If the old real estate adage holds true — it’s all about location, location, location — then about 100 miles off the tip of Florida, it’s boom time. The real estate market in Havana, Cuba, is roaring.
The communist country is seeing its colonial-style mansions and Art Deco apartments selling in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. Add a Caribbean Sea view or a prized spot in a pre-revolution, exclusive neighborhood, and the price can top a million bucks. The prices are soaring, along with speculation in this budding and risky all-cash real estate market.
The real estate boom is taking place in select areas and is an anomaly in Cuba’s otherwise sputtering economy, where austerity measures, electricity cuts, and fuel shortages take a toll on everyday life.
The contrasts are evident in a 12-story apartment building that sits between two rare, vacant lots on Havana’s famous seaside strip, the Malecón. Residents call it the “Blue Unicorn.”
“That’s because it’s all by itself and painted marine blue,” says real estate agent Yoandi Rizo Fiallo.
And it’s hot property in Cuba.
Rizo walks through the building’s crumbling lobby and goes up in the tiny, creaking elevator to the front door of his latest project.
“Welcome,” he says with a chuckle as we step into a well-lit, clean, modern, open, white apartment. The sensory shock is stunning when compared with the dilapidated and faded colors of the city’s buildings in full view through a huge bank of panoramic windows on the back wall. A quick turn toward the front and the bright blue Caribbean gives a stunning view.
“Two years or three years ago, this apartment was probably half of the price it would cost now,” says Rizo. Today’s price is about $280,000. And the new owner, whom Rizo declined to identify, is putting another $50,000 into remodeling.
He’s added a bathroom to each of the three bedrooms and updated the kitchen with modern appliances. Rizo says the new owner plans to turn the once-rundown flat into a high-end bed and breakfast for the rush
A new phenomenon.
Cubans are on a wild ride. Five years ago, President Raul Castro began letting homeowners buy and sell the property. But it’s only in the last year and a half, with warmer relations between the U.S. and Cuba that the rush on real estate really started.
The U.S. trade embargo prohibits Americans from buying property on the island and Cuban law allows only residents to purchase homes. But that hasn’t stopped foreigners from finding loopholes and fueling the frenzy.
Juan Pablo Mugesia hangs out in back of the Blue Unicorn apartment building with a bunch of friends. He says at least once a week he gets a knock on his eighth-floor apartment door — mostly foreigners, he says, coming to make an offer. He lives with his brother, mother, and father in a three-room flat and says his dad is holding out — for now.
“If he gets a good price he’ll go. If not, we’ll stay,” says Mugesia. About $250,000 in cash sounds about right, he says.
After decades of living in crowded, dilapidated buildings and apartments too costly to maintain on average salaries of around $25 a month, many Cubans are cashing in.
Musiega’s neighbor, Luis Vargas, says no one’s worried about foreigners taking over the place or the neighborhood changing. He says such sales help everyone gets ahead.
“Now the whole family can move out and do better,” Vargas says. “With the earnings, each brother can buy a smaller house in a cheaper part of town and maybe get a car, start driving it as a taxi or start a little business,” he says.
Only Cubans can legally buy. So, Find a Pretty Cuban Friend!!
Real estate agent Eduardo Perez says he gets daily calls from foreigners looking for a way into the market.
He runs one of several websites advertising Havana real estate.
Perez says he can help callers out if they have a relative here or a Cuban friend.
Real estate agent Perez says locals can probably get about $40,000 for the apartment if they do a nice job of making improvements. Which is a small fortune for them as it currently is.
Everything is moving so fast these days, he says. “Business in Cuba is very young, all right, and for this reason, we don’t know other ways in this business.”
H&Gs Head Boy.
“It’s all about the heart and not the brain in some cases.”
Yes, and that’s called speculating and not Investing???
Invest with your head and not your heart.
Sooooo, Cuba then???
A Good place to invest right now. In my, opinion.
Yes, it’s tricky, but it will level out legally, and it will boom.