The Hamptons of South America for Less Than $150,000

Punta del Este, Uruguay, is to South America what the Hamptons are to North America and Saint-Tropez is to Europe. It’s a picturesque beach town that buzzes with vacationers and activity during the summer high season. And over the last decade, Punta del Este is growing in popularity as an expat haven.

As you’d expect in a beach town where polo, yachting, and fashion are big, Punta del Este can be expensive. But, it doesn’t have to be. As you will see, with a little understanding of the real estate market, combined with a simple lifestyle, you can enjoy an active and interesting life here for much less than you might think.

Living full time in Punta del Este has a seasonal rhythm. Because it’s in the Southern Hemisphere, January and February are summer months when hundreds of thousands of vacationers come. After the excitement of summer, the 30,000 fulltime residents get a quiet and peaceful Punta del Este back to themselves.

Punta del Este is the name of the peninsula where the resort development in this area began. Over the years, the resort growth expanded beyond the peninsula, both west and east along the coast. Today you’ll find 40 miles of coastal development often referred to as ”Punta.”

Just inland of Punta del Este is the adjoining middle-class city of Maldonado (population around 65,000). Many in Maldonado have tourism-related jobs: working in restaurants, hotels, and full-service condo towers. Or working in construction, property management, or providing property maintenance.

Parts of Punta have 18-story residential towers, other areas are zoned for four- and five-story condos, and other areas are comprised of single-family homes.

A Little Known Secret…

Unlike North America, Latin American real estate buyers in Punta del Este often place a greater importance on newness and style than on location. Because of this, you can often find great deals on apartments that are a little older, smaller, or need some work in some of Punta’s most coveted neighborhoods.

While there are many large newer apartments priced from $400,000 to several million dollars, with a little looking you’ll find places for less than $150,000—like a one-bedroom apartment I came across for sale in a prime location in a landmark building in an ideal Peninsula location for just $135,000.

This location is just a block from the beach and from Gorlero Avenue, Punta del Este’s main street. It’s within walking distance of the marina where people from many parts of Punta come on Sundays to watch the sunset.

When you live on the Peninsula, you may find it unnecessary to own a car. Everything you need on a regular basis, like a grocery market, hardware store, or pharmacy, is within a few blocks. For other needs, there is a convenient city bus service. In Punta, many businesses, including most grocery stores, provide a home delivery service. So, if you buy more than you want to carry, it’s not a problem.

You’ll find plenty of luxury single-family homes and estates priced over $1 million. However, the majority of single-family homes in Punta del Este are priced much less—between $200,000 and $500,000. 

One of the most preferred neighborhoods of single-family homes for year-round living is called Pinares. It’s about four-and-a-half miles west of the Punta del Este Peninsula. While the quality homes here look and feel like a typical Punta del Este suburban resort development, it’s technically a part of an annexation to the City of Maldonado. So, the home prices and property taxes can be a little lower. 

Here, you’ll find homes such as a three-bedroom two-bathroom single-level home for $250,000. Homes like this include hardwood window frames, doors, and cabinets, as well as open-beam ceilings. Some come with fenced yards, swimming pools, and BBQ areas perfect for enjoying summer days with your family and friends.

You can walk or ride your bike the seven blocks to a popular sand beach. And Pinares is not far from the markets, businesses, and restaurants of Maldonado’s Centro. This property, like many properties in Punta, is offered for sale fully furnished and equipped.

As mentioned, once you find the right home in Punta it’s possible to live a healthy and active lifestyle that is also affordable. You do this by shopping at the farmer’s market where you find the freshest and best produce at the lowest price. You’ll buy just-caught fish directly from fishermen at the marina.

For outdoor activity, you’ll choose among options like walking, cycling, volleyball, tennis, or surfing in the sea. You can meet friends at the beach and as well as attend one of the many free outdoor concerts during the summer.

And after you learn a little Spanish, you can get active in the Maldonado community center. There, you can choose from a selection of free classes, including yoga and music lessons.

Another plus of owning a property in Punta del Este is the bustling rental market. Because Punta is such a popular vacation area, some expats will offer their apartment or home for rent during January and or February. Doing this, they can often earn enough in one or two months to pay all their property’s ownership costs for the full year, which can make living in Punta del Este even more affordable.


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