NYT described Santiago as a "charming" city
Chile, especially its capital, Santiago, can be appealing to anyone who values clean streets, efficient public transportation and honorable law enforcement.
“I lived in Argentina for two years and the economic turmoil there can be unbearable,” said Kristina Schreck, who was born in California. “But in Chile, the economy is solid and the country is safe.”
Ms. Schreck, who owns a Santiago public relations firm, Azure, moved to Chile in 1998 on a four-month sabbatical and never left, even heading the Chile tourism board’s media relations department at one point. “I stayed in Chile because at the time I saw a lot of opportunity here,” she said. “I still see a lot of opportunity.”
In 2011, Ms. Schreck and her husband began searching for a home in Providencia, a neighborhood near the center of Santiago. “There are many lovely old homes and apartments in Providencia,” she said, “and we felt that downtown was too hectic and scrappy and Las Condes, farther uptown, was too antiseptic.”
They bought a three-bedroom apartment in February 2011 for 80 million Chilean pesos, or about $169,000, and invested the equivalent of $10,000 in renovations.
“I love the beautiful parquet floors and that the back rooms look out over the patio of a church and its lush gardens, and that I can see the Andes from my home office window,” Ms. Schreck said. “The location is ideal, close to the Metro and across the street from the Parque Forestal, a farmer’s market and the Mapocho River.”
In the last two years property values have risen sharply in Santiago. Ms. Schreck says she and her husband could now sell the apartment, which covers 160 square meters, or 1,722 square feet, for about 140 million Chilean pesos, based the recent sale prices of some smaller properties in the neighborhood.
The city’s real estate market has performed well, despite a short dip after the 2008 global downturn, said Matt Ridgway, who owns Chile Investments, a real estate agency that specializes in vineyard properties south of the capital and restored historic houses in Santiago and the coastal city of Valparaiso.
“Prices rebounded quickly, though, and have risen very fast, 10 to 20 percent per year, since,” Mr. Ridgway said.
Victor Danús Ríos, regional director of the real estate company Re/Max Chile, said the country’s economic, political and social stability in recent years has helped generate growth.
“Coupled with good action taken by financial authorities, this has allowed a very positive outcome to the global crisis,” he said, noting that in December, Christine Lagarde, managing director of the International Monetary Fund, recognized the country’s strong economy. He added that foreigners considered Chile to be a safe haven for investment, particularly in mining and agriculture, so real estate sales — especially to Russians, Venezuelans and Argentines — have increased noticeably in recent years.
Colombians, Bolivians, Peruvians and others from the region have long flocked to Santiago for a better standard of living, and there have been many North Americans and Europeans who have come to Chile on business and decided to stay or have returned later to buy second homes. A foreigner does not need to be a full-time resident to buy property but is required to have a tax identification number and to hire legal representation for the transaction.
While there are no official data on home sales to foreigners, evidence of the city’s English-speaking residents is easy to find on Santiago’s streets: restaurants like California Cantina and a half-dozen British pubs; Szot, a microbrewery owned by an expatriate from California; and an English-language newspaper.
The environmental allure is not difficult to understand. Chile’s capital, which has about five million residents, is a short drive from ski resorts in the Andes and the beaches of the Pacific coast. The snow-capped mountain peaks to the east of the city can be seen on clear days, while the Mediterranean-like climate is ideal for growing grapes. Some of the world’s best-known vineyards are within the Santiago metropolitan area.
Most foreigners moving to Chile base themselves in the capital. (Arturo Merino Benítez International Airport, 16 kilometers, or 10 miles, from the city center, has direct connections to most major North American and European cities.) But unlike other similarly sized cities in South America, where quality housing tends to be concentrated in just a few locations, upper-end homes are found in many parts of Santiago.
Families tend to prefer the more suburban feel of northern districts like Las Condes and Vitacura, where brick and stucco houses are the norm. Young couples and singles like to be in more lively districts closer to the city center, like Providencia or Bellavista, where high-rise apartment buildings, most of which are five to 20 stories tall, are more common.
Most apartment buildings are modern builds and, because of the occasional earthquake, all structures must meet strict local regulations. Some older structures, like the 1920s-era townhouses in the Bellas Artes/Lastarria district, still can be found, although they are rapidly being demolished to make way for new developments.
“The rise in the value of land in Greater Santiago has reached 257 percent in 10 years,” Mr. Danús Ríos said.
He noted that prices for new properties tended to be about 20 percent higher per square meter than resales. In central Santiago, he continued, sales averaged 798,000 pesos per square meter, or $158 per square foot, while Providencia averaged 1.48 million pesos per square meter and Las Condes 3.76 million pesos per square meter.
Properties now on the market in Santiago include large estates in the northern districts, like an Italian-style villa in Vitacura, listed for $4.84 million by Engel & Völkers Chile, to a three-bedroom apartment at the W Residences, above the W Hotel in Las Condes, listed for $1.76 million by Sotheby’s International Realty. (Upper-end properties are often listed in U.S. dollars rather than pesos.)