Over 22,000 delegates from around the world attended the World Urban Forum last week in Medellin, Colombia, to discuss the challenges that cities around the globe are facing, including unprecedented demographic, environmental, economic, social and spatial challenges. The focus of the event, organized under the United Nations, is the dramatic global shift towards urbanization that will result in 6 out of every 10 people in the world residing in urban areas by 2030, with over 90 per cent of this growth taking place in Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Caribbean. Since 2005, NAR has been an organizing member of the International Housing Coalition, a group that seeks to effect policy and programmatic change in foreign assistance through an advocacy program based on a broad coalition of varied organizations. The advocacy efforts are integrated with and draw strength from the organization’s active engagement in housing and urban development applied research, information sharing, and policy advice in selected countries. An NAR delegation attended the meetings and was an active participant in these meetings, and enjoys consultative status with the United Nations. NAR’s own experience and voice in U.S.-based urban policy areas such as smart growth make it an effective voice along with allied organizations to shape the global challenges that urbanization presents.
So why Colombia? Twenty years ago, Medellin was an urban basket case, with violence and crime fueled by the drug trade. Today, the city has been reborn and the Urban Land Institute named Medellin the world’s most innovative city this year. Gone are the past problems, and in its place are innovative solutions on urban planning including parks, public transportation including cable cars that take commuters to hillside neighborhoods, all with citizen participation and involvement. The story is the same across Colombia, a fast growing economy and now Latin America’s third largest economy after Mexico and Brazil. The economic growth translates into international real estate. Real estate mogul Sam Zell has extensive residential and commercial real estate investments in Colombia and declared it “the next star in Latin America.” International Living ranks Colombia in its list of “top eight places to retire” for U.S. citizens, giving high marks to cost of living, safety, weather, proximity to the USA, health care access, affordability, and overall quality of life.
So what does this mean for REALTORS® selling international real estate? Life is much better in Colombia than it was 20 years ago, and some preconceived notions you might have of Colombia are probably outdated. There are real economic opportunities inside of the country, which means U.S. REALTORS® hoping to find flight capital in their local markets from Colombia might be disappointed, and should probably target other Latin America countries such as Argentina and Venezuela, which currently have problems that may result in US real estate being a safe haven. But Colombia may in the not so distant future become a hotspot for US citizens investing abroad, and its rising economic status means Colombians have more money to spend on real estate at home and abroad. When and if you target Colombia, the local association called FEDELONJAS is a highly prestigious and respected organization that has been established for over 50 years and its members include developers, appraisers, agents, and brokers. Over 20 Certified International Specialists (CIPS) reside in Colombia and are eager to do business with their counterparts (search Colombia under www.realtor.org/findcips); several more classes this year will add more CIPSs to the ranks. NAR’s President’s Liaison, Ileana Bogaert, can make introductions where necessary and provide you more information on the market.
The World Urban Forum puts a spotlight of the success of Colombia; its real estate opportunities equally deserve attention and a spotlight!
by Jeff Hornberger, NAR Director of Global Alliances