House Hunting in … Nicaragua

MARKET OVERVIEW

Over the past several years, Nicaragua has become more popular as a second-home destination. However, recent widespread protests, centered around unpopular social security reforms proposed by the government, have put a damper on sales of late, real estate professionals say.

Some buyers are “temporarily holding off” on purchasing plans, said Joel Stott-Jess, an agent with Century 21 Nica Life in San Juan del Sur. But “no clients have backed out of transactions with our brokerage,” he added.

Those who buy in Nicaragua are drawn to the country’s tropical climate and diverse landscape of beaches, lakes, rain forests and volcanoes, along with its modern and colonial cities. And home prices are typically lower than those in neighboring Central American countries.

Higher-end homes usually start at around $200,000 near the beach and slightly less in the cities, and can often be bought for under $1 million, Mr. Stott-Jess said.

“Similar properties in Costa Rica can be as much as 50 percent higher,” he said.

While Nicaragua’s housing market stalled after the 2008 global financial crisis, it has gradually improved in recent years. Mr. Stott-Jess said that sales in the luxury sector across the country are up around 3 percent to 4 percent so far this year, while prices are roughly 10 percent higher. And the government has been encouraging foreign real estate investment, with tax incentives through its residency program and ongoing upgrades to infrastructure, including roads, airports and telecommunications.

WHO BUYS IN NICARAGUA

Most foreign buyers are from the United States, Canada and Europe, real estate professionals said, with some buyers from Costa Rica and other neighboring countries. And foreigners who buy in Nicaragua tend to be looking for vacation or retirement homes, as well as investment properties to hold and develop.

“Tourism is increasing in many areas,” said Roger Sanchez, a real estate lawyer and the legal director in the Tola, Rivas, office of E. Castillo & Arguello Advisors. “We have clients that come to Nicaragua for a week — and in one week they get engaged with the area and decide to buy.”