Monday, July 25, 2011
This is one of the world’s most dramatic coastlines. Vertical cliffs drop to flat rock plateaus. Some of the world’s best surf breaks and beaches are here. Close by you’ll find sandy beaches perfect for swimming and rock pools where you can bag the freshest lobster of your life.
Seriously high-end development is on the way. This forty mile stretch of Nicaragua’s south Pacific coast is set to become a bolt hole for the jet set. Not that you’d believe this if you listened to the mainstream media.
So we can still buy here at “regular joe??? prices.
Before dawn the first surfers race towards the ocean and the sun begins to unroll a carpet of yellow light across the beach. Soon the clubhouse is buzzing with the breakfast crowd…and I can see neighbors on horseback stopping to chat in the surf.
Here at Rancho Santana, you have five beaches to choose from. I see Playa Santana stretching out in front of me now. My favorite, though, is nearby Playa Escondida. Its name means “Hidden Beach??? and that’s just what it feels like. A nearby reef makes it the best beach for snorkelers, and the last time I was there I had it to myself.
These seascapes are truly stunning…and I’m enjoying them. But that’s not why I’m here. I’m hunting for undervalued real estate. And it’s all around me. I see true intrinsic value. Few coastlines compare and to quote legendary investor Jim Rogers, “They ain’t making any more of it.??? But the real estate values don’t reflect this.
This stretch of coast is one of the most undervalued on earth. You’ll find cheaper…but nowhere will you get this much bang for your buck. I came here from across the border in Northern Costa Rica. There, I stood on a $1.8 million lot. That is 60 miles or so as the crow flies from Rancho Santana where I am now. Yet here you can get a half-acre ocean-view lot for $71,500.
I see progress everywhere. Work is well advanced on the new clubhouse area that will include a convention center. Plans are progressing for a boutique inn and new spa. The furniture and wood finishes are being designed and manufactured onsite in a 10,000-square-foot wood shop. Homes are dotted throughout the 2,700 acres Forbes magazine described as “simply stunning.???
This morning, fresh vegetables arrived from the organic gardens that have been planted near the stables. A fistful of bok choy landed on the chef’s table to rapturous applause as the clubhouse team greeted the arrival of the first crop. There’s the buzz of community and progress everywhere you look. A new rental management team is onsite. The concierge was always available to help get me where I needed to go…or to find what I wanted.
But it’s not just Rancho Santana that’s moving forward. Connected locals are making investments. Carlos Pellas is the head of one of Central America’s most successful and oldest conglomerates. It has been in business for over a century…market leaders in banking, energy, sugar, booze (they own, make and distribute Flor de Caña rum), and automotive distribution. He is investing many tens of millions in his project a few miles down this coast.
This was on-again, off-again for some time. I have watched plans come together, only to be put to the back burner as the U.S. real estate market imploded and Nicaragua elected Sandinista Daniel Ortega to the office of president.
The fact that the Pellas family is now pumping their cash into this region shows their confidence in it (and in Nicaragua as a whole). I share this confidence. Infrastructure is improving. The Pan-American highway is now smooth, pothole-free, and filled with big, new, expensive SUVs..
For the first time, one million visitors traveled to Nicaragua in 2010. And Lonely Planet, TravelAge West and Shermans Travel all named this country as one of the top destinations to visit in 2011. Don’t get me wrong. Nicaragua still has challenges. And this year’s presidential election will raise the temperature of political rhetoric, I’m sure.
But this little country is looking forward…and real estate like this cannot stay undervalued forever. The world will catch on. And the stretch of coast between Rancho Santana and the Pellas project will be ground zero for Nicaragua’s high-end tourism and residential development. This is the stretch. Now is the time to secure a piece of it.
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