Editor’s Note: The following is a guest post by John S.
After traveling to 26 countries thus far in my life, I ended up choosing Medellín as the location where I bought property. After the initial shock of others hearing that statement, most ask why?
I worked in a high-pressure job and I wanted to have a plan in place if I wanted to retire early. In 2010, I began in earnest to consider purchasing foreign property when I decided to have a Plan B.
I set my parameters to include a city that is comfortable, safe, healthy, has good year-round weather, inexpensive cost of living and has close proximity to my family and friends in the Midwest.
I visited Panama, Ecuador, Belize and Colombia to determine what would meet my expectations. While I enjoyed the places and people in each location, there was something different about Medellín. This resulted in my choosing Medellín as the place I bought property and now live.
Note the above photo is a tree-lined street in Laureles, which is the neighborhood where I live in Medellín.
My First Impression of Medellín
Arriving at the local international airport from Ft Lauderdale, I felt the cool mountain air blow against my face on the drive down the mountainside from the airport in Rio Negro toward Medellín.
My first glimpse of the sprawling city caught me. I had looked at many pictures but none of them did it justice. The scenery was inspiring. The trip down provided numerous quick views of the area of over three million people.
The red brick buildings and terra cotta rooftops somehow drained the tension from me. To this day, that trip still has the same impact on me every single time.
The weather in general is great. This was one of the main reasons I originally considered Medellín.
During my time here I have experienced some hard rains, lightning that makes you jump out of your seat and sun making things warm enough to sweat. In general, I walk every day with either a long sleeve or a dri-fit short sleeve shirt.
While the sun is warm, the shade is perfect. When the rain comes, it generally leaves just as quickly. I have no heat or cooling in my apartment but it has large windows facing both East and West. I open doors and windows to get a cross wind cooling the apartment in minutes.
Every night, temperatures cool after sunset typically to around 60 ° F. Medellín is by far the best weather location I have experienced.
Finding a comfortable place that is safe was also extremely high on my requirements list. My Fitbit tells me I have walked over 1,500 miles on the streets of Medellín.
The vast majority of that walking has been in Laureles where I live and El Poblado where I work. However, I have also walked in Belén, Sabaneta, Suramericana and Envigado extensively. I have found that many neighborhoods in the city are very walkable.
While I am careful about being present and aware and do my walking before midnight, I have yet to have an issue must less feel any level of discomfort. I recommend Medellín for comfort and safety to anyone including family.
My costs to live in Medellín are extremely low as compared to the U.S. I own my apartment. This limits my costs to groceries ($300), HOA ($125), utilities ($45), cable and Internet ($80), daily commuting transportation ($200), apartment cleaning ($200), 20 hours of private Spanish per month ($240) plus entertainment and miscellaneous bringing the total cost to around $1,500 USD per month.
Medellín offers a healthy lifestyle. I eat and cook fresh foods bought primarily from the public markets or farmers markets. I use the local supermarkets Exito and Carulla to fill the gaps between market visits.
Medellín has more than its fair share of fried food, white rice and bread as well as ice cream and sweets. However, the variety and quality of the fruits and vegetables here is remarkable.
Additionally, there are a wide variety of restaurants serving every type of international food you can imagine. I believe they use fewer preservatives and chemicals here than in the US grocery stores.
My Experiences Looking For and Buying Property
I researched Medellín real estate extensively. And I connected with a local company with extensive U.S. ties and over 10 years experience in Medellin properties.
I did not follow common advice and bought without renting first because I wanted to move forward. I had a very clear objective – purchase investment real estate to generate enough income to pay for all my expenses to live in Colombia.
The real estate company handled everything start to finish. Finding the right places, negotiating the price, meeting the sellers, opening a bank account to wire the money, all legal paperwork.
The process was long but relatively painless. The legal / government process was slow. It is typical to meet the sellers in Colombia, which I found unusual. The extensive documentation required opening an investment account in Colombia made me believe I was borrowing the money rather than wiring a deposit.
Taking the real estate company’s advice, I purchased two investment rental properties in Poblado. However, after discussions with my daughter, I decided to purchase my home where I live in Laureles, which is a true Colombian neighborhood. It is walkable, less traffic and extremely comfortable.
In my Laureles apartment, I did a complete renovation including new floors and kitchen as well as custom furniture. The renovation took four months and total cost including appliances was $45,000.
I am very happy with the decisions I made and would make the same ones today.
My Reasons For Recommending Medellín Have Evolved
My reasons for recommending Medellín have evolved over the months living here. After living in Medellín I have come to appreciate additional things about this wonderful city.
I now have a big appreciation for the inexpensive and reliable public transportation. I use taxis, the metro, Uber and just recently, the bus system. The fact that Medellín excels in this area should not be missed. Buses are under $1 and readily available.
The metered taxis are everywhere and cost around $5 for a 25-minute ride. My experience with Uber is not as easy as the U.S. depending on the time of day. The extensive metro system is less than $1 and is fast, efficient, clean and reliable. I don’t want or need a car and that fact is important particularly for older people.
After living here for a while, the number one reason I now choose and highly recommend Medellín is the Paisa people. Of course you can’t put all people in one basket and label them. But I have daily if not hourly experiences with people here and they go out of their way to help.
Whether it is a translation, directions or general help, the Paisa people standout worldwide. I have been invited to their homes, welcomed into my neighborhood and feel at home here after less than one year.
The Bottom Line: Choosing Medellín
My life in Medellín is better than I anticipated. There are hurdles such as the Spanish language and cultural differences.
However, the great things about this city far out weigh any downsides. The weather is fantastic and I really like not needing heating or cooling. I commute often back to the U.S. and the three hour flight from Ft Lauderdale is quick and easy.
After living and working daily here, I feel far less stressed. I enjoy the daily advantages this city offers. Choosing Medellín continues to be the right decision for me.
John is from Cedar Rapids, Iowa and lived over 50 years in the Midwest. He has traveled to 26 countries and chose to buy a home in Medellín, lives in Laureles and works in El Poblado. He has a resident visa. John travels monthly to Chicago’s North Shore to see family and friends. His passions include family, photography, the arts, business and travel.
Reminder: Join our Medellín Living March Meetup on March 23 at 7pm at Pizza en Leña located at Parque Sabaneta. This meetup is a good way to meet other expats like John living in Medellín as well as newcomers visiting or considering moving to the city.