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.
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 marketsâ€¦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.
This week in Medellin with the kids, we're getting to know our new neighborhood. We've settled into a routine. Lief and I are up with the sun. We open the French doors along the terrace and the windows of our little office to welcome the cool, fresh morning breeze. We power up our laptops to read the news and check e-mails, but casually, with none of our usual sense of urgency, allowing ourselves to be distracted often by the view out over the terrace of the city in the valley below.
Harry is up next and out the door for his first run of the day. "I've never seen a neighborhood like this," he exclaimed when he returned the first morning. "It's so green. Everywhere something is growing. There's no trash, no litter anywhere. And everyone is so friendly. I passed other joggers, people walking their dogs, people doing yoga and calisthenics in the park, and they all waved and smiled. It's crazy how happy everyone seems to be here."
Kaitlin and Jackson are the late-risers. When Kaitlin's ready, Harry's out the door again to keep her company for her power walk. Each morning, they've followed different routes, and each morning they've returned to report more discoveries--cafes, parks, restaurants... We've asked them to begin taking notes to create a neighborhood guide to leave in the apartment. It'd take Lief and me months to find all these places on our own.
Kaitlin is our self-appointed chef, Jackson her sous-chef. Each day they prepare a dinner menu then go off to the market to buy what they need. In the evenings, while they cook, Lief, Harry, and I line up our wicker arm chairs on the terrace to watch the sunset. We read, chat, and sip our wine until Kaitlin calls us to the table.
By 10 p.m. we're all ready for bed. "I don't understand why I'm so tired," Kaitlin said the first night. "I just checked the time, and it's only 9, but I can barely keep my eyes open."
"It's the altitude," Lief offered. "We'll adjust."
Meantime, we're all happy to hit the sack early. During the day, the street in front of our place is busy with passers-by. People in this town walk where they're going as often as possible. Why not? The temperature is always comfortable, and everywhere you go there's something pleasant to look at...a garden, a park, a playground filled with laughing toddlers. The streets are all tree-lined, the sidewalks all even, and pedestrians definitely have the right-of-way. Drivers stop for you and wave and smile as you pass.
Come 9 o'clock, though, our street is empty. And silent. No passers-by, no vehicles. We're all sleeping better than we have in a long time.
I've been insisting that, these two weeks in Medellin, we're on vacation...unplugged. The truth is, we're more plugged in and connected than ever. We have wireless in the apartment that extends out to the terraces. Kaitlin, Harry, and Jackson are of the generation that considers laptops and smart phones like additional appendages. They're never without them. Chargers and power cords snake across every room. They're on e-mail, Skype, and Facebook. They're playing games with each other across different devices. They're watching movies on Netflix. They're downloading music and new television series.
We've got a smart TV in the living room. You probably knew that you can buy a television that comes with wireless installed, but this was news to me when the helpful young man at the electronics store here explained it to us. Now, sitting on the sofa, we can surf the Net together. Lief tests the kids with geography trivia and currency conversion questions. (I know...it's a little nerdy, but Jackson loves it.) When he's not sure of the answer, Jackson can look it up online as we all sit around watching. As Harry likes to say, "Google is our friend."
"Are we going anywhere today?" Jackson asked this morning when I told him it was time to take a shower and get dressed. "Or are we just hanging around our neighborhood again?"
"Is there anything you'd like to do or anywhere you'd like to go?" I asked.
"No, I'd rather just hang around here again," he replied. "It's nice here."
Eventually, maybe in a few days, we'll venture a little farther afield, beyond our neighborhood...for dinner at Parque Lleras, drinks with friends, etc. Right now, though, I have to agree with Jackson. It's nice here, just hanging around.
Kathleen Peddicord'sNew Book
An Expert Guide To
The Advantages And
The Challenges of Investing In
Real Estate Overseas..."
Sign up to receive free dailydispatches from the "Guru of Overseas Retirement and Opportunities"
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.
Sign up for the Overseas Opportunity Letter
Receive our editor's latest research reports...absolutely FREE!
The Best Places For Living
Investing in the World for 2013
Receive a FREE copy of
The Six Cheapest Havens
To Retire In 2013
Discover the six best places in the world right now to live better and retire well…on as little as US$700 a month!
“We will not share or rent your email address to or with anyone else, period!”
Hey, I'm already a reader of Kathleen's e-letter. I don't need to see this popup ever again.