Category Archives: Making the Move

Six Tips to Finding Affordable Long Term Rentals in Nicaragua

With more and more people relocating to Nicaragua finding a desirable and affordable rental isn’t always easy. But if you’re persistent, avoid getting discouraged and follow these tips you might just find your perfect rental today!

#1

POUNDING THE PAVEMENT:
Since most locals rent their homes by placing a small “SE ALQUILA” sign on the front of the house get out there every single day and walk the neighborhoods that you’re interested in living in.  Properties commonly rent on a month to month basis – so beware – a home that was occupied yesterday may be available today and then gone tomorrow.  Remember – you aren’t the only one pounding the pavement – the best deals come and go in the blink of an eye.

#2

WORD OF MOUTH:
Tell everyone you know that you’re looking for rental. Talk to expats and business owners in the area. Post messages in forums and Facebook groups such as Expats in NicaraguaExpats in San Juan del Sur. When we were looking for a long term rental in San Juan del Sur we talked to so many people there were times when random waiters at restaurants would approach us as we were walking by to tell us they had a friend or family member who had a place for rent.

#3

CLASSIFIED ADS:
Typically classified ads for long term rentals are posted by foreigners or computer savvy Nicas who expect a higher price for their properties because they know how to market. There are some good deals to be found through classified ads, but the very best opportunities are almost always found through word of mouth or pounding the pavement. Listed below are  a couple classified sites that are worth checking out.

Craigslist
Encuentra24
Nicaragua Community Classifieds

#4

REAL ESTATE AGENCIES:
Although most real estate agents and property managers deal almost exclusively with highly priced, short term vacation rentals occasionally they do have a gem in their back pocket. On occasion they may have a few sale listings where the seller wants to rent out their home while they wait for a buyer.  Visiting local real estate agencies is definitely worthwhile, but consider this option a long shot to finding your rental.

#5

BULLETIN BOARDS:
Posting boards are commonly found in bars, restaurants, corner stores, laundry mats, hostels, etc. and are also a good place to find rentals.  It’s not uncommon for the business owner to have a home for rent, so don’t forget to enquire with the proprietor and his/her staff.

#6

NEGOTIATE A SHORT TERM RENTAL INTO SOMETHING LONG TERM
If you find yourself searching for a rental during slow season and you’re willing to sign a long term lease you may just be lucky enough to negotiate a fair price on a short term rental turning into an affordable long term option. It never hurts to ask.

Making the Move: 6 Items to Pack in Your Suitcase

Making the Move: 6 Items to Pack in Your Suitcase

Leaving Calgary, Alberta, Canada — December 9, 2011

“What should I pack in my suitcase?” is a question we often get asked by Nicaraguan Expats-to-Be.

With some extra legwork and a willingness to pay premium prices you can almost always get what you need here. 

As opposed to Walmart superstores – that are found in every neighborhood in North America – Mom and Pop shops are the norm here.  Just like in the U.S. of old, each store is a family run business that generally specializes in one type of product or service. 

If you’d like to save some time and money you’ll probably want to add the six items listed below to your packing list.

1.  E-Reader – New and used English books are sometimes hard to come by, especially if you’re looking for newer releases.  And when you do find them, they aren’t cheap. If you enjoy reading and don’t already have an e-reader you’ll probably want to invest in one.

2.  Quality Kitchen Knife – Sharpening stones are easy to find here, but good quality chef knives are not. With more time to enjoy cooking and a bounty of vine ripened fruits and vegetables a good knife will be a welcomed companion.

3.  Electronics –  With technology outdated by at least two years and items priced 30% – 100% higher than in Canada and the United States you’ll definitely want to bring your laptop, iPad and any other electronic devices you can’t live without.  It’s also a good idea to make sure everything is working well.  Repairs can usually be done in Managua, but don’t come cheap.

4.  Spices – The selection of spices available in Nicaragua is limited. If you have some favorites you enjoy cooking with on a regular basis you’ll want to stash some in your suitcase.  Oregano, garlic powder, crushed chilies and cinnamon can be found in almost every grocery store however turmeric, cardamom, sage and thyme cannot.

5.  Bedsheets & Pillows – I’m someone who appreciates nice linens.  I’ve been told you can find them here but, like many other quality items, they are sold at a higher price than in North America.  Keep comfy and save yourself some cash by bringing a couple of sets of sheets with you. For added comfort you may want to bring your favorite pillow and even a mattress cover. Worried about space in your suitcase? Vacuum sealed storage bags work great!

6.  Ear Plugs – Roosters, barking dogs and fire crackers are common sounds we hear all hours of the day and night.  To avoid sleep disruption you may want to pick up a multi-pack of ear plugs. You’ll be happy to know that just like those individuals living near an airport or a railway crossing, you too, will eventually desensitize to these sounds.

Have you recently made the move to Nicaragua? Is there anything you wished you would’ve packed in your suitcase?

Teaching Opportunity in San Juan del Sur

San Juan del Sur Day School

San Juan del Sur Day School is looking for a highly trained, experienced primary school teacher from the United States or Canada to work part time in a multi-age class of 18 students ranging in age from 4-8 years old.

Candidate will also have the opportunity to study Spanish, practice yoga, and surf.

You can learn more about the school by visiting the Facebook page at San Juan del Sur Day School.

If you are interested in living and teaching abroad for a year please email your resume to us and we will pass it along to the right person.

Our View on Nicaraguan Real Estate

Our View on Nicaraguan Real EstateAdmittedly we have limited experience, but in our opinion there are three types of real estate for sale in Nicaragua.

1. NOT REALLY FOR SALE
These are properties where the owner advertises an outrageous, out of market price and says, 

“If someone will pay “x” amount of dollars, then I’ll sell it”.

Here’s an example:

Two homes in Granada are side by side, have the same exterior (aside from color), the same square footage and were built by the same developer. The interior lay out is slightly different, but comparable, as are the finishings.

One house recently came on the market for $149K. The other house has been for sale since we started looking at real estate in Nicaragua 3 years ago. It is currently listed at $229K.

Without MLS (and no practical way to track comparable sales) this situation is more common than you might think. We’ve come to learn that real estate – especially in Nicaragua – is worth what ever someone will pay for it.

2. THE MOTIVATED SELLER
Sometimes properties owned by motivated sellers never actually make it onto a real estate agency’s website because agents already have buyers waiting in the wings for this type of deal to come along.

Also in this category are a number of developers and single property owners that prefer not to work with real estate agencies.

There can be some really interesting properties to be found in this particular category. But unfortunately – since they aren’t actually listed anywhere – they can be challenging to find.

Word of mouth is great for these types of deals, but if you aren’t living here finding these hidden gems proves to be very difficult.

3. THE DESPERATE GRINGO
We’ve often thought about starting a website called desperategringos.com.

Every once in a while we hear about a Nicaraguan expat who wants to leave immediately and needs to liquidate everything.

This is a great way to make a purchase if

  • The type of property you hear about happens to be one that interests you
  • You have readily available cash
  • You actually hear about it in time.

This category is by far the smallest market segment.

We’ve been focusing our search within the second group. We live in Nicaragua and have good connections, so it’s been our hope to find a property that wasn’t listed.

We recently found a great example of this type of real estate.

The development is called Congo Hills.

We met with our friend Irish Seamus for coffee and he told us a little bit about the history of the project.

Seven years ago the real estate market was booming worldwide. Nicaragua was no exception. Many developers were selling properties before water, electricity or even roads led to the lots.

Seamus Fitzgerald and his business partner Bendt Bregstein wanted to have a project they could be proud of so they built roads, dug a huge well and installed underground electricity. They even built a club house with a pool and hot tub before starting construction on their spec homes.

With the infrastructure in place, some lots cleared off and a handful of homes built Seamus and his partner started selling properties.

But unfortunately this time frame coincided with the global financial crash and all construction came to a standstill. Seamus and Bendt decided to lay low for awhile. Thankfully their project was not leveraged with bank loans, which meant they could afford to wait for better times.

These two Irishmen were confident the market would eventually bounce back so they’ve had a cuidador (property caretaker and security guard) on-site maintaining the existing homes, clubhouse and pool.

And with the luck of the Irish on their side the market in Nicaragua is starting to heat up again.

Seamus thinks the “time is now” and we think he might be onto something.

The crazy thing is that we can’t even get a sneak peak. Congo Hills isn’t listed with a real estate company and – as of this post – doesn’t have a website. We’re pretty sure this won’t be the case for long so our plan is to check out this development ASAP! 

“Reinvented” at 37 and Loving Life in Nicaragua

Gord and I are pleased to share with you our very first publication titled ““Reinvented” at 37 and Loving Life in Nicaragua”.  It’s a two page spread in the Lifestyle section of the January 2013 issue of International Living Magazine.  

To read our article click on the image below.

Screen Shot 2012-12-22 at 6.38.37 PM

We look forward to continuing to work with International Living in 2013 and hope to have more articles to share with you real soon!

To learn more about International Living click here.

Mandy & Me

Leaving behind a large network of girlfriends and starting over in Nicaragua hasn’t been easy. Regardless of how much I enjoy spending time with my husband Gord, being with your significant other 24 hours a day isn’t healthy for any relationship. And although Gord tries, he just can’t seem to relate when I complain about having a bad hair day.

That being said, I’m so thankful to have crossed paths with Mandy.

Moods Nightclub - Managua, Nicaragua

Mandy is originally from North Carolina. She’s been living in San Juan del Sur for the past four years with her husband Cory and she is my new Nicaraguan bestie.

Mandy is an animal lover, shoe-aholic and Mom to one dog, one cat and two parrots.

Aside from Jack Daniels, Diet Coke is her drink of choice. She loves Eskimo ice cream and pool days just as much as I do.

It wasn’t long after meeting Mandy I realized that her personality matched her appearance. She’s a true beauty.

Mandy is fun to shop with and easy to be with. I love how she says “y’all” and appreciate that she helps me with my Spanish.

Moods Nightclub - Managua, NicaraguaThis brown-eyed babe can usually be found at Republika (the bar her and her husband own) mixing mean drinks or popping caps off ice cold Tonas.  Whether you’re a traveler passing through or new to the expat community of San Juan del Sur be sure to stop by and say hello. I guarantee she’ll greet you with a warm and friendly smile.

Culture Shock in Canada

1 small bottle of water – $3
18 bottles of beer – $40
Haircut, color & brow wax – $170
Sushi – $40
A few groceries – $57

Cha-ching…cha-ching…cha-ching!  

It was day 4 of my 1st trip home to Calgary when I officially started to freak out about how much money I was going to spend during my 5 week stay. If I continued at this pace the MasterCard was in for a serious beating.

After spending 8 months in Nicaragua it didn’t take me long to figure out what I had missed most in Canada.

1.  My Nephew Aiden – How sweet it was to be reunited with my adorable 11 month old nephew Aiden. From camping, to going for walks, to seeing Aiden through his 10 & 11 month birthdays, to reading Llama, Llama Wakey Wake over and over again and being there as he learned to crawl the time I spent with him was definitely the highlight of my trip.

– Day 2 in Calgary with Aiden

Moyie Lake, British Columbia - Canada

– Hangin’ in the Hammock Swing – Moyie Lake, British Columbia

– A rocking chair & a shirt from Nica for Aiden

2.  My Girlfriends (especially my sister) – Getting together with my special gang of girlfriends and being able to pick up right where we left off was a great feeling.  Heart to heart talks with my sis was something I think we both needed.

– Good Times with Girlfriends @ Melrose Bar & Cafe

Canmore, Alberta - Canada

– My sister Sally & I  – Canmore, Alberta

3.  Shopping I know my stores and I know my sizes. I know where to find the best deals on my favorite products and I love a good sale. Planning my visit at the end of the summer season was a good move – EVERYTHING was on sale. I so miss being able to get good quality clothing and the products I love at great prices.

– Aiden was such a good little shopper!

4.  The Food – $40 on sushi (for one sitting) was a bit expensive, but I gotta tell ya, it was worth every penny. Strawberries, blueberries and Activia yogurt were part of my daily diet.  And although not technically classified as food, I couldn’t seem to get enough 5 cent candy from Mac’s.

Joey Crowfoot - Calgary, AB

– Mmm! Tuna Sashimi Salad

5.  My Hairstylist – Cassidy from Ca Va Bien rocks! After 8 months without a real haircut it felt great to have my hair cut & colored by a professional I trust. Now if only I could convince her to move to Nicaragua.

6.  TV – Specifically the Slice channel. I have to admit I watched quite a few episodes of Say Yes to the Dress and What Not to Wear and even caught a couple of episodes of Intervention Canada while I was home.  Hey – don’t judge me! 

As we pulled into the driveway at my sister’s house on July 26th I felt like I had never left. Aside from Aiden, not much had changed.  

But after spending two months in Calgary – 10 months after departing on a Nicaraguan adventure with nothing but a couple of suitcases, and my husband Gord – I realized I’ve changed.

I’m thrifty now. I’m more laid back. I’m less concerned or caught up in the minor details of day to day and I’ve realized not everything has to be perfect. I don’t need a fancy house, or a designer handbag to make me happy. More importantly, I realized just how special time spent with family, friends and loved ones is and how much it means to me.

My cousin Nicole & I – Canmore, Alberta

– Chowin’ down on hot dogs! – Eau Claire Campground – Kananaskis, AB

Unfortunately all good things must eventually come to an end.  

– Almost packed & ready to go!

– Just minutes after this photo was taken tears started to flow.

Saying goodbye sucks, but as the plane left the runway in Calgary – 285 days after my Nicaraguan adventure began – I was more excited than sad. This time I wasn’t leaving home – I was going home.  

Looking for a Long Term Rental in San Juan del Sur

With a belly full of food from Elizabeth’s and a gallon jug of water in hand I set out for what would end up being a long, hot, sticky day.  Jon and Quinn took me to a few of the rental places that they had looked at when they first arrived in San Juan del Sur.  Some of them were no longer available and none of them had  wi-fi so we carried on up the road out of town to look at a few others.  Some of them were a little rough around the edges and once again none of them had wi-fi.

Jon and Quinn stopped at the Pali grocery store to grab a few things and I soldiered on with my mission. 

Two hours, a gallon of water and a bucket of sweat later I arrived back at Elizabeth’s hostel with very little to show for my effort.  I was physically drained and to be totally honest, emotionally drained as well.  On the up side, I did have a couple of appointments to look at rentals that were coming available over next few days, but nothing I had seen up until this point had made me very excited.

I realized that ambling around the streets without a plan was not working out so well, so I took the search tactical.  On day two I started at the street that runs parallel to the beach and walked to the end of the street, went up one block and walked all the way back. I continued this pattern until I had zig-zagged my way across every single street in San Juan del Sur. 

By the end of the day I had found two apartments that would work, but neither of them felt right.  What to do?  Just commit to one of the places so I didn’t miss out or roll the dice and continue house hunting for one more day.

That night I went for a beer at my favorite bar – Republika – to visit with the owner and friend Cory.  Cory works at the Remax Real Estate office here in town so I asked him if he had an inside scoop on any rentals not on the tourist trail.  He promised to look into a few places for me the next day, but also mentioned a place he just noticed that afternoon.

Looking for a Long Term Rental in San Juan del Sur

– Cory @ Republika

I have no idea now I missed it because it was not more than fifty meters from where I laid my head at night.  Maybe the rental sign wasn’t up when I walked by it early that morning.  

Looking for a Long Term Rental in San Juan del Sur

– How did I ever miss this one?

It was my third day in San Juan and I went back to meet the landlord Salvador.  He had just completed the interior construction of the apartments that morning and proudly showed me around.  To avoid a price increase I did my best at hiding my excitement. When you’re white and don’t speak Spanish you’re already at a disadvantage without gushing about how much you like a place.  

The largest apartment was already rented out, but the small one on the second floor wasn’t.   With one bedroom, one bathroom, a small kitchen and a living room it was perfect for me. The monthly rent includes electricity, gas, water, cable TV, a small LED TV and wi-fi all for less than half what we were paying in Granada.

Looking for a Long Term Rental in San Juan del Sur

– Brand new appliances in the kitchen

Looking for a Long Term Rental in San Juan del Sur

– My new little living room

Looking for a Long Term Rental in San Juan del Sur

– Bedroom with queen size bed & ensuite bath

Looking for a Long Term Rental in San Juan del Sur

– Ensuite bath

I showed up at 9 o’clock the next morning to pay my rent just ahead of another couple that took the third and last apartment. Their first choice happened to be my apartment, but luckily I beat them to it.

Special thanks to Cory for helping me find this place.  It it weren’t for him I might still be aimlessly zig-zagging the streets of San Juan del Sur in search of the perfect place.

Near Perfect Packers

Initially Gord and I thought we would have a significant list of items that we should have left behind in Canada, but after some contemplation we have come the conclusion that we are actually deserving of the title,“Near Perfect Packers”.  

If you missed our post on “What We Packed in Our Suitcases” and would like to read it now click here.

As we packed up for our move from Poneloya to Leon we decided to leave a few things in storage with Carlos at Hostal El Pulpo.  Although our warm weather clothing will come in handy once we head up to the mountains, we definitely don’t need jeans and hoodies here in Leon.  Our linens will be used again when we get a place of our own, but for now, they too are in storage.  We aren’t sure when we’ll be using our snorkel equipment but are still happy we packed our masks and snorkels.

The one and only thing we figure we should have left behind was the misting system we purchased online before we left.  It’ll be great to have once we get settled into a place of our own, but seeing how that won’t be for awhile to save on weight and space in our luggage we should have left it behind.

As surprising as it may seem there isn’t any one particular thing or things that we didn’t pack in our suitcases that we feel we should have. A couple of things that would be nice to have include a sharp kitchen knife, my Spanish workbook, our bathroom scales (so we know when to lay off the gallo pinto and cerveza) and bug spray with deat.  

All in all we are patting ourselves on the back for a packing job well done!

What We Packed in Our Suitcases

If you’ve ever thought packing for a 1 or 2 week vacation was difficult try packing your whole life into a few bags; it’s not easy task!  

We left with 2 large suitcases, 1 large backpack, 1 hockey bag and two carry on suitcases. Continue reading below to find out what we managed to squeeze into our bags.

Her Clothing

  • 10 pairs of jean shorts
  • 11 t-shirts
  • 10 camis
  • 16 tank tops
  • 1 pair trouser jeans
  • 3 cotton skirts
  • 2 beach dresses
  • 1 boyfriend blouse
  • underwear & socks
  • 5 bikinis
  • 1 rash guard
  • 3 belt3 hats
  • 4 lightweight scarves
  • 2 pairs of Flojo flip flops
  • 1 pair Reef flip flops
  • 3 pairs of leather sandals
  • 1 pair of Converse Chuck Taylors
  • 1 pair of running shoes
  • 2 long sleeve t-shirts
  • 2 lightweight cardigans
  • 2 pairs of capris
  • Lululemon yoga capris
  • Lululemon yoga jacket
  • 1 hoody

Her “Other” Items

  • hair straightening iron
  • hair dryer
  • curling iron
  • hair products
  • hair accessories (brush, comb, elastics, bobby pins, headbands)
  • toiletries (deodorant, toothpaste, razors, etc.)
  • perfume & make up
  • 4 bottles of nail polish
  • costume  jewellery
  • journal
  • 2 watches
  • 3 pairs of sunglasses
  • 3 purses
  • 6 months worth of prescription drugs

His Clothing

  • 19 t-shirts
  • 5 tanks tops
  • 6 button up shirts
  • 2 pairs of jeans
  • 1 pair of cotton pants
  • 4 long sleeve t-shirts
  • 1 hoody
  • jogging pants
  • light rain jacket
  • 2 workout shirts
  • 2 pairs of workout shorts
  • 6 pairs of swim trunks
  • 5 pairs of walk around shorts
  • 2 belts
  • 6 pairs of socks
  • 12 pairs of underwear
  • hiking boots
  • 1 pair of runners
  • 3 pairs of Vibram FiveFinger shoes
  • 2 pairs of sunglasses
  • 2 ball caps

Household Items

  • 1 duvet
  • 3 pillows
  • 4 medium size bath towels
  • 2 hand towels
  • 4 face cloths
  • 2 mosquito nets
  • 1 set of queen size bed sheets
  • clothes iron
  • stovetop espresso maker
  • pump and hardware for misting system
  • framed photo of our dog Levi

Electronics

  • Pentax Digital SLR with extra zoom lens
  • Pentax Underwater Point & Shoot Camera 
  • MAC laptop
  • iPAD
  • Sony MP3 Player
  • cordless telephones
  • 2 – 3g Kindles
  • electric toothbrushes
  • hair clippers

Miscellaneous

  • 4 beer huggies
  • 1 set of dominoes
  • 2 sets of snorkel equipment (mask, snorkel and fins)
  • flashlight
  • 2 small backpacks
  • swiss army knife
  • screwdriver set
  • TRX training straps
  • 4 bottles of sunscreen
  • Over the counter medications (Advil, Immodium, Gravol, allergy pills etc.)
  • 8 pack of AA batteries
  • travel pillow
  • bug spray
  • ear plugs (lots)
  • 2 queen size mosquito nets
  • 3 re-usable nylon shopping bags

Books

I know …  the list seems long, but aside from a few pieces of winter clothing and footwear we left behind in Canada this list includes pretty much all of what we own right now.  

For those of you planning a similar move hopefully this post will help you with your decisions on what to bring and for those of you that are curious about what we brought … now you know. 

Stay tuned for a future post – “What We Should Have Packed in our Suitcases & What We Should Have Left Behind”.  We’ve already started a list and it’s growing every day!

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