Ronan McMahon

Land Banking Opportunities in Uruguay
by Ronan McMahon

Uruguay rarely makes the headlines. There are no natural disasters. The crime rate is low. It's safe, stable, and cultured. The infrastructure, from modern airports to roads, is first class. Uruguay goes quietly and successfully about its business. In 2008, it made headlines with GDP growth of 8.9%. The country isn't burdened with debt either. Montevideo's largest shopping mall plans a $100 million expansion, adding to the 200 stores already open.

For many years, the department of Rocha, in the eastern part of Uruguay has been a favorite with rich Argentines. East from Punta del Este, it stretches to the border with Brazil. Inland, you'll find cattle ranches, and sleepy towns, most with populations of less than 1,000. The coast is where the action is. The beaches (the best in Uruguay) here are wide, natural and pristine. The deep-blue water contrasts with powdery golden sands. You won't find high-rises or all-inclusive least not yet!

What you will find are Uruguay's finest seaside towns. La Paloma fills with tourists in high season, but it's still a small, friendly beach town. La Pedrera has an up market feel, with large weekend homes beside a sweeping curve of beach. Cabo Polonia is famous for its shifting sand dunes, and bohemian residents.

There's an abundance of nature reserves and parks in Rocha, many with lagoons ideal for bird watching enthusiasts. Rocha's seacoast draws visitors from Uruguay, Argentina and Brazil. Not only are the best beaches in Uruguay here, but also the best land deals in Uruguay are here. If you are interested in land banking or doing a subdivision, this stretch of coast should be on your radar.

Land Costs in Rocha

You can buy beachfront land here for as little as $1 per square meter ($4,050 per acre). Paying $1 per meter, your land will be relatively inaccessible and close to the border with Brazil. Lands close to La Paloma and La Pedrera are more desirable and priced in the region of $4 per meter.

While laws related to subdivision have changed in the past year, the process is still relatively straightforward, transparent and inexpensive. The law requires that you leave 50% of the land free of houses. That's why developers add in amenities like golf courses, parks, riding ranges and polo fields in subdivisions. You'll need to figure out how close electricity lines are to your land and what year-round road access is like. Uruguay is abundant with water. Water typically comes from onsite wells.

This stretch of coast is in the sights of a handful of international developers. They have been quietly purchasing large tracts of land. Land values have been slowly increasing but this market hasn't yet taken off--but I believe it is set to do so. This stretch of coast is the natural extension of Punta del Este.

One planned project is by Argentina's foremost developer, Eduardo Costantini. Estimated costs for his development run to $350 million. This is the first upscale development in the area, and will raise the development bar in terms of quality and luxury. Included in his project is a bridge over the lagoon at Rocha. A U.S. development group is getting ready to launch a project in this area, too.

My recommendation is to buy close to La Paloma or La Pedrera if you are looking to develop or subdivide. You pay a premium for your land...but let's face it--paying $4 per meter is still a bargain. The retail market in this area will be much stronger. North American buyers are coming. This area is already extremely attractive to Argentineans.

If you are interested in medium-term land banking, look farther along the coast toward the border with Brazil. This is where you can buy beachfront land for as little as $1 per meter.

For those of you who are in the market for a great land banking deal, Uruguay is ripe with great opportunities!

Ronan McMahon
A finance graduate, Ronan McMahon worked in the e-business consultancy and dot-com industries before joining International Living as Real Estate Marketing Director in January 2004. Ronan has been an active real estate investor since his early twenties and joining International Living gave him the opportunity to marry his personal and professional interests. Last year Ronan took up the position of Executive Director with Pathfinder.

Pathfinder is International Living's preferred Real Estate advertising partner. Pathfinder scouts the globe to find the most unique and value-oriented real estate opportunities.

Ronan writes International Living's Real Estate Trend Alert and regularly contributes to International Living's print and online publications. Ronan has travelled to 15 countries in the past 12 months alone following real estate trends with the potential for profit. Instinct, experience and an unrivalled black book of contacts give Ronan McMahon access to the inside track to unique profit opportunities.

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