Wendy Howarter

Wendy Howarter was an attorney for 23 years until she decided there must be more to life than 60-hour work weeks and 10 days of vacation every year… to say nothing of looking beyond the many feet of snow and ice she had to shovel every year living in Illinois… So she left it all behind and retired (very!) young. After a lot of research and selling everything they could, Wendy and her husband Darren moved from northern Illinois to Medellín, Colombia, in 2014. She has now reinvented herself as a real estate investment guru and freelance writer and photographer who loves sharing her new home and new discoveries (in Colombia and beyond) with the world. At this time of retrospection, Wendy adds, “I can truly say that this adventure has turned out better than I ever expected…”

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What Fees And Transaction Costs Go Into Buying Real Estate?

Woman looking for house on real estate market website

Before you roll your eyes and yawn, I fully understand that an article about transaction costs is not enticing. However, if you want to buy property overseas, you need to understand the associated costs before you fall in love with the perfect place in a foreign country.

Many people looking to buy foreign real estate get swept up in the dream of owning property overseas—a beachfront retirement, a mountain escape rental property, a European second home. But their musings rarely extend beyond asking, “How much is the purchase price?”

While the purchase price is one of the most important factors in this equation, the value of your financial commitment depends upon a myriad of other expenses that can vary tremendously from country to country.

Without further ado, drumroll please… here’s a basic breakdown of the transaction costs you may encounter and …

7 Tips To Consider Before Building Your Dream Island Home

Tropical beach on south side of Samoa Island with coconut palm trees

Many people dream of owning a home on a tropical island. Others fantasize about finding an overseas property to build upon. A few truly adventurous folks accept the dual challenge of building an island home as their ultimate retirement experience.

Deb and Ben Unger took on this challenge when they chose the southern coast of Grenada as the perfect place to build their modular home in the southeastern Caribbean Sea. They graciously share their story, including some valuable lessons they learned along the way.

Why Grenada?

Deb relates, “I feel safe here. We wanted a mountainous island, a bit less developed, with …

Where You Should Live Overseas To Avoid Climate Change

A castle in Carcassonne, France

It’s in the news daily… it’s a common topic of conversation… scientists across the globe are studying it… every year we witness more and more weather extremes…

But what does climate change mean to someone who is considering a move overseas?

Experts predict some locations around the world will be more severely affected by climate change than others. This was one of the most important factors in my decision to move from Northern Illinois to Colombia four years ago.

As I write this article, I’m sitting on my balcony, enjoying 75°F weather, smiling as I look at my friends’ photos online showing the …

16 Factors To Weigh Before Investing In Agriculture

vegetables growin in a greenhouse using hydroponics

From fruit to timber to vegetables, today’s opportunities for the individual investor to break into agriculture offer great potential returns.

But how do you decide which agricultural offering deserves your attention, and more importantly, your money? Here are 16 factors and some questions you should ask before spending your hard-earned cash on Mother Nature’s …

Last Chance For Quality Pre-Construction Units In Las Terrenas

Umbrellas on the beach in Las Terrenas, Dominican Republic

A recent study by Statista revealed that 52% of Americans prefer vacationing at a beach… many of whom choose all-inclusive resorts and crowded, commercial locations.

However, if you are like me, a true beach experience suggests long stretches of powdery sand, laid-back seafood restaurants with ocean views, and a relaxed community vibe.

I found my true beach experience two years ago in Las Terrenas, Dominican Republic. If you missed my first trip to this Caribbean paradise, you can read about my experience and see my photos here. …

More Stories Of Real Estate Adventure From Around The World

people laughing at a cocktail party

Last Halloween I reached out to our Live and Invest Overseas friends and experts who shared some scary, creepy, and downright strange stories from several overseas locations. If you missed that spooky collection, you can read it here.

I also asked these world travelers for their most helpful hints and “lessons learned” to share with you, dear reader, so we can all benefit from their experience.

The tales range from property maintenance woes, to crooked real estate agents, to buying and selling tips, and even dining snafus. These stories all have one thing in common—if you expect the unexpected and go with the flow… you’ll be fine. …

In Perfect Harmony: Enjoy The Best Of 2 Worlds In Checa, Ecuador

cascading pools

City living is not for everyone. The noise, traffic, pollution, and crowds you find in a typical big city is just overwhelming for some people.

Before I moved to Medellín, Colombia (population 3.5 million), I lived for 23 years in a town with only 4,000 residents. The nearest large city, with big box stores, multiple movie theaters, symphony, museums, and other amenities, was 40 minutes away.

For me, a small community within one hour of a large city was the perfect combination of peaceful nature, privacy, and easy access to everything I needed for a fulfilling lifestyle.

If you are looking for the best of both worlds, in an affordable, modern setting with spectacular natural beauty, let me introduce you to the little piece of paradise I found in northern Ecuador.

hydrangea pool
Imagine living in this lush setting

Landing at the brand-new Quito airport, which happens to be located next to a rose and orchid farm, you’ll marvel at the rapidly growing, modern micro-city popping up nearby. It’s an easy 20-minute drive on a new four-lane highway, which eventually narrows to a smooth two-lane road, into Checa. This little pueblo offers all your basic necessities, snuggled up as it is to the amazing gated community I found.

The original property was owned by a Swiss gentleman and his Bolivian wife for 35 years until they found the Ecuadorian architect who would make their dream a reality. The wife’s passion for landscaping and flower gardening is apparent in the beautiful green spaces which have been featured in public garden tours in past years.

Now boasting 38 lush hectares, you won’t find another place like this anywhere.

Come With Me On A Virtual Tour…

After you pass through the gate, you ramble along a tree-lined brick path to a central parking area. While you park your vehicle in your designated spot, a security guard pulls up in a golf cart to whisk you to your home.

a view from the street boulevard
The boulevard leading from the gated entrance in the distance with
a creek flowing down the center

All around you are generous green spaces made up of “living fences” and floral hedges, set to the gentle sounds of babbling brooks and cascading pools of water. Residents have access to two swimming pools—one outside and one inside, walking paths, and several other community spaces where neighbors gather to share daily life.

floral walls in mall, fornt view of the mall with umbrellas in the front with people
A beautiful wall of flowers greets these homeowners every day
cascading pools
You could pass these cascading pools on a leisurely daily walk

Each home is cleverly constructed to ensure a private, flowery view from inside, but you need only cross a creek or path to visit your neighbor’s veranda. Single family homes start at 220 square meters and include a yard with customized plantings and landscaping to suit your tastes.

An on-site greenhouse offers a wide selection of plants to choose from, and the architect or landscapers can help you create the garden of your dreams. You are welcome to maintain your own property, but with 25 gardeners on-site daily to maintain this idyllic property, you can simply sit back and enjoy the view.

stepping stone path
One of 25 gardeners greets a resident on a stepping stone path between homes

You’ll also find a huerto orgánico, a community garden where you can dig in the dirt for your veggies… or simply buy them at cost to enjoy the freshest selection of lettuces, peppers, onions, herbs, and more.

The homes are built with traditional Ecuadorian touches such as clay tile roofs, outdoor chimineas, large verandas, and solid-wood ceiling beams. However, the interiors are thoroughly modern with high-end kitchens and baths featuring granite countertops, with optional appliance packages including dishwasher, gas stove, and full-sized refrigerators. Each home features enormous windows to showcase the natural beauty of the surrounding landscape from every room.

living room
Large windows and quality woodwork accentuate the living space
The spacious kitchens offer granite counters and stainless-steel appliances
The spacious kitchens offer granite counters and stainless-steel appliances

The property also offers an on-site restaurant, in case you don’t feel like cooking tonight, or would like to host a larger group for a special event. The dining room itself offers some of the best views in the community.

Overlooking the outdoor pool, the restaurant’s dining room is stunning
Overlooking the outdoor pool, the restaurant’s dining room is stunning

A 1,200 square meter Spa and Fitness Center is under construction and expected to be completed in July. Here you’ll find a hot tub, hammam (baño turco), sauna, massage therapy rooms, indoor pool, full gym facility, and more. A community center shows movies on weekends and hosts card groups and table game competitions during the week.

A flag is planted in the main entrance area for each country represented by an owner. Currently you’ll find 18 different flags in this welcoming space. About 40% of the owners reside on their property full time, while the rest use their homes for weekends and vacations.

Here Are The Details…

All told, 80 villas are sold and 17 more lots have been snapped up, which accounts for approximately 45% of the community. Stage 1 is 98% sold already, so the developer has recently opened Stage 2.Your current options in Stage 1 include:

  • 5 townhomes—3 one-bedroom units and 2 two-bedroom options are move-in ready
  • 3 single-family villas are 70% complete. just waiting for their new owner to choose the final finishes to complete construction

In Stage 2 you’ll find:

  • 27 lots still available for purchase (out of a total of 44)
  • 27 two-bedroom villas (out of a total of 29)

One-bedroom homes begin at US$140,000; two-bedroom villas at US$220,000.

The Home Owners’ Association (HOA) is already in place with a Board of Directors that run the day-to-day business. HOA fees depend on the size of your home and land, and they cover full-time security as well as all landscaping and maintenance costs. With a villa, you should expect to pay between US$125 to US$200 per month in fees.

A flag is planted for each of the 18 countries currently represented in the community
A flag is planted for each of the 18 countries currently represented in the community

Ecuadorian property taxes are low, running approximately US$100 per year for a villa. Capital gains tax doesn’t apply to these properties because they are considered rustic, not urban. If you buy a villa for rental purposes, you will not be taxed on the first US$11,310 of profit.

Mortgage financing is available, but it’s not easy to obtain and the terms aren’t great by North American standards. A purchase here should qualify you for an Ecuadorian Investor Visa, but restrictions apply.

You Must See This Place To Appreciate It

My description and photographs simply do not do justice to this property. If you have ever dreamed of living in a spacious home surrounded by a lush garden environment with all of the modern conveniences, you owe it to yourself to check out this opportunity in person.

You can contact the dreamers and designers behind this amazing community here. And while I’m sure the developer would be happy to host you anytime, I recommend you come to Ecuador this March for the Live and Invest in Ecuador event.

When you join us in Quito this spring, you’ll hear more about this opportunity, and have all of your Ecuador-related questions answered by the experts and expats who are living their Ecuadorian dreams right now. Don’t wait any longer to sign up, the Early Bird Discount ends this Friday. Make your plans and book your flight today!

Wendy Howarter

9 Best Places For Affordable Overseas Property In 2019

Da Lat, Vietnam country landscape

As this week’s edition of Overseas Property Alert lands in your inbox, the first month of 2019 is almost gone. It’s said that more than 90% of all New Year’s resolutions are broken or forgotten by the end of January, and most people simply go back to the same way of living without changing a thing.

However, if one of your resolutions for 2019 is to invest in overseas real estate, today’s message will help make that resolution a reality.  …

Harvest Big Returns Investing In French Truffle Trees

black truffles on gold plates

While some agricultural projects focus exclusively on output crops and profitability, a few elite companies acknowledge the big picture.

Showing heightened sensitivity to our environment, this innovative European company strives for sustainability through natural, mature hardwood tree reforestation, while also replenishing and protecting the natural surroundings. With their understanding of climate change threats and insider expertise in the luxury food market, these folks stand out. …

What’s Up With Mangos? Long-Term, High-Return Investment

mangos on a tree

As I write this week’s edition, I’m cruising through the Panama Canal and around the Caribbean Sea. I’ve been dining on exotic, sumptuous delicacies while watching the Pacific Ocean, the canal, and several tropical islands pass by my ship.

I’ll also be celebrating Thanksgiving at sea this week. Since moving overseas, this holiday is no longer about a big family meal. Instead, Thanksgiving is a time for reflecting on life’s blessings and appreciating those who share my days. For many people, it’s also a time to look ahead to provide for future generations.

You probably know that cruises offer a wide variety of food options all day long and it can be challenging to find healthy options, so my goal is to enjoy as many fresh, tropical fruits as I can find. My all-time favorite treat is …