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.

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

Valencia, Spain: Food, History, And Affordable Property

Valencia, Spain: Food, History, And Affordable Property

Exploring Valencia, Spain

Spain has long been a popular destination for casual visitors and retirees alike. A convivial culture, generally agreeable climate, reasonable cost of living, and superb food are just a few of the reasons for Spain’s perpetual popularity.

But Spain is quite diverse—really more a loosely-knit group of largely autonomous and disparate comunidades more so than a single country. Faced with such diversity, where should you begin your explorations?

One of my favorite cities is Valencia. Although it is Spain’s third largest city, with a population of around 800,000 (double that in the metro area), Valencia feels smaller. It has a more relaxed ambience than either Madrid or Barcelona, and it’s considerably cheaper than those larger cities, as well. But don’t imagine that you have to give up a lot just because Valencia comes with a lower price tag. Not at all.

Valencia lies on the Mediterranean on a stretch known as the Costa del Azahar, or Orange Blossom Coast. It is easily reached either by direct flight, or Continue reading

vineyard los arbolitos

Your Own Vineyard in Argentina’s Los Arbolitos For Under US$50K

Profit From Your Own Wine Vineyard For Less Than US$50K

We’ve been touting yield-generating hard assets, specifically agricultural land, for a little over four years now. In addition to providing investors with cash flow from harvests (in some cases, within nine months after their initial investment) and capital appreciation, productive land also provides you with asset protection and a hedge against inflation.

And with the emergence of turnkey farm operations, individual investors can earn hassle-free yields without a huge capital outlay.

For all of these reasons, turnkey agriculture offerings have become extremely popular investments. Many of our readers have begun to diversify their real estate portfolios into agriculture, investing in everything from fruit trees (mangos, limes, and avocados) to timber (teak, acacia, and eucalyptus).

The question about agriculture I get most frequently is, “What other agriculture investments do you have?”

Like all savvy investors, they want to add another layer of diversification to Continue reading

Beach property that deserve your attention.

The 3 Coastal Property Markets That Deserve Our Attention

Exploring One Step Beyond The World’s Popular Beaches
Plus: Assisted Living In Cuenca, Ecuador Buying Overseas Properties With Your Work-Sponsored 401K

Many who want to buy a home abroad focus in on the world’s beaches… not only for retiring overseas but also for maintaining a part-year or vacation home.

Time and again, there are a number of well-known beaches that seem to grab everyone’s attention. Three that come to mind are Punta del Este, Uruguay; Viña del Mar, Chile; and Santa Marta, Colombia; although there are numerous others.

Today, however, I’d like to go one step beyond these well-known areas, and take a look at some real treasures that are somewhat off—but not too far off—the beaten path.

This is always a good idea when looking for coastal property. In some cases, it’ll save you money… my examples start at US$50k. In others, it will get you away from the traffic and crowds, without sacrificing any of the natural beauty of the area.

Let’s start with Santa Marta, Colombia, and see what lies beyond.

Santa Marta is Colombia’s oldest city, and one of the oldest in the Americas. Located on Colombia’s Caribbean coast, it offers warm temperatures and warm water all year.

The historic center underwent a dramatic restoration over the past 10 years, with the city refurbishing many of its parks, historic buildings, and waterfront areas… which now enjoy a nice park, waterfront cafés, and pleasant walkways.

There are a handful of small beaches in Santa Marta, as well as a cruise ship port.

I’ve been to Santa Marta a number of times and have enjoyed watching its renaissance.

But one step beyond Santa Marta is the village of Taganga… just over the ridge and Continue reading

How To Cash In On Cali, Colombia’s Lucrative Rental Market

A Low Entry Point Into Cali’s Lucrative Rental Market
Plus: Receiving Medicare Abroad, And Pairing Belize With Mexico For Overseas Living

I was out taking photos of Cali, Colombia, and I came across an attractive Italian bakery on a corner in the El Peñón neighborhood. In a provincial style, it had a heavy wooden door standing open and old-fashioned windows opening onto both streets.

The aroma of baking bread drifted through the windows.

Just inside the door there were several large tables in the center of the room piled with a mountain of fresh-baked breads of different types.

Behind the cashier, there were racks of cooling pastries adding to the wonderful smells spilling through the open windows. I picked two warm croissants, ordered a large cappuccino, and sat down at an old-fashioned wooden table overlooking the street.

Through the window, I watched as an old man pulled a donkey cart laden with palms, ferns, and tropical plants for sale… announcing his wares like a town crier as he made his way down the street.

There are many good options for living here, but El Peñón is my favorite of Cali’s neighborhoods. It’s convenient, walkable, and has all of the local amenities that I look for… Continue reading

Making Offshore Investments

How To Take Total Control Of Your Self-Directed IRA

The Best Available Source Of Funds For Making Offshore Investments
Plus: “My 8-Year-Old Students Can Write Better Than You…”

I’ve often made reference to self-directed IRAs, and the fact that you can use them to invest in property overseas… as well as for many other non-traditional investments. I’ve even compared them to self-directed 401Ks.

This is a popular and important topic, and many of you have written with questions about self-directed IRAs. It’s one of our most frequently asked-about topics.

Until now, we’ve never really covered the self-directed IRA in detail… what your options are and how to set things up.

If you’d like to unleash the investment potential of your IRA, Dave Drummond’s article below is a must-read. I’ll let Dave take it from here.

At the end of 2011, U.S. citizens had approximately US$5.5 trillion in Individual Retirement Accounts (IRA) with just over 40% of the population participating. If you add deferred contribution plans, including 401Ks, the dollar amount climbs to around US$9.7 trillion. Continue reading

property in Medellin, Colombia

Reasons You Should Be Buying Property In Medellin, Colombia

“I Can’t Believe This Place Has Stayed Off The Radar”
Plus: Getting The “Real” Story On Belize

“I can’t believe this place has stayed off the radar,” said my friend Lou… for the third time in as many days. We were having dinner in an open-air French restaurant in Medellín’s Zona Rosa, the city’s upscale dining and shopping area.

Lou lives on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, and over the past 25 years he’s had the highest standards for fine dining of anyone I know. He was surprised that Medellín’s El Poblado made the grade given that the city is still relatively unknown by the mainstream.

But Medellín more than “makes the grade”. In most ways, it sets the standard for world-class city living and does so at a surprisingly low cost of living.

What’s more, real estate prices can start at less than US$54,000 in the Medellín valley and under US$100,000 in Medellín’s most-exclusive and upscale neighborhood.

If you’re a regular reader, you’ll know that I’ve recently returned to Medellín, Colombia, from Mazatlán, Mexico. And returning from an extended absence—along with hosting first-time visitors to the city—always gives me a new appreciation for Medellín.

Here are a few of the items that really struck me again when I returned earlier this month.

The weather is amazing: We were sitting at a sidewalk café this morning on the way home from our exclusive, open-air gym. While enjoying cappuccinos and pastries—in gym shorts and t-shirts—I realized that I could enjoy this outdoor café every single day of the year. It’s never too hot or too cold.

I also enjoy passing mornings and evenings on our balcony overlooking the lush courtyard behind our apartment. With no heat or air conditioning, we can leave the windows open to Continue reading

Searching for property, buying property, and renting property

Searching, Buying, And Renting Property Abroad In 2016

Four Steps To Kick Off Your 2016 Property Search

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 Continue reading