Barry suggested that I share my experience in buying and rehabbing a small villa in Cabrera with you. Probably, like you, I am new to this whole game of offshore living and owing foreign real estate. Like many of the Americans and Canadians that visit the North Coast of the Dominican Republic, and Cabrera, we fell in love with the dream of owning our own little piece of this tropical paradise. I guess there were four main factors that nudged us into our decision to finally go ahead and purchase a property in the Cabrera area. These included:
No financial markets keep rising without a major correction and we decided that at our age we were better off moving some of our assets into alternative investments, rather than riding through another 2008-style crash, or worse. Sort of a “bird in the hand is better than two in the bush” thinking. We felt that holding part of our savings in the form of tropical real estate with a very, very low carrying cost was one way to take some of the risk off the table.
We enjoy the slower pace, tropical flavor and friendly people we have experienced in this part of the Caribbean. We like being up on the cliffside with the almost constant breezes, yet just a very short ride to 7 of the most breathtaking, uncrowded beaches. We like the year-round availability of bargain priced fresh seafood and organic fruits and vegetables. We enjoy meeting new people exploring the North Coast, so we also like having a two bed room on-site rental/guest apartment right on the property. And finally, we enjoy exploring different parts of the island. This island is huge and the variety and scenery is impressive.
We were interested in appreciation potential. We preferred an area that is not always congested with tourists yet has a solid base of upscale properties and some trappings of prosperity. Cabrera certainly fits that profile, with numerous multi-million dollar villas and relatively upscale residential areas and a reasonable mix of American, Canadian and European full and part-time expats. You do not have to search far if you are interested in luxury Cabrera villa rentals in the $3,000 to $30,000 per week range. There are plenty of them. We also liked the fact that just a few miles away, the Aman resort development group and their partners are in a full scale development of over 7 miles (2000 acres) of unspoiled coastline in the Playa Grande development. From the world-class Trent Jones designed Playa Grande Golf Club, to hotels, cottages and million dollar villa homesites….. this is a MAJOR resort development that can only result in appreciation of properties in the nearby Cabrera community.
Being bargain hunters at heart, we were impressed that there were a few bargain properties to be had. For us, that turned out to be a fixer-upper that had languished through several years of neglect. This property had been listed at $420,000 at its peak, only a few years ago, but due to relative neglect was allowed to fall into disrepair. Barry and his team (specifically Denise) were able to negotiate the property down to a very, very favorable price that allowed plenty of room for whatever repairs and improvements we wanted.
The great thing about the concrete construction that the builders favor in Cabrera… it is always possible to find qualified contractors to tackle a job like our renovation. It is amazing what can be done for very little money when you have a good local contractor… and that is what Part 2 of this story is about. We will dig into the renovations, the budgets and the experience of a gringo tackling a fairly significant renovation project in Cabrera.
What is amazing to us is how this project went compared to construction projects we have tackled in the US. I mean, what are the odds of a successful outcome when we speak only English and a dozen words of social Spanish. That’s it. We hired a Croatian builder that speaks 5 languages but absolutely minimal English. We even communicated mostly by email remotely with much of the work done while we were outside the Dominican Republic. His crew and subcontractors all speak Spanish or French, so even when we were onsite, communications were pretty limited. If anything could go wrong… surely it would. Standby for Part 2 and we will give you the blow by blow of our Gringo rehab project in Cabrera.
As we have worked more closely with Barry, we have also learned a lot more about the new construction opportunities in Cabrera, as low as $55 per foot for nice looking construction. We still think we got a great deal on our fixer-upper, but after seeing how inexpensive new construction can be in Cabrera, I suspect we would have to go the new construction route if we were doing it again. A little more about that in Part 3 of this little story. I hope you will check out all three parts, I think it may be helpful if you are at all serious (or even curious) about owning an offshore home.