Today I want to talk about one of the most beautiful places in this part of Colombia: Isla Baru.

This is a spectacular island not so far from Cartagena, one of the Rosario Islands, more or less an hour by boat. This place really does seem like the Caribbean; white sand crystal clear water, palm trees – it’s lovely. A perfect place for a home, a real dream and a FANTASTIC  investment.  At least that is what the glossy brochures will tell you. The truth is that Isla Baru is unique, but personally speaking I would never put my money there and there are several reasons for me saying this.

Namely there are many ongoing disputes as to who actually owns the land. Bulldozers have been there on several occasions demolishing everything in their path. Other “owners” of hotels in the area now find themselves in the position of having to pay rent for the hotel that they built on the land that they paid for. Another reason for not falling in with the “gringo crowd” is that this place is REALLY hard to get to. Please, oh please, don’t listen to the developers. We have all heard about the approved local government project for building a road to the area. Forget it, it’s not going to happen any time soon. Sure you can get there by boat, generally speaking the outward trip is ok, but the return journey can be very rough, in fact it almost always is. I can only imagine the problems of getting a freezer and plasma TV to you new dream home on the Isla of Baru – that should be fun! Joking aside, the only way to get there is by 4x4 jeep (only in the dry season) or by boat.

Several properties are going up as I write this and many people are waiting for the resort on Playa Blanca. Hey, things take time. This said, there are some interesting developments way underway that may prove to be a good investment. There are also plenty of voices about the future also: I have heard that Donald Trump is planning to build a resort there. I wonder????

Lots of great, and much safer, alternatives for investing in Cartagena, we’d all like to live on an island, but I don’t think Baru is the right one. At least not for the time being.


When will the bubble burst?

I am a foreigher living in Cartagena and almost every day I can found driving past some of the most expensive real estate in Latin America. I often speak to my wife, or more exactly thin out aloud, and ask who actually has the money for these properties? Or, Who in their right mind would actually buy one?

You see, Cartagena is a lovely place. I live here and am very happy, we've got it all: sun, sea, nature and a laid back lifestyle, but all thgis comes at a price. I don't actually live in downtown Cartagena, but a short drive away along the beach. Here for instance land prices tend to double in value every 2-3 years (buy now or it will soon be too late). In my area (Boquilla/Manzanillo) there are numerous up-scale resort developments currently being built, very nice too. But the prices are really high! Over US$400,000 for an 1800 square feet apartment! You do also get a balcony for that price. How about US$350,000 for a 1600 square feet house? In my modest opinion, these prices are fine if you actually want to live here, but I honestly can't see these prices rising much higher in the near future, and you can forget about using this kind of real estate as a rental property -- you'll never get a monthly 1% + return on your investment. By the way, not to boast, but if you buy something right you can almost get a 2% monthly ROI here in Cartagena.

So many apartments, houses, 5 star hotels and boutique resorts are going up I just wonder when the bubble will burst? Don't the builders know that there is a recession in Europe and USA, and millions of COlombians were hit by a nation wide pyramid scam just recently. So, in short, there isn't a lot of money going around -- but these places keep on going up.

Just thinking out loud to anyone who wants to listen. What do you people think?
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    Nicholas Webb is one of the partners of Balin Ltda a Colombian company dealing in "direct" real estate investments. Balin currently owns real estate (properties and land) in Bogotá and Cartagena. We love it here and wouldn't change, but foreigners do need to tread lightly before throwing money around buying land or property. We hope to offer a little help.


    August 2009
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