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A Note on the 2017 Chilean Primary Elections

Chile does not usually hold presidential primary elections. For that reason, we typically arrive at election day in November with five or six (or more) candidates on the ballot and thus no one ends up getting at least 50.1% of the vote. Therefore, the top two vote-getters do a run-off election in December, called la segunda vuelta.

However, this year (2017) the “Right” is having a primary election for its three top contenders on Sunday, July 2nd. Besides former president Sebastián Piñera (independent, populist, center-right), the other two candidates from the Right are Senator Miguel José Ossandón (an independent, ignorant-but-popular, centrist, pragmatic populist) and Representative (diputado) pro-life, libertarian-leaning Felipe Kaast (political evolution party).

The hard Left is having a primary, too, with key contenders being radio reporter Beatriz Sánchez (supported by the Humanist Party and also many left-leaning libertarians, including the Liberal Party) and sociologist Alberto Mayol (from the “wide front” coalition). The Right and hard-left primaries will narrow the candidate field a bit in November.

Since the “moderate” Left could not come to any agreement within their coalition to have a primary, their two prominent candidates: senators Carolina Goic (Christian Democrat) and Alejandro Guillier (Radical Party, also backed by the Socialist party) will both run in November. The centrist Christian Democrats are even talking about supporting the Right instead this year in the second round (if Goic does not make the cut) should favored centrist Sebastián Piñera win the Right’s primary. Morevoer, if things look bad for Goic in November, these voters might turn to Piñera in the first round instead, which might push him over the top and preclude the necessity of having a December run-off.

If you can read Spanish, see the write-up at this link where you can learn more about each of the candidates. Remember that both citizens and permanent residents (of at least five years) can vote in Chile. Permanent residents and citizens living abroad can also vote; they should contact their local Chilean consulates to find out how to do so.

At first glance, libertarians that vote should do so for Kaast. Like Ron Paul, he will likely not win. In the end, we will probably be stuck with Piñera again and he will face Guillier, Goic and the green-leaning or communist candidate. In that case, Piñera would clearly be better, in spite of his populist support for the “morning after pill” and silly labor laws used to “buy” votes.

Since the primary ballots allow voters to select either leftist or rightist candidates, some have suggested that the hard left will go to the polls in July to vote for Kaast or Ossandón in order to derail Piñera and keep the Christian Democrats in the leftist fold. The center-left candidates would have a shot at beating Kaast or Ossandón but would be unlikely to beat Piñera. So, the strategy makes sense.

At the moment, the Right is far ahead. Chile has endured four long years of detrimental leftist-rule and the populace is tired of it. Whichever rightist candidate wins will undoubtedly receive the support of the backers of the other rightist pretenders–just as with the Republican Party in the USA. Once again, if Goic supporters fall in with Piñera over Guillier, then it is even possible that the Right could win in the first round (la primera vuelta) of elections in November.

Achieving that would mark an historic victory for the Right and put it firmly in the political driver’s seat. For that reason, some libertarians I know will be voting for Piñera instead of Kaast in July. They like Kaast better, of course, but are being pragmatic. They also see Kaast as just warming up now so that he can take the bid in 2021. Could be the case. I am no fan of Piñera. I am a libertarian. But I am a fan of Chile and I must confess that Chile will probably fare far better under Piñera than Guillier or Goic.

The bigger races to watch are, perhaps, the congressional seats in hotly contested parts of Chile, especially Viña del Mar, Concepción, Punta Arenas and some areas of south central Chile (Temuco to Puerto Montt). Iquique and Arica might also turn right if the politics are well-played and the rightest candidate is only opposed by a hard-left one.

As always, the northeastern part of Santiago will go to the Right. However, adjacent parts like La Reina, Santiago, Puente Also, Ñuñoa and Huecheraba will be, as always, in a tug-of-war between Left and Right. The same is true for Estación Central, Maipú and La Florida. The Right needs to do well in these districts if it wants to be able to shift Chile back on the right track. The Right typically forms a tight coalition in the houses of Congress, meaning that individual ideas are less important. The balance of power needs to be shifted back and recover the ground lost in 2013.

If the Right wins big like it did in last year’s mayoral races, Chile could become even more solidly libertarian and an even better place to do business. Keep a close eye on things. 2018 could be a very good year!

Be sure to become a member of Escape America Now and gain access to the monthly webinar. Details at www.esccapeamerianow.info. Visit AllAboutChile.com for discussion and forums about the country.

Dr. Cobin’s updated and enlarged 2017 book, Life in Chile: A Former American’s Guide for Newcomers, Fourth Edition, is the most comprehensive treatise on Chilean life ever written, designed to help newcomers get settled in Chile. He covers almost every topic imaginable for immigrants. This knowledge is applied in his valet consulting service–Chile Consulting–where he guides expatriates through the process of finding a place to live and settle in Chile, helping them glide over the speed bumps that they would otherwise face in getting their visas, setting up businesses, buying real estate, investing in Chilean stocks or gold coins, etc. The cost is $129.

For a brief introduction consider Dr. Cobin’s abridged book (56 pages): Chile: A Primer for Expats ($19), offering highlights (somewat outdated) found in the larger book. Buy Dr. Cobin’s Public Policy books at Amazon.com:

Christian Theology of Public Policy: Highlighting the American Experience (2006)

Bible and Government: Public Policy from a Christian Perspective (2003)

A Primer on Modern Themes in Free Market Economics and Policy (2009)

A Second Citizenship Beyond Chilean

There are certain motifs that fascinate expatriates in general. The most common ones I hear are gold and its storage, tax reduction, escaping warfarism or welfarism, relationships with non-American women, offshore banking, lower-cost living (lifestyle upgrade) and second passports. For many of them, this last motif requires a great, if not the greatest, amount of time and capital to acquire.

American expatriates are the most beleaguered. All U.S. passport holders are subject to double taxation if they live and earn money outside of the land of the free. The is a real bummer. They are often shunned by overseas banks that do not want to hassle with FATCA rules. They are potential targets of “terrorism” and kidnapping more frequently than nearly all, if not all, other countries. They are subject to many arcane and Draconian rules and legislation that make their lives more onerous.

Nevertheless, they cannot simply get rid of their American citizenship. First, they must pay a few thousand dollars to get the U.S. government’s permission to let them go. Then, if they have over two million dollars in assets worldwide, they must pay an exit tax of thirty percent of all that they own. Finally, lest they become a “stateless person,” they have to have already acquired another citizenship.

European and other expatriates do not have the same trouble. They simply need to leave their home country and live elsewhere to avoid the taxation issues. No need to renounce their native nationality, unless it happens to be North Korea, Cuba or an unsavory Muslim, African or Southeast Asian country. (In those cases, the course of action will be similar to that undertaken by Americans.) Bank accounts are not a problem to open and most other countries are not big targets of “terrorism” like the U.S.A. is. They just need to get a second nationality if there are other hindrances at home that bother them or to give them some flexibility for work and travel.

In any case, it always pays to have a second passport in case the country underlying the first one runs into trouble. Economic theory suggests that more opportunities make one wealthier. All the more so when a second passport comes at little additional cost. A second nationality can also provide local benefits such as membership to exclusive, ethnic country clubs (as in Santiago and Viña del Mar), private schools for one’s children that feature the language of the home country, business connections and jobs for those that want to work in a multinational firm (e.g., a European company with an office in Santiago), which likes or requires you to have the legal right to work in the home country. Thus, if one could cheaply acquire four or five nationalities it might make sense to do so, although nationalities are subject to diminishing returns at some point.

Chile has a straightforward, five-year path to citizenship that carries little financial cost. It is a well-respected passport and offers visa-free travel to most destinations of the world (even Russia!). Chilean citizens living abroad do not pay taxes at home (in Chile). Chileans bother no one and thus they are not targets. They can open bank accounts without difficulties anywhere in the world where expats tend to go. The biggest hitch for those that seek Chilean citizenship is the requirement to live in Chile for 185 days during their first year of residency.

For most Europeans, and perhaps Canadians, Australians and Kiwis, Chile will be the second passport. For Americans, and perhaps South Africans, Israelis and Canadians (due to Canada’s strong ties to the U.S.A.), Chilean citizenship will replace their original nationality. In that latter case, a second passport is often sought.

The best and easiest means of getting a second passport is through ancestral citizenship requests in Italy, Poland, Ireland, Hungary, Latvia or Lithuania. Those countries, especially the first three (from which so many millions emigrated in the 19th and 20th centuries), make it relatively easy and cheap to regain citizenship by bloodline. One’s offspring and spouse will usually obtain the nationality along with him, or at least have the option to do so. Accordingly, those that can, will—and should—go this route. (Note that the idea is to get a backup country, not live in that country necessarily.)

Other folks will have to look on the world market and see how much they must pay to acquire a second passport. I have heard Bulgaria could cost as much as US$625,000, while Malta is much less, as are Dominica and other Caribbean islands and Costa Rica. Residency requirements vary widely with these choices. A final method entails running a second citizenship course that parallels the quest for the Chilean one. After the first year or so (more like 18 months). one only need be in Chile for one day per year to maintain his permanent residency, leaving a person free to spend more time in Paraguay, Ecuador, Brazil, Thailand, New Zealand, Switzerland, Australia, Estonia, Georgia or any number of island nations (Bahamas, Cook Islands, Mauritius, etc.), European enclaves, Singapore or other target country.

In my mind, the ideal situation is to attain Chilean citizenship and, if you happen to have it, ditch American citizenship at the lowest cost possible. If one does not have another citizenship from his home country, he should then try to get at least one more, perhaps from an E.U. country that is well-received and admired. I like country lists and rankings very much, even though I often disagree with the criteria or results in certain cases. Accordingly, Nomad Capitalist puts out a nifty passport ranking, Nomad Passport Index, that provides a starting point for choosing a second passport. Note that the top ten are all European passports, including Italy and Ireland, and the top thirty are dominated by European nations. I suggest you have a look there to see what countries’ passports might be of greatest interest to you. One reason that an E.U. country makes sense is because with any E.U. passport you have the right to live in and work or study in any E.U. country. So it is almost like getting twenty-eight countries for the price of one! Even if the country issuing the passport is in worse shape than Chile, there is a chance that one of the others will not be.

You might pick one where learning the third language (after English and Spanish) might provide an interesting hobby. Americans might also choose to avoid countries with strong taxation and regulatory ties to the United States, like Canada, the U.K. and Australia and, in some cases, avoid countries with alliances to promote family court and child services division rulings and punish violators that have “fled” (e.g., Portugal, Norway, Finland, the U.K., Australia, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Ireland, Poland, Holland, Switzerland and, to a lesser extent, France and Spain). As with most things, the optimal choice for any one person depends on tastes and personal circumstances.

The bottom line is that it makes sense to be prepared. We have no idea what will happen in Chile in five, ten or twenty years. It is best to take steps now to have options in the future that are better than what refugees or asylum-seekers carry with them.

Be sure to become a member of Escape America Now and gain access to the monthly webinar. Details at www.esccapeamerianow.info. Visit AllAboutChile.com for discussion and forums about the country.

Dr. Cobin’s updated and enlarged 2017 book, Life in Chile: A Former American’s Guide for Newcomers, Fourth Edition, is the most comprehensive treatise on Chilean life ever written, designed to help newcomers get settled in Chile. He covers almost every topic imaginable for immigrants. This knowledge is applied in his valet consulting service–Chile Consulting–where he guides expatriates through the process of finding a place to live and settle in Chile, helping them glide over the speed bumps that they would otherwise face in getting their visas, setting up businesses, buying real estate, investing in Chilean stocks or gold coins, etc. The cost is $129.

For a brief introduction consider Dr. Cobin’s abridged book (56 pages): Chile: A Primer for Expats ($19), offering highlights (somewat outdated) found in the larger book. Buy Dr. Cobin’s Public Policy books at Amazon.com:

Christian Theology of Public Policy: Highlighting the American Experience (2006)

Bible and Government: Public Policy from a Christian Perspective (2003)

A Primer on Modern Themes in Free Market Economics and Policy (2009)

Quiet Townhouses with Ocean View in Reñaca

QUIET LIVING! Beautiful Ocean View in the World’s Best Climate!

Unit N°1 (156m2/1,948sf + 40m2/430sf covered terrace/balcony) 2 stories, 4 bedrooms, 4,5 bathrooms, hardwood kitchen with green granite, 3 big closets and high-up kitchen storage, very large terraces, open-air private Jacuzzi, two parking spaces and large storage unit (10m2), in-floor heating, solar heating system.

Unit N°2 (107m2/1,151sf) 2 stories, 3 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, 5 big closets and high-up kitchen storage, balcony, two parking spaces and large storage unit (9m2), hardwood kitchen with green granite, in-floor heating, solar heating system. Dining area can be enlarged 6m2/64sf and include visitor’s half bath (additional cost approx. USD6,000). 

Unit N°3 (100m2/1,076sf) 1 level, 2 bedrooms (one of which is a large living room that converts to a bedroom with two Murphy beds, American kitchen, 3 bathrooms, 3 hardwood shelves/”closets” and laundry area, very large terrace on garden level, one parking space.

New building with three units (or townhouses). All are for sale. A 50% interest is available in N°3, permitting a 60/40 split of rental income and providing a Chilean address and place to live for some/most of the March through December (except Easter weekend, July 15-August 5 and September 15-21). Price for a share in that one is 3,425 UF or half of USD 270,000.

The townhouse for sale is perfect for newcomers from North America or Europe.

Unit N°1 PRICE 12,950 UF (343 million pesos on April 1, 2017) USD 514,000

Unit N°2 PRICE 7,500 UF (198 million pesos on April 1, 2017) USD 297,000

Unit N°3 PRICE 6,850 UF (181 million pesos on April 1, 2017) USD 271,000

Units N°1 and N°3 can be combined to make a much larger 3-story townhouse.

2% discount for cash purchase. Buyer pays all closing costs, including notary, legal and any realtor fees.

50% discount on property taxes for ten years (government discount under law DFL-2)

Very low monthly community fees: 2UF in units N°3 and N°2 and 3.5 UF in N°1.

Note: The UF is an inflation-indexed currency surrogate that is used in Chile for major purchases and loans. It has a value in pesos that changes daily according to inflation. For example, 0n April 1, 2017, one UF was worth 26,472 pesos (about US$39.69).

Here is the view:

La gran puesta del sol 31 julio 2015 edificio los arándanos de Reñaca Cobin puesta del sol 31 julio 2015 edificio los arándanos de Reñaca Cobin20150525_185940

Puesta del sol desde los Almendros 1 agosto Los Arándanos de Reñaca Cobin parte 2

Puesta del sol desde los Almendros 1 agosto Los Arándanos de Reñaca Cobin

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 Nov 1st sunset

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LOCATION – LOCATION – LOCATION

The location of the new townhouse in northwestern Los Almendros, a highly desirable section of Reñaca, a sector of Viña del Mar.

Street address is José Suárez 185, Reñaca, Viña del Mar,

Longitude/latitude to find the lot with Google Earth: 32°58’00.00″ S  71°31’26.10″ W.

Viña del Mar has been named the city with the best climate in the world on EscapeArtist Chile. It is similar to coastal Southern California. Also see this article that I wrote on Viña del Mar, this one includes Valparaíso and this one that I wrote on Reñaca Beach in 2014. Others that might interest you include:

PLANS

Townhome N°2 is highlighted in yellow in the drawings (designated as “Depto 2”), Like Townhouse N°1, it is two stories and thus is on two different drawings. It is the one indicated as 105.6 meters squared on the plan legend, 107 meters squared if one counts the deep end of the large downstairs closet in the count (1,151 square feet). The deck for Townhouse N°2 is 3.5 meters squared (37 square feet). Townhouse N°1 has a 15m2 balcony and a 25m2 terrace. Townhouse N°3 has a garden terrace of approx. 50m2.  The storage unit (bodega), which could be converted into more living space or an office, is 9 meters squared (97 square feet) for Townhouse N°2 and 10m2 for Townhouse N°1. Both of these later features make the effective living area larger. Some people might consider enclosing the outside flower bed outside Townhouse N°2, enlarging the dining area by 64 square feet, adding a visitor’s half bath and possibly making the balcony larger.

A lot of Americans cannot imagine living in such a “small” space but once in Chile, like Europe or Japan, one gets quite used to living in smaller spaces comfortably, especially when there are common areas for BBQs, grassy yard with fruit trees and view decks, plus large, high-ceiling storage shelves and cabinets, in addition to the square footage for the apartment itself.

Looking down to the apartment from the street, it can be seen at the top of the drawing (for reference, the public area with marble sidewalk starts where the dashed line is indicated, the building property being to the right of it). Looking up at it from the ocean, it is on the upper right with the large view windows of the living room and master bedroom visible in the drawings.

Look at the architectural plans below, which can be downloaded as PDF files and printed. The parts labeled “Bodega” are storage areas, and one has been converted to the maid’s quarters or a fourth bedroom with full bathroom (Townhouse N°1). They have 2.87 meter (about 9.5 foot) ceilings and two go all the way to the property line, seen on the plans as a dashed line (right underneath the parking space, one highlighted in light blue). The rest of the top floor likewise has high ceilings. The apartment comes with two parking spaces, highlighted in yellow in the plans. Visitors can easily park on the street or in the large cul-de-sac, too. The lower floor, back and sides are made of solid reinforced concrete construction, as is the bodega and spine of the upper floor, with welded metal and metal framed (like one would find in low-rise office buildings) and stuccoed construction for the rest, Townhouses N°1 and N°2 share a common wall.

The yellow highlighting shows the kitchen, living and dining room and bedrooms and bathrooms. The outside landing and bodega that pertain to Townhouse N°2 are shaded in other colors.

The street-level, marble rooftop is a common area for gatherings and viewing, especially things like the famous New Years Eve fireworks displays over the port of Valparaíso and other shows over Viña del Mar, Concón and Reñaca. (This area is mixed with the parking area.) The small amount of land that “by law” goes with the apartment by law is not estimated in the highlighting.

Click on the links for each plan image to enlarge it. You can open, print and/or download a clean PDF version of the plans.

nivel-0 PDF here Street level with view deck (commons) and parking spaces, solar heating

 piso-0

nivel-1 PDF here Top floor (kitchen, laundry, living room, dining room, balcony, bodega)

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nivel-2 PDF here Lower floor (bedrooms, bathrooms and closets)

piso-2

nivel-3 PDF here Lower floor and garden area (commons)

piso-3

VIDEOS AND PHOTOS

The townhome is in a building that features 240 square meters of elegant marble flooring–2,582 square feeet! Residents even park on marble. It is quite elegant and makes the owners feel proud of their home. Much of the marble is on the view deck and staircase, both of which are shared or common areas.

Note: Videos show some debris/incompleteness becasuee they were taken prior to building completion.

View deck and blueberry plants up top

Parking area and View deck

Walk to front door from lawn/garden area below

Marble entrance from street and parking area down to front door Townhouse N°2

Kitchen Townhouse N°2 similar to other kitchens

Climb staircase Townhouse N°2

Master bedroom starting at bathroom Townhouse N°2

Master bedroom starting from hall Townhouse N°2

Study or small bedroom and other bedroom Townhouse N°2

Second bathroom Townhouse N°2

Banister and walk down Townhouse N°2

Cozy living room dining room Townhouse N°2

Kitchen Townhouse N°2

 

Neighborhood

View from up top

Looking down from view deck

Storage unit Townhouse N°2

Garden 

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FEATURES

° solid hardwood (lenga) interior doors, stairway, hand railing

° spacious custom closets, in Townhouses N°1 and N°2, with storage room under the stairs and high up in the kitchen, too, plus the bodega outside.

° black marble entrance way in Townhouses N°1 and N°2.

° hardwood (raulí, cedar o lenga) kitchen cabinets with green granite countertops.

° custom (mostly hardwood) bathroom cabinets with green granite or brown marble countertops

° upgraded bathrooms with European fixtures, one with Jacuzzi tub in Townhouses N°1 and N°2.

° carved-out of the hillside lawn and garden (common areas) on flat area; dramatically cutting wind and any noise, and creating greater earthquake security.

° internal rainwater irrigation support system to reduce plant watering costs

° in-floor radiant heating system in Townhouses N°1 and N°2.

° video phone/camera gate opening system; four exterior security cameras with video feed to household computers.

° solar energy supplement for vital systems and hot water boost in Townhouses N°1 and N°2.

° higher ceilings, 9.3 feet on bottom floor, narly 10 feet on top floor in Townhouses N°1 and N°2.

° engineered cherry wood flooring with areas of porcelain flooring (especially in  in Townhouses N°3 but in all kitchens).

° solid reinforced concrete base and perimeter with and welded metal internal structure, lessening potential dampness problems.

° PVC thermopane windows and terrace door with quiet insulation (Germany).

° Ecological surroundings with 150 blueberry plants and seven different fruit trees plus flowers and summertime fruits and vegetables such as watermelons and tomatoes.

There is only one other year-round resident next door. In the summer there could be carefully-chosen renters in the townhouse below. The environment is very quiet.

 

COMPETITIVE PRICING

This price is competitive for this upscale (class “B-“) area of northwestern Los Almendros de Reñaca. In upper middle class (“C1”) areas of Reñaca, used houses or apartments (even without a view) average 1.3+ million pesos per square meter. Along the coastline, prices are nearly double. The upscale section of Los Almendros tends to be priced in between. The pricing of these units is commanded for its construction quality, its cozy setup with only one other full time family in the building rather than one unit among dozens in a larger building, the fact that it is impossible to obstruct the view, the fact that no elevator is required, the high quality of surrounding homes (some of which are 500m2 to 750m2), and the advantage of having a dwelling that is brand new without any wear and tear or earthquake history.

Earthquakes and Tsunamis?

The building in construction suffered no damage whatever from the September 16, 2015 earthquake (8.4 Richter Scale, epicenter 95 miles north) and hundreds of subsequent aftershocks (more than a dozen of them over 6.0 Richter Scale up to 7.6 Richter Scale). The townhome is safely located at about 124 meters or 410 ft. above sea level, and therefore there is no tsunami threat. Hurricanes have never threatened Chile.

Did we mention LOCATION?

The townhome is located exactly 2km to the Tottus Express supermarket and the many banks, restaurants, mail services, hair salons and shops in Reñaca, and 7km to the Jumbo and Líder Express supermarkets and the strip malls of Concón. The casino and restaurants of Viña del Mar are about 15 minute’s drive. You can see some images of the Reñaca and Concón commercial areas below.2014-01-30 21.10.31

The area is booming with new construction and roadways, making an increase in property value likely. The bus stop for line 607 is only 300 meters away, making it easy for the maid to get to work, or for renters or others to get to the store or the beach. The local bus fare is around 300 pesos or 43 US cents local travel and 68 US cents to central Viña del Mar or Valparaíso. Line 607 comes by every 10-20 minutes (until 9pm/10pm in Summer) and goes to Reñaca, the nice areas and malls in Viña del Mar (and close to the Santiago connections via the Viña del Mar bus terminal) and Valparaíso.

These images are taken from the top of the lot during the day, at sunset and at dusk. The apartment has parking and access from the street level where the photographs were taken and then the owner will walk down a flight of stairs to his apartment entrance. That means that the apartment’s second story will be below street level.

2014-02-14 20.28.47 2014-02-14 20.31.37

COMPARATIVE SHOPPING

Online searching for properties in Reñaca will reveal a wide range of prices that reflect variables like (a) ocean view, (b) proximity to the beach (good for summer, if one can take the summer and long weekend traffic jams, but not for household humidity the rest of the year), (c) proximity to local transportation, schools and shopping, (d) age of the house and its surroundings (including its earthquake experience), (e) physical condition and/or remodeling needs, (f) ability to escape from summer and long weekend traffic jams, (g) tsunami safety, (h) busy-ness of the residential street or loud nightlife parties, (i) adequate parking (for owner and visitors) and storage, and (j) the desirability of the neighborhood in which a property is located (including the quality of surrounding homes, nearby parks, etc.).

There is a link below to an article I wrote about the best neighborhoods in Viña del Mar. The rule of thumb price for newer homes in nicer neighborhoods without ocean views is 1.3 million pesos per square meter. This property obvious offers much more and thus should fetch over 2 million pesos per square meter. It is a good deal and a place you will enjoy coming home to. 100_3591

For example, these “cookie cutter” tract homes 1km down the street in the “C1” section of Los Almendros are selling for ~US$250,000. The location is nice, but there is no view of the ocean, and the homes are of noticeably lower quality.

LAYOUT

In the drawing with the windows, the apartment is on the upper right side (as seen from the ocean). It is an inverted “T” shape, wider on the first floor (-2) than the protruding, twice as long (deep) second floor (-1) with its obviously independent roof-line. The architect put figurines on the apartment’s deck in the drawings above.

Layout details: 2 stories, 3 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, big-windowed living room and dining area (white PVC thermopane), kitchen, marble entrance with a garden where flowers and shrubs can be put in, or it may be converted into more living space or a Jacuzzi; a deck for outdoor relaxation or place to put your BBQ on the street level or on the garden level below, large storage area (bodega) and parking space. Radiant floor heating and solar panel support. The bottom floor (-2) has the master bedroom with bathroom, another bathroom and two other bedrooms, one of which could be used as a study or a den. The apartment is located on a secure cul-de-sac and thus has no significant traffic or loud parties.

NO ELEVATOR REQUIRED

Yes! No elevator is required, which is an advantage given that this is technically a townhouse or condo setting. You will have to take stairs one level down from the parking area and front gate, a walkway which could be beautifully lined with flowers. Remember that in Viña del Mar, flowers grow like weeds. You can already see the garden setting that has been put in, along with a rainwater collection system with 13,000 liters of irrigation storage.

WHAT YOU GET FOR THE PRICE


Finish work:
  • “Porcelanato” and engineered cherry wood floors 
  • Hardwood interior doors and entry door.
  • Walls painted in a neutral tone in Townhouse N°2 with white crown moldings, other in Townhouses N°1 and N°3 have green walls and some colored rooms.
  • Central heating and water heating system with solar heating support and solar backup for pumps and key outlets in Townhouses N°1 and N°2.
  • Cherry colored wood baseboards
  • Hardwood (lenga) hand railings, stairs in Townhouses N°1 and N°2.
  • Bedrooms with closets, except Townhouse N°3 that has open hardwood shelving.
  • Kitchen with tall, hardwood-faced cabinets (not typical in Chile)  in Townhouses N°1 and N°2.
  • Bathrooms with upgraded tile floor and toilet, sink and tub/shower in one bathroom, spa tub in the other.
  • The bottom floor and back half of the first floor is made of reinforced concrete (hormigón), with the remainder being thermically-efficient steel beam framed on concrete backing, nestled against the hillside. 
  • Efficient LED light fixtures are included, which is not typical for Chile.
  • Wider oven in Townhouses N°1 and N°2., dishwasher, modern faucets, gas range and hood; gas dryer connection ready in Townhouses N°1 and N°2.
  • No curtains or blinds are included.
  • Some appliances are included: range, hood, sink, wash basin.

Note: Central heating is installed in the floors in Townhouses N°1 and N°2, but air conditioning is not needed in Reñaca.  in Townhouses N°3 uses a portable heater and has a natural gas Calefont water heating unit

AGAIN: WORLD’S BEST WEATHER

The EscapeArtist Chile mentioned above referenced this article online from a weather expert that says that Viña del Mar has the best weather and climate for humans in the world.

LANDSCAPING

Landscaping is not included in the main entrance way flower bed but is provided everywhere else on the property. Flower gardens are easy in this climate. The backyard has grass, flowers, blueberry bushes and fruit trees planted (cherry, apple, pear, minature lemon, orange, two avocados, fig), along with some occasional vegetables. The main home and apartments are not built on fill.

RESERVE THE PROPERTY WITH 15% DOWN

You can reserve one of these properties with a non-refundable deposit of 25% down.

The Chilean tax IDs are 3032-564 for townhome N°1 and 3032-568 plus 3032-569 for its bodegas (storage units). The Chilean tax IDs are 3032-565 for townhome N°2 and 3032-567 for its bodega (storage unit). The two in-line parking spaces assigned to each of these units do not require a separate tax ID. The Chilean tax ID is 3032-566 for Townhome N°3. It has only one parking space and no bodega.

Chilean residents can go to a bank and borrow the full amount for the property.

LOW CONDO FEES

“Gastos comunes” (condo fees) will be much lower than typical properties. The apartment will have its own property tax account, its own water, internet/TV, phone, gas and electricity bills.

The apartment owner will pay to keep up his terrace, electric gate opener, gate or fence damage, pipes and wiring maintenance or repair and walkway/patio repairs or changes.

A fund used to pay for the following common exterior items will be created:

  • Painting of walls and front gate or fencing
  • Wall and roof repair
  • Rain gutter upkeep
  • Sewage pump maintenance and replacement every 2-3 years
  • Lawn, flowers and tree/bush/plant irrigation
  • Lighting in common areas
  • Solar systems maintenance

The main property owner (Townhouse #1) will be in charge of having this work done when it is needed.

The charge will be UF2 every month, for Townhouses N°2 and N°3 which is about US$78, and UF 3,5 in Townhouse N°1. It will need to be deposited by you directly into a designated bank savings account. Instead of paying the low condo fees in this apartment, people that buy other apartments (condos) in buildings frequently pay more than $1,250 per quarter.

A lien will be placed against the property for the amount due, a penalty of 10% extra for each month the payment is late, and interest charged at 20% per year. In addition, the Townhouses N°1 and N°2 buyer agrees that his bodega titles will be forfeited after one year of not paying this small maintenance fee. Obviously, the penalty is large just to make sure that the apartment owner never falls behind.

The repairs and upkeep will be done when needed with no specific time frame. Should there be a major problem like dry rot or weather/earthquake damage, the costs of repair will be shared proportionally. This cost is above and beyond the UF 2 /3.5 charge every month.

All owners will agree to maintain fire and earthquake insurance on the property. This coverage should offset many repair costs due to fire or weather.

Please keep in mind that there are technically three living units in the building but one family will be using two of them, unless one of those units is rented or even sold later on. This is a pretty intimate relationship that family will share with the apartment purchaser.

RESTRICTIONS

The apartment owner will agree to make sure that the colors and materials remain uniform. The restrictive covenants have been recorded with the Chilean equivalent of the county recorder, called the Conservador de Bienes Raíces.

The buyer will also agree that no loud parties will take place, especially after midnight, by himself or by renters.

LOW MAINTENANCE EXTERIOR

The brick exterior will be as low-maintenance as possible for a pacific coastal climate.

The small roof area is covered with “estate grey” color asphalt shingles.

The double-pane windows are white PVC window frames from Germany, providing high security and energy efficiency. They provide a quiet interior, too.

RENTAL INCOME

Also note that the apartment owner has full rights to rent out his apartment, of course, which can be quite lucrative in Reñaca during the summer months Dec. 26th to March 5th, and still possible after those months at at least 50% occupancy. Furnished places can get around 2 million pesos per month in the Summer if administered well (USD 100-150 per night), especially in January and February, and also good rent during the week prior to Easter, the last two weeks of July (winter break) and the week around Chilean independence (September 18th). The best ways to rent out a Townhome are with Booking.com or Tripadvisor.com. During the non-summer months, people from Santiago also come and rent furnished places for about the same rate, viz. once again, in mid to late July (winter break), Easter week, long weekends around May 1st, May 21st and October 31st-November 1st, as well as the week around Independence Day (September 18th). So there are other rental opportunities during the year from Chileans. A market also exists to rent to foreigners that visit Chile for short periods. In general, one can expect 90% occupancy and full price during the summer, and about 30% less with 50% to 70% occupancy during the rest of the year, on average.

100_3198

For those that want to keep a unit as a full-time rental all year, many people rent to university students, maybe 5 students to an apartment, for $175 per month each, during the rest of the year. But doing so is probably not going to yield as much as using online services.

Bear in mind that the owner is responsible to make sure that renters agree not “to party” or make lots of noise, especially after midnight.

Others keep their coastal apartments open for their own use during the rest of the year. Viña del Mar is a great place to live year-round and one might consider doing so or leaving it open for weekend use even if they live in Santiago most of the time.

Another choice is to live in northwestern Los Almendros de Reñaca from March through December and then rent the house for the summer while the owner rents a place down by the southern Chilean lakes and mountains or travels abroad. A very pleasant option for those that like to travel!

WINTER HUMIDITY

There is some humidity problem in this location during the wintertime that can easily be dealt with by running dehumidifiers. Listen to the evidence from the market. Locals tend not to live close to the beach for a reason, and lower price is not the only one. They want to avoid even higher humidity indoors. Townhouses N°1 and N°2 are designed to reduce dampness even further with partial steel beam framing.2014-04-26 19.26.15

TAX BREAK

Because the property is new construction and under 140m2, Chilean law DFL-2 provides for a 50% reduction in property taxes for 10 years. I do not know what the effective taxes will be, but I am guessing that they will initially be around 70,000 pesos (US$125) per quarter. They could be less.

If you are interested, please send an email to osorno7@earthlink.net or call +56-32-3277712.

Here are some other images of the area. The neighborhood park, near the bus stop, is just 300 meters from the apartment.

P1040131 P1040121 P1040130

 Houses in the neighborhood (seen in the photos below), across the street, have between 400 m2 and 750 m2, or around 4,300 sq. ft. to 8,000 sq. ft., while adjacent apartments tend to be around 140 m2 or 1,500 sq. ft. The cul-de-sac located apartment you will be buying is located in good company for sure!

P1040128 P1040127 P1040124 P1040123 2014-07-16 12.14.02 2014-07-16 12.13.47

See a couple photos of local buses below, running through Reñaca sector, the first one being number 607, stopped at the little plaza near the property.

IMG_20150120_191735 2014-07-16 12.26.19 P1040134

Strip malls, the small Reñaca mall and other nearby shopping and services, including the new Tottus Express supermarket, all less than 2 kilometers away.

IMG-20141218-WA0009

IMG-20141218-WA0011

IMG-20141218-WA0013

IMG-20141218-WA0015

 The Reñaca area offers all the conveniences of life: restaurants, supermarkets with a wide variety of goods, beauty salons, banks, mail services, money and exchange services, appliance stores, fast food, stationery stores, and more:

2014-07-16 12.25.19 2014-07-16 11.58.50 2014-07-16 11.32.45   P1040113 2014-07-16 11.30.14 P1040111 P1040110  P1040107 P1040105 P1040104 P1040102 P1040101 P1040100

If you’re seriously interested in this wonderful opportunity, send an email or fill out the form below and I’ll get back with you as soon as possible. Please don’t use this form for any other purpose.

Chilean Census – 2017

In Chile, the national census is taken every five years. Wednesday, April 19, 2017 was census day, and people were forced to take a confined (paid) holiday in order for census workers to get around to them and conduct a ten-minute household interview. The idea was that other than emergency personnel and the census takers themselves, everyone should have been in his home. (That fact might explain why there was a large, Summer-style traffic jam coming into Reñaca the evening before.) At any rate, every resident, tourist, newborn (but excluding unborn children) that was located in the home as of 00:00 on April 17th was counted as living there. Even people that died later that day were included (even if the death was prior to the arrival of the census taker).

Source

All stores were closed, at least until 8 p.m. Bus and Metro lines only ran for a couple of hours in the morning and evening in order to bring census workers to their locales. Census workers started quizzing people at 9:00 (except for homeless people, which were counted earlier before they got a chance to get up and move away). In spite of the wide publicity about the coming census, many people were still surprised when the knock on the door came. Our census taker, a young man doing military service apparently, did not arrive until after 1 p.m., and we were only the second household of the eighteen he was required to do. He was obviously behind schedule.

President Bachelet herself went to Renca (a lower middle-class comuna in north central Santiago) and personally did the census for eighteen households. She saved taxpayers 15,000 pesos, or about US$23 (supervisors got US$15 more), that would have been paid to someone else. The young man that came to our home said that he received nothing for the effort, since it was apparently part of his public service requirement.

Census questionnaires were available in Mapudungun (local Indian/Mapuche language), English, Portuguese, Creole (reflecting the growing Haitian population), French and German. The census committee wanted to make sure to correctly count tourists, new arrivals and tribal elements within the overall population. Hotel guests and passengers on trains, planes and buses were given questionnaires to complete, too, albeit with different questions than households received.

Overall, for most people, Census Day was boring and largely unproductive. Some people with small shops still opened, like my vehicle mechanic, and people with Internet-based businesses could still work. But there was little economic activity resulting from people moving around or shopping.

Many people feared (and newspapers reported) that some of the twenty-one census questions had been turned in a politically correct direction, like allowing people to declare their gender, even if different than their sex at birth. I am not sure how much traction this particular rule got, but it was annoying to read about it. Nevertheless, the census worker did not ask us our gender, but rather decided for himself that I was a man and my wife was a woman. Hence, the transgender questions were probably put “out there” for public image purposes while in reality Chileans just ignored the provision. I inquired about the matter with the young man doing the census and he just shrugged and gave me a puzzled look. Apparently, he was not gender-confused. I bet the vast majority of Chileans are not.

The “head of household” had to be declared in each home, and could be anyone age fifteen or older, regardless of gender or income. Again, in the case of our census-taker, we were never asked who headed the home, as it was evident that I did. Once again, political correctness was trumped in Chile. The gender and head of household gestures were published as a concession to leftists that ended up meaning nothing in reality.

Contestants were, apparently, allowed to remain anonymous, by only giving nicknames to census personnel. We just gave him our names when asked, since we did not find the census to be intrusive. No question was asked about household religion, as people on WhatsApp had been discussing during the week before. The only questions asked of a personal nature were one’s age, how many children he has (living or dead), one’s employment status, if he had a job last week, one’s city of birth, where one was located during the last census (in 2012), where one’s mother lived when he was born, and how many years of education one had completed.

In sum, the census was simple and hardly as contentious as some people were making it out to be. Just in case you are here in 2022, you can expect to go through the same process.

The bigger contention came late in the evening on Census Day, and the next day, when it was revealed that many people living in large buildings and certain provinces did not get counted. Scores of people wrote comments under online news stories that people were neither interviewed nor counted in places in Santiago like Maipú, Ñuñoa, Conchalí, Estación Central, Quilicura, plus provincial cities and towns like Colina, La Serena, Puerto Varas, Peñaflor, Quilpué and Ercilla. In Maipú alone, 1,358 census workers did not show up to do their job. Elsewhere in Santiago, 390 census takers did not show up in Cerro Navia (and 1,500 homes were missed) and 350 failed to do so in Pedro Aguirre Cerda (leaving 7% of homes missed). The Instituto Nacional de Estadísticas reported similar problems with absenteeism (on a lesser scale) in San Ramón, Conchalí, Cerillos, San Miguel, San Joaquín, Macul, Ñuñoa, Las Condes, La Pintana, La Granja, La Florida (where 3,000 homes were missed), La Cisterna and Huechuraba.

Like most public policies, the 2017 Census was an example of government failure. Replacements (usually bureaucrats from the municipalities) were running around the next day, and even for a couple weeks afterwards, trying to collect the missing data. Just how accurate Chilean censuses end up being is a matter for considerable debate. Academics are also upset that more questions were not asked during the push. To go to such an effort and yet only collect a paltry amount of data seemed quite wasteful to them. It is good to have it over and done with.

Fuente: Emol.com – http://www.emol.com/noticias/Nacional/2017/04/20/854989/Censo-2017-En-Maipu-1358-voluntarios-inscritos-no-llegaron-a-sus-locales-para-el-proceso.html

Be sure to become a member of Escape America Now and gain access to the monthly webinar. Details at www.esccapeamerianow.info. Visit AllAboutChile.com for discussion and forums about the country.

Dr. Cobin’s updated and enlarged 2016 book, Life in Chile: A Former American’s Guide for Newcomers, is the most comprehensive treatise on Chilean life ever written, designed to help newcomers get settled in Chile. He covers almost every topic imaginable for immigrants. This knowledge is applied in his valet consulting service–Chile Consulting–where he guides expatriates through the process of finding a place to live and settle in Chile, helping them glide over the speed bumps that they would otherwise face in getting their visas, setting up businesses, buying real estate, investing in Chilean stocks or gold coins, etc. The cost is $149.

For a brief introduction consider Dr. Cobin’s abridged book (56 pages): Chile: A Primer for Expats ($19), offering highlights found in the two larger books. Buy Dr. Cobin’s Public Policy books at Amazon.com:

Christian Theology of Public Policy: Highlighting the American Experience (2006)

Bible and Government: Public Policy from a Christian Perspective (2003)

A Primer on Modern Themes in Free Market Economics and Policy (2009)

Construction Quality in Chilean Cities

By now, most thinking people know that Chileans build the safest buildings in the world, at least in terms of earthquake protection. In the last seven years, populated areas of Chile have been struck by three large earthquakes (Richter Scale 8.2 Iquique, 8.3 Illapel and 8.8 Cauquenes). The damage done to postwar structures and highways was remarkably insignificant. And the damage that did occur was quickly repaired. Most people went to work or carried on with life as normal the next day.

Why is Chile so much more resilient to earthquakes than New Zealand or Italy, or even California or Japan? The answer lies in the fact that during the “framing” stage, the base of Chilean homes (if not the home entirely) and all office and apartment towers is made of 10-inch thick (or more) poured, reinforced concrete. Welded beams or metal framing studs are used on higher floors in homes sometimes, but the base is always sturdy. And many upscale homes feature poured, reinforced concrete on all floors.

In my project in Viña del Mar, like others in hilly coastal Chile, I carved out the hillside and embedded the building into it, making the structure even sturdier. Partially completed, it was unaffected during the 2015 8.3 Richter Scale earthquake.

People used to criticize Chile’s “wasteful” building procedures at the framing stage, which features so many costly restraining walls, deep-base concrete forms and poured reinforced walls. However, after the last decade’s earthquake experience here (and around the world), no one is hurling criticisms any longer. Chileans have done the rough-in stage right, ever since as many as 30,000 people died in the January 24, 1939 Chillan earthquake (7.8 Richter Scale), inland from Concepcion, wherein 47% of all Chillan’s structures were destroyed. That event made Chileans very safety-conscious. Consequently, one can feel quite safe during earthquakes in Chile, especially in modern urban areas.

Finish work is another story, however. I am not just referring to the overall high-level of defects permitted in the finish-out (at least by North American or European standards), which seems to predominate all Latin American buildings. Part of that imperfection is due to not having proper tools, laziness or workers just not having a culture of quality, given that workers tend to live in squalor and do not see the need for (or desire to have) nice-looking, perfect finish work.

Instead, I would like to emphasize that Chileans (especially in the middle classes) value image over true quality. They will buy kitchens that look nice for a few years but end up deteriorating rapidly as the particle board gives way. Cabinets, doors, “wood” floors and furniture are built with cheap wood products and then laminated with hardwood veneers. Laminated doors tend to be hollow. Floors are vinyl or wood veneer laminated. Imitation marble or granite are used if something other than Formica is used at all. Bathroom fixtures and accessories are almost always on the low-end of the scale. Stucco is preferred over brick or more elegant siding. Roofing is often cheap, local tile that frequently leaks. Windows tend to be the cheapest aluminum variety one can find in home building supercenters. Yards and gardens in houses and smaller buildings tend to be pathetic as if Chileans do not care or simply ran out of money to fix them up.

All is made to look good for a little while but is not built to last. Just about the only exceptions are building/home facades and apartment building foyers and lawns, which are elegant all the way around in upscale neighborhoods. They grant an air of affluence to those that stop by to visit, making them think more highly of the residents. That vanity is highly sought after in Chile.

One might think about buying a home or apartment with mediocre finish work, then gut it and put in high-quality stuff. Doing so is fine for those that plan to live there a long time and enjoy the amenities. However, being the best in the building or on the block will not necessarily translate into obtaining a greater resale value. One will not likely get his money out of the remodeled home. However, those that do remodel will enjoy both living with elegance and safety during fires or earthquakes.

Most people that I speak to that have lived outside of Chile, in Europe or North America especially, are simply appalled by mediocre finish work in supposedly upscale homes and apartments. However, my readers should not be surprised. Chileans like to buy cheap and they almost universally buy for image rather than quality. After the barrio quality, Chileans buy for proximity to private schools and being adjacent to neighbors in their social class. Ocean or mountain views come afterward in order of importance.

If you want something different than what is offered to the masses in the middle class, you will have to buy through one of the few quality builders around (like me!) or have a custom-built home done for you with the support of a good, expensive architect.

Quality materials are available here and, other than bathroom and kitchen fixtures, they are not terribly expensive relative to other countries. Custom cabinet and door makers exist, too, but the quality is not quite the same (even though it is very good). In sum, you can get what you want, but it will hardly be the norm by upper middle-class standards. Homes for the wealthy are another story, although even their mansions pale by comparison to the fabulous structures in the Northern Hemisphere.

Be sure to become a member of Escape America Now and gain access to the monthly webinar. Details at www.esccapeamerianow.info. Visit AllAboutChile.com for discussion and forums about the country.

Dr. Cobin’s updated and enlarged 2016 book, Life in Chile: A Former American’s Guide for Newcomers, is the most comprehensive treatise on Chilean life ever written, designed to help newcomers get settled in Chile. He covers almost every topic imaginable for immigrants. This knowledge is applied in his valet consulting service–Chile Consulting–where he guides expatriates through the process of finding a place to live and settle in Chile, helping them glide over the speed bumps that they would otherwise face in getting their visas, setting up businesses, buying real estate, investing in Chilean stocks or gold coins, etc. The cost is $149.

For a brief introduction consider Dr. Cobin’s abridged book (56 pages): Chile: A Primer for Expats ($19), offering highlights found in the two larger books. Buy Dr. Cobin’s Public Policy books at Amazon.com:

Christian Theology of Public Policy: Highlighting the American Experience (2006)

Bible and Government: Public Policy from a Christian Perspective (2003)

A Primer on Modern Themes in Free Market Economics and Policy (2009)

Notary and Recorder Monopolies in Chile

Notaries (notarías) and notarial services are vastly different in Chile than they are in places like the United States.

A notary designation is not easy to get in Chile, and a notary does far more than just verify the veracity of the signer. In many cases, notaries offer legal advice, too, the liability associated with doing so being a topic of academic discussion. The relative pay scales are a bit different in Chile compared to places like the United States as well.

According to El Mercurio, a Chilean notary business can rake in well over 10 million pesos (USD $155,500) per month, although a great number must languish with only USD $100,000 per month. Even in small towns like Puerto Varas, the local notary can knock down USD $15,000 per month.

That income level is due to the fact that notary positions are lifetime monopoly grants from the government (the Ministry of Justice, related to the Appellate Court, in particular). There appears to be political favoritism and even nepotism involved in the designation of notaries, which are almost impossible to remove once installed. Indeed, prior to 1995, they could not be removed at all.

One can find siblings heading different notaries, and their children. For instance, notary Tavolari has his shop in Viña del Mar while his sister runs another notary in Valparaíso, both going under the same last name: Notaría Tavolari. One would think they are related branch office, but they are not. In some cases, the designations have been effectively hereditary, passing down to children. Furthermore, the “industry” basically is unregulated. Thus, it is an ideal business to be in!

Not surprisingly, notary designation recipients _notarios_ make a big business out of their privilege. For instance, the Fischer Notary in Viña del Mar has sixty employees and rents the entire third floor (complete with private client parking area outside) of one of the most modern office buildings in the city. It is one of the largest notaries in the country. A number of Santiago notaries are even larger.

The number of notaries in any given area is limited by decree, and this fact can cause significant problems. In Concón and Lo Barnechea, for instance, both growing, largely affluent urban areas, there is only one notary, respectively. Both are congested with slow service, just as one would expect under monopolization.

Since people can use any notary in Chile, the folks from those areas often use other notaries instead (perhaps in Viña del Mar or Las Condes) in order to get better service. People might have to do that anyway since not all notaries are competent on legal matters or able to handle all document requests. Notaries willing to sign documents in English are even scarcer.

Chilean notaries are, in large measure, a product of living in a society of great distrust and mistrust. Contracts are basically unenforceable if they are not notarized. The same is true with all incorporations, transfers of vehicles or real estate, wills, affidavits, powers of attorney, insurance payouts, as well as documents needed to work with subcontractors. With the exception of some employment contracts, a non-notarized document is essentially worthless. Photocopies of legal documents, certificates, diplomas, records, etc. are likewise unacceptable, generally, unless they are photocopied by the notary himself and stamped as being a legitimate copy.

Lately, some politicians and public figures have called the notarial system “anachronistic, bureaucratic and hardly transparent.” Rates should be standardized throughout Chile for certain services. Yet prices can vary greatly: three or four times as much in one (usually affluent) place compared to another.

A parallel monopoly institution that is beleaguered by similar problems is the county recorder equivalent in Chile (called the conservador de bienes raíces that handles the recording of real estate transactions, as well as other legal rights and company formation documents. This institution, too, is very lucrative and is spawned by political privilege or favoritism. In fact, they make much more than notaries do. Getting this position is to hit a true goldmine.

Like notaries, they have an obligation to the “public trust” to ensure the safekeeping of public records for display when necessary. Consequently, they are both custodians of public documents, making them quasi-state institutions. They both subscribe to at least one powerful lobby to protect their benefits, too.

As an expatriate in Chile, it will be impossible to avoid having to use notary services, and unlikely to miss utilizing a recorder for legal transactions. Therefore, be prepared for inefficiencies, high costs and stressful hassles when you do. Nevertheless, being mentally prepared will help you cope better.

The system actually works, despite its monopolization and inefficiency. One must simply pay the price to get the desired result.

Be sure to become a member of Escape America Now and gain access to the monthly webinar. Details at www.esccapeamerianow.info. Visit AllAboutChile.com for discussion and forums about the country.

Dr. Cobin’s updated and enlarged 2016 book, Life in Chile: A Former American’s Guide for Newcomers, is the most comprehensive treatise on Chilean life ever written, designed to help newcomers get settled in Chile. He covers almost every topic imaginable for immigrants. This knowledge is applied in his valet consulting service–Chile Consulting–where he guides expatriates through the process of finding a place to live and settle in Chile, helping them glide over the speed bumps that they would otherwise face in getting their visas, setting up businesses, buying real estate, investing in Chilean stocks or gold coins, etc. The cost is $149.

For a brief introduction consider Dr. Cobin’s abridged book (56 pages): Chile: A Primer for Expats ($19), offering highlights found in the two larger books. Buy Dr. Cobin’s Public Policy books at Amazon.com:

Christian Theology of Public Policy: Highlighting the American Experience (2006)

Bible and Government: Public Policy from a Christian Perspective (2003)

A Primer on Modern Themes in Free Market Economics and Policy (2009)

Overview of Nightlife and Activities for Younger People

There are many reasons to live in Santiago: jobs, business and networking, modernity, large First World areas, great medical care, extensive and modern shopping, amusement parks, bowling, golf, international access/airport hub and access to language schools or many people that speak English. Other than work and business, Viña del Mar can tick most of those boxes, albeit on a much smaller scale, and what lacks is just ninety minutes away in Santiago. What Viña has over Santiago is less traffic (except during the Summertime, when it can be a bit oppressive on the coast), cooler weather in Summer, ocean views and no air pollution. The rest of Chile pales by comparison to these two spots, and thus it is no wonder that well over ninety percent of the expats we have serviced settle in either Northeastern Santiago or Viña del Mar.

Nevertheless, one thing that often goes unnoticed is the needs of younger, usually single people, mainly in their 20s and 30s. Most expats that we see are 45 to 65 years old. A few come with children, but most do not. For that reason, these immigrants rarely ask me about what social life is like for younger people. Other than church groups, I really do not know–being a man in his 50s that likes the quiet pleasantries of Viña del Mar. So I asked my 27-year-old son what cities he prefers to meet people, go out and have fun: restaurants, dancing, pubs, shows, casinos, soccer matches, beaches, concerts, horse racing, movie theaters, whatever.

While one observation (my son’s views) is hardly scientific, I think it could be of interest to readers since he was partly raised here and has since lived in Chile for many years, attended graduate school here and is perfectly bilingual. He also gets out a fair amount.

I asked my wife to fill in bits of information she knows about Southcentral Chile. I have a few bits of information to add to the mix, too, based on locales I have seen and activities I have witnessed during my extensive travels in Chile.

In my son’s view, Northeastern Santiago is clearly the best choice. It is a “10”. However, other places are also good or fair, while most places are mediocre or outright terrible. Here are the rankings:

10 Valparaíso/Viña del Mar on New Year’s Eve and during Festival de Viña (around February 19-28)

8 Viña del Mar during the summertime (including Reñaca and south Concón)

7 Viña del Mar during the rest of the year

6,5 Concepción

6 Pucón or Villarrica (especially) and Puerto Varas during the summertime

5 La Serena and Iquique

4 Temuco and Valdivia

3.5 Puerto Montt and Rancagua

3 All other popular lakes and beaches during the summertime, Antofagasta

2 Arica, Talca, Curicó, Linares, Chillán, Los Ángeles, Punta Arenas, Coyhaique, Osorno, Calama, Copiapó, Los Andes, Quillota, Pucón and Villarrica and Puerto Varas during the rest of the year

1 Rural areas and small towns throughout Chile, other lakes and beaches during the rest of the year.

Take the ranking for what it is worth, but at least you now have an idea of what to expect in each area of the country. My son would not live anywhere but Northeastern Santiago or Viña del Mar, unless (of course) he was called to work in another city. Remember, too, that even if Viña del Mar is more suitable for his parent’s generation or retirees, there is still a fair amount for younger people to do and he can easily get to spots in Santiago by bus/metro in a couple hours for Friday and Saturday night–a virtue that no other provincial urban center provides (like Concepción–too far away).

In many ways, Viña del Mar is the superior choice if a young person does not have to work in Santiago every day. He gets the benefits of nightlife in both of those cities without having to put up with the disagreeable aspects of daily life in Santiago (smog, traffic, summertime heat). Overall, it seems pretty clear that young people will tend to be most comfortable and content with social life in either Northeastern Santiago or Viña del Mar.

Be sure to become a member of Escape America Now and gain access to the monthly webinar. Details at www.esccapeamerianow.info. Visit AllAboutChile.com for discussion and forums about the country.

Dr. Cobin’s updated and enlarged 2016 book, Life in Chile: A Former American’s Guide for Newcomers, is the most comprehensive treatise on Chilean life ever written, designed to help newcomers get settled in Chile. He covers almost every topic imaginable for immigrants. This knowledge is applied in his valet consulting service–Chile Consulting–where he guides expatriates through the process of finding a place to live and settle in Chile, helping them glide over the speed bumps that they would otherwise face in getting their visas, setting up businesses, buying real estate, investing in Chilean stocks or gold coins, etc. The cost is $149.

For a brief introduction consider Dr. Cobin’s abridged book (56 pages): Chile: A Primer for Expats ($19), offering highlights found in the two larger books. Buy Dr. Cobin’s Public Policy books at Amazon.com:

Christian Theology of Public Policy: Highlighting the American Experience (2006)

Bible and Government: Public Policy from a Christian Perspective (2003)

A Primer on Modern Themes in Free Market Economics and Policy (2009)

Chilean Architects

Some Chilean professionals have a lot of power – too much power in fact. Architects fall into that group.

You might ask, “In what sense does an architect have power?” Well, he has a lot if you hire him to build a home for you or for your construction company. He gets to make calls that affect your business and life, whether you like it or not. And it is almost impossible, or at least very time- and cost-prohibitive to do so.

Architects in Chile are more like applied artists with a tinge of desk jockey mentality. They do very little math—indeed math and engineering are hardly required in their university studies—compared to the calculistas (civil engineers) that Chilean architects hire to do certain jobs at your site. Those specialists usually do a good job, as do most architects. Chile has the most earthquake-proof buildings in the world, after all.

They also manage the proyectistas de especialidades, people that specialize in water, sewer, gas, and electrical hookups. They do end up having to manage their own in-house draftsmen, secretaries and errand runners, along with the many subcontractors they hire out for services at jobsites. They also should keep up on new materials and products.

Americans in Chile will detect a lot more general contractor in the job than architect, and that is about right. Remember, cultures are different, and so are their practices. In the United States, architects are highly-trained civil engineers with an art flair; In Chile, they are art and public administration double majors with a wannabe squirt of physics and math added for good measure.

The reason that Architects are so powerful is that they control the entire building process, including the almighty government approvals. The local municipality will not allow just anyone to submit plans and deal with bureaucratic regulation. Architects must do it. And at times architects can turn into outright extortionists.

In the beginning, meetings with your new architect will be pleasant, cordial, professional and sane. Contracts will be signed and everyone will be happy. But time might erode those good feelings as everyone goes through the ups and downs of the building process, which can often take eighteen to thirty months in Chile.

Just before you finish the project and you are ready for your architect to ask for inspection and the recepción municipal, the final bureaucratic hurdle, the architect can demand more money. If you do not pay him then you will not get your building or home approved and your beautiful new property will remain considered as a vacant lot under Chilean legislation. Of course, his actions will not look like a total shaft or shakedown. He will make up some reason why you still owe him for legitimate expenses, costs or professional fees that were not in the contract or were ambiguous.

Of course, you will be mad about these doleful circumstances, wrought because the Chilean government grants too much power to professionals in general, and architects in particular. You will scour the contract you signed two years ago, and find that you have paid your architect in full—or at least all that you are required to pay at that point. You will find that the architect might have even left some contractually promised services undone, and has no intention of doing them. Hence, you will call a lawyer and have a serious chat with him. The lawyer will review the contract and payments made and tell you that you are probably right and would even win most points in a lawsuit. But he advises you to pay up anyway, just like you would pay off a crooked bureaucrat as a matter of “just being part of the way business is done.”

Why would you succumb to the extortion? Because the architect knows that up to certain amounts, say US$5,000 or US$10,000, it is not worth fighting him in court. The architect will go to court “all day” since he has already received 90% of his pay. He will lose some reputation points by being sued, and you will never hire him again, but so what? That course is the way that the majority of Chileans act, playing what economists term a “one shot game” (like the auto mechanic does that rips off tourists he will never see again when their car breaks down).

You on the other hand, stand to lose your entire investment if you cannot sell it given that, legally, all you have is a vacant lot. It will take years in the courts to win a judgment and might cost just as much as the “bribe.” Plus, you will lose sales revenue and tie up your capital by sticking with your unsaleable property. You can still live in the place you build—even if it is not “received” by the municipality. But you cannot sell it. So, your lawyer advises you to just pay. You call it extortion. The architect calls it good business. The lawyer calls it sad, but logical and efficient given the “rules of the game” set up by the government.

Not all Chilean architects are extortionists (i.e., those that practice chantaje). However, you cannot know for certain from the outset that your architect will be honest and honorable. The best strategy you can take is (1) use a lawyer to draw up the contract with the architect (worth the cost) and (2) set aside US$10,000 (in a savings account) and plan on having to pay it out to the architect–above and beyond the US$15,000 to US$30,000 or more that you will have to pay him. That way, by planning to pay it out some day, losing it will be a lesser shock and not hurt or irritate you as much.

One strategy you can try in order to avoid being extorted is to contractually hold back 25% or 30% of his fee until after he delivers the municipal approval to you. Since doing so will cut his extortionist feet out from under him, he will not likely agree to it. I also recommend that you hire an architect that has money, even if he costs more. If you go with the cheaper professional, there will be nothing to get from him in terms of damages should you end up suing him.

Another possible strategy is to hire two architects and pay the second one to piggyback on the first one, so that he can step in if the first one fails or starts extorting you. However, the cost of the piggyback architect’s services might be as much as the payoff required, so you might gain little other than the pleasure of smashing the extortionist.

Think about it. You are “not in Kansas anymore.” Beware of local practices and how to deal with them.

Be sure to become a member of Escape America Now and gain access to the monthly webinar. Details at www.esccapeamerianow.info. Visit AllAboutChile.com for discussion and forums about the country.

Dr. Cobin’s updated and enlarged 2016 book, Life in Chile: A Former American’s Guide for Newcomers, is the most comprehensive treatise on Chilean life ever written, designed to help newcomers get settled in Chile. He covers almost every topic imaginable for immigrants. This knowledge is applied in his valet consulting service–Chile Consulting–where he guides expatriates through the process of finding a place to live and settle in Chile, helping them glide over the speed bumps that they would otherwise face in getting their visas, setting up businesses, buying real estate, investing in Chilean stocks or gold coins, etc. The cost is $149.

For a brief introduction consider Dr. Cobin’s abridged book (56 pages): Chile: A Primer for Expats ($19), offering highlights found in the two larger books. Buy Dr. Cobin’s Public Policy books at Amazon.com:

Christian Theology of Public Policy: Highlighting the American Experience (2006)

Bible and Government: Public Policy from a Christian Perspective (2003)

A Primer on Modern Themes in Free Market Economics and Policy (2009)

Chilean Realtors

One good (Chilean) friend of mine says they are just lazy.

Nonetheless, I would like to think that Chilean realtors are also incompetent, uncreative, and not very good problem solvers. They have a hard time thinking out of the box, too.

They have no multiple listing service and are reluctant to share commissions with other agents, thus dramatically limiting the supply of homes that each office has to show. This fact also makes it better for sellers to take dozens of nonexclusive contracts out with different realtors so that many people are involved with the sale. Realtors have even told me that giving them an exclusive on a property for sale will not increase the amount of time or money they put into selling my property.

They do not do showings, staging or open houses, or if they do then they are rare. Most of the time they do not drive clients to properties for sale. They will meet clients on site, usually, where the customer signs an agreement to pay their 2% commission.

Whenever I have had to deal with realtors, their services have left something to be desired. They are all smiles to sign up to sell your property or to give you information on other properties for sale. But getting them to do work for you is another issue entirely. I also have found them to be dramatically uninformed about the selling prices of comparable properties, the value added by having quality inputs or features, and their unwillingness to be proactive about finding or attracting prospects.

In reality, my friend is right: they are lazy–even when I offer them 1% or 2% extra commission, they hardly seem motivated. Real estate services in Chile are more than a little bit mysterious and are a lot more than just frustrating.

20161122_174612Most of the time, the best that Realtors will do is simply open the door to the house or apartment for you that you might want to purchase, or put up their sign if they are selling a property for you. I have seen some in Santiago deal with the banks and help with the mortgage and appraisal process, but that is about it.

Really, I am totally underwhelmed by this profession in Chile. In my latest project, I have contracted dozens of realtors over the last year and not a single client or interested party has been brought to the table, while I have had many prospective buyers call or show up to visit the property just because I put up a couple of large signs visible from the street and several internet ads–the one in English being especially effective relative to the others.

20161007_173113In other words, I obviously have an attractive property that many call about and most visit. However, Realtors are unable to break into this market. Few buyers balk at or complain about the price, Realtors complain about the price sometimes because they want to sell fast.

It seems to me that Realtors are part of the social upper class that could never graduate from college and know little about sales and marketing. They do the job, like selling medical insurance, because it is a decent and respectable position for upper class folks that have few other job skills.

If I had to say which professional group in Chile is the most impressive it would have to be physicians in Santiago. The least impressive would have to be Realtors. Lawyers, architects and physical therapists fall in the lower middle of that range, with regional physicians, engineers, dentists and accountants in the upper middle. The bottom line is that when dealing with real estate agents, be prepared for frustration and underperformance, and be prepared to supplement their efforts with your own.

Be sure to become a member of Escape America Now and gain access to the monthly webinar. Details at www.esccapeamerianow.info. Visit AllAboutChile.com for discussion and forums about the country.

Dr. Cobin’s updated and enlarged 2016 book, Life in Chile: A Former American’s Guide for Newcomers, is the most comprehensive treatise on Chilean life ever written, designed to help newcomers get settled in Chile. He covers almost every topic imaginable for immigrants. This knowledge is applied in his valet consulting service–Chile Consulting–where he guides expatriates through the process of finding a place to live and settle in Chile, helping them glide over the speed bumps that they would otherwise face in getting their visas, setting up businesses, buying real estate, investing in Chilean stocks or gold coins, etc. The cost is $149.

For a brief introduction consider Dr. Cobin’s abridged book (56 pages): Chile: A Primer for Expats ($19), offering highlights found in the two larger books. Buy Dr. Cobin’s Public Policy books at Amazon.com:

A Couple of New Scams by “Friendly” Chileans

Chile is well-known for its scams.

It is society built on lying, cheating, stealing, dishonesty and deception. I do not know how I can put it more plainly. Yet, those of us raised in other cultures, even after living here many years, can still be blindsided by criminals and scammers. Thus, one can imagine how bad the situation can be for newcomers. That weakness is something profound that you should not take lightly, starting from the moment that you step off the aircraft at the Santiago airport. If you do not, beware the biblical adage: “Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall” (1 Corinthians 10:12), because you likely will fall!

Recently, a new client of mine arrived in Chile. It was the first international trip he had taken in his life, fueled by fears of being “Trumped.” He got scammed by a taxi service, ignoring careful instructions from me, or at least not taking them seriously.

Normally, we pick up all clients personally from the airport with VIP service. However, this one had made a last-minute plane reservation and had an arrival time that conflicted with other commitments we had, thus making it necessary to find an alternative means to pick him up. The client was so worried about President Trump and the coming expected world war that he did not want to waste any time in leaving “the land of the free.” Unfortunately, he paid the price for not acting sooner and giving us a chance to better-prepare for his arrival.

Many Chilean hotel transfer drivers have long since given up writing names of arriving guests on placards. Crooks would simply look for the names that drivers had written and write them on their own placards, figuring out ways to get to the customer first. Then they would drive him off and either rob him or at the very least charge him an exorbitant amount to get to the hotel–sort of a “ransom service.” Under current practice, many hotels just hold up a placard with the logo of the hotel and the customer is instructed to look for that logo instead of their name.

Nowadays, there are pirates at the arrival gate, masquerading as airport employees. The merry thugs and thieves hire a front-man that can speak good English, providing a welcome voice to weary international travelers in a sea of foreign language confusion. Yet, sometimes bilingual Chileans are the least trustworthy, even if they wear a convincing uniform!

The tactic is simple: identify a target as he leaves the sliding glass doors at customs. Gringos are usually easy to pick out, especially when they look lost or a little tired and bewildered. Then politely ask him if he needs some assistance, noting that (the pirate) is an airport employee assigned the task of helping international travelers: a sort of “welcome to Chile” service.

In the case of my unwary client, the pirate was informed that he needed no help since he was awaiting a transfer van from the Renaissance Hotel. Then the pirate replied, “unfortunately, that van had already left.” (Literally, “he missed the bus” and was about to get bent over without knowing it was coming.) No worries, however, replied the “airport employee,” since he had other trusted taxis that would whisk him away to his destination. This sort of mishap “happens all the time,” but the airport is prepared to serve visitors caught up in such difficulties.

In fact, the hotel driver was waiting just a few meters away with his placard held up, but was never able to connect with the client. Instead, the client was quickly taken to the nearby ATM by the pirate, who explained that it was necessary to pay for service in cash, in advance. Then, the pirate took him to one of the ring’s cabbies and loaded his luggage, He was then charged four to five times the normal rate for taxi service to the hotel, and of course paid in unfamiliar cash, further confusing the tired, bewildered traveler, not quickly apt to convert between currencies or to know that the normal rate should not exceed US$25 to US$30. Also, the employee (curiously) requested a 10,000-peso “tip” (which is about one-third to one-half a day’s wages for a common worker here).

Obviously, paid employees do not normally request tips, as if they were customary and obligatory. The fact that he did, should have immediately tipped off the client. The scoundrel was probably drooling as he watched the blue bills being spit out of the ATM. Thankfully, the client arrived safely at the hotel, even though he was ripped off and the hotel was annoyed that the airport driver had to wait in vain for over an hour at the airport.

We were worried, too, and had been on the phone with the hotel driver since the time the client exited customs. Indeed, prior to that we had been on the phone with the client since the moment he got his passport stamped, trying to ease his way out. During the 2 minutes that we lost contact with the client and he left customs, the pirate got him.

The point man probably split the cab fare with the cabbie thieves. Notice that it pays to be bilingual in more ways than one! In Chile, crime pays. And P.T. Barnum’s “sucker” gets off the plane “every minute,” from 5 a.m. to 10 a.m. and beyond!

In another new, Samaritan-esque scam, local criminals are going around and letting the air out of people’s tires while parked. When an unsuspecting driver returns, and starts to drive off, the villain appears and points out that the driver has a pinchazo or a punctured tire. Not to worry, however, since the feigned Samaritan knows where to go to have the flat repaired. Once he leads his victim somewhere out of sight, especially if the victim has let him inside his car, he will pull a knife or gun and assault or rob his victim. Yet another reason to beware of helpful and courteous Chileans!

Furthermore, Chileans might be exporting this craft more frequently and easily in coming years. Did you know that of the 35 OECD countries, only South Korean and Chilean passport holders have visa-free travel to all G-8 countries (including Russia)? Another nice feature of Chilean citizenship, but perhaps not such a boon for the rest of the world that has just made it easier for criminals to arrive and practice their craft in new “territories.”

Be sure to become a member of Escape America Now and gain access to the monthly webinar. Details at www.esccapeamerianow.info. Visit AllAboutChile.com for discussion and forums about the country.

Dr. Cobin’s updated and enlarged 2016 book, Life in Chile: A Former American’s Guide for Newcomers, is the most comprehensive treatise on Chilean life ever written, designed to help newcomers get settled in Chile. He covers almost every topic imaginable for immigrants. This knowledge is applied in his valet consulting service–Chile Consulting–where he guides expatriates through the process of finding a place to live and settle in Chile, helping them glide over the speed bumps that they would otherwise face in getting their visas, setting up businesses, buying real estate, investing in Chilean stocks or gold coins, etc. The cost is $149.

For a brief introduction consider Dr. Cobin’s older (2014), not updated, abridged book (56 pages): Chile: A Primer for Expats ($19), offering highlights found in the two larger books.

Buy Dr. Cobin’s Public Policy books at Amazon.com:

Christian Theology of Public Policy: Highlighting the American Experience (2006)

Bible and Government: Public Policy from a Christian Perspective (2003)

A Primer on Modern Themes in Free Market Economics and Policy (2009)

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