JS 83: Real Estate Investing in Central America with Mike Cobb President of ECI Development

November 12th, 2014 by Jason | Comments Off on JS 83: Real Estate Investing in Central America with Mike Cobb President of ECI Development

Mike_Cobb

Mike Cobb is the president of ECI Development and has been living as an expat for the past 11 years in Central America with his wife and two daughters. He is currently located in Nicaragua and speaks to Jason about what life is like in Central America along with some interesting real estate movements in Nicaragua, Belize, Costa Rica, and Panama.

 

 

 

 

Key Takeaways:

3:00 – If you look at Panama today, it looks like Miami. Due to location, Panama has been doing very well economically.

8:27 – Property taxes in Central America are incredibly low. With a $150,000 condo, your property taxes are $200 a year.

10:00 – Minimum wage is $4 a day in Nicaragua and $11 a day in Belize.

18:20 – People are moving to Latin America for better quality of life and to live this life on less money.

24:40 – Mike says living overseas is probably only right for about 5-10% of the US population.

28:50 – Everywhere in the world there’s corruption, Latin America is no different.

32:10 – Nicaragua is perceived by many Americans that it’s a dangerous place, in reality that’s far from the truth, but because Nicaragua has this perception, real estate prices are incredibly low.

 

Tweetables

“People want the nice weather, they want outdoor living, they want a lower cost of living, and they want a higher quality of life.”  Tweet this!

“The price of real estate in Nicaragua compared to Costa Rica or Panama, is much, much lower.”  Tweet this!

“As Nicaragua continues to change its perception, the price of real estate will raise faster than in the other countries.”  Tweet this!

Mentioned In This Episode

http://www.ecidevelopment.com/

 

Transcript

Jason Hartman:

It’s my pleasure to welcome Mike Cobb back to the show. He’s been on before. He is a developer who develops in some Central American countries. We’re going to talk to him about what is driving real estate values, rental values in these markets between the local economies, the international buyers, etc, etc; just kind of get a bird’s eye view of a few different markets here, which I think you’ll find interesting.

 

Mike, welcome back, how are you?

 

Mike Cobb:

Good, Jason. Nice to be back with ya. Thanks for having me. Yeah, sounds like we’re going to have a pretty good conversation today.

 

Jason:

Well, we certainly did last time. I remember the last time we talked we were on the sand in Belize, outdoors there on the beach, and drinking a beer..so. *Laughter*.

 

Mike:

That’s right. It was delightful. I’m sitting in my office in Managua, Nicaragua today, so not quite the same thing, but still in a tropical location.

 

Jason:

There you go, there you go. What is going on with some of the Central American economies and real estate markets nowadays? It was about two years ago when we talked I think.

 

Mike:

Yeah, you know, it’s interesting. Central American economy took a dip when the American economy did in 2008, 2009, 2010, but recovered much quicker. You know, we saw negative growth rates in the states and what we saw here were reductions of growth rates, but a country like Panama for instance, their GDP growth is double digits and Nicaragua just under 6%, Costa Rica 5-6%, and Belize same kind of thing. So, healthy growth across the region. Now, we are talking about smaller economies obviously, but very, very good economic growth and a much faster recovery kind of a challenging period that we faced in the states in real estate.

 

To answer it very intrinsically, what’s driving the real estate sector, it varies country to country, but let me start with Panama. Panama, its got a canal expansion. Panama is an incredible business hub for Central and South America, even. There’s a lot of money coming in from South America, driving the real estate expansion there. If you fly into Panama city today, my goodness, it looks like Miami. The number of skyscrapers. There’s probably 30 or 40 skyscrapers of 40 stories or more and they’re almost all residential and a lot of that money is coming in from South America. So, Panama, because of it’s location, really, right in the center between North American and South America, the canal, and it just really attracted a lot of foreign money, not just US, Canadian money goes through out a lot of Central and South American money.

 

Panama is doing very, very well. Costa Rica continues to do well. They, have all the countries of Central America, they were the one that maybe ballooned the most pre-2008 and they were the slowest to recover. We’re now seeing now most of the excess inventory, however the market place, the home prices, the condo prices are back to a reasonable profit margin above construction cost. I know we were talking before we went online in US health, you can still find deals that are below the cost of construction. I don’t think you’re going to find that in Costa Rica anymore. Last year you might have, but this year you won’t.

 

Jason:

What do you consider the construction cost in Costa Rica per square foot?

 

Mike:

It depends where in the country, but we’re really talking about a singular type of construction, which is a pour concrete, post to beam or block and filled, but post to beam solid construction, nice finishes. We’re talking $90 to $110 square foot. So, it’s well-built, seismic-rated construction. On the Caribbean side, we deal with hurricanes, and so again, talking cap for kind of rated construction quality, it’s the same number. In Belize, is a good example, Belize is probably about $120 to $150 a square foot, for again, category 5 rated.

 

Jason:

Okay, so category 5 property. Now, is that just construction without land?

 

Mike:

That is. Those are very nice finishes. I mean, you could definitely build for less, but to compare to a comparable product in the states. Here’s the thing, concrete, steal, windows, faucets, fixtures, electrical wire, all those materials are world price. I mean, there’s no discount if you’re buying steal in Belize. The only thing that’s less in Central America is the labor component and labor is about a 3rd of the cost of the construction. So, if labor is a 3rd so a 3rd of a 3rd is a 9th, so you’re really talking about 10-12% less on the construction cost for a true to apples to apples product, which surprises most people.

 

Jason:
Wait, 10-12% where? Between where and where?

 

Mike:

Anywhere really Jason, because again, steal and concrete that it takes to build a condo or a home, it is the same. It’s a world price. There’s no discount on steal.

 

Jason:

No, no. I understand that. You were making a comparison and I just wanted to understand where that comparison was.

 

Mike:

I’m just saying labor is about a 3rd of the cost to build a condo or a home and labor is a 3rd of what it is in the states and that would be comparable throughout the region, whether it’s Panama, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Belize, labor is probably about a 3rd of what it is in the states. So, we’re really not talking about very much of a discount when you buy real estate overseas. The discount comes in the form of ownership costs. It costs far less to own a piece of real estate long term.

 

Jason:

Because of the property taxes.

 

Mike:

Property taxes are lower, HOA fees are lower, and then you get into all the quality of life issues that don’t have anything to do with the real estate per say.

 

Jason:

Right, right, we’ll talk about those in a moment. I just want to drill down on this, because we’re talking about it. Let’s kind of stay on topic just for a second here. So, how much are the HOA fees on a condo, I mean of course they vary, but what’s the average?

 

Mike:

You know $200 to say $400 maybe.

 

Jason:

Per month?

 

Mike:

Yeah, per month for a nice 1 bedroom maybe, 700 square foot condo. I think in Belize our condos are 225 per 700 square foot and 275 of a 1200 square foot 2 bedrooms, so..

 

Jason:

Okay, so. That’s not inexpensive. *Laughter*. Is it? Where are you comparing it to?

 

Mike:

Well, I think comparing it to something in Miami. I look at condo HOA fees in Miami and taxes and stuff like that and they tell to be considerably higher. I mean again, when you’re comparing apples to apples, the cost of hurricane insurance is what it is and that’s again a world price, there’s no discount on it because it’s Belize. Again, the things that cost money, the paint to repaint a building, the maintenance of a building, all of those things, they cost what they cost, and there’s no discount.

 

Jason:

I’m betting though the property taxes are a lot lower. Of course they vary from state to state and the municipalities in the US, but I mean, betting your property taxes, I can’t remember, but I think they’re fairly low aren’t they?

 

Mike:

Yeah, you can’t even talk about them in terms of a percentage. On a condo, you know, $150,000 condo, your property taxes are $200 a year.

 

Jason:

Yeah, it’s nothing.

 

Mike:

Right.

 

Jason:

And in the states, of course it depends where it is, but it might be $2,500 a year. You know. It might be more. If it’s in New Jersey, god, it’ll be way more. *Laughter*.

 

Mike:

Right, exactly.

 

Jason:

You know, Mike, I’ve always been the guy that preaches the idea of transparency and being skeptical with my guests, I kind of asked you some tough questions when you were on, if you recall.

 

Mike:

Well, I’m a big fan of transparency too, so I don’t remember the questions, but I’m glad you asked them.

 

Jason:

See, it’s because I got you a beer first. *Laughter*. If you would grab a beer now, I wanna ask you a tough question. I’m just kidding. No, the tough question is this, it’s not really a question, but it’s just a concept I just wanted to share with you and our listeners and I’m sure you’re going to have some real commentary on it. So, I certainly understand that in Nicaragua, Panama, Belize, the cost of labor is much, much lower then it is in the states. You know, you don’t have OCEA, you don’t have..you probably don’t have worker’s comp of any type, you certainly have a less educated population by enlarge. Of course, that’s a generalization, but you know, so you have lower labor costs, you probably don’t even have minimum wage in a lot of these places, I assume. Do you?

 

Mike:

We actually do. There is a minimum wage.

 

Jason:

What’s the minimum wage? I’m curious.

 

Mike:

It varies by country, but anywhere from $4 a day in Nicaragua up to maybe about $11 a day in Belize.

 

Jason:

Oh my god. A day. That’s a day, folks, versus in the US we talk about per hour. *Laughter*.

 

Mike:

Right, right.

 

Jason:

In Seattle, the socialist idiots there just realized the minimum wage to $15 an hour, so guess what. I gotta go to Seattle just to go to a fast food joint and order and I bet you my tray of fast food would be like $37. *Laughter*.

 

Mike:

It has to be to support that, easily.

 

Jason:

Yeah, it’s crazy. But, here’s the thing I wanted to run by you being a bit of a skeptic here and poke holes in this theory, if you can find them, it’s this comparison. I think there is an interesting economic situation at play when you look at these developing countries and you look at cheap labor and I’m going to compare it to, I love in Phoenix, Arizona. I used to live in Southern California, Newport Beach, Irvine, okay, most of my life. My mother, a few years ago,  moved from our old house that she still owns in West Las Angeles; Las Angeles is just no place to live in my eyes. *Laughter*. She moved from LA to, of all places, cultural shock, Gulf Shores, Alabama, there’s a switch up for ya, okay. *Laughter*.

 

You know, I was just out visiting her, she built this incredible 9200 square foot mansion out there, I mean it’s just ridiculous this house and she was complaining..she built it from scratch, bought the lot, built it, everything, managed, you know, fired the contractor in the middle of the job because he made a huge mistake and took over the job herself, and literally did it all, okay, which is a pretty impressive feat. She’s always complaining to me about the fact that you can’t find good workers in Gulf Shores, Alabama. She says that just everything is more expensive and here you’ve got a very similar dynamic in a microcosm, because it’s sort of a more primitive area, if you will, of the US. Sorry Gulf Shore residents if I offend you with that, but it’s not Las Angeles, it’s not a cosmopolitan place, it’s a lay back kind of primitive beach idea.

 

You know, I like that to a little bit of Belize, right. So, what’s interesting is that you don’t have as much competition for jobs, probably, but you also don’t have, like, as many good, mature distributions systems there and you were saying earlier that the cost of steal is the cost of steal around the world. I agree with that conceptually, but where it changes is when you look at a modern country, because of their infrastructure and their capacity and efficiencies, and hopefully less bureaucracy, although that’s arguable, things actually you have to pay the labor a lot more. You certainty can’t pay anybody $4 a day here without going to jail, but because the infrastructure is more developed, I don’t know, we have very nice houses here in many areas for $70 per square foot, I don’t know if they are category 5 hurricane houses. They’re nice. I mean, they’re in hurricane areas in the Gulf Coast.

 

Mike:

You do bring up a great point and let me kind of come at two different ways, one of the efficiency distribution. Yes, the US as an industrialize nation has an incredible sophisticated distribution network that delivers steals anywhere in the country, probably at the lowest price per ton or per foot, however you want to measure, of any were in the world. You just can’t beat that.

 

I mean, there’s no way to beat that, but I think the lower price of labor; it’ll be an interesting study and maybe I’ll have my construction guys actually help me because they’ve built both in Belize and in the states to come up with some numbers, because I’d be curious, but I’m guessing the lower prices of labor per loading and off loading and all of that handling, so to speak, is probably a pretty good offset for most components to go into a home or a condo. I’m guessing it’s about the same.

 

What I do know, I have run this study on a general basis; I’ve never done it on steal specificity, I’ve done it on a house; is when you go to Southern California and you actually look at a comparably constructed home in Southern California to how we build them in say, Nicaragua or Belize or Costa Rica or Panama, we’re about 20% less in cost on a true apples to apples construction basis. Yeah, I could build homes in Nicaragua for $30 a square foot, it just doesn’t meet what my clients expect when they move it. You know, $60-$70 a foot, yeah we could build something kind of stick built, kind of maybe even concrete, you know, but it wouldn’t have a true clay-tile roof, it wouldn’t have mahogany cabinetry.

 

You know, the kinds of the things that we just put standard in a house, because we can. I think if you look at apples to apples, I do know that we’re about 20% less than a comparable house built in Southern California, because Southern California is probably the only place in the US where they really build a house in a similar manner to what we build them here in Central America.

 

Jason:

I don’t want to take the whole to talk about that, but I just wanted to run that by you, because I think it’s kinda like saying, look, you know, I could go to a tailor and get a handmade suit, but you know, if your body type is kind of a normal size, you can just buy one off the rack for just as good for one 3rd of the price and that’s the beauty of mass production, right?

 

Mike:

Sure, absolutely.

 

Jason:

You know, these custom tailors call me and I’m like, “I don’t need a custom tailor for me. I can walk into a store and just pick it off the rack it’s going to be great.” But, some people do. So, that’s the concept of the efficiencies and, you know, when you’re looking at a new car, right. You know, I was test driving a Tesla recently and I’m thinking, “This is nice, it’s a neat concept.” And you know, I’m a big fan of Elon Musk, you probably are too, you know, he does some innovative stuff to be sure, but that car is $30,000 over price, Mike, because it’s not mass produced. They don’t get the efficiency of BMW. You can get the same, granted it’s not the same car, but you know, can super high quality BMW for $35,000 less than that car and you got a great car.

 

Mike:

I hear you. Absolutely. You know, where you’re going to see those efficiencies in this part of the world are on condominiums, especially, because again, those are built kind of not to order. It’s not a custom-tailored suit, we’re building a building with 20 condos, whatever the number is, and those are built efficiently. They’re built to be efficient. You know, at Gran Pacifica, which is a beach and golf resort, 3 bedroom, 2 1/2 bath home, for 225. You know, 150 yards from the ocean, 100 yards from the golf course. I don’t know where you can duplicate that kind of price point in the US. I really don’t. The view of the ocean on a golf community 150 yards from the water for $225. I just don’t know where you could duplicate that in the US.

 

Jason:

So, what else is driving these different markets? You know, the investment opportunity or at least the lifestyle opportunity in them. Tell us about what you’re doing in Nicaragua. I mean, I saw you development in Belize first hand. I have not been to Nicaragua, although that could be. I’ll be in Peru next month and if I make it Nicaragua that’ll probably be country number 74 for me. *Laughter*.

 

Mike:

My goodness. Okay.

 

Jason:

My passport, Mike, has more stamps than the post office.

 

Mike:

That’s a wonderful thing by the way. You know, come to Nicaragua, check it out. People are always scared of Nicaragua and the perceptions, the memories we’ve had from the 70s and 80s when there was a civil war here. You know, the civil war ended in 1989. That’s like 25 years ago. So, it’s a different country, it’s a new country, and look, I’m not Nicaraguan, I’m not have a dog in the fight, so to speak, but I have chosen to call this home for the last 12 years largely because my wife loves it here. I like it here too. I don’t really care where I live, but she does care and she lives it. We have a great life. It’s a great quality of life.

 

I think that’s why people are coming not just to Nicaragua, but to Belize, Costa Rica, Panama, all the countries that we work in, it is for the quality of life more than the cost of entry. The cost of entry, again, is not significantly less than it is in the US. Once you get here, it’s actually amazing, this is paradoxical, Jason. This is truly the paradox and that is, you can actually have a higher quality of life and it costs less.

 

I know that’s hard for people to imagine, but just this morning I had fresh blackberries, from the grocery store, with breakfast with a bowl of fitness cereal, US brand cereal if that’s what you want, go to the movies in English, we eat out at wondrous great restaurants at night for my daughter’s birthday, La Julieta, I mean, it could stand up in any city in the world. So, fine dining, movies, culture, movie theaters, restaurants, groceries stories, and then, and then, this is what’s amazing; I don’t know how much people go down to Whole Foods, I like to call it Whole Paycheck.

 

Jason:

It is Whole Paycheck.

 

Mike:

Go to Whole Paycheck and see how much food you can buy for..

 

Jason:

It’s literally double the price. It’s just double the normal store.

 

Mike:

So, Jason, we get a coffee sack, okay, it’s a burlap coffee sack delivered to our home, hear me, delivered to home, once a week, every Tuesday, and it’s about, I don’t know 20 pounds of lettuce, tomatoes, cabbage, beats, green beans..

 

Jason:

For that kind of stuff that’s grown locally, where cost of labor is so cheap, that’s baked in the cake, so to speak. I agree with you. You know, Mike, to argue the point and be the skeptic about that one, my friend Ron lived in Colombia for many, many years. He was a huge fan and he lived in Medellin, right.

 

Mike:

Yep, nice city.

 

Jason:

You know, just absolutely loved it and then recently on his Facebook and I talked to him after this, you know, he was complaining that he’s moving back to the states and he’s fed up with the whole thing down there and here I said, “Why?” and there was a big trend on Facebook, everybody was commenting on it and chiming in like they do, I know you’re not a Facebook-er, at least you weren’t before.

 

Mike:

No. I’m still not.

 

Jason:

*Laughter*. So you miss all of this good stuff, but you know, he said he wants to buy a new car and it costs a fortunate down there. He said everything is so expensive because immature distribution systems, the underdeveloped systems, and I guess there are tariffs, I’m not sure. I’m not sure about the protectionist issue, but yeah, no. I agree with you. Living off the land and eating local, it’s gotta be local produce, that’s going to be less expensive. Local meats probably much less expensive too.

 

Mike:

Absolutely.

 

Jason:

But, you know, everything else is probably more expensive. I’ll give you an example, I was in Bermuda a few years ago and my earbuds for my iPhone broke. You know, those at the time, I think for the old version it was like 20 bucks, now they’re 30 bucks because there’s a new version that’s nicer, but you know, I went in and found them in Bermuda believe it or not. The real, genuine Apple earbuds and there was this little sort of Apple-authorized little tiny store with actual Apple products. I couldn’t believe that I found it, right. They were $47 dollar. US. *Laughter*. You know, during the currency conversion and everything. I’m like, “Wow.” There’s just a lot to be said for either not having the protectionist or having more efficient distribution. I don’t know which it is.

 

Mike:

You know, some items are definitely more. Bermuda is a tough one because it’s a little island in the middle of the Atlantic ocean, right.

 

Jason:
Yeah, what all those people do is they buy stuff in New York. They go to New York and they bring it on the plane. I’m like, “Isn’t that expensive to bring it on the plane?” And they’re like, “No, it’s worth it.” *Laughter*.

 

Mike:

And that’s true. I mean, I always have a little shopping list when I’m in the states and most people when they’re overseas do have a little shopping list when they go back to the states, but you know, gasoline, generally is more expensive, so there’s one thing that’s more expensive. You know, like that big bag of produce is $9, Jason. $9!

 

Jason:

What would that cost you in the states do you think?

 

Mike:

I have no idea, probably couple hundred.

 

Jason:

That much? Wow.

 

Mike:

It’s 20 something pounds. It might even be more than that. I mean it’s a burlap sack full of fresh produce, right. Anyway, we get meats and cheese and stuff like that. You know, having a maid and a gardener for under $200 a month. So, again..

 

Jason:

You could have a driver too. You need a chauffeur, Mike.

 

Mike:

No, no.

 

Jason:

No? No chauffeurs?

 

Mike:

I like driving. I do. My wife she drives our kids around in the CRV, they have ballet and gymnastics, and girl scouts, and all those kinds of things. It’s not right for everyone. It’s not. It’s probably only right for 5-10% for the US population.

 

Jason:

So who’s it right for?

 

Mike:

Who’s it right for? So, there’s a great little test that in fact, it’s like a 15-18 question quiz, not a test, a little quiz where you just rank yourself just one, two or three and it’s the best test that indicates whether you are right to live overseas or not. If people want to hit you with an email, I’d be happy to send it to them, Jason. It’s just a fun little test. You take it, you rate yourself one, two, or three, but generally the kind of people who do well overseas are people who have a broad world perspective. A lot of the times we use the word provincial to describe people who are not..

 

Jason:

Sure.

 

Mike:

Okay. So, if you’re provincial. If you’re from Arizona, it’s the best state in the whole world and there’s nothing better than anywhere else, then don’t leave, because you’re not going to be happy. But, if you see a world as a place to be explored, I mean you got 74 stamps in your passport, my guess is you’d do pretty well overseas.

 

Jason:

I’ve certainly thought about it.

 

Mike:

Yeah, right, and guess what, the people who have thought about it are generally the type that do well, because you’re not going to think about it, probably, unless you’re probably the kind of person who would do well, but this little quickie test is great. So, people email ya and you wanna send it to them, I’ll provide a copy.

 

Jason:

Just provide your email or do you want me to put it..I can put the link in the show notes if you want, how’s that?

 

Mike:

That’ll be great. They can reach out to me.

 

Jason:

So, send me that and we’ll give out your website so that they can find you too. If you want to just give that out now, Mike, go ahead and do that.

 

Mike:

Sure. It’s ECIdevelopment.com. So you can just hit info at ECIdevelopment.com, put Attention Mike in the subject line and it’ll drop right to me.

 

Jason:

Good stuff.

 

Mike:

Yeah.

 

Jason:

So there’s certainly different strokes for different folks, I totally get that. That’s interesting. Any more discussion on what’s driving these economies, these real estate markets, I think people would just love to hear about that.

 

Mike:

Yeah, Panama’s the one. The reason I started with Panama is because it’s sort of the odd country out because of the canal and it’s very strategic location at the center of Americas, but Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Belize, really what’s driving the real estate market, specificity..and let me differentiate, there’s a local real estate market, which I’m not talking about at all. I’m only talking about the expat real estate market. I’m happy to talk about the local one too, but the comments I’m going to make are expat-driven real estate and that is the weather, the cost of living, and the quality of life. That’s what literally drives the market down here in Central and South America.

 

I mean, people want the nice weather, they want outdoor living, they want a lower cost of living, they want a higher quality of life. Again, we can argue whether it is or it’s not, but the people who come, they certainly believe that it is, and tourism. Tourism is sort of the entree point for a lot of people who come to visit on a vacation or on a cruise and get a taste of it and then they start to ponder, they start to think about, “Maybe this is a place I’d like to spend the winters.” So, a lot of folks come..

 

Jason:

Snow birds.

 

Mike:

Absolutely, yep.

 

Jason:

Yeah, okay. Alright. Here, you know who I had on the show that you just gotta hear, because I’d love to hear your counter points to him.

 

Mike:

Who’s that?

 

Jason:

You’ve probably heard of his story and that’s John Mcafee, the famous software zillionaire.

 

Mike:

Yep.

 

Jason:

I had him on the show and he was just railing against Belize and the corruption and all this kind of stuff. I would love for you to kind of listen to that interview and then come on and tell me if he’s out of his tree, because a few people say he is, but I don’t know. He sounded pretty rational to me.

 

Mike:

Let me weigh in without having the interview.

 

Jason:

Okay.

 

Mike:

Look, all the countries of Central and South America has some level of corruption. I think probably the US has some level of corruption as well.

 

Jason:

Of course. Heyy. That’s obvious. *Laughter*.

 

Mike:

Except we just call it lobbyists, okay.

 

Jason:

Yes, yeah. We have, what I call, legalized corruption here.

 

Mike:

Exactly. Legitimized, right. So, you know, I think that the corruption is real and it’s whether or not you feed into largely has been my experience. I mean, I’ve been working and companies that I work with, have been working in Central America for 20 years, Jason, and we’ve never paid a bribe, we do not engage in any form of corruption whatsoever, and you know what? We’ve never been harassed by it either. I think there’s, I call it the James Bond Syndrome, a lot of people come down to this part of this world and it’s kind of cool to pay off a cop to get out of a ticket or whatever and people do it. Whatever, I’m not judging them, I just choose to not do it.

 

Jason:

So you go to jail instead when the ferderales pull you over. *Laughter*. Just kidding.

 

Mike:

No, you know what I do, Jason? I get pulled over 5 times a year, usually for an infraction, because I’m using speeding or crossing a yellow line or passing when I’m not suppose to.

 

Jason:

Well, at least you admit it.

 

Mike:

Yeah. You know it’s real. It’s totally real. I mean occasionally I get pulled over for the random pullover too, but you know what? I’m nice and polite, and I apologize and I tell them, “Please, go ahead and give me a ticket.” And in 12 years of living in Nicaragua, I’ve received one ticket, because I’m just not willing to corrupt myself to be in that system. But the interesting thing is, if you removed yourself from it, I don’t want to say we’re immune to it, because that’s not true, but it largely goes around us. It doesn’t come to us. I think that’s important. It has been for our organizations anyway.

 

Jason:

Okay. Alright. So, did you touch on all of the three that you wanted to touch on?

 

Mike:

You mean the three countries?

 

Jason:

Yeah, I mean, Belize is probably the most popular of all the countries from a tourism perspective and from real estate sales. Panama, Costa Rica, is probably tied for second, and Nicaragua, they’re pulling up along 3rd because there’s the perspective issues. The only thing that I’d suggest and just offer this to your listeners is that, you know, in the financial markets, when there’s an information gap, it’s called arbitrage. In fact, I got to go down to the Chicago mercantile exchange floor last week.

 

A buddy of mine has a seat on the exchange and he invited me to come to the floor in Chicago and I did. It was fascinating to watch this unbridle capitalism full-charging. People on the floor exploit these information gaps and that’s how they make their little bits and pieces where they string a whole bunch of bits and pieces together and make a lot of money, which sometimes they lose a lot of money. The point is, information gaps or perception gaps are arbitrage and Nicaragua is an incredible arbitrage situation for real estate investors because it’s perceived by many US folks, not so much Canadians, but US citizens, it’s perceived as dangerous and scary and civil war. I mean, again, this stuff has been over for 25 years. The country is totally different. The price of real estate in Nicaragua compared to Costa Rica, Panama, is much, much lower.

 

As Nicaragua continues to change its perception and it is changing, there are some great things going on here that are changing that perception, the price of real estate will raise faster than in the other countries, because there’s a gap. So, investors who are looking for a neat little arbitrage or information gap, I think Nicaragua is worth a boots on the ground visit. Don’t buy anything, just buy..so yeah, buy something, buy a plane ticket, come to Nicaragua for 3-4 days, stomp around, and get a feel for the country. My guess is you’ll get get joke and go, “Yeah, yeah, yeah. This place got some unrealized upside and I want a piece of it.” But, you gotta come here to see it.

 

Jason:

Right, okay. Good. Well, Mike Cobb, thank you so much for joining us again. Give out your website one more time.

 

Mike:

Absolutely, it’s ECIdevelopment.com. Jason, thanks for having me. It’s always a pleasure. If you get down to Nicaragua, give me a holla on your way to Peru or on your way home.

 

Jason:

Alright!

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