The cost of an apartment in Medellin has appreciated 5% to 10% a year for the last four years and longer. Still, property prices in this city have remained a great bargain compared with prices in other major cities throughout Latin America. Since last October, when the U.S. dollar began its move on the Colombian peso, those bargain per-square-meter Colombian peso prices have converted to ever-greater bargains in U.S. dollar terms. Right now, as I've said, property prices when converted to greenbacks are close to 2011 levels.This is the time to be shopping.Focus on El Poblado in the heart of the city. Apartments here are most rentable, for this is where tourists and expats migrate, meaning big and diverse rental pools. El Poblado is also the high-rent district. Each neighborhood in Medellin is broken down into what are referred to as "strata," numbered from 1 to 6.Strata 6 is the highest level. In strata 6 neighborhoods you find the most expensive properties and the highest levels of services, as well as the highest associated expenses. Property taxes, electricity rates, and other property-related costs increase strata by strata. El Poblado properties are mostly stratas 4 and 5. El Poblado is your best bet for a property purchase in Medellin, but it's not the only part of the city that can make sense. Other, more affordable neighborhoods to consider include Laureles (another neighborhood in the city) and Envigado (the suburb just outside the city, on the edge of El Poblado).Office space, commercial space, and even condo-hotel rooms are other real estate options that can make sense in this market. With the economy remaining reasonably strong (growth of 4.2% in 2014 and projected growth of 4% for 2015), I expect property values to continue their steady appreciation of the past half-dozen years.I still can't predict the direction of currency markets, including this one. The U.S. dollar could continue to strengthen against the Colombian peso, or it could fall from the current 2,350 back into its general trading range of the last five years (between 1,750 and 2,050). Regardless, real estate in Colombia, in particular in Medellin, is a smokin' deal in U.S. dollar terms right now. Take action while you can.Lief SimonEditor's Note: Lief Simon will be hosting our Live and Invest in Colombia Conference taking place in Medellin May 11–13. You can register online here now as a VIP attendee. Note that only 10 VIP places remain of this writing.You can reach our conference team with your questions by phone toll free at 1-888-627-8834 or by email here.
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While this investment was conceived by colleagues in Medellin for the low-cost residency visa it provides, it is also playing out to be a solid yield play. The investment is in a rental building that has been operating for two years. Rental cash flow is throwing off an annual yield of 7% net.Renting an apartment short term (that is, for fewer than 30 days) is technically illegal in Medellin unless your building HOA specifically allows for it. Some developers are creating inventory to overcome this restriction, developing buildings where all units are intended for use as short-term rentals. This is the case with Casa Provenza. The property is located in Medellin's Zona Rosa near Parque Lleras, a prime rental location with access to shopping, restaurants, and parks. The building was bought and renovated into three high-end apartments, ideal short-term rental units. There are also two commercial locations on the ground floor rented out long term.This is a turn-key investment (rental and property management are in place) that allows for owner use at a discount.Colombia is a good option for back-up residency. The physical residency requirement is not onerous. You have to be in the country only one day every six months to maintain your residency status. Compared with jurisdictions where you can't leave the country for more than a few days up to a few months a year before losing your residency, Colombia's requirements are very flexible. You could go visit your investment twice a year and keep your residency active.In this case, your investment is in the building rather than a specific unit, so your investment risk is more mitigated than if you bought an individual apartment. The current exchange rate makes Colombia more interesting for U.S. dollar investors than it's been in five years. How long will this continue? I don't try to make those kinds of predictions. I act when opportunity presents itself, as it is right now in Colombia in general and in Medellin specifically. This favorable rate of exchange could be a spike. If it corrects, when it corrects, you'll wish you had taken action when you had the chance. Now's the chance. If the peso depreciates further, you'll still have gotten a good deal on a good residency option that should also continue to produce a decent rental yield. Bottom line, the amount of capital at risk is small.For more information, get in touch here. Lief Simon
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April 17, 2014
"Dear Ms. Peddicord, I just read the cost of living in your article about 'The World's 9 Most Affordable Places to Retire' that I saw on yahoo this week. "Correction for Dumaguete, please! For a couple, these are the monthly costs: rental of 100-square-meter house, 170 euro; shopping for food, up to 170 euro; utility bills, up to 80 euro; petrol, up to 30 euro; various, 100 euro. That is a total of 550 euro, or US$760 right now. "Above prices are average costs for living well. You may find cheaper houses, not have first-class fresh fish twice per week, not have 120 channels on your TV, use a bicycle instead of your own car, etc. "By the way, a small secondhand car costs about US$2,700 to US$3,000, and a brand-new 100cc motorcycle is US$1,200." --Akis V., Greek citizen living in Dumaguete since 2010 Usually readers call us out on budgets we publish to say they're understated. This kind of correction, suggesting that our budget is inflated, we love. (Our Dumaguete budget totaled US$1,000 per month.)
The lady removed the carrots and oranges from the trunk, while her husband lifted a large car battery onto the ground, which he proceeded to rig up to a pair of vegetable juicers mounted on a wooden stand.
Two minutes later, I was drinking a large, frothy glass of garden-fresh carrot juice...a great way to start the day.
And in this large, leafy park, the couple in the Pinto is not alone. An entire flotilla of fresh fruit and juice vendors has assembled on the south end, where a crowd of local residents has gathered to sample the day's offerings.
The temperature has just reached a comfortable 70 degrees at 7:30 a.m., and it's another typical sunny morning in Bucaramanga (pronounced boo-cah-rah-MAHN-ga), Colombia. The park is filled with walkers and joggers, with even an exercise class in progress. But having paid my homage to health with the carrot juice and a fresh fruit cup, I was ready to settle down with a strong cup of coffee and a hot buñuelo, fresh from the oven.
Bucaramanga is a comfortable city. While it offers lots of other qualities and conveniences, it is first and foremost a place where you can feel at home.
When you retire in Colombia, you can get away from the pressures of the world. Bucaramanga is a big city, to be sure--with over a million people in its metro area--but it's an unpretentious city. Most of the town is neither rich nor poor. Rather, this is a solid, middle-class setting without the extremes that many cities have.
Bucaramanga offers an excellent infrastructure, with drinkable tap water, reliable electricity, and fast broadband internet service at reasonable rates. A brand-new metrolinea public transit system is being phased into service, to whisk commuters and travelers from one end of the city to the other.
The international airport is just outside of town, making access more convenient than you'd think, given Bucaramanga's fairly remote location.
Retirement in Colombia gives you access to leading-edge healthcare that is offered at a reasonable cost. The 10 universities in Bucaramanga's metro area bring a youthful, vibrant feel to many of the city's sectors.
This city is a terrific value, considering that you can buy a home here for less than US$75,000 and live here for just over US$1,000 per month.
Best of all, Bucaramanga is part of Colombia, the economic rising star in the Western Hemisphere and one of the world's emerging economic leaders.
Colombia's economy grew an amazing 5.9% in 2011, compared with 1.8% in the United States and 2.7% in Brazil. What's more, foreign investment in Colombia is on track to jump a staggering 20% for 2012, once the final statistics are tallied.
With a booming economy, a strong agricultural sector, and an energy surplus, Colombia provides a powerful and solid underpinning for life in Bucaramanga.
Would you be happy here?
This city is best suited to someone who wants to escape the tourist crowds and the hordes of expats found in many retirement destinations. It's for people who want to blend into the local culture and become part of the community. There's little English spoken.
Bucaramanga is the "real" Colombia, where you could live well on little but you'd be living like a Colombian. If you're willing to leave the gringo trail and the well-worn expat path, then Bucaramanga could be a great choice.
Editor's Note: Lee's complete guide to retirement possibilities in Bucaramanga, one of our top picks for 2013, will be featured in the January issue of our Overseas Retirement Letter.
Photo credit: Bucaramanga Photo by Sascha Grabow
Watch this space between now and Jan. 1 for more sneak previews of our top recommendations for this fast-approaching New Year.Continue Reading:
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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.
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