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Affordable Properties in the Best Areas of Punta del Este, Uruguay

Affordable Properties in the Best Areas of Punta del Este, Uruguay

Across from the beach near Avenida Roosevelt, where I ride my bike to the mall, is the completed sales office for Trump Tower Punta del Este. Construction is scheduled to start in June. Prices for condos start at $700,000, and the sales people say “it will redefine what is meant by luxury living.”

Now, I’ve lived in Punta del Este for six years, and that’s hard to believe. Punta del Este, less than two hours from Uruguay’s elegant capital of Montevideo, has long been the most fashionable beach resort in South America.

An apartment sold here a few years back for $7.2 million—making Trump’s new tower, where prices stop at $2.5 million, seem a bargain. But even that’s way too much to pay. Because, believe it or not, you can still find a nice condo in a coveted Punta del Este neighborhood for less than $150,000. There’s a secret to buying affordably here.

And it’s simple. Folks from North America determine a property’s value by three factors: location, location, location. But in Punta del Este’s condo market, a property’s location is less important.

For locals and other Latin- American buyers, how new a unit is, the size and style, and building services generally have a greater weight in the value than they do in North America. This can mean a lower entry price in premium neighborhoods than you would expect. This is especially true in areas with a large inventory of condominiums that are a little older, a little smaller, need a little updating, or don’t have many building services.

In Punta del Este it’s possible to find good condos in older, well-maintained and -managed buildings for less than $150,000 in the same neighborhood as larger units in newer buildings that sell for between $400,000 and several million dollars. And that’s with the same beaches, parks, markets, and high level of safety on the street.

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About Punta del Este

Punta del Este’s resort development started on the peninsula that forms the east point (Punta del Este) of Maldonado Bay. Over the last 50 years it has expanded off the peninsula in both directions along the coast. Today Punta del Este (or “Punta” for short) often refers to many miles of coastal development that includes the original Punta del Este Peninsula. Besides forming the east point of Maldonado Bay, the peninsula is the official dividing line where the Atlantic Ocean ends and the Río de la Plata (River of Silver) begins.

The long beach extending east from the peninsula along the Atlantic Ocean, where there are more waves and currents, is called Playa Brava ( fierce or wild beach). The long stretch of riverfront beach extending west from the peninsula is called the Playa Mansa (calm or tame beach).

Punta has a year-round population of approximately 20,000. That figure jumps to 500,000 during the southern hemisphere’s summer months of January and February. Most of the vacationers who come to Punta del Este are from Argentina and Brazil.

However, there has always been a contingent from North America and Europe who come to enjoy a bit of summer in January. In the 1950s and ‘60s, Frank Sinatra, Yul Brynner, Ingmar Bergman, and Brigitte Bardot were among those who came to unwind in Punta del Este.  These days the vacationers include actors and entertainers like Bruce Willis and Mick Jagger.

Where to Find Bargain Properties in Punta del Este

The Punta del Este Peninsula is the most active community in Punta, with many newer and larger condos priced from $400,000 to over $1 million. Because this is where the resort began, there are many well-kept older buildings in this excellent location, making it one of the best places to find a bargain property.

The peninsula is the location of Punta’s main avenue, Punta’s main plaza—where there is an artisans’ fair—and Punta’s most prestigious fashion district. The peninsula is also where you’ll find the Punta del Este Marina, the highest concentration of celebrated restaurants, and some of Punta’s most renowned nightspots.

At the base of the peninsula is one of Punta’s most famous beaches, with the iconic statue of a hand reaching out of the sand. The Peninsula is where people from all over Punta del Este and Maldonado come to watch the sunset on Sunday evenings. You’ll find frequent firework displays and free street entertainment.

Last March I decided to go for an evening walk on the peninsula’s main avenue and get an ice cream. As I came to the main plaza, I happened upon a full orchestra in formal dress set up to play for passers-by. Year-round living on the peninsula has a lot of pluses. In addition to the fashion and designer shops, there are markets, hardware stores, pharmacies, and banks. Everything one needs on a regular basis is open year-round and within walking distance, making it an easy place to get by without a car.

Most of the condo units are in residential towers up to 18 stories high and in four-story, low-rise buildings. The towers usually have more amenities and services. One property for sale that captured my attention is located just a block from the marina, where there are many good restaurants, nightspots, and a boardwalk. (In fact, it is across from a new condominium building, with large units that recently sold for over $1 million each, which fronts the Marina.)

The condo for sale is in a tower constructed in 1968. It’s shipshape and the lobby has nice touches like dark hardwood doors and brass trim. The services include WiFi, building maintenance, a 24-hour porter, and maid service. The apartment is being sold by the owner completely furnished and includes a plasma TV, remote-control lighting, and a fully-equipped kitchen for $128,000.

Another Punta neighborhood with condominiums available for less than $150,000 is called Aidy Grill. It is located near the peninsula but is quieter and more sheltered from the wind. It extends to Playa Brava and has a nice park, where I often see large flocks of parrots. There are several new buildings under construction in this area, with many units priced over $400,000.

However, there are also units in older, low-rise buildings for a lot less. One is a cozy 323-square-foot, remodeled studio apartment. It’s in a building constructed in 1980, with parking on the ground floor, two floors of condominium units, and a community barbecue area. It has laminate floors, large closets, and access to the terrace.

It is close to the beach and comes with a parking place—all for $82,000. Another area with condos for $150,000 or less is Playa Mansa. Playa Mansa is where you’ll find calmer, more sheltered beaches. There are beach volleyball courts with regular tournaments during the summer, as well as beach cafés and a recreational area for kids.

The neighborhoods along Playa Mansa have single-family homes and low-rise condominiums, as well as a scattering of residential towers. The area has a suburban feel, yet it is just a short drive to the center of Maldonado, where there are markets, shopping, and family dining. There are some newer residential towers in Playa Mansa with units that sold for more than $1 million—some for more than $2 million.

However, some condo units in this same group of neighborhoods are listed for $150,000 or less. For example, a 538-square-foot, two-bedroom apartment is listed for $140,000. It is in a low-rise building on a street that also has single-family homes. It has a terrace with a barbecue area, comes with a parking place, and is just a few blocks from the beach.

When I first came to Punta del Este to look for a home, this loophole seemed too good to be true. I purchased an affordable apartment in an older but very well-maintained and -managed building on the Punta del Este Peninsula in 2006. If there’s a catch to it, I am still waiting to learn what it is.

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