To Boost Property Value, Expats Should Invest In Landscaping

Now that you’ve made the big decision to sell your home, the real work can begin. If you are like most, you will immediately start thinking of things that can be done to increase the value of your property, like installing new counter tops, new flooring, adding on an extra bathroom or maybe even a pool.

Unfortunately all of these projects can take a lot of time and money and often don’t add enough value to make the work and stress worth it in the end.

To Boost Property Value, Expats should invest in Landscaping


Photo: martha lantink

Landscaping, especially in a tropical environment like Panama where you will have access to an abundance of exotic and beautiful flora, can be the perfect solution for expats moving homes.

Much simpler than home renovations and at a fraction of the cost, landscaping is a great option to consider before putting your home up on the market. And if landscaping in North America is considered a good value, it can’t even compare to the value expats get in Central America. In Central America, an experienced landscaper can work wonders for less than $1,000.

In Central America, you’re selling an experience. And that experience needs to be vibrant and tropical. There is no more cost effective way to do that than with great landscaping.

Photo: Ian Condido

Photo: Ian Condido

So where do you begin?

The first step is strategy. Before you start digging and planting, create a landscaping plan that considers everything from available space to erosion control and then start expanding your ideas from there.

One excellent piece of advice is to watch your property carefully during one rainy season, look for problem areas, and then plant accordingly.

Is there a time constraint?

If you want to sell your property as soon as possible, you probably don’t want to be selecting plants that won’t reach their full potential for several years. Concentrate on finding beautiful, fast growing species so that they will look great when you really need them too.

Of course, with quick growing plants, often comes a little extra maintenance, so always keep that in mind.

Consider space

When planning out your yard, you must always consider plant growth. While everything may look perfect initially, it could very well be a different story after a couple years of growth.

Photo: Argo2

Photo: Argo2

Palms, for example, are a must-have tropical addition, but they grow fast and tall and can sometimes block scenic views. So plant accordingly and be sure to provide them with an abundance of room to really stretch out.

But if you do find that your plants are getting overcrowded, you can always dig them up and relocate them to another spot on your property.

Look at your Property’s assets before you buy

Although exotic plants can often be purchased for quite cheap in the tropics, it’s always a great idea to scout out your own land first.

Before you go out and buy a truckload of plants from the local “vivero” or plant nursery, check your land and see if there is anything growing that could possibly be located to a more prime spot. In fact, in one of our Panama projects, we were able to plan over 2,000 palm trees simply by transplanting them to the coastline from below the larger palms in the center of the property. Even after hiring a few people to dig up and relocate the little trees, we only spent a few hundred dollars.

Create balance

To create that perfect, aesthetically pleasing paradise, be sure to choose a good assortment of both bright flowers and green plants.

Photo: Ilya Carrera

Photo: Ilya Carrera

Along with palms, other great choices are:

  • Hibiscus for bright and beautiful blossoms
  • Vetiver for erosion control
  • Mani for ground cover
  • Banana trees are also wonderful to have, although they tend to look sloppy when it gets really windy

Think like a local

To find inspiration, look to the gardens of local villagers to see what they are growing. You will often discover beautiful options you may not have considered and at extremely affordable prices.

In order to get the great bang for the buck, you need to find the plants that are growing in abundance in your area. I guarantee that the locals are planting them because they are cheap and easy. That doesn’t make them less beautiful. And your buyers won’t know what a screaming deal you got.

And my personal strategy is to try to buy them from the locals. You might think it weird to ask to buy the flowers from someone’s yard, but you’ll be shocked at how often the answer is yes. Even better if you have a local that you can send to make the request for you.

Yes it’s true that some “viveros” offer great prices, especially when buying in bulk, but if you can find a local resident to help you locate plants, you will most likely save a significant amount and avoid the much higher “gringo price”.

Increase your Property Investment. Start landscaping today

So if you are ready to get your property out on the market, but don’t really want to shell out several thousand dollars in order to do so, try your hand at landscaping.

Observe your property, create a landscaping plan, and start creating a gorgeous backyard atmosphere that will have potential buyers jumping to move in.

Editors Note: Today’s post was written by Park Wilson, an expat living in Boquete Panama. He writes for Viva Tropical and is developing a 400 acre private island in Panama. You can reach him on Google+.

Category : Blog &Selling

New on Kindle: How to Buy Property Overseas For Profit and Lifestyle

Inexpensive property … a lower cost of living … better weather … a more laid back lifestyle … it’s easy to see why so many of us are seduced by the idea of buying property overseas.

Central America ticks all of these boxes – as well as the “proximity” box for North Americans – which is why countries like Panama, Costa Rica, Nicaragua and Belize are almost always on the shortlist.

But what’s the difference between nervous investors who struggle with finding the right properties overseas and successful investors who end up with value-packed investments in lush tropical havens they’re bursting to tell their friends about? It’s certainly not an innate talent, a unique personality or some “secret trick” that’s out of your reach.

No, they’ve just figured out the kind of research they need to be doing when exploring unfamiliar markets. And it’s something you can start tapping into in the next few minutes. (That’s the beauty of Kindle publishing, the book is delivered to you in a matter of seconds).

The book gives you a solid roadmap for successful property investing that actually works in foreign markets. It lays out checklists of tasks, step by step guidance and tactics based on over a decade of in-the-trenches experience working in the international real estate sector.

It’s the perfect way to immerse yourself in the “how” of safe and profitable international real estate investing. And you can do all of this from the comfort of your couch, well before stepping on an airplane. All for US$2.99.

Look hard enough at the cover and you’ll spot our logo. Yes, we’re the publishers.

Click here to purchase the book on Amazon.

And then come back and tell us what you think!

Category : Blog &Buying

At Last! A House Price Snapshot To Help Investors In Central America Make Better Decisions

Today’s qualified real estate investors are used to having data about house prices and sales trends just a few keystrokes away. Yet if they explore options in overseas markets such as Nicaragua, Belize, Costa Rica or Panama, they’ll find getting hold of reliable real estate data much harder. This is because official statistics are not published in Central America and there are no central databases that record transactions and prices.

To start to fill this vacuum of reliable information we’ve launched the 2012 Central America House Price Snapshot together with the Global Property Guide. The study provides an apples to apples comparison of the sales price of a “Typical 3 Bed House” across 12 different property hotspots in Central America. The results are generated by a special Benchmarking Group of recognized real estate experts with in-depth knowledge of their local market.

The snapshot shines a light on 12 of the most popular purchasing destinations for international investors in Belize, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama. It can’t compete with the mountain of market data available in more mature real estate markets, but we hope it will provide an additional layer of information for investors.

The point is to help investors make better informed real estate decisions. Not by listening to what vendors have to say, but by taking advantage of data and market comps. Not only is increased price transparency a key component to a fundamentally healthy marketplace, but more informed buyers will make better decisions and can move forward with more confidence.

Click here for the full results.

Category : Blog &Buying

2012 Panama City real estate survey by Panama Equity

In July 2010 we asked the question “Is now a good time to buy an apartment in Panama City?” We discussed the boom years running up to the economic crisis and the state of the market in its aftermath.

It was at that time that we started to define the post-crisis buyer; how investor goals were changing, and how real estate developers in the region were adapting to this new reality.

So now, two years later, we’ve excited to be able to publish an update on the Panama City real estate market.  It comes courtesy of Kent Davis, founder of Panama Equity, a boutique Panama real estate agency based in Panama City.

Panama Equity shares our call for more real estate transparency in the region and sponsored a market research study of over 100 real estate agents actively working in Panama City.  The goal of the survey, conducted in both English and Spanish, has been to capture and clarify the status of what could easily be Central America’s most dynamic real estate scene of the past decade.

Highlights from the survey include:

  • 76% of all real estate sales in Panama City fall between $120,000 and $400,000
  • 28% of all buyers in real estate transactions in Panama City come from Latin American countries other than Panama, with Venezuela leading the way
  • Furnished, 2-bedroom properties are by far, the easiest to rent, according to brokers, 65% of whom had closed such a deal in the past 3 months
  • Average sale price on Avenida Balboa, Panama City’s prominent coastal strip, is now between $1900-$2000 per square meter
  • More than 50% of Panama City’s real estate brokers have closed a sale in the San Francisco neighborhood over the past 6 months making it the city’s most dynamic real estate district
  • 55% of agents surveyed believe that prices on both rentals and sale properties will either stay the same (or increase slightly) within the coming 12 months.
  • 85% of agents surveyed had negotiated a discount of between 1-10% off of the listing price in deals they have closed over the last 6 months.
  • 83% of Panama’s real estate agencies surveyed are small, independent firms operating with between 1 and 4 agents

So, what does this information mean about the current status of the market for buyers and sellers according to Davis himself?

  • If you are looking for a cash flow investment, you’re best off with a two bedroom and need to spend the money to furnish it
  • Look to negotiate up to 10% off listing prices and expect to work with independent brokers
  • If you had planned on waiting until prices drop, most experts believe that they’ll either stay the same (or increase slightly) in the near future

Interested in more information?

If you’re looking for more, head over to our page covering the Panama City real estate market as well as real estate for sale throughout Panama.

Category : Blog &Buying

Casa Rio … Sweet Home Colorado!

overseas-construction-nicaragua11This is the final post of the series in which David Steckler shares his experiences of building a vacation home at Hacienda Iguana resort on Nicaragua’s Pacific coast. Here are the first, second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh, eighth, ninth, tenth, eleventh and twelfth. The goal of this candid construction blog is to to reduce the anxiety of people who own property in Nicaragua and plan to build, but are afraid of making mistakes along the way.

Casa Rio … Sweet Home Colorado!

With Lynyrd Skynyrd’s permission I’ve changed his song title to suit this situation since the river house we’ve been working on for the last 16 months just happenes to be on the Colorado River … in Nicaragua.

Nicaragua property

This is our final blog post and for those of you who followed us month to month I’m sure realize at this point that building a house is a complicated process no matter where you do it with many moving parts, human and otherwise. Our custom furniture maker took more time then we had planned for, but the finished product turned out splendid. We’ve had issues with the Alluver doors and windows, which have been resolved, but with the manufacturer located in Spain it can be aggravating.

Our property manager, Heather at NSR came to my rescue by getting everything completed while I was back in the states nibbling on my finger nails. She selected curtains, supervised installation, purchased small appliances and bathroom “stuff”. She even arranged to have a futon bed custom built for the Casita.

I ran out of time during my last trip to get a lot of the detail items, you think about later, done. All major appliances were purchased locally in Rivas so our vender would be able to honor our three year service agreement more easily. We also waited until the rains to bring in more zoysia grass, which helps to keep their survival rate high and the mud factor low. The front door “before and after” picture came out perfect and so far we haven’t seen any rains getting through our pseudo screen doors, just nice cool breezes while they’re closed.

Believe it or not I’d do it again … it was loads of fun and many of the folks who worked on this project I now consider good friends, which is really the best measurement of how it all worked out in the end.

I sincerely hope my blog helped some of you feel braver about taking the plunge and for those who need a little more courage … come stay in our Casita and we’ll talk about it. For more information on renting Casa Rio or the Casita click here.

UPDATE Jan 2013

In order to close this construction blog I thought it would be fitting to include a recent review on Casa Rio. It’s a fitting acknowledgement of all the work that David and his team put into the design and construction process:

The Most Beautiful Place!!!

“This home was incredible. The architecture was impeccable and the lighting inside and out was sublime. Laura and Heather made communication so easy and helped us with so many things during our trip. The patio doors and windows opened up so wide that you could make the whole house feel like it was outside. The kitchen layout was awesome and Hazel, our housekeeper, cooked gourmet dinners for us and every morning there was coffee and fresh cut fruit laid out for us. We felt like kings and queens! I blew out my ankle earlier on the trip so we rented a golf cart for the time we were there. I recommend doing this as it’s great for getting the surf boards down to the best surfing in Nicaragua. There is a terrace on top of the house where we did yoga every morning. Below was the pool. We would sit out and watch the Howler Monkeys in the trees in the yard and see huge Iguanas’ as well. In the morning there were so many different kinds of birds singing and it was truly amazing. This was the nicest home I have ever stayed in. Everything was first class. My sons were astounded at the quiver of surfboards available for rent. Nothing but the very best there. There were seven of us there and we had so much room that we could each have privacy if we wished. The sunsets were crazy beautiful. Go here, and prepare to be in the most relaxed beautiful setting in the world. Fit in a round of golf. The 7th hole is breathtaking. Thank you for making our stay the best ever!”

Category : Blog &Overseas construction in Nicaragua

Overseas construction blog announcement: Stay at the casita and bend David’s ear in person!

overseas-construction-nicaragua11All you folks who have been following my blog posts, here’s an opportunity to bend my ear “in person” and walk and talk our way through the “Construction Blog” Main House, Casita and Landscaping.

The Casita/studio apartment will be vacant from the 20th of June until the 8th of July while we’re staying in the Main house a courtyard away. The rental is $55/nite and that includes everything: Internet, A/C and use of the pool.

Just bring your suitcase and notebook and I’ll answer all your questions over an ice cold Tona or two.

Of course you’ll have time to enjoy the region with me as a guide if you prefer, which includes meeting with our local builder and property manager at NSR.

If you’re interested in staying at the River House Casita please contact Heather and tell them Big Dave sent you!

Heather McMandon

Category : Overseas construction in Nicaragua

The top 10 tips for selling your property in Central America from some of the smartest real estate experts in the region

Do you ever have moments when you worry that you are not doing enough to sell your property? Are you concerned that you have missed something that could come back to bite you? Maybe you’ve put huge amounts of time and effort creating elaborate strategies to sell your property, but you’re still not getting anywhere?

Of course from the outside in, selling a property seems pretty straightforward. Just list your property with the most active local agents and wait for the buyers to roll in.

Well, actually, no.

The truth is there are many other properties for sale in your market. And now, after the financial earthquake of 2008 (and all those aftershocks) the environment is advantageous to buyers.

But here’s the good news: Every property has a buyer.

So the central question for a property seller becomes: How can you get your property in front of that buyer?

We recently asked 10 real estate experts, commentators and all-around smart people working in Belize, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama for their top tip for selling real estate in the region.

They really came through with some priceless insights and tips to sell international property in any market, including some ideas that challenge the status quo.  Read on to see what advice our experts gave.

When you’re done reading, we’d love to hear your top tip for selling an international property in the comments.

Matthew Montagu-Pollock

Best advice I can give is, sell when everyone is buying! Of course this is incredibly hard to do, and no-one does it, certainly not me.

If you have a portfolio which is big enough, you need to be thinking:  “Aha! The currency is high, everyone is interested, I seem to have made lots of money, and my property is really easy to rent! OK – now is the time, when I am happiest with my investment, to sell it!”

It is not easy, you may have satisfactory tenants, and you are doing an apparently crazy thing.

Matthew is the Publisher of Global Property Guide, the world’s leading source of international residential property investment research and data.

Mike Cobb

Property owners wishing to sell in Nicaragua face the extra challenge of a general negative country perception. The best way to overcome this is with anecdotal stories about your quality of life, safety, fun, and run of the mill experiences.

Remember, pictures are worth 1,000 words so include lots of photos with your stories. Be sure to have a blog style component to your listing page where prospects can see your fun experiences and put themselves into that same space. Formal blogging that points to the listing page will help drive traffic and relevance in the search engines and accomplish 2 goals at once.

Mike Cobb is a founder and CEO of Gran Pacifica, an established beach and golf resort community one hour west of Managua, Nicaragua.

Lan Sluder

Secrets to selling property in Belize? There really aren’t any. It involves basic A, B, C real estate fundamentals.

First, you have to price the property realistically. That may be easier said than done, because comparative pricing reports and accurate, objective appraisals in Belize are difficult to obtain. Would-be sellers in Belize often put a high “dream” price on their property, and different real estate companies may list the property at different prices. This is almost always a formula for letting the property sit unsold for years.

Second, since mortgages and other bank loans in Belize are costly and difficult to get – mortgage interest rates generally have stayed in the 10 to 14 percent range in recent years – probably the most important thing you can do is to offer owner financing, ideally with a low down payment and affordable monthly or quarterly payments. This greatly expands the prospect pool, as relatively few foreigners and even fewer locals have the resources to buy property for all cash.

Third, you have to be sure you get the word out, especially to the foreign market through ads, internet listings and word of mouth.

Lan is founder of Belize First Magazine, has been banging around Belize for more than 21 years, and he has written 10 books and eBooks on the country.

Turalu Brady Murdock (Tuey)

When you are getting ready to sell your property, you need to get your title documents together. Make a packet of information for a buyer:
1. A copy of your registered title (or title certificate);
2. A copy of the receipt showing you paid your real property taxes the last time they were due. This will also let your buyer estimate the cost of the real property taxes;
3. A recent official document from the Registry showing that you are vested in title and that there are no liens on the property. This Certificate has different names depending on the country where your land is located;
4. A copy of the survey for your land that you received when you purchased your land;
5. Copies of a few months of utility bills. Buyers always want to know how much your pay for utilities;
6. If the land is in a development, a copy of the Home Owner’s ByLaws, together with a receipt showing your Home Owner’s dues are paid to date; and
7. If you have a caretaker or employees that work on your property, you should have a list of responsibilities and wages that the buyer can review in order to evaluate whether he/she will continue to retain their service and also to have an estimate of how much it costs to maintain the property.

Having this information ready to email or fax to potential buyers will often make the difference in selling your property quickly. You don’t want title issues to be the reason the deal falls apart.

Tuey, an attorney in the real estate field since 1976, has been reviewing titles in Latin America and the Caribbean since 1997 and owns a consulting company, TCS, that can help you with the due diligence needed to sell/buy your property.

Gail Geerling

Price your property according to your desire to sell. Most folks think that the market determines a property’s price, but in some cases your selling price is greatly affected by something more critical- how badly you want to sell. In Central America, where most countries lack an MLS and the Property Registry’s numbers can be off by a mile, it’s difficult to get true comparison prices.

You may have to ask several different sources how much similar properties have sold for in your neighborhood or building. Ask agents, your neighbors, or even the concierge in your building. They almost always know the scoop! Then go online and check how much others in your area are currently asking for their similar property.

If you want a quick sale, lower your price a percentage point or two – so that you get noticed first.

Finally, beware of asking others to pay for your preferences, or you might find selling your property a challenge. That custom-designed yellow kitchen you spent thousands to install might be sold to someone who hates yellow and can’t cook. Major construction items such as a home, guesthouse, deck, or pool can usually recover their value in a sale- but if you’ve installed custom preferences, a buyer might see what you’ve done as a detriment to purchasing your property.

It’s tough to separate emotion from your pricing decision, but the sooner you do, the sooner you’ll sell!

Gail has spent the last fifteen years in the property industry in Central America and can be found at Success In Central America.

Steve Linder

My biggest tip to sellers is to list their home on the rental sites and feature the fact that the house is currently for sale. They can provide a rental history after a certain time frame of having it listed and they’ll be covering their costs in the meantime. (If you don’t want to rent it, limit availability via the booking calendar)

I also suggest listing the advertisement on any chat groups in the region on sites like Yahoo Groups, Google Groups, Linked In, etc. Examples include Costa Rica living – Yahoo Groups, Costa Rica Classifieds – Yahoo Groups, Costa Rica real estate – Yahoo Groups, Costa Rica Living – Linked In, Costa Rica – Google Groups and many more.

Now, don’t just rush to the sites and start making basic listings for your property. This is not the best and most efficient approach. Instead, you want to be sure that you have a solid foundation that is going to give you the means to create the strongest listing possible, emphasizing the fact that the house is for sale and that any vacation rental will be fully applied to the purchase price if they end up buying it.

Steve is the Global Sales manager for Pacific Lots of Costa Rica, a development located in the Southern Pacific Region of Costa Rica boasting a 23 year history, with 100’s of homes and 1000’s of owners.

Julie-Ann Ellis-Bradley

My tips for the seller would be:
1. Take advantage of multiple listing opportunities; enter into non-exclusive listing arrangements with many real estate agents which will allow you to tap into a wider and more diverse market.
2. Make your price competitive and include financing options by partnering with financial institutions to provide attractive packages, rates or ready financing to prospective purchasers. As a seller you may also wish to offer attractive seller financing where payment plus interest is made by the purchaser in installments over a number of years (while this means it will take longer for you to receive the full proceeds of sale, it is generally attractive to buyers looking for long or medium term investments without having to obtain a mortgage.)
3. Highlight the fact that there is no capital gains tax levied on sale or purchase of real estate in Belize.
4. Use the internet.

Julie-Ann is an Attorney-at-Law at Barrow & Williams in Belize City, Belize, a full service civil law firm which specializes in real estate and corporate and commercial law.

Kent Davis

My tip: Eyes Buy.

Get as many people into your home for sale as possible. Maybe that means hosting parties or events (we have had success with partnering up with a local artist to do an exhibition of their work).

Make sure everyone and their mother knows that your place is for sale, especially the type of first contact people that are in front of your potential buyers even BEFORE they start looking at real estate.

In Panama, we have relationships with the best lawyers, school administrators, and insurance agencies.

Kent Davis is the founder of Panama Equity Real Estate and is our go-to source for all things Panama. He’s been in Panama since 2007 and his agency is widely quoted by publications such as Time Magazine, Bloomberg, and The Visitor.

Ann Kuffner

It will be much easier to sell your property if your realtor is effectively reaching out to on-line readers. These days, most realtors selling property in Belize are in contact with potential buyers long before they hit the shore, on vacation. The most successful realtors have an effective on-line marketing strategy, and a website that attracts potential investors or expat buyers and retirees.

Their leads come primarily from on line marketing campaigns and cooperative marketing efforts with international lifestyle groups or large realtor groups. Ask if the realtor will actively advertise your property through an international network. Realtors who bring groups on tours of Belize, or communicate with potential buyers on line for months before they come, sell more property. And they sell it faster.

Carefully review their on line marketing strategy and website. Are they actively sending out free articles, or writing helpful blogs, to attract potential buyers to their website? Offering helpful free content on-line attracts leads/potential buyers.

Ann has been living the expat lifestyle on Ambergris Caye, Belize, for over 4 years and is currently the Belize Relocation Director for Escape Artist Belize.

Roger Petersen

Be sure your property does not have any legal encumbrances, liabilities, annotations on title or boundary issues that could derail your sale at the time of closing.

Sounds logical but you would be surprised what I have discovered when representing a Buyer and looking at the title history of a Seller.

Don’t be surprised at closing.

Have all your legal documents in order when you list the property.

Roger Petersen is a Costa Rican Attorney with over 20 years of experience and author of the best selling book The Legal Guide to Costa Rica.

St Joseph

My tip: Bury me in the yard upside down facing the house and pray that I’ll help you with a fast, smooth and profitable sale.

If you were wondering what a picture of a statue of St Joseph was doing in the line up, well, now you know. The tradition to bury a statue of St Joseph started in the 1500s when a group of nuns needed to expand their land. After burying medals of St Joseph in the ground, their prayers were quickly answered.

Here’s more on the tradition and thanks to Steve Linder for sending me the link.

Your Turn

Now it’s your turn. Have any of these tips resonated with you?

What’s your most powerful tip for selling an international property?

Please share in the comments.

Category : Blog

Overseas construction blog part 12: Finish work takes more time

overseas-construction-nicaragua11This is the 12th in a series of posts in which David Steckler shares his experiences of building a vacation home at Hacienda Iguana resort on Nicaragua’s Pacific coast. Here are the first, order second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh, eighth, ninth, tenth and eleventh. The goal of this candid construction blog is to reduce the anxiety of people who own real estate in Nicaragua and plan to build, but are afraid of making mistakes along the way.

Finish work takes more time

This blog post is all about the detailed finish work that rolls in towards the end of any construction project and ours is no exception.

The Alternating Tread Stairway to the 2nd floor deck and Solar Water Heater have been set in place and the metal railing, being fabricated off-site, is a few steps back.

Behind the scenes back in Maine, Marcia and I were busy putting together a furniture ensemble that will be custom built in Masatepe and hopefully finished by the time our house is completed.

One of the lounge chairs I liked, while visiting a neighboring resort, has already been completed. One thing I started doing prior to this construction project was to habitually photograph anything that struck my fancy and then filing it away  for later in my “Wish List” folder, like this chair. 

Now it’s time to decide on fabric covers for the cushions…what do you think of this color scheme!

Remember in our last blog we had come up with a front entrance design…well it’s nearly finished, but now imagine double doors going in with the same wood lattice design seen here backed with screening to allow tropical breezes to enter uninterrupted 24/7.

The kitchen is coming together and the finish carpenters have been doing most of this work on-site, which I still find simply amazing.

In the front of the house to give our spare bedrooms some privacy we’ve started putting up the vertical posts to support the wood fencing that will also help provide shade and reduce dust from entering these rooms.

The landscaping is all in place and the plants are thriving in their new home. I can’t wait to run my toes through the zoysia grass beside the pool when I visit in March.

I’ll check in one final time with my builders and meet my property manager, Rob who’s going to help maintain and rent the house complex for us.

Until next time!

Category : Blog &Overseas construction in Nicaragua

Overseas construction blog part 11: The last quarter mile

overseas-construction-nicaragua11This is the 11th in a series of posts in which David Steckler shares his experiences of building a vacation home at Hacienda Iguana resort on Nicaragua’s Pacific coast. Here are the first, drug second, try third, stomach fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh, eighth, ninth and tenth. The goal of this candid construction blog is to reduce the anxiety of people who own real estate in Nicaragua and plan to build, but are afraid of making mistakes along the way.

The last 1/4 mile of the journey

For our December visit, Marcia and I joined forces and ventured south to visit our house project to knock off some major tasks, mainly purchase lots of plants and score some furniture for the house.

There was one small hiccup on this trip, which occurred in Boston. As always I was taking along stuff for the house, which included a water treatment system that had been carefully bubble wrapped and boxed for the flight down.

During check in at American Airlines we discovered they were having a cardboard box embargo! In other words, I had to remove the water filtration tank from its long box, which precipitated other security issues like couldn’t you be hiding explosives in that fiberglass tank?

In the end I was able to sweet talk our tank through security, minus the cardboard box…..the bubble wrap was allowed through and most importantly my sense of humor was still intact.

We brought along a gigantic flatbed truck and our builder’s wife Nancy, a seasoned expert in plant selection, furniture decisions, and price negotiation. We visited nurseries in Catarina and furniture makers in Masatepe, both located in the Masaya region southeast of Managua.

It ended up being a very long shopping spree, but at day’s end when we landed back at Iguana with an abundance of beautiful plants and assorted pieces of furniture, it was entirely worthwhile. We even snapped up Zoysia grass for the side patio to fill in between the large field stone.

We made some final decisions about appliances, kitchen and bathroom layout and several major architectural features at the front entrance way that had been purposely left unfinished until we could visit and discuss several options with Tony, our builder. I hope to show you the results of our design choices in next month’s blog.

Category : Blog &Overseas construction in Nicaragua

Overseas construction blog part 10: The devil is in the details

overseas-construction-nicaragua11This is the 10th in a series of posts in which David Steckler shares his experiences of building a vacation home at Hacienda Iguana resort on Nicaragua’s Pacific coast. Here are the first, order second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth,seventh,eighth and ninth. The goal of this candid construction blog is to reduce the anxiety of people who have real estate in Nicaragua and plan to build, but are afraid of making mistakes along the way.

The devil is in the details

Rainy weather finally caught up with our construction schedule and literally bogged down progress. Still, much was accomplished during October and part of November.

The mahogany ceiling is nearly finished as well as the fascia board, which has been stained to match the Alluver™ doors and windows. The white metal roof and flashing stood up to the torrential tropical rains with flying colors and the insulated ceiling blanket helped to keep the noise level down inside.

We have incorporated decorative tiles to brighten up the look in the hallway and at poolside the infinity edge where the cascading pool water will flow got a tiled facelift.

The first coat of interior finish paint is on the walls and we’ve all agreed…… it’s a keeper, unless the colors don’t stand up to Marcia’s exacting color palette when we visit in December. We also hope to purchase furniture for the main house and casita and get our hands dirty with some landscape planting.

Stay tuned.

Category : Blog &Overseas construction in Nicaragua

Overseas construction blog part 9: Finish work is on the agenda

overseas-construction-nicaragua11This is the ninth of a series of posts in which David Steckler shares his experiences of building a vacation home at Hacienda Iguana resort on Nicaragua’s Pacific coast. Here are the first, buy cialis second, treatment third, fourth, fifth, sixth,seventh and eighth.The goal of this candid construction blog is to reduce the anxiety levels of people who have real estate in Nicaragua and plan to build, but are afraid of making mistakes along the way.

Finish work is on the agenda

As we plan our next visit to Nicaragua we’ve been making many decisions about wall paint, tile, decorative murals, bathroom vessels and wood finish. We decided to complete the front part of our side patio with a tile and Zoysia mix, similar to the example below, helping to make our gated entrance into the Casita more inviting. The back patio overlooking the “Colorado River” is nearly finished with cut natural stone placed right up to the pool’s edge as seen in the background of this photo.


The white metal roof and blanket insulation has been installed and now the finish carpenters are busy putting up mahogany tongue and groove wood paneling, which has been treated with a termite repellent and sealer.


An important topic that should always be addressed is water quality. Our future home is along the pacific and typical of the aquifers near the coast the water is extremely hard, which causes scaling in all your plumbing fixtures and solar water heaters. My go to guy for anything to do with water quality issues and solar energy systems is Jim Ryan at Aguasolutions. As Jim explained to me on Skype from Costa Rica, even with a deep well and a chlorination system in place the water at your faucet will still be hard, but may also contain coliform.

The dramatic wet and dry seasons here in Nicaragua cause the clay-like soil to shift, which in turn strains the underground water lines and may over time open them up to ground water contaminants. So Jim has been directed to design a low maintenance, environmentally sound system that will not only condition/soften our water, without adding chemicals (sodium chloride) or wasting re-charge water, but that will also remove all pathogens as well. We can kiss 5 gallon bottled water containers good bye!

The Alluver doors and windows have arrived from the manufacturer and will be installed next week.


Category : Blog &Overseas construction in Nicaragua

Overseas construction blog part 8: It’s now a proper shelter for the tropics!

overseas-construction-nicaragua11This is the eighth of a series of posts in which David Steckler shares his experiences of building a vacation home at Hacienda Iguana resort on Nicaragua’s Pacific coast. Here are the first, discount second, and third, fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh. The goal of this candid construction blog is to reduce the anxiety levels of people who have real estate in Nicaragua and plan to build, but are afraid of making mistakes along the way.

It’s now a proper shelter for the tropics!

The white metal roof panels from Costa Rica have arrived and they’re going up, the floors are poured and ready to receive tile and we’re on this website playing with exterior wall finishes. The paint company of choice here in Central America is Sherwin Williams so Tony, our builder suggested we start experimenting with colors online, which we found very helpful. Simply download some house pictures and start overlaying colors – Hot Cocoa, Lark Green and Respite respectively shown here – we won’t use all three I promise!


While waiting for the roof to arrive, Horizon Group was busy with pool construction and pouring the patio, which will receive the same local cut stone we’re using on our “false” chimney below left.

The pool and patio being prepared for tile and cut stone (see below right) … the motorbike is parked just in front of the master suite. A very short commute, indeed, to the infinity pool from bedside or the Casita in the background for that matter.


Category : Blog &Overseas construction in Nicaragua