The One Nicaraguan Development That's Doing Well

When we arrived in Nicaragua, a group of Dear Readers was already at the house. They were having a dinner party on the lawn. Tables had been set up…looking out over the ocean. By 6 PM it was dark. A full moon arose in the East. It had been windy earlier in the day, but now the wind had eased into a gentle breeze.

Joselito brought out his guitar.

“Besame. Besame mucho…”

“You must love it here,” said a young woman. “This is about the most beautiful place in the world, isn’t it?”

The next day, we took a tour of the development here in Nicaragua.

Housing is in a slump in the US. Developments in Latin America and the Caribbean have fallen on hard times too. Especially here in Nicaragua, where president Daniel Ortega has driven off foreign investment.

“I think he’s becoming paranoid,” reported our local contact. “He doesn’t want to go anywhere. And when he goes out, he has a whole team of bodyguards. He’s afraid someone is going to kill him.”

But Ortega or no Ortega…real estate bust or no real estate bust…Rancho Santana is booming. There is a new pool at the clubhouse and a new clubhouse under construction. New condos. A huge new woodshop. New heavy equipment. A team of 250 workers…some of them working day and night.

What’s going on?

“This is the only project in Nicaragua that is still doing well,” explained a sales agent. “It’s practically the only project in Latin America that is still solvent. Down the coast, several of them have gone bust. In one, the owner just left. The homeowners tried to call. But he just packed up and left the country, leaving them without roads or water.

“And that’s not that uncommon. These guys sold lots during the boom years. Then, when the bust came they didn’t have the money to complete the projects. Lot owners were left holding the bag.

“Developing is a tough business, even in the best of times. And developers are generally a stupid bunch. If not actually criminal. Either they are dreamers who keep investing in their own projects. Or they are schemers who take the money out. The dreamers go bust in hard times. The schemers high tail it out of the country.

“You need a serious developer. One who’s been through a couple of complete cycles. One with enough money to survive. And one with enough integrity to do what he’s promised. Unfortunately, there aren’t many like that. Not down here.

“You can buy very cheap property here now. But you have to be careful.”


Bill Bonner
for The Daily Reckoning