Budget for Medellin, Colombia

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Medellin, Colombia

Medellin makes a good impression immediately and on many levels. Architecturally, this city is lovely. Built almost entirely of red brick, with most every structure topped by a red clay tile roof, the place is pleasing in its consistency, especially when viewed from some height.

The city is impressively green, with trees, plants, and small gardens everywhere, and remarkably clean. In the central neighborhoods, you see no litter. The metro, a point of pride for the local population, is spotless and like new. At every station and in every train we boarded, I looked for but was unable to find even a cigarette butt or piece of gum on the ground.

However, perhaps the biggest reason we put Medellin on our 2011 Retirement Havens list has to do with cost.

Day-to-day costs in Medellin are on par with those in Panama City, which is to say they’re not ultra-bargain basement. A bottle of water in a corner shop, restaurant meals, taxis, and movie tickets all cost more or less what they’d cost in the Panamanian capital. The difference, of course, is that the cost of everything fluctuates in U.S. dollar terms every day. The dollar has been gaining on the peso lately, but this trend could reverse itself any time.

Bottom line, the cost of living here would be greater than in Ecuador, for example, or Nicaragua; on par with that in Panama City; less than in Argentina.

One notable cost savings living in Medellin would have to do with utility expenses. Thanks to the climate, you could live here with neither heating nor air conditioning, meaning your utility costs could be almost negligible. This could reduce your overall monthly budget by as much as US$200 or more.

However, the real cost advantage of Medellin has to do with real estate. This market today reminds me of the Panama City market when we first began paying close attention to it, about a decade ago. That is, it qualifies as a screaming bargain.

El Poblado, in the heart of the city, is the top end of the market, for both renting and buying. Here you’re looking at US$1,000 to US$1,500 per square meter to purchase resale (sometimes furnished); US$1,500 to US$2,000 per square meter to buy new; and US$1,000 (for a one-bedroom) to maybe US$3,000 (for a luxury-level penthouse) per month to rent, furnished.

Again, that’s the top of the market. In less recognized, more local neighborhoods, those prices can fall in half and more. Right now you can rent, for example, a one-bedroom apartment in the Laureles neighborhood (a neighborhood Lief and I explored and found to be safe, pleasant, and up-and-coming…a very good budget choice compared with more central and more discovered El Poblado) for as little as 850,000 pesos a month, maybe less. At the current exchange rate, that’s about US$450.

Medellin, Colombia, Comfortable Monthly Budget

Rental of a 1,000-square-foot, three-bedroom,
unfurnished apartment in El Poblado
(note: this is one of the most expensive city neighborhoods)

Item US dollars Remarks
Rent $700 N/A
HOA Fees $0 N/A
Property Taxes $0 Occasional bus and taxi fares
Transportation $15 Used for cooking
*Gas $25 Average value, assuming seasonal variations
*Electricity $50 Control line
*Telephone $10  
*Internet $20  
*Cable TV $20  
Household Help, fulltime $350  
Food $400 Groceries
Entertainment $300 Eating out, movies, bars, etc.
Homeowner’s Insurance $0 N/A
    *Bundled bill each month also includes garbage, sewer, water charges of US$150 (average)
TOTAL $1,890  

Ownership of 1,500-square-foot,
three-bedroom apartment in El Poblado

Item US dollars Remarks
Rent $0 N/A
HOA Fees $200  
Property Taxes $80  
Transportation $15 Occasional bus and taxi fares
*Gas $35 Used for cooking
*Electricity $60 Average value, assuming seasonal variations
*Telephone $10 Control line
*Internet $20  
*Cable TV $20  
Household Help, fulltime $350  
Food $400 Groceries
Entertainment $300 Eating out, movies, bars, etc.
Homeowner’s Insurance $30 Exterior covered in HOA
    *Bundled bill each month also includes garbage, sewer, water charges of US$175 (average)
TOTAL $1,520  

Medellin, Colombia, Shoestring Monthly Budget

Rental of a small, unfurnished studio
unit in Laureles/San Joaquin (Strata 4 neighborhood)

Item US dollars Remarks
Rent $210  
HOA Fees $0 N/A
Property Taxes $0 N/A
Transportation $25 Average taxi ride costs about US$4; metro or bus average is US$1.50 (each way)
Gas $0 Using an electric stove
Electricity, Garbage, Sewer and water $44 Packaged service option
Telephone, Internet & Cable TV $67 Packaged service option
Household Help, fulltime $126 For laundry and cleaning once a week
Food $400 Groceries
Entertainment $300 Eating out, movies, bars, etc.
Homeowner’s Insurance $0  
     
TOTAL $1,172  

Kathleen Peddicord and Roxana Lupu

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