Our 2016 Medellín Reader survey was run over a period of three weeks. The survey was promoted on the Medellín Living website and also via emails to readers. We received a total of 722 complete survey responses. We promised to share the survey results with readers.
This article provides our survey results. We want to thank all of our survey respondents. Your survey responses will help us improve the Medellín Living site over the next year.
We also offered the opportunity to win a 300,000 peso gift certificate to Carmen restaurant as an incentive to respond to the survey. Terence, an expat from Holland living in Medellín, is the lucky winner.
Our reader survey wasn’t scientific and it wasn’t intended to be. It was intended to survey the Medellín Living reader base. As a result we can improve the website to better meet the needs of readers.
Our survey was in English and the Medellín Living site is in English. Therefore it wouldn’t include responses from those that don’t speak English.
However, the survey had a high response rate. So it can be used to find out some interesting information about visitors to Medellín, those considering moving to Medellín and expats actually living in Medellín.
I am not aware of another survey that has surveyed over 200 expat visitors to Medellín, plus over 200 expats considering moving to Medellín as well as over 200 expats living in Medellín. But this survey did.
The Survey Results
A key question in our survey asked, “Why do you read Medellín Living?”
Depending on the answer to this question, survey respondents were asked different questions. This depended on whether they are a visitor (planning to visit or have visited in the past), moving to Medellín (in the process or considering moving) or if they actually live in Medellín.
This article about the survey results is long. So you can jump directly to five different survey results sections:
- Visitors to Medellín survey results
- Moving to Medellín survey results
- Living in Medellín survey results
- Medellín Living feedback
- Survey demographics
Visitors to Medellín Survey Results
Our survey asked three separate questions to visitors to Medellín.
Over 65 percent of visitor survey respondents indicate that they plan to do three principal activities while visiting Medellín: have great meals, visit nearby pueblos and cultural activities.
Less than 20 percent of visitors plan to do adventure sports or Pablo Escobar tours. Seems like these activities are less popular with visitors.
While planning a trip, over 50 percent of visitors to Medellín would like to learn more about five separate things: experiences unique to Medellín, dining options, information about pueblos near Medellín, tours and activities and security issues.
In terms of places to stay visitors are most interested in learning about apartment options followed by hotel options.
While only 20.6 percent of visitors are interested in learning about hostel options.
Moving to Medellín Survey Results
Our survey asked three separate questions to respondents that indicate they are in the process of moving to Medellín or considering moving to Medellín.
44.9 percent of moving respondents said they plan to move to Medellín in 12 months or less. While 31.7 percent plan to move in 1 to 2 years and 23.5 percent plan to move in more than 2 years.
Over 85 percent of readers considering moving to Medellín were attracted to the city by two primary attributes: the low cost of living and the climate.
In addition, over 40 percent of respondents cited three additional attributes: public transport including the Metro, healthcare and the infrastructure in Medellín.
The biggest concern for those considering or in the process of moving to Medellín is security. Security is followed by visas and residency, learning the language, pollution and traffic.
Living in Medellín Survey Results
Our survey asked 11 separate questions to reader respondents that indicate they live in Medellín.
We asked more questions from expats living in the city to determine the answers to several interesting questions. We received a total of 210 survey responses from readers that live in Medellín.
However nine of these responses were from readers with only a Colombian citizenship. So to enable analysis of expats living in Medellín we have excluded those nine responses in the following analysis.
We asked the same question as seen in both Figure 7 and Figure 8 to those considering moving to Medellín and expats living in Medellín.
We did this to see if the top concerns change from the time of planning to move to the city to actually living in Medellín.
And it turns out that top concerns do change. Security is the biggest concern of those considering moving to Medellín. But security drops to the number six concern for expats actually living in the city.
Medellín still has a bad reputation to overcome from decades ago. But the security situation in the city has improved dramatically over the past decade.
After living in the Medellín the top concerns of expats become traffic, pollution, taxes, learning the language and healthcare in that order. After experiencing living in the city, security becomes less of a concern for expats, but it’s still the number six concern.
Over 77 percent of expats living in Medellín survey respondents indicate they have lived in the city for at least a year.
Medellín Becoming a Popular Location for Digital Nomads
Results from our Medellín Living reader survey found that there are more expats living in Medellín that are digital nomads working remotely for companies in other countries than expats that work for companies in Colombia.
We covered preliminary survey results in an article about Medellín becoming a popular location for Digital Nomads. Our full survey results confirm this.
Out of 201 survey responses from Medellín Living readers that indicate they live in Medellín, 34.8 percent of these expats work remotely for companies in other countries.
Only 10.0 percent of surveyed expats living in Medellín have jobs with companies in Colombia. And only 6.0 percent own companies in Colombia. While 36.8 percent are retired.
Popular Visas for Expats
Our survey found that six different visas represent the majority (79.2 percent) of visas out of expat survey respondents living in Medellín.
The spouse visa (TP-10) is the most popular with 21.4 percent of expats living in the city having this type of visa. The retirement visa (TP-7) is the second most popular with 19.4 percent followed by the resident visa (RE) with 13.9 percent.
These are followed by the investment visa (TP-7), work visa (TP-4) and rentista visa (TP-7).
Only 10 percent of the surveyed expats living in Medellín don’t have a Colombian visa, which means they would be limited to a stay of 180 days per year.
Where Do Expats Live in Medellín?
Out of 201 survey responses received from expat readers that indicate they live in Medellín, 86.6 percent said they live in El Poblado, Envigado, Laureles-Estadio, Sabaneta or Belén.
This confirms that the same five neighborhoods from our recent best neighborhoods articles are the most popular neighborhoods for expats living in the city.
El Poblado is typically the most popular neighborhood in the city for visitors. It has more hotels than other neighborhoods in the city. It is also where about 80 percent of the furnished apartments in the city are located.
El Poblado is also the most popular neighborhood in the city for expats when they decide to live in the city. The results of our survey indicate that 25.9 percent of expats living in Medellín live in El Poblado.
But 74.1 percent of expats living in the city have decided to live somewhere else besides El Poblado.
After El Poblado, the most popular neighborhoods for expats to live are Envigado (21.4 percent), Sabaneta (16.4 percent), Laureles-Estadio (14.4 percent), and Bélen (8.5 percent). 13.4 percent of expats live in other neighborhoods according to our survey results.
The other neighborhoods in our survey where expats live included 6 living in El Oriente (such as Rio Negro, La Ceja and Santa Elena), 5 in Bello, 5 in La América, 4 in La Candelaria (El Centro), 2 in Robledo, 1 in La Estrella, 1 in Giradota, 1 in Santa Cruz, 1 in Copacabana and 1 in the Southeast.
Expats living in Medellín live in many neighborhoods in the city. Our survey found expats living in half of the 22 comunas and municipalities in the Medellín metro area.
Do Expats Rent or Buy in Medellín?
Results of our survey indicate that 31.3 percent of expats living in Medellín own their apartment or home. 68.7 percent of surveyed expats living in the city have decided to rent instead of buy.
Our survey found that 49.3 percent of surveyed expats living in the city rent an unfurnished apartment/home, while 10.4 percent rent a furnished apartment/home and 9.0 percent rent a room in a shared place.
It is very difficult for an expat to get a mortgage in Colombia. There isn’t an established market for mortgages for foreigners. So expats buying in Medellín typically have to pay cash in full to buy, which limits the number of expats that can buy.
This overall rent vs. buy finding is a similar finding of a survey done in Cuenca, Ecuador last year by CuencaHighLife. This Cuenca survey found that an even higher 82 percent of expats living in Cuenca rent instead of buy.
What do Expats Pay for Rent in Medellín?
Our survey also asked expats living in the city what they pay for rent, for those that are renting. A majority of expat respondents (59.9 percent) indicate that pay less than $500 per month for rent. 21.2 percent pay less than $300 and 38.7 percent pay only $300-$499 per month.
Approximately half of those that responded they pay less than $300 per month are paying for a room rental and not a full apartment.
There is a big range of rental prices being paid by expats in the city. 5.8 percent pay as high as $1,500 or higher per month (mainly for furnished apartments) and 5.1 percent pay $1,000 to $1,499 per month.
We previously looked at unfurnished rental prices in Medellín and furnished rental prices in Medellín. There is a wide range of rental prices in the city. And there are many types and qualities of apartments available. But in general the most expensive prices per square meter tend to be in El Poblado.
What are Monthly Budgets for Expats Living in Medellín?
There is a wide range of monthly budgets for expats living in Medellín. Our survey found that two-thirds of expats living in the city have a monthly budget of less than $2,000 per month.
17.7 percent have a budget of less than $1,000 per month and 7.6 percent have a budget of over $4,000 per month, which demonstrates the wide range.
Expats living in El Poblado tend to have higher monthly budgets, which may be due to the typically higher cost of living in this neighborhood. This could also be due to different standards of living.
56 percent of the expats living in El Poblado surveyed have a budget of over $2,000 per month. For those expats living outside of El Poblado, only 26 percent have a monthly budget of over $2,000 per month
Only two expat survey respondents living in El Poblado indicated that they have an annual income of less than $20,000. While 22 expats living in a neighborhood other than El Poblado indicated their income was less than $20,000 per year.
The number living in a household also has some impact on monthly budgets. 47.0 percent of respondents indicate two people live in their household. And 23.5 percent live alone. While 29.5% have 3 or more people in their household.
The majority of expats living in Medellín do not have a car – a total of 81.6% of expats living in Medellín we surveyed responded that they do not have a car.
According to our survey, 86.5 percent of surveyed expat car owners live in El Pobaldo, Envigado, Laureles-Estadio, Sabaneta or the Oriente.
Perhaps some expats living here don’t own cars due to living only part-time in the city. However, only 14.4 percent of survey respondents living in the city indicated they live part-time in the city with either a tourist visa or other visa living less than 183 days per year in the city.
It is possible to live in Medellín without a car due to the low cost Metro and buses as well as low cost taxis. I personally have lived in Medellín for over six years without a car.
Medellín Living Feedback
We asked all survey respondents a total of 11 questions about the Medellín Living website.
The vast majority (64.0 percent) of readers originally discovered the Medellín Living site from Google or other search engine searches.
In addition, 24.2 percent were from links from other websites or word-of-mouth referrals from friends
Well over half (57.2 percent) of the surveyed Medellín Living readers have been reading the site for over a year.
Well over half (58.4 percent) of the surveyed readers visit the Medellín Living website once a week or a few times a month.
The principal way that readers find out about new posts on Medellín Living is via the Medellín Living email (77.6 percent). While 22.1 percent have the site bookmarked and 16.5 percent find out about new posts via Facebook.
A majority of surveyed readers (63.0 percent) feel that the frequency of posts on Medellín Living is “just right”. While 34.3 percent would like to see more posts.
In terms of sponsored posts, 78.2 percent felt that if we did two sponsored articles on the site each month this would be “just right”. Only 5.9 percent felt this would be “too much”.
A sponsored article helps fund the site and means a business pays us to write an article, which we fully disclose.
We asked readers to rank the Medellín Living website on a scale of 0 to 10, with 10 being better.
This enables a Net Promoter Score (NPS), which is an index ranging from -100 to 100. NPS measures the willingness of customers to recommend a company’s services to others.
A NPS score that is positive is considered good. So Medellín Living’s NPS score of 24.9 is considered good.
Those who respond with a score of 9 to 10 are called Promoters, and are considered likely to exhibit value-creating behaviors, such as buying more, remaining customers for longer, and making more positive referrals to other potential customers.
Those who respond with a score of 0 to 6 are labeled Detractors, and they are believed to be less likely to exhibit value-creating behaviors.
Responses of 7 and 8 are labeled Passives, and their behavior falls in the middle of Promoters and Detractors.
In comparison the NPS score for the other English language tourism information about Medellín and Colombia is considered very poor based on survey responses.
This doesn’t surprise me. I have nine different Colombia tourist guides and they are all uniformly poor. They are full of errors and inaccuracies and missing many of the best places in each city.
Over 50 percent of readers found that six types of articles on Medellín Living are the most useful.
This includes neighborhood articles (79.2 percent), restaurant reviews (67.0 percent) and apartment rental articles (62.5 percent), which were ranked as the top three most useful articles.
Over the next year we plan to publish more of the articles that are most useful to readers.
“Experiences of expats living in Medellín” was the number one choice of respondents about how Medellín Living can better serve you, with 76.0 percent choosing this.
We plan to have some feature articles about expats living in Medellín next year. We plan to also provide more information about healthcare and health insurance.
In addition, we plan to provide more apartment rental information and more restaurant reviews.
The following are four demographics questions we asked of all respondents in the our survey.
A high percentage of Medellín Living readers have US citizenship (71.1 percent). Some respondents selected more than one citizenship, which indicates they have dual-citizenship and there were even some trio-citizenship respondents. The most common dual citizenship was US-Colombian.
Furthermore there was a long tail of countries represented in the survey responses. Included in the “other” is over 25 additional countries.
While there is a wide range of ages for Medellín Living readers, a total of 58 percent of survey respondents are 54 years old or older.
This provides some evidence that the foreign retirement publications like International Living and Live & Invest Overseas have been successful in touting Medellín as a top foreign retirement location.
There is a wide range of incomes for Medellín Living readers. Most noteworthy is that 25.2 percent of surveyed readers have an annual household income of $100,000 or more.
The Bottom Line
Our first Medellín Reader survey has some key takeaways:
- There are many more digital nomad expats living in Medellín than expats that work for local companies – perhaps if you are planning to find a job in Medellín you may want to rethink this as digital nomad jobs can pay better.
- El Poblado is the most popular neighborhood for expats living in Medellín but 74.1 percent out of 201 expats living in the city have chosen to live somewhere other than El Poblado.
- A majority (68.7 percent) of expats living in Medellín rent instead of buy. Rents can be cheap in the city, 59.9 percent of surveyed expats renting pay less than $500 per month for rent.
- 81.6% of the surveyed expats living in Medellín don’t have a car. It is possible to live without a car in Medellín, which saves a major expense.
- Security is the biggest concern of those considering moving to Medellín. But security drops to the number six concern for expats actually living in the city.
The big response to our first reader survey has provided us with a tremendous amount of feedback. 350 survey responses included comments and questions in the open-ended question at the end of the survey.
Several survey responses asked about Medellín Living Meetups, which have been held in the past. We plan to restart these early next year. The Medellín Living Meetups will be an opportunity to meet other expats in the city as well as the writers for Medellín Living.
Expect to see changes in the Medellín Living website over the next year to better meet the needs of readers. Thanks again for all the survey responses and feedback!
Thanks for sharing the results – I was waiting for them (I love statistics, haha).
It seems that I am the only Israeli here, or what?
I was actually surprised that – like me – more than 80% do not own a car.
Keep on the good work!
Now for real answers:
What do you like about Medellin?
What do you plan to do in Medellin?
Haha, not always, in my case: men men men!
Kudos Jeff. Thanks.
I do have much data besides our reader survey to support the conclusion that El Poblado has a higher cost of living – which would likely help explain the higher budgets in El Poblado.
* Apartment rental prices in El Poblado PER SQUARE METER are more expensive according to every market survey study I have done. It’s not just because they are generally larger – they are more expensive to rent on a per square meter basis than in other neighborhoods.
* Prices to buy properties in El Poblado are more expensive per square meter on average for new properties or comparable existing properties (in the same estratos) – go ask any real estate firm.
* Since properties in El Poblado tend to be more expensive they have higher property taxes and administration fees compared to properties other neighborhoods – if you are an owner.
* Utilities (Electric, gas, water, Internet/TV/phone) are more expensive as most of El Poblado is rated as estrato 6 – 75% of El Poblado is estrato 6.
* Groceries are somewhat more expensive – I have done price comparisons and on average they are about 5-10% more expensive in El Poblado. El Poblado doesn’t really have the discount grocery stores like D1 or many of the small tiendas with inexpensive groceries that are found in other neighborhoods in the city.
* Many other things are more expensive in my experience in El Poblado – my wife getting her hair done or me getting a haircut is more expensive. Pet grooming is more expensive. Furniture in the stores in El Poblado is generally more expensive for comparable items — I could go on and on…
Sorry you are incorrect in your supposition that “most ex pats who have kids live in El Poblado”. Only 10 of the 52 expat respondents to our survey that live in El Poblado have families (they answered the survey that there are more than 2 living in their household). But there were over 40 expats with families living outside of El Poblado in our survey. From our survey there are more expats with families living in Envigado (14) and there are more expats with families living in Sabaneta (11) than are living in El Poblado.
Every expat I have met living outside of El Poblado has told me the higher cost of living in El Poblado is one of their main reasons for deciding not to live in El Poblado. Several comments in the survey also stated this. It’s also the main reason we decided not to live in El Poblado.
But to each his own and many expats prefer to live in El Poblado.
Based on your comments you clearly haven’t spent much time in Medellin. If you had you would quickly find out that El Poblado is clearly the most expensive neighborhood in the city to live in. Ask anyone living here which is the most expensive neighborhood to live in and they would quickly say El Poblado. This is a pretty obvious fact for anyone living here or spending much time here.
This was a great survey done by Medellin Living that helps the community. Thanks!
Nowhere else I have seen data like this about expats visiting the city or living here. And the survey response was big enough to make the results credible.
I think Jeff does a good job. A Colombian friend mentioned to me that El Poblado is the most expensive place to buy in Colombia. My nephew lives in El Poblado and he pays $600US rent a month for a two bedroom. Don’t forget, the dollar is strong right now, so if that changes and goes down, a lot of expats will be in trouble.
I have learned a lot about Medellin from Jeff. I have dual citizenship, Colombia-US. I am planning on going to Medellin to give it a try. What attracts me to Medellin is the climate Even though I have relatives living in Colombia, including Rio Negro, it is a little scary, because I am a single retired lady. I guess I am taking it as an adventure. I live in Southern California, which has great weather, but some times, I think it gets cold, or too hot.
Having spent many hours perusing perhaps thousands of Medellin apartment rental listings I have yet to see any compelling offering in Poblado. I hasten to add that I mean something that is suitable for my particular wants and needs and anywhere near competitive with what I have now one block off Av. Nutibara in Laureles. Vast sections of Poblado are high in the hills. It’d be okay but I’d need to buy a car, hassle with parking, comply with “pico y placa”, or wait around for taxis. It’s cooler up there and some of the views are just what the doctor ordered but for now I’m good where I am.
By nature I’m curious about the things this survey covered. My sincerest thanks to all who took the time to respond.