The real estate market in Central America: In graphics

Whether you’re in the market for real estate in Central America, or you are selling, market data matters more than ever.  Without data how can you determine fair value, track where the market is heading or feel confident that you are making the right investment decision?  Trouble is, in Central America market data and comps are not readily available from property institutes, registries or central bank databases.

To try and fill this data gap, we’ve collected data from real estate developments in Panama, Costa Rica, Nicaragua and Belize and put this information online.  As part of our research we also collected country-level indicators that shed light on the investment climate.   Here are some highlights from what we have found:

Real estate developments targeting the international buyer

Costa Rica has the largest number of real estate developments that target the international investor, with 34% of the total in our database.  No surprise really.  It’s been on the international real estate map for longest.  Panama follows close behind.  This is largely due to the explosion in condo projects in recent years in the capital city selling Panama apartments.

Nicaragua real estate developments


The price for an ocean view condo

The order from most expensive to least expensive country to buy an ocean view condo is Costa Rica – Belize – Panama – Nicaragua.  The data looks at median price per sq.ft.

The ordering is what you would expect given the different levels of maturity of the markets and level of infrastructure. But did you think the differential between Costa Rica and the other countries would be greater?  We did.

The average size for an ocean view condo in Costa Rica tends to be larger than in other countries, which may explain part of this.  Click here for a more in depth review of Belize condos. We’ll be publishing more data in later posts to dig into the comparatives further.

Nicaragua price ocean view condo

Internet searches on Google

There were more searches for ‘Costa Rica real estate’ on Google than for ‘Panama real estate’, ‘Belize real estate’ and ‘Nicaragua real estate’ combined.  We predicted the order, but again were surprized by the differential between Costa Rica and the other countries – this time in the other direction.

retire nicaragua searches

Cost of living

Nicaragua stands out as offering the lowest cost of living.   Using purchasing-power-parity (PPP) data we can determine what US$1,000 ‘adds up’ to in different countries.  In the US $1,000 has the purchasing power of $1,000, but in Nicaragua it has a purchasing power equivalent to $2,629.   We have to be careful not to draw too much from these averages as they don’t apply to all product categories.  But for day-to-day goods and services your dollar will stretch further in all four countries than in the US.

cost of living nicaragua

Completed golf courses

There are several golf courses planned or under construction in the region. At least 3 in Nicaragua and 3 in Panama.  The data below is for completed golf courses that can be played on.  Before seeing the data, would you have guessed that there would be more than 2 completed golf courses in Nicaragua?   See more on golf property.

nicaragua golf courses

What’s your reaction to this data.  Any surprises for you?