears Australia is already in a per-capita recession. Won’t worry me much so long as it is not vacant as its cashflow is fine. Oversupplied markets like Fortitude Valley and possibly Gold Coast apartments I would be very surprised if they did not suffer quite badly in the next few years or so. Decent housing which you are looking for in Brisbane/Gold Coast? Maybe not so much but I totally agree with you that the exchange rate will very much be in your favour for the foreseeable future anyway.

    Thanks for your content, I am enjoying and benefiting from it very much, working though your book now and hope to see you at a seminar in Oz in the not too distant future.

  7. New Zealand probably offers the best value with the $US. I live in Brisbane. If you want to live high up somewhere with a view and also near the water, it’ll be expensive. We do have a new airport runway that’s almost finished. Public transport infrastructure with bus and trains isn’t great, as it’s very spread out. You’d need a car to get around.

    There’s nice houses on the Gold Coast, but they cost several million the closer they are to the beach or water. There’s a couple gated estates in GC, which Bris doesn’t have. Forget about Sydney and Melbourne, as their property markets are fucked and while Melbourne is a nicer looking city, its weather is shit.

  8. No doubt you already know but the humidity can be pretty high in summer but that is when you would be in HK and the USA?

    Depends on what you mean by “summer.” I’ll probably be there during my summer, Jun-Aug, which means there will be no humidity.

    The property thing, well, probably but from my reading of the situation a big fall in capital values and rents is more likely to affect Sydney and Melbourne as they have had the big increases in value in the last 5 to 10 years. They are also Australia’s largest property markets so receive most of the media commentary and analysis. I have a rental property in suburban Brisbane and it has not changed in capital values for 10+ years and the rent has barely kept pace with inflation.

    Very interesting. I wasn’t aware of this. Good info.

  9. How are you going to spend 5+ months in AUS or NZ without a long term visa (which would make you a tax resident)?

    1. You are not a tax resident if you stay less than 182 days per year. I will only be there 181 days per year or less.

    2. 6-month visas for Americans are very easy to get for either of those countries.

  10. To conform to five flags, I can not own this home. I must rent it. This is because I can’t have any assets in the primary country where I live (my Country A). If I own the home, I’ll be subject to their laws and taxes. No thank you.

    I take it this is specific to Americans because you’re subject to US taxes anyway. Correct? The way I see it people from other countries would seek to be subject to the primary country for tax purposes if they are advantageous.

  11. I take it this is specific to Americans because you’re subject to US taxes anyway. Correct? The way I see it people from other countries would seek to be subject to the primary country for tax purposes if they are advantageous.

    No. Taxes is a factor for that decision but not the primary motivation. If you own property where you live, your risk increases as does that country’s authority over you. The goal is to not have any one country have too much leverage over your life. John McAfee thought his home in Belize was advantageous tax-wise… until the government seized it.

  12. Glad you enjoyed Brisbane and the GC. GC is heaven for you with the Blonde big boob curvy girl look you love. Brisbane is a bit less but still pretty good.

    When you come back with PFF we’d be happy to drive you around and show you some of the places you might want to see. Local knowledge might help a bit for you to scope things out a bit better. Having followed you for many years now I do think Brisbane or the hinterland of GC would suit you better than the GC. But there are lots of options all with very different characteristics within 30 min drive of each other around here. However, I think you should really check out Noosa on the Sunshine Coast or Byron 1 hour south of the GC. Both are like the GC but way more upper class and much fewer people. They would probably suit your style more.

    Noosa is where all the rich from Sydney and Melbourne have their holiday beach houses. Byron is 1 hour south of the GC. That’s where Chris Hemsworth is and a few other Hollywood elites. It’s breathtaking and much better than the GC but very small and elite plus lots of hippies haha. Heaps of celebs and extremely wealthy go there because it’s so unique, similar to Noosa. People with a $100m+ net worth you would find in Noosa or Byron not Brisbane or the GC.

  13. When you come back with PFF we’d be happy to drive you around and show you some of the places you might want to see.

    Very cool. I might take you up on that.

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