Real Estate in Cartagena, Colombia
This time, we interviewed Cindy Buelvas from CartagenaConcierge. We spoke with Cindy about real estate investment opportunities in Cartagena and starting a new business in Colombia.
Cindy, thank you very much for being with us and to talk to us about real estate in Cartagena. Why don´t you quickly introduce yourself?
Cindy Buelvas:“Good afternoon, thank you very much for opening this opportunity and allow me to share with you the beauty of Colombia and especially Cartagena. My name is Cindy Buelvas. I am originally from Montería, a city on the Caribbean Coast. I have been living in Cartagena for about 15 years now. I have been working in the tourism and real estate market since then.”
HalloCasa: “So, you are originally from Montería. What´s the difference between Montería and Cartagena?”
Cindy Buelvas: “Montería is a very small city while Cartagena is already very metropolitan. Montería is developing pretty much right now. Since my mother is originally from Cartagena, we decided to move to Cartagena where I studied and where in fact are more opportunities. Unlike Cartagena, Montería is not located on the Atlantic Ocean, however, it is located on the Sinu river. Apart from that it is close to Tolu and Coveñas which are located on the Caribbean Sea and it is also close to the islands of San Bernardo.”
HalloCasa: “Those islands are very beautiful, aren´t they?”
Cindy Buelvas: “Yes, they are very beautiful, with white sand and turquoise water. It´s in fact an archipelago.”
HalloCasa: “How would you describe Cartagena to a foreigner who has never been there?”
Cindy Buelvas: “For me, Cartagena is a magical place. It has been declared World Heritage by the Unesco in 1994. The city is known of the 6.8 miles of ancient city walls which are built around the historic city center. It´s actually perfect to experience the city slowly by foot while inhaling the fresh breeze of the sea.Apart from that, the colorful houses are spectacular. It´s also hosting a bunch of music festivals. It´s a city perfect for honeymoons or for watersports. In fact, the combination of the beautiful city center with the sea in front makes it a top destination, also according to Tripadvisor.”
HalloCasa: “Perfect, that sounds as if you are living in a paradise. Apart from tourism, what are the main economic drivers in Cartagena?”
Cindy Buelvas: “In the suburbs, Cartagena has some big chemical manufacturing companies and also several petroleum refineries. In fact, business is being driven by the free-trade zone close to Cartagena.
However, tourism is one of the main driver for economic growth. Apart from that, the construction industry is becoming increasingly important. There are a lot of new real estate projects throughout the city, especially in the north of Cartagena, for example in La Boquilla, towards Barranquilla.”
The new Cartagena de Indias
HalloCasa: “This already brings us to the next question: from your perspective, how has Cartagena changed during the last couple of years? Which trends do you see?”
Cindy Buelvas: “Cartagena has changed a lot, and it has improved a lot. This trend has brought a lot of investors from all over the world who start companies or invest on passive terms.
This has helped the entire city to become one of the top destinations of Latin America within a few years, and it keeps growing year over year. Nowadays, Cartagena is one of the most important destinations in Latin America. I hope that in a couple of years we will be number one.”
HalloCasa: “Great ambitions, we like that! Coming to your own business, tell us a little bit about it.”
Cindy Buelvas: “I am one of the founders of CartagenaConcierge. A few years ago, we started with the concept of starting a concierge service which in fact entails vacation services for individuals and groups who want to enjoy Cartagena for a short time, normally 4-6 days, and want to have high-end service.
Most of the guests fall in love with the city and the nature in Colombia so that they come back later to visit some cities with the end goal to buy a property. We are always there to help out concerning investment inquiries.
When groups are coming to us, let´s say 5-20 people, we rent out entire colonial houses and after the stay, they want to buy the house. That´s what happens a lot.”
HalloCasa: “And if your guests don´t end up buying the house they stayed in, we assume that they buy other properties in Cartagena and surroundings?”
Real estate investments in Cartagena
Cindy Buelvas: “Yes, in Cartagena and Barú, actually. When guests want to buy properties close to a nice beach, they are looking for real estate in Barú or Las Islas del Rosario. By boat, it takes around one hour to reach those islands. To Barú you can go by car but in order to reach Las Islas del Rosario you have to take the boat.”
HalloCasa: “Are foreigners allowed to buy properties on Barú or Las Islas del Rosario?”
Cindy Buelvas: “Yes, there are no restrictions.”
HalloCasa: “Would you recommend foreigners to invest in real estate in Cartagena?”
Cindy Buelvas: “Absolutely, the city is growing very fast. Cartagena is already one of the most expensive cities in Colombia. If investors are looking for a nice residence in the Caribbean with nice architecture and beautiful beaches, Cartagena is definitely recommendable.”
HalloCasa: “How was it when you set up your own company?”
Cindy Buelvas: “I used to work in the tourism industry and realized that we lack top-notch customer service, especially when it comes to tourism.
Foreigners and people who travel around the world are used to excellent service. So, people who travel to Mexico or to Paris and then to Cartagena encounter a lower service level. Since those travellers would like to have always the same service around the world, we came up with our idea. Apart from that, we saw that the process of renting properties in Cartagena to be difficult for both the visitor and the owner. Therefore, we included the brokerage of renting apartments into our business model. So, in fact since we identified those problems, my partner, Andrés Tejara, and me, we set up the company.
Now, we have been working very hard for 3 years and we are very happy because we have grown quite decently while improving our service on a daily basis.”
HalloCasa:“Which challenges did you face? Do you have any tips?” (Read our long interview about the pros and cons of launching a business in Medellin!)
Stereotypes about “Costeños”
Cindy Buelvas: “Of course, if you have your own dream, you simply have to focus on that by 100% and pursue it. Our culture here is a little difficult. Maybe you have heard that the “Costeños”, the people from the coast, are lazy.
Even though not all of us are like that, we have to change that mindset and the picture about us here on the coast. So, my vision is to communicate towards others that not all Costeños are lazy but that there are a lot of hard working ones, too.
Apart from that, I want to give back to the community by showing others here that it is important to study and to learn new languages and that education opens a lot of doors.”
HalloCasa: “It´s nice to hear you talk about starting up and growing your business! We know that this stereotype that Costeños are lazy does not apply to most of them and you are the best example to prove that wrong.
When you talk to foreign investors, what do you think is the main motivation for them to invest in Colombia and not in the U.S., for example?”
Motivation by foreigners to buy real estate in Cartagena
Cindy Buelvas: “Cartagena has made some leaps along the improved political stability within entire Colombia.
This started around 10 years ago and since then it has grown remarkably. However, Cartagena also is still in its baby steps and just starts to become a big player. This pulls a lot of foreign investment here. First of all, investors want to put their money somewhere where it is secure and they can be sure that they will get it back.
The fact that corruption has decreased very much triggers more and more foreigners´ interest to invest here. Furthermore, it is simply very beautiful here and it is the dream of a lot of people to retire here directly in the city center or on Barú. A lot of properties in the city center are for sale but also lots on Barú.”
Cindy Buelvas: “I would start a hotel in Cartagena. Since this is the most touristic place in all over Colombia, having a hotel in Cartagena is not a bad thing. My second choice would be to invest in Chocó.”
HalloCasa: “So, you started as a tourist agency, now helping people to buy properties in and around Cartagena, and soon you will have your own hotel. That is amazing! Now, coming to the last two questions, the first question is: If you could change something in Colombia, what would that be?”
Corruption in Colombia
Cindy Buelvas: “Well, I would like to fight the corruption. Obviously, corruption is everywhere in the world and it harms a lot of business opportunities. Colombia is such a great country and I love my country, however, it could be much more developed and competitive, if all the money from the government was used efficiently for important elements such as infrastructure and education.
The government plays an important role to support the overall situation by building proper infrastructure so that businesses can thrive and the entire economy grows strongly. Therefore, I also see foreigners to play a key role in moving this country towards the right direction.”
HalloCasa: “Thanks for your point of view. To be fair, we have to admit that there are a lot of countries which are much more corrupt than Colombia and a lot of foreigners here say that Colombia´s corruption level is not even that high.” (More about corruption and FARC here!)
Cindy Buelvas: “Yes, that is true. Corruption is spread widely all over the world and Colombia is definitely not the worst of them.”
HalloCasa: “Now, to our last question: if you could implement something from Colombia to other countries, what would that be?”
Cindy Buelvas: “We have a very nice personality and the Colombians are full of passion. I would take our loveliness to other countries.”
HalloCasa:“Great! If people want to contact you, how can they do it?”
Cindy Buelvas: “People can reach me via HalloCasa and my phone number is +57 3017747721 and my email address is firstname.lastname@example.org”
HalloCasa:“Do you have any final words to add?”
Cindy Buelvas: “Yes, I would like to invite all of the readers to our beautiful country and that as many people as possible get to know Colombia!”
HalloCasa: “Thank you so much for having been with us.”
Cindy:“Thank you a lot. It has been a pleasure!”
HalloCasa, the marketplace for international real estate properties, is being founded by a German in Bogotá. HalloCasa´s mission is to build trust for vendors and investors with respect to cross-border real estate transactions.