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Buying a Home in Colombia -- Part 1

Buying a Home in Colombia – Part 1

I’m Lina, a 25 year-old Colombian-American working at an NYC-based tech startup. I started my financial journey in early 2020 to create wealth on behalf of my present and future family. Managing student loan debt made me realize that I need to focus on educating myself more in the financial wealth space. I’m also an active member of the Snowball Wealth Slack Community in order to learn and share resources with other women who are focused on building wealth and handling debt.

As a first-generation American with zero generational wealth, international real estate is incredibly daunting. Owning real estate, in general, is something I had absolutely no idea about before this journey.

The beginning of my international real estate journey

When I first started educating myself on financial independence, my focus was on topics like “saving for retirement” or “investing”. One common thread that I saw in my research was the idea of a side hustle for extra income.

A popular side hustle is investing in real estate.

After noticing this trend, I kept my eyes open for ways that I could invest in the real estate market. Living in the New York Metropolitan Area, I quickly learned it is incredibly expensive and complicated to own property anywhere near where I live. To say the least, I was incredibly discouraged. I thought it would not be feasible to participate in the real estate market.

That all changed in December 2020 when I went on a socially distanced vacation in Santa Marta, Colombia with my family.

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I completely fell in love with the city. There’s so much to do there including going to the beach, hiking, and camping. When I was there, I saw so many homes for sale and buildings that were in development, and the price to own these brand new apartments was actually a manageable price point for me. After talking with some locals, I discovered that it was very common for people who live outside of the country to own property in Colombia. Being a Colombian citizen already, I have a leg up when it comes to investing money specifically in Colombia.

After this trip to Santa Marta, I could not shake the idea of owning an apartment there, a place to escape the cold New York winters, but most importantly a potential side hustle.

How I plan to buy property

I could offer the apartment on Airbnb (or a similar site) to help pay for the apartment. In addition to the extra income, I would be able to invest and support the economy of the beautiful country that is Colombia, a tribute to my ancestral heritage there.

And that was it. I was in love with Santa Marta and I saw tremendous value in the city and the potential investment opportunity. All that was left was to find out how I could get this process going without having access to a realtor,

First, I had so many questions and logistics to consider:

  • Will this actually be a manageable side hustle for me along with my full-time job?
  • It takes at least 2 flights to get to Santa Marta so it’s not easily accessible, am I willing to go back and forth at least once a year?
  • I don’t live in Colombia and I don’t have family in Santa Marta so how would I manage the upkeep?
  • Is this a rash decision?
  • What extra taxes would I have to pay? In Colombia, the U.S, or both?
  • If I wanted to put the apartment on a rental site, how would I manage all the details that go into property management?

There was so much to consider, but after looking at all the details and gaining the support of my family, I firmly decided that this was something I wanted to do.

Being a woman, Latina, and first-generation American, I often feel like the financial realm wasn’t meant for me. Though this space wasn’t built for people like me, I’m determined to not let that stop me from creating a successful future for myself and for my family.

What advice would you give to others looking to buy property in Colombia?

In my effort to answer all the above questions with concrete solutions, I learned the most important lesson in my financial journey: use the resources and network at your disposal.

Resources are always available to you, you just have to work to uncover them. I had zero prior knowledge in the intricacies of real estate, much less internationally, but I did have the ability to ask the people around me for help.

Locals in Santa Marta were able to educate me on the best locations to buy in the city. An uncle on my father’s side helped me choose a bank in Colombia that specializes in handling mortgage loans for Colombians who live outside of the country. And through a cousin on my mother’s side, I was able to find a Colombian accountant that has experience with handling taxes for Colombians who live outside of the country and own property.

Most importantly, I received support from my parents, other family members, and the Snowball Wealth Community, which made me feel even more confident that I am able to accomplish this feat.

Where are you in your buying process?

I am currently waiting to be approved for a loan that will allow me to have a Colombian mortgage in the local currency — the Colombian Peso.

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Stay tuned for my Part 2 later this year for when I finalize getting my first property in Santa Marta, Colombia!

If you’re curious about buying a home, get our free guide! It walks you through the entire journey from mindset to the specific costs to prepare for.

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