Articles Related to Colombia


You don't mind...or, if you do, you're not happy. If you're interested in a lifestyle supported by the diversions and distractions of a big city, Cayo is definitely not for you. If you're delighted by the thought of wide-open spaces where life revolves around the land and where independence and self-sufficiency are prized above all else, then Cayo could be the paradise you seek.

At home in Cayo, the view outside your bedroom window and from your front porch would be of fields and pastures, trees and jungle, rivers and livestock. You'd see Mennonites driving horse-drawn carts and children walking home from school. Everyone going about his or her business, not much bothered by market values, fiscal cliffs, or the mounting deficit. Here, in this land of escape, where life is simple, those things don't seem to matter or even to register.

Living in Cayo, you'd have Internet but maybe not reliable high-speed service. Don't move here if you plan to day trade.

Who Should Retire To Medellin, Colombia?

Medellin is a pretty, tidy city with a near-perfect climate. It's also culturally and recreationally rich and diverse in a sophisticated, developed-world kind of way. On any given day, you could visit a museum or see a tango show. There's opera in season, shopping year-round, and dance clubs, nightclubs, and white-glove restaurants...plus interactive outdoor museum-parks, an aquarium, an amusement park, botanical gardens, a planetarium, a "Barefoot Park" with a Zen garden, and dozens of small, neighborhood parks and treed plazas.

Medellin is an economic and financial center for Colombia, as well as a literary and an artistic one. It's the base for newspapers, radio networks, publishing houses, an annual poetry festival, an international jazz festival, an international tango festival, and an annual book fair. Back in 1971, Medellin was even the venue for Colombia's answer to Woodstock, the Festival de Ancon.

Medellin is a place where things work--the Internet, the metro, street-cleaning, garbage-collection...you can count on these services day-to-day. Taxis are metered, shop-keepers are well-mannered, and the people you pass on the street are well-dressed.

Making this a good choice for someone who wants city life but who also enjoys the out-of-doors (as this is a city best enjoyed al fresco). Medellin is suited to the retiree who isn't interested in hot, humid, or tropical and who appreciates Euro-chic but doesn't want to travel all the way to Europe.

The expat and retiree communities in Medellin are fledgling, meaning that you'd have to assimilate into the local one. This would mean speaking Spanish. If you don't already speak Spanish and don't want to learn, Medellin is probably not your ideal retirement haven.

Who Should Retire To Cuenca, Ecuador?

Cuenca is a colonial city where the cost of living is low and the cost of buying a home of your own is near rock-bottom. The health care is high quality, honest, and super-affordable. As in Medellin, the weather is "spring-like" year-round. Unlike Medellin (which is an emerging retirement haven rather than an established one like Cuenca), the city is home to one of the world's largest and fastest-growing communities of foreign retirees.

On the other hand, you have to remember that, charming as it can be, Cuenca is located in a poor, developing country. In this regard (and many others, too) Cuenca is the yang to Medellin's yin. In Cuenca, as throughout Ecuador, the standards of maintenance for roads, buildings, sidewalks, etc., won't be what you're probably used to and the hassle factor associated with any administrative task will be big.

Expats we know who are happy living in Cuenca are able to consider these annoyances fair exchange for the simple, 1950's lifestyle the city offers. Walking around town (Cuenca is a place where you could live comfortably without owning a car), you'll get to know the shop owners and your neighbors, who will all get to know you, too.

Cuenca will appeal to the expat who wants city life but who also has a sense of adventure and who is up for (rather than intimidated by) culture shock.

Who Should Retire To Puerto Vallarta, Mexico?

Romantic. That might be the best single word to describe Puerto Vallarta. The city also offers shopping and fine dining, boating and golfing, country clubs and community, gourmet shops and designer boutiques...all alongside a beautiful stretch of the Pacific Ocean.

Puerto Vallarta could be called glamorous, but the cost of living and of buying real estate here aren't jet-set. This is one of Mexico's most sophisticated resort spots, with more cachet than Mazatlán and more chic than Cancún. Walking around Vallarta, you get that happy, vacation-time feel that successful beach resorts exude.

And that's the would-be retiree overseas who should consider Puerto Vallarta--the beach-loving soul who likes the idea of retirement as a perpetual, fully appointed vacation.

Who Should Retire To El Cangrejo, Panama?

El Cangrejo is the expat hub of Panama City and a top choice for a comfortable, affordable, downtown-city-living experience. In El Cangrejo, you're smack-dab in the middle of everything Panama City has to offer.

This is one of the few neighborhoods in this city that is walkable and where you could get by without a car. It's also the only neighborhood in this city I'd describe as "cool." Over the years, El Cangrejo residents I've known have included a Chilean artist, a corporate transplant from Canada, many young Panamanians bucking the tradition of living with their parents through their 20s, retired hippies from the States, an entrepreneur from Serbia, and an Irish writer.

Panama City is the region's melting pot, and El Cangrejo is where the most interesting of the many transplants to this town choose to settle.

It's also Panama City's red-light district, the center of its prostitution (legal in this country) and casino trades. El Cangrejo's streets are lined with nightclubs and cafes, restaurants and pubs, plus low- and mid-rise apartment buildings. This isn't flashy Panama City (you find that in the high-rises along Avenida Balboa and in Punta Pacifico) and it isn't power Panama City (that's in Altos de Golf). El Cangrejo could be called the soul of this city, a good choice for the retiree with an open mind...

Who doesn't mind heat and humidity, congestion and traffic, noise and litter. These things, too, are all a part of the scene here.

Kathleen Peddicord

 

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Dear Live and Invest Overseas Reader, 

Where is the best place in the world to retire?

That's a tricky question to answer, so I suggest coming at this from a different angle. Rather than trying to identify the world's top retirement haven, consider instead who's best suited to retire where.

A short list of top retirement options in the Americas right now would include:
  • Cayo, Belize
  • Medellin, Colombia
  • Cuenca, Ecuador
  • Puerto Vallarta, Mexico
  • El Cangrejo, Panama

Which one of these places is the best choice? It depends on who you are.

Who Should Retire To Cayo, Belize?

Belize is a retirement, a tax, and an offshore haven. This is a sunny country where the folks speak English and value their freedom and privacy. Belize is easy to get to from the States, and the people living here are welcoming and hospitable once you've arrived.

On the other hand, this is a small country where the infrastructure is most kindly described as "developing."

The cost of living can be affordable, even low, but not if you want to live a more developed-world lifestyle that would mean buying lots of things not produced locally. Anything imported comes at an inflated price.

My favorite part of Belize is its Cayo District. No infrastructure, limited services and amenities, and little market demand could be interpreted as negatives, but, in Cayo, these things are a big part of the appeal. Once you get to Cayo, you don't mind that there's no infrastructure. You don't mind that the culture is more concerned with country living than consumerism.

You don't mind...or, if you do, you're not happy. If you're interested in a lifestyle supported by the diversions and distractions of a big city, Cayo is definitely not for you. If you're delighted by the thought of wide-open spaces where life revolves around the land and where independence and self-sufficiency are prized above all else, then Cayo could be the paradise you seek.

At home in Cayo, the view outside your bedroom window and from your front porch would be of fields and pastures, trees and jungle, rivers and livestock. You'd see Mennonites driving horse-drawn carts and children walking home from school. Everyone going about his or her business, not much bothered by market values, fiscal cliffs, or the mounting deficit. Here, in this land of escape, where life is simple, those things don't seem to matter or even to register.

Living in Cayo, you'd have Internet but maybe not reliable high-speed service. Don't move here if you plan to day trade.

Who Should Retire To Medellin, Colombia?

Medellin is a pretty, tidy city with a near-perfect climate. It's also culturally and recreationally rich and diverse in a sophisticated, developed-world kind of way. On any given day, you could visit a museum or see a tango show. There's opera in season, shopping year-round, and dance clubs, nightclubs, and white-glove restaurants...plus interactive outdoor museum-parks, an aquarium, an amusement park, botanical gardens, a planetarium, a "Barefoot Park" with a Zen garden, and dozens of small, neighborhood parks and treed plazas.

Medellin is an economic and financial center for Colombia, as well as a literary and an artistic one. It's the base for newspapers, radio networks, publishing houses, an annual poetry festival, an international jazz festival, an international tango festival, and an annual book fair. Back in 1971, Medellin was even the venue for Colombia's answer to Woodstock, the Festival de Ancon.

Medellin is a place where things work--the Internet, the metro, street-cleaning, garbage-collection...you can count on these services day-to-day. Taxis are metered, shop-keepers are well-mannered, and the people you pass on the street are well-dressed.

Making this a good choice for someone who wants city life but who also enjoys the out-of-doors (as this is a city best enjoyed al fresco). Medellin is suited to the retiree who isn't interested in hot, humid, or tropical and who appreciates Euro-chic but doesn't want to travel all the way to Europe.

The expat and retiree communities in Medellin are fledgling, meaning that you'd have to assimilate into the local one. This would mean speaking Spanish. If you don't already speak Spanish and don't want to learn, Medellin is probably not your ideal retirement haven.

Who Should Retire To Cuenca, Ecuador?

Cuenca is a colonial city where the cost of living is low and the cost of buying a home of your own is near rock-bottom. The health care is high quality, honest, and super-affordable. As in Medellin, the weather is "spring-like" year-round. Unlike Medellin (which is an emerging retirement haven rather than an established one like Cuenca), the city is home to one of the world's largest and fastest-growing communities of foreign retirees.

On the other hand, you have to remember that, charming as it can be, Cuenca is located in a poor, developing country. In this regard (and many others, too) Cuenca is the yang to Medellin's yin. In Cuenca, as throughout Ecuador, the standards of maintenance for roads, buildings, sidewalks, etc., won't be what you're probably used to and the hassle factor associated with any administrative task will be big.

Expats we know who are happy living in Cuenca are able to consider these annoyances fair exchange for the simple, 1950's lifestyle the city offers. Walking around town (Cuenca is a place where you could live comfortably without owning a car), you'll get to know the shop owners and your neighbors, who will all get to know you, too.

Cuenca will appeal to the expat who wants city life but who also has a sense of adventure and who is up for (rather than intimidated by) culture shock.

Who Should Retire To Puerto Vallarta, Mexico?

Romantic. That might be the best single word to describe Puerto Vallarta. The city also offers shopping and fine dining, boating and golfing, country clubs and community, gourmet shops and designer boutiques...all alongside a beautiful stretch of the Pacific Ocean.

Puerto Vallarta could be called glamorous, but the cost of living and of buying real estate here aren't jet-set. This is one of Mexico's most sophisticated resort spots, with more cachet than Mazatlán and more chic than Cancún. Walking around Vallarta, you get that happy, vacation-time feel that successful beach resorts exude.

And that's the would-be retiree overseas who should consider Puerto Vallarta--the beach-loving soul who likes the idea of retirement as a perpetual, fully appointed vacation.

Who Should Retire To El Cangrejo, Panama?

El Cangrejo is the expat hub of Panama City and a top choice for a comfortable, affordable, downtown-city-living experience. In El Cangrejo, you're smack-dab in the middle of everything Panama City has to offer.

This is one of the few neighborhoods in this city that is walkable and where you could get by without a car. It's also the only neighborhood in this city I'd describe as "cool." Over the years, El Cangrejo residents I've known have included a Chilean artist, a corporate transplant from Canada, many young Panamanians bucking the tradition of living with their parents through their 20s, retired hippies from the States, an entrepreneur from Serbia, and an Irish writer.

Panama City is the region's melting pot, and El Cangrejo is where the most interesting of the many transplants to this town choose to settle.

It's also Panama City's red-light district, the center of its prostitution (legal in this country) and casino trades. El Cangrejo's streets are lined with nightclubs and cafes, restaurants and pubs, plus low- and mid-rise apartment buildings. This isn't flashy Panama City (you find that in the high-rises along Avenida Balboa and in Punta Pacifico) and it isn't power Panama City (that's in Altos de Golf). El Cangrejo could be called the soul of this city, a good choice for the retiree with an open mind...

Who doesn't mind heat and humidity, congestion and traffic, noise and litter. These things, too, are all a part of the scene here.

Kathleen Peddicord
Read more...
 

“If I had to start over today,” Lief said, “I’d scrape together whatever nest egg I could, and I’d invest in a rental property, something that would generate enough cash flow to pay my bills. I’d live as cheap as I could and put aside every dollar of rental cash flow I could until I had accumulated enough to purchase a second rental property...and so on. 

“After I’d built a small portfolio of cash-flowing rental investments, I’d make an agricultural buy—timber, say, though that is a very long-term investment. You can get much nearer-term yields from coconuts, coffee, cocoa, and bamboo, all of which I’m either already invested in or looking at closely right now. 

“If it were just me, I’d continue living super-cheap, saving every possible dollar for additional cash-flowing investments. However, it’s not just me. My lovely wife makes sure that at least some of my income is diverted into non-cash flow-producing investments—like summer vacations and new living room furniture,” Lief continued with a smile in my direction. 

“Where would you make your first buy?” our friend wondered next. 

“If I were making the first investment of my career right now,” Lief replied, “I’d be shopping in Panama City or here in Medellin. Both are good markets for generating rental cash flow.” 

“I want to get rich,” our young friend interjected. “Where could I make more money quicker? In Panama City or Medellin?” 

Lief and I looked at each other. 

“It’s not easy to get rich quick investing in foreign real estate,” I offered. “Frankly, I don’t believe it’s easy to get rich quick investing in anything, but focusing your investment efforts on foreign property means adopting a long-term perspective.” 

“Right,” Lief agreed. “It’s very possible to realize an immediate return from a foreign property investment. That’s one reason I recommend rental properties—you can get a cash return right away. However, rental cash flow isn’t going to make you rich, at least not quickly. And the return from an agricultural investment is even less immediate. It takes 20 years to realize the return from an investment in teak, for example. So you’re making those kinds of buys for different reasons—for diversification and, mostly, to build legacy wealth. 

“But none of this is a formula for getting rich in a year or two or even three, thinking realistically. Global property investing is a way to get rich slowly. However, it’s real wealth, not paper wealth. It might take you five or seven years or longer to build a portfolio. I’ve been at this for more than two decades now. I’ve built wealth, yes, but I didn’t do it quickly. 

“When I was closer to your age,” Lief continued for our young friend, “I shared your eagerness. Like you, I wanted to get rich quick. That thinking led to the biggest mistakes of my investment career. I think of those now as my ‘greed’ buys, and they cost me big-time. 

“Now I’m not tempted by the idea of striking it rich or hitting it big time. Now I’m very happy to buy for a reasonable annual return. I look for a minimum of 5% to 8%.” 

“Is that what you’d be looking for in Panama City or Medellin if you bought today?” our friend asked. 

“One reason I like those markets is because it’s possible in both of them to beat my minimum return expectation. Buy the right thing for the right price in either city, and you could see annual cash flow of 10% to 15%. In today’s world, that’s nothing to sneeze at.” 

“Where do you see bigger upside potential?” our friend continued. 

“I see Medellin as a market for steady growth. Property values have appreciated in the three years since we invested here, and I believe they will continue to do so, but, again, at a slow, steady rate. 

“Panama City, on the other hand, is a boom town. It has seen one boom, which was followed by the slowdown of 2008/2009. Now I think we’re leading up to another boom. About two years ago, prices in Panama City began appreciating again, slowly. When the Canal expansion project is finalized, though, I think we’ll see another pop. This will happen in 2015, and not only Panama City but the entire country will benefit. The Canal expansion is a big deal. 

“I see more dramatic upside potential in Panama than in Medellin for two other reasons, as well. First, Medellin is still suffering from the Escobar Factor. This misperception will continue to keep the average foreign retail investor away for some time. We still get readers asking about Noriega in Panama, so Medellin’s got a ways to go before it will shed this stigma. 

“The other reason Panama offers more upside is because it’s still the Wild West. Real estate in Panama, including in Panama City, is a cowboy’s marketplace. In Medellin, on the other hand, the real estate industry is more developed, more sophisticated, and more controlled. Prices in Panama are all over the place. It’s impossible to say what something ‘should’ cost. It’s a free-for-all. That kind of chaos creates opportunity.” 

Kathleen Peddicord

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Then we suggested that maybe Jack could work to develop the business with his older sister. We were living in Paris at the time, and Jack’s sister Kaitlin was in the States for college. The two would hold business meetings during holiday breaks, but progress was slow.

Earlier this year, Kaitlin and Jack (now 13) reconnected on the idea and have been working together in earnest since to launch their enterprise. The marketplace website is under construction, fulfillment systems have been put into place, marketing copy has been written, and the whole family is now involved in sourcing products. We have our marching orders in the form of the Trader Jack’s Bazaar Mission Statement:

Ever on the trail of the world’s most awesome stuff. 

This weekend the trail has led us to Medellin, Colombia.

Colombia is one of the five countries Kaitlin and Jack want to represent on their website for the launch (the others are Ecuador, Panama, Kenya, and France). They’ve also designed some Live and Invest Overseas-branded products, including the De Leon Duffle and the Pickwick Pen.

The focus here in Colombia is on cow hides and leather products. Kaitlin, Jack, and Lief met Friday with our local source and stocked up on inventory. Our timing for this buying trip, coincidentally, couldn’t have been better. The exchange rate between the Colombia peso and the U.S. dollar is more in favor of the dollar-holder than it has been in the four years we’ve been focused on this market. Our dollars today buys us 2,000 pesos, meaning the cow hides and leather products we’re buying are about 12% cheaper, thanks to the currency fluctuation, than they were when we last priced them about five months ago.

Kaitlin and Jack hope to have the Trader Jack’s Bazaar website live in time for this year’s holiday shopping season. Meantime, you can take a look at their Facebook page (here) for an idea of what’s to come.

Kathleen Peddicord

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It's true. The hills around Medellin showcase every shade of green Mother Nature has to serve up, from pastel to emerald, marked off in places, where farmers have been at work, in tidy geometric patterns, just like in Ireland. As the bright sun crosses overhead, the changing angles of light pick out the terraced plots, the cascading wildflowers, the blankets of grass, the leafy trees, spotlighting them in turn. You have the thought that you never knew green before, you only thought you did, just like in Ireland.

Finally, we've been venturing beyond our neighborhood, getting out to discover some of the mountain towns that surround Medellin. We've climbed the mammoth rock that juts more than 650 feet above Guatape, we've stopped for a traditional parrilla lunch in El Retiro, we've shopped for antiques and commissioned some custom-made furniture in Las Palmas (for about one-fourth the prices we've seen for the same things in downtown shops)...

And the more we explore, the better we like this place. "I don't understand why the whole world doesn't live here," Lief joked yesterday as we were winding our way through more too-green-and-virgin-to-be-believed countryside.

This morning we'll join the rest of Medellin for a walk through the city. Every Sunday, from dawn until 1 p.m., Avenida El Poblado is closed to traffic and becomes a pedestrians-only thoroughfare that nearly bursts with pedestrians of all descriptions--on skates, roller blades, skateboards, bicycles, and their own two feet, in pairs, with children, with dogs, and solo--delighting in the fact that they're living in one of the world's most delightful cities.

Kathleen Peddicord 

 

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We're in Medellin this week, enjoying our first family stay in our just renovated apartment here. Sitting on the terrace the other afternoon, I thought about resale markets…and how much sense Medellin makes in this context. This is an active market with a large local population plus a growing expat population. If we were to put our apartment up for sale today, it would likely sell quickly for a decent price. The location is good, the size of the apartment appeals to a large section of the market, and it's been renovated, meaning no work required of the new owner. It's turn-key.

Another property I saw recently, not here but back in Panama, didn't meet those criteria. It's a lovely house in a pretty setting, but the location would really only appeal to a niche expat market, narrowing the pool of potential buyers. When you factor in the million dollar-plus price tag, the resale market narrows further. The owners are aware of this and have reconciled to the idea that it could take up to two years to sell the place. Additionally, they didn't buy for investment. They bought a place where they wanted to live themselves and knew the consequences down the line could be a slow resale.

This example brings another real estate adage to mind: If you're buying for investment, don't buy the nicest house on the block. It won't have as much upside as the least nice house in the same neighborhood.

In the current global real estate climate, you want to focus on opportunities in active markets. You also want to focus on properties with the potential to generate yields, as capital appreciation is no longer a forgone conclusion in most markets. Yields are key, but my point is that you want to balance the yield potential with the potential to resell your property when the time comes. A market's buyer base is more important than ever.

Again, Medellin hits all the marks. You can find good yield-producing opportunities (when you buy the right type of property in the right location), and you can feel pretty comfortable about your prospects for resale down the line. The local market is broad, and the expat market is growing.

Furthermore, this is one market where I'd go out on a limb to project appreciation over the coming few years. We've seen it already since we started shopping here two years ago. Values are up say 15% across the board in that time and continue slowly, steadily up.

Finally, there's a lot of inventory across all types. You definitely don't have to buy the nicest place on the block to have a nice place.

While, again, prices have gone up over the last couple of years, since we started paying close attention, you can still find good choices for rental investment properties in the US$100,000 range. Boost your investment budget to US$150k, and the number of available properties increases significantly. If you're open to a renovation project, you can find gems for less.

The one drawback in this market is to do with short-term rentals. This is the kind of rental that will earn you the best yields. The trouble is that short-term rentals are illegal according to Colombian law unless the building specifically allows for them. Right now, only a few in Medellin do. The good news is that, in Colombia, a short-term rental is anything less than 30 days. That means you can legally rent your apartment for as little as 30 days (that is, a month at a time) with no worry.

Yields have come down as prices have gone up. Two years ago, you could buy certain properties with the expectation of a net yield of as much as 15% to 20%. Today, anticipated net yields are still above my generally acceptable range of 5% to 8%, but they are moving down. However, again, I'd say that you do have some capital appreciation to look forward to in this market, as the Colombian economy continues to grow, the Medellin stigma continues to fade, and more expats and retirees discover what the city has to offer.

All things considered, this remains one of my favorite investment markets in the world right now, and I don't see that changing anytime soon. That's why we've scheduled another Live and Invest in Medellin Conference for September. This is a place that should have your attention, both for investment and as a world-class lifestyle and retirement choice. We'll show you what we're talking about when we convene in the city with local contacts Sept. 10-12.

Lief Simon 

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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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