By Brad Hinkelman: Founder and CEO Casacol SAS Medellin Real Estate
Table of Contents
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- Introduction to the Medellin Real Estate industry and opportunity
- Who we are, what we do?
- The Medellin Real Estate Guide
- Updates for 2023
- Special Topics
It’s with pleasure that I take the opportunity to update our 7-step Medellin real estate guide for 2023. In this edition I have made a number of important edits and updates including:
- After effects of COVID
- Remote work trends in Medellin
- The new Colombian President (2022-2026)
- 2023 Tax update
The year also marks 15 years since my first visit to Colombia. During this time I’ve seen Medellín grow up from a backpacker hangout to an emerging world-class city to live and invest in. At Casacol we now manage more than $100M USD in Medellin real estate assets. The remote work trend consistently ranking Medellin in the global “Top 10” has transformed the market to where housing and rental costs are now a major political topic.
Not just for Millennials, retirees too have found Medellin to be a great escape for vacations and 2nd or 3rd homes. General tourism to Colombia is now well above its long-term travel boom trend. International arrivals to the MDE airport are now 42% (as of the June 2022 Update) higher than the 2019 pre-COVID peak and 2023 is up another 10-15% on top of this.
Indeed the future looks very bright for the City of Medellin, and especially the Medellin real estate market. As the world continues to globalize, Medellin’s place in world travel and remote living and international investing will continue to increase. Those of you interested in how to participate in the Medellin real estate boom will read on and I hope benefit from this guide which documents my 15 years of experience doing real estate business here.
Who Are We, What Do We Do?
My company, Casacol (like “Casa Colombia”), helps foreign, local, junior and professional investors, 2nd home buyers, and hotel investors realize their investment and real estate diversification goals in Medellín. We are highly, highly focused on expertise in the Medellin real estate market (not Bogota, not Cartagena, not Cali), where our deep experience and focus on ground-up real estate development, traditional real estate brokerage, and high-efficiency property management leads to significantly higher returns than I’ve been able to find anywhere else in Colombia.
We work with everything from studio apartments and high ROI investment properties (our listings are here) to luxury $1M homes, penthouse properties, and hotels (both condo and boutique). For example, see most recently the newly expanded Celestino Hotel and Spa, the acclaimed Marquee Hotel, and our newest Landmark hotel project. Our entire portfolio of managed properties can be found at en.casacol.co.
Plus, we don’t sell anything that we wouldn’t manage for you, which means we offer highly efficient and effective property management and solid returns on your asset long after you’ve made your purchase. A strong property management track record is important when liquidating your investment real estate at the best possible price. We can help during the entire cycle of investment in Medellin real estate from acquisition to disposition.
However the buyer must beware in the Medellin real estate market. The industry here is not regulated as it is in developed countries. Many participants are out to make a quick buck at the expense of the foreign investor. I’ve made a lot of mistakes and seen a lot that others have made too. I hope you can learn from that experience during this guide.
RELOCATING YOUR LIFE OR PARTING WITH A CHUNK OF YOUR LIFE SAVINGS TO INVEST IN AN EMERGING ECONOMY LIKE COLOMBIA IS NOT A DECISION TO BE TAKEN LIGHTLY.
That is the theme of this guide: A comprehensive 7-step guide for investors large and small, starting out, winding down, or just diversifying some assets, whatever your goals are, how to invest safely and securely in Medellín real estate during the entire purchase, management and sales process.
Step 1: So, You Want to Invest in Medellín Real Estate?
The first question you need to ask yourself is “why?”
Here are the most commonly stated reasons:
- I want an investment that produces a high monthly income
- I want a place to live/live part-time/retire in, or rent out
- I need a visa/want permanent residence
There is a big difference between making a home buying decision and an investment buying decision. In my experience, the places that make great homes to live in and show off to your friends (large apartments, fincas, etc.) are not usually the best ROI-producing investments.
Likewise, the best investment properties (generally smaller studios and one or two-bedroom short-term rental apartments and boutique hotels) are not usually where you want to live. It’s important to decide early on where on the spectrum you wish to be as a buyer and realize you can’t have it all.
We also have a lot of buyers wanting to buy real estate in Medellin because they want a visa/cedula/residency/second passport. I tell everyone in this category:
“BUY MEDELLÍN REAL ESTATE BECAUSE YOU THINK IT WOULD BE A GOOD INVESTMENT FOR YOU, BUT DON’T MAKE POTENTIALLY A BAD INVESTMENT BECAUSE ALL YOU NEED IS A VISA.”
If all you need is a Colombian visa then find a lawyer you like and find the solution for your case. Also remember that you can stay up to 180 days/year in Colombia up to 90 days at a time. And yes Colombia now offers their version of the digital nomad visa for up to 2 years albeit with a long list of rules and regulations. Real estate investment is still the most sure path to a Colombian visa/residence but you should focus on the quality of the investment vs. getting the visa itself.
Step 2: Location, Location, Location
Heard this before? It’s true everywhere on the planet, and it’s true here in the Medellín real estate market as well. Once you’ve contemplated either living or investing here, you need to turn your head to where.
Looking for an Investment?
If what you want is a high-income producing investment, then you should be looking at a very short list of high-quality, very well-located buildings with modern amenities that ideally allow for (legal) short-term rentals, probably in Poblado and potentially Laureles, where you’ll find 90% of the demand from foreign business and leisure travelers. Most hotel properties are owned by investment groups large and small (just like ours) and also represent high yielding dividend assets.
Note: Just being inside Poblado or Laureles is not enough. These are huge neighborhoods with large parts that are not ideal for rentals/investment class real estate. You should be near very specific arterial routes, with good amenities, and close to commercial centers, restaurants, groceries, parks, or else your renters will eventually find something better! Probably 99% of visitors/tourists are walking/UBERing so don’t make the location difficult for them.
Looking for a Place to Live? The World Is Your
Medellin real estate can go anywhere from studio apartments to farmland, Laureles, Bello, Sabaneta, and everything in between across a population of almost 4 million people and 10s of thousands of buildings (remember, most modern Medellin real estate is high-density, multi-family, high-rise. FYI: The closest thing to an MLS/Zillow in Colombia is here at FincaRaiz. While many of the properties are duplicated, improperly listed, or bait listed to get your contact, it’s a good place to start for interest in the local market and building your knowledge and learning some general comps.
Choosing a place to live is like choosing what clothes you want to wear today, it’s entirely personal, and no one in our office will talk you out of a specific location unless you’re truly making a mistake.
Personally, I’m partial to Poblado (Golden Mile, Alejandria, Provenza, Astorga, Manila) and Laureles (Park 1, 2, Avenida Jardin, La 70) for places to live and invest. Not to mention in 2020, we launched one of the most beautiful and successful projects in Laureles, Laureles Factory Lofts.
Step 3: Decision Time. New vs. Old Construction
There are two philosophies on this topic:
- Buy something old and “cheap,” fix it up nice, rent it out, flip it, etc.
- Buy something new, modern, no need for modifications/improvements, furnish and collect rent.
There are some beautiful, high-quality, and superbly well-located older buildings in the Medellin real estate market.
Properly renovated (or not), they could be the kind of places you want to live in with large spacious bedrooms, lots of parking, and an abundance of storage space, maid and nanny quarters.
If you’ve done renovations before, understand the language, or can do some of the work yourself, you may also be up for the challenge in Colombia. Most of these are horror stories like anywhere else in the world renovating older buildings, so be forewarned.
Also, older buildings are often amenity-poor with high administration fees, which can affect the demand as a rental/resale and, therefore, your return as an investor. Having said that, Colombians are totally allergic to high HOA/administration fees and will sometimes be willing to dump older buildings at prices below replacement costs!
But renting older apartments in buildings with elderly/wealthy neighbors can also be a problem. Who do you think rents large 3-5 bedroom apartments? Groups of younger, single males, large noisy families. Not always consistent with being a good neighbor.
Many of these older buildings are instating minimum 6-12 month rental periods to avoid the influx of short-term and often illegal furnished rentals. However, there are some success stories as well. Over the years, our clients bought out the residents (mostly seniors) in the Ayamonte Provenza building and successfully converted it to short-term rentals. We’ve had a 90% average short-term occupancy rate in this building. Talk about teaching old dogs new tricks.
Newer buildings usually have a long list of amenities that your renters often want to enjoy (pool, gym, sauna/Turkish bath, jacuzzi, floor-to-ceiling views, open kitchens, modern layouts, finishings, etc.).
Combined with a lack of buildable land and an ever-strict city planning department, this is why new construction in Poblado is approaching $12,000,000+ pesos/square meter in 2022 (almost $2500 USD/sq meter or approx $230 sq/ft). And other buildings like Energy Living, where we manage the vast majority of sales and rentals, you’ll find the highest prices (and rental rates!) in Medellín at the moment at $14,000,000 COP/m2 and beyond.
However, higher prices in newer buildings come with higher rental prices as well, so the math often works out in your favor. That’s not to mention liquidity; selling in newer, professionally managed buildings is much easier.
If the new building is designed with short-term rentals in mind like our Soul and Loma Verde projects (see all of our Medellin apartment rentals here), then you’re definitely buying into a secure and steady income-producing asset. Even during the height of the pandemic, nobody here lost money in any month during 2020.
The bottom line is that there is no right or wrong answer here. There are pros and cons to new and older construction, and Medellín real estate buyers just need to apply their personal or financial preferences to every option.
At the end of this article, I’ve included some special notes that apply to buying in pre-construction projects and go over opportunities, risks, and important questions to ask the promoters and developers as well.
Step 4: Money and Banking: To SAS or Not to SAS
You want to set up your Colombian bank accounts as soon as possible if you’re going to make a purchase. It can 2-4 weeks to open an account, and the sellers will take your offer a lot more seriously if they know you’ve already gone through this phase.
Too many foreigners start negotiating without even having the ability to execute financially, and I’ve seen good deals fall through as a result of anxious Colombians who just move on if they don’t sign and get paid quickly.
Alianza Valores is a great Colombian banking resource (our preference) and one of the only ones who really know how to handle foreign investment in Medellin real estate. Many foreign investors know Felipe Chavez (private banker) personally, and you can contact him directly at firstname.lastname@example.org. Local banks like Bancolombia, while they have a strong retail brand and presence, are very difficult/impossible banks to work with as a foreigner, even though they can be owned by foreigners (like Scotiabank Colpatria). Alianza has been the easiest to do business with for us during the last 10 years.
Buying Within an SAS
At this same point in time, you may also want to make the decision of whether to place the property in your name or in the name of your company, which has a two to three-week setup time.
An “SAS” in Colombia is somewhat analogous to an American LLC with the same kinds of rights, flexibility, and legal separation of your assets.
I have personally decided to maintain almost all of my properties in the name of my company because it affords me lots of flexibility tax-wise, and I don’t particularly like my name showing up in public records. However, I’m a tax resident and run a 300-employee business, so I have a lot of flexibility with write-offs, depreciation, etc.
But if you’re a non-resident buying just a couple of properties it probably doesn’t make a lot of sense, not to mention the 35% tax rate. Maintaining a SAS in Colombia is a lot more time-consuming and much more expensive than in other countries. I’ve seen some lawyers and accountants recommend an SAS blindly to foreigners because they can charge more fees vs. an SAS being the right ownership/tax vehicle for the client. Also winding down a SAS after you’ve disposed of its assets is even more expensive and time-consuming than the start-up.
See near the end of this article for a more comprehensive update on Colombian taxes in 2023 including some advice on when to consider a SAS for your Medellin real estate holdings.
Step 5: The Negotiation and Offer
It’s important to know where the Medellin real estate investment process ends before you begin. This is often the most critical part of any real estate transaction, especially in Colombia.
This is also where you want your lawyer and real estate agent heavily involved; a full title study if you have any doubts about who the seller is, a purchase contract that works for you, negotiation advice, and all the paperwork at the end of the transaction.
Colombians (Paisas at least) rarely use lawyers for Medellin real estate conveyance, instead placing the administrative burden on the usually unexperienced agent to do the running around in the notary. But as a foreigner you’re probably paying a lawyer to make this error and stress free. Do your homework and pick the lawyer that you think will accomplish that for you. Beware of lawyers who don’t specialize in real estate transactions. Medellin lawyers especially are famous for not disclosing what they know how to do (well) and don’t. This is not the time for a legal novice or generalist.
Also, remember when doing transactions with locals that Colombians are, on average, pretty sophisticated buyers and sellers of property. Most Colombians don’t trust the stock market or even government or corporate bonds, so buying and selling property is much more common and emotional here than you would think.
They can also be shrewd negotiators. We once saw an 86-year-old woman refuse to negotiate in any way on her terms or price on a very expensive piece of real estate she was selling directly without any agency representation. She repeatedly told us, “the buyer can take it or leave it, I’m in no rush, I have lots of time left.” Eventually, we closed the deal, but she got her price.
The seller will let you know if the price is negotiable. Or, you may need to ask upfront. If the price is clearly inflated, then that’s another invitation to negotiate (low-ball) or just walk away. A good Medellin real estate agent who is interested in a long-term relationship with you will help you navigate this – it’s their job. If you have doubts, then ask for a professional, 3rd party appraisal (at your choosing and cost) to have an extra data point for your negotiations. Overpaying in unfortunately common for foreigners. I’ve seen many sellers who overpaid sometimes 2, 3, 4 years of future appreciation, and then expect some unreasonable XYZ% return on their investment.
Step 6: The Purchase Agreement
A verbal negotiation on price and terms ends with a signed and notarized purchase agreement in Spanish known as the promesa de compraventa, a legally binding document.
While the Paisas are known for their foreign hospitality, you may see that stop when it comes to money matters.
It’s not uncommon for your Colombian negotiating partner to make demands or renegotiate verbal offers right up until the actual promesa is signed in the notary. Words and handshakes mean a lot less in Colombia than they might in your home country. But a signed and notarized document is where the buck stops and you have a deal.
Don’t take it personally, it’s just a part of the culture to negotiate hard and up until the 11th hour here. Feel free to make demands you deem necessary, no one will be offended, it’s just business.
We’ve seen this process take from three days to three months end to end. It all depends on the buyer and seller, strong legal/notary support, the existence of a mortgage will delay closing, etc. Every transaction is somewhat unique. Hotel (condo and boutique) investments can often be simplified due to the standardized nature of the contracts.
The most important clauses to be negotiated in a promesa de compraventa are the following:
1. What’s Included in the Price?
Parking, storage, appliances, ceiling lamps, furniture?
Generally speaking, anything that isn’t fastened to the apartment the owner may want to remove, including light bulbs, curtains, appliances, etc. We’ve seen some weird stuff, so just get it in writing (again, in writing!) if there’s something you want to keep.
2. Deposit/Down Payment or the Anticipo
This is to secure the deal and is usually 10%-20%, but if the owner has a mortgage, they may ask for more so the mortgage can be cleared.
We’ve seen up to 50%, and for the right price, it may be a good deal for the buyer to make a larger anticipo. Sometimes you can negotiate lower prices for higher down payments as well.
This can cause heartburn to some foreigners because you are technically giving the seller some money without getting anything (like a title) in return—there’s no escrow.
However, you are, in fact, protected by the penalty clause, which is a serious legal matter if not satisfied (see the next point).
3. Penalty Clause or the Cláusula Penal
This states that the buyer and seller do what they are contracting to do in the promesa on the timelines and in the amounts of money that they promise.
After signing this legal document, if you don’t proceed as a buyer, you could lose your anticipo, and if you don’t proceed as a seller, you could be sued and have your property “embargoed” with a lien for the amount of the agreed upon penalty, usually 10-20 percent.
4. Commercial and Declared Values (AKA the Valor Comercial or Valor Catastral)
In Colombia, like much of Latin America, there usually exists a gap between commercial values (what you pay) and declared values (what goes on the title).
You absolutely need your agent or lawyer to advise you on what is right for you here, especially if you are talking about visa/residency matters, as every case is unique. Since the 2019/2020 tax reform, the government is closing this loophole of under-declaring property values. The best practice is to require the full value of the deed unless you want to assume the seller’s tax obligations when you eventually go to sell. There are some interesting flexibility options here for negotiating out the value of furniture in a furnished apartment.
5. Settling of Any Mortgages/Liens
In Colombia, it is impossible to transfer titles (notary conveyance) unless the property is free of mortgages/liens/building administration/property taxes.
It’s good protection for the buyer, but it can delay the process by up to a month due to lack of escrow and bank processing of the mortgage, etc.
A good lawyer is on top of this every day to ensure this is done in weeks and not months.
6. Proration of Taxes/Rent/HOA Fees
This is just a math exercise. The property taxes need to be paid for the entire calendar year and then prorated to the date of title transfer or if the seller is giving you keys early, date of delivery, or entrega.
Same for monthly HOA fees, and in the case of buying a property that is currently generating rental income, that rental income should be split and prorated appropriately as well between buyer/seller.
7. The Signing of Escrituras or the Titles
The promesa will state a date, time, and location of a notary visit/signing for all parties to exchange final payment via cheque or bank transfer, hand over keys, and sign the title over from the previous owner to the new owner.
This is essentially where you finish the purchase process.
Step 7: Final Paperwork and Deed Registration
If all has gone smoothly, then you’ve signed titles in the notary, exchanged cheques/money transfers, paid your share of notary fees/taxes (budget 1.25-1.50 percent of the purchase price plus lawyer fees for closing costs), and have keys to your new place. Closing costs shouldn’t exceed 2% of the value of the property you buy.
There are a series of steps, however, that your lawyer should now do to make sure everything flows properly in the department of Registro, which oversees land titles/registries. Again inexperienced real estate lawyers will often disappear here once their fees are paid.
This process ends with a refresh of the certificado de tradición y libertad, which can be pulled online and will show that you are the official owner and that all electronic records have been updated. Don’t forget about this part!
We’ve seen errors in registro after 20 years when someone thinks they owned property that they didn’t wind up being a nightmare.
You’re also now free to instruct your lawyer to start the central bank registration of your invested funds if you intend to use your property purchase for visa/residency purposes.
Obtaining a Colombian ID card (the cedula) will follow as well. But, you are essentially done. Enjoy.
2023 Update #1: Post COVID Colombia
As I pen this update in 2023, we are in the midst of yet another strong year for the Medellin real estate market unlike many other parts of the world. Inflation is running high, construction costs have spiraled up, interest rates are high, but the economy is generally quite strong. These post-COVID stimulus effects have the result of pushing prices up across the board for Medellin real estate. You can see local news commentary summarizing the post-COVID effects here (La Republica) and here (InfoBae). Colombians generally love real estate because it is such a great inflation hedge over the long term beating most if not all other asset classes long-term.
2023 Update #2: Remote Work
Ten or fifteen years ago, remote work was usually associated with hiding from your boss and guilt of not being in the office and visible to your staff or co-workers. Five to ten years ago many online entrepreneurs were starting to discover the attractiveness is remote work in Medellin. Time zones, climate, quality and cost of living all ranked high on lists of remote work commentators like Nomad List. Post-COVID, the acceptance of flexible, hybrid, remote work, working-vacations globally have led to a massive influx of foreigners to Medellin more than any other city in Colombia. However as local housing prices get pushed up, the people and politicians in Medellin like many cities in the world are starting to ask, “how much is too much?”.
2023 Update #3: The Gustavo Petro Presidency
The last year was important for Colombia politically because we elected a new congress in March 2022, and a new president on August 7, 2022, Gustavo Petro. Colombia has become more politically divided (it seems just like everywhere else in the World) than I have seen in the past. The media coverage in both Colombia and globally about the elections was a story of “Left” vs. “Right” with lots of fear-mongering on all sides. The reality of Colombian politics is that the country has been the most stable democracy in the history of Latin America and is the closest ally of the United States in the region, whether you like that fact or not. I don’t think this will change. Colombian congress is today “center-right,” and keeping the President in check from making large reforms that could hurt the economy.
Check out these “Amigos” here after the election results.
2023 Update #4: Taxes
While this is not an article about Colombian taxes it would be remiss without some commentary/update as there is a new tax reform/regime in place as of 2023. If you’re thinking about becoming a tax resident (= 183 of the last 365 days) in Colombia you should read this for a good summary from PWC. Colombia has global income and wealth taxes that could affect you but generally you won’t be double taxed (when using tax credits). Keep in mind that having a resident visa doesn’t mean necessarily that you are a tax resident; tax residency is strictly as I defined above.
Almost all companies in Colombia pay 35% corporate tax rates unless abated by special programs such as those that were (in the past) available for hotels (like ours!) where the rate could be as low as 9%. Dividends paid to non-residents have a 20% WHT automatically applied whether paid to local or foreign accounts it doesn’t matter.
Income in Colombia is taxed at progressive rates for residents at up to 39% and flat rates for non-residents at 35%. Assets can be depreciated for residents (including SAS) at a rate of 45 years = 2.22%/year. If your tax rates at home are >35% then you’ll use a tax credit for what you pay in Colombia to avoid double taxation. If your tax rate is <35% then income earned in Colombia will unlikely result in additional taxes paid at home.
My advice is unfortunately not to trust most accountants in Colombia and you should seek true professionals affiliated with international networks, here is a decent list. A bad accountant (most are bad) will mean you will pay more in fines than you will ever pay in accounting fees. When the totality of your income in Colombia is subject to source retention taxes (like we offer at Casacol) you have no obligation to file in Colombia.
Special Topic: Buying in Pre-Construction Projects
When buying Medellin real estate from pre-construction “developers” it is important to note that a slightly different process is involved. I put developers in quotes because everyone with a graphic designer and a friend who owns a buildable lot seems to be a developer now with a fancy presentation deck. Always be careful about who you are doing business with and do some diligence about who is really behind all the fancy logos on the “Team.”
The pre-construction purchase process often starts with signing a no obligation hoja de negociación or a letter of intent with the builder or developer to hold your place. You may be asked to put a small amount of money down at this stage, and it can be from 1-5 percent and usually gets deposited at the Fiducia (escrow) account.
Fiduciaries in Colombia are regulated financial entities that offer an escrow-like service to builders/developers to handle all the money/contracts associated with a new development. They guarantee nothing, however. If the project aborts, they have little obligation to help you out, it’s mostly symbolic confidence. You NEED to know who you are doing business with, their experience, track record, and property management strategy. Conflicts with developers and fiduciary companies in Colombia take years to be resolved when you need to go to court. Many of these issues can be avoided by doing your homework ahead of time.
The Fiducia does offer some safety and organization to pre-construction projects however because the Fiduciary will enforce the buyers’ contracts as well to make sure they are paying on time, etc., paying the builder in installments as he meets sales goals. The Fiduciaries act as traffic cops to ensure buyers and builders do their part on time.
Instead of signing a promesa de compraventa for new construction, you will sign the encargo with the Fiduciaria, which serves a similar purpose and legal obligation as a promesa de compraventa of a titled property.
“IN GENERAL, AFTER ALL MY YEARS OF WITNESSING BOTH SUCCESSFUL AND FAILED PRE-CONSTRUCTION PROJECTS, MY CONCLUSION WOULD BE TO WATCH THE MARKETING STRATEGY OF THE DEVELOPER/PROMOTER VERY CLOSELY.”
The most successful developers either build for themselves (build to own – because they believe so much in the product or using bank financing) or market to their existing clients in a private fashion without fancy sales rooms, without “Call now” banners hanging from the sidewalk. No billboards, no Instagram, no free steak knives. Because, by definition, they have a long-term successful money-making relationship with those investors who return to invest again and again.
“One-timers” are going to have the fanciest marketing materials, renders, videos, and social media you’ve ever seen. It’s hard not to look at their Instagram ads, because they are good! Let’s be honest, real estate needs to be marketed to be sold, but the most successful developers sell out projects in days or weeks with a simple “Hey old clients, we have a new project” email to their client base, not with social media. Younger or small investors (<$50k USD) can often fall prey to the sizzle vs. the steak. Facebook and Instagram social media have become completely polluted with Medellin real estate projects in recent years that mostly never see the light of day.
In Summary: 8 Questions to Ask Before You Invest in a Pre-Construction Medellin Real Estate Project if You Have Any Doubts
- Who’s the whole team? Lead developer, architecture, structural and civil engineering, project management, sales/promotion? Resume (hoja de vida) for each team member.
- What stake does any/all of the team have in the final project? Or are they just going to sell out to investors? Or has the “team” padded their profits with participation just to tell you, “we are already 50% sold, don’t miss out?”
- Is there a construction license approved? Ask to see the submitted plans in PDF, and compare them to what you are being sold, floor by floor.
- Does the builder/GC have any gray hair? Medellin is full of junior engineers looking for their first real project. Personally I don’t want 20-somethings making my structural design decisions.
- If they are claiming something like “X% already sold, act fast,”—how many buyers and how many units/shares have they bought each? Have they done business with you before? Can I speak with 2 or 3 of them personally? Ask for a reference from an existing client.
- If it’s an investment property, who’s the property manager or operator? Check their resume, references, experience, and track record. Compare their REAL, delivered, historical ROIs, and track record of meeting expectations to what is being promised/suggested by the sales promoter.
- Financial engineering, do your ROI projections include appreciation (hope and a prayer, especially in $USD terms), or are they cash on cash returns? Big difference!
- Liquidity, what about when I sell? Who’s going to help me exit the investment in the future? Because if the business isn’t working, never mind about price/value, because liquidity=0.
Thoughts on $USD/$COP in 2023
Today (July 2023 update), the USD stands at $4200 COP, a historically very low point for the COP during a year of high volatility. Many people ask me for my thoughts on what the COP will do in the next X months/years. I have no idea. Nobody knows. When I started investing in 2008 the COP was a strong as 1800/$1 USD. The trend in the last 15 years is simply that politicians in Colombia can’t help themselves but print money and inflate the COP to pay for short-term projects. I don’t expect that to change. It means that you need to think of price and appreciation, rents, etc., in both USD and COP terms to build a proper perspective. Medellin real estate (and real estate in general) historical absorbs inflation very well. But over the long term one should been reasonable about appreciation potential in USD terms. This is a market to extract high ROI and rents, not always appreciation. High quality assets that can be priced for rent/sale in USD vs. COP will serve the Medellin real estate investor well. This is 100% our focus as a company.
Medellin Real Estate Bubble?
Here’s another question I get asked a lot, prices are way up (in COP terms) in the last 5, 10, years, is Medellin in a real estate bubble? It seems like ever since 2008, everyone is a bubble watcher. The first question I always ask is, do you know how an investment bubble is defined?
AN INVESTMENT BUBBLE TYPICALLY GOES THROUGH STAGES OF 1) BOOM, THEN 2) EUPHORIA, THEN 3) PROFIT-TAKING, THEN 4) PANIC/SELLOFF.
Given that foreign investment in Colombia is still low as a % of the market, credit is relatively hard to get for locals, mortgages are not possible for foreigners, mortgage interest rates are high (18%+ in 2023), and mortgage down payment requirements are 30% (by law) and that Colombia already learned dearly from their 1998-1999 real estate bubble and subsequent financial crisis, I don’t see conditions for a bubble in Medellin real estate. I wouldn’t even say we are in a “boom.” I think the market here, on average, is well balanced between supply and demand. And today in 2023, the costs of construction have increased so much due to an ever decreasing COP vs USD, I don’t see how prices fall (in COP terms). Regardless, I always enjoy these debates with our new and existing clients.
Buying property in a foreign country like Colombia can be exciting and very rewarding both personally and financially, as I can attest to in my experience after 15 years of investing and doing business here, helping primarily foreigners find high-quality real estate investments in Medellin.
The key is to seek advice from people who are licensed, affiliated with local and national organizations, trained, specialized, and have a deep set of knowledge and experience in doing what you need them to do.
At Casacol, I’ve built a team and ecosystem of highly trained agents, project managers, expert property managers, legal experts, bankers, and accountants to help foreigners looking to invest in Medellín.
Thanks for reading, I hope this article has been useful for all.