Select Highlights of the Interview with Ken Geraghty
who Gifted $4.8M in Funds to 6 Relatives for 6 EB-5 Investments
in the EB5AN Twin Lakes Rural Project
I eventually got involved in this EB5AN investment opportunity. The reason I got involved in EB-5 is because my wife is Filipina and she has a large family in the Philippines; she’s been wanting for a long time to bring them here.
Eventually, I came across Sam Silverman and his organization, spent some time discussing the situation with him. I also talked to lawyers, as I said, and one of the lawyers that I was referred to was Anahita George, who was the lawyer I eventually ended up going with. Not only was she easy to work with and available […]
To my mind, the single most important factor that matters in a real estate development like this is the track record of the developer. If they have a successful track record of doing this in the past and not once, but multiple times, that gives me great comfort that they know what they’re doing and they’re going to repeat the track record.
Everything about Twin Lakes looked very solid, and I feel confident today, based on everything I know, that that’s going to be a success. I would also say that Sam and his team were very easy to work with; they were responsive, they were patient.
Full Interview with Ken Geraghty
who Gifted $4.8M in Funds to 6 Relatives for 6 EB-5 Investments
in the EB5AN Twin Lakes Rural Project
Transcript of the Full Interview with Ken Geraghty
Why Make An EB-5 Investment?
Today, we’re going to be discussing an EB-5 investment with one of our investors, Ken Geraghty, who recently gifted $4.8 million in funds to support six EB-5 investments (each $800,000 for six different overseas relatives) into our Twin Lakes rural EB-5 project.
Hi, Sam and hello, everyone. This is Ken Geraghty. I’m from Queens, New York. I spent a good part of my life in New York City, I now live in Las Vegas. And I spent 30-plus years in the corporate world, mostly in financial roles, in financial services. I retired a while ago and then did some real estate development here in Las Vegas. I eventually got involved in this EB5AN investment opportunity. The purpose or the reason I got involved in EB-5 is because my wife is Filipina and she has a large family in the Philippines; she’s been wanting for a long time to bring them here. It’s difficult, I’m sure many of you understand, to get visas to come here. We tried a number of avenues including the fiancée visa, student visa, tourist visa, and many of them didn’t work for various reasons. Then we came across the EB-5 investment opportunity, which as I learned more and more about, it seemed to be a very good fit for our goals and research.
I talked to a number of immigration lawyers, who helped me understand better how this program works. I talked to a couple of RCs that were available for investment. Eventually, I came across Sam Silverman and his organization, spent some time discussing the situation with him. I also talked to lawyers, as I said, and one of the lawyers that I was referred to was Anahita George, who was the lawyer I eventually ended up going with. Not only was she easy to work with and available, but she herself is sponsoring her sister to come to the United States from India through the EB-5 program. And she has chosen to invest in the same project I did, the Twin Lakes rural project. So, that gave me some comfort that she was committed to the same project that I ultimately chose. I also spoke to another investor in the Twin Lakes project who was very enthusiastic about the investment; he had done due diligence on the project before I did and gave it a good review.
After we zeroed in on the Twin Lakes project and Sam Silverman’s organization, I went out to the Twin Lakes area, which is outside of Atlanta, Georgia, with my wife and a friend of mine who has experience in real estate development. We spent a day there meeting with one of the managers there. We also met with the vice president of Kolter Homes, which was supervising the development. And we toured the homes, we met a lot of the people operating the system, asked a lot of questions about the finances and the demographics and the sales procedures, et cetera, and it all seemed to fit very well.
This project was viable and had a good chance of succeeding in the next four or five years, which is the time horizon that it’s working in. Based on all that, I decided to make the investment, which as Sam noted, is different investors from the Philippines investing $800,000 in the project. The way I chose to do it was to gift the money to the investors. I had a choice of gifting or lending to the investors. If I had loaned the money to the investors, I would’ve gotten it back, but I also had to pay interest on the income that the loans would’ve generated. The investors didn’t really have the ability to repay that money, so I would’ve paid taxes on the money and never gotten it back. Gifting it was a tax-free transaction; I already had the money up in a trust with my wife’s family.
It worked out well in terms of providing the resources. I’ll mention, by the way, that another factor that influenced my decision to go with Twin Lakes is that Kolter Homes is an established developer; it has a long track record in the Southeast, high chances of meeting its targets with this project. Talking specifically about the Twin Lakes project, what I liked about it was the demographics, their marketing this to the 55-plus adult community. Many of the buyers are lawyers, doctors, or other affluent people who have the resources to make this investment. Typically, they’re downsizing their homes from other parts of the country. It seemed like that would not be affected much by potential economic downturns.
I like the rural set-aside category because it’s favored by the USCIS and may result in a faster route to getting a visa to come here. If that’s true, that is a real plus. I like the fact that Sam has already locked in all the jobs. I saw the economist’s report on the job creation, and we’ve already satisfied the government requirements for job creation for each investor. And so, that risk has been minimized, the risk of not being able to achieve that. So, on balance, everything about Twin Lakes looked very solid, and I feel confident today, based on everything I know, that that’s going to be a success. I would also say that Sam and his team were very easy to work with; they were responsive, they were patient. That also made me feel good about working with this team, that I could get help whenever I needed it.
As I mentioned earlier, I’m very pleased with the attorney we’re using, Anahita. Sam had recommended her among others, and I’ve had a great success working with her. She’s extremely responsive; she goes above and beyond with suggestions that I hadn’t considered. So, she made it a very simple process. I’ll mention that the hardest part of this process was documenting the sources of the funding, which is a very tedious task. In my case, I had to go way back in history to find documents, tax returns, financial state brokerage statements, employment records; a lot of data had to be produced. Anahita and I had to go find the documents, and that took a while. But once I had them all together, the whole application process took a little over a month, I would say. And now we’ve made the investment, we filed the applications with USCIS, and we’re just waiting for a response to those.
I haven’t changed my opinion, I think the EB-5 program is probably one of the best ways to get a visa and a Green Card to the US, when we go through the documentation steps and if you get comfortable with the investment opportunity. That summarizes my view.
Selecting An Immigration Attorney
I would say Anahita is extremely approachable. With other attorneys, I go through their secretaries and they are very formal and cumbersome. They should least answer the phone. I have Anahita’s cell number; she answers the phone any time of day or night. She is extremely easy to reach, always willing to help. She just seemed much less formal than some of the other attorneys I was talking to, and I liked that style. I thought it would work well with me and I think it was a differentiator of how Anahita works versus the other lawyers I talked to.
Well, Anahita has told me she’s done 500 of these applications and never had one denied, so that was a very comforting fact that I learned. Also, as I mentioned earlier, Anahita is sponsoring her own sister, her younger sister who lives in India to come here on an EB-5 visa program. So, she’s got a personal stake in this and Anahita has selected the Twin Lakes investment project as the vehicle for her sister. So, she’s personally invested in the same project I am, which made me feel very comfortable with that, and she has done her own due diligence on the project. All those factors combined, they made me feel very good about working with Anahita.
Why Did You Choose EB5AN’s Twin Lakes Rural Project?
I touched on a couple of these in my discussion, but I’ll go back and go into a little more depth. To my mind, the single most important factor that matters in a real estate development like this is the track record of the developer. If they have a successful track record of doing this in the past and not once, but multiple times, that gives me great comfort that they know what they’re doing and they’re going to repeat the track record. Kolter Homes has a long track record in the Southeast of developing residential real estate like the Twin Lakes projects. Given that track record, I felt that they would be an excellent source of investment and would produce the results I was looking for. That’s the number one.
Number two, as I mentioned, is the demographics. The people they’re selling to are people who I think will be able to manage through this possible recession we’re looking at, if there is one, and continue to buy homes. I don’t think that a recession would disrupt that as it might other real estate developments in some other parts of the country. The Southeast is a prospering and growing area; people are moving there, and the doctors and lawyers who are buying into the Twin Lakes project should be able to keep doing that in almost any economic scenario. That helps. It’s in the Southeast of Atlanta, where there is a growing population, and people are moving there to the Sun Belt to hire.
I didn’t mention this, but I’ve been there and I toured the whole facility, and it’s a very attractive facility. I have a little bit of knowledge of retirement communities: my mother lived in one for many years and I spent a lot of time with her. I understand how they work, and this community is among the best I’ve seen. It’s nicer than the one my mother was in. This is a pretty community and, I think, backed with clientele. Those are some of my thoughts on why this particular investment is a good one.
Of course, the Bay Area is probably a prime example of an area that is risky. People are migrating out of the Bay Area, people are migrating toward Atlanta. So you’ve got an exodus of talented people—the tech communities are now leaving the Bay Area because housing costs are so high and because people who work remotely don’t need to be in the Bay Area to work for their companies. We think the Bay Area is probably one of the areas you want to avoid in terms of risk profile if you’re looking for a place that’s going to survive under any economic scenario.
As you alluded to earlier, I have experience in real estate development. I’m not a huge developer, but I’ve done some work, and all the work I’ve done has been in single-family home construction. I was in the more luxury end of the market here in Las Vegas, but still, I was building single-family homes. I understand the dynamics and the demographics and the marketing and the timeframe it takes to build and sell those. I felt I could relate closely to the Twin Lakes project because it approximates what I’ve done myself. You were able to arrange for the vice president of Kolter Homes to meet us at the Twin Lakes project, the guy who supervises not only the Twin Lakes project, but a number of other Kolter projects in the Southeast. He has an extensive background in real estate, and he explained to us both his philosophy and his strategy and how Kolter is managing this. It all held together and made sense to me. It felt that this big guy was in charge—track record, developer—so everything really added up. It just seemed like a very positive opportunity.
Well, it wasn’t easy to find those. As far as I know, there weren’t that many. Maybe I missed some, but I didn’t find too many. I did discuss other projects and did some research, but I chose Twin Lakes because, as I said, I liked the track record of the developer, Kolter Homes. To me, that’s the number one priority: having a developer with an extensive and successful track record, and they had it. Like I said, all the things that I liked: the demographics, the geographic location. I did look at a few other projects, but I didn’t spend a lot of time on them because each of them had a drawback or two that didn’t appeal to me. So, once I zeroed them out and decided they weren’t the right ones, I came across Twin Lakes. I spent a lot of time looking at it and couldn’t find any reason not to invest in it: everything added up correctly. It’s a good investment, as far as I’m concerned.
For the same reasons we already touched on, but some of the other projects were in geographies I didn’t think were attractive locations—like the Bay Area, for example. In other projects, the developer did not have the kind of track record that Kolter has. Either I hadn’t even heard of them or they had not been in business that long. Whereas Kolter’s been in business a long time and has very successful record. The key points I was looking for were demographics, geography, and track record. They struck out on one or more of those points, but Twin Lakes checked all the boxes. That’s why I didn’t go with the others and why I ended up going with Kolter.
Obviously, rising interest rates are not a positive sign for real estate development. Real estate likes to have fixed and low-cost financing. I would think that it’s going to be hard for projects that don’t have their financing lined up in today’s environment to be completed. I’d say that would be a risk factor if I were going into an EB-5 investment. Now, in Kolter’s case, again, because of their substantial size, they should have an easier time arranging financing. They also have the ability, in my opinion, to raise prices in their development if necessary, to compensate for higher interest rates; the demographic they’re selling to is somewhat new to interest rates and recessions. The people who they’re selling to are generally selling a home somewhere else in the country and downsizing and using the money from the sale of that home to buy their home. I think half the sales or so at Twin Lakes are all cash.
So, buyers don’t need to take out a mortgage—many of them are not seeking out mortgages—rising interest rates don’t directly affect them. As you say, they have the ability to pay a little more if they have to raise prices to compensate for any financial surprises that may come along. I think they have a resilient project in terms of what they’re selling to, and I’m less concerned that it’ll be adversely affected by rising interest rates.
I gave a lot of thought to that question because I don’t know if there’s going to be recession or not. I think there’s a pretty good chance there will be, but there may not be. But I have to be prepared that there will be, not just in my Twin Lakes decision, in all my investing, I worry about what a recession will do, and I think if a recession occurs, it probably will have some effect on Twin Lakes—partly because the people who are buying the homes may have a harder time selling their primary home somewhere else in the country right now. That could delay their ability to move into Twin Lakes, and that could slow down sales, so that could lengthen the time it takes to complete this project.
But again, I think that Kolter, given their size and history, has the ability to withstand that. If the project slowed down, I believe Kolter could manage their way through that fairly successfully, lower their profit a little bit and take longer to close out the project. But I do think they could get through it. That was a factor. About a recession: I think it is a risk. It’s probably the biggest risk, I would say, that Twin Lakes faces, but it’s no bigger a risk than any other project has. I do believe Kolter will be able to survive if that happens.
Concluding Advice For Investors
I’d say the biggest surprise to me was how much documentation you need. Our application consisted of almost 4,000 pages per investor of documents, mostly consisting of tax returns, brokerage statements, employment records, genealogy like birth certificates, marriage certificates, et cetera. An awful lot of documentation, and that takes time. Going back and digging all that up is not easy, and then you’ve got to reconcile. Anahita may look at it and say, well, I don’t understand how this happened or that happened. I have to go explain it and further document it, and that was burden on me, not on the six investors. Now if the investor and the applicant are the same, then that person will have that burden.
In my case, it fell on me, not so much on the individual family members who were applying, and it took a lot of time to get that together. I was not unaware of that; I was warned it was going to take a lot of time. I can confirm it does take a lot of time. Anahita is very meticulous, she makes sure that she can explain every single document, every single transfer, she can trace the history of the funds from, in my case, they started back in 2008. So 15 years or so I had to go back to document everything, and Anahita made sure everything held together. That’s the biggest single issue, I would say. Now the other point I’d make is there’s a lot of uncertainty as to when we’re going to hear back now that we’ve done the application.
Nobody seems to really know how long this process takes. There’s no guidelines, and the rural projects are supposed to be given an advantage over other projects, so maybe we’ll hear sooner. But we really don’t know. It’s hard for me to plan for when the investors are going to come here, for instance, for issues like housing. I try to work on housing for them, but I have no idea when they’re coming. So that’s a little bit of an unknown. But I’m not surprised because when we work with the US government, there’s not a lot of certainty to how fast they’ll respond. So we’re just waiting right now to see what happens next.