Chile’s Gleaming City By The Sea

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Viña del Mar achieved prominence as a city in the 1870s and came into its own as a resort in the 1920s. Today, it’s Chile’s most-popular seaside resort, drawing people from around the country as well as a large number of international visitors.

The weather in Viña del Mar is fairly comfortable all year, thanks to the Pacific Ocean’s modifying influence on temperatures. The Humboldt Current keeps summertime temperatures cool, with the average January high coming in at just 76˚ (24˚C). In fact this week it’s barely gotten past 70. This is fairly cool, given that Viña del Mar at Christmastime is the southern hemisphere’s equivalent of Charleston, South Carolina in late-June.

Winter is not bad either, with July (the coldest month) posting an average high of 60˚ (16˚C).

The water however, is cold all year, thanks again to the Humboldt Current. The water temperature is only 60˚ this week—in early summer—which seems to be fine for little kids and those in wetsuits. Almost everyone else is sunning themselves on the sand rather than frolicking in the waves. Surfing is popular near here, with a few good surf breaks in the area.

Air quality in Viña del Mar is super, with fresh sea breezes providing a crisp, clean feel to the air.

Viña del Mar lies west-northwest of Santiago, and is fairly convenient to get to on the freeway. It’s just over two hours from my apartment near central Santiago (Providencia), an hour-and-a-half from western Santiago, and less than two hours from the international airport (SCL).

Viña Del Mar Has All The Amenities For Comfortable And Enjoyable Living

If you like seafood and seaside dining, then this is the place to be. Fresh seafood and shellfish are the main culinary features here. But you’ll also find scores of coffee shops, Italian restaurants, sushi, Peruvian, and most anything else that you’d want.

And at this time of year, sidewalk dining is popular, with many of the restaurants offering sidewalk tables under colorful umbrellas.

Viña del Mar is a resort that’s actually adjacent to a “real” city. The beachfront area has most of the resort-style amenities, such as the highest concentration of restaurants, clubs, cafes, and the stately municipal casino.

But just a few blocks inland, the rest of Viña del Mar completes a city of almost 300,000, which offers a full complement of city conveniences like shopping centers, theater, orchestra, and administrative services. What’s more, Valparaíso is just a few minutes away, offering even more big-city entertainment and services.

One thing that stands out on this trip (compared to visits in 2002 and 2006) is the amount of English spoken today in Viña del Mar. Almost everywhere we went there was at least one English-speaking person who was anxious to practice on us. It’s far easier to get along in Spanish…but English-speakers will make their way more easily as a visitor, and probably survive as a resident.

The Property Markets And The Lay Of The Land

The city of Viña del Mar occupies a number of seaside hills and cliffs divided by the Marga Marga creek, with the north and south sections connected by a series of bridges. Generally speaking, the north side of the city contains most of the resort amenities and modern residential options, while the south side has the original town square, theater, older neighborhoods, and local markets.

On the north side of town, things are again divided, by Avenida Libertad, a north-south road that divides the east and west sectors. Again speaking generally, the beach-oriented properties are on the west side, and the more-residential areas are on the east.

Within the north side of the city, the neighborhoods are mostly mixed. You’ll find single family homes as well as apartments… and working class areas mixed with elegant second homes and condo towers.

Public transit is plentiful throughout the city and surrounding area, including a metro train that runs to neighboring Valparaíso.

And public transit is important, since parking here is a disaster. When shopping for property, make sure it comes with parking. Parking in the city (everywhere) has not kept up with the city’s growth and you don’t want to be the one left out.

To the property buyer, the areas north of the city are just as important as Viña del Mar.

Reñaca lies just north of Viña del Mar and, although separated by some undeveloped space, is part of Viña del Mar. Reñaca has a small, walkable town center with its own selection of restaurants and cafes. The beach here is as nice as those in Viña del Mar and it enjoys a popular surf break.

Reñaca is where construction is booming—modern condos close the gap in development between Reñaca and the rest of Viña del Mar, while also creeping northward towards Concón.

Concón is the next town north of Reñaca and, while perceived as part of the Viña del Mar metro area, it’s actually a separate municipality. It’s a small, mostly-residential seaside town, that’s just beginning to see the expansion of 21st century development. Most notably, it’s home to a protected marina housing a small fleet of large, recreational sailboats.

I had lunch in Concón last Thursday at an old beachfront restaurant, watching the sea birds diving and the boats coming and going in the marina. The town still retains the feel of an old seashore town, with just a few signs of modern development at the beach and mostly single-family homes just inland.

Pick Your Market, From Mature To Leading-Edge

Viña del Mar is a mature market with an established real estate and rental infrastructure. Here you can pick from a large selection of existing properties in an area that has a long track record for market performance and rentals.

Reñaca is in a boom phase right now, and it’s where you’d look for a good selection of brand-new properties and pre-construction deals.

Concón is the next big thing coming up the coast, though I don’t know if its boom will happen next year, or five years down the road. Two types of buyers come to mind in Concón. One is the person that wants to enjoy the old fashioned seaside community as it exists now, the other is someone who wants to buy on the leading edge of future development. For example, there are a number of broken-down, old properties on the water that could be fixed up now…or held, as they will someday be sought-after by big condo developers.

Here are a few examples in each area. Remember, these properties are officially listed in Chilean pesos and their dollar value will change with exchange rates.

Is Viña Del Mar For You?

This is an energetic seaside resort, with mild temperatures, fresh sea breezes, and plenty to do. You’ve love the restaurants, cafes, bars and clubs, as well as the convenience of having a real city just a few blocks away.

The real estate is of high quality construction, and the prices are reasonable.

And best of all, Chile provides a First World setting with an excellent infrastructure, a stable economy, honest culture, low levels of corruption, low crime rates, and a high standard of living.

If you don’t mind the chilly Pacific waters and the distance from the United States, then Viña del Mar may well be right for you.

Happy Holidays to everyone from sunny Chile.

Lee Harrison
Editor, Overseas Property Alert

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About Author

Lee Harrison

Lee has been living overseas for since 2001, making his first purchase abroad in the colonial city of Cuenca, Ecuador. After that first investment, he traveled extensively across Latin America and Europe looking for the best property deals possible. Lee’s network of property insiders from those travels, along with his understanding of local cultures and languages, has helped him develop insight into local property markets that only the locals usually possess. He offers overseas real estate advice in his weekly Overseas Property Alert.