Whether you want to rent or buy Nicaragua homes, the best way to find them is by word of mouth. Nicas love to talk. And everyone knows something or someone.
You’ll be surprised how quickly the word spreads. Of course, this only works once you are in the country. Try to do some preliminary real estate research from home before you arrive.
Where to Find Rental Properties Online
My favorite site for finding long-term accommodation is Encuentra24.com. You can search for houses, apartments, beach homes and vacation rentals. Refine your search by location, price and number of rooms.
If you want to focus on specific areas, try more localized sites. For example, check out Granada Property Services for the Granada region.
And Aurora Real Estate has a good selection of long-term rentals in León and the nearby beaches of Poneloya and Las Peñitas.
Where to Find Properties for Sale Online
I guess it goes without saying, rent before you buy. Most experts recommend a rental period of at least 6 months to a year. During that time, look for suitable homes in the region where you want to settle, and learn as much as you can about buying real estate in Nicaragua.
To get a feel for available properties for sale, the three websites highlighted in the previous section are good starting points. Simply select properties for sale instead of rent, and search by location, type and size of home that you want.
Tip: San Juan Live is a relatively new and beautifully made website for real estate in the tourist and expat hotspot, San Juan del Sur. Even if you aren’t interested in that specific area, browsing their listings and professionally done photos is a joy. This site also offers learning centers for buyers and sellers, so it’s worthwhile to sign up for their newsletter.
When I was doing my own research about Nicaragua homes, I looked into some of the communities that are being developed along the coast. Here are the ones that caught my eye:
As one of the first luxury gated communities, Rancho Santo is well established. It already has 50 homes built and a new development with turn-key residences is under construction. There are also still some home sites available for purchase, with prices starting at US$100,000.
You can stay at Rancho Santana for a vacation and try out all their amenities, from club house to yoga and spa to surfing. Marc Brown, one of the first residents of this community, sends out a regular newsletter with videos, photos and other updates from the Pacific Frontier.
Gran Pacifica is another well-established, 5-star resort community, featuring a golf course, casitas, single-family homes and condos. It’s located at the Pacific coast, about 1 hour southwest of Managua. Home or condominium rentals are available if you want to test out the area.
This website offers a free Nicaragua Handbook, which contains lots of up-to-date information.
Nicaragua Homes: Prices You Can Expect to Pay
Are you leaning towards buying rather than renting (even though renting is highly recommended when you first arrive in Nicaragua)?
There is a consensus amongst the experts that now is the time to invest in Nicaraguan real estate, before prices start to soar like in neighboring Costa Rica or Panama. For example, the cost of oceanfront real estate along the Pacific side is only a fraction of what you would pay across the border.
Even in property hot spots like San Juan del Sur, you can find a turnkey Nicaragua home with an ocean view for under US$100,000. Small, simple houses in Granada start at US$30,000 to $40,000. If you’ve got your eyes on a Colonial style home in Granada or León, you need to budget at least US$150,000.
In most locations you can find decent homes for rent starting at about US$300 per month. Once again the exception is Managua, where you’ll pay at least twice as much in the good neighborhoods preferred by expats.
By the way, foreigners are not restricted from owning property in Nicaragua, as long as the property is not located within 5km of its borders.
Nicaragua Homes: Purchase Prices, Taxes and Fees
During the implementation of “agrarian reforms” during the Sandinista regime in the 1980s, house properties and land were confiscated and re-distributed. So legally you need to be extra careful before you finalize a real estate purchase. Enlist the service of a reputable attorney to ensure that the property deed has a clear title.
Unfortunately there’s currently no company offering title insurance in Nicaragua, according to my friend, Turalu Brady Murdock, who had worked for 35 years as an attorney with First American Title Insurance Company before they closed their Caribbean / Latin American division in 2014.
Stewart Title Guarantee Company has also withdrawn from most Latin American countries (including Nicaragua).
Once you’ve found a property you like, you follow the steps outlined below…
1) You make an offer and then you negotiate a “Contract of Purchase and Sale.”
Don’t sign anything before your lawyer has reviewed the contract and done the required legal due diligence, such as…
- Reviewing of the seller’s title deed (Escritura) and title history (Historia Registral) at the Public Registry
- Confirming that there are no mortgages, liens of encumbrances on the property (Libertad de Gravaman)
- Checking the status of tax payments on the property (Solvencia Municipal)
- Requesting a current survey to confirm the size and boundaries of the property
2) When the due diligence is done, it’s time to “close the deal.” Ownership is legally transferred from the seller to you after both parties have signed a new title deed.
3) Your attorney goes to the Public Registry (Registro Público) to have the property registered in your name.
Example Closing Costs
San Juan Live, one of the websites I mentioned earlier, has put together a useful overview of typical closing costs.
4) The Cadastral Office (Catastro) will issue a certificate that shows the change of owner, and the Tax Office (DGI) will evaluate the property. This “assessed value,” and not the actual purchase price, forms the basis for calculating property tax.
Property taxes are low, 1% of 80% of the assessed value of the property and must be paid yearly in arrears to the Municipality.
Other closing costs, like transfer tax, registration tax, registration administration fee, and attorney fees, will vary depending on your chosen lawyer and the price and location of the property.