Uruguay may be sandwiched
between two South American all-stars, Brazil and Argentina, but is blessed with
wide Atlantic beaches, towns stuffed with colonial architecture and a temperate
climate. The stable political and economic climate plus chic beach resorts make
it both an excellent travel destination and a safe investment for second-home
buyers from Europe and around South and North America.
What is it known for?
Uruguay is considered a very stable country socially, politically and
economically. Along with Bolivia, it avoided going into a recession in the
recent global downturn -- one of the few South American countries to do so. It
has a democratically elected government and president, and has made many social
and educational advances. The country provides, for example, every primary
school student with a laptop, and was the first Latin American nation to legalize
same-sex civil unions.
and tourists focus on the cities and resorts along the Rio de la Plata and Atlantic
coastlines, including the capital, Montevideo. The country’s interior,
stretching north to the Brazil border, is overwhelmingly rural, while
Montevideo is the cultural and
commercial centre of the country, home to more than a third of the country’s
population. Colonia del Sacramento (often referred to as just Colonia), the
oldest town in Uruguay and a well-preserved Unesco World Heritage site, is
directly across the estuary from BA, just an hour from the Argentine capital by
boat. Farther east along the Atlantic coast near woods of eucalyptus and pine,
the glitz and glamour of the summer resort town Punta del Este attracts a Côte
d’Azur and South Beach-like crowd, while chic sophisticates who want a quieter
piece of beach keep going east to the town of Jose Ignacio.
Where do you want to live?
Montevideo may not have the sultry allure of Buenos
Aires, but there are many pleasant cafes you can settle in with a cortado (espresso with milk) and medialuna (croissant) and watch the
world go by. Many of the desirable neighbourhoods are on the waterfront. Near
the Cuidad Vieja (Old City), Punta Carretas has shopping malls and a golf
course; Pocitos has the Playa Pocitos, a curving strip of white sand beach, and
the upscale Rambla boardwalk that lies alongside it; and farthest east, expensive
Carrasco has beautiful architecture and a number of international schools. “The
coastal districts have seen strong growth, particularly in residential
condominiums,” said Paul Reynolds, managing director of Reynolds Propiedades
The draw in
historic Colonia are the 17th-
and 18th-century Portuguese and Spanish colonial homes. “Be aware
that certain buildings have restrictions and your renovation plans will likely
require a review by the historical society,” said Reynolds. “But Colonia has
not escaped modernisation of its port, opening of new hotels and real estate
development on its waterfront.”
Punta del Este, an
hour and a half from Montevideo, has condominiums and high rises lining the
beaches that reach out into the water, with the Rio de la Plata on one side and
the Atlantic Ocean on the other. “Luxury vacation properties are the norm here,
with a number of both detached houses and apartments available,” said Reynolds.
“Many condos have fantastic ocean views for a fraction of what they would cost
in the US or elsewhere.” In areas by the ocean, demand buyers from Europe,
Brazil, Argentina and the US are driving a record number of construction
permits for condo buildings and estates on subdivisions.
Half an hour from Punta del Este, the beach town of Jose Ignacio attracts American
movie stars, supermodels, European industrialists and others seeking privacy.
The town government eschewed high-rise development, but allowed a few boutique
properties such as Playa Vik
to open. As a result of limited options, the demand for lots and houses
increased, but there is still a finite number of properties available. Further
up the coast, the province of Rocha still has miles of undeveloped beachfront.
“There has been unprecedented development in seaside towns such as Punta del
Diablo and La Pedrara, and a number of subdivision projects are underway,” said
Carmelo is a less-expensive beach town on the Rio de la Plata west of Colonia,
close to the country’s wine regions but with sandy beaches and luxury hotels
like the Four Seasons Resort,
Carmelo.. Inland, there are many working estancias (ranches) where tourists can live out the gaucho (cowboy) lifestyle. Salto, 300
miles north of Montevideo, is known for its hot springs.
Buenos Aires is
only a 45-minute flight or a two and a half hour ferry ride from Montevideo. Rio
de Janeiro is about a three-hour flight away and Miami takes 10 hours, nonstop.
The real estate market is considered a safe
investment with attractive yields by Argentineans and Brazilians, so it has
grown steadily until recently, due to the global economic downturn. “The number
of transactions has dropped 10% from six months ago, but prices have not,”
explained Reynolds. “With only 7% of buyers receiving financing, we expect the
market to remain flat.”
In Montevideo, a
one-bed flat in a top neighbourhood costs $90,000 (prices are typically quoted
in US currency) and rents for around $800 a month. A two- or three-bed rental
in Punta del Este in high season will cost around $10,000 a month, while
beachfront houses go for around $100 per sq foot in Punta down to $10 per sq
foot in some of the northerly beach resorts. In Punta, waterfront condos range
from $300 to $500 per sq foot. An empty lot starts at $30,000 for 7,000 sq feet
and construction costs are $110 to $170 per sq foot.
Uruguay has no
restrictions on foreigners buying land or houses but there are legal and estate
agent fees of 3.66% (each) of the purchase price, plus VAT (value-added tax),
stamp duty and a 2% transfer tax.
Total Uruguay: ex-pat info, links
Mercopress: English-language news about
Mercosur union countries, including Uruguay
El Pais: leading daily newspaper of