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.
Continue Reading: How To Access Social Security Payments Living Overseas
May 19, 2014
"Kathleen, I have been following you since your days of paper publication. For me, that's at least 20 years! "I know you moved to Paris and lived there for years. This is a dream I have wanted to fulfil for over a decade. My plans were put on hold as I helped my elderly parents through their end stage of life. Sadly, they have now both passed. Bitter sweetly, I am free to go. I don't exactly know where to begin. "I thought I'd inquire with you. Thank you for any response." --Lyndee L., United States Here is a good getting-started resource. And here's a good getting-started contact: attorney Jean Taquet.
A crew tore up the tiles and the concrete of the terrace, resloped it, and relaid it, with new drains. Then another crew tore up the flooded parquet from the living room floor and relaid it, too. Only they didn't do a good job of it...and had to tear up what they'd done and try again. Word from the scene indicated that this redo of the redo would be completed in time for the place to be cleaned and ready for our arrival on Saturday. Walking through the door on Saturday to be greeted by the three women working hard to restore order, we realized things hadn't played out as planned. Turns out, the floor crew had been at work until 7 p.m. Friday evening. And they hadn't covered all the furniture in the apartment during the sanding phase of their work. Thus the pile of linens, towels, and cushion covers on the floor in the kitchen. Claudia was stripping and laundering. While I tried to take stock of the scene, Lief walked to the back to unlock the owner's room. Uh, oh. What went on here? Piles of stuff we hadn't left in this room...and, Lief confirmed after an extended search, no cellphones. Then Claudia took me by the hand to show me the dead flowers on the terrace...damage here...wear and tear there... It was only 3 p.m., but I reached inside my suitcase for the bottle of duty-free wine we'd brought with us from the airport. I poured a glass and sat down in the corner. Claudia and associates returned to their work. Lief fired off an email to our property manager to ask about the missing phones. The three women continued cleaning and organizing until 6 o'clock, when I told them to call it a day. See you again Monday, I said. Lief and I awoke early Sunday morning to do what we could to continue setting things right. I got the kitchen in order. Lief sorted out the owner's closet. Then we went out to buy new cellphones and groceries for the week. Back in the apartment late Sunday afternoon, we made ourselves a snack and settled in to finish our bottle of wine on our newly retiled terrace. The view stretches across the valley. The light at sunset is mesmerizing. Next door to us is a small colonial-style church. It must be the most sought-after wedding venue in the city. Five or six weddings every weekend we've been in residence, including this one. We listened to the wedding march play then the church bells toll as we sipped our wine and watched the sun slide into the horizon. Other than the music from the church, all around was silent and still. The city lights twinkled in the valley. "Maybe we should sell this place," I said. "When we bought it, we imagined coming for weekends and holidays, making the quick trip over for regular breaks from the hustle, bustle, and heat of Panama City. But we've been here twice in the past 12 months. "It's hard to take care of the place long distance," I continued, "hard to keep up with maintenance and repairs..." "Yes," Lief said, "we could sell. I'd say the apartment is worth twice what we have invested in it. But, if we sold, what would we do with the money? That is, where else would you rather have that money invested?" "Nowhere I can think of," I admitted. "Me either," Lief said. "We've doubled our money in the three years we've owned this place, but I think that's only the start. I believe values will continue to appreciate slowly and steadily in Medellin near- and long-term. I like being invested in Colombia, and I like being diversified into the Colombian peso." We sat sipping and staring out over the valley, enjoying the breeze and the twinkling lights. As Lief reminded me, Colombia in general and Medellin in particular are among the most appealing investment markets in the world right now. More than that, though, Medellin is one of the nicest places in the world to spend time. Beautiful city, great weather, friendly people, lots to do... Making it what I've come to think of as a perfect-storm destination, a place that appeals for both lifestyle and investment. We continued sitting and sipping. By the time we decided to turn in, Medellin had worked her charms. This living and investing overseas thing isn't without its road bumps. Sometimes the day-to-day hassles can distract you from the point. Fortunately for us, this Sunday evening, sitting on our terrace soaking up some of what this special city has to offer, Medellin reminded us. Kathleen Peddicord P.S. Lief and I are in Medellin for this week's Live and Invest in Colombia Conference. "Congratulations on taking the bold step to come here," one current Medellin expat said to the room as he took center stage to share his story with those assembled. "I firmly believe you will be very happy you ignored all the friends and family who I'm sure told you that you were crazy to travel to Colombia this week. "You're going to be awfully glad you mustered the courage and opened your mind to give this place a chance..." More live from the scene tomorrow.
"Escobar has caused a lot of trouble for the city of Medellin, but, the truth is, he's also providing a service for us global property investors. He's keeping prices down. Real estate prices in this city are seriously undervalued because the world doesn't understand what this city really is. And that's all thanks to Pablo. "What is Medellin really?" Rich asked the crowd. "It's Latin America's best-kept secret. "Who here has been to Medellin?" Eight or nine people raised their hands. "OK, great. Keep your hands up," Rich instructed. "Now, everyone else in the room, take note of those with their hands raised. At the break, ask those folks what they thought of Medellin. "I'll save you the suspense of waiting for their answers. I'll tell you now what they all thought of Medellin. They loved it. "How do I know? I know because I have never met any expat who has visited Medellin and didn't love it. The challenge isn't selling Medellin to anyone who has ever seen it. The challenge is getting people to go take a look. Once you've seen it, the city sells itself." Thanks to Medellin's status as the world's best-kept property investment secret, you can buy here, at the best addresses in town, for as little as US$800 per square meter...and you can rent for a net yield of 8% a year. In addition to that ongoing cash flow, you've got the potential for currency upside (which, yes, can also go against you...though it's worth noting that the Colombian peso is up 35% against the U.S. dollar since 2009 and is expected to continue on an upward course) and capital appreciation. As Lief told the group this morning, "When investing in a rental property anywhere in the world, you don't want to count on appreciation. Make your buy decision based on your yield and cash flow projections. Then any capital appreciation you may enjoy is the icing." That said, property values in Medellin have increased a steady 5% to 7% per year for the past five years (fear of Pablo notwithstanding), and we expect this trend to continue for several years more. A rental property investment in Medellin buys you a hard asset in a market with an expanding middle class and an appreciating currency. It also buys you a pied-a-terre in one of the world's premier cities. Lucky for you, few others have figured this out. Yet. Kathleen Peddicord P.S. As I explained yesterday, Lief Simon and I are convened this week with two-dozen of the world's most seasoned and savvy global property experts for our First Annual Global Property Summit. Together, they are introducing the assembled group to the world's best places to buy real estate overseas right now...including Medellin, Colombia. As always, we're recording every presentation, workshop, Q&A, and panel discussion from this one-of-a-kind event. These will be bundled to create our all-new "Your Dream Home Overseas: The How To Buy, Own, And Profit From Foreign Property Program," which will be released within two weeks of the finish of this week's conference. Meantime, you can reserve your copy prerelease for more than 50% off the regular price. Do that here now.
The weather is very similar, Cuenca to Medellin. These are both mountain cities with what's generally referred to as climates of "eternal spring." How technically accurate that metaphor is depends on your definition of spring-like weather. Frankly, the temperatures in both these cities can get a little too chilly for my liking. On the other hand, I can tell you that, regardless of your interpretation of "spring-like weather," the climate in both Cuenca and Medellin is far gentler than that in Panama City, where Lief and I normally hang our hats these days. Low humidity and cool temperatures by day, with cooler, even, again, chilly temperatures come nightfall--that describes Cuenca and Medellin 365 days a year.
"Where's the control for the heat?" Jackson asked when we checked into our hotel in Cuenca.
"There is no heat," Lief replied, "and there is no air conditioning. You don't really need either one here. Put your sweater on, boy," Lief added to Jack's inquiry, "and you'll be fine."
You'll need to speak at least some Spanish to get by reasonably efficiently in either of these cities. That said, we're noticing many more English-speakers in Cuenca than we remember from the last time we were here (maybe eight or nine years ago). There are also way more expats and foreign retirees here today than back then. Friend Lee Harrison, who was a resident of Cuenca for about a half-dozen years (and who will be hosting our Live and Invest in Ecuador Conference in Quito starting tomorrow), says that, when he and his wife arrived in Cuenca, they joined fewer than 50 other foreign residents. Today, there are thousands. Sunday afternoon, Lief and I wandered along the riverfront, stopping in some of the pubs and cafes you find there. Each was full with folks who looked more or less like we do (that is, not local).
The cost of real estate is a bargain in both these cities but more so in Cuenca, which boasts one of the most affordable property markets you'll find anywhere, for both sales and rentals. Lee will give a complete overview of the property market in Cuenca and other key points across this country at the conference later this week.
Medellin is a sophisticated city with big shopping malls, multi-plex movie theaters, museums, great restaurants, lively nightlife, and excellent infrastructure. Cuenca is a colonial city, more charming than cosmopolitan. ("People eat dinner early in Cuenca," the hotel manager pointed out when checking us in. "Don't expect restaurants to be open past 9 o'clock.") We've seen some modern shopping in Cuenca, but the infrastructure is less developed than in Medellin. This would also be generally true for Ecuador versus Colombia overall.
Medellin is more European than Cuenca, which means the people look more European. You'll blend in better in Medellin. Lief and I, both tall Anglos, stand out in Cuenca (and the rest of Ecuador) like people without tattoos stand out on Venice Beach in California.
Cost of living in general? This is where Cuenca is the big winner. "This place really is as cheap as we tell people it is," Lief said the other day when we stopped in a pharmacy to buy a travel make-up mirror (because I'd forgotten to bring one) and all the water the lady behind the counter had in stock (to help combat my sensitivity to the altitude). The mirror was US2.85, and the bottles of water were 35 cents apiece.
We've enjoyed a series of excellent steak meals, both lunch and dinner (the iron in red meat also helps to combat symptoms of altitude sickness, which, I'm happy to say, have been less severe for me this trip so far than during any previous stay to Ecuador), for as little as US$6.50. That's for a big, thick steak wrapped in bacon in a hotel restaurant with excellent service and including side dishes.
The taxi ride from the airport cost but 3 bucks. A gourmet ice cream cone was $1.75. A half-day bus tour (yes, we took a bus tour--it was a good first-day outing, reminding us of the lay of the land without requiring too much exertion too soon at this elevation...and, yes, thanks to my altitude sensitivity, I qualify as high maintenance in this part of the world) was US$5 for Lief and me and US$2.50 for Jackson.
The point is, you really could live in this city of rivers, parks, flowers, and Spanish-colonial churches on very little. More details tomorrow, when I'll be reporting live from the scene of this week's event in Quito.
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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.
Her book, How To Retire Overseas—Everything You Need To Know To Live Well Abroad For Less, was recently released by Penguin Books.
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