This first article in a series about property overseas starts with the basics. For many, a vacation or investment property overseas is a dream in the making. For others, it’s about moving to a magical location somewhere in the world.
In the coming months, we’ll explore the reasons and places people are investing and moving overseas, according to the Overseas Investment Guide. We’ll also cover many of the pitfalls that buyers should be aware of in their search.
Today’s focus is the Caribbean and Latin America, covering the many different geographies and settings available for buyers in the region. Europe and Asia will be covered in future articles.
Many people plan to own property overseas at some point and they know exactly where they want to live. It could be a favorite vacation spot over the years where they know the neighbors, bartenders and shopkeepers. For others, that location isn’t yet determined.
For buyers shopping around, we must ask ourselves if we want to own in the city, in the country, on the beach, or in the mountains? Do we want a three-bedroom house or a one-bedroom condo? Would I like to have a backyard, a place for pets, a garden perhaps? Or is this an investment property, where low maintenance and return on investment (ROI) are the critical factors? Getting it right means asking ourselves the right questions.
There are additional, critical questions you must add to the mix when buying property overseas. A self-survey is provided at the end of this write-up if you want to dig in more.
The easy stuff is geography, both climate and setting. Climate choices around the region range from breezy Caribbean islands to high, dry deserts and vineyard areas like Napa Valley. Other climates range from lush, moist tropical lowlands to semi-arid southern California-like beaches.
Settings, as opposed to climate, include everything from the solitude of a country home to very pedestrian cities perfect for life without a car. The choices span from modern cities with subways and shopping malls to historic cities with classic architecture and symphony orchestras. Alternatives include small villages to full blown resort communities. The options include just about every setting and geography imaginable.
The list below is a mix and match of climates and settings and can be combined in a “pick one of each” category, with a corresponding location. The photo collage delivers a visual understanding.
- Hot, warm, cool, cold
- Dry, moderate, humid
- Snow, hills, waves
- City, town, country
- Modern, historic, village, resort
Many people like warm weather. But what kind of “warm?” Do you prefer dry, moist, or humid? For a hot, dry climate, the deserts of Mexico would be a great choice. If you want desert at the beach, Cabo San Lucas in the Baja might be a good choice. If a Southern California climate is preferable, then the Pacific coastline of Nicaragua and Costa Rica would be a place to consider. For a hot, moist climate, Panama, Cartagena Colombia, or coastal Ecuador would be perfect for you.
Alternatively, many people may choose a cooler climate when moving overseas, such as one that comes close to resembling springtime year-round. Throughout the tropics, an area’s climate is determined by elevation. In places like the Central Valley of Costa Rica, the highlands of Panama, the mountains of Ecuador, or Medellin, Colombia, temperatures are in the 80s during the day and 70s at night, every day of the year. If even cooler temperatures are what you want, places like Bogota, Columbia, or Cuenca, Ecuador, will provide temperatures in the 70s and 80s during the day and the 50s at night. Moving further south of the equator, Southern Chile and Bariloche, Argentina, provide all four seasons.
Around the Caribbean, the weather ranges from humid to moderately humid, and temperatures generally range from 80-90°F. The pleasant reality of living in the Caribbean, however, is the trade winds blowing in off the sea. To take advantage of these trade winds, proximity to the sea or elevation above the tree line is necessary. Even a few miles off the coast, temperatures can be significantly higher and the breeze absent.
Setting is critical, too. Do you want to live in an urban area, or do you want to live in a rural area? Do you want a modern city with high rises, a subway and shopping malls, or do you prefer a small colonial city with brick streets, small markets and rough sidewalks? The good news is that the incredibly varied geography of the region can usually serve up the right solution for almost any need.
As you can see, there are a wide variety of geographic and setting choices giving many kinds of specific locations to explore. But there’s more to consider… a lot more. Where is the nearest grocery store? Can I open a bank account? Is there a language barrier? What about health care access? These questions and many more are as vital to a high quality of life overseas as is the weather and location. The Overseas Investment Guide is an excellent place to start exploring and discovering answers to the many questions you may have. It takes the guesswork out of the equation, “guiding” you to ask the right questions and pointing you in the right direction to make the best decision — for you!
Watch for the next article in this series about overseas investment in real estate, when we look at some of the pitfalls and challenges to buying property overseas.
Until then, all the best.
Michael K. Cobb
Chairman and CEO of ECI Development
14 Years Living as an expat in Latin America