Top 10 Most Affordable Latin American Cities for Real Estate in 2018

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Granada, Nicaraga (Photo courtesy: Trip Scout)

PANAMA CITY, Panama – Live and Invest Overseas, a leading resource on investment, real estate and retirement overseas, released the results of its annual Latin America Markets survey: the top 10 most affordable cities in which to purchase real estate.

“Keeping an eye on market trends can tell us a lot. We can see which markets are least expensive, which are declining and which are appreciating,” said Kathleen Peddicord, author and publisher of Live and Invest Overseas. “Watching the trends will make those important outliers and anomalies easier to spot and capitalize on.”

Topping the list are Granada, Nicaragua, followed by Cuenca, Ecuador, and Santa Cruz, Bolivia.

Granada, Nicaragua

Cost per square meter: $990

Market Momentum: Declining, -15.6% since mid-2017

One of our favorite cities in the Americas, Granada is the only market to come in at less than $1,000 per square meter… the rapidly-disappearing benchmark that denotes very inexpensive properties.

Granada, Nicaragua (Photo courtesy: Trip Scout)

This city is one of the best places in Latin America to buy a classic, Spanish colonial home… the type of city home built around a central courtyard. Not only are these homes beautiful and inexpensive in Granada, they’re also of a manageable size… unlike their giant counterparts found in most Spanish colonial cities.

And real estate aside, Granada is simply a nice place to live. Nestled on the shores of Lake Nicaragua, one of the world’s largest inland lakes, it’s a charming colonial city built around a large, green, cheerful and bustling town square.

Granada has a large expat community, which has brought some pleasant amenities to town in the form of upscale boutique hotels and great restaurants.

With the current protests against President Daniel Ortega and the resultant civil unrest, it’s no surprise that Granada properties are in the bargain basement right now. Asking prices have dropped by a remarkable 15.6 percent over the past year, according to current listings.

What’s more, we expect prices to go lower before they get higher. And even then, we would not expect a quick capital gain in Granada.

But if you’ve always wanted a courtyard-style Spanish colonial—in a charming colonial city with a thriving expat community—you won’t find a better place to buy one or a better time than today. Be sure you’ve got the fortitude and risk tolerance to wait out the current political situation before you plan to sell.

One Granada property that we particularly like is a two-bedroom house just a short distance from the main square and the cathedral, with 175 square meters of living space (1880 square feet). The asking price is $79,500, but in the current climate, it will go for a lot less.

The house is whole, with a great location and good basic structure, on a quiet street. But it needs a serious updating before it will be ready to rent at a good price. It’s an opportunity to get a good price going in, with the chance to add value at a profit.

Cuenca, Ecuador

Cost per square meter: $1,123

Market Momentum: Flat, -4.6% since mid-2017

Home of one of the largest expat communities in Latin America, Cuenca is still a very reasonable market at today’s prices. What’s more, the cost of living in Ecuador is one of the lowest in the Americas, for a fascinating Andean lifestyle.

A former stronghold of the Cañari and Inca peoples, Cuenca became a Spanish city in 1557. Thanks to its strict architectural standards, it still retains its Spanish colonial charm, with cobblestoned streets, balconies, and large colonial courtyard homes. Outside the historic center, Cuenca now offers dozens of new, modern residential projects within a convenient distance to the attractions of downtown.

Cuenca became an expat hotspot in the late 2000s, with thousands of expats and retirees now in residence. These expats have brought their influence from around the world to make Cuenca a more-diverse and cosmopolitan city… which is especially-noticeable in its fine, new culinary additions.

As with Granada, Cuenca is not a market we’d invest in for a quick capital gain. But it does offer an excellent quality of life, in a beautiful 16th century downtown, surrounded by tall Andean peaks while enjoying cool mountain weather. As a popular UNESCO World Heritage Site, we believe properties in Cuenca will continue to be a good value over the long term.

A good example of an income-generating property in Cuenca is a one-bedroom unit, with great views, just one block from the town’s bustling center square. The asking price of the unit is $70,000, and it rents for $550 per month. You will net about six percent annually if you pay the full asking price.

Santa Cruz, Bolivia

Cost per square meter: $1,154

Market Momentum: Appreciating, +15.6% since mid-2017

This is a market that warrants further investigation, based on trends over the past few years. Not only is Santa Cruz one of the cheapest major markets in Latin America at $1,154 per meter, but it also posted one of the most-solid gains last year at 15.6 percent.

Like Granada and Cuenca, Santa Cruz is a Spanish colonial city, founded in 1561. But frankly, if you want to enjoy the Spanish colonial lifestyle, either of those cities (as well as many others) will be more-convenient than Santa Cruz, which lies seven hours from Miami.

But for a rental investment, we like it for a few reasons.

  • Bolivian cities like Sucre or La Paz are cultural treasures, being colorful and attractive to the traveler. But Santa Cruz is the center of Bolivia’s wealth.
  • Santa Cruz is one of the world’s fastest-growing cities. It produces 35 percent of Bolivia’s GDP, and it receives more than 40 percent of Bolivia’s Foreign Direct Investment.
  • Santa Cruz is good for geopolitical and economic diversification, since it is well-outside the sphere of economic influence of the U.S. This will help to hedge against the next American recession or economic downturn.
  • Properties in Santa Cruz are priced in U.S. dollars, so you won’t be exposed to exchange rate volatility.

A good example of a rental property here is an apartment on Avenida Beni, in the heart of downtown. The 10th floor unit has two bedrooms and two baths, with a living space of 103 square meters (1,108 square feet). The common facilities include a pool and BBQ area, along with a club house and reception area.

The asking price is $115,000. We believe this apartment will rent for about $1,000 per month, based on what they’re going for on the Santa Cruz rental sites.

Here’s how the Top 10 rounded out:

Country City 2017 2018 Price Change FX Change*
Nicaragua Granada $1,173 $990 -15.6% USD
Ecuador Cuenca $1,178 $1,123 -4.6% USD
Bolivia Santa Cruz $998 $1,154 15.6% USD
Argentina Mendoza $945 $1,207 27.7% USD
Brazil Fortaleza (Aldeota area) $1,658 $1,209 -27.0% 30.6%
Colombia Santa Marta $1,368 $1,266 -7.5% 3.1%
Peru Arequipa $1,359 $1,360 0.0% USD
Paraguay Asunción $1,649 $1,537 -6.8% USD
Mexico San Miguel de Allende $2,387 $1,640 -31.3% 2.4%
Costa Rica San José $1,639 $1,738 6.0% USD

 

* Positive number means change was in dollar-holder’s favor

Methodology

The numbers are based on the cost of a two-bedroom, two-bath apartment in areas suitable for and favored by expats and foreign retirees. In each case, the apartment is in good condition and good location. No fixer-uppers and no extravagantly-expensive places that would not appeal to normal people.

The survey stays between 75M2 and 100M2 with respect to living space. A minimum of 10 apartments in each area were surveyed to obtain the average. In markets where properties trade in US dollars those prices were used. Prices in countries that use something other than the U.S. dollar are converted to U.S. dollars. Prices are then broken down to per-square-meter averages for the purposes of apple-to-apple comparisons.

Based in Paris, France and Panama City, Panama, LIOS is the leading resource for people who want to live, retire and invest overseas. Headed by Kathleen Peddicord and Lief Simon – who collectively have more than 40 years’ experience visiting, living and investing in foreign countries – LIOS and its free e-letter service, the Overseas Opportunity Letter have more than 400,000 regular readers. More info available at www.liveandinvestoverseas.com.