What A Difference Eight Years Can Make

About eight years ago, I stood on a beach on the Pacific coast of Nicaragua about an hour outside Managua. Up and down the coast, as far as you could see, nothing but sand and jungle. Cattle roamed the green hills all around…

The friends who’d recently purchased this stretch of coast spoke enthusiastically that sunny morning about their plans for development.

“We want to establish a community, a beautiful, safe place where forward-thinking retirees can live in comfort in this extraordinary beachside setting, with every amenity they could want during this phase of their lives.

“We’re going to build condos and casitas, apartments and carriage houses…plus a clubhouse, a restaurant, a swimming pool overlooking the ocean, a brand-name resort hotel, and a golf course.

“We want this to be a kind of Mayberry by the beach for the 21st century. A friendly place where everyone knows everyone else and where you can leave your front door unlocked without worry.

“We’ll have sidewalks and streetlamps…plus paved roads and fiber optics with unlimited bandwidth in every home.

“Most important, of course, is that this will be a highly affordable option compared with full-amenity retirement communities in the States…”

“Sounds great,” I assured my friends.

We’ll see, I thought privately…

Throughout my nearly 25 years covering this live, retire, and invest overseas beat, I’ve stood on a lot of beaches…and I’ve listened to a lot of beachfront property owners detail enthusiastically their plans for development.

When you begin shopping to buy real estate in this part of the world, you’ll hear these stories, too. Promises…these guys are full of promises.

Sometimes things work out as they intend…and sometimes they don’t…

That’s why our mantra has always been: Buy what you see. If the roads are paved, then you’re buying paved roads. If you see a clubhouse, then you’re buying into a community with a clubhouse. If electrical lines have been run…

You get the idea.

In the case of Gran Pacifica, the community my friends described so excitedly that sunny morning eight years ago, I knew the gentlemen behind the effort, including Mike Cobb, CEO of the project, well.

Still, I was skeptical. You learn that, in an emerging market, skepticism can be your friend.

I wished my friends all the best, of course, but I understood how difficult it can be in a country like Nicaragua to go from plan to reality. Condos? Hotel? Golf course? These were ambitious ideas.

What’s the story today, all these years later? How have things played out at Gran Pacifica?

Today, those three miles of Pacific coastline have been transformed. When I visited recently, I hardly recognized the place.

Today, Gran Pacifica is, indeed, an emerging community. More than 40 homes and condominiums have been built, and more than 50 others are under construction.

The clubhouse and pool are in place, overlooking the crashing sea, just as Mike said they would be. The sidewalks are paved with handmade clay bricks, the streets with cobblestones. The fiber-optic cables have been laid, and every house, indeed, enjoys Internet with unlimited bandwidth.

The funding is in place for the hotel…and the golf course? That’ll be ready for play by the end of this year.

The plan is fast becoming reality. Gran Pacifica is developing into the highly affordable full-amenity retirement community Mike promised.

Of course, though, eight years ago when he first made that promise, I don’t think Mike could have realized how important an option Gran Pacifica would prove to be.

Gran Pacifica is coming of age just as would-be retirees worldwide are…well…panicking.

This is shaping up to be the retirement era of scraping by and making do. At least in some parts of the world.

But not here, not at Gran Pacifica. The forward-thinking retirees who are migrating to this private seaside community aren’t worried about outliving their nest eggs.

Indeed, they’re not struggling to maintain the standard of living they enjoyed during their hard-working years. They’re improving it. In many ways, they’re living better than they ever did back home.

I bring all this to your attention today, in particular, dear reader, because Mike Cobb wrote to me earlier this week to explain that, “This is the last chance to buy into Gran Pacifica prior to the opening of the golf course later this year.”

As infrastructure goes in, prices go up, of course. And, at Gran Pacifica, the Tommy Haugen-designed golf course is the infrastructure equivalent of the cherry on top. When the course opens for play, pricing will move into a next phase.

“Right now, however,” Mike explains, “you can still buy a golf-front lot for the price of a standard village lot.

“For only US$69,990, you can own a home site on the golf course with no obligation to build at any time.

“On top of that, Tommy Haugen has sweetened the pot for golf lot buyers. Tommy is offering US$3,000 off lifetime golf privileges for everyone who invests in one of these special-offer golf lots.”

Mike and his partners purchased the land at Gran Pacifica about eight years ago. Then they worked for years, master-planning behind the scenes.

Three years ago, they broke ground. In those three years, the group has made a serious investment in infrastructure and construction. The consequence is that, when you buy at Gran Pacifica today, you’re not buying promises. You’re buying paved roads and a clubhouse…streetlamps and a restaurant and pool overlooking the Pacific Ocean…

And, now, you’re buying a golf course. Others in this country are promising golf courses…but Gran Pacifica is building one that will be ready for your play by December 2009.

Six golf home sites are being included in this special offer.

For the investor, this is a solid opportunity with a solid company that has shown it delivers on its promises.

For the retiree, this could well be the answer to how in the world are you ever going to be able to afford to enjoy the retirement you’ve dreamt about your whole life.

Get in touch here if you’d like to know more.

Kathleen Peddicord

P.S. Gran Pacifica, of course, is much more than its golf course. It’s also maybe the most affordable private retirement resort community in all Nicaragua. You can purchase a casita home here for as little as US$100,000. And you can finance the buy. Mike can tell you more when you get in touch.

MAILBAG:

“Dear Christian MacDonald, we are hoping you might be able to advise us. We are planning to relocate from London to either Ecuador or Nicaragua. Our plan is to rent at first, for maybe a year.

“We have a joint budget of just £1,500 per month to cover everything. My partner, Tom, has a small Internet accountancy business, so he needs a good broadband connection. Ideally, we would like a good-sized two-bedroom apartment as a minimum.

“Tom speaks fluent Spanish, and my plan is to teach English as a foreign language as I have a TEFL qualification and am taking Spanish lessons.

“We read your articles on Cuenca, Ecuador, and Leon, Nicaragua. Both sound beautiful, and the budget seems fine in both cases.

“However, we are slightly concerned that these towns may be a little small for us. We’re wondering if the capitals are an option or if there are other larger cities in either of these countries that we could consider on our budget. A reasonable standard of living, safe with low crime, a busy city feel, and a warmer climate than the UK are important to us.”

— Joanne and Tom, United Kingdom

Our man in Latin America, Christian MacDonald, replies:

“Let me talk about Nicaragua first.

“Because of your concern that a potential city might be ‘a little small,’ I’d rule out Granada, even though it has a wonderful colonial center, a good number of nice restaurants, and a decent Internet infrastructure. To be honest, I think you may find Leon a bit quiet as well.

Managua is a big city (and I’ve been in some wonderful homes there), but it doesn’t have the charm you’d expect of a Spanish colonial city, as much of its historic center was destroyed by an earthquake in 1972. If you like strolling along cobblestoned streets while enjoying colonial architecture and the town plaza, Managua is not the place for you either.

“However, Cuenca, Ecuador, does qualify in the ‘colonial charm’ department. In fact, it’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site and generally considered to be Ecuador’s most beautiful city. The population is over 400,000 people (more than 600,000 in the metropolitan area), so it also has a good number of big-city amenities, including medical care. Cuenca also now is home to a fair-sized expat community.

“If that’s too small, Ecuador’s capital of Quito may suit you better. As a city of more than one-million people, it has more big-city amenities than Cuenca. But it comes with more big-city problems, too, like crime and pollution.

“As to the cost of living, neither Quito nor Managua would be significantly more expensive than Cuenca or Leon. Depending on where you settled, living in the capitals could in fact cost you slightly less than living in the smaller cities.

“If you intend to use your TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) certificate, you should have plenty of opportunity. The pay, however, will vary depending where you settle. Cuenca, for example, has plenty of high-quality language schools…but there are also lots of people who want to teach there. Places that are less popular but still that still have a population of wealthy residents (Loja, Ecuador, for example) could be better choices for you from an income point of view. Note that none will pay well, however, by First World standards.

“The climate in either Ecuador or Nicaragua will be warmer than in the UK. Where you might prefer depends on how much warmer you want it to be. Cuenca and Quito are spring-like; perhaps 25° Celsius during the day and maybe 15° at night, often cooler. Granada sees 30° frequently, and Leon is even warmer. Temperatures here regularly re

“In any case, a monthly budget of £1,500 (US$2,250) should leave you with plenty of lifestyle choices in either of these countries.”

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