Work Provide Housing House Hacking with Sorcha Coyle:

Today we talk about a very unique style of house hacking abroad. It is one where your employer or your work provides you with housing. Now you might think that this is rare, but it is a more common occurrence than we think. It was briefly mentioned in last week’s episode with David Pere when he mentioned he gets a $3,100 a month housing allowance while stationed in San Diego. For season one of the show, we will have three case studies on this style.  We want to make you aware of this style of house hacking, so you can potentially build it into your career plans. Now let’s give you a quick overview of today’s guest.

Meet Sorcha: Two house hacks. Two separate countries. Sorcha has been living as an expat in the Middle East for over 8 years. The whole time her work provided her housing or with a housing allowance.  in the Middle East. Through house hacking, Sorcha has been able to generate more income, save (over 100,000 Euros), and travel to nearly every place on her bucket list.

Book Mentioned in this Episode

03/20/2023 02:10 pm GMT

Notable Mentions:

TES – Times Education Supplement
Foreign Earned Income Tax Law
Millionaire Expat by Andrew Hallam

How to get in touch with today’s guest:

Sorcha’s Website:

Transcript of the show:

Intro: 00:03 Across the world. People have their housing costs taking away as much as half of their income. Have you ever thought of trying to change that? The good news is there is a way house hacking is real and we are here to show you how other people just like you have made it happen. Welcome to the house hacking podcast and here is your host house hacking expert. Andrew Kerr.

Andrew Kerr: 00:29 Well Sorcha thanks for coming on. I’m really excited that you’re here. How are you doing and what are you doing right now in life?

Sorcha: 00:35 Hi there. Andrew thank you so much and at the moment, well, greetings from Dubai. I’m calling you. It’s our first day back at school. I’ve just had a week half term and I’ve just come back from my travels in Vietnam and just starting back the weather’s getting cooler and yeah, getting now on the rundown to our next countdown into our next holiday.

Andrew Kerr: 00:58 Oh cool. So I’m actually in the States it’s a Sunday, but in Dubai if I remember right, your typical work week is Sunday through Thursday. Right. And then Friday and Saturday is the day off.

Sorcha: 01:09 Absolutely. Yes. Yes. It takes a while to get used to that weekend.
Andrew Kerr: 01:13 Yeah. Yeah. Well thank you for doing the call at the end of your long work day and in your evening. So I really appreciate that. All right, so let’s just start off. Can you give me a high level summary of your story? Cause I think it’s really fascinating and it’s not this like typical house hacking story that we normally hear where you know, you get roommates or you buy this multifamily property and live in one side and rent the other. So yeah, just give us a summary of this, uh, of your story.

Sorcha: 01:38 Yeah, of course. So I have been an expert teacher for the last eight years and we’re quite lucky as expat teachers as part of our package, we are given either free school accommodation or an annual rental allowance. And I spent four years in Qatar and in that time and now in my current stint in the UAE, I have managed to use that allowance rent well below the allowance, which has allowed me to save a lot more money each month.

Andrew Kerr: 02:09 Cool. And then where’s Qatar? So for folks that are maybe are in the U S there are not, not familiar with their world geography

Sorcha: 02:17 of course. So you’ve got the middle East, but we would call it more specifically the Gulf. So you’ve got countries like Saudi, a United Arab Emirates, the UAE where I’m currently now you’ve got Qatar Bahrain, Oman and Kuwait. So the probably the countries where you get a lot of your oil from. Oil and natural gas. So they’re quite wealthy countries. And the first language is Arabic and quite interestingly, they’ve got a huge number of English speaking skills, quite a lot of American and British international schools. So they Americans or African Irish teachers every year.

Andrew Kerr: 02:51 Okay, cool. Yeah, my wife and I were actually in the Middle East back in April and we stopped in both on our way in and way out in Doha.

Sorcha: 02:59 Oh fantastic. Yeah, I spent four fantastic years there. Really, really enjoyed it. But I have to be honest, I hadn’t heard of it until I got a job there. I had never heard of that country. But yeah, I ended up moving there.

Andrew Kerr: 03:11 Well though, the only way we knew about it was from their airlines, which are just phenomenal. So we wanted to fly the airline. We were like, all right, well let’s stop in Doha. And then the um, museum of Islamic art was phenomenal. And then going into the Souk, I think I’m pronouncing that right, was just, Oh, it was so amazing. We really love the country and I’d love to go back. So let’s really dig in. Like how’d you end up traveling abroad? You said you’ve been doing this about eight years. What started the idea, where were you at in life and why did you decided to make this change?

Sorcha: 03:44 Yeah. So I finished my degree in Ireland and I decided to go and train in the UK because the UK is a really good education system. It’s very well-renowned. But also I was quite lucky in the sense that my degree subjects were actually in demand and in the UK so they offered me a bursary or a grunt to go and train in the UK. So I actually got my teaching qualification for nothing. And I also was able to use their grants to live off for the year. So pay my rent in the UK so I trained in the UK and then I worked there for a year after and I worked in a place called Southend on Sea, which is just outside London. So I was paying London rent, but I didn’t know, didn’t unfortunate, didn’t quantify for any kind of special allowance. So I was probably spending well over 50% of my salary on rent and I was enjoying it, but I really wasn’t, I couldn’t, didn’t have enough money to go traveling and the school was fantastic, but there is a lot of emphasis on paperwork. I was spending my evenings, weekends, planning, lessons, marking, etcetera, and I just felt that I really wanted to travel. I just come back and I’ve been traveling in South America and I just really wanted a job where I could still teach, but also travel and also save. And that’s when I started exploring and the world of expat teaching.

Andrew Kerr: 05:02 Oh, awesome. Yeah. And I’ve got to say, you know, if you’re spending 50% of your income on rent, like it’s hard enough to get by doing that, let alone to do fun stuff like travel or go even go out for drinks with friends and everything.

Sorcha: 05:14 Absolutely. And I say I use, even if you were a housemate, I wasn’t even living on my own, but I just, we’re just on the fringe, the cusp of London. It was a very popular commuter time. Um, so the rent was extortionate.

Andrew Kerr: 05:26 Yeah. All right. So here you are. You’re paying high, you know, almost 50% of your money on this high, sort of high cost to rent and living. You’re deciding to go do something differently. How old were you roughly at this time?

Sorcha: 05:39 I was 24, or 25

Andrew Kerr: 05:41 okay. And now how’d you decide on ex-pat teaching? Like did, did you know anyone that had done this before or where’d you actually learn about it?

Sorcha: 05:50 So I didn’t actually really know anyone who taught abroad. My aunt had been a nurse abroad, she’d in Saudi and Oman and the United Arab Emirates and in the 70s and 80s. So if I was, I had a relation who had been abroad. So I wasn’t afraid that there’s a lot of misconceptions about the middle East and the Gulf. But I knew that a lot of them weren’t true cause my aunt and I had a wonderful time. So I basically went on TES which is a times education supplement. It’s like a, a website in the UK. And I looked to international jobs and I sort of just looked at the different countries I wanted somewhere that wasn’t too far away. So as soon as my six, seven hour plane ride home. Yeah. And, but also want that ideally tax free salary, which is the Gulf offers tax free salary, paid accommodation or rent allowance. And I applied for maybe a few different posts and I managed to get at least about three or four jobs and, and then when I got the contracts I was able to read their contracts and compare and see which one was the best worked out the best for me.

Andrew Kerr: 06:57 Yeah. All right. So you use that uh, time education supplement website to find them. You’ve got multiple different contracts and offers. So were they all from the same country, different countries?

Sorcha: 07:09 I had one from Qatar and I think, I think the rest were from the United Arab Emirates.

Andrew Kerr: 07:13 Okay. And what, why, why did you decide specifically on the one with Qatar.

Sorcha: 07:18 and initially probably financially, um, I, it packages a lot better Qatar. I was up and coming at the time. It really needed to attract teachers. People that had never heard of it, people thought it was like an extension of Saudi Arabia that was very strict, very conservative, which it isn’t. And I really liked the head teachers. That was the main reason when I did the interviews, they really had a really great vision for the school. They were interested and Qatar they, you know, they PR, they gave such extra wonderful care, you know, they met you at the airport, they give you a SIM card, they give you half your wages in advance so you could, you know, they organize a trip to go to the furniture store. They organized, you know, they really took care of you. So based on that I decided I would go with Qatar mainly for the owes the money initially, but then also was for the ethos of the school.

Andrew Kerr: 08:05 Yeah. I mean that sounds pretty amazing. We’re like, if you’re going to a country you’ve never been to let alone heard of before and here they are like greeting you at the airport, helping you find the place to live, giving you the a lucrative package with including housing, helping you take a trip to the furniture store. I mean there’s, I imagine if if you’re moving, that’s gotta make it about as easy as it can be while still moving to another country.

Sorcha: 08:27 We’re so lucky as expat teachers because it is expected that your, your flights are paid for. So all I had to do was wait for the emails to send me my tickets. Um, and then they, they should meet you really ideally when you land as well. So we’re quite lucky in that sense. I know not every job abroad has that same treatment, but as teachers we’re quite lucky, they tend to take good care of us?

Andrew Kerr: 08:51 Yeah. That’s great. So I know you’d mentioned your aunt had done some traveling nurse work before back in the seventies and eighties but how’d your family actually react to you? Saying like, okay great, I’ve got this contract, I’m leaving bye. You know, was there any hesitation or resistance there?

Sorcha: 09:08 No, I’m quite lucky. My parents, they met in the UK so they, they travel quite a lot. So no, but I do think if I had, if my aunts hadn’t been abroad, they probably would’ve been more worried. But they knew that she loved it and they knew that it wasn’t as it has always portrayed in the media and you know, and I think cause only they saw that I could have financial security because that’s actually a big factor as well. And if I want you to come back to teaching Ireland, it’s very hard to get a permanent teaching contract. People tend to work for like two, three years on like, you know, supply salaries, maternity covers, which means you actually don’t have a permanent contracts, you can’t get a mortgage. So when my parents said was job security, I was getting that. I was being taken great care off. They meet me at the airport, they saw pictures, even times, pictures of my apartment where I’d be living in Qatar. So I could show my family and friends where I’d be living. These are the sea. Two bedrooms, brand new, modern. They were so that they were excited for me. So they were we want you to come visit as well.

Andrew Kerr: 10:12 Yeah, that’s great. So do they end up coming and visit when you were there?

Sorcha: 10:16 They did, yeah. And the absolutely that you have that there yet, they were presently surprised. I think people would, when they first arrived to think it’s going to be so strict and, but it’s not at all. It was really, really open and ended up there, but it’s very hot. That took a while to get used to. But when we arrived at the end of August, it was just about, you know, 45 degrees and the heat hits you in the face when you come out of the airport, like a hairdryer and full blast in your face. So that was a shock.

Andrew Kerr: 10:43 All right. So you were there for years and they had sort of the best package. Did they give you a stipend for housing or was the apartment provided and they just paid for it?

Sorcha: 10:53 Yep. So and in, which is quite common in schools. So initially I had to take the apartment for the first year because, which I feel makes sense because it takes awhile for your visa to be processed. So that means you can’t go and get rent yourself, why these is being processed. So my first year I had to leave live in the school accommodation, but it was a brand new two bedroom, ultra modern, clean, beautiful apartment. And I also, we all had apartment blocks. I’m on the same block, but you know in different floors. So we had an agent, he had a community, a support network around us. There was a pool, there was a J in a mall, so that was pretty fantastic. So I had to live live there for the first year, but in the second year I was able to then take the allowance, which is what I did.

Andrew Kerr: 11:43 Yeah. So you had the two bedroom. Did you actually have to share that with someone else or was the two bedroom all to yourself?

Sorcha: 11:49 Oh, for myself, yeah.

Andrew Kerr: 11:50 Okay. That’s pretty awesome. Now normally when I think of like, Oh they’re going to provide you housing. It’s like some small tiny little studio apartment, like bare bones. But you’re saying this like had everything in it, the gym and the pool and you had two bedrooms. So like you have room for a guest if family and friends want to come visit, that’s pretty cool.

Sorcha: 12:07 They could have probably could have rented a room at the time. I didn’t because visitors coming, but that would be a possibility possibly.

Andrew Kerr: 12:13 All right. So you went from spending half of your income in the UK to now having a salary and all of your housing paid for. How did the salaries actually compare from your, your salary in the U K to there, in that Qatar? Was it equivalent? Little, less, little more?

Sorcha: 12:32 Um, I would say probably after tax, probably double my salary after tax in the UK. Oh wow. Yeah, it was amazing.

Andrew Kerr: 12:43 When you were in Qatar, were you gone enough and I don’t know, British and UK tax laws very well. Did you actually have to pay any tax back in Ireland or the UK for the income that you earned?

Sorcha: 12:56 No. And I, because it’s a tax free country, I don’t have to pay tax in Ireland because I was out of the country long enough. I was out of the country for four years. Yeah. So I didn’t have to pay any tax.

Andrew Kerr: 13:09 Oh, that’s wonderful. Yeah. In the U S they had that same thing. If you’re gone for the, I think it’s 11 months out of a 12 month period, you don’t have to pay tax on that foreign earned income. So, okay. I mean this, this situation is, it sounds like even better and better. It’s like I was living in a good neighborhood but had a commute, 50% of my income and now I’m going and I’m living in this brand new modern two bedroom place by myself that had all the amenities and I’m getting paid more money and I don’t have to pay tax. I mean that, that sounds like a pretty amazing situation.

Sorcha: 13:39 And even better in that first year is what bills are included. So I didn’t pay any bills that was all included. So there was no, I didn’t pay electricity, I just paid internet. That was it.

Andrew Kerr: 13:49 Oh my goodness. Yeah. That’s a pretty good situation. So what’d you do with this extra, like newfound money? Is this, you know, did you use it to buy property back home? Did you use it to travel? Did you use it to just go out a lot more when you couldn’t before?

Sorcha: 14:03 So what I did was, um, I’ve always been quite a good saver, so I sort of calculated everything that I was earning. I thought, you know, this is, it’s more money than I ever imagined I’d be earning in my life at 25 years of age as a teacher. We’re not traditionally highly paid or anything. So I am, I decided then I wanted to save a hundred thousand in euros before I turned 30, so I needed 5000 euros each year. So that was my aim and I actually managed to do, at the time I was 29 so it took me about four years. Yeah. So I did. So I sent it to my big trips. I went on Safari. I did lots of bucket list trips that I couldn’t have done had I been back in UK. So I did it, went in Safari. I went to the great wall of China.

Sorcha: 14:46 Um, so I always traveled every holiday, but I made sure I balanced everything out. So I would, I’d have a budget, I would only buy so much, you know, groceries, I’m not into designer labels. So, you know, cause sometimes people get caught up in that lifestyle where it’s like branded goods and everything. Because my apartment was furnished, I didn’t have to buy any furniture and I used to always work in the summers in summer school and to save extra and cash as well, and so I traveled and then I just saved. And then by the end of my four years in category to a hundred thousand years saved and I was able to buy a four bed property in my 10 in Ireland because it was at the end of the recession. I mean it was a huge economic recession in Ireland while I was in Qatar. And that really spurred me on to save even more because my family were affected by the recession and I just signed, I never want to be in a position where I’m worrying about money. I never want be in a position where I don’t have my own property, you know, I could ever be, you know, put out a home. So then I bought that at a four bed old bed and semi detached in my tone and I’m quite lucky. It’s always been rented out ever since. I bought that in cash.

Andrew Kerr: 15:56 You spent four years, you saved a hundred thousand euros and then you also traveled in like did Safari went to go see the great wall of China. Like that sounds

Sorcha: 16:09 Went to Peru, Machu Picchu, Sri Lanka, Nepal

Andrew Kerr: 16:12 That is so cool that you’re able to do all of that. And then you went and bought a property in your hometown for cash so you didn’t even have to worry about the mortgage,

Sorcha: 16:20 you know? So it was perfect. And I also then had enough bench to do the masters. I did a master’s after my time in Qatar.

Andrew Kerr: 16:26 Oh my goodness. Yeah. So okay. It just keeps getting, the longer we talk the better and better gets. It’s like bought the property, cash traveled all over the world and was able to pay for the masters from it. Yeah, that is awesome. Okay, so you’ve got this four bedroom place back in Ireland. When you bought it, was it originally you plan to have it as like the home that you could always go back to or was it purely I’m going to buy it as a investment property and always have it rented out?

Sorcha: 16:51 I think it was an issue with my heart. Um, and it was the fact that I always wanted, even if everything turned upside down when I was abroad, I’d always have a home to go back to. Yeah. So that’s why I bought, I probably was thinking more in my heart. In hindsight, as I look back, I probably would have bought now thinking more logically, I probably would have bought two apartments. I think we’ve made a better investment, but at the time, I mean, it is what it is. I can’t, hindsight’s a wonderful thing, but I, you know, I was able to then that is quite a good source of monthly and income for me. So initially I did go, I bought it just in case to always have a Maryland to have a place to live.

Andrew Kerr: 17:32 Yeah. That’s pretty cool to always have that place to go lay your head when you need it. And you know you, you can always go home and since it’s, you bought it with cash, it’s a place that’s paid off. So you just have to worry about taxes and insurance and those things. And in the meantime maybe if you’re in between teaching contracts or want to take a little bit of a break, you’ve got this income that’s coming in.

Sorcha: 17:50 Yeah, exactly. And that’s then when I did the masters I had that coming in. But I also actually took a job teaching in the UK when I was doing master’s as well cause I didn’t want to dip into my savings. So it’s all, for me it’s always about balance. I’m always aiming to make sure I balance everything.

Andrew Kerr: 18:06 Yeah, that is amazing. All right, so you’re wrapping up the four years in Qatar. What’d you, you went back to the UK, did your masters and now we obviously know you’re in Dubai. You mentioned you were calling in from Dubai. So how’d you go from finishing your masters to going back to Dubai? Did you try to live in the UK for a little while and, and say like, Hey, you know, this just isn’t good enough. I’m going to go back. I want, I want the other lifestyle.

Sorcha: 18:29 That’s exactly what happened to me. So I spent four amazing years in Qatar and I actually was able to even ramp up my savings towards the end in Qatar because after my first year I, the school accommodation, they let me get the rent allowance in the second year. So in the second, third and fourth year I took the rent allowance. And then the second year I actually lived in the same apartment, moved in with a friend from school. And then I got a monthly rent allowance. I spent half on the rent and the other half I could just save.

Andrew Kerr: 19:01 Oh, so you even saved money off of the rental allowance that you’re-

Sorcha: 19:03 yeah, and after my first year I was able to, yeah. And so that was amazing. And I did that for two year, two year three and then in year four they rechanged the accommodation. So I took the allowance and I actually took a lease out on a three bed property and then I got housemates in and they paid a bit extra. So I paid a bit less rent from my room.

Andrew Kerr: 19:26 Oh my goodness. So w w so that fourth year U S they were still giving you the, the housing allowance or stipend. So what was the total rent on that three bedroom place that you found?

Sorcha: 19:38 And it was 15 thousand Dirham, which I’m trying to convert now and tell you in dollars. It was pre month, it was a four thousand in dollars. Okay. Yeah. And so then I think my housemates’ probably spent, I think they paid, maybe it’d be $100 extra each. So I paid maybe 200 or $300 less. From my room. Yup.

Andrew Kerr: 20:05 So that between the money they were giving you and then the stipend that you had, your housing costs was still completely essentially free that fourth year.

Sorcha: 20:14 Oh yeah. Well, I would have like, exactly. So my rent allowance at the time was 9,000 Qatari Riyal, which was almost two and a half thousand dollars. Okay. Yeah. But I had money saved. Yeah.

Andrew Kerr: 20:27 Oh my goodness. Yeah, that’s really cool. So you, you left there, you finished your masters, did you, where’d you go next after that?

Sorcha: 20:36 Okay, so I did my masters in London. So, um, I always wanted my bucket list. I want to do a masters and I wanted to live in London. So I combined the two and applied to Kings college London and went there. I had an amazing year, actually loved it. And I have to say London has a special place in my heart. I would go back there in a heartbeat, but only if I am like wealthy. It’s such a great city, but not if you’re like watching your pennies or you know, in a lower paid, you know, a lower paid job. And so went back, eh, I love being home. It was a great year. I turned 30 that year. I had weddings, lots of birthday parties for my friends who turned 30. So it was perfect. I could fly home to Ireland, you know, every weekend. But I did miss ex-pat living. I missed the sun, I missed not paying rent. I missed having that good work life balance. And so I knew by the time Christmas came, so I was, I was back there for like, you know, by September, October, November, December I thought I’m ready to go back to the Gulf. I’m ready to go back Middle East or go back to Ex Pat, like I’m not ready to come back yet to, to the UK. And so I started applying for jobs and from the January, December, January onwards, and because I’d been abroad for those four years, I had a much better idea of what, what I wanted. I knew what I wanted in a package. I knew I wanted like a school that had had a rent allowance. I didn’t want school accommodation because I knew I could save more off the ranch allowance. So I’d certainly like things for certain factors to consider when I was looking for jobs.

Andrew Kerr: 22:10 And then how long now have you been back in Dubai?

Sorcha: 22:13 And I had been back, now this is my fourth academic year here. I hadn’t expected to be here so long. I find it difficult my first year. So it’s quite a big city and it can be quite anonymous. It’s not, it hasn’t got the same ex-pat community that Qatar had. Yeah, it’s much, much bigger. So that I find initially quite difficult to get used to. But that also actually influenced my property choices because when I rented I made sure for the first two places, so I, first of all my school gave me a rent allowance and I got offered so many different contracts in my, in my time and I was looking for jobs. I got offers from Senegal, from a school in Singapore, Shanghai, Oman, Qatar again and then Dubai. But what I always did was I’d always look at the contract to see what kind of rent allowance they’re offering me.

Sorcha: 23:03 And then I go on websites like expatisan or numbeo, and I checked the cost of living and I’d see is what they’re offering me. Is that enough for a one bed in a nice part of town? Or if I had contacts there, I knew ex-pat teachers were there, I’d say they’re on the grind, you know, I’d say, is this, is this a decent demand for rent allowance is the norm. And then they would let you know, let me know yes or no, and then I either accept or turn down the job depending on that. And so when I find a job that I love that suited me, um, and then also had a rent allowance. So then I moved here like four years ago and my first year I actually got a hotel apartment, which brilliant. That was everything created. It’s fully furnished and all buildings were included.

Andrew Kerr: 23:50 Oh yeah. And, and what was that rent and how much was your stipend per month?

Sorcha: 23:54 Yeah, so my rent allowance in total, including bills. It is 83 thousand Dirham, which for the year is about $22,600. And from that I spent $20,000

Andrew Kerr: 24:11 so you’re actually all right, so you are getting 22,600 you’re living in a really nice place where everything’s included in it’s costing about 20,000 so you’re actually pocketing $2,600.

Sorcha: 24:22 Hmm. So in that first year I pocketed less than I am doing now. But because the rent was higher, I guess I probably didn’t know, I couldn’t negotiate a bit more. Um, but then as time went on, so then for example, my second year I lived with a friend and we again rented another hotel apartment. But because we were spitting it into, and another thing I did was I only took a ten one contract because once the place is fully furnished, I actually don’t need to stay there over the summer cause I don’t have any furniture. So that was something we did. Yeah. So I always negotiate it to get a shorter contract and then use three and four. What I’ve done is rent properties have come down lots in Dubai, which is a really amazing, and I find if you pay in one check, so rather than giving them three or four checks, he say a paid all at once. They usually give you a decent discount because they’re happy to have a tenant in for 10 months.

Andrew Kerr: 25:16 And was it hard to negotiate a 10 month lease versus a 12 month?

Sorcha: 25:21 No, at the moment there’s a lot of empty properties in Dubai, so they’re quite, land lords are usually quite happy to have people in.

Andrew Kerr: 25:29 And then what did you do for the other two months? Did you, did you go back home? Did you travel? What, what were you doing?

Sorcha: 25:35 Yeah, well we’re very lucky and in the summer we get two months off. So what I did was I honestly, I haven’t met many things. I’m trying to lead more of a minimalistic lifestyle. So am I. I packed what I could in like a few boxes in a big case. And I actually acted in my, in my classrooms stool cupboard who had a huge store cupboard that’s empty, you know, during the summer because everyone’s gone. So I left stuff in there and I went home for the summer and I always worked in a summer school for July. So I actually, I have another job in July back in the UK. So I don’t really touch my July salary at all. My July salary we get paid holidays here. Okay. So I didn’t really to touch my summer salary, I just live off the UK salary that I get from the summer school.

Andrew Kerr: 26:19 So you’re saving even more money. Yeah. And then, I mean it just sounds like this is a really amazing situation where like you’re saving money on the stipend when you were by yourself, you’re saving even more when you have the roommate, plus you’re having the salary. And then in Dubai, was your income tax free as well?

Sorcha: 26:36 Yes. It’s still tax free. Yeah, I mean that’s amazing.

Andrew Kerr: 26:39 It sounds like a really, really cool situation to be in. You’re getting tax free money, really healthy salary, great place to live. You get to be part of this expat community so, you know, you’ve been there for years now. Um, I had also heard that you had bought a property in Spain at some point during, during this time. Can you talk about that a little?

Sorcha: 26:57 Of course. So in my paired year, so last year I still a little bit unsure about Dubai and I thought, you know what, maybe it’s time to go back to Europe and I love the sun, so I know I don’t want to go back to Ireland. So I decided to do, go buy a property in Spain because it’s near Ireland. I can fly back to my family, but it’s also I want to live on a beach, um, and I want to, I speak some Spanish, so I wanted to go somewhere where I can speak Spanish. And so I bought a property at three bed apartment and in a beautiful town called Denia. And it’s very funny, I, how I discovered it, I was, I sort of got in, put a post in Facebook. I said, you know, hi Facebook friends, I’m thinking about buying in Spain. Any suggestions? And people just got in touch with me and any private messages and you know, give me some suggestions and I researched a bit and I find any Denia and it’s funny ever since now I bought my property. I actually find there’s a lot of like people who are like, you know, maybe house hackers or people who’ve retired early or Americans who want a cheaper place to live, they actually go there. So it’s quite funny. Then I said, Oh well you know it’s actually quite popular to expats. So I bought a three bed property there if for 70,000 euros about a year and a half ago and it’s got a big balcony, a big terrace. It’s about a seven minute walk from the beach and Marina yet it’s really, yeah.

Andrew Kerr: 28:19 And did you buy the property cash or were you able to get a mortgage for it?

Sorcha: 28:23 Am I, what I did was I had savings, I half saved and then I took a half loan here for the other half and then paid it off as quick as I could.

Andrew Kerr: 28:32 W was it hard to get? I’m a loan for the other half because you were living abroad and didn’t have any local income in the EU.

Sorcha: 28:40 I actually took a loan from UAE, a bank in the UAE, in Dubai.

Andrew Kerr: 28:45 Oh, so did they put a lien against the property or they said, Hey, we know you’re working here, we’ll just give you the loan. And

Sorcha: 28:51 exactly. Once you go to contract and you have to get a letter from your employers web. Okay. So it that shows that your employer plans to keep you because yeah, we do work in a year to your contract and that’s something I would say to people to be very careful. You know, some people take huge loans. My loans are about 35,000 euros, which is quite manageable to pay back. But ex-pats can get into trouble if they take huge mortgages here and buy at home and then maybe they lose their job here, you can end up in jail. So I’d be very careful about taking those.

Andrew Kerr: 29:23 Yeah. Yeah. But it sounds like you were really smart of like I paid for half of it was savings and then the other half was really small and manageable where you can pay it back pretty quickly.

Sorcha: 29:32 Exactly. And I’d saving. Yeah, exactly. Yeah.

Andrew Kerr: 29:36 Yeah. That’s a, I mean it sounds like you’ve had these really cool eight years as an expat teacher, so what’s coming next for you? What are you planning on doing?

Sorcha: 29:44 So, eh, well I’m still in Dubai. I’m surprising I hadn’t expected to be here so long and I’m really enjoying it. I definitely settled in a lot more and I also have like a, an online community of ex pat teachers called impairing ex pat teachers and I kind of work on that. It’s like a forum where teachers can ask each other questions. And I also have, I also do like a CBN cover letter sort of services as well. So I’m hoping to expand that side and my business in the future. I still have lots of pieces on my bucket list. I haven’t been to Jordan yet, I haven’t seen Petra, I haven’t been to Australia or New Zealand yet. So I’m making my way to the countries as I go along. But yeah, I have to say the feeling now, I’m not as much in a rush to go back as I previously was, so I don’t think I’d be going back. I said maybe two more years in to Dubai, but I just come back, like I said, from Vietnam and I really was impressed with Ho Chi Minh City and that sort of made me think twice about my plan to go home in the next few years. So I’m just, I’m still like researching other places. There’s still lots of amazing places and the factories in Asia are actually probably at the moment, probably a bit more attractive than some places in the Gulf.

Andrew Kerr: 31:06 Oh, so, so you think you’ll just go and take another teaching package in Asia so you can spend more, more time there?

Sorcha: 31:12 Possibly either that or go back to Europe.

Andrew Kerr: 31:15 Okay Yeah. Well it sounds like you’re in a pretty good position though. Like you, you’ve got now two rental properties, one back in Ireland, one in Spain. You’ve been saving quite a bit of money while also still traveling all around the world and knocking bucket lists all off your item. That’s amazing. Um, also be sure for anyone listening we’re going to put, um, the website she mentioned in the show notes, that way folks can, uh, find them. Um, and we’ll, we’ll have that up on the website, uh, just after this episode airs. So, you know, a couple of, I guess maybe three questions for you to sort of wrap up that this brief section is, you know, thinking back through this eight year period where you’re living abroad and getting free housing, you know, what do you feel like your biggest success was from, from that time period?

Sorcha: 31:56 I would say probably this year is probably my best year. And in terms of house hacking, I again, it’s learned experience in the long you are here. The more tips and tricks you pick up at this year, I’ve actually saved just under $8,000 and my rent allowance Oh my goodness. It’s the most I’ve ever saved. It is thanks to apartment rent price is going down. But, um, I did things like I got a studio instead of a one bed, so I made sure rent a studio and I also got a fully furnished studio because again, I’m not sure how long I’m going to be here, so it’s great to have outdoor brick saying a furniture. And I negotiated, so said, you know, I said what kind of a ten month contract? And because I knew I’d sort of like the upper hand in terms of, you know, there’s a lot of empty property.

Sorcha: 32:46 I was able to negotiate to get a decent, a decent discount on my rent and I made sure that bills were included. So based on that, I, I’m just thinking about $7,900 on my rent allowance , which I’m really, really happy with. I hadn’t, it’s gone up steadily every year, but this year has been the best, I think so far. Yeah. Yeah. So that was, that’s amazing because like, you know, not only am I getting free rent, I’m actually saving it as well. And I do have to say, I say to everyone all the time, people think it can’t be done. It really can. I live in a really nice area of Dubai. I haven’t compromised on very live. I want to live in somewhere nice and have a lot of expats, slows my good friends live around me. It’s like a coffee shops. It’s got bars, it’s got lakes. You can walk around little pathways like it’s, you know what I mean? I still have had, it’s so beautiful, but it’s exactly, I don’t compromise.

Andrew Kerr: 33:41 Yeah, that, that’s great that you compare both of those. All right, so then what do you feel your biggest challenge was or is there anything looking back at the past, past eight years that if you could go back and change it or do it differently that you would you

Sorcha: 33:53 I wouldn’t change anything I’ve done, absolutely not. I’ve enjoyed every second of it. I would say probably in terms of, I’m very proud of my achievements and what I’ve done, but probably in hindsight, in terms of my properties that I bought with my savings, I probably, I probably feel a little bit more with my heart and my head. Ah, yeah. Yeah. And in hindsight I probably would have felt more in turn, I said get rental income, but I, you know, instead of a four bed house, I probably would have bought two apartments for example. And the place in Spain, it’s fantastic and I love it because it’s where I want, you know, I’d like to eventually, because my circumstances and plans have changed. And at the moment, I’m sure you’ve heard of Brexit.

Sorcha: 34:36 The property market in Spain is so slow at the moment because at all the expats are afraid to do anything because it is those British ex-pats in Spain of, because they don’t show up what’s going to happen. They’re not actually going to Spain to rent for the winter. So that’s been, yeah, it’s been hard to rent it out. Yeah. So that’s, but it do, I bought in cash so it’s not past to me, it’s not, I don’t have to worry about it, but in terms of that, I probably would have bought another apartment in our end in hindsight. So probably I would have thought a bit more, but my head than my heart. Yeah.

Andrew Kerr: 35:07 And then would you do it all over again?

Sorcha: 35:10 Yeah, absolutely.

Andrew Kerr: 35:11 And it sounds like you’re, you’re also thinking about doing it again in Asia.

Sorcha: 35:15 Yeah. Yeah. I go through periods where I think maybe I should go back home. I really should do this. But a good friend of mine, she has a web, she writes amazing blog posts and she said, when I, when people ask her, when do you plan to go home? Oh, when did you plan to leave your current ex-pat location? She says, when it stops making me happy and I think that’s what I’m going to start thinking of, rather than like, Oh, maybe I should do this because X, Y, Z date or convention or whatever it’s now, I think, you know, I will leave it when I’m no longer happy. Yeah. Rather than, you know, constantly saying, Oh, one more year one more year. So that’s my new mantra.

Andrew Kerr: 35:51 Awesome. Well thank you so much for being on the show, but before we let you go, I like to ask all of our guests this set of final six questions, the rapid fire questions that we like to call the final six or the fast six. Are you ready for it?
Sorcha: 36:04 Yes I am.

Andrew Kerr: 36:09 Awesome. So what is your favorite personal finance blog or book that you’ve read recently
Sorcha: 36:16 Millionaire Expat by Andrew Hallam.

Andrew Kerr: 36:18 Oh, okay. I, I’ll, I’ll, I’ll put that in the show notes for everyone. That, that’s definitely a good one. And then, you know, when you bought these two properties, did you do any real estate related reading? If so, you know, what’s your favorite real estate related blog or book that you’ve read?
Sorcha: 36:33 Sadly, I discovered this after I bought my properties, but I now I relived the bigger pockets and their book on rented property investment.

Andrew Kerr: 36:41 So do you find it actually translates pretty well to, to the, uh, EU and UK where I know from at least my perspective being here in the U S it feels like it’s very North America heavy. Um, do you find that there’s good like sub forums and a lot of that knowledge translates, uh, to, to different countries?

Sorcha: 37:00 Yeah, I think it does. I think it gives you sort of like alternatives to take, right. That I wouldn’t have thought about before myself because I haven’t really found very many that are more like European or Irish centered. So it does make me think and also maybe interested in maybe possibly getting into investing in the American property market maybe in the future. Oh, very cool. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.

Andrew Kerr: 37:24 All right. So moving on to, uh, number three, what’s been your favorite travel destination you’ve been to so far?

Sorcha: 37:31 Only because I was there yesterday. Vietnam. Absolutely amazing. I suppressed all my expectations.

Andrew Kerr: 37:38 Awesome. And then what’s next on your travel list to your, or since you just got back, are you thinking of the next place you want to go to?

Sorcha: 37:45 Yes. At the end of November. I’ve got a long weekend and I’m thinking, eh, to go to Jordan and to go Dead Sea and Petra.

Andrew Kerr: 37:52 Yeah, my wife and I, when we did our middle East trip, it was a Qatar, Egypt and Jordan and we did a dead sea resort. We went down to Wadi rum and then of course we did Petro like, and when we are in Wadi rum, we stayed in one of those bubble dome tents. That was clear. So at night you could see all the stars. It was amazing. And then in Petra we spent three days there. It was so beautiful. I mean it was just, it’s amazing you’ll, you’ll have a good time if you go.

Sorcha: 38:16 Yes, I can’t wait.

Andrew Kerr: 38:18 Yup. All right, and then what is the biggest bucket list item that you haven’t accomplished yet?

Sorcha: 38:24 I really want to achieve financial independence in the next two years or so? So I’m on the way, but I’m not quite there yet.

Andrew Kerr: 38:34 Cool. You think you’re maybe two years away?

Sorcha: 38:36 Yes, I think so. Yeah.

Andrew Kerr: 38:40 Even if you’re off by a year and it’s three years, that’s still pretty cool that you’re only like two to three years away from it.

Sorcha: 38:47 That’s true. The custom in Europe is very low. Easy. That helps.

Andrew Kerr: 38:50 It helps. All right. And then number six is, do you have a favorite life hack you’d like to share with us?

Sorcha: 38:56 These probably life hack probably happened by accident, but I, this is terrible. I’m like my thirties and I still haven’t gotten my full driving license yet and that has been, actually, people don’t join us, but actually I think I probably manage to save lots by not having a car. And so like carpooling or taking, I think I probably saved tons.

Andrew Kerr: 39:21 Oh yeah. Well don’t feel so bad. My, my wife is in her thirties as well, and she has yet to get her driver’s license.

Sorcha: 39:29 Oh, I’m not the only one.

Andrew Kerr: 39:31 She always just grew up in big cities. Right. So, you know, uh, in the U S she grew up in Minneapolis and then went to school in Boston. And you know, there’s public transportation, you can walk everywhere and now we’re in New Orleans. Same thing. There’s a street car, there’s public transportation, especially as Uber has gotten bigger, you know, the few times that she does need to go somewhere where there isn’t public transportation, you’re, you’re Uber. So I would say the same thing. She’s probably saved quite a bit of not having to worry about a car or an insurance and all that fun stuff. So.

Sorcha: 39:57 Exactly. Yeah. Yeah.

Andrew Kerr: 39:59 Awesome. Well thank you again for being on the show. We really, really appreciate it. I mean, your story was just, it’s incredible. The fact that over this eight year period you are able to save so much money. You’re able to buy properties in two different countries and not make a sacrifice, live in really cool places and travel on the all around the world. So thank you again for being on the show. We really appreciate it.

Sorcha: 40:19 No, thank you, Andrew. I enjoyed every minute of it.

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