As I write this, much of the world is sheltering at home. It’s just that for some people, “home” is a house like that one above. Their morning view when they eat breakfast is not a bleak gray with leafless trees, the side of another building, or a view of subdivision houses that all look roughly the same. They’re living in their own version of paradise.
For many Americans and Canadians, the dream of owning a vacation home with an ocean view or a place in the mountains where they can retire is just that–a dream. With real estate prices at stratospheric levels in many markets, especially in prime areas, even many multi-millionaires are priced out of that dream.
Dream Homes for Less in Latin America
There’s an easy way out of that problem available to all though. Just head south and find or build your dream home in Latin America. A million bucks doesn’t buy you very much in California, the Hamptons, the ski towns of Colorado, or even coastal Florida these days. In some desirable places that’s not even enough for a starter home or fixer-upper. Your chance of getting a vacation home with a terrific view is close to nil. Here’s the view that amount gets you in Costa Rica though.
Plus Costa Rica is no bargain compared to many areas in Latin America. You can feel like part of the elite 1% if you spend a million on real estate in desirable areas from Mexico to Colombia to Argentina.
We know, we’ve been publishing round-ups on luxury real estate markets throughout the region from the beginning. We’ve got rundowns in our real estate section from Huatulco to Boquete to Punta de Este.
Then there’s Ecuador, which also uses the dollar but is one of the best values in the Americas for real estate. It’s hard to even find a listing for more than $500,000 in Cuenca, whether you want a sprawling huge house with mountain views or a penthouse condo with all the amenities you could desire. This impeccable home below comes with 39 acres of land and horse stables, but is listed for $325,000 at Ecuadorable Homes. What would that cost in the area where you live now–for a country home just 14 miles from a major city and airport?
The most expensive condo listed on their site is $335,000 and that’s a 3BR/3.5 bath penthouse condo of nearly 3,000 square feet with three underground parking spaces, terraces, and a massive kitchen. There are plenty of others in that city (and Quito) that will set you back $250K or less and would go for four times that or more in any major U.S. or Canadian city. See more on luxury real estate in Cuenca here.
Start Your Real Estate Research From Home Now
There are a few side benefits to this stay-at-home climate we’re in right now. And no, we’re not talking about your ability to binge-watch 20 new shows and movies each week. You can use this time at home to spend hours on something you had trouble fitting in before, like researching your future options for a better life for half the price in retirement or finding that perfect vacation home in your perfect climate.
In most cases, we think it’s best to give a location a trial run at least before you buy something there, renting a house or apartment in a real neighborhood rather than a tourist zone. Experiencing a place as a local, month after month, is a whole lot different than being there on vacation. Ideally you rent for six months or a year before buying so you don’t overpay like a gullible gringo and you have a good feel for the best areas.
Money can solve a lot of problems and speed up a lot of timelines, however, so if you’re sitting on a pile of cash from savings or you’ll be selling your principle residence to move abroad, you have more leverage. There are few markets so hot in Latin America that the sellers have all the power. There are occasional exceptions, like Cartagena or Buenos Aires at times, but if we slip into a worldwide recession again soon as looks likely, we’ll be back to zero markets where sellers have more leverage than you do. Luxury real estate markets that were feeling a bit frothy, like Los Cabos, are probably going to flatline for a while and new listings will not sell nearly as quickly.
If you have or will have plenty of cash to invest, you can also go straight to the best development or best neighborhood and not have to do as much research. If you want a house on the golf course and there’s only one championship course in the area, your search is already relatively narrow. If a new condo project going up will clearly outshine anything built before it–and the prices seem like a good value–you can feel relatively confident about buying there if the developer’s finances are strong.
So surf the web and dream. Go look at real estate listings in any place that seems desirable. If all the ads are in English (and you’re not looking at Belize), assume that’s the most you’re going to pay. You’ll probably be able to find better deals on the ground or you’ll be able to negotiate down the selling price quite a bit. The more time you have, the more true that is. You don’t want to make an impulse buy after just landing somewhere. All those people on House Hunters International have already bought their vacation home or moving abroad base: it’s edited play acting, not “reality TV.”)
After you’ve spent a few hours doing this, you’ll have a good sense of where you can get what you want for the budget you have available. If you find yourself saying, “Oh my god, look how cheap places are there!” then even better. You’ll probably find your dream home quite easily.
Subscribing to International Living can be a good move as that will also give you a sense of real vacation home prices or retirement options while providing some solid advice. Read books on moving abroad, especially if you’ve narrowed down your search to one country. Lurk on message boards and join expat Facebook groups to hear what people are complaining about and what they would have done differently. Use this time wisely and you’ll be sheltered in your perfect spot later if you ever have to stay at home for weeks or months on end. If you’re doing that in paradise, it won’t be so bad.