As we revisit the real estate situation in Montevideo, this time from the perspective of potential acquisition... the first thing to note is the environment is insane.1 Apartments of the configuration I presently occupy list for 100,000 USD to 115,000 USD despite renting for 450 to 550 depending on the time of year2. Much of this disparity between what property can be rented for versus what folks are willing to part with it for appears to be driven by Argentine capital flight. Another factor is the tax burden foisted upon construction here.
The local "Banco de PrevisiÃ³n Social" which administers the healthcare and one of the retirement systems here taxes certain kinds of projects down to painting the exterior of a building off of a rate book. This has the ugly consequence of not only discouraging the painting of buildings, it means new construction follows a handful of patterns based on reducing the tax burden per marketable unit. Thusly 4 to 12 floor residential towers proliferate and the inventory of low rise construction contracts.
Another particularly pervasive peculiarity of the real estate environment here is that just about every single habitable unit with its own bathroom and kitchen-like area has its own title. Apartments in the US sense don't exist here. Everything that isn't a house on its own lot is under a condominium regime of some sort. Additional irony comes in this country's rural legal traditions which have every property down to the smallest studio apartments legally denominated as "fincas", because why shouldn't a habitation unit meters above the ground be titled as a farm? Where this affects the search for eligible houses is that house-like constructions on shared lots on a "Propiedad horizontal" regime get listed as "houses" while the top floor of a duplex like construction on a PH regime lot can clog the house listings as a "PH Casa de Altos". House like facades with a single front door often open to reveal as many as a dozen residences.
In more rural parts of the city and country surrounding it exists a sort a small holding farm the locals call a Quinta. For being out of the dense parts of the city, less money can buy more house. Freestanding houses where the walls aren't tied into the neighbor's walls! However there is an obstacle to embracing the outskirts.
I do not mean merely that busses suck. Using wheeled transport to get anywhere takes indordinate amounts of time to traverse trivial distances. The 9.6 kilometer journey to the Rural de Prado was taken by taxi from one of the "Paradas de Taxi" at Montevideo Shopping. Getting there near but not inside the afternoon "rush hour" window took 47 minutes going following Louis Alberto Herrera, Boulevard Artigas, and Cisplatina to the Park. The return trip with relatively clear streets required a few minutes more than a half hour with the taxi once hitting a high speed near 30 km/h. The least pessimum bus route serving the start and end supposes a transit time of one hour and 20 minutes each way, which means planning around a three and a half to four hour round trip after waiting for busses is factored in.
As long as the datacenter remains a major factor in TMSR presence in Uruguay, keeping camp within a reasonably walkable distance seems imperative. The alternative of accepting the burden of relying on wheeled transportation invites substantial costs in both money and time.
Taking on the liability of car ownership brings in a number of costs. Fuel is expensive. There are a handfull of models with sufficient market share to provide ready parts availability for maintenance and repair. Street parking in all parts of the city with places to go is controlled by the "Cuidacoche" extortion racket licensed by the Intendencia of Montevideo. Persons parking their cars on the street are expected to pay protection money to the local homeless to "watch" their vehicles or "bad things" happen. Officially, nearly one thousand cuidacoches are licensed by the Intendencia and counted as independently employed in the vital statistics. In practice the blue and white safety vest offers poor night visibility and nearly the entire adult homeless population habitually wears high visibility vests and collects alms under the cuidacoche pretext.
Overnight street parking is common in some neighborhoods. Crimes committed against street parked cars tend to happen in bursts. The local custom for stealing fuel from parked vehicles involves cutting the fuel line rather than less destructive methods, this is consistent with the local poor's low regard for the moveable property of others.
Navigating the city several points can be noted:
- The portion of the city west of the bay of Montevideo is functionally isolated from the places where things happen.
- As Avenida Italia and 8 de Octubre leave the barrio of Tres Cruces commercial services congregate on the two thoroughfares with wide residential deserts in between. For very solid structural reasons the expanse between Avenida Italia and 8 de Octubre is far poorer than that between Avenida Italia and Avenida General Riviera to the south. Going north of 8 de Octubre for the same structual reasons means still deeper povery until areas capable of agriculture are reached.
- Over most of its length crossing Avenida General Riveria North-South is not as pessimum as as extended East-West travel on General Riviera.
- While the costal Rambla is rarely the least direct route between two locations in the city, it is normally the least congested relative to its carrying capacity for vehicular traffic.
- The single most pessimum arterial road is Avenida Italia. Long distance bus routes between Montevideo and the East Coast go from the Tres Cruces National Bus Terminal through Avenida Italia.
In light of the transit situation, the logistical costs involved in increasing distance from the datacenter are an obstacle to keeping property on the less expensive periphery of the city without the manpower to support a multiple republican strongholds in the city.
Also transit times between Cerrito de la Victoria and Ciudad Vieja were probably shorter during the 19th century when the government of Uruguay under General Oribe in Cerrito de la Victoria held the other government of Uruguay lead by General Riveria in the old city under seige for 8 years.
A Useful Map
Maps that break down Montevideo into is 62 barrios have a lot of noise. Let us instead consider the map that breaks the city down into 8 municipalities:
In light of the transit situation it seems the area of search interest ought to center in Municipality CH though parts of B and E can be interesting. Municipalities A, G, D, and F are all isolated by poor transit. Municipality C suffers substantial traffic congestion and a lack of utility. In Municipality C there is a bit of government, some light industry, and a lot of residential warehousing including the barrio of Prado. Barrios where local political class have a tendency to sleep at night include Prado, Punta Carretas in the south of Municipalities B and CH, and the coastal barrios of Municipality E where prices rise going from Malvin in the west through Punta Gorda and Carrasco in the east. Let us zoom in on Municipo CH a bit more:
Notably this map draws Municipo CH on a different projection of the globe than the first map. The scaling on this map is just awful. It does manage to offer enough landmarks to meaningfully break the area down:
- South of Boulevard EspaÃ±a prices and transit times go up with proximity to Punta Brava. Numerous relatively wealty socialists including Frente Amplio Presidential Candidate Daniel Martinez and Frente Amplio Precandidate Carolina Cosse from Mujica's somehat Maoist MPP live here. The primary center of activity in this area is the Punta Carretas Shopping where many of the Frente Amplio's elders were incarcerated at some point.
- The first few blocks nearest the water seem to all carry a premium for being near the water. The density of high rise construction behind the wall of apartments bordering the river varies along this stretch.
- Buceo on the east side of Luis Alberto Herrera has more low rise housing stock than Pocitos on the west side. There is a small exceptional pocket of incredibly high prices in the couple blocks immediately near the datacenter and Puertito de Buceo.
- The triangular section of Muncipio B bound by 18 de Julio and Constituyente displayed on this map is not uninteresting for this search though it pushes the distance a bit far on routinely walkable under load criteria. Unlike pushing the distance in other directions, pushing in this direction maintains a reasonable number of fairly direct bus routes as secondary transport options. This bus availability is a secondary effect of buses serving peripheral areas of the city all taking roughly the same routes through central areas of the city.
- Hopping on a bus that goes to the right place from the wrong place on its route or while the bus is headed the wrong direction on its route can consume substantial amounts of time as it winds its way through a whole lot of nothing. This is surprisingly easy to do the first time for any given line. The 522 deserves special note for its potential to either be incredibly optimum or pessimum.
Interlude On The Old City
A small mountain of marketing aimed at expats proposes Cuidad Vieja as a choice, relatively affordable option in media aimed at dudes shopping around for second citizenships, mountainside homesteads, etc. While Ciudad Vieja does have history and ample samples of the sort of architecture that oozes charm in fotos, I would like to submit the following compromises incurred locating in Ciudad Vieja:
- The proliferation of "National Headquarters" offices in a section of the city with roads made to pre-motor vehicle width and older traffic capacity expectations means the interior of the Old City gridlocks as a regular occurrence. Also Port traffic.
- Much of the low rise housing stock has been converted to communal living arrangements known locally as pensions. Any property with the potential for conversion to communal living arrangement without too much expense has this potential use pushing up the lower bound of the price. Other pension heavy barrios including Centro, Cordon, and Tres Cruces lack the acreage shortage driving prices for pensions located inside Ciudad Vieja.
- Because of its history, planned events are routinely allowed to further disrupt traffic and the goings on of the old city. Occasions of this sort include holidays, parades, demonstrations, and the Medical faculty's graduation.
- Being the Old City, odd problems pop up from time to time during the course of maintaining the Old City. Recently Ciudad Vieja was flooded with the smell of natural gas odorant when a disused pipe3 found its contents exposed to the air.
Many inconveniences posed by the Old City are mitigated in neighboring barrios.
Construction in the city is predominately concrete. Window bars and strong steel gates protecting exterior doors are standard architectural features, and the lack of these on property are a deficiency demanding correction. In spite of the local tendency to slack on exterior maintenance due to the taxes levied on exterior work, well maintained exterior paint and some sort of exterior lighting appear to be the most consistent factors detering the local homeless population from occupying any given piece of sidewalk. The major concern for the interior of structures is the potential for mold problems.
Front Gardens are strictly ornamental liabilities reducing the useful portion of a lot, demanding tall fences with spear points. Waist high obstacles merely nuissances attracting urban campers. While police will remove urban camper from the curtilage when asked, this usually results in a low obligation urban camper with a grudge leading to ongoing vandalism. There is an infrequently enforced "Ley de Faltas" which could be used to oppress the population of urban campers, but in practice its most frequent application is forcing them into shelters during winter cold snaps. The greater the residential character of a block, the lower the pichi interest it draws so long as there is not an abundance of overtly neglected corners or stretches creating attractive nuisances.
The character of structures located at the corner lots of intersections appear to have a disportionate effect on defining the character of the block as a whole. The effect is so pronounced the failure of numerous parties selling corner lot properties to throw a fresh coat of paint on the place when they start shopping it around is mind boggling. Consider this example. Relatively large structure in a location that makes it incredibly convenient. Some nearby one bedroom apartments are listed for more, and yet no one can be bothered to so much as pressure wash the place. Despite the lack of stoop, pichis sleep along the exterior wall here and no where else on the block on either street. This apparent cultural blindspot appears to offer some leverage.
Sample Properties Advertised
This listing is not exhaustive of properties in the area of interest. Unlike Argentina, the real estate market does move here. During my time in Uruguay numerous peoperties listed for sale have been sold and become occupied. Many properties advertised for sale will be listed by multiple realtors because the agents don't legally have any claim to the real estate transaction until a potential buyer contacts the agent. For this reason the number of listings published on a property may serve as a useful proxy for how well the local real estate industry values the asking price on a property. Frequently properties are listed without any exterior photos in an effort to prevent circumventing the real estate agent.
- The Example Listed Above - Asking 185,000 USD, apparently under contract,94 mÂ² with 3 bedrooms, great location in Pocitos Nuevo, appears to be in abysmal condition. No interior pictures available. Doors and windows have obvious ant damage to the woodwork. Appears to be subdivided with title to a second residence carved out in the structure complicating ownership.
- Nearby In Pocitos Nuevo - Asking 163,000 USD. Occupies entire lot, 2 bedrooms. Well fortified to the street. Pizzeria doing brisk business occupies the corner of the block. Large rooftop space. Currently inhabited.
- Unknow Location Pocitos - Asking 270,000 USD. No exterior photos, claims corner lot. 3 bedrooms 2 bathrooms.
- Pocitos Near the Spanish Embassy - Asking 250,000 USD. 154mÂ² with three floors containing 3 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms. Very ugly exterior at present. Listing suggests this is a great location to install a cultural institute.
- Pocitos near CordÃ³n - Asking 500,000. 460mÂ² advertising 7 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms with a seperate 1st floor apartment. Very stotting sort of location though not particularly convenient to the datacenter.
- Buceo - Asking 107,000 USD. 97mÂ² 4 bedrooms 2 bathrooms. House occupying the front of a lot subdivided in a PH regime. Supremely convenient location. No interior photos available and listing claims the need for a complete renovation.
- Buceo Second Unit - Asking 82,000 USD. 77 mÂ² 4 bedrooms 2 bathrooms. Second of three units consituting the PH regime on the lot lead by the unit above. Also lacks interior photos and claims the need for a complete renovation.
- Buceo Near Vet School - Asking 133,000. 48mÂ² occuping entire lot. T
- Buceo Near Vet School - Asking 154,000 USD. 65mÂ² 3 bedrooms 2 bathrooms.
- Buceo Far North Residential Zone - Asking 224,000 USD. 100mÂ² 2 bedroom 2 bathroom, claims recently rennovated. Two floors.
- Buceo - Asking 255,000. 108 mÂ² 3 bedrooms 2 bathrooms. Well fortified. Decent location logistics wise.
- Cordon Rather Outside Area Outlined Earlier - Asking 125,000 USD. 126 mÂ² 3 bedrooms 2 bathrooms. Location complicates logistics. Price suggests substantial work may be necessary.
- Cordon Same street a bit better location - Asking 190,000 USD. Big 5 bedrooms 1 bathroom, multiple balconies. Listing advertises its present use as a communal living pension though conversion to a "casa de masajes" type whorehouse is possible. One of the best candidates for implementing a "WOTstel" concept, but taking complete control of the property from the present occupants may be complex.
- Cordon - Asking 235,000 USD. 70 mÂ² 3 bedrooms 2 bathrooms. Very central location. Appears to misleadingly be advertised as a house when it is a PH regime apartment.
I will be pushing work from my desk which has become constipated behind research for this project awaiting direction while the peers evaluate whether or not further work towards acquiring property in Montevideo makes sense at this time. If there is a particular property, property type, or area I should be investigating; I am open to taking further direction.
I am closing the investigation into whether the logistics of outlying areas of the city can be made to work. They apparently can't. It will take a very good case to make me consider this particular question live again.
- If it wasn't, there wouldn't be a need to attune to it. [↩]
- Because as a small peso country that sells property in USD, the peso denominated rents adjust annually based on "inflation" as determined by on high. [↩]
- The natural gas network in the city has a mere 40,000 customers. Ouside the city there are 4,000 natural gas customers. The natural gas network footprints don't appear to have changed much since natural gas was used for lighting. Fitting with the rural character of Uruguay this is an LPG country. [↩]