House Hunting in El Salvador: A Compound on the Coast for $249,000


This low-slung villa compound is tucked into a lushly landscaped tropical garden, steps from a private beach and beach club on the Pacific Coast of El Salvador.

The property, on a third of an acre in the Bahia Dorada beach community, has two residences — one with two bedrooms and one bathroom, and the other with the main bedroom suite.

The home, being sold furnished, is arranged in a traditional Salvadoran ranch layout, with the living areas split between indoor and outdoor spaces, said the seller, Anna Rooney. Whimsical touches include brightly colored walls and handcrafted textiles. The dining room, living room and kitchen are outdoors, while the bedrooms and several sitting areas are indoors. The property also has quarters for a housekeeper.

“The green areas are indescribable,” said Jose Cortez, an agent with Oceanside El Salvador, which has the listing. “It feels like you’re in a forest.”

From the street, a long walkway leads to the center of the property, past a 26-foot swimming pool and adjoining gazebo with a hammock and barbecue. The walkway continues to the heart of the property, passing by a covered, open-air kitchen and living room. A bathroom, closet and housekeeper’s dwelling are attached to this patio. The kitchen has a central island with a granite countertop and a propane four-burner stove.

Past the kitchen, the walkway splits to reach two buildings: On the left is a cottage with a bedroom suite and a sitting room. On the right is the two-bedroom, one-bath cottage, currently used for guests. Each has a covered veranda with tile floors, raised by a few steps.

The residence, built about 40 years ago, has approximately 1,650 covered square feet, not counting the patios and terraces, and it has been continuously updated, Ms. Rooney said. The roof was replaced this summer.

The private Bahia Dorada community offers an exclusive beach and pool within walking distance, as well as 24/7 security. The area is a surfing mecca, with the El Mizata and El Zonte surf breaks 10 and 20 minutes away. San Salvador, El Salvador’s capital and largest city, is about an hour and half away, as is Monseñor Óscar Arnulfo Romero International Airport.

After years of depressed home prices owing to a weak economy, gang violence and political instability, El Salvador’s real estate market was on the upswing in 2020 before pandemic lockdowns and travel restrictions throttled growth. But local brokers and other market observers noted that the Central American nation of some 6.5 million residents has been steadily recovering — and in its beach regions, more than recovering.

Aaron Varquero, the founder and CEO of Oceanside El Salvador, which specializes in beach properties, said Salvadorans realized fairly early amid the pandemic that they could own a beach home for the price of a traditionally less expensive urban dwelling.

“In general, it’s always going to be better to live on the beach than to live in the city,” Mr. Varquero said. That desire, combined with the option to work remotely, pushed many Salvadorans to the country’s coast — especially to the La Libertad region, 45 minutes from the capital. “As soon as the economy reopened, the demand of beach homes went to the sky,” he said. “People started selling their apartments and investing in beach houses.”

He added: “There used to be just one or two homes a month. Now we’re closing five to six homes a month.”

Prices in beach areas have rebounded accordingly, Mr. Varquero said, climbing 15 to 20 percent over their early-2020 levels. A traditional three-bedroom house that would have cost $150,000 18 months ago might cost $180,000 today.

“We’re almost back to where we were before the pandemic,” said Mauricio Ramirez, an agent with San Salvador-based RE/MAX Central, noting that the market “started to see the nice jumps” in demand during the spring. He said his agency is now seeing more foreign buyers than before the pandemic. Some are Salvadoran immigrants returning home, while others have no ties to El Salvador and are looking to retire there.

Buyers from most countries, including the United States, can purchase real estate without restriction in El Salvador. Foreigners, however, may not own more than 605 acres, and only foreigners whose countries grant equal rights to Salvadorans can acquire real estate, said Oscar Torres, a partner with Garcia & Bodan, a law firm with offices throughout Central America.

Transactions are handled by notaries, who charge a percentage of the purchase price — usually between 0.5 and 1 percent.



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