Prelaunch offer with 0% financing on the Riviera Maya

Plus: Can I live here for US$730 per month?

All properties in this article are priced in U.S. dollars.

I’m writing today to tell you about a limited-inventory opportunity that just came onto the market. If you’re interested, you can save up to 25% (as much as US$30,000) as an Overseas Property Alert reader—if you’re among the first 15 cash buyers.

This offer will be sent to readers of Overseas Opportunity Letter next week, but I wanted to extend it to you first, before it went to the general population.

The opportunity is a prelaunch offer for the Los Árboles Cobá project. The project is located on Mexico’s Riviera Maya on the Yucatan Peninsula, south of Cancun.

Los Árboles Cobá is a sustainable, off-the-grid community, which nonetheless offers amenities like high-speed Internet, phones, and satellite TV. The lots are large tracts of old-growth jungle with very low development density—less than 15% of the property.

Note that when I use the term “sustainable, off-the-grid” I’m referring to a property that can function without any connection to public utilities, located in an area with an all-year growing season.

Los Árboles Cobá will appeal to those who enjoy a lifestyle among nature and wildlife, in a home that will function comfortably with no connection to the outside world. It will also appeal to investors looking for an early-in, special offer with resale in mind.

I like the project for four basic reasons:

  • The market in this area is performing well, and has been for several years.
  • The nearby sister project of Los Árboles Tulum was a popular seller, has a number of homes constructed with North Americans in residence, and made money for early buyers.
  • The developer has a solid track record of success for this type of project.
  • The entry point for buyers and investors is low—less than US$37,000.

Let’s take a look at the details. …

Multiply your purchasing power with a Self-Directed 401k

In 2012, I purchased an income property in Medellín. It’s a two-story condo on the 17th and 18th floors of a new building on Medellín’s Golden Mile. Since closing, it’s generated around US$1,900 per month…about 8.5%.

That same year, I invested in a foreign stock exchange, opened accounts in foreign currencies, and even opened a cash savings account that generates 5% interest.

What these transactions all have in common is that I used my retirement funds—money from my old 401k plan, which I converted to a self-directed retirement plan.

By using a self-directed retirement account you can really put your retirement funds to work on the overseas property market, as well as overseas financial markets. You can personally control the funds and invest them as you see fit while preserving your tax-deferred status on the principal and gains.

Originally, I believed that the only way to do this was to set up a self-directed IRA, so I set out to create one. And in hopes of avoiding a financial planner’s large setup fees and annual charges, I decided to do it myself.

Setting up a self-directed IRA was not as easy as I’d hoped
After two weeks of staring at the computer screen, I learned a few things…most-significantly, that it was way harder than I thought. Here’s some of what I learned.

It’s hard for do-it-yourselfers. There are scores of companies out there that can set up a self-directed IRA for you…but the knowledge of exactly how to do it yourself is very hard to come by.

Determined to do it myself anyway, I spent a hundred bucks on a special report on how to set up a self-directed IRA, from a well-known e-letter publisher. …

Colonial homes from US$37,000 in a top expat haven Plus: Finding casinos in Latin America

April 29, 2014

Granada, Nicaragua

Property in Nicaragua trades in U.S. dollars

Dear Overseas Property Alert Reader,

Many of us dream of living in a Spanish colonial city…and of owning a Spanish colonial home, with its high ceilings, painted tiles, and a private center courtyard. If you count yourself among this growing number, then you’ll find no better place to buy than Granada, Nicaragua.

In Granada, you’ll not only find one of the best preserved Spanish colonial centers in the Americas, but you’ll also discover colonial-style properties starting at just US$37,000.

Founded in 1524, Granada claims to be the first European city founded in mainland America…so it’s a truly old colonial city rather than a semi-modern lookalike. It’s named after the ancient city of Granada, Spain, and shares some of that city’s Moorish architectural influence.

Granada sits at the north end of Lake Nicaragua, with beaches near town, and a group of small private islands just offshore. It lies just south of the well-known Lake Apoyo, Nicaragua’s largest volcanic crater lake. …

Surf, sunsets, and sea breezes on Panama’s most beautiful stretch of Pacific coastline

April 22, 2014
Panama City, Panama

US$1 = 1 Panamanian Balboa (fixed)

Dear Overseas Property Alert reader,

Lot #6…it’s the best one on the property.”

That’s what I said to myself as I watched the pile of grilled chicken breasts and spareribs disappear from the flaming barbecue grill at our hilltop lookout. As the sun made its way slowly toward the Pacific, the 17 of us juggled maps, plot plans, and price lists while enjoying a late lunch and absorbing the feel of the property and the inspiring view.

We’re taking in the vista from one of the high points at Los Islotes, a master-planned community located on the westward-facing side of the Azuero Peninsula, also called the Sunset Coast, more than an hour off the Pan-American Highway at Santiago.

The ride from the highway seemed to take forever in my hurry to get to the project.

But I was missing the point. As I spoke to the Los Islotes property owners and some of the local expat residents, I realized that they didn’t want to be near the Pan-American Highway, or Panama City…or any other source of noise, pollution, or traffic.

The people in this area are here for the peace and quiet. It’s the relatively remote setting, the quiet beaches, and the wild, natural environment that brought them here in the first place. So the ride down from the highway only reinforces the fact that they’re leaving the stress and bustle of the real world behind.

One unique feature of the Los Islotes property is the dramatic, hilly terrain leading right up to the ocean. The hills and valleys prohibit a boring, row-upon-row layout when planning the homesites and allow the houses to be tucked here and there among the hills. This means that there are scores of ocean-view properties with relatively unobstructed sea views…without having to look at the back of someone else’s house. …

Look here for sunshine, warm seas, and capital gains

Look here for sunshine, warm seas, and capital gains
Also: “Why aren’t you talking about Costa Rica?”

April 8, 2014
Puerto López, Ecuador

Ecuador’s currency: U.S. dollar

Dear Overseas Property Alert reader,

We sat down to dinner at an open-air restaurant just south of Puerto López, Ecuador. It was a quiet night, with a pleasant ocean breeze coming in from the Pacific. The waves crashed rhythmically against the face of the cliff far below. A thick row of tropical plants separated our table from the adjacent walkway, which worked its way down the cliff to the beach. The waiter had just finished uncorking the wine.

But the peace was shattered as the large head of a wild burro burst through the hedge and positioned itself over the table. She snatched a large mouthful of fresh-cut flowers from the centerpiece, chewed them for a few seconds, and then withdrew her head into the darkness. A few minutes later, she reappeared at the romantically lit swimming pool, where she took a long drink before moving off into the night. It turned out she was a local mascot, and I’m sure we weren’t the first visitors to be surprised like this.

This instance says a lot about the Ecuadorian coast. You can find beautiful beaches all over the world, but you won’t find many with Ecuador’s natural appeal and untamed character.

And the good news today is that there’s a classic “path of progress” investment shaping up in the town of Playas thanks to a major infrastructure upgrade and the coast’s largest development project.

The Ecuadorian coast has always offered a lot…but now we can add a solid investment potential to its list of many benefits. …

Earn a hassle-free 10% rental yield in this emerging rental market

April 1, 2014 Cali, Colombia

Dear Overseas Property Alert Reader,

My recent trip to Cali, Colombia, brought the most pleasant surprise of the past five years. The weather was great, the city was fun, the restaurants and nightlife awesome, and the people welcoming, open, and friendly.

Best of all, I saw rock-bottom prices—some of the best property prices on the continent. And these low prices can result in rental yields of between 10% and 20%.

If you didn’t see my first Cali report, follow the link to read up on Cali’s neighborhoods and property deals.

Rental yields are the best investment play in Cali. You can earn a 10%, “hassle-free” yield by managing a long-term, furnished rental. But if you want to take on the additional work of monthly or weekly furnished rentals, that yield can go over 20%. More on that to follow…

With respect to capital gains, Cali is a great place to buy an inexpensive home in a warm climate in a friendly country. But I would not buy in Cali to flip the property for a profit near-term. I didn’t see any market force in Cali that was poised to push prices up. I’d expect steady, slow growth in prices…but no more than that. …

Why we hate gated communities…or do we?

March 25, 2014
Medellín, Colombia

Dear Overseas Property Alert Reader,

“No gringo communities for me… I’m going to be part of the local culture.”

“I’m not the gated community type of person…”

Every year, I speak with hundreds of potential expats at events, and I get thousands of emails from people considering moving abroad. Most say that they would never consider living in a gated community overseas…especially an expat-oriented one.

Their arguments are good ones…and almost always the same. Because when we consider moving abroad, much of the appeal has nothing to do with practical issues…the allure of overseas living has more to do with adventure, excitement, and a rich cultural experience.

And the best way to get that experience is to be part of the local culture…not part of a North American enclave.

So the vast majority of potential expats—probably over 90%—say the same thing: they would not consider a planned community favored by North Americans. …

Bargain properties, great lifestyle, and a low cost of living

apartment view of an expat apartment

The real estate market in Cali, Colombia, is the most exciting scene I’ve witnessed in a long time. This is an attractive city, with low property prices, a low cost of living, low cost of ownership, and high rental returns.

Best of all, prices start at less than US$66,000 for a nice apartment in one of the best neighborhoods.

Bottom line, Cali is hard to beat. It’s the least expensive market I’ve found in a modern city in Latin America. This is a hotbed of real estate bargains. Properties here are a real steal.

Getting a feel for what a city is like and for the lifestyle it offers is an important step in getting to know a city’s real estate market. And at resale or rental time it will help you to know who your potential buyer or rental client might be. Follow this link to read my previous article on Cali to see why it’s a good place to invest or retire. …

Discover Beachfront Brazil and Affordable Tropical Island Living

discover beachfront brazil

Itamaracá, Brazil, is the best place I know right now to buy a beachfront home at a reasonable price, thanks to the strength of the U.S. dollar against the Brazilian real over the last six months. At R$2.35/US$1 today, dollar-holders have seen their buying power increase 41% since the real was at its high of R$1.55/US$1 in mid-2011.

And there are few places in the world will you’ll find a three-bedroom house on the beach for less than US$125,000 that can also generate a great rental return.

When I drove over the causeway onto Itamaracá (pronounced ee tah mah rah KAH) for the first time back in 2008, the island appeared in front of me like an imaginary tropical paradise rising out of the sea. Its shoreline was lined with thick, tangled mangroves and spiked with tall palm trees reaching into the blue sky. Green, lush hills rose up behind the mangroves to the island’s peak, about 2 miles farther on. …

Lee Harrison

After spending six years flying with the U.S. Navy, Lee completed a successful 30-year career in the nuclear power industry. Taking advantage of a post-merger early retirement offer, he left the United States in 2001 at age 49 and retired to Cuenca, Ecuador.

Since that time, Lee has enjoyed properties in Ecuador, Nicaragua, Uruguay, Colombia, and the island of Itamaracá, in Brazil. Roving Latin America Correspondent for Live and Invest Overseas, Lee also writes and speaks for a number of publications about living abroad. …