Editor's Note: This story originally appeared on Live and Invest Overseas.
Getting onto the property ladder has always been one of the safest and best ways of securing long-term wealth. Buying cheap real estate overseas gives you another level of security and diversification.
By purchasing property abroad, you have added safety should the U.S. market fail. Especially when the strength of the U.S. dollar makes overseas property a great value for money.
Unlike stocks and shares, real estate is a tangible asset you can enjoy.
Buy real estate in a country where you like spending time, and visit it for vacations. The rest of the year you can rent it out for extra income.
Alternatively, you can buy real estate in a Southern Hemisphere country and use it as an escape from the U.S. winter.
The Importance of Value for Money
Cheap real estate prices don’t always mean value for money. In the United States, for example, if you find a price that looks too good to be true, it probably is.
Not everywhere is as expensive as the States though. In the following countries, real estate is exceptionally cheap by U.S. standards. Still, it’s not always a wise idea to try to save money by buying a below-market-price house abroad.
Renovation overseas is a different prospect than at home. Builders aren’t always held to the same standards you expect, and sourcing materials can be a costly exercise. The cultural differences can make for a trying experience. Waiting months for minimal progress is common.
Then again, if you have the skills or connections to make renovation work for you, then you stand to make a killing.
As an extra benefit, a number of these countries are fast-growing real estate markets meaning a move now could turn out to be a profitable investment.
#1. Consider Italy Now
In the first year of the pandemic, COVID-19 hit Italy hard. But the popular European destination is back on its feet. If Italy is part of your long-term plans, now is the time to think about investing.
Italy might seem like a strange choice on a list of bargain property destinations, but outside of the major cities, cheap properties abound. In fact, some areas of Italy have the cheapest properties on this list.
Take the island of Sicily. Here, many old villages have adopted a new incentive to attract foreign investment. You can find homes in historic countryside towns for prices as little as 1 euro. The reason for this enticing deal is that young people have left a town in search of work, and without an influx of new workers, the village will die.
A glance at the fine print shows buyers must restore the homes to the tune of at least $25,000. This investment must take place within three years and the houses cannot be sold within five years. The regulations vary from town to town.
These are unquestionably renovation projects — the homes will need work before you can live in them. But for traditional Italian countryside homes set in the rolling hills of Sicily, the price is right.
Italy’s Last Undiscovered Region
The next region in Italy for cheap real estate is Abruzzo. Situated to the east of Rome along the Adriatic, Abruzzo is one of the wildest and last undiscovered places in Italy. Boasting hills, mountains, and ancient towns, it’s unlike anywhere else in the country.
Of course, everything you would expect from Italy is present: delicious food and wine, hot summers, and architecture. But Abruzzo also has other charms, like snowcapped mountains where you can ski in the winter. In Abruzzo, the towns and way of life have a timeless quality and seem a million miles from the major cities.
If you are looking to live the quiet life in a remote village, you can buy houses for under $50,000.
If you prefer a small town, the likes of Teramo and Chieti have properties around the $50,000 mark. The popular stone buildings in this region keep the houses cool in the summer and have open fireplaces to keep things cozy in the winter.
Living in Italy requires learning the language. Unlike many of the countries we cover, English is not widely spoken. Italians are generally welcoming to foreigners, but if you can’t speak the language, you could find yourself a bit isolated.
Plenty of expat Americans live in Italy, but the nature of countryside living makes it unlikely you will find many expats close by.
#2. Low Real Estate Prices in Ecuador
Although recent years have brought it some mainstream awareness, Ecuador is a country that has slipped under the radar in terms of expat locations. Ecuador offers you the chance of authentic life in a country that has remained largely unaffected by globalization.
Ecuador has a range of climates. It’s most famous for its mountain living, but also boasts excellent beaches and towns close to sea level, too. If you’re a fan of coastal living, Ecuador has a lot of undeveloped beachfront real estate.
Salinas is an established seaside town. Located in the far west of the country, it’s one of the main vacation destinations in Ecuador. If you’re looking for a property to rent out for part of the year, Salinas is an attractive option. It’s one of the more developed locations in Ecuador with plenty of shops and amenities.
Perfect for snowbirds, winter temperatures in Salinas are usually over 77 degrees Fahrenheit and days with temperatures of 86 degrees Fahrenheit and higher are common. The best weather is from November to April, while the rest of the year is usually cooler and dry but quite often cloudy.
Conveniently, Salinas has its own airport with flights to international airports in Quito and Guayaquil.
The Expat Favorite: Cuenca
Cuenca is a city with a population of around 700,000 nestled in the southern Andes Mountains. It’s a well-preserved city with a number of historic buildings and cobbled streets. Most of the architecture is Spanish-colonial style with a lot of well-kept apartments and houses.
Cuenca has moved with the times and boasts fast internet and safe drinking water. The infrastructure is strong, with impressive schools and other public services.
Lots of expats call Cuenca home, and you won’t find it hard to encounter the English-speaking community. The town retains its authentic charm, but the number of expats can make integration into local communities hard.
The cost of living in Cuenca is low, and real estate is a bargain. In the premier (expat-heavy) locations, prices are higher, but the pool of potential buyers is bigger, should you ever sell your property.
If you’re happy to venture away from the traditional expat areas, you’ll find some incredible bargains. In these lower-volume regions, though, you’ll find property harder to sell in the future.
Discover Authentic Ecuador in Loja
Loja is your chance to live in the real Ecuador. Perched high in the Andes, Loja is seldom visited by tourists and few expats choose to hang their hat here.
Temperatures are around 73 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit year-round, so you won’t have to spend money on heating or air conditioning.
The property market in Loja is still cheap. A four-bedroom house in an exclusive area is likely to set you back around $115,000.
The downtown area is full of traditional buildings and stalls, and the backdrop of the Andes is a huge selling point. The altitude is 6,750 feet; you can leave your windows open to enjoy the fresh mountain air without worrying about bugs.
Living in Loja, you’ll need to learn Spanish to integrate into the local way of life.
The climate is ideal for farming, particularly citrus fruits. Land is inexpensive and anybody looking to pursue gardening or hobby farming will enjoy Loja.
#3. Cheap Real Estate in Brazil
If you like the idea of life on a tropical island but are put off by the price tag, the Brazilian island of Itamaraca is for you. It has soft, sandy beaches and clear turquoise waters, sheltered by the reef that lies offshore.
Itamaraca is situated about an hour’s drive from the nearest airport — a drive that takes you through jungle and mangrove swamps.
This gives the island a pleasingly remote and faraway feel … as if the cares of the modern world are unable to pass through the thick forestation.
Beachfront condos are available from $50,000 with properties further inland even cheaper. The beachfront properties offer the chance for a decent rental return.
Although you can find all the basics for day-to-day living here, you are a long way from shopping malls and many other trappings of city life. If you need your culture fix or like to spend time shopping, a long-term stay is not ideal for you.
The Tropical Beach City of Vila Velha
Another city in Brazil where you can pick up $50,000 beachfront real estate is Vila Velha, otherwise known as Little Rio. Situated to the north of Rio de Janeiro on Brazil’s southeast coast, Vila Velha is a beach town surrounded by tropical forests and green-topped mountains.
Easily accessible from Rio, the trip takes just one hour by plane, with seven to 12 flights daily. Vila Velha is not only cheaper than Rio, it’s safer and has much less traffic.
Vila Velha is a town for relaxing on the beach and enjoying the outdoors. If you need culture though, Vitoria is close by.
Vila Velha is great for snowbirds. The winters are warm and you have the option of generating rental income throughout the year.
Vila Velha was being heavily developed until an economic crash left a lot of properties unsold. This has left plenty of bargain properties, although a quick resale may not be possible.
#4. Bargain Property in Colombia
Prices in Bogota and Cartagena mean these cities no longer qualify as true bargains, but value can be found in the rest of Colombia.
Cali, in southern Colombia, is one such place.
Temperatures are hot all year with highs of around 88 degrees Fahrenheit most days. Locals look forward to an afternoon sea breeze, which brings relief each day. At 3,300 feet, the nights are cool and the mornings are refreshing.
Cali is a place to experience authentic Colombia. To thrive in Cali, you’ll need to speak Spanish or at least be willing to learn. Very few expats live here, but those who do live in Cali are fiercely proud of their city.
The Calenos, residents of Cali, have a reputation for being warm, welcoming, and interested in meeting new people. Cali has its own airport that offers daily flights to the States.
Cali is a green town: Trees are everywhere, dividing roads and offering shade along streets and in parks. It’s otherwise known as the Salsa Capital of Colombia. Lessons are easy to come by, and learning will give you ample opportunities for socializing.
Cali’s reputation for crime partly explains why prices are so low. While it’s true that some areas are best avoided, a large part of the city is safe and you can walk around without fear.
Cali suffers from the same issues that most big cities do. Speak to any of the locals and they can tell you where not to go. Cali is a much safer prospect than the media would have you believe.
If You Don’t Want To Live in Cali
While the real estate is not as cheap as Cali, Medellin, capital of the mountainous Antioquia province, still has areas that provide affordable real estate. Property prices in Medellin have been increasing rapidly during recent years as the market heats up.
The U.S. dollar has strengthened against the peso during the same period, meaning prices for U.S. buyers have remained constant.
Medellin has a milder climate than Cali and year-round spring-like weather.
An established expat community calls Medellin home and takes advantage of the city’s strong infrastructure. This includes state-of-the-art health care facilities and a clean and safe public transport system.
El Poblado is the most popular Medellin neighborhood, a fact reflected in the high property prices here.
Belen, to the west of the Medellin River, has property over 30% cheaper on average than Medellin. The streets are quiet, and it’s an established neighborhood with many attractive old buildings.
An Undiscovered Beach Town With Great Prices
Santa Marta proves Colombia can offer bargain real estate on the Caribbean coast. While most tourists go to Cartagena, Santa Marta is a short trek up the coast and offers everything Cartagena has but at a much lower price.
One of the oldest cities in South America, it was built in 1525 by the Spanish. Perfectly located, it’s bordered by the Caribbean Sea as well as a national park and the Sierra Nevada mountains to the south.
Cartagena, around 200 miles away, has a reputation as a party town, whereas Santa Marta is peaceful. You can find fine dining and shopping as well as an abundance of colonial-style buildings that give Santa Marta its character.
Nearby Santa Marta are opportunities for hiking, climbing, rafting, and taking in the varied flora and fauna of the jungle. The beaches are uncrowded and as perfect as anywhere else in the Caribbean.
#5. Cheap Real Estate in Mexico
While areas of Mexico have experienced a rapid rise in prices, you can still find plenty of opportunities for cheap real estate.
Beachfront property is expensive, but for those who love the fresh air and the spectacular views of mountainside living, Mexico is perfect. Being close to the States means shorter flight times than almost anywhere else.
Most people have heard of Mexico’s big-name destinations and the prices have risen accordingly. But countless lesser-known towns and cities offer a range of lifestyles and bargains.
You can find the best real estate deals for buying cheap real estate overseas.
Mountain Towns in Mexico
Alamos is a town located in northwest Mexico that dates back to the late 17th century. It lies in the foothills of the Sierra Madre Occidental and retains its original charm. Mansions line cobblestone streets on a backdrop of mountains and rugged countryside.
Homes sell for as little as $35,000, which buys you a basic home but an amazing lifestyle. If you’re looking to spend more, you can buy houses all the way up to authentic colonial mansions, which are often a steal.
Xalapa is another town where you can pick up property for less than $40,000. Based in Veracruz State, Xalapa is about 200 miles east of Mexico City and a one-hour drive from the Caribbean.
Volcanoes and mountains, at an altitude of 4,650 feet, surround this small town. Mexico’s highest mountain, Pico de Orizaba, can be seen from Xalapa. Around 500 expats live here, but they tend to keep to themselves, and you won’t find many community events or expat hangouts.
Prices are unlikely to appreciate quickly, meaning Xalapa is not somewhere for a short-term investment. You can find plenty of things to do, a rich cultural life, excellent restaurants, and shopping.
The Home of the Western Movie
Durango is another mountain town offering an authentic slice of Mexican life. Used as a filming location for lots of old Hollywood Westerns, the landscape will feel familiar to anyone who used to watch cowboy movies.
The weather is cooler in December and January, averaging 69 degrees Fahrenheit, with temperatures reaching 86 degrees Fahrenheit in May and June. At night the temperatures always drop to around 60 degrees Fahrenheit. In this pleasant climate you have no need for air conditioning or heating.
Durango has almost no expat community; you will need to learn Spanish if you want to thrive here. The downside of this is that property will take longer to sell.
Durango is modern and clean with everything you would expect from a big city. The architecture is more like European Spanish than Colonial Spanish, and the city exudes a busy and positive feel.
Make sure to follow these and other tips if you are buying cheap real estate overseas.