Uruguay’s Best Quality of Life for the Money

Uruguay’s Best Quality of Life for the Money

When I picked a place to settle in Uruguay, I picked the most-expensive city they had.

I know it sounds strange. But after two years, several trips around the country, and serious consideration of three cities, we end up settling in the most expensive of the lot.

And with good reason…at least for me.

Punta del Este is Uruguay’s high end. It’s known throughout the world as “the place to be” in the mid-summer months of December through January. Famous movie stars, performers and musicians either live here part time, or come to perform at one of the city’s luxury hotels or casinos. The weather is glorious, with warm temperatures and gentle ocean breezes.

“Punta del Este” usually refers to a 15-mile stretch of coastline that extends from Punta Ballena (whale point) to La Barra. The “Peninsula” is at the center of this area, and the city’s downtown area is located here. The Peninsula is where you’ll find Punta del Este’s restaurants, exclusive stores, wine bars, pastry shops, and most of the casinos. Even in the off-season—which is fairly quiet—you’ll find more restaurants than you can enjoy in any six-month period.

From the Peninsula, the beaches extend for miles in both directions, and the crowds thin almost immediately. On one side you’ll find Playa Mansa, where the water is fairly calm and sheltered…it’s best for swimming. On the other side (Playa Brava) the head-on ocean waves result in a finer, more-walkable sand, and the beaches are enjoyed by swimmers, sunbathers and surfers alike. The sound of the waves can extend a half-mile away from the beach.

I live on the Playa Brava side, and you can take a look at a video of the beach by my house here.

My taxes are high by Uruguayan standards; I paid more than $1,000 this year (thanks to a weak dollar in January) for a 2,700-square-foot house, three blocks from the beach. I’m about 1.8 miles out of town.

But I get my money’s worth. The roads are well-kept, trash is collected every day in the summer, and a rake-bearing crew cleans the entire 15-mile stretch of beach…every day.

And the beaches remain a perfect mix of well-kept luxury and freedom. In other words, they’re beautiful…but no one has to pay to use them (as in New Jersey), and you can still run there with your dog in the mornings.

And despite the economic recession, the area is booming. Construction and property sales held steady right through the recession, and set an all-time record in the year since. So the market here remains strong and liquid, with hundreds of thousands of potential buyers descending from around the world each year.

Yet prices remain reasonable in Punta del Este. Granted, there are houses on the waterfront that will cost over $10 million…and an apartment in the area just sold for $7.1 million. So there are plenty of beautiful, high-end offerings. But there are affordable options, too.

If you want to be near the ocean, yet want a lawn and some room to move around in, I found a house just 1.5 blocks from beach in a lush setting, with a green, trimmed lawn. The asking price is $189,000. It’s a solid brick home with three bedrooms, two baths, and a total of 2,066 square feet (191 square meters).

Somewhat smaller, there’s a home located two blocks from the beach, with two bedrooms and two baths. It’s 1,300 square feet (120 square meters), has central floor-radiant heat, and ocean view. The asking price is only $180,000, which is great for an ocean-view home.

And finally, here’s the best beachfront buy I found in the area. It’s an apartment of 753 square feet (70 square meters), with two bedrooms and two baths, on Playa Mansa. It’s front-line, so of course it has a good ocean view. The asking price is just $155,000, and you can see the view in the picture above.

As you can see, even here in Punta del Este—Uruguay’s most expensive market—the cost of properties is quite reasonable. And to have a clean, well-kept town without the crime and poverty of larger cities, it’s worth it.

So when you come to Uruguay looking for property bargains, remember that the best of the “bargains” may be in Uruguay’s most expensive corner.

I’ll share full details of these properties…and everything else you need to know about Uruguay at the Live and Invest in Uruguay E-Conference. Find out more, including how to get the biggest discounts, here.

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