Sunday, September 09, 2012
Discover just how affordable Ecuador's finest stretch of coast is
Your gaze drifts down from the forest carpeting the steep hills to the sparkling blue ocean beyond. You watch a little cloud of butterflies dance past on the warm breeze. You grab your towel and stroll to the beach. In a few short minutes, you're wiggling your toes in the sand. Then you take a leisurely swim before heading back to your terrace for breakfast.
On Ecuador's coast this relaxed beach lifestyle isn't just a dream. It's very real - and it's very affordable.
And this stretch of coast isn't just affordable. It's also stunning. It boasts long sweeping soft-sand beaches, forests where anteaters and wild cats roam, and an untamed natural beauty that's hard to resist.
This piece of coast is free of high rises, mega-resorts and big business. That's because it used to be really tough to get here. But that lack of access meant that property prices stayed low.
I've written before that Ecuador is the best-value location on the Pathfinder beat for beach and ocean-view property. You'll pay a lot less for a home on this coast than you would in Panama, Nicaragua or Costa Rica. In fact, you'll pay up to 50% less in Ecuador. And this section of coast around Jama is particularly undervalued. But it holds the promise of huge potential.
And it's all down to a new road.
This Coast is Opening Up
Getting to this stretch of Pacific coast was no easy task. Thirty years ago, it took 18 hours or more to drive here from Quito, Ecuador's capital city. You raced along a beach, climbed high into the mountains and forded a river. It was all good fun. But it wasn't very comfortable or practical. And in rainy season you just couldn't get to some of the little villages and towns.
It ruled this location out as a weekend getaway for locals from Quito or foreign tourists. By the time you drove here, it was almost time to turn around and go back home again.
This coast has changed a lot in the last 30 years. The drive time slowly came down. But the biggest change happened in January 2011.
That's when the new coastal road opened. It winds its way from Quito through the mighty Andes Mountains. It's a spectacular drive that leaves you in awe of the skill and force it took to carve this road through the mountains.
The new road is smooth and easy to drive. And it's much quicker. It cuts the drive time to this section of coast to under four hours.
That's hugely important. It makes this piece of coast the closest beach area to Quito.
We're already seeing more local tourists and vacation home buyers from Quito coming to the Jama area. And there is growing demand from foreign buyers looking for an affordable second or retirement home.
In short, this coast is opening up. Property prices are already starting to rise. There's a window of opportunity. But you need to act now.
The Gold Standard Community
There aren't many residential communities in the Jama area. I've spoken with different groups with plans for upscale communities here in the next few years. But one developer is ahead of the game.
Francisco del Castillo's grandfather decided to build a house on this coast 30 years ago. Back then, it took 18 hours to drive from Quito to his grandfather's house. But Francisco loved spending time on this coast. So when his family's construction company wanted to create a beach community, Francisco suggested Jama.
It took Francisco some time to persuade his family of the untapped potential of this coast. His thesis for his master's degree studied a potential project in Jama to prove it made sense. That did the trick.
Today this beachfront community, called Jama Campay, is more than a pipe dream. It's an established successful reality.
A Place That's On the Up
Jama Campay is a beachfront community of lots, houses and condos. Cradled by hills and forest, its elevated setting looks out to the waves breaking on the shore and the blue Pacific Ocean:
The rocky coastline drops sharply onto a soft sandy beach.
The homes in Jama Campay sit on low cliffs with panoramic views along the coast. Warm breezes keep the tropical afternoons comfortable.
Initially, most of Jama Campay's buyers were wealthy families from Quito. Today, more foreign buyers are snapping up condos and lots in the community.
Owners are seeing the effect of the new road. It's not only that it's quicker to get to Jama. A trend of rising prices has also started.
Eighteen months ago you could buy one of the houses in Jama Campay for $115,000. Today, there isn't a single home left for sale. The last two remaining houses sold for more than $140,000.
Typically with locations like this, it takes time for a rental market to develop. Because you are early-in, before renters or tourists come in numbers, there aren't people to rent to. This isn't the case at Jama Campay. Here, the rental market is already strong.
Most Ecuadorians - including owners in Jama Campay - don't rent their vacation homes out. They prefer to keep them private. Yet this spot is becoming known domestically and internationally as a very desirable place to visit.
That's why an owner of one home was able to gross $3,800 in rent in December 2011. Not bad considering he bought this large home, just last year, for $180,000. That's a gross yield of 2.1% in December alone. And the value of his home is also rising.
December is a strong month for rentals, as is January. February brought Carnival this year...try getting a comfortable bed here around Carnival!
I can see why people would want to spend time here. I always work a couple of "chill hours" into my schedule when I visit:
At sunset you can amble down the steps to the beach for a dip in the mighty Pacific and a stroll along the miles of beach that open up as the tide drifts out.
There are always fun and relaxing jobs to be done. Like negotiating with fishermen who bring their catch onto this beach. Grilling on the terrace. Blending strange-looking fruits into juices with explosive flavors.
The home owner I mentioned has the best of all worlds. An amazing beach home that he bought cheaply. It's rising in value. He visits three times a year. When he isn't there, he lets the on-site rental management team know and they rent it out and take care of the details.
They're Selling Fast
The houses in Jama Campay sold quickly. And the pace of sales with the newly-released condos is even faster. There simply isn't anything like them for sale right now along this coast.
Sitting on the highest point of the community, the condos are only a 4-5 minute stroll through landscaped grounds to the beach. And every condo looks out towards the ocean. Condos on the ground floor come with great ocean views, thanks to the elevated setting. The top floor condos boast expansive ocean views right along the coast.
These condos are not just attractive to look at. They're priced attractively, too. Take a look. The condos come in two sizes:
- A 1448-square-foot three-bed three-bath unit. Pricing starts at $139,170. That's $96.11 per square foot.
- A 960-square-foot two-bed two-bath unit. Prices for these units start at $89,880. That's $93.62 per square foot.
The condos will have spacious, open-plan layouts, similar to the existing houses in the community:
Condos are scheduled for delivery during July 2012, December 2013, September 2014, and December 2014.
It all sounds dreamy. So what's the catch?
The catch is that only 8 condos are still available at these prices. If you're interested, you need to act fast.
There's an easy way to do that. You can reserve your condo with a refundable deposit and then come and see this coast for yourself.
Want to Visit?
You can explore the beauty and potential of this coast on a Jama Campay chill weekend.
That's a mini break on this coast that lets you see it first-hand, try it on for size, and see if it's right for you.
You'll travel on the new road. Check out the beach towns and fishing villages. And Francisco's team will show you Jama Campay, the condos (some are already under construction), and the finished homes in the community so you can get a feel for the Jama Campay lifestyle.
Don't worry, you'll get plenty of time to unwind, kick back on the beach and soak up the laid-back atmosphere.
Don't wait too long, though. Francisco is fast running out of inventory. Only 8 condos remain at these prices. If you wait, you may miss the boat altogether.