Properties in many countries have gotten dramatically cheaper, in dollar terms, thanks to favorable exchange rates. For affordable second homes, a strong dollar and discounted properties are important… but there are other factors that go into making owning property in another country a good value.
Here are three countries which not only offer excellent exchange rates, but also a modern, elegant, and affordable lifestyle.
Brazil is exciting, romantic, and diverse. It’s “one step beyond Latin America,” as its culture and language are just a bit more unfamiliar and romantic to North Americans.
Brazil’s beautiful beaches offer a wide range of climates. This means you can choose between a year-round warm climate or a changing climate with seasons opposite those in the Northern Hemisphere.
Brazil is also culturally diverse, from its German regions and wine country in the south, to its French and Dutch influence in the north.
One cumbersome aspect of buying real estate here is that Brazil has currency controls. This means a few extra steps when transferring money, but it’s a process you’ll learn to manage.
Historically, another disadvantage has been that Americans and Canadians need a visa to enter Brazil as a tourist. This was an annoying process that consumed time and money.
Since 2019, Brazil has a new residency process, whereby a real estate purchase can qualify you for permanent residency. In Northeast Brazil, the minimum investment is 700,000 reais, which is about US$126,000 at today’s exchange rate.
Brazil’s economy has faltered in recent years, so you stand to gain twofold… from the recovery of the economy as well as the currency. When the recovery comes, the economy should help to raise prices in reais… while the recovering real should further raise the value of your investment in dollar terms.
“Medellín, Colombia, offers the best city living I’ve found in the Americas. Its El Poblado neighborhood is safe, clean, and attractive, with shady streets, upscale shopping, and more restaurants and cafés than you could experience in a lifetime. The city also offers cultural activities from open-air festivals to orchestra and theater. Medellín’s El Poblado offers the best lifestyle for the money in Latin America,” says Global Property Advisor Contributor Lee Harrison.
Colombia also has a Caribbean coast that’s popular with expats and Colombians alike. Cartagena is the most popular with North Americans and international visitors, while Santa Marta is favored by Colombians.
Colombia still suffers from the negative stereotypes left over from the days of Pablo Escobar and the Medellín Cartel, more than 25 years ago. But this bit of ignorance has resulted in some of the most undervalued markets you’ll find anywhere.
One final benefit is that Colombia is one of the easiest places to obtain residency. They have 17 visa options available, and requirements are minimal.
Like Brazil, Colombia also has currency controls, so wiring money into and out of Colombia requires some extra steps and takes a bit more time, given that the money has to be “declared” when entering and exiting.
Mexico is still the #1 overseas destination and place to find affordable second homes for its fellow North Americans, with more than a million American expats calling it home, myself included. Also, about 500,000 foreigners own homes in Mexico. These expats are enjoying a low cost of living at today’s exchange rates, while new arrivals are getting some good property bargains.
Properties trade in U.S. dollars or Mexican pesos. The latter is where your increased buying power lies.
Mexico offers well-developed coastlines along the Pacific, the Gulf Coast, and the Caribbean. The options for coastal living are limitless, despite the widely held misconception that foreigners can’t buy coastal property here.
Mexico also offers a wealth of well-preserved Spanish-colonial cities. Climates vary from cool highland and mountain environments to the warm beaches on both sides of the country.
Mexico offers some practical advantages, too. First, there’s more English spoken in Mexico than any non-English-speaking country I’ve visited.
Their residency process is among the world’s easiest, even easier than Colombia. Better yet, they accept English-language documents and have English-speaking agents.
If you’re the road trip type of person, you can drive to Mexico. So if you’re planning to bring a household or travel back and forth, its proximity can save you a lot of money and hassle.
Also, for those who are eligible for Medicare, remember that you can’t use it overseas, but in Mexico, you can drive over the border to get your health care in the States. Quite a few expats in Ensenada, for example, receive their major health care across the border in San Diego.
Finally, they’re a culturally familiar neighbor, which shows up in many small ways. You can eat enchiladas instead of guinea pigs, and you’ll see full-size, V8 American pickups and SUVs on the road. You’ve also got familiar stores like Sam’s Club, AutoZone, Walmart, The Home Depot, and OfficeMax.
Contributor Lee Harrison, who lives part-time in Mazatlán, told us that “Mexico is my choice for the most hassle-free country in which to retire or own a second home abroad.”