Nicaragua Real Estate
Reflections on Buying and Selling My Own Property in Central America
By Jane Bakerson
Home City and Country: London, England
Expat Location: Managua, Nicaragua
My real estate experience in Central America began in 2003 with some property investments in Nicaragua. I immediately fell in love with the country, but like other buyers I found the process of buying real estate challenging at first.
Buying Real Estate
A key problem I came across was the lack of reliable data. Official property statistics are not published and there are no central databases to draw on. So it's practically impossible to determine what properties have sold for in a particular area, how long listings have been on the market or how prices have changed. There's no shortage of anecdotal information of course, but little that is concrete or comprehensive.
I had mixed feelings about the expertise of local real estate agents. Some clearly knew the country backwards and spent a large amounts of time helping me research opportunities. But I always left with that niggling feeling: 'Have I seen all there is to see?" You see there's no MLS in Nicaragua (or the rest of Central America for that matter) so your agent can't type your needs into a database and generate a list of properties that fit.
I was looking at property in real estate developments, so I started my own spreadsheet cataloguing asking prices, location and amenity information. This helped a lot. In a world of imperfect data, asking prices, collected in comparable formats, helped me get to grips with the question of value.
I've learned a lot about how the market works in Central America and I think that makes me a better investor. But now I want to sell and I feel like I'm up against another learning curve...
Selling Real Estate
As there's no MLS and broker collaboration is weak, I'm having to list with every real estate agent in my market. The listing is 'open' which means that whoever sells the property gets a commission.
On the surface this may seem fine, but the result is that brokers pursue a volume approach to listing property - hoping to sell any property - rather than investing in marketing a particular listing for sale. You see, any time and money they invest in marketing my listing could easily go un-rewarded if someone else sells the listing first.
My second challenge is selling within a development where the developer has other properties to sell. It's tough as I'm finding that they are more motivated to sell their own properties. I'm worried that my property is not being shown to some prospects.
I'm realising that it is going to take work to sell my property. More work that it took to buy. The work has to be done by someone. So if local agents or developers are not going to do it, I'm going to have to carry some of the leg work myself. I'm turning to the internet and online marketing and using the tools and listing sites available to sell my overseas property.