The Perception Gap on Colombia and Why It’s a Very Good Thing

The Perception Gap on Colombia and Why It’s a Very Good Thing

It is not really a secret anymore that Colombia offers tremendous opportunities.

It checks a lot of international diversification boxes.

Specifically, Colombia offers: 1) a relatively easy path to legal residency, 2) compelling real estate values (foreign real estate is an excellent way to diversify some of your savings abroad into a hard asset), and most notably, 3) an incredibly high quality of life at a low cost that makes it an ideal lifestyle locale.

The key to Colombia’s high quality and low costs rests with the wide gap between what the average person perceives Colombia to be and what it is actually like.

When the average person hears “Colombia” they think about drugs, violence, and Hollywood movies. The reality today, however, is so far removed from all of that. It’s an enormous misperception and is actually a blessing in disguise, as it helps keep prices down.

It’s an opportunity that will not last forever, as the word is increasingly getting out.

To get more on what Colombia offers I turned to my friend Anthony Wile, chief investment strategist of High Alert Investment Management as well as the founder and former chief editor of The Daily Bell.

Anthony has been deeply involved in Colombia for over 12 years. It’s my pleasure to bring you his informed perspective, which you’ll find below.

Until next time,

Nick Giambruno
Senior Editor
INTERNATIONALMAN.com


Nick Giambruno: How did you become interested in Colombia?

Anthony Wile: The same thing that draws me to any place in the world—the opportunity that it presents at the time. Anyone who knows Colombia at all recognizes that there’s a deep and rich tradition that is primarily related to the natural resource industry. Colombia has for a long time been one of the more dominant countries in Latin America for opportunities in anything from gold, copper, base metals, even oil and gas.

And back in the early 2000s, when things were changing and Álvaro Uribe was brought in as president, it was quite clear if you were listening that there was going to be positive change that would open up avenues for opportunity. That’s why we decided to get involved in the mining sector. It turned out to be a very wise bet.

Nick: How was living in Colombia?

Anthony: I started spending time in Colombia in the early 2000s. At the time I was living in the southern US and Colombia was very easy to get to. From Miami, it is literally less than a three-hour flight so it is an easily accessible country.

In many cases it was just in one day and out the next. And over time, I started to really fall in love with the country itself, the landscape, the natural beauty and the people who live there. There are just tremendous people living in Colombia, and in particular in the Medellín area, which is where I spend and have spent most of my time.

This is not to say I haven’t traveled throughout the country because I certainly have and I appreciate the variability of the country to a large degree as well, because it really does offer a lot of different microclimates. You can pretty much avail yourself of whatever you are looking for there, the beaches in Cartagena are tremendous. I really encourage people to take a look at Cartagena as a travel destination for vacations. For people who live in Colombia, Cartagena is just a regular weekend place to go and it’s very inexpensive to fly internally in the country. We took our family this past Christmas and spent the holiday in Cartagena and had just a fabulous time—great restaurants, really safe environment, and friendly people. I’ve nothing but fantastic things to say about it and I’ve been to Cartagena 30 times, maybe more, during the various times that I’ve been in Colombia and I always encourage people to take some time to visit it.

While Cartagena is incredible, it’s the mountainous areas of Medellín that I just find the most tranquil, peaceful, and naturally beautiful place to be. It’s in that surrounding area where coffee and other agricultural crops are grown. For anyone who appreciates natural beauty, it’s a must.

Nick: Probably the first thing that the average person on the street thinks of when Colombia is mentioned is drug cartels, violence, and Hollywood movies. While this perception is inaccurate today, it seems to help keep things in Colombia cheap, as the average person has an unjustified fear of the place. What do you think of this perception gap and the arbitrage opportunities it presents?

Anthony: Clearly there have been some time periods in Colombia with terrible internal conflict and, of course, everyone knows the history of the cocaine business and where Colombia fit into that. So this perception was justified in the past.

Before judging what Colombia has become today, I would encourage people to go to the South Side of Chicago or East St. Louis and take a look around or even take a cruise down Bourbon Street in New Orleans and then hop off the plane in Colombia and take a look around with your eyes open and see what the reality actually is.

If you find yourself getting into trouble in Colombia it’s because you didn’t listen to what other people said with respect to the areas that you probably shouldn’t go into. I’ve been going to Colombia for 12 years and I have yet to see a single problem of any kind. Unless you are a belligerent or arrogant person, you are going to find a population of people with arms wide open.

Think about going to Chicago, when you go there, no one at the concierge desk is going to suggest you take a trip down to the South Side of Chicago and walk around at 10 o’clock at night. And in Medellín or any other major city of the world, yes, there are still areas that you shouldn’t be going into.

So come to Colombia and see for yourself. The country is the best kept secret in the world, as far as I’m concerned. But it won’t be for long. Already there are Europeans from Switzerland and Germany in particular that are coming into Colombia and recognizing the very low price point at which you can access literally a piece of heaven. I mean, it truly feels that way when you are out in those mountains and just looking around and feeling the fresh air and the hospitality of the people, the abundance of naturally grown and harvested fruits and vegetables, and grass-fed and naturally raised livestock and poultry.

Nick: I think there is a silver lining to this misperception that the average person has about Colombia because it gives investors the opportunity to get in on the cheap. Would you agree with that?

Anthony: One hundred percent. There is no question about that.

Nick: Why is Medellín special?

Anthony: Medellín really is a fantastic, vibrant city. It’s a city of almost four million people, and over the course of the past seven or eight years, the amount of new construction, of revitalization throughout that entire city, has been staggering.

There are a lot of international companies that are present in Medellín. They go there because of the labor force, which is a hard-working group of people who wake up in the morning looking to be better tomorrow than they were yesterday.

There are world-class restaurants and world-class shopping for those that are into such things. All the produce that you need is available within the country.

Medellín is referred to as “the City of Eternal Spring,” meaning that it is 75 to 85 degrees during the daytime all year round during the day, and at night it gets down into the high 60s and low 70s. You don’t need a heater in the winter or an air conditioner in the summer. In any case, electricity is not a problem. The Medellín region is the dominant producer of hydroelectricity in the country, a lot of which gets exported to neighboring countries. Since Medellín is self-sufficient in electricity and food you can be assured there isn’t going to be a disruption.

And then when you do step out of your door, you have literally five-star gyms, movie theaters and theme parks for the kids to go to and play in the water parks or whatever it might be, botanical gardens, museums to tour—it’s all there. And at any time you can get on a plane and in 45 minutes be in Cartagena on the beach. From a lifestyle perspective, I don’t think it gets any better.

Nick: Tell us about the Terra Viva international community that is located near Medellín.

Anthony: Terra Viva is a project that we’re developing. It is located literally on the doorstep of what is called Cerro Tusa, where there is a very famous natural pyramid that is pictured as the backdrop for the Juan Valdez coffee. If you ever see the label for Juan Valdez coffee, you will see this pyramid-shaped mountain. That’s Cerro Tusa, and it is an amazing experience to see this firsthand. This is a very mountainous area with deep valleys and rivers. The scenery is breathtaking.

After coming to Colombia for so long I have come to know some of the prominent families there—the ones that tend to make the right decisions and know what is happening from a government perspective. So I don’t think it is a big accident that they became very large landholders in the regions outside of Medellín and subsequently the government announced a $1.7 billion divided highway project. Once this highway is completed it will shorten the driving time from Terra Viva to Medellín from about an hour and a half to about 45 minutes. So I think this is fortunate for investors who are buying land, which of course, I have for my family in this community.

For the Terra Viva community we are not building a golf course. We are not asking anybody to live in this community to support someone else’s lifestyle. In other words, if you want to golf, you can do that, but it won’t be subsidized by the community. Terra Viva has a premise at its core that we are going to build a community with lots of good infrastructure, but it will be a pay-as-you-go kind of a structure, so to speak, so that we can keep the costs associated with running the community very low—and we can because the labor costs in the area are extremely low.

We are creating a community that is really kind of an invite only. It’s not just about walking in and saying, “Hey, I want a lot and here’s a check.” It’s not working that way. It’s a small community of about 120 homes and condos with good-sized lots, on average about a hectare, so a little over two acres per lot.

It is about having a lifestyle that is centered on the natural atmosphere with the mountains, jungle, and agriculture. It’s very much about peace, tranquility, and enjoying life in its finest way in terms of overall living. That is really what this community is about.

Nick: Besides being a hard asset that is literally impossible for your home government to seize, foreign real estate sometimes offers residency benefits. Is that the case with Colombia?

Anthony: The Terra Viva project is not just about obtaining a piece of land with a beautiful high-quality home on it that is very inexpensive to build. It is also about obtaining residency in Colombia, which you can do for a real estate investment of as little as $200,000. So you are also solving a problem that you should solve in your life and that is having that backdoor, hip-pocket place in the world to go in a time of crisis and a place that you can use and enjoy now as a great place to live and spend your time.

Nick: I think it’s clear that Colombia checks a lot of international diversification boxes, which is why I am thrilled to be joining you there in Medellín in May. It will be a fantastic opportunity to learn more about Colombia and see Terra Viva. Why don’t you tell us a little more about this opportunity?

Anthony: If anyone would like to attend a private gathering in May to visit the property, it will be an early-bird opportunity to select from the broad array of properties—all of which have exceptional views. You can also find out about other investment opportunities in Colombia. Jim Rogers will be joining us along with Ron Holland, and you as well, Nick. For more information, send an email to us at Info@TerraViva-Colombia.com.

The bottom line is my wife and children and I just spent four wonderful days horseback riding, swimming, playing outdoor sports, and generally basking in the natural beauty and tranquility offered in this tremendous corner of the world. I think anyone who cherishes quality of life will find it as hard to leave as we do when we pack up and head back to Canada. In fact, one day, I may just not bother packing... to leave, that is.

Nick: Anthony, thank you for your time and insight, and I look forward to seeing you in Medellín soon.

Anthony: My pleasure.

If you would like to learn more about securing a second home, please check out the special video report, “Your Second Home in a Second Country,” at TheDailyBell.com for more details. And for more details on Terra Viva, send an email to Info@TerraViva-Colombia.com.

Tags: lifestyle ,foreign residency ,foreign real estate ,colombia

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