A Lot Of Charm For Just US$37,000
A Spanish-colonial city can be a great choice for retirement, and Granada, Nicaragua, is perhaps the queen among all Spanish-colonial city options. At the heart of this city, radiating from the central square, is a great variety of classic and charming Spanish-colonial homes with high ceilings, painted tiles, and private center courtyards.
And the best part is that you can own one for as little as US$37,000.
Founded in 1524, Granada claims to be the first European city founded in mainland America, so it’s a truly old colonial city rather than a semi-modern lookalike. It’s named after the ancient city of Granada, Spain, and shares some of that city’s Moorish architectural influence.
Granada sits at the north end of Lake Nicaragua, with beaches near town and a group of small private islands just offshore, and just south of Lake Apoyo, Nicaragua’s largest volcanic crater lake.
The international airport at Managua is a little less than an hour to the north, and the Pacific Ocean lies a little more than an hour to the west. The weather is warm to hot all year, with average high temperatures running seasonally between 86°F and 93°F (30°C to 34°C). Rainfall is moderate at 47 inches, and most of it comes between May and October in the form of afternoon showers.
It’s obvious as soon as you arrive: Granada is one of most finely restored and preserved colonial cities in the Americas. It sees a good number of international travelers and has a sizeable expat community. These two things combine to account for the city’s wealth of upscale hotels, fine restaurants, and well-kept buildings.
Granada is built around a large, shady, and bustling town square, anchored by a stately, neoclassical cathedral at one end. The streets are narrow (built prior to the automobile) and lined with rows of those cheerful, well-kept Spanish-colonial homes.
Granada usually has a good inventory of colonials in a good state of restoration. Granted, colonials can be found in plenty of places around the Americas…but there are a few things that set Granada apart:
- Prices are low when compared with colonials elsewhere in Latin America. Completed homes are a great value, and fixer-uppers are downright cheap…with inexpensive remodeling costs…
- The homes in Granada tend to be smaller than in many cities, with one-story houses commonly available. This makes the houses brighter, with the single story allowing for more direct sunlight. The relatively small size of many Granada colonials is due to the fact that most of them—more than 90% of those on the market—were originally second homes or vacation homes that were ultimately sold to expats and investors…
- Many houses here also have pools in their interior courtyards, something I haven’t seen in other colonial markets…
- Granada is completely walkable. Everything you need is close at hand via attractive, level streets…
- The fairly large expat community and the active tourist trade mean a lot of amenities that a city of 120,000 would not ordinarily have. There are great restaurants, bakeries, hotels, and B&Bs that distinguish Granada from most cities its size…
- Lake Nicaragua, with its beaches, fresh waters, and islands, provides a great recreational opportunity and a pleasant way to escape the heat. It’s also great for boating and fishing, with a huge 3,100 square miles to explore…
- Granada enjoys good connections to the United States from the nearby airport in Managua…
- But best of all, Granada still feels authentically Nicaraguan. You’ll see old oxcarts lumbering through the streets, restaurants serve local delicacies, and street vendors offer pottery handmade according to traditions that date back centuries and have been passed down generation to generation. The city is a unique blend of native Nicaraguan city life and expat amenities.
The rental market is good in Granada, especially if you have a pool. One home I looked at recently had an asking price of US$150,000 and rents for US$600 per week. Another cost US$389,000 and rents for US$1,500 per week. Occupancies can run between 65% and 75%.
The least expensive houses I saw were priced at US$35,000, and they needed a good bit of work. But for just a bit more, you can buy something that’s fit for living, as is.
One such property is listed for just US$37,000. With one bedroom and one bath, this corner property is ready to move into with practically no work.
The best buy I found is a larger, two-story home with three bedrooms, four baths, a garage, air conditioning, and a swimming pool located just four blocks from the central square. The second-story bedroom has a good view of the city rooftops, as well as the extinct Mombacho Volcano in the distance. The asking price is US$145,000, but I understand that this one will go out the door for around US$125,000.
If there’s a downside to Granada it’s that it can be hot. I didn’t really find it unpleasant, but I did sleep with the air conditioner on, as will most people.
Also, if you want to be a pioneer—one of the first few expats to discover a city—this isn’t the place to do it. There are definitely a fair number of English-speakers already in residence.
If you’d like to invest in Spanish colonial property, or would enjoy the Spanish-American lifestyle, then Granada should be high on your list. Located less than two hours from Miami, the cost of living is low, the properties are inexpensive, and the inventory of colonial-style homes is unparalleled, especially at these prices.
Editor’s Note: Today’s essay on the property market in our favorite Spanish-colonial city, Granada, is excerpted from Lee’s Overseas Property Alert. If you aren’t on the list to receive this once-a-week dispatch on the world’s top property markets direct from Lee’s laptop to your inbox, sign up here now.
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