Work Abroad but earn in USD

Monday, February 28, 2005

The World Does Not End At The US Border

After reflecting a little more about my inability to get mortgage loans, I think the problem does not lie with the banking industry, but with US culture as a whole. After coming back to the USA from an international trip recently, I noticed something a bit strange. I felt more informed about the happenings of the world when I was outside the country traveling than when I was at home.

As someone who usually devotes at least 30 minutes a day to the news when he’s at home, I felt this to be a little odd at first. There was, in fact, a good reason. When traveling, I watch the BBC in the hotel (usually the only English channel) and read an international newspaper.

The coverage of foreign news on the BBC is just so much better than on any of the US 24-hour news channels. It seems the only time foreign countries make news in the US is either when we are bombing them, when they are threatening us, or when there is some kind of horror going on inside the country (disaster, genocide, etc). When was the last time CNN covered an election in a foreign country (besides the Iraq election, which goes under the “we’re still bombing them” category). Maybe they announce the results the day after, but that’s about all the coverage you get. No analysis.

The BBC on the other hand, will cover the sides, the issues, the election day itself, and have guests who can provide reasonable analysis after. Look at the BBC webpage vs the CNN webpage. CNN has one little menu for “World” which has 3 stories listed. On the BBC web page, they have so much foreign news they have to sub-divide it by continent.

So, what’s the effect of all this? US citizens have no idea what’s going on outside their own country, we have little interest in geography and foreign travel (only 20% of us own passports, and the majority of the country can’t even make an international phone call), and we see no reason to learn foreign languages. The net effect is that as a whole, we are not good world citizens. Obviously if you’re from the USA reading this webpage, you’re included in the 1-3% of the US population to whom these statements don’t apply.

Nevertheless, as a culture, we don’t take an interest in the world outside our borders. Its too bad. We’d be a better people if we did. And maybe banks would offer foreign mortgages too!

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International Mortgage Loans… The USA Is Way Behind

For those of us moving abroad who don’t have a huge amount of cash to spend on a house or apartment, the next idea is usually to look for a loan. Unfortunately, in Argentina, the banks have little interest in loaning to their own citizens, let alone foreign nationals. The only real choice for expatriates moving to Argentina is to get a loan from your home country.

If you go to Google and type in “international loan” or “international mortgage” you will come up with a ton of options for UK expatriates. You get whole lot of nothing for the US market. I don’t remember the exact figure, but I do recall there being something like 2-3 million Americans living abroad. I wonder then why no banks in the USA are willing to lend to expatriates to buy foreign properties? It seems the market is big enough. I’d be willing to accept a 10% interest rate abroad. I understand it would be a higher risk loan for the bank.

Still, you get nothing at all when it comes to foreign mortgage loans. Its really annoying, since it’ll limit me to renting until I can save up the funds to pay cash for a nice house or apartment. At least the low cost of living will help me with the saving part. If I was going to be living in the US and had pay 100% cash to buy a place, I’d probably be saving for 15 years. Maybe it’ll take 4-5 years of saving in Argentina.

If there’s a banker out there who wants to rake in the dough with a high interest loan, feel free to contact me. I wouldn’t think of ever paying 10% on a mortgage loan in the USA, but I will pay it to get a loan for a property in Argentina. I have perfect credit and I’ve never missed a payment in my life. I imagine many expatriates are in the same boat as I am – good credit, enough savings to make a very large down payment, but not enough cash to buy a place outright. Maybe someone out there knows someone who wants to make some money on expatriate loans. If so, please let me know so I can send them some business.


Friday, February 04, 2005

The Shipping Quotes Arrive

I received the various quotes back from the moving companies. After a free in-home survey from one of them, my apartment came out to 16 square meters in volume and 3400 lbs. I would be lying if I said I understood why they quote you the volume using metric and the weight using the English system. Anyway, I took that quote and shopped it around to several international movers. Here are the results:

As you can see, the quotes are not even in the same ballpark. I tried contacting UniTrans Int'l to try and find out why their quote came in so much lower than all the others. I asked for their local Argentina partner and also a question about their packing policies. They were the only carrier who did not include "packing" or "packing materials" at the source. All other providers included all packing, crating, and packing materials. I wanted to ensure that this quote wouldn't jump another $4,000 after they came to the apartment and packed up my things. My sales rep never got back to me. I checked with the Better Business Bureau and found that this is a new company – only been operating since 2003. So, I decided not to pursue it.

In the end it was all a moot point anyway, since we decided to sell all our belongings before the move. But here you have three providers, their contact info, and the quotes they gave me. I hope this info will help some of you with your move.