Opportunity in Ecuador

My name is Ronan McMahon. I’m a real estate investor. I specialize in hunting down real estate in the world’s emerging economies. But right now, I’m looking at opportunities in three distressed markets: Ecuador, Ireland and Nicaragua.

Bill Bonner is joining me in an acquisition in Ecuador. And he asked me to share what we’re doing with you. It’s a plan to buy a big piece of land along Ecuador’s northern coast. As you’re probably aware, Ecuadorian president, Rafael Correa, recently fought off a rebellion by police officers in the country’s capital, Quito.

It’s too early to tell what effect the recent trouble will have on real estate prices. But one thing is certain: it will give us almost free rein to scout for bargains. Most property investors will be looking the other way right now.

The area we’re canvassing is the stretch of Ecuador’s north Pacific coast between Canoa and Pedernales. It’s by far the country’s most beautiful piece of coastline.

Ecuadorian Coast

As it stands, accessing this stretch of coastline isn’t easy. You have two options: A seven-hour drive from Ecuador’s capital, Quito. Or a short domestic flight from Quito to the city of Manta, followed by a drive up the coast.

The problem is you can never tell how long the drive from Manta will take. This involves crossing the bay between Bahia de Caraquez and San Vicente…which means relying on ferries.

Some days, if you time it right, you only have a short delay waiting for the ferry. Other days, with low tides or a lot of vehicle traffic, you can easily spend four hours sitting in line at Bahia to get on the ferry.

Once you reach the best section of coast, on the other side of the bay, you bounce around on roads riddled with potholes. It can be a bone-shaking ride.

All of this is changing. A new government infrastructure plan calls for:

  • The construction of a bridge across the bay from Bahia to San Vicente.
  • Road upgrades along the entire coast, as part of a coastal highway plan.
  • A new coastal road to link Quito with Pedernales. This makes our favorite stretch of coast the closest beach area to Quito.

The bridge across the bay at Bahia is nearing completion and will open soon. It will cut out the need for car ferries…meaning you won’t face any delays driving up the coast from Manta

Meanwhile, work is progressing on the highway upgrades between San Vicente and Pedernales. Only a small number of stretches are uncompleted.

These upgrades are part of a government plan to make the entire Ecuadorian coast drivable. This modern highway has already made a huge difference in driving times and comfort along the coast. The new coastal road from Quito to Pedernales is complete. All that’s needed now is a date in the president’s diary when he can officially open the road.

The new road will cut the drive from Quito to Pedernales in half – to three and a half hours. This means that more of Quito’s residents…and foreign tourists…can come here for weekends and vacations.

The best piece of land along this coast is close to Pedernales, where the new highway from Quito hits the coast. This land is perfect for development. It’s like a cut off bowl. Views from all angles are of the ocean. The land is perfect for the development of a resort.

This video I took will help give you a sense of the terrain.

Every inch of the 350 hectares of oceanfront is developable. There is scope to do high-density development in any part of the land. (The flat land at the bottom of the bowl is a perfect spot to put resort amenities such as golf or tennis facilities.)

Ecuador’s first big resort on the north coast opened late last year. It’s just over an hour north of here. I’ve stayed there. The first part of this project is a Decameron hotel. It was full when I was there. All Ecuadorians.

The land I’m looking at is far more beautiful than where this resort is located. And it will also be easier to get to from Quito when the new road opens.

This property is just one example of what’s available to investors who look beyond their own shores. Buying real estate in emerging markets is risky. So it’s not for everyone. But the rewards can be considerable.


Ronan McMahon
for The Daily Reckoning

The Daily Reckoning