Just about any economist or financial advisor will tell you that trying to predict currency fluctuations is a "crap shoot," but the Economy Forecast Agency (EFA) does just that. It is "specialized on long-range financial market forecasts for corporate clients" using what they claim are "reliable models for long-term forecasting crude oil prices and precious metals prices, FX rates, interbank interest rates, stock indices and some other macroeconomic indicators."
They look forward 5, 10 and 15 years using "mathematical and statistical methods of prediction based on the existing historical data." They also claim to take into account the varying degrees "cyclic recurrence, knowing correlation of market indicators, changes in the availability and attractiveness of the instrument for speculators, electronic and algorithmic trading growth, regulatory intervention degree and frequency of significant events over time."
All of that boils down to having at least some sort of reasonable outlook on things that might be relevant to us and in this case, it's currency exchange rates. Exchange rates make a huge difference when considering a purchase in a different currency than your own, because the numbers are big! Let's take a €500,000 property purchase in 2008 when the U.S. dollar to the euro was hovering around $1.50 — this is when I took advantage of the rate by taking a euro mortgage to buy a property in the U.S.! That property in France (if you're paying cash and not taking a mortgage) would have cost you $750,000. Today, if you buy that same property today, at about $1.11 to the euro, it would cost you $555,000 — a difference of $195,000! That's a big "chunk of change" when it's solely dependent on the rate of exchange.
The EFA is now predicting that the euro will go to parity with the dollar in 2020 and the dollar will gain strength against the euro in 2021. This is significant for you as potential property investors, because this means between now and 2021 is the time to buy property in euro value! Just like I bought property in the U.S. when the euro was strong, you should consider doing the same by investing in a real asset in euro. (See longforecast.com/euro-to-dollar-eur for the entire chart.)
If you're holding British sterling, then you may be in real trouble, but in any case, there is lots of uncertainty thanks to Brexit. The sterling is falling (or rising) with every shred of news regarding the possibility of a Hard Brexit. The website PoundSterlingLive.com is keeping a close watch as is everyone as the news bounces around as does the rate of exchange. (See more at poundsterlinglive.com/gbp-live-today/)
If you're taking a mortgage, then your down payment and closing costs will benefit from the healthy rate of exchange, but you can reduce your rate of exchange risk for future mortgage payments by planning ahead and working with a good currency broker, such as Moneycorp or OFX, our partners (see adrianleeds.com/french-property/currency-exchange for more information).
Currency offers new lessons to be learned for Americans who aren't used to dealing in currencies outside of the U.S. greenback. I can remember hearing travelers call French francs (now euros) "funny money" or "Monopoly money." Their view on the world was that the almighty dollar was the "only" true currency and every other simply was for play. Think again. In today's world and for people like you who are considering hedging their bets by investing in a "foreign" currency ("foreign" depends on your point of view!), understanding how currency works on the global market is essential. As with the example of purchasing a €500,000 euro property at $1.50 compared to $1.11, it can make or break the deal.
One must also understand who are your "friends" in currency conversion and who are not. Banks and currency brokers can make the exchange from one currency to another. They charge something for this service — never believe their advertising that claims "no fees" or "no commissions." This is simply not true. Financial institutions are in the business of making money and will on every transaction they can. There is a "buy rate" and a "sell rate," meaning you're either buying or selling a particular currency in the "conversion." The difference between them is the "spread" — and this is where a large portion of their revenue comes from. "Commission" is the charge added, so many services claim to be "free from commission," but the truth lies in the spread.
We find that banks generally add 3 to 5 percent whereas currency brokers will charge 1 to 3 percent. This makes a very big difference when transferring large sums of money, like you would when making a property purchase. On smaller transactions, such as credit card purchasing, the charges can incur foreign transaction fees, so be careful when traveling with a dollar or sterling-based card. However, the rate of exchange on a credit card is usually close to the current market rates and is far superior to what you’d get at a bank or a currency exchange shop when traveling.
We're going to be discussing all this during our North American Expat Financial Forum on September 18th. A representative from Moneycorp will be on hand to speak and answer your questions. If you haven't already registered and wish to attend, do it NOW as seating is limited.
P.S. If you are considering transferring currency, do it with one of our recommended partners to save about two percent on the commissions and fees! See our currency page for more information.
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