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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! 

Going to church 3 days in a row? Yes, really!

Leon is a city of about 200 000 people but it’s footprint is actually much smaller than you might imagine. The entire city is very walkable and by now it seems as though we’ve been from corner to corner at one time or another. We’ve learned that it’s rarely necessary to travel very far to get what you need.

Every small barrio has very similar stores restaurants and even churches. The perfect recipe for a barrio here seems to be 0.25 grocery stores, 1 Catholic church, 3 farmacias, 4 restaurants, 5 fritangas, 6 street food venders, 7 shoe stores and 10 knock-off clothing stores. I know that the 0.25 for grocery stores may seem odd, but there are 15 Catholic churches in the city of Leon and only 4 grocery stores that I know of. This ratio and the sheer number of churches in a city this size inspired Elisha and I to go on a mission to get a picture of each one.

We started with the biggest and most famous, La Catedral de Leon. It’s the largest church in Central America and is located in the heart of the city. This church was actually meant to be constructed in Lima, Peru but the plans were switched on the voyage over from Spain in 1747. There are underground tunnels that lead from this church to many of the surrounding churches. It has recently been recognized by UNESCO as a world heritage site and there are plans to revitalize the church, as well as the park and buildings surrounding the church.

The Catedral de Leon

We walked north toward the professional baseball stadium to find San Filipe. It is another large church that occupies an entire city block. It’s construction started in 1685 and was originally build for blacks and mulattos.

San Filipe Church

San Jose church is only a couple of blocks SE and was originally constructed in 1751. It was once used as a jail for indigenous rebels in the late 1800s, then rebuilt to its current glory in 1917 by Franciscan friars.

San Jose Church

In the NW corner of the city we found San Juan church, built in 1625. The original train station is only a block away, a park is directly in front and a bustling market is right around the corner. It looks and feels like a second city centre.

San Juan Church

4 blocks south is the El Calvario church. It was built in the early 18th century by the Mayorga family and looks brand new compared to most of the other churches.

El Calvario Church

Backtracking a little bit we walked 4 blocks NW to La Recolección church. Construction started in 1786. It is considered by most to be the most beautiful church in the city and is found in a number of tourist brochures and websites that feature pictures of this church instead of the main church La Cathedral de Leon.

La Recoleccion Church

Our last church of the day was Church La Merced constructed in 1762. It is home to Leon’s patron saint, La Virgen de La Merced.

Church La Merced

The next day we went to the beach but we stopped to take in a few churches on our way home. Our first stop was one of the most interesting churches in the city. It is the oldest church and is located in the barrio Sutiaba. Sutiaba was its own village before Leon relocated a kilometre East. Now it is just another neighborhood of Leon. This church was built in 1530 and features artwork and symbols that pay homage to deities predating the Spanish conquest.

Cathedral Sutiaba

Just 2 blocks east lies Ermita de San Pedro constructed in 1706. It is a very plain church that is only adorned with three brick crosses.

Ermita de San Pedro

Our longest walk between churches so far took us 8 blocks NE to the Zaragoza church constructed in the late 19th century. It is by far the most Gothic looking church that would make a perfect backdrop for any vampire movie. It was fitting that we arrived here as the sun was going down.

Zaragoza Church

Day 3 of our quest left us with only 5 more churches. We started close to home with the San Francisco church dating back to 1639. It is one of the oldest churches in the city and a national heritage site.

San Franciso

San Juan de Dios is only a block and a half directly south. It was build in 1625 and is one of the least impressive from the outside but the inside is considered one of the most beautiful.

San Juan de Dios

4 blocks SW brings us to Laborio church. It was constructed some time in the 17th century but the exact dates seem to be unknown.

Laborio Church

San Sebastian church is 4 blocks east was built in the late 17th century and rebuilt in the late 18th century only to be bombed in 1979 during the siege of Leon. It was constructed of adobe so it did not fare nearly as well as the churches built of brick and stone.

With our mission nearly complete we strolled 4 blocks south to Guadalupe church. It is unique for two reasons. It is the only church on this side of the river and it is the only church oriented north to south. Maybe the compasses were all broken in 1743.

Guadalupe Church

…and this friends concludes our church mission.

Have a mission for us? Send us an email; we’d be happy to take on the challenge!

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