Now that Nicaragua has achieved almost 20 years as a functioning democracy and with a vibrant tourist industry it is beginning to attract the attention of property investors. The leading tourist attractions – Granada, Leon, San Juan del Sur, the Corn Islands – give pointers to property opportunities within the country.
Leon and Granada used to be the important centres in colonial times but are now dwarfed by the compromise capital, Managua, with its population of 1.6m. Available real estate tends to be relatively cheap but in need of complete renovation. Much is written about the charm of Granada but less about the attractions of living there for a longer period of time. It is estimated that the city has a 1,000 strong community of American expatriates.
The Pacific coast, relatively close to the main centre of population, has considerable development in places. The centre of the region’s tourism industry is San Juan del Sur (pop. 18,500) and there are plenty of holiday properties for sale in its vicinity as well as an even larger number of plots available for development. Also on the Pacific Coast is the site of the country’s most prestigious tourist development to-date, Seaside Mariana Spa, complete with Jack Niklaus golf course which will ‘put the country firmly on the high-end resort destination map.’ Close to San Juan del Sur is Balcones de Majagual, an eco-friendly development close by Morgan’s Rock hotel.
With the exception of the Caribbean coast (see below) most of Nicaragua’s attractions are very accessible from Managua. Coldwell Banker claim excellent rental yields for the capital (10-12 % for apartments).
The Corn Islands (Islas del Maiz – pop. 8,000), Big Corn and Little Corn are 70 km off Nicaragua’s Caribbean coast and are becoming popular destinations owing to the opportunities to dive among coral reefs. Big Corn can be reached by air from Managua. Opportunities on the Corn Islands seem mainly restricted to land available for purchase and development. Big Corn has something of a reputation for drug trafficking and related crime. Possibly, the real investment secret of the Caribbean coast may be the mainland once the government puts money into the region’s infrastructure. There are substantial tax incentives for anyone investing in tourism in this area.
For the overseas investor Nicaragua offers a relatively straightforward property purchase procedure (allowing that bribery is often necessary in official transactions) but for the time being the real estate market seems to be somewhat speculative. A lot could depend upon the speed with which the country’s infrastructure and utilities improve. San Juan del Sur in particular should share in the development opportunities of the north west Pacific coast of neighbouring Costa Rica; the frontier is only about 30 km from the town. In stable, prosperous Costa Rica residential property prices in tourist areas are a lot higher than in Nicaragua.