Granada, Nicaragua: The Best City to Pick Up a Spanish Colonial Home

If you’ve ever dreamed of living abroad in a Spanish colonial home, you won’t find a better place in the Americas than Granada, Nicaragua.

If you’re not familiar with this style of home, the façade of the house (as seen from the street) is often plain and featureless…and they’re usually built against the adjacent homes in town, with no space in between.

So you have to venture inside to see the full splendor of this home style. A typical Spanish colonial has its rooms built around a center courtyard. The courtyard is the oasis of the home, often providing greenery and lush plant life… as well as allowing sunshine and fresh air into the house.

There are Spanish colonial homes throughout the Americas, including the U.S. (I saw my very first one in New Orleans.) But there are a few things about Granada that set it apart from most anywhere else.

The houses are relatively small and manageable when compared to the giant colonials I’ve seen in other places. This makes them well-suited to a single person, a couple, or a small family.

And colonials in Granada often have courtyard pools… something that’s rare in my experience. When you think about it, there’s no more tropical and relaxing experience than having a lush courtyard and sparkling pool, right in the center of your home.

The prices for colonials are low when compared to most cities in Latin America… and Granada offers a strong demand for rentals of these homes. So it’s a good place to invest in a colonial, with a chance to earn rental income.

I looked at a dozen or so of these properties here, all for under $200,000…considerably less for the ones that need some work.

Prices dropped in Granada during the recent recession. And in fact, the prices I saw on this trip were virtually the same as those I saw way back in 2004. So I see today’s Granada as a good opportunity for those who missed out in the early days of Nicaragua’s expat migration.

What’s more, today’s buyers have an advantage over those early buyers from years ago. Today, we know Granada’s potential; we know it turned into a super expat destination and a great property market…something they couldn’t have known for sure back then.

Best of all, Granada is simply a great place to live. One of the Americas’ oldest cities, it’s completely walkable, with everything close at hand. There’s a well-established and upbeat expat community in residence, which has helped to bring a wide array of amenities to town, including boutique hotels, great restaurants, shops, cafes and bars.

And since Granada is located on the banks of the giant Lake Nicaragua, the boating, swimming and sunning enthusiasts are not left out, either. The international airport is only 45 minutes away, where you’ll find convenient nonstop flights to Miami, Houston and Atlanta.

My only caution is that the inventory of available colonials is fairly low, and very few new ones are coming onto the market.

So if you find the old Spanish-colonial lifestyle appealing, I’d head to Granada sooner rather than later. With the renewed attention that Granada is getting these days, I think the existing homes of this style will be bought up quickly, after which you’ll see prices start to climb again.

Editor’s note: See Lee’s full report on Nicaragua’s colonial homes from $145,000 in the current issue of International Living magazine.

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