Canadians & Surfers — deal finders!
In nature, there are interesting indicators of future events. Animals behave oddly prior to a natural disaster, certain bugs in your garden can indicate a good harvest, red sky at night = sailor’s delight, and so forth. After a decade in Costa Rica and six years in Panama, I have formed my own predictive theory: If you want to know where to invest in real estate, simply follow Canadians and surfers.
One could write books about the differences between Canadians and Americans, or to be more politically correct, United Statesians. Because I am lazy and rarely known to be politically correct, I will henceforth refer to natives of the U.S. as “Americans”. That in itself is not a very Canadian thing to do. I grew up near the Canadian border in rural Pennsylvania, so I had a good bit of exposure to our polite brethren to the north. To most foreigners, the differences are so subtle that it difficult to distinguish the two nationalities. One could dedicate several books to those differences, but what I’ve found particularly interesting is that American Gringos and Canadian Gringos congregate in very different places when living or retiring in Costa Rica and Panama. Whereas Americans gravitate to gated communities, modern conveniences and other expats, Canadians are more willing to avoid the crowds, live among locals and forego modern living…especially if it means lower prices. Most real estate agents will tell you that Canadians on average, tend to be very thrifty shoppers, but I would argue that for investors looking for deals, if you find a handful of Canadians in what seems like an otherwise inconspicuous investment locale, it’s probably an area that’s about to become popular. If you can get in at the right time, usually while it’s still a little raw and underpriced, you may see upside when the American crowd piles in and drives up prices. Where are the Canadians settling today in Panama? They tend to find off the beaten track towns like Penonome (Cocle), Cerro Azul (east of Panama City) and Pocri (Los Santos). And in case any Canadians are reading — Shameless Plug Alert! – my friend has a house for sale near the beach in Pocri for under $90k!
Surfers are a unique breed. There are not many sports that become lifestyles to the degree of surfing. It’s a sport, a culture and a religion of sorts. And in my opinion, like Candians, surfers are great indicators of future growth in a region. Surfers will go anywhere, ANYWHERE that there is great surf. They do not care how far it is, how awful the roads nor how limited the infrastructure. Just ask a car rental agency what type of customers they fear the most. The answer will be as instant as it is unanimous: SURFERS. Yes, these destroyers of rental vehicles are notorious for trekking over miles of unpaved roads in Toyota Yaris in search of big waves and zero crowds. Like Canadians, the are not afraid to rough it, to be ahead of the curve or to sleep in a tent with only bananas for sustenance.
Great surf spots often become major tourist attractions years down the road, in great part because the dynamics of what make a beautiful, surf-able wave often make for beautiful, picturesque beaches. Just think about these famous beach towns for a second:
Tamarindo, Costa Rica
Huntington Beach, California
Gold Coast, Australia
What do they all have in common?
a. Surfers were there before you heard of them
b. They were once cheap places to buy real estate
c. Now they ain’t
Like Canadians, if you can get to a spot that surfers have discovered BEFORE the crowds of boring, non-surfing, sunburned tourists arrive, you may just able to snag a bargain. In Panama, surfers are going to remote places like Playa Venao, Cambutal and Santa Catalina.
I’m not guaranteeing you’ll get rich with my formula, but more often than not, these two groups are able to spot the hidden potential of remote areas long before mom and pop start buying condos. So keep your ears open for “ehs” and “bros” next time you’re in a remote bar in Panama. You might just be sitting in the location of the next tourism or retirement hot spot.
|Written by Casey Halloran|
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Filed under: Real Estate on October 29th, 2010