Caribbean & Central America

The lush, tropical destinations in the Caribbean and Central America draw thousands of visitors each year. Some of those visitors fall in love with these picture postcard gorgeous countries and decide to live there full-time or at least part of the year when the weather in their home country becomes unbearable.

Most people believe that a Caribbean retirement is only for the very wealthy. That’s simply not true if you know where to look. The places you’ll read about here are beautiful locations, offering a high standard of living, and a cost of living that’s a fraction of what you would spend in a similar location in the States or Canada.

If your overseas living, retirement, or snowbird dream includes powdery white sand beaches, swaying palm trees, and watching the sunset over a turquoise sea, you have plenty of options to consider among the welcoming countries that make up the Caribbean and Central American nations.

Panama, Belize, the Dominican Republic, Colombia, and even Mexico (which is technically located in North America) are some of our favorite countries in this part of the world that should be on your radar.

You can choose from:

  • culturally rich historic towns such as Cartagena, Colombia and Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic
  • bustling waterfront cities like Panama City, Panama
  • laid-back beach towns like San Pedro, Belize,
  • cute little Latin American or Spanish-influenced communities,
  • unspoiled beaches in the Azuero Peninsula, Panama or Las Terranes, Dominican Republic
  • and tourist towns like Cancun and Tulum, Mexico

Just picture yourself enjoying perfect weather every day, taking daily strolls along the beach, feasting on fresh seafood and tropical fruits, and whiling away the hours reading a great book in a hammock. No more shoveling snow, driving in bad conditions, waiting for a short growing season to plant a garden, or hibernating while you wait for the weather to change. In the Caribbean and Central America, you can have the perfect tropical dream life.

Uncovering The Best Condos For Sale In Mazatlán, Mexico

Best Condos For Sale

1 U.S. dollar equals 18.00 Mexican pesos.

Just last week, we closed on a brand-new condo right on the boardwalk here in Mazatlán, Mexico. This came after two years of exploring up and down the Mexican coast and then evaluating one neighborhood against another within Mazatlán’s 20 miles of beaches.

I preferred Mazatlán on Mexico’s west coast for a number of reasons:

1. You can “go local”… or not.

Mazatlán is a “real” city of almost a half-million people. When you move here, you can choose to be part of the American/Canadian community, speak mostly English, and ease your way into Mazatlán aided by people who have come before you…

Or within a few hundred yards, you can live in one of …

Comparing Property Prices In Latin America

Cartagena Colombia
Plus: A Beach Property For US$75K?

If you’d like to see a quick, efficient snapshot of what’s happening with Latin American property prices, then you’ve come to the right place.

Each year, I take a snapshot of property costs from 19 key markets around the region. I use this data as a means of comparing markets and of monitoring changes throughout the year.

All prices are expressed in our universal measure, U.S. dollars per square meter. For purposes of this article—in cases where properties are priced in the local currency—the exchange rates are those in effect on Jan. 24, 2016.

In each of the survey’s cities, we check local listings for 10–12 apartments with two bedrooms and two baths and about 75–100 square meters of living space… or as close to that as the local inventory allows. The neighborhoods are those that are favored by expats and are places where I’d look for property myself.

Let’s start with the biggest price drops in the region over the past year.

If You’ve Been Waiting For A Bargain, Check Out The Biggest Price Drops In 2015

The beach resort of Santa Marta, Colombia, wins the prize for the largest price drop in 2015. Properties in this popular seaside getaway fell from US$2,091 per square meter last year to an amazing US$1,032 at the start of 2016… a drop of more than 50%.

Santa Marta’s prices in Colombian pesos actually rose, but the dollar’s gain of …

The Beaches Of Mazatlan Offer Good Real Estate Value

Beach In The South Of Mazatlan, Mexico
Plus: Where To Invest US$100k… And Prejudice Against Latinos In Ecuador

The beachfront real estate market in Mazatlán has an impressive diversity that will satisfy the taste of most anyone who is shopping for beachfront real estate.

I’ve been here in Mazatlán for a month now and I’m still sorting out the different lifestyle options here with an eye toward obtaining an investment property or part-time residence.

For the background on why I chose to come to Mazatlán, see my recent article on Mazatlán and its turnaround historic center. This week, we’re going to focus on some of Mazatlán’s incredible beach options.

The expat community is one thing I should mention before getting into the real estate. Mazatlán is home to a fair number of full-time expats from the United States and Canada, and a far larger number of part-year residents. Canadians seem to outnumber Americans in Mazatlán with most coming from western Canada. Most Americans come from the western United States.

About 65% of all real estate transactions are to Mexican buyers. Among the foreign buyers, Canadian buyers outnumber Americans by about a 60/40 ratio.

Choosing The Best Beach Lifestyle In Mazatlán

Your preferred location, here, depends on what you’re looking for in a property or lifestyle, and whether you intend to rent your property out.

Mazatlán’s public transit system will affect your choice of where to buy since the city has a good system of public transportation. There are buses, traditional taxis, and dune buggy-like vehicles locally called pulmonías, which can get you easily from one zone to the next. Referring to the map below, you can go from Sábalo Country to Olas Altas in about 14 minutes with light traffic.

Here’s my take on Mazatlán’s most popular beach areas for expat buyers. To get a feel for orientation, take a look at this map of Mazatlán’s beach zones I marked up from …

Searching, Buying, And Renting Property Abroad In 2016

Searching for property, buying property, and renting property
Plus: Crime In Mazatlán… And Where To Settle In Brazil

I’ve been here in Mazatlán looking at houses and condos since mid-December. And as usual, I’m struggling to find the perfect property.

I have two problems that continue to slow me down when looking at real estate abroad.

Counterintuitively, it’s actually harder to pick a property when you have absolutely no restrictions on where and what you might buy… and you have the whole world to choose from. When moving to a new employment location during your work life, the country, state, and often the city are already determined. Your selection of neighborhood is based on convenience for living and commuting, rather than any expectation of fun, adventure, or profit. When buying a second home or investment property abroad, the options are virtually infinite, which makes choosing much harder.

Also, the more experience I have the harder it is to choose a property. This is because all that experience gives me more to analyze, which means I can find fault… or opportunity… with almost anything. I’ll end up with a great property, but it’s not fast.

So I thought I’d drop back and reconsider the basics. It’s a good way to kick off 2016, and it will also help to recalibrate my current efforts.

Here’s the thought process I use to get started on an overseas purchase:

Step One: Honestly Examine Your Underlying Reasons For Buying Abroad

The most important step in the entire process takes place before you even know what country you’re focused on; you’ve got to really think about why you’re buying and …

3 Locations With The Best Climate For Retirement

Locations With The Best Climate For Retirement

Plus: Explaining Currency Controls And Testing The Waters Before Purchasing Abroad

For many expats who are retiring or buying a second home abroad, weather is their primary criteria. And while it’s true that the cost of living (and cost of properties) is also important, the weather is often the primary reason behind making a move abroad. Many second homebuyers are opting for a home in the tropics or southern hemisphere in which they can escape the North American or European winters.

The idea of living in a place where the weather is pleasant all year is appealing. Not only for the comfort factor, but also for the health benefits you realize by not having to live behind closed doors to escape sweltering or frigid weather. (Another benefit, of course, is escaping the utility costs involved when you don’t need heat or air conditioning.)

I discovered early on that the world’s best all-year weather is found near the equator, at about 1,500 meters altitude (around 5,000 feet).

Using this criteria, there are not really that many places in the world to consider. Here in the Americas, there are a number of good choices in the mountainous areas between Central America and Peru.

Outside the Americas, there are also a few options—in Kenya, Rwanda, Burundi, and Uganda—but they’re not quite as convenient for the North American property buyer and not too high on anyone’s list.

One of the biggest factors in picking the perfect weather is altitude… and it gives you a lot of flexibility when choosing where to live. A few miles can make a huge difference in climate when you’re traveling in mountainous areas. Outside air temperature changes 1°F for every 275-foot change in elevation (1°C for every 150 meters), which can be …

Buying Property Abroad While Strong Dollar Deals Last

Plus: A sample portfolio for buying abroad with your IRA

I retired when I was 49. I did it by seizing a “second-chance opportunity” much like one that I see playing out today.

In 1991, my employer offered an amazingly generous early retirement plan. In order to incentivize people to retire, they added five years onto your age, five years onto your employment time, lifelong health insurance, and large, lump-sum cash incentives.

It was the deal of a lifetime… but I had to miss out. I was too young to be eligible, even with those added years.

As time went by, those early-retirement offers got weaker and weaker, until they were almost no incentive at all. By the year 2000, they were only slightly better than being canned.

But then something amazing happened in 2001. We merged with a competitor and created a company with over 29,000 employees.

Unexpectedly, the clock was wound back to 1991. Once again the company offered add-ons for age and employment, offered the lifetime health, drug, and dental insurance, and tacked on an extra year’s salary on top of everything.

It was a once-in-a-lifetime reprieve… one that I never thought I’d see. I signed up, and retired… there’s no way I was going to press my luck and let this pass by.

And sure enough, after that opportunity, the offers once again got weaker and weaker. Today, they don’t even offer a fixed pension anymore.

That 2001 retirement package was my one, single opportunity, and …

Investing In Belize Beachfront Property

Investing In Belize Beachfront Property
Plus: Buying In Lagos, Portugal

San Pedro Town, Belize

The properties in this report are priced in U.S. dollars

Belize is at the top of the list for anyone who dreams of clear, warm waters, swaying palms, sport-fishing, and white sandy beaches. It’s a well-recognized destination among North American mainstream travelers.

Belize is a also big player in the ecotourism market, and ranked as world-class for diving and snorkeling. The barrier reef here is second in size only to the Great Barrier Reef in Queensland, Australia.

It’s a Caribbean destination that’s inexpensive when compared to most everything else in the Caribbean, so it draws more than just the high-end traveler.

We’ve been tracking an oceanfront project in Belize for more than a year, waiting for it to come to market. It’s a one-of-a-kind beachfront project in the British colonial style… one that’s reminiscent of Belize’s colonial past.

It’s a limited-inventory opportunity to invest in Belize for capital gain, earn an income from the property, or even …

Spanish Colonial Homes In Granada, Nicaragua

Granada, Nicaragua
Plus: Finding Properties On The Non-Gringo
Beaches Of Nicaragua

Granada, Nicaragua

The properties in this report trade in U.S. dollars

Over the past 15 years of scouting and evaluating overseas properties, I’ve learned to look for each location’s “specialty.” That is, the one thing it does better than anywhere else… the thing that sets it apart from the competition.

Granada, Nicaragua’s niche is the impressive inventory of Spanish colonial-style homes.

If you’re not familiar with that architectural style, it’s the type of city dwelling that’s fairly plain on the outside with its rooms built around a center courtyard on the inside. It’s a style designed for an environment where the houses are built against one another with no room for an outside yard… hence the “yard” is inside the house, where it’s private, often lush, and open to some of the home’s living areas.

If you haven’t seen a Spanish Colonial, here’s a beautiful example.

After all this time spent actively looking, I haven’t found a better market for this type of home than Granada.

What’s more, you can get in the door for less than US$60,000.

Granada usually has a good inventory of colonials in a good state of restoration. Granted, colonials can be found in …

Beachfront Condo With Guaranteed US$15,000 Annual Return

After 14 years of traveling and scouting properties in 17 different countries, there are not many countries left where I try to combine a real estate scouting trip with a vacation… at least not on the second or third trip.

But I just realized this morning that we’ve vacationed in Nicaragua four times now. Almost every time I went to Nicaragua on assignment, we’ve combined it with a vacation.

And it’s hard to explain the attraction.

Nicaragua offers some of the world’s largest lakes… a pristine Caribbean coastline… beautiful Caribbean islands… cool mountains… and hundreds of miles of sandy Pacific beaches.

But it’s more than that. And it’s more than the super-low cost of living, or easy residency, or any of those practical items.

Nicaragua and its people also convey a welcoming feeling—a comfortable feeling—that I don’t quite find anywhere else. No matter how many times I go, I look forward to getting there… and I’m sorry to leave.

A month ago, we talked about an area that offered reasonably priced beach properties, in Nicaragua’s Masachapa. This is one of my favorite beaches in Nicaragua, and the presidential beach home is located there.

But Masachapa, and its lifestyle, are not for everyone.

This is because the properties in Masachapa are in a rural, local seaside neighborhood rather than …

Low-Risk Agriculture Investment In Panama With An 18% Annual Return

mango plantation

Plus: Ecuador’s Strict Residency Requirements For Foreigners

July 14, 2015
Panama City, Panama

Dear Overseas Property Alert Reader,

Agricultural investments have been a focus for me for the past half-dozen years. Unfortunately, as I’ve been reporting, it’s not easy to find agricultural projects geared toward the small investor.

However, early 2014, I began working with a group in Panama with an idea for a mango plantation investment intended specifically for the individual investor.

Their plan was to open up their plantation to small investors in an effort to grow more quickly and to achieve some economies of scale. I introduced readers to this opportunity to own their own piece of this mango farm while the development group took care of all of the work—planting, irrigation infrastructure, fertilization, and eventually caring for the trees and harvesting the crop.

Response was overwhelming. The mango plantation sold out in June.

The New Opportunity

Now, this same group has put together a small plantation of a different fruit tree at the behest of one of their biggest U.S. buying groups. This developer sold more than 500 hectares of the mango plantation but intends to …