October 8, 2010
At Arco Properties we focus only in Casco Viejo, for which we are in touch with the majority of the projects and real estate products in this area. Many of my clients walk in asking for guidance regarding what is the best buy in Casco at this moment, for which I thought it could be a good theme for a blog.
What makes for a good property in Casco Viejo? you want quality, space, amenities. Now, there are different versions of these three elements and it all depends on your budget and personal goals. Some ask for returns, regardless of the quality, space and amenities. Most Casconians appreciate quality, space and amenities more than short term returns because they have a long term focus and have seen the appreciation of real estate in this town, both compared to itself (since Casco started revitalizing) and compared to other historic cities in the region (such as Cartagena and San Juan).
So then again, what should you be looking for? remember some simple rules:
1. In Casco, what you see is what you get: facades can`t be modified, so if it doesn`t have the right space to fit a car, most likely there won´t be parking inside the building… ever. Most buildings where built without cars in their minds, so chances are that if parking is important for you the number of buildings that can offer it is reduced. Because of the space and historic preservation rules parking is valuable and extremely expensive to build. When you buy parking, even if you think $20,000 a spot is too much, think about this: that parking could have been a commercial space that could have sold for over $3000 a mt2. Only to build it cost about $20K. So you are getting a super deal. And you will own the parking forever.
2. Elevators, pools & extra stuff: buildings in Casco, like in most historic cities have limited spaces. Each one has a unique shape, a unique size. This is not copy n paste. So amenities like elevator, pool, and storage are really rare and therefore valuable.
3. Location, location, location: the “best” location is in constant move right now. Why? because the Casco is a site that is being revitalized and there is still a lot of movement regarding where the “center” of action will be. Right now, the best projects are in Plaza Herrera, an unthinkable site back when Casco started restorations in 1997. But this is where most hotels and restoration projects are being built. And will be the area most likely to benefit from the newly built Cinta Costera and new public parking.
4. Views: literally… what you see IS what you get. The UNESCO preservation rules protect heights, so most likely your view, whether is water view, garden or historic ruin… is protected. Nobody is allowed to build a tower (surprise!!!) in front of you, ever.
Now, considering this… what is the best investment in Casco Viejo for this season?
I`ll give you 3 examples, on different price ranges:
1. Casco Viejo Investment under $300,000:
At $269,000 you can get a 108 mt2 loft style apartment at Casa Ruigar.
Easy to keep, easy to manage, to rent… and the building has many of the amenities that make yourlife comfortable: elevator, parking (only 1 left! hurry up… ), and a common roof terrace with water views and a pool. So Casa Ruigar is the best package if your budget is under $300K. The unit comes with kitchen appliances. Location at Calle 4ta & Avenida A, right in front of Arco Properties office.
Casco Antiguo Investment under $450,000:
At the $400- $500K range, your best buy right now is in Benedetti Hermanos. Specifically Unit 1C
which is for sale at $400,000. One level, two bedroom apartment at one of the most complete projects available in Casco. Size 174 mt2. Because of its unique features and construction quality, matching Benedetti Hermanos will be very difficult in the future, so you can be sure that the value of your investment will hold long term. Benedetti Hermanos has a beautiful pool and gardens, and a yoga room. Storage, parking, elevator. Central air, central gas, weathershield (original) windows… the list goes on.
3. You want a building, not just one apartment.
Unless you are a developer, we don`t recommend to go for an unrestored building. It takes time, patience and funding. If you still want a full building, there is one restored opportunity where you can buy the whole building for about $1M. PH Isabella has 4 apartments (each one 2 bedrooms) and a commercial space. It also has parking, one for each unit. The building is income producing, as all apartments are rented. It is the first restored project at 9th street, a location with potential.
4. You are looking for commercial space….
Hum… tricky one! very little on the market. If you are looking for commercial space, I would suggest to make offers on existing ones. It would highly depend on your goals. A plaza front commercial space (even if they consider to sale) wouldn`t be below $3200 per mt2.