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US couple picks Uruguay for their property investment

Wednesday, August 26th 2009 - 08:48 UTC
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US-based entrepreneur Steve Bowman and his wife, Chris, looked in Panama and researched other tropical locales before they bought property in Piriápolis, Uruguay’s old resort town, 18 months ago. Their reasons for choosing Uruguay included the country’s stability and relatively unspoiled coastline, as well as the friendly people.

They were also enticed by non-bubble prices along the Atlantic coast, where a beachfront home can be found in the 200,000 US dollars range (€128,000).

“For luxury housing, there are some great selections between 750,000 and 2.5 million USD (€480,000 to €1.6 million),” Bowman said.

These days Bowman runs Coastal Uruguay, a Web site focused on promoting and providing information on the property scene, as well as Uruguay Coast Properties, a real estate site. In an e-mail interview, Bowman discussed the potential and the quirks of the property business in Uruguay.

What has surprised you about the experience in Uruguay?

I would say the difficulty in doing business in Spanish. English is not widely spoken. We speak good restaurant Spanish…..doing business is another thing.

Punta del Este gets a lot of publicity, but you bought in Piriapolis. Why?

The primary factors are sweeping high ground views of the Atlantic. The only mountains in Uruguay are here; a cosmopolitan small town setting; and low property prices/taxes. Also, crime is almost non-existent. This will change over time, but the baseline is excellent.

Where are buyers coming from?

In Maldonado Department (think state), where Piriapolis and Punta del Este are, the buyers are from Argentina and Brazil; there are lots of North Americans, Europeans, Australians as well. Piriapolis is becoming particularly popular with North Americans from the west because of the high ground views.

Why would someone want to invest in Uruguay instead of other countries?

As always, personal tastes rule. But we like the friendly people, the fact that our property rights are protected by the constitution and prices are reasonable….no bubble here.

In addition, we feel the Piriapolis area is a value play. For the last few decades, it’s been the poor cousin of the La Punta high rollers. This is beginning to change.

What tips can you offer someone thinking of buying property in Uruguay?

Two things: Have an architect inspect the property before you buy and have a good Escribano/Notary on your side. A straightforward real estate contact doesn’t hurt either. You’d be surprised how many people we’ve given this simple advice to, and once they’re on the ground here, they forget it. Keep your eye on the ball.

What are some of the risk factors in doing business in Uruguay?

For EU or North American buyers, this is a long way from home! You better be sure of the property manager for your home. There are some real characters here! Nepotism and kickbacks are common in the real estate business.

Source: Kevin Brass - Uruguay Properties

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