Why Nicaragua Real Estate Is Top of Mind (or maybe not)
What have you heard lately about Nicaragua real estate opportunities? Can you imagine what it would be like to retire there?
Just close your eyes and see what you can remotely picture in your mind. Certainly you can picture warm water, tropical winds, and sunny ocean beaches; most definitely fishing and surfing, and all that comes with laid-back island life. These images so far may remind you of SoCal or Hawaii.
But then your mind wonders. Who really lives in Nicaragua? Is it safe? How remote or accessible is it? What about the economy? How politically stable is it? What would it be like to live there?
What you probably didn’t imagine are pristine coastal properties surrounded by untouched lush jungle that some Nicaragua real estate investors predict will increase in value up to five hundred percent in the next few years. The country remains approximately eighty percent undeveloped.
What’s New in Nicaragua
Nicaragua is Central America’s largest country, but one of the least populated. Why? Because few people are lucky enough (or brave enough) to have discovered it. This wild tropical paradise with a very stormy, dark history now sees a peaceful and bright green future. Inspired by its two neighboring tourist and retirement destinations – Panama and the “Oh-so-hot” Costa Rica – Nicaragua is finally getting it right.
The Nicaraguan government is heavily invested in targeting foreign investors, namely North Americans. Interior road construction projects, shopping malls, improved water and sewer systems, hospitals, and new transportation initiatives are all underway.
Nicaragua’s good news is spreading quickly. Conde Nast Traveler calls it an “exciting emerging destination” and names Nicaragua a top ten destination to watch in 2014. Nicaragua’s new safe and friendly appeal, unspoiled quiet beaches, lush tropical rain forests, exotic wildlife – and of course, lovely Lake Nicaragua – are all good reasons to visit. Did I mention you can get there in about three hours from the southern U.S.?
But there’s more you should know about investing in Nicaragua.
Why You Should Buy Real Estate in Nicaragua
Living Costs Are Low
Can you live on social security alone? You can in Nicaragua! In 2010 AARP named Nicaragua one of the best places to retire abroad, largely due to the low costs associated with housing and food. Now, with the government’s dramatic infrastructure improvements and Nicaragua’s Retiree Benefit Program, you get even more for your buck today.
Nicaragua’s retirement benefits for expats are the most favorable in Central America. It’s no longer a secret that Nicaragua is poised for strong economic growth as a top retirement destination and expat mecca.
Timing Is Right and Real Estate Is Still Affordable
Nicaragua’s tourism is steadily on the rise, and so follows the demand for Nicaragua real estate. If you’re looking for an “early-in” investment opportunity, your timing couldn’t be more right. Modern infrastructure and political stability are accomplished. New resorts and eco-lodges are popping up throughout the country. The economy is thriving.
And, yes, the opportunity still exists to purchase your dream at an affordable price. The “mango on top” – Nicaragua has few restrictions on the purchase of real estate relating to foreign investment. According to the Bomchil Group (an Association of Latin American Law Firms), foreign investors have the same property rights as local investors.
Culture and Lifestyle Is a Bit Hard to Beat
Nicaragua is known as both the “land of poets,” and the “land of lakes and volcanoes.” The name means “here united with the water.” Nicaraguans thrive on freedom and independence. They’re a creative, vibrant, and happy culture bound by religious freedom, tolerance, and community.
Religious celebrations and cultural festivals draw huge crowds and can last for days. In a “coconut shell,” life in Nicaragua is as simple as you want it to be. The best part is, you choose it.
You can catch a Tarpon, hike a volcano, surf The Boom, or lounge on the beach. Relax in your hammock and read a book, go to a baseball game, or learn to play the marimba and dance The Mestizaje.
If you long for something more than recreation, fiestas, and quiet time, you can always volunteer in your community or start your own business.
Nicaragua’s Best Real Estate Options
The hottest Nicaraguan retirement destinations right now are the colonial cities of Granada and Leon, the capital of Managua, and most notably the southwestern corner of the Pacific coast around San Juan del Sur, where beachfront property options abound.
Situated just 27 miles from Managua on the shores of Lake Nicaragua, Granada is the oldest city in the country. Picture a lazy day in a Spanish colonial town, cooling Lake Nicaragua breezes, historic buildings with red tile roofs, 17th century cathedrals, and treasure-filled museums.
You can smell the aroma of your favorite European dish. You’re preparing to go kayaking and volcano hiking. This could be why Granada is one of the fastest-growing tourism areas in Nicaragua.
The primary northwest city and agricultural capital of Nicaragua, Leon is also a colonial town filled with historic architecture, ruins, ancient cathedrals, and eclectic museums. But what makes it most unique for Nicaragua is, it’s a thriving university town full of cafes, shops, and students.
Property here treats you to impressive views of Momotombo and Momotombito volcanoes. You will get to know Cerro Negro, the youngest volcano in Central America.
Managua is the spot for you if you enjoy the convenience of big city life. It is the nation’s hub for residents and visitors alike. You can easily take excursions from here to any destination in the country.
Aside from city life, you’ll enjoy your frequent visits to Masaya Volcanic National Park and the Masaya craft markets, beach resorts, and Montibellli Nature Reserve.
San Juan del Sur
Think sand and surf on the Pacific coast near Costa Rica’s border. San Juan del Sur is Nicaragua’s most popular surfing destination and beach town. If you love fishing, fresh seafood, and surf, you’ll be in good company.
San Juan del Sur is the country’s most famous tourism destination and has already attracted its fair share of foreign investment. Kick your shoes off and slow down. There’s no “hurry” here.
Leon, Nicaragua is a perfect example of the renaissance of Nicaragua. From its origins as a colonial capital and birthplace of Nicaraguan independence to a symbol of contemporary growth, Leon is a blend of beauty, history, and possibility.
Leon, Nicaragua – A Colorful Past
Leon, Nicaragua was originally founded on June 15, 1524 by Francisco Hernandez de Cordoba, known as the founder of Nicaragua. Viewed as a revolutionary by Colonial Administrator Pedrarias, Cordoba was beheaded in the town’s main square in 1526.
Leon was originally located on the southwestern side of Lake Managua, just south of the Momotombo Volcano. Two major earthquakes in 1594 and 1610 caused so much damage that the settlers decided to move the city roughly twenty miles west to its current location.
Leon the Capital
As the first capital of Nicaragua, Leon continued in that role when the country left the United Provinces of Central America in 1839. The capital shifted between Granada and Leon until 1858 when Managua was selected as a compromise between the liberal (Leon) and conservative (Granada) political factions.
History Does Repeat Itself
On September 21, 1956, president and later dictator, Anastasio Somoza García was assassinated by the poet, Rigoberto López Pérez at a party in Leon. This act echoes the beheading of Leon’s founder in 1526 in the town’s square, providing a unique kind of historical irony.
The Rediscovery of Leon Viejo
Though not totally destroyed by the earthquakes, Leon’s original location became buried by years of ash and stone coming from Momotombo and rising lake sediment. It wasn’t until 1967 that the ruins of the original Leon, known as Leon Viejo were discovered and excavation would begin the following year.
In 2000, Leon Viejo was designated a World Heritage site. The city is unique among 16th century cities in the Americas as the only one that has not had its original plan altered during its history.
Sights and Attractions in and around Leon, Nicaragua
There are many special locations in and around Leon, Nicaragua that will delight both tourists and residents alike. Ranked as one of the 10 best places to visit in Central America, the majestic cathedrals, historical locations, and natural wonders create an allure that make Leon a desirable spot to experience.
The Cathedral de Leon
Built between 1747 and 1814, the Cathedral has the distinction of being the largest in Central America and one of the oldest dioceses (1531) in the Americas. In addition to the crypts of several famous Nicaraguans, there are seven tunnels connected to other churches in the city used for hideouts or escapes from British, French, and Dutch pirates.
The Church of San Francisco
Built in 1639 by Friar Pedro de Zuniga, this church was part of the Convent of San Francisco – one of the oldest in Nicaragua.
The Museum of Art – Ortiz Gurdian Foundation
This multi-building museum houses prime examples of Austrian, Cuzco, and Quito schools of art dating from the 16th century. Additionally, modern works in a variety of mediums make this a must-see for art aficionados.
The Mausoleum of Heroes and Martyrs
Located near the city center, this memorial honors the revolutionary spirit of Leon from its earliest Colonial Period to the present day. The wall mural is a dramatic depiction of Nicaragua’s history.
The Festival of La Griteria
On December 8th, Nicaragua celebrates the Virgin of the Immaculate Conception, the patroness of the country. The night before, December 7th, is the festival of La Griteria – “The Shouting” which has special importance in Leon where the celebration originated.
Beyond the City Limits of Leon, Nicaragua
In addition to the various locations within Leon proper, there are many opportunities for adventure and sightseeing close by the city itself.
Leon Viejo Archeological Site
Located 19 miles from the city, Leon Viejo is the original site of present day Leon. Declared a World Heritage Site in 2000, sixteen ruins have been excavated including the tombs of both Cordoba (founder of Leon) and Pedrarias (the man who had him executed).
Leon, Nicaragua is a great place to explore the natural beauty of the 37 mile long Maribios Volcano Chain. With 21 volcanoes all within a short distance of Leon, casual hikers and hard-core trekkers can find the unique adventure they seek.
Momotombo and Cerro Negro Volcanoes
The two most important volcanoes in Leon’s history are impressive locations to visit. Momotombo is the most famous volcano in Nicaragua and the reason for the present day location of Leon; Cerro Negro is one of the world’s youngest volcanoes (1850) and has played a significant role in the city’s history.
One of the most popular tourist destinations in Nicaragua, Poneloya Beach is only a 20 minute ride from Leon on a good road. With abundant hotels and restaurants, Poneloya can be a delightful side trip to the Pacific.
If extreme sports are your thing, volcano boarding (cross between snow and skate boarding done on ash) at 30 mph down the side of Cerro Negro could be the adrenaline rush for you. Located only 20 kilometers from Leon, this volcano has become a major location for those seeking the thrill of challenging nature and themselves.
Leon, Nicaragua – Getting There Is Easier Than You Think
Leon, Nicaragua can be reached by flying into Managua International Airport and then driving roughly an hour and a half to Leon. The flight time from the U.S. is roughly two hours.
There are inexpensive shared shuttle services that run from the airport to the center of Leon.
There are a number of commercial bus operators that actually operate throughout Central America. TicaBus, the most popular carrier, stops at most major cities and capitals throughout the region including Managua and Leon; King Quality is a higher-end bus service to Leon offering more comfortable coaches and food service.
Nicaragua – Unlimited Potential for Living and Investment
With a strong commitment to developing and improving its infrastructure, Nicaragua is fast becoming a prime location for investors and expats. With a lower cost of living and more affordable properties, development and growth in both short and long term is virtually assured.
Leon, Nicaragua – An Economical Choice
Leon, Nicaragua’s prices are among the most affordable in Central America. Apartment rents range between $200 to $1000 per month; utilities (water, electric, heat, garbage) between $90-$100; and internet and cable $35-$85 (depending on usage).
Infrastructure Improvements Enhance Leon’s Appeal
Nicaragua recently approved $6.5 billion to improve and upgrade all facets of its infrastructure. With the Rural Roads project funded by a $40 million grant from the World Bank and a $35 million dollar loan from Inter-American Development bank to improve electrical service, Nicaragua is actively working toward enhancing its standing as a place to invest, relocate, retire, and live.
Unique Opportunities for Expat Living in Leon, Nicaragua
In a recent interview, Jordan Clark, of Aurora Leon Realty, had this observation: “I think we will be seeing a lot of new construction on our beaches and in Leon. The market is really starting to pick up and become attractive for investment potential, vacationers, and people interested in retiring.”
As to who exactly was taking advantage of what Leon has to offer and buying in the area? Jordan Clark replied: “Mostly Americans, Canadians, and Europeans.”
What Kind of Property Is Available in Leon, Nicaragua?
Leon has a unique blend of classic colonial style properties, new construction projects, land that can be used to build your dream home, and commercial opportunities. Researching the possibilities can show you exactly all the potential that Leon, Nicaragua has for investment and living options.
The historical district is filled with colonial properties that have their exterior look protected by law. Many expats are purchasing and refurbishing these classic structures while helping Leon retain its unique ambiance.
Can Expats Own Property in Leon, Nicaragua?
The answer is an unequivocal YES!! With certain exceptions involving beachfront property governed by the 2009 Coastal Law that prevents the purchase of land within 50 meters of the high tide line and oceanfront lots eligible for purchase only if registered before a 1917 agrarian reform law, expats enjoy the same property rights as Nicaraguan citizens.
Leon, Nicaragua – Unlimited Possibilities, Tropical Escape
As the interest in Leon, Nicaragua continues to grow, the location becomes an attractive investment option to buy and develop properties that will have an appeal to expats. The special blend of “tropical escape” with an improving infrastructure and growing expat population will create a ready buyers’ market and the potential for a high return on investment.
Is Leon, Nicaragua the Ideal Location for Everyone?
With all of the potential, improvements in the infrastructure, and the encouragement by the government to attract expats and investors, Leon’s historical, cultural, and natural attractions certainly are magnetic draws for those seeking new frontiers and investment possibilities.
Like many emerging nations, Nicaragua is going through “growing pains” in terms of modernization and amenities. If an accessorized, urban type of living is what appeals to you, Leon, Nicaragua is probably not your ideal location.
Although continuing to grow, the expat community is relatively small in Leon. While this provides the chance to truly become immersed in Nicaraguan culture, those who aren’t comfortable with learning Spanish may find the transition difficult.
Lastly, one of the most charming aspects of Leon, Nicaragua is the pace of life in general. If moving to a more relaxed pace without the stress of a typical “westernized” environment appeals to you, Leon may be the answer to your quest.
Ultimately, the only way to know if Leon is your “tropical escape hatch” is to visit and find out for yourself.
Map of Leon, Nicaragua
Leon, Nicaragua Fast Facts
- Population: 400,000
- Typical temperature: Most days are between 82 and 88 F, year round
- Major airports with U.S. flights: Augusto C Sandino Airport located in Managua, Nicaragua
- Nearest U.S. consulate: Managua, Nicaragua
Intransit.tv takes us on a video tour of Nicaragua’s second colonial city, Leon. Join in with the locals who are hosting the city’s colonial rival, Granada, in a baseball match and enjoy some authentic Nicaraguan food with our video guide, Peter.
Leon, Nicaragua is the second largest city in Nicaragua. And after Granada, which is better preserved, León has the best colonial architecture in Nicaragua.
Visiting here means you are relatively on your own. There will be the sporadic backpacker here and there, and as of late, tour groups have taken to visiting as well, but this is still a university town, and off the beaten tourist route.