Anti-Austerity Government & Falling Euro, Greece Property A Bargain

A Home Of Your Own On The Blue Aegean? Now Could Be Your Chance

Jan. 26, 2015, Panama City, Panama: The new anti-austerity government and falling euro make Greece property more affordable than it’s been in a decade.

Dear Live and Invest Overseas Reader,

When I was in Athens in July 2013, effects of the austerity measures that had been in place for more than two years by that time, intended to help save the ailing country and its bankrupt economy, were visible everywhere. Traffic was light, restaurants along the shore were mostly empty even though it was the height of the season, garbage was rotting in giant piles across Athens, Greeks we spoke with were frustrated and demoralized, and real estate prices were low.

This last, of course, was of particular interest to me, and one big question on my mind at the time was whether real estate in Greece was a good investment. 

I concluded no then, and I'm still not convinced this morning after the “anti-austerity” party won yesterday's elections in Greece.

The euro is down to 11-year lows, hovering around US$1.12 as I write, so investing in something in the Eurozone is an idea anyone with U.S. dollars in his investment account wants to be paying attention to right now. Currency pundits are calling for euro parity with the U.S. dollar before the end of this year. We haven't seen that since 2002. Again, this is a window of opportunity that you want to consider acting on.

At the same time, it's possible Greece won't be using the euro long term if the anti-austerity party now in power doesn't keep to the terms agreed for the bailout provided by the rest of the Eurozone in 2010. 

Should we care what currency Greek property is priced in? It doesn't matter much if no one is buying Greek property.

So the question becomes whether the new government of Greece can turn the country's economy around... erase a 25% or higher unemployment rate... and reduce debt levels from their current 175% of GDP.

Real estate prices have fallen every year in Greece since 2008, including double-digit declines in 2012 and 2013 before a further single-digit decrease in 2014. And we could be nowhere near the bottom.


Comparing Panama & Colombia As Top Live, Retire, & Invest Choices

Sizing Up The Competition—Panama Versus Colombia

Jan. 25, 2015, Panama City, Panama: Panama and Colombia are both top live, retire, and invest overseas choices.

Dear Live and Invest Overseas Reader,

I've been interviewed twice this week by Colombia media, including, Thursday night, a live interview on Colombia national public radio. My host wondered how Colombia stacks up against its live- and invest-overseas competition. 

Panama is generally recognized (by us and others) as the world's top retire-overseas option, meaning Panama is Colombia's primary competition in this arena. Specifically, in these two countries, I'd target Panama City and Medellin as top contenders for your attention.

Where would be the better place for you to think about investing your time or money? Let me try to help you find an answer to that question by drawing out the similarities and differences between these two cities that, in fact, couldn't be more unalike...

Arriving in Panama City, you recognize instantly that this town is open for business, pushing for growth, and both embracing and chasing prosperity. Your heart rate quickens, and your mind works quicker, too, trying to keep up with the commotion all around. 

Arriving in Medellin has the opposite physical effects. Your heart slows a bit, your mind settles. 

Unlike Panama City, Medellin's cityscape isn't all high-rise condo towers and features nary a single building of glass or steel. From any height (the windows of one of the city's luxury penthouse apartments for example, or the top of one of the surrounding hills), Medellin appears a sea of red clay tiles and red brick buildings interspersed regularly by patches of foliage and flowers. The effect, again, is calming, peaceful.


Timing Foreign Property Investments On Currency Exchange Rates

Should You Time The Currency When Investing In Real Estate Overseas?

Jan. 23, 2015, Panama City, Panama: The U.S. dollar is at a five-year high against the Colombian peso, creating a window of opportunity for investors interested in diversifying into global property.

Dear Live and Invest Overseas Reader,

When I bought my apartment in Medellin, Colombia, I wrote that I don't try to time currency exchange rates when investing in real estate. I can't predict which way exchange rates are going to move any more reliably than anyone else can, so I don't try. A reader at the time wrote in to say that my position was silly and that he was going to wait to invest in real estate in Colombia until the exchange rate was where he wanted it to be.

Three-and-a-half years later, the rate of exchange between the U.S. dollar and the Colombian peso has moved dramatically in favor of the U.S. dollar-holder. Your U.S. dollars buy about 35% more right now than they did in mid-2011, when I bought my apartment. During that same period, property values in Medellin have increased by at least 35% in peso terms. The guy who was waiting for the currency to move in his favor should feel comfortable buying right now. On the other hand, he's going to pay 35% more in peso terms than I did when I bought. And I've had use of and rental income from my apartment in the meantime.

The guy who could have and who should have bought in 2011 aside, the current exchange rate is an opportunity to buy into what is a solid and appreciating market at what amount to 2011 U.S. dollar values.

The local economic dynamics remain strong. The middle class is expanding. The economy is growing. The government is stable. Perhaps most important for the investor, the 2015 global perception of Colombia is dramatically improved compared with the 2011 global perception… and it continues to improve.

Colombia has launched a tourism marketing campaign focused on showcasing the beauty of the country. Forget our troubled past and take a look at all we've got to offer, Colombia is telling the world. More foreign tourists are visiting… more foreign investors are investing.


Retirement Lifestyle Options In Cartagena, Colombia

Colombia's Walled City On The Caribbean That You Can't Afford To Miss (Especially At Today's Values)

Jan. 22, 2015, Cartagena, Colombia: Cartagena, Colombia, is a top retirement option on the Caribbean.

Dear Live and Invest Overseas Reader,

There are few things that I enjoy more than the charm and splendor of a well-kept Spanish-colonial city. The plazas, cobblestone streets, courtyard homes, and flowered balconies take you back to Spain's grand colonial era. As a long-time expat and writer, I've had the chance to visit dozens of the best colonial cities in the Americas. Among Spain's grand cities on our side of the ocean, I'd say that Cartagena is the most beautiful, with a lot to offer the potential expat.

Cartagena offers a unique cultural blend that combines the best of old Spanish America with the richness of the Caribbean. The courtyard homes and narrow streets take you back to old Spain, while the bright colors of the houses add a Caribbean flair. The traditional Colombian cuisine in places like Cafetería Bocaditos may be reminiscent of Madrid, but the women walking about with giant trays of fresh fruit balanced on their heads remind you that you're on the shores of the Caribbean. 

Restaurants are varied and diverse. You can enjoy everything from traditional Colombian arepas from a street vendor or fine Italian dining at Enoteca on Plaza Santa Teresa to a traditional Cuban ropa vieja or a Middle Eastern kibbe

Cartagena is not only an example of Spanish-colonial splendor, but it's also one of the world's few remaining walled cities, surrounded by almost 7 miles of massive stone wall. And if you like the sea, sun, and sand, you'll be more interested in Cartagena's many attractive beach areas just a few minutes away by cab. 

From a practical perspective, Cartagena gets high marks. The infrastructure is great—the water drinkable, the streets well-maintained, the Internet high-speed, and the international airport just minutes away.


Colombia Is The World’s Next Top Lifestyle And Retirement Haven

My Craziest—And Surest—Recommendation Of All

Jan. 21, 2015, Medellin, Colombia: Colombia, especially Medellin, is an emerging top retirement, lifestyle, investment, and second-home choice.

Dear Live and Invest Overseas Reader,

I was one of the first people in the world to recommend that North Americans consider the idea of retiring to Costa Rica. That was 30 years ago. People told me I was crazy. Why would anyone want to retire to a Third World country when they could retire to Florida or Arizona instead?

People called me crazy, too, when, a few years later, I started recommending Belize as a place to relocate in retirement. In this case, no kidding, I think I was the first person to make the endorsement. I was first with Roatan, Ecuador, Panama, Nicaragua... and, every time I published one of these new retirement picks, readers, friends, family, business colleagues, and strangers would get in touch to point out that I was speaking nonsense, acting irresponsibly, even embarrassing myself.

I won't belabor the history further. I want to get to my present-day point, which is maybe my craziest—and surest—recommendation of all:

Medellin, Colombia, meets all my criteria for a top retire-overseas choice. This is an emerging champion for retiring, living, investing, and owning a second home overseas.

Furthermore, the current exchange rate is handing today's buyers shopping with U.S. dollars a whopping 32% discount off the cost of real estate in this country and 32% off the cost of everything else, too.

In July 2014, the Colombian peso was trading at 1,850 per U.S. dollar. As I write, it's trading at 2,450 per dollar. Again, that translates to 32% more buying power today for U.S. dollar-holders than just six months ago.


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Kathleen Peddicord

Kathleen Peddicord is the founder of the Live and Invest Overseas publishing group. With more than 25 years experience covering this beat, Kathleen reports daily on current opportunities for living, retiring, and investing overseas in her free e-letter.

Her book, How To Retire Overseas—Everything You Need To Know To Live Well Abroad For Less, was recently released by Penguin Books.

Read more here.


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