One Of The Smartest Land Purchases You Can Make

Why These Farms In Uruguay Are Such A Smart Purchase

One of the smartest property buys you can make is a property that serves more than one purpose in your overall financial and lifestyle agenda. And there are few investments that do this more efficiently than the Uruguayan land parcel known as the chacra.

In Uruguay, the chacra is a popular way to invest in land… but it also gets you a few other benefits:

  • It gains you a foothold in one of the best countries for international diversification;
  • It can provide a self-sustaining home that’s off-the-grid;
  • A chacra can give you the presence required for Uruguay’s program for residency and second citizenship;
  • Being a Uruguayan property owner is a natural segue into Uruguay’s financial system, with its multiple-currency and high-interest accounts.

A chacra(CHA kra), which is a small farm or ranch, can vary in size from one acre to hundreds of acres, and is measured in hectares (one hectare equals 2.47 acres). Once they become larger than 100 hectares or so, the property is often called an estancia in this part of South America.

The Uruguayan interior is wide-open gaucho country

The Uruguayan interior is wide-open gaucho country

Chacras are often part of a planned development project—called a fraccionamiento in Uruguay—and are seldom less than five hectares. This is because projects with parcels less than five hectares require all of the permits and approvals that apply to a housing development. Consequently, for developers it’s easier to keep their lots over the five-hectare threshold.

Uruguayans will sometimes use the chacra for agriculture, but it’s more often enjoyed as a country vacation property… what we’d call a finca or quinta elsewhere in Latin America.

With North Americans, my experience has been that they also often want a property for vacations or part-time living. However, they are additionally looking to store a hard asset in Uruguay, as well have a potential under-the-radar getaway should they ever want it.

But why Uruguay?

Here’s Why Uruguay Is So Popular With Offshore Property Buyers

I’m a resident of Uruguay, and it was my primary home for six years. Here are some of the attributes that really stand out for me:

The people: Uruguayans are generally honest and punctual… they keep their word, conduct themselves professionally, and stand by their commitments. The culture is honest and hardworking, and levels of corruption are low.

Yet they really are laid-back, in the truest meaning of the term. Uruguayans seem to have unlimited patience (even behind the wheel), they’re nonconfrontational, nonviolent, good natured, and friendly.

In case you’re new to the region, these attributes are rare in Latin America, on this scale, outside of Uruguay and Chile.

Solid financial system: Uruguay was known as a banking haven for a long time. Their famed bank-secrecy policy fell by the wayside a few years ago, but the financial services sector is still well-controlled and sound. The currency is stable, interest rates are attractive for the investor, and you can keep multiple currencies in your account.

The infrastructure: In Uruguay you’ll enjoy fast, modern highways, reliable phone, cell, and broadband internet service, and drinkable water from every tap in the country. You’ll have free Wi-Fi in the buses and town squares, and even a public radio network.

The government: Uruguay enjoys a stable democracy. No matter who is currently in charge—conservative or liberal—they respect the citizens, welcome foreigners, and encourage foreign investment. The government is as nonintrusive as they come.

Agriculture: The country is a breadbasket, growing everything from beef to oranges to eucalyptus trees. And, because it sits squarely on top of the continent’s main aquifer, its abundant water supply is stable.

The lifestyle: Uruguay has a moderate climate, with four seasons but no ice or snow. It boasts miles of some of the most beautiful and well-maintained beaches in South America… beaches that draw visitors from all over the world.

The culture is European-like, and the cultural influence is primarily Italian. You’ll find tango clubs along with opera houses and orchestras.

Uruguay also enjoys one of the lowest crime and poverty rates in Latin America, with one of the highest standards of living and highest per-capita incomes.

Residency and second citizenship: Becoming a resident is not particularly fast, but it’s straightforward… with low financial thresholds for obtaining a visa. I obtained my visa myself, using the instructions given to me by the immigration agent in Montevideo. Citizenship is available after three to five years, depending on your personal situation.

Many chacras have a water source on the premises

Many chacras have a water source on the premises

Things To Watch Out For When Buying A Chacra

The biggest variable when buying is the utility infrastructure. A given chacra may or may not have public utilities on the property. If not, make sure you know how far away they are.

Amenity levels vary greatly from one chacra to the next. Some come with a community pool, restaurant, clubhouse, beautiful stone gate, and other various niceties. Others are just a square of land with a gravel lane going by. Neither of these is the wrong idea… it just depends on what you want and how you intend to use the chacra.

The next big variable comes into play if you’re using the chacra for agriculture. You’ll need to verify that the soil makeup coincides with what you intend to grow or raise. Luckily, Uruguay makes this easy with the CONEAT system… a system that categorizes every land parcel in the country with respect to soil quality, and provides an online lookup function.

Finally, proximity to the coast is a factor… one that will jump out at you when you begin to look for properties. The closer you get to the beaches, the more expensive the property will be.

One thing you will not have to watch out for is the security of the property transaction. The purchase process in Uruguay is well-controlled and secure, and the property registry is sound. Each transaction (by law) is managed by an escribano, a public official who serves as a real estate attorney. You’ll pay them 3%, which is steep by Latin American standards… but you can rest assured that the transaction is safe from any liens or claims and that everything is recorded properly.

Here Are A Few Examples Of Chacras On The Market Today

bulletThe market starts at about US$45,000 for a five-hectare parcel. For this price, you’ll get rolling hills, a stream, good soil, and a good view… with no improvements on the property. It’s in the department of Maldonado, about 40-minutes’ drive from Punta del Este. If you like, the owner will also sell some adjacent parcels.

I saw a number of chacras in the range of US$45k to US$55k, with either minor improvements or no construction at all.

bulletThis chacra is basic, with six hectares (15 acres) of rolling hills, running along the banks of the small but picturesque Paraje Las Cañas River. With native vegetation and palms, the property comes with a small house with one bedroom, one bath, living room, dining room, and kitchen. The property also features a small barn and a private well. It’s located 30 kms (18.6 miles) from the town of San Carlos, one of my favorite towns showcasing traditional rural Uruguay. The asking price is US$190,000.

bulletThis one is also six hectares (15 acres), improved, and has the advantage of being 30 minutes from Punta del Este… so if you like the beach and would enjoy the amenities of South America’s number one beach resort now and then, this is worth your consideration.

The property has two houses, both Bavarian style. One is a small, masonry, thatched-roof, two-story house, while the main house is a two-bedroom home made of wood with a rear deck that extends over the banks of the pond. The asking price for this one is US$350,000.

bulletThis chacra has two houses, electricity, a private well, and nice views of the area. It’s being offered as a portera cerrada, which in Uruguay means that everything is included, from furniture to farm machinery. The asking price is US$120,000.

bulletIf you like the water and a larger property—56 hectares or 138 acres—there’s a chacra on offer near Villa Rosario, about 25 kms (15 miles) from the town of Minas, a small, attractive city in the interior. I like this one because it’s on a navigable portion of the El Soldado River. Of the 56 hectares, 30 are prepped for cultivation… the rest is wild.

Electricity is 700 meters from the property, so figure that into your overall cost if you plan on building (and want to be on the grid). The asking price is US$308,000.

The Minas town square is attractive and well-maintained

The Minas town square is attractive and well-maintained

A good agent for chacras in Uruguay is Noel de los Santos, owner of Campos del Este, an agency that specializes in these country properties. Noel tends to specialize in rural properties, rather than luxury properties near the coast. He can be reached at ventas@CamposDelEste.com. Noel is also the escribano who handled the purchase of my first property in Uruguay. See his website at CamposDelEste.com.

A Land Buy That Brings You A Lot For Your Money

When buying a chacra, the cost of entry is minimal, starting at around US$45,000 for a five-hectare parcel. For that price, you can have a vacation property now… one that’s capable of being a sustainable, off-the-grid property in the future if you want to use it that way.

More importantly, you’ll have gained a foothold in Uruguay. With its liberal residency and second citizenship policies, it’s a country that gets top marks for freedom.

I can tell you personally that it’s also one of the best places in the world to live.

Lee Harrison
Editor, Overseas Property Alert

***
 

Letters To The Editor

Lee,

I appreciate the beautiful women in Cali, but I noticed that some of the buildings and homes are rather shabby. (I was there a limited time.)

Why does Kathleen Peddicord say that Cali is going to be the next upcoming place to call home in Colombia?

Thanks Lee!
Brock C.

Kathleen was referring to Cali’s potential. Today, the property prices in Cali are very low, the cost of living is low, and it’s just coming into its own as an expat destination. Expats are buying properties, and a rental market is starting to bloom.

But, with respect to shabbiness, you bring up a good point, Brock. In Medellín, there are neighborhoods like El Poblado that are exclusively sound and winsome… while others are almost exclusively run-down. But, in Cali, virtually every neighborhood I saw had at least some combination of sound and winsome homes and run-down homes.

Personally, I saw this as a plus. I could go to a nice place like Cali’s El Peñón and find a bargain fixer-upper among the solid surroundings and amenities.

***

Hello Lee,

I have recently purchased a property outside Santa Rosa de Cabal, Risaralda, Colombia. I would like your advice on the postal service in Colombia, as I will soon be living there full-time, and will periodically need to receive mail.

Is there a secure method you would recommend, or is the regular postal service fine… I know that in some countries it is not.

Thank you,
Elizabeth

Personally, I always use the local postal service when I can for routine mail. In Medellín, I’ve never had a problem (that I know of). For important documents, I use FedEx, DHL, or UPS when mailing things to and from the United States.

In my experience, mail reliability depends more on the municipality than the country. One city will be great, while the next one may be spotty. I’d suggest you try out the local post office with a handful of test mailings to see how they do.

In any case, don’t send valuables or anything that might appear to contain something valuable.

If you’re living “outside” Santa Rosa, I’d suggest getting a P.O. box in town. That will make it slightly more reliable and secure. Expect things to take three weeks to arrive from the States.

As for other express delivery services (like FedEx), I don’t know which ones are available in Santa Rosa. Once you get there, look for a local branch for those important or rush items.

***

Lee,
Do you know if owner financing, contracts for deed, etc., are possible in any of the countries you are an expert on?

Dee

Yes, depending on where you are buying, there could be a number of options available. See my previous essay on financing your property abroad.

Have a question? You can write to Lee here.

An Urban Setting With Plenty Of Green Space

Cali, Colombia: An Urban Setting With Plenty Of Green Space

Cali: Great Lifestyle, Low Price Tag
My workout over, I wipe my brow and walk over to chat with Sergio.

Sergio comes to Parque El Ingenio almost every day to sell agua de panela—water flavored with brown cane sugar and lime—to the folks who exercise at what I have come to call “The Flintstones Gym.” The equipment here is homemade. Barbells and dumbbells sport blocks of concrete rather than steel plates, but the equipment is well maintained and this is a popular spot in the mornings. The men who come here are serious about working out, but also friendly, and they welcome me with smiles and nods.

Sergio pours me a generous cup of agua de panela, and I fish a sweaty 1,000-peso bill—about 35 cents—from my pocket. I hand it over and we begin another of Continue reading

Languedoc Has Changed Its Name

Why Property In Languedoc Keeps Growing In Popularity

Why The Languedoc Has Changed Its Name But Not Its Attraction To Property Buyers

It can change names as many times as it likes, but the wine producing Languedoc area of southern France remains one of my favorite places in the world. More and more people are getting to know its wines, but property prices don’t appear to be reflecting the area’s growing appeal.

The Languedoc region is sometimes referred to as “The Other South of France” because it is not neighboring Provence or the Côte d’Azur, but it is geographically the most southern part of France, with Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur to the east, the old Midi-Pyrénées to the west, the Auvergne to the north, and Spain to the south.

Historically Languedoc was a province of France, it’s only in recent times that Roussillon was added, turning the area into a region. The original Languedoc has a fascinating history and even its own language, Occitan, which is similar to Catalán, from just over the border in Spain.

It’s from “Occitan” that the region’s new name is derived. At the beginning of this year, Languedoc-Roussillon was merged with the neighboring Midi-Pyrénées region, and Continue reading

A Rental Market Overview Of Medellín

A Rental Market Overview Of Medellín’s Top Neighborhoods

The Latest On Furnished Rentals In Medellín

Last week, I saw a report that’s important for anyone who wants to get into Medellín, Colombia’s lucrative rental market… or anyone who wants to rent a furnished apartment for living in this popular expat destination.

The study analyzed the costs of 350 furnished rental units on the market in Medellín’s most popular sectors. It provides a good source of unbiased data.

So, with this rental data in hand, now is a good time to look at my three favorite areas in the Medellín valley to get a picture of today’s rental market.

Let’s start with the most popular sector in Medellín.

El Poblado: The Beverly Hills Of Colombia

With lush, shady streets, tumbling mountain streams, and excellent residential options, it’s no wonder that El Poblado is Medellín’s most popular area for expats, travelers, and tourists.

El Poblado is green, forested, and uncrowded at its higher elevations, getting more “citified” as you approach the valley floor. The lower parts are walkable, with everything close at hand. El Poblado is the most expensive and exclusive area in the city and is the best place to own a rental property.

The centerpiece of El Poblado is the Zona Rosa, with its restaurants, cafés, clubs, discos, and Continue reading

Why Ecuador's Best Beachfront Property Is Found In Salinas

Why Ecuador’s Best Beachfront Property Is Found In Salinas

A Great Lifestyle With Inexpensive Beachfront

Ecuador’s coast has lots of beautiful, unspoiled, and fairly undeveloped seaside towns. In fact, Ecuador’s undeveloped coast is what draws a lot of people to the country.

But if my agenda were to enjoy resort-style amenities—restaurants, cafés, nightlife, groomed beaches, and an active real estate market— then Salinas is where I’d buy.

I first visited Salinas back in 2002, and have kept an eye on it over the years. Recently, two things changed that have affected the property market:

  • Ecuador’s major coastal earthquake in 2016 actually caused an increase in tourist and rental traffic to Salinas.
  • Salinas—always accessible from the international airport at Guayaquil—now has its own airport with flights to Quito… making it accessible to Ecuador’s other major international airport.

When you come to Salinas, Ecuador, during the North American winter, you’ll find an energetic, bustling Pacific resort city soaking up some of the world’s best weather. As I write this (on Saturday, April 29), Salinas is enjoying a mixture of clouds and sunshine, with high of 83°F (28°C)… a forecast that remains pretty much the same for the next 10 days.

In the real estate market, condo prices a few blocks back from the beach start at around US$65,000… Continue reading

top picks global property summit

Canada’s Maritime Region Offers A Tranquil Seaside Escape

Look To The Maritimes For Canada’s Best Real Estate Buys

It started as a joke, people fleeing the United States after the election. But after putting up the website “Cape Breton If Donald Trump Wins,” creator Rob Calabrese saw more than a million visitors to the site within the first few weeks.

Then after the election, Canada’s immigration website crashed, as potential “refugees” investigated actually moving to Canada.

Thousands of people wrote to Calabrese personally, asking how they could relocate to Cape Breton.

Oddly, these people included a lot of Trump supporters.

Why?

Because houses on Cape Breton, and in all of Canada’s Maritime provinces, are a great deal for interested buyers… especially those with U.S. dollars. And, like the president himself, everyone likes a great deal. Continue reading

Las Gavias Grand: Luxurious Ocean Views In Mazatlán, Mexico

A Beachfront Project With Quiet Beaches And Island Views
The view from the 23rd-floor model condo was designed to impress… and it worked. The two islands I saw framed by the picture window are one of the most sought-after views in Mazatlán.

Behind the islands, the shipping channel is off in the distance. You can watch as container ships, tankers, cruise ships, and Mazatlán’s large commercial fishing and shrimp fleets enter and leave the port. In the near distance, in front of the islands, you often see dolphins and sea lions swimming in the bay.

The beach here is quiet and tranquil… removed from Mazatlán’s tourist attractions, cruise passengers, and traffic, yet close enough to be at the largest restaurant zone in 10 minutes.

Las Gavias Grand

The impressive view from the existing north tower of Las Gavias Grand

Today I’m going to show you a chance to buy into a pre-construction deal at a steep discount… Continue reading
top picks global property summit

My Top 3 Global Property Picks From This Year’s Summit

My Top Three Property Picks From The Global Property Summit

I just got home from spending last week at the annual Global Property Summit, where our contacts from around the world brought the best real estate offers from their respective countries. We saw a wide array of good investments.

I know everyone has their own favorites, based on their own needs and objectives. But I thought I’d pass along my own top picks from last week… the property deals that appealed to me the most.

Brazil Is Staging A Comeback, With Beach Lots Under US$50K

This year’s Global Property Summit featured a number of Brazilian offers that were popular with attendees. Many people were drawn to the Pontal Beach Lots, located within a beachfront community, for Continue reading

ottawa canada housing market

Ottawa: Canada’s Strong, Steady, and Stable Housing Market

By this point, the hype should have died down. This far after the U.S. election, people should be moving on with their lives rather than talking about moving out of the country.

It happens after every U.S. election cycle: One side wins, and a select few from the losing side say they’re moving to Canada.

This phenomenon knows no political stripes. Even unhappy Republicans declared they were moving to Canada to protest Obama’s 2012 re election… a country with gay marriages, gun controls, socialists, pot-smokers, and immigrants—all of the things they wanted to escape in the United States.

In reality, the odds of people actually moving this time around probably aren’t much higher than in the past; however, nothing is so sure these days. In fact, a recent report from Continue reading

canada property markets

Canadian Property Markets: An American Investor’s Best Buddy

Now Is The Time To Buy Canadian

It was an ongoing joke throughout the presidential campaign: Americans wanting to escape the toxic political situation and move to Canada. Cape Breton, a small town on Canada’s east coast, even based an advertising campaign on it with instant viral success.

Then, for many, it stopped being a joke when they woke up Nov. 9.

Google Trends showed a massive spike in searches for “how to move to Canada” and related queries following the election results. So many people visited the Canadian Immigration website that it crashed, and this wasn’t the first time in this election cycle that this happened. The page also crashed after March’s Super Tuesday primary results.

Whether the election results produce any significant increase in U.S. immigration to Canada will take time to be seen. Already, many of the celebrities who had previously threatened leaving have fessed up that they didn’t actually mean it.

The “True North” Remains Strong And Free

The idea of escaping the United States to the Great White North is nothing new. Loyalists fleeing during the U.S. Revolutionary War, escaped slaves joining them via the Underground Railway, and war resisters crossing the border during the Vietnam War—Canada has provided a beacon of freedom for hundreds of thousands of Americans over the years. And it still does today.

More recently, the impetus for moving to Canada became more political. Much like it has this year, after President Bush’s reelection in 2004, Canada’s immigration website saw six times its average traffic. By Continue reading