Three Homes for the Price of One


Yesterday, your New York editor took his turn hopping on an
Amtrak train, but not one of the "rickety" ancient railcars
that transported Joel to New York last week. Instead, I had
the pleasure of boarding one of the spiffy Acela trains.
(These trains, the pride of the Amtrak fleet, just returned
to service after a lengthy hiatus to repair their defective
brakes). The new and improved brake assemblies seemed to
work just fine, bringing our train to a complete stop at
each and every station on our itinerary…including

Having "made Baltimore," as the Amtrak conductors like to
say, your New York editor proceeded to "do Baltimore."
Although he has done Baltimore several times before, he
always enjoys finding more of Baltimore to do on each
successive visit. On this particular visit, he boarded a
"cocktail cruise" around the harbor with about 60 other
Agora employees. The purpose of the cruise was, as Addison
explained, "pour fêter n’importe quoi!" – i.e. "to
celebrate whatever!"…and so we did as we were told.

The weather was spectacular, the conversations were
engaging, the impromptu guitar jams were entertaining and
the beer was potable. All-in-all, the cruise did not
disappoint – not a "grand voyage" perhaps, but a truly "bon

Throughout most of the excursion, your editor could be
found ruminating off the poop deck (the skipper assured him
that this was perfectly legal). But at other moments, your
editor and his colleagues discussed the financial markets,
the Gulf of Mexico’s oil production, the Fed’s interest
rate hikes and much of the other ennui that consumes our
professional lives. The sad truth is that we love this

But clearly, we all possess other interests as well –
ranging from the majestic to the primal. Indeed, one of
your editor’s most acute interests is both majestic and
primal: Nicaraguan real estate.

When I visited Nicaragua two years ago, I fell in love with
the place: virginal hillsides sloping into the Pacific,
perfect weather, gorgeous sunsets, amazingly fresh fish and
great surf.

I promised to return to Nicaragua as soon as feasible to
purchase some sort of beachfront property. (I have not yet
done so – the spirit is willing, but the pocketbook is
stretched a bit too thin.) So I was very intrigued by a
recent series of columns by Lee Harrison, highlighting his
impressions and discoveries during a 10-day jaunt through

Lee, who currently lives in Ecuador, publishes frequent
columns for our sister publication, International Living.
In late August, he set off from Ecuador for Nicaragua to
find a beachfront property for himself…We were envious.

Please allow us to present the first of several excerpts
from Lee’s Nicaraguan quest…

By Lee Harrison

Ideally, I’d like to buy three unique homes in Central or
South America for the price of one home in the U.S.

We just sold our house in Cuenca, Ecuador, which leaves us
with just one home – a delightful country place in
Vilcabama, Ecuador. But that means we have two other homes
yet to buy.

After weeks of deliberation, we’ve settled on a pretty
exciting game-plan:

First, we want to keep our primary home in rural Ecuador.
We love the place for it charming rural setting, but we
also appreciate its proximity to Cuenca, Ecuador’s most
beautiful city. Second, we’d also enjoy having a place in
the historic center of a large city, with access to all the
things that make a large city enjoyable. (At the moment,
Montevideo, Uruguay looks good for a city venue.) Third,
aside from the country home and city apartment, a beach
home would be nice, too, wouldn’t it? For this one, we’re
thinking of the Pacific Coast of Nicaragua.

Why these locations? Because in my opinion they offer the
best of what I want each of them for, at prices that I can
afford as an early-retiree with little income. Ideally,
we’d like to buy three Latin American homes for the same
price we could afford to pay for one home in the U.S.

Ecuador has perfect weather, with low-cost properties and
inexpensive labor for building a nice home. We don’t need
heat or air conditioning, and we pay no income taxes.
Property taxes on our house in Vilcabamba are less than $10
per year. In short, we can afford to build and maintain a
large home here.

Montevideo has a European ambiance and old-world charm. Its
old historic center is my idea of a perfect city
environment, with sycamore-lined streets, open air markets,
fine restaurants, and sidewalk cafés. Property prices are
reasonable, and the day-to-day cost of living is on par
with Ecuador, if not a bit less. They’ve even got a jazz

Nicaragua’s beaches enjoy real "beach" weather all year.
There’s no cool season, no gloomy season, and even in the
rainy season the sun shines most of the day. It’s a place
that you can go to anytime of the year to enjoy the surf
and sand. The living costs, again, are on par with Ecuador.

So, how to get started? We’re spending the month of July in
Uruguay (mid-winter there) to have a really good look
around and see how we like its off season.

But first, I’m off on a 10-day trip to Nicaragua, during
which I intend to explore the coast from San Juan del Sur
northward. To be honest, I’m on a tight budget. But I’ll
take my checkbook, and see what happens…

Editor’s note: Lee’s first dispatch arrived on August 23
from Buccaneer Point, Nicaragua:

"The Land Cruiser was carrying us along the lonely, coastal
country road in southern Nicaragua at a comfortable pace,
when we slowed down to enter a small side road heading for
the nearby coast. I slipped it into four-wheel drive, and
eased into the seaside forest. After climbing the access
road for a few minutes, we came upon a stunning vista as
the Pacific stretched out before us, viewed through the
lush, natural vegetation.

We’d arrived at Buccaneer Point. If you’d like a seaside
home, but also enjoy the woods, this place is worth a
look.. It’s loaded with mature trees, hanging vines, and
(oddly) an occasional cactus. Although each property here
has a knockout view, the natural forest has been preserved
such that only those trees absolutely necessary to build
the homes have been disturbed.

I’m here in the middle of the "rainy" season, but-just as
the ads promised–there’s been sun every day and an
occasional afternoon or evening shower. I enjoy Ecuador’s
spring-like climate, but when I come to the beach I want
warm water all year…and warm weather to go with it. Here,
both come as standard.

Buccaneer Point is my first stop on this trip, and comes as
a pleasant surprise. The terrain of the 300-acre property
is more like Costa Rica than how I’d pictured coastal
Nicaragua. The tropical vegetation is so faithfully
preserved in this project that it takes you a moment to
even notice that there are houses here.

The luxury homes, which normally come as a package deal
with the lot, are made of a rich, dark Brazilian hardwood
and blend into the forest nicely. Each lot felt secluded,
despite being part of a well-planned seaside community with
underground utilities and planned wideband wireless
Internet service. Each home is perched on a high cliff
looking out on the Pacific sunset. And, best of all, the
property borders La Redonda Beach, a small, secluded half-
moon sandy beach just a hundred yards away.

My first inclination was to buy a lot here, without the
house. But after spending an hour hiking around the
property, I came to realize that the "tree house" feel and
the pure woodland setting would be lost if the property had
a variety of home styles, and I appreciated the purity and
homogenous character of this unique community.

Completed "turnkey" homes here, including the lot, start at
just over $200,000. There are a few lots available also,
which start at about $14 per square foot. Considering the
quality of the homes, along with the planning and
construction costs, it’s a pretty good deal; very likely
less than you’d spend buying a lot and building in this
setting on your own.

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