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A British Invasion Is Coming

By Tom Dyson, publisher, The Palm Beach Letter
Tuesday, July 10, 2007

It didn't matter that we were wearing tuxedos... or that we were sipping gin and tonics in one of Britain's most exclusive clubs.

The London investment banker I was talking to liked my idea so much, he looked like he might lay out his checkbook on the antique mahogany table and cut me a check for hundreds of thousands of dollars right there on the spot...

I was in London last week for a wedding reception at Lord's Cricket Ground. Lord's is the most famous cricket stadium in the world. They call it the "home of cricket." I guess you could say it's the English equivalent of partying in the dugout at Yankee Stadium.

Anyway, while I was at this party, I bumped into an old friend, Chris. Chris used to be an investment banker, but now he's a private financier. He's had a long career in finance, and he's about to retire. We were talking about property prices and his retirement options when I mentioned the small seaside community where we live. Florida property prices are in a funk, I told him. Everyone's selling. No one's buying. Three-bedroom houses within walking distance to the beach can be bought for less than $250,000.

When Chris figured $250,000 as 125,000 pounds and compared this to the prices of his other vacation homes in Britain, he was astonished. He couldn't believe prime coastal Florida real estate had gotten so cheap. He told me he'd have to come over soon to see this for himself. Then, for the rest of the evening, whenever he saw me, Chris would slap me on the back and tell the people I was talking to how cheap the property in Florida is. "Did Tom tell you?" he'd say. "Beachfront property in Florida is selling for less than 125,000 pounds!"

Three days later, I got an e-mail from another friend in England. This friend works in the stamps and collectibles business. He said he'd heard Florida was on sale and asked if I knew any listing websites he could browse.

For years, Americans have viewed Central American countries like, Nicaragua and Costa Rica, as cheap places to buy land and retire. The dollar was strong, and land is relatively cheap down there. Well, now that the pound sells for more than $2 in the currency markets, the U.S. is now viewed as an incredibly cheap place to buy a house near the beach... especially by the British and Irish.

House prices in Britain are insane, too. Earlier this year, I read about one apartment in London that sold for $334,000... it was 77 square feet... about the size of a king-size bed... and had no heat, water, or electricity hookups. Regular people just can't afford to pay these prices. But in Florida – where there's a huge surplus of housing and prices are soggy – that money could buy you a 2,000 square foot townhouse on the beach.

Brits love America too, especially Florida. They love the theme parks, the heat, and the lifestyle. It's an easy journey, and they can take out mortgages easily. A British newspaper estimates that 1.1 million Brits already own property in Florida.

In sum, I believe there's about to be another British Invasion... of retirees and holidaymakers to Florida.

So here's the business plan I proposed to Chris: We buy a cheap beach house in Florida, fix it up with all the latest conveniences, and then go to Britain and sell our house at a large profit.

We'll target investment bankers and finance professionals in London... especially the ones near retirement. London is the undisputed king of world finance right now, and its financiers are swimming in more cash than any city has ever known. We'll set up a website and use Google to advertise the house. Make postings on Craigslist, and cold call people if we have to.

The transaction must be as easy is possible. These people don't have time for hassles. We'll help them borrow the money, show them where to shop, and have professionals answer their questions on law and tax.

I found one other website already trying to exploit this niche – it's a one-man show called "Properties Across The Pond Dot Com." But it seems pretty amateur. For a start, it's aiming at the low-end of the market selling houses for less than $100,000. And he doesn't own them. He's more like a realtor working for commissions.

In sum, with the pound selling for more than $2 and an unstoppable housing market in Europe, the British are drooling over cheap American property prices. But no one's trying to sell houses to them. If you can find a way of selling cheap U.S. real estate to Brits – before Chris gets there – you'll likely make a fortune.

Good investing,


Market Notes


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