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Latin America Investment News on Viva Tropical

Discover the Low-Cost Lifestyle of Antigua

Article Summary:

Antigua, Guatemala is an affordable and remarkably modern Third-World city with a rich history, lively cultural scene, and easy access to outdoor recreation, coffee plantations, and slow-moving villages. And now it’s hit the radar screen of retiring expats looking for a low cost of living and tropical lifestyle on a budget.

Photo Credit: North New Jersey

Original Article Text From North Jersey:

Antigua, Guatemala: Expatriots Find Low Cost of Living in 16th-Century Historical City

When Carson Powell decided to look for a second home that spoke to his “inner being” and would be the ideal place to spend vacations and possibly retire in the future, little did he know his search would become a journey.

More expensive than the rest of Guatemala, property in Antigua is still relatively inexpensive, including this $285,000 house.

A $110,000 apartment.
The first leg: the East Coast. Powell, 38, a New Yorker who manages a small accounting firm in Clifton, started on the Jersey Shore and worked his way down the coast to Florida, consulting real estate agents in several states for listings and advice.

But he found few houses that appealed to his lifelong fascination with historic architecture and fit his budget — $250,000. Many of the homes he visited were newer and “had about as much character as a glob of dough,” he said. “I was disappointed, but not ready to give up.”

So Powell ventured deeper into the Sunbelt, finding his way into Texas and ultimately Arizona, where he “came that close” to buying a Mediterranean-style house before abruptly putting on the brakes and heading to California on the advice of friends. He looked at homes from the state’s northern end near Oregon to as far south as San Diego but found himself priced out of “just about every desirable place I could envision being.”

After vainly searching in popular and lesser-known spots in a dozen states, he decided to head much further afield — an international flight and worlds away in terms of sensibility and atmosphere. Initially, he scoured popular expatriate haunts in Mexico, Costa Rica and Panama before turning his attention to Guatemala, specifically the city of Antigua.

In the Central American nation’s onetime capital, Powell found a neglected but spacious colonial-era three-bedroom house in need of renovation. He made a cash offer of $102,000, which was quickly accepted. He made about $30,000 in renovations to restore the home’s former luster.

“I always thought I’d own a second home somewhere with a couple hours’ drive,” said Powell. “But, it seems I found my escape quite a bit off the beaten path.” He visits several times a year, or whenever his work schedule allows.

Cobblestone, stucco
Founded in the 16th century by Spanish colonists, Antigua — not to be confused with the Caribbean island of the same name — is an hour from the capital, Guatemala City. It’s nestled in the central Guatemalan highlands and surrounded by three picturesque volcanoes. Prosperous by national standards, this city of 30,000 has well-kept cobblestone streets lined with brightly painted historic stucco buildings, stately mansions turned hotels, cafés and shops.

Laid out in a carefully planned grid, city streets radiate from a European-style central plaza, making it easy to navigate the clean, well-preserved and safe thoroughfares (preservation is a government priority, and English-speaking tourist police keep the walkable streets safe day and night).

Local officials and expatriates are quick to point out that Antigua is not your run-of-the-mill Latin American town.

“There’s no anything-goes attitude here like in many other places in Central and South America. You won’t find slipshod construction and rehabs, you can expect top-notch utilities and public services like garbage collection, and there is no serious crime problem,” says one smitten visitor who decided to relocate permanently.

“Anyone who has never visited and thinks Guatemala is one big slum would be pleasantly surprised by Antigua,” said Powell. “And although you can pay more for real estate there than in some other Guatemalan towns, the cost of living is still ridiculously low compared to the U.S.”

He adds, “I know a guy from Canada who pays $400 a month for his apartment and that includes electricity, cooking gas, water, cable TV and wireless Internet. Where in America are you going to find a deal like that?”

An affordable and remarkably modern Third-World city with a rich history, lively cultural scene and easy access to outdoor recreation, Maya attractions, coffee plantations and slow-moving villages.

The summer months and November through April tourist season brings crowds and higher prices.

The weather
Days are generally very warm, but temperatures drop considerably after dark, especially from September to March, when nights tend to be quite cool.

The costs
Restored centuries-old houses near the center of town and well-maintained sprawling haciendas on the outskirts can set you back anywhere from a few hundred thousand to $1 million or more, while large colonial-era homes in need of TLC can be had for as little as $125,000. Smaller houses often sell for less than $100,000; some under $50,000. Rents generally start at $300 a month.

Getting there
Delta, United, America and Copa all fly into Guatemala City, with advance-purchase, round-trip tickets starting at $552. Flights take a minimum of eight hours, with stopovers.

Where to stay
VisitGuatemala.com, the country’s official travel and tourism site, lists a number of hotels and guesthouses in Antigua at a range of prices.

Must see
The Iglesia de Nuestra Señora de la Merced (5a Avenida Norte), one 30-odd monastic orders that once called the city home, is an architecturally stunning colonial church built in the 1500s.

For more information
Century 21 Casa Nova (century21casanova.com.) and Qmec (cmecrealestate.com) are two English-speaking realtors specializing in Antigua properties.

Link to Original Article:

From North Jersey

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