As Medellin real estate advisers, we at Casacol receive clients in our office every day with a wide range of goals and needs for their investments in Colombia. While there are not many “typical” clients there are many typical questions that most clients seek our feedback on throughout their real estate evaluation and investment process. Below is a list of the top 10 questions (in no particular order) that we hear from our clients every day with a brief response and explanation of each. For more detailed responses and in depth discussions it is always best to set a meeting with me or any of my staff to chat further. In the mean time educate yourself on the most common questions when it comes to buying Medellin real estate.
1) Do I need a bank account in Colombia? How do I get one?
The short answer is essentially yes. Without a local bank account you are left to an “auto-escrow” process of wire transfers directly to sellers and agents and mountains of paperwork and delays with local retail banks like Bancolombia. Alianza Valores is currently the only banking entity in Colombia with access to the international SWIFT network that actually makes it easy to do business with foreigners. You make the Alianza application and within 1-2 week you have your account from which you can deposit funds and execute locally with confidence. I have a step by step documented process to do this quickly and efficiently, just email me.
2) What are the most up and coming areas of Medellin?
The question I always have for people who ask this is “what is your goal for the investment?”, and usually the answer is usually to look into a crystal ball and buy something undervalued today that will be worth a lot more in the future. I chuckle when people call areas like Laureles or Envigado up and coming. Laureles is a great residential neighborhood that was developed in the 1950-70s. Laureles in 1950 would have been up and coming. Today the corridor between Poblado and the airport is about as up and coming as you can get but already feature some of the highest prices in Medellin. I say look to El Centro if you want to see value creation over the next 10-20 years and look to quality buildings/locations in Poblado if you want to see value today.
3) Where do you see prices going over the next X years?
“To see the future, look into the past”, (I have no idea who said that by the way). The Lonja of Medellin (the local real estate association) has a data department that has been keeping track of local real estate prices for almost 30 years. Since the real estate crisis here in 1997-1999, Medellin has seen an average CAGR of prices in the 7-8%/year range. When people ask me about the future I can only predict that 7-8% is what we should continue to see in the future and especially with construction costs and taxes increasing and much more strict city planning/zoning than ever before. Supply is in decline and demand steadily on the rise.
4) What kind of visa/residency/passport do I get if I invest in Colombia?
There are two clip levels for 2016. One level is about $240M COP investment in real estate or financial assets which entitles you to a 1-year annual renewable investment visa (TP-7) and then second clip level is $450M COP which gets you the 5-year renewable “RE” visa. After 5 years of residency you can apply for citizenship/passport, etc. Every year this values go up by the rate of the Colombia consumer price index set in January for the current year so by 2017 this data will be out of date.
5) Can I purchase foreign real estate through my self directed IRA? (American clients)
Yes! To comply with IRS rules your US accountant will send you the complete list of requirements on the US side. You’ll need a Colombian SAS in the same name as your US LLC which than then acquire the Colombian assets. This is a topic for your US accountant and Colombia attorney however as every case is somewhat unique.
6) Do you think this (X property) would make for a good investment?
There are properties that make for better income investments and there are properties that may have better appreciation opportunities. Some can accomplish both, some may accomplish neither. The right question to ask is, “is this a good investment for me”? All buyers of Colombian real estate need to make decisions early on about what their goals are for the investment and remove the emotion from the decision unless you are looking for a place to live. When looking for homes we can’t help but get emotional, it’s our home after all and appreciation and/or income take the back seat.
7) What are the closing/legal fees associated with buying real estate in Colombia?
As a general guide you can expect to pay 1.3%–1.5% in closing costs associated taxes and notary fees, and anywhere between from $2,000,000-$4,000,000 in legal fees depending on the transaction. With respect to legal fees many times you do get what you pay for, sometimes you don’t. Part of your lawyers job in addition to due diligence is to execute and we’ve seen more than a few deals lost as a result of lawyers who fail to execute in a timely fashion on hot properties. Pick a lawyer who you trust and who you can trust to move at your pace.
8) Are pre-construction projects safe to buy in? What are the risks?
Colombian developers have a custom since the real estate crisis in the 90s to use escrow services from banks and insurance companies. This way pre-construction sales funds never reach the hands of the developer until the milestones which all guarantee a project’s success are met (60-80% of pre-sales under contract for example). The success rate with these “fiduciaria” (escrow) entities is astronomically high all across Colombia and Colombians more than anyone love the pre-construction discounts. The risk is if everyone in a project were to lose faith and stop making their monthly payments, the builder/developer may not have financing in place to complete the project and abort which is possible but very rare.
9) Should I purchase real estate through a Colombian holding company or as an individual?
Juan Jose in my office wrote a great article on the topic as to why you may consider a Colombian SAS to hold your real estate assets. There are pros and cons to a SAS and one must weigh the costs/benefits. In short, professional investors will find more benefits in a SAS than those looking to only buy 1 property in Colombia.
10) What happens if I want to sell and take my money out of Colombia?
If you’ve registered your funds properly via F4 on the way into Colombia, then it is the exact same F4 that you use on the way out. You should be consulting with your bank, lawyer and accountant during the sale process to have a well designed tax strategy on the sale, but the process of actually taking your money out of Colombia is a very easy one without withholding taxes AS LONG as you’ve brought your money in, in the proper fashion.
Enjoy your property search and anyone can contact me or my team for assistance at our website here: http://en.casacol.co
Brad Hinkelman – firstname.lastname@example.org
Founder/Owner – Casacol SAS