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Those Who Can, Cannot and Will Not Come to Chile

I have been a Chile consultant for many years. One thing that has always puzzled me are the ironies seen in the kinds and classes of people that want to migrate to Chile, as well as the turmoil or frustration that so many of them face.

Can and Do

First off, there are those that can and do come to Chile, at least to get a Plan B residence established. They are wealthier people, normally with assets over US$2 million, with some exceptions of single men that can get by on less, or they have pensions between US$5,000 and US$10,000 per month (which is more than enough to live in Chile). They are usually libertarians or constitutional conservatives. They want a freer, saner life than their increasingly beleaguered existence in the “Land of the Free” or some other Northern Hemisphere welfare state. They are not “turned on” by the likes of Obama, Bush, Hillary or Trump. They often have substantial assets out of their home country and thus already have a foot out the door. They are well-studied on the issues and make educated choices about where to immigrate and how to handle life. I will call this fortunate, “will do” group the top 20%. They are wise, as Proverbs 27:12 says: “A prudent man foresees evil and hides himself; the simple pass on and are punished.”

Can but Won’t

Next, there is the group of well-to-dos or upper-middle class folks that toy with Chile or emigrating, but never seem to get around to doing anything about it. They are masterful at making up excuses why they have not and will not act in their best interests to minimize political, economic and violence risk by setting up residence elsewhere in the world. “If the USA goes down, so will every other country in the world” or “I do not want to learn another language at my age” are favorite “reasons” why they would rather stay and perish or fall into an even more crass slavery than they presently find themselves. They dabble in expatriate literature and are genuinely concerned what the world will be like under the regimes to come. But they are not scared enough to actually act; unrealistic optimism always seems to win the day. They are more worried about being near family. Or they just think that maybe things will not be so bad. They are, in a word, “boxcar bait.” Those that can get out at the last minute will end up being “raft people” because there will not be enough seats on airline or boats to get them out when they want to leave. Full of endless excuses and procrastination, I hold out little hope for these people. I will call this mildly-arrogant, procrastinating, “will not” group the middle 50%. Their epitaph will read: “Could have escaped, but failed to do so.”

Would but Can’t

Finally, there is the most tragic case of those that really, truly want to leave but cannot do so. They simply lack the basic resources required for their family size to leave and/or resettle, and have little hope of working in Chile to earn enough to do so. They see the danger and want to flee but are trapped. Their situation is sad. They have often done their homework and want to come to Chile. They call me but, alas, there is little that I can do for them. Why is this (relatively large) group so much more insightful than the aforementioned reluctant group with resources? Who knows?

People from each of the three groups tend to be well-educated. The difference seems to be in courage, logic, sensibility and insight, as well and financial feasibility. People in this last group are willing to do whatever it takes to get to Chile but it is simply not enough: they do not have the Spanish or cultural skill sets to prosper in Chile, nor do they have the capital needed to start a business here. They are stuck on the sinking ship and, worse yet, they know it. The best they can do is keep researching and looking for that windfall that will send them where they want to go or at least open the door to get there. Otherwise, they uncomfortably await judgment day. A lot of grief and hardship are ahead of them. I will call this hapless, doleful, “cannot” group the bottom 30%. As Job said (14:1), “Man who is born of woman is of few days and full of trouble.”

Where do You Fall?

Where do you fit in? Are you satisfied to be in that group? If you want to change, what can you do about it?

The first thing that any of the aforementioned folks should do is get my newly revised book and read it cover-to-cover. Anyone considering coming to Chile for real should devour the 1,665 pages it contains. As a newcomer you simply cannot get enough information about your new country. The new edition is like having six different books on relevant Chile topics in one volume. Sections can be read and re-read as needed. The US$149 will be paid for many times over in efficiency gains alone, not to mention orienting you in the direction which is best for you and thus saving you many hours of research and reducing time-wasting activities that often affect expatriates.

Also posted on Steemit!

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 Cities with Highest Income

One might think that the most attractive places in Chile for newcomers would correspond to comunas with the highest incomes. While this thought is actually a pretty good guide, it has some holes. According to a study by the University of Chile cited by national daily La Tercera, the ten highest income comunas in Chile are:

1. Vitacura
2. Las Condes
3. La Reina
4, Lo Barnechea (which contains La Dehesa)
5. Ñuñoa
6. Providencia
7. Calama (2nd Región)
8. Diego de Almagro (3rd Región)
9. Antofagasta (2nd Región)
10. Magallanes (Punta Arenas, 12th Region)

It is not surprising to see the first six spots going to northeastern Santiago, although it is odd that La Reina is #3, ahead of #4 Lo Barnechea and #6 Providencia, and that Providencia is #6, even behind #5 Ñuñoa. I would not have expected that result. The rest of the list includes mining and natural gas cities, all of which are known for being highly-paid occupations in Chile.

The list goes to show that “money is not everything,” at least when choosing a place to live. For instance, Calama (#7) is the ugliest and most horrid city in Chile, and Antofagasta (#9) is not far behind, even though it has a nice sector amidst so many awful slums. Diego del Almagro (#8) is hardly a town, much less a city, and if the mine were not within its comunal boundaries there would be no attraction. It is certainly no place for an immigrant to come unless he is a miner.

Punta Arenas (#10) is in the extreme south, windy and cold, with very long nights in wintertime and very short ones in summertime. Still, it makes other top ten lists in some studies for being a very livable city, as reported in national daily El Mercurio. I am not convinced it is a good spot for newcomers, despite the history, great restaurants and tax-free zone. On the other hand, there are extensive wealthy suburbs in the Viña del Mar, Concepcion and La Serena metropolitan areas that also have high personal income but are not included in the top ten because of nearby poverty.

In that study reported in El Mercurio, the top thirty comunas with highest quality of living are:

1. Vitacura
2. Providencia
3. Las Condes
4. La Reina
5. Punta Arenas
6. Ñuñoa
7. Santiago
8. Lo Barnechea
9. Colina
10. Curicó
11. Rancagua
12. Valdivia
13. Macul
14. Osorno
15. Viña del Mar
16. Quillota
17. Huechuraba
18. La Florida
19. Chiguayante
20. Peñalolén
21. La Serena
22. San Felipe
23. Puerto Montt
24. Temuco
25. Los Ángeles
26. Quilicura
27. San Pedro de la Paz
28. Calama
29. Puente Alto
30. Coquimbo

I have been to all of these places. There is no way I am going to recommend to newcomers chilling #5 Punta Arenas, ugly #14 Osorno, upper-lower-class #29 Puente Alto, or industrial, smoggy and congested #26 Quilicura. Forget, too, mining town, ugly, high-elevation #28 Calama, and likely not largely Marxist mining enclave #30 Coquimbo. Largely lower middle class agricultural worker towns like #16 Quillota, #22 San Felipe, #9 Colina (especially if Chicureo is included) and #10 Curico all have a certain attraction, and are cheap places do live, but I really doubt they would suit the vast majority of immigrants from North America or Europe.

I have no idea why Viña del Mar is so far down the list (#15) or why neighboring Concon is excluded, unless it was subsumed in Viña del Mar. The same goes for lovely #19 Chiguayante and #27 San Pedro de la Paz, which are some of the nicer parts of Concepción and decent choices for a newcomer that does not mind cool and rain.

All of those places should be in the top ten, in my mind, ahead of #4 Ñuñoa and probably #6 La Reina, and certainly #7 Santiago, which really should not figure in the top twenty. I can see how the other places, especially #24 Temuco and #12 Valdivia, could be on a newcomer’s radar screen that likes smaller cities in the Pacific Northwest of the United States, and does not mind rain.

The Institute for Urban and Territorial Studies at the Catholic University in Santiago produced its “Index of Urban Quality of Life” for 2015, which ranked the 93 most prominent comunas in Chile, spanning ten metropolitan areas and 85% of the country’s population. The index and rankings were based on six variables of labor conditions, business environment, socio-cultural conditions, connectivity and mobility, health and environment, and housing and environment. The following list is the ranking for comuna in relation to the mean, most superior to the mean first.

1. Las Condes
2. Providencia
3. La Reina
4. Puerto Varas
5. Punta Arenas
6. Antofagasta
7. Colina
8. Copiapo
9. Villarrica
10. La Serna
11. Tome
12. Valdivia
13. Quilpué
14. Talcahuano
15. Huechuraba
16. Rengo
17. Temuco
18. San Fernando
19. Osorno
20. Villa Alemana
21. Rancagua
22. Coronel
23. Angol
24. Lampa
25. Calera
26. San Antonio
27. Quilicura
28. Curico
29. Linares
30. Estacion Central

This part of the study may make sense to some Chileans, but from a newcomer or foreign-onlooker point of view, it is pretty weird. Not only are Lo Barnechea (La Dehesa), Ñuñoa and Vitacura missing, having been beaten out by nearby horrid #24 Lampa, mediocre #30 Estacion Central (main bus and train terminal for Santiago), mixed socio-economic bag #15 Huechuraba, and #7 Colina where my former maid lives unless, again, fabulous Chicureo is included. Likewise puzzling is the superiority of scuzzy port town #26 San Antonio over elegant 5th Region neighbors Viña de Mar and Concón, which do not appear at all, while including middle class inland communities of the Viña del Mar metropolitan area like #13 Quilpué, #20 Villa Alemana and #25 Calera. It makes little sense.

The ranking also highlights boring #8 Copiapo, lovely #23 Angol and coal mining slum #22 Coronel, each Marxist hotbeds. Punta Arenas (#5), Rancagua (#21) and ugly Osorno (#19) made the list again, although I am not sure why, and more worker’s farm towns were added like #29 Linares, #25 Calera, #16 Rengo, and #18 San Fernando, but most of the ones on the previous list are not included.

A horrid, smelly naval port #14 Talcahuano is the only representative from the Concepción metropolitan area, displacing Chiguayante and San Pedro de la Paz? Give me a break! I guess there is some bias or stupidity in Chilean university studies. Maybe it was done by leftists?

The only cities listed that make sense, from my perspective, are #1 Las Condes, #2 Providencia, #3 La Reina, #4 Puerto Varas (they definitely got that one right!), and I would agree with #9 Villarrica (but where is Pucon?), #10 La Serena, #17 Temuco and #12 Valdivia being somewhere in the top thirty. However, the study’s rankings themselves are a bit different, even though still bizarre or surprising:

1. Las Condes
2. Vitacura
3. Providencia
4. Lo Barnechea
5. La Reina
6. Ñuñoa
7. Puerto Varas
8. Castro
9. Punta Arenas
10. Concepcion
11. Antofagasta
12. Maipú
13. Colina
14. Machalí
15. Copiapó
16. Talca
17. Villarrica
18. Quillota
19. La Serena
20. Viña del Mar
21. Tomé
22. Vallenar
23. Valdivia
24. Coihaique
25. Quilpué
26. Santiago
27. Talcahuano
28. Concón
29. Huechuraba
30. Puerto Montt
This list makes more sense, except for the curious inclusion of Concepcion over its much nicer suburbs, and the low rankings for #20 Viña del Mar, #28 Concón and #19 La Serena, which would certainly be more desired by nearly all Northern Hemisphere immigrants than mixed middle class #6 Ñuñoa (home of the national soccer stadium and lots of vandals), quaint but puny and remote #8 Castro, barren #9 Punta Arenas, #10 Concepcion, and the rest of the list starting with #11 Antofagasta (with the possible exceptions of #14 Machali, #17 Villarrica and #23 Valdivia for certain people). I know a couple of expatriates that like their farms near #16 Talca, but not necessarily the boring city itself.

According to a study by Centro de Estudios Públicos in 2010, the next highest income comunas of the Metrolpolitan Region are Santiago (centro) and San Miguel. I do know a few expatriates living in San Miguel, and it is a decent place, much less expensive than northeastern Santiago. So, obviously, it is a possible destination for newcomers. However, the third poorest and lowest income place in the region is Alhué, a small farming community that is clearly a lovely, quaint place, that could be of interest to newcomers that want to live in the country but yet not too far from the big city.

Iquique is very high on the personal income scale for Chile, but it is the bottom of the barrel on lists of most livable places in Chile. Yet I know several expatriates that live in Iquique and love it. It just goes to underscore that one cannot judge a comuna solely on the basis of personal income statistics, and probably have to take with a grain of salt the livability rankings as well.

Other examples are regional comunas like Viña del Mar (and Reñaca), Concón, San Pedro de la Paz, Chiguayante (and other parts of metropolitan Concepcion), Zapallar and nearby beach towns, Pucon and Puerto Varas. All of these comunas contain significant First World areas and amenities that make them clear possible destinations for newcomers. Yet the poorer neighborhoods that they contain, for example Forestal in Viña del Mar, are significant enough to drag down the median income figures. The same is true for Santiago comunas like Huechuraba and Peñalolen, which have significant First World areas within a sea of poverty. All of these places, especially the provincial ones, are much cheaper to live than the top comunas in northeastern Santiago and should be on the list of relocation spots under consideration by newcomers,

If we can trust Wikipedia GDP statistics for Chilean regions, they might add something to the discussion about where newcomers might be most comfortable.

1. Santiago metropolitan area (GDP US$101.7 billion)

2. 2nd Region, Antofagasta and includes Calama (GDP US$21.8 billion)

3. 5th Region, Valparaiso, includes the Viña del Mar metropolitan area (GDP US$16.7 billion)

4. 8th Region, Biobío, includes the Concepcion metropolitan area (GDP US$16.5 billion)

5. 6th Region, Libertador General Bernardo O’Higgins (GDP US$9.4 billion)

6. 7th Region, Maule, includes Talca (GDP US$7.7 billion)

7. 4th Region, Coquimbo includes the La Serena metropolitan area  (GDP US$6.6 billion)

8. 3rd Region, Atacama including Copiapó and Salvador, mining (GDP US$5.7 billion)

9. 10th Region, Los Lagos, including Puerto Montt, Castro and Osorno (GDP US$5.14 billion)

10. 1st Region, Tarapacá, inlcuding Iquique (GDP US$5.12 billion)

11. 9th Region, La Araucanía, including Temuco (GDP US$4.7 billion)

12. 14th Region, Los Ríos, including Valdivia (GDP US$2.5 billion)

13. 12th Region, Magallanes and Chilean Antarctic, includes Punta Arenas (GDP US$1.8 billion)

14. 15th Region, Arica and Parinacota (GDP US$1.3 billion)

15. 11th Region Aysén of General Carlos Ibáñez, including Coyhaique (GDP US$0,99 billion)

It is pretty clear that Santiago dominates the country economically. Antofagasta and Calama are high on the list on account of mining earnings which does not translate into a generally high quality of life in my opinion. Next up are the Viña del Mar and Concepcion metropolitan areas, for good reason, since they are the main centers for industrial production and tourism outside of the capital city. They are followed by farming regions and some more significant mining in the 3rd, 4th and 6th regions. Lumber, dairy and fisheries are on the low end of overall economic production in the southern regions. Living where there is a lot of economic activity generally translates into a higher quality of life. That fact should provide a good starting point for newcomers making choices about where to live.

Another good indicator to consider is the median household income statistic for 2009, by comuna. The data are a little bit old and in a dynamic country like Chile, things like this statistic change a lot in a few years. But at least it will provide a good idea. The data were obtained from the webite of the Library of the National Chilean Congress.

Remember that only Vitacura is nearly completely free of a significant poorer section. Lo Barnechea and Las Condes both have them, and Providencia’s has been growing. However, Viña de Mar, Concón, much of Concepción and Las Serena have very large poor neighborhoods, dragging down considerably the community average. Considering Viña del Mar in particular, it is likely that the coastal section, especially Reñaca, has a median household income similar to south Concon, which is certainly much higher than the Concon statistic in the following list (which includes poorer sections in north Concon). Indeed, if Reñaca and south Concón were to become a separate comuna, as some Chileans have been pushing for, then it would probably be 6th in ensuing list.

Comuna (selected) Median Houshold Income (pesos)
2009
Lo Barnechea (La Dehesa) $ 3.256.310
Las Condes $ 3.246.457
Vitacura $ 3.066.970
La Reina $ 2.281.099
Providencia $ 2.271.430
Ñuñoa $ 1.255.232
Santiago (centro) $ 1.230.676
Concon $ 1.076.438
Antofagasta $ 862.784
Rancagua $ 865.167
San Pedro de la Paz $ 853.545
Punta Arenas $ 773.823
Huechuraba $ 763.445
CHILE $ 754.795
Iquique $ 752.842
Valparaíso $ 720.623
Temuco $ 705.271
Concepcion $ 702.613
Alhue $ 699.130
Colina (Chicureo) $ 695.812
Puerto Varas $ 681.652
Osorno $ 654.351
Viña del Mar $ 642.786
Chiguayante $ 624.401
Quilpue $ 620.451
La Serena $ 585.880
Talca $ 584.756
Valdivia $ 567.329
Zapallar $ 555.243
Olmue $ 549.263
Puerto Octay $ 546.021
Rengo $ 520.720
Castro $ 484.848
Pucón $ 461.966
Coronel $ 454.950
Alto de Carmen $ 432.987
Puqueldon $ 409.010
Vichuquen $ 399.796
Camiña $ 345.269
AVERAGE $ 952.667

Hopefully this information will help the prospective newcomer have a better idea of where he chooses to live in Chile.

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 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 $49.

Dr. Cobin’s sequel book, Expatriates to Chile: Topics for Living, adds even further depth on important topics to expatriates who either live in Chile already or who have Chile on the short list of countries where they hope to immigrate. The book deals with crucial issues pertaining to urban and rural real estate transactions, natural disasters, issues pertaining to emigration and its urgency, money and the quality of life, medical care and insurance, business opportunities, social manifestations (including welfare state and divorce policy concerns), Chile in the freedom indices, social maladies (lying, cheating, stealing and murder), as well as discussion of a few places worth visiting and some further comments about Santiago.

Dr. Cobin’s next sequel, Living in Chile: Key Details of History, Culture, Politics and Places for the Serious Immigrant, goes into detail that mainly those people living in Chile already or serious immigrants will be interested in. It is also of special importance to libertarians that want to know something about the political and ideological undercurrents, past highlights (like having a free port much like Hong Kong or free banking), and people that want practical information and where they can retire on their budget. The travel section compliments the other books in the series so that those that read all three books can be sure to have covered the key places of the country from top to bottom.

This book is chock full of savory details that only a true immigrant and former American with many years of experience would know. Some things are only learned over long periods of time and observation. Take advantage of tapping into Dr. Cobin’s deep knowledge of the country and insights of importance to serious immigrants.

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)

Bring with You to Chile These Little Things

Over the last 20 years that I have been associated with Chile and bringing things down here from the United States and Europe, several “little” items pop up as necessities that simply are not available in the country. Therefore, I suggest that whether you are bringing a container, pallet or many suitcases that you slips some or all of these things in.

1. Wax paper

2. Casters for rolling high-back leather or other desk chairs

3. Three hole punch and corresponding file folders

4. Manila file folders

5. Pie pans, disposable and otherwise

6. Blue cheese dressing (sometimes can be found here but it is not very good)

7. BBQ sauce

8. Power strips and extension cords with 110V plugs (USA)

9. Parallel and standard leather-covered Spanish Bibles.

10. Vaseline

11. Murphy bed kits, if you are in to space-saving

12. Bedding for USA size beds you bring, if applicable

13. Spanish grammar books and dictionaries, as many as you can find!

14. High quality paint, which is very expensive in Chile with poor selection (Behr is here)

15. Interesting kitchen cabinet insert racks

16. Door knockers and handles, available here but with limited selection

17. 9V extension cord adapters/power strip for car cigarette lighter plug

18. Toner for your laser printer, depending on your chip might not be available here

19. Cordless landline phones, available here but expensive and in more limited supply

20. Most electronic devices that can be plugged into 9V or 200V, except alarm clocks: GPS, radar detector, windows-based notebook PCs, tablets, etc. since they are more expensive here.

21. Plastic bed peg/wheel risers and plastic storage boxes to slide under the bed

22. Car parts, in case you happen to know what kind of car you will have here

23. Red and black licorice ropes

24. Skiing, camping, kayaking and fishing equipment

25. Used, good condition furniture: lazy-boy chairs are a great idea, hardwood coffee table, couches,  

maybe a dining room set, and also chairs and coffee tables. Quality used furniture can be sold at a profit.

26. Replacement electric razor heads/foil

27. Big bottles of vitamins

28. 3 x 5 note cards

29. Christmas cards to send out, basically not available here

30. baking powder

31. lamp shades

32. tape measures in inches, better variety up there than here

33. 10,000 pellets in case you expect pests where you will live 

34. Size 13 shoes and other shoes that are quality in general, better variety up there than here

35. Power transformer, 3000 watts, available here but mroe expensive 

36. Shelf liner

37. Spanish version of Kiersey temperament analysis book, Por Favor Compréndeme 

38. Books published in Argentina or Chile on grammar, also dictionaries, lexicons, verb guides, picture books, Spanish-English dictionaries (very valuable!).

39. Books on Chilean historyand geography (in English), especially Out of the Ashes by James Whelan. 

40. Maps of Chile

41. Nice chess sets 

42. Nice hardhats, if you plan to be in work areas

43. Comforters for beds 

44. High thread count sheets

45. Tums

 I might come back and add to this list so be sure to check back!

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 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.

Dr. Cobin’s sequel book, Expatriates to Chile: Topics for Living, adds even further depth on important topics to expatriates who either live in Chile already or who have Chile on the short list of countries where they hope to immigrate. The book deals with crucial issues pertaining to urban and rural real estate transactions, natural disasters, issues pertaining to emigration and its urgency, money and the quality of life, medical care and insurance, business opportunities, social manifestations (including welfare state and divorce policy concerns), Chile in the freedom indices, social maladies (lying, cheating, stealing and murder), as well as discussion of a few places worth visiting and some further comments about Santiago.

Dr. Cobin’s next sequel, Living in Chile: Key Details of History, Culture, Politics and Places for the Serious Immigrant, goes into detail that mainly those people living in Chile already or serious immigrants will be interested in. It is also of special importance to libertarians that want to know something about the political and ideological undercurrents, past highlights (like having a free port much like Hong Kong or free banking), and people that want practical information and where they can retire on their budget. The travel section compliments the other books in the series so that those that read all three books can be sure to have covered the key places of the country from top to bottom.

This book is chock full of savory details that only a true immigrant and former American with many years of experience would know. Some things are only learned over long periods of time and observation. Take advantage of tapping into Dr. Cobin’s deep knowledge of the country and insights of importance to serious immigrants.

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:

Increased Real Estate Taxes in Chile

One of the worst outcomes of the landslide election in favor of the Chilean Left in 2014 was the reality of paying higher taxes. Now it is coming to fruition in some areas, although for most people coming in from abroad the effect will be minimal. Unfortunately, those few newcomers that will be engaged in the building or real estate development and trading businesses in Chile will be impacted more.

The best feature of the current regime is its fall into the abyss in terms of popularity (with socialist President Bachelet’s approval rating recently declining to just 26% from around 70%), is that the policies are affecting and hurting so many people from the middle class that it is now unlikely that the Left will return to power for at least a decade.

Until the present administration, Chile has had no capital gains taxes for individuals (except companies, which treat capital gains like any other gain) so long as their real property was held for longer than one year. Such individuals were not considered “habitual” buyers and sellers of real property and thus not in the real estate business.

Now there will be capital gains taxes, starting on January 1, 2017, for everyone. However, there is an exclusion of 8,000 UF, which is just under 200 million pesos or about US$317,000, considering together the total gains from the sale of post-2004 purchased properties sold in any given year.

Upper middle class apartments in northeastern Santiago currently sell for 7,000 UF to 9,000 UF, and in Viña del Mar/Concón about 30% to 40% less, meaning that one’s property value will have to double or more to surpass the exclusion. Thus, in practice, most people are not going to be affected by this tax. And if they are prudent tax planners, they will sell (and perhaps immediately repurchase) property when their capital gain is closing in on 8,000 UF.

Moreover, those who inherit appreciated real property will receive a credit for the inheritance tax against the capital gains tax, so as to avoid double taxation. Nowhere is a rate for the capital gains tax given, so I must assume that it will be the same as one’s marginal income tax rate, which will certainly be much higher once a sizable capital gain is added to his income in any given year. The top marginal personal income tax rate in Chile under the tax reform will be 35% (for incomes over 1,440 UF annually or about US$56,000). For many people, the capital gains tax will be well-worth avoiding. There are several articles detailing the new tax, including the Chilean Library of Congress site. Look it over (warning:  it’s in Spanish!).

What is more onerous is the implementation of the 19% value added tax (IVA) on the sale of properties (excluding land value), effective January 1, 2016. This new tax will likely raise the price consumers pay for newly built homes by 8% to 12%, according to an article in La Nación, with higher rates in the range being applied to middle class purchasers of homes (without considering land value) between 2,000 UF and 3,000 UF (currently US$80,000 to US$120,000). The reason that the consumer will not simply pay an additional 19% is not due to a strict inelasticity of demand, which might well be the case in the marketplace, but rather because the contractor or building firm receives a credit toward the IVA it pays during construction. That credit has been limited, and will decline over the next few years, under the 2014 leftist tax reform. Still, the IVA credit does lower the overall price impact to consumers to no more than a 12% increase. See the chart in this article for details on the calculation.

Buyers and sellers of raw land or unimproved building lots will not have to pay IVA. Only buildings and things that add value to the land are taxed. What is unclear from my reading is whether sellers of used homes will also have to charge IVA to buyers. Apparently not! If not, great, but that tax differential will cause a significant distortion in the housing market, making a wider disparity between used and new home prices. From what I can tell from

From what I can tell from the Chilean Library of Congress article mentioned above, at first the only people affected by the IVA tax are “habitual” sellers of real estate: contractors and builders that build-to-sell, rather than individuals. However, the law is somewhat ambiguous, and it could be interpreted to include real property traders, and maybe real estate firms and brokers (although my wife assures me that such is not the case since they are not the owners of the property).

As always, new taxes and tax increases distort market conditions and induce inefficiencies. One thing that is clear is that anyone that buys a property, or signs a promise to buy it or a rent-to-own contract by December 31, 2015 will not have to pay the value added tax. Thus, my best advice is to conclude your real property transactions by year end, unless you hold to a contrarian position that the tax distortion (quite possibly) will cause a major decline in demand for real property, and thus reduce prices. The problem with the contrarian position is that it assumes that demand from foreign buyers coming to Chile will also fall. This possibility is undermined by the fact that Chilean property already looks like a bargain to serfs from Northern Hemisphere countries, and still would appear cheap even if the price were 12% higher. Hence, I remain unconvinced that overall demand will fall enough to reduce prices, but it could happen.

My interpretation is that foreign buyers will be unfazed by the tax hike. There will be a flurry of local people buying property before year end, especially in new developments and apartment buildings. After that, I see a significant distortion in moderately prices (2,000 UF to 3,000 UF) homes since middle income earners will find it harder to qualify when the property they want costs 12% more. Contractors in this market will likely have to sell for less and have lower profits, and thus will not continue to expand to build in middle class areas. That’s too bad since much urban blight has been removed in places like Viña del Mar, Valparaíso, Temuco, Puerto Montt, Concepción and central and western Santiago by putting up new apartments and tract homes in previously run-down areas. Now, under the tax reform, much more of Chile will remain blighted. It is also too bad for people employed in the construction sector since many of them will lose their jobs.

Moreover, the new tax law doubles the onerous tax paid to take out a mortgage, making loan acquisition more expensive for the middle class (since upper class and poorer people generally do not or cannot take out mortgages). The resulting higher unemployment and harm inflicted on the middle class does have a silver lining in that the current regime’s coalition is sure not to remain in power in either Congress or the Presidency. The tax reform policy will end up being a vote-losing action.

For most people, and especially newcomers to Chile, the effect of the new taxes can be avoided with careful planning and by not becoming a “habitual” trader of real estate. While this new limitation is bad, the truth of the matter is that few people coming to Chile will be affected unless they buy a new home starting next year. They will simply have to pay more, certainly if they buy from a firm selling units or homes, but perhaps also if they buy through a real estate agent (using a loose interpretation of the new law). Thus, it might behoove them to buy and remodel a used home offered “by owner” instead and make certain that they will avoid the value added tax. After they own a property, they should make sure to sell it prior to exceeding the 8,000 UF exclusion on the capital gains tax.

As a side note, the corporate tax rate is also be scaled up from 21% currently, increasing by 1.5% annual increments, to its final resting level of 27% in 2019. Another stupid blunder of the leftist President and Congress! This tax might have a more dramatic effect on newcomers than the real estate tax hikes.

Finally, something to bear in mind about any new tax that is easily avoided at first is that it will likely become more onerous in the future. Once the camel’s nose is in the tent, it does not take long before the whole camel is inside as well. Let’s hope that by ousting the Left next election, Chileans will also sweep away the new taxes and reforms with it!

 

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 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 $49.

Dr. Cobin’s sequel book, Expatriates to Chile: Topics for Living, adds even further depth on important topics to expatriates who either live in Chile already or who have Chile on the short list of countries where they hope to immigrate. The book deals with crucial issues pertaining to urban and rural real estate transactions, natural disasters, issues pertaining to emigration and its urgency, money and the quality of life, medical care and insurance, business opportunities, social manifestations (including welfare state and divorce policy concerns), Chile in the freedom indices, social maladies (lying, cheating, stealing and murder), as well as discussion of a few places worth visiting and some further comments about Santiago.

Dr. Cobin’s next sequel, Living in Chile: Key Details of History, Culture, Politics and Places for the Serious Immigrant, goes into detail that mainly those people living in Chile already or serious immigrants will be interested in. It is also of special importance to libertarians that want to know something about the political and ideological undercurrents, past highlights (like having a free port much like Hong Kong or free banking), and people that want practical information and where they can retire on their budget. The travel section compliments the other books in the series so that those that read all three books can be sure to have covered the key places of the country from top to bottom.

This book is chock full of savory details that only a true immigrant and former American with many years of experience would know. Some things are only learned over long periods of time and observation. Take advantage of tapping into Dr. Cobin’s deep knowledge of the country and insights of importance to serious immigrants.

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)

Petroleum Imports into Chile

Some of my clients wonder how wars in the middle east are going to affect Chile’s supply of gasoline and diesel.

The answer is: “not at all.”

Chile is a relatively small country and although expanding and growing at 3% still, its petroleum needs can be fairly easily provided by international markets. Consider this interesting article on where Chile gets its imported oil and petroleum products.

In sum, Chile imports 60% of its oil from Brazil and Ecuador, 32% from Argentina and Columbia and 8% from the UK and Canada. These countries do not charge Chile a duty.

Countries like México refuse to do provide such tax relief and thus the state-run Chilean firm ENAP does not buy any oil from México. ENAP was formed in 1950, currently under the ministry of mining.

By the way, from a libertarian perspective it is ridiculous to have a state-run oil company (monopoly), or any other state-run enterprises. But that subject is for another article.

Chile still has many imperfections and needs to do more privatization. ENAP pays the international price for oil. Retail prices in Chile are affected both by what ENAP pays and the substantial federal gas (especially) and diesel taxes imposed by the government. The state has owned all oil deposits in Chile since 1928, which is clearly another problem.

Here’s another article on the history of oil production in Chile, since the 1890s, from which the image of the derek (1907) in the image below was taken:

I had heard years ago that Chile imports 96% of all its oil, but Wikipedia says that the deep south sites in Tierra del Fuego only produce gas and not petroleum, meaning (if true) that 100% of Chile’s petroleum products are now imported.

Chile does its own refining. Refineries opened in Concón and Quintero in 1954, with capacity in Concón doubled in 1959. A gasoline plant in Cullén (east southeast of Cerro Sombrero in Tierra del Fuego) opened in 1962, Concepción refinery started up in 1966, and the Cabo Negro (northeast of Punta Arenas) gas processing plant opened in 1971, which has also produced methanol since the mid 1990s.

Chile refines 97% of the country’s gasoline need, 83% of its diesel used and 70% of the kerosene consumed nationally. The rest is imported, although it is so far no clear to me from where, and wherever it comes from (Brazil?), the amount is not very significant.

Some have no doubt questioned why a refinery (eyesore) was placed near the sprawling upper class community of Concón. However, one must remember that in the 1960s Concón was a dumpy little town at the end of the Anconcagua River and the international highway (with easiest access to Santiago before the major toll highway was built) and near ocean ports in Quintero and Valparaíso.

No one could probably have imagined that a backwards, Third World and increasingly communist country like Chile in the 1960s would ever have a a sprawling section of Viña del Mar morphing into Concón and transforming much of it into modern elegance. So there is nothing surprising about the location.

The same can be said of refineries in Southern California that were once in the “boonies” but now are located on increasingly valuable property. The bottom line is that when it comes to gasoline and diesel, one need not worry that Chile is dependent on the Middle East. It is simply not the case. The more important focus should be on eliminating federal fuel taxes and privatizing ENAP.
 

Chile has a new sustainable community starting called Freedom Orchard. Check it out. Invest in it, and diversify out of the decaying assets in “First World” nations.
Also, be sure to tune in to Dr. Cobin’s radio program: “Red Hot Chile” at noon (ET) on Fridays on the Overseas Radio Network (ORN). You can also join the thousands of other people who download the shows each month via the archive link on our Red Hot Chile page (recorded show updated every Monday morning).
Be sure, too, to visit AllAboutChile.com for discussion and forums about the country and what’s going on with Freedom Orchard.
Dr. Cobin’s 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 $49.
Dr. Cobin’s sequel book, Expatriates to Chile: Topics for Living, adds even further depth on important topics to expatriates who either live in Chile already or who have Chile on the short list of countries where they hope to immigrate. The book deals with crucial issues pertaining to urban and rural real estate transactions, natural disasters, issues pertaining to emigration and its urgency, money and the quality of life, medical care and insurance, business opportunities, social manifestations (including welfare state and divorce policy concerns), Chile in the freedom indices, social maladies (lying, cheating, stealing and murder), as well as discussion of a few places worth visiting and some further comments about Santiago.
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.

Places to Retire in Chile for Every Budget

I have been dealing with newcomers and immigrants from different walks of life for many years. Some are relatively rich, others relatively poor. One’s economic situation is independent of his political views and thus freedom-loving people from all social classes are making their way to Chile. Some plan to work. Others plan to start a business.

Most likely these two types of people will locate near Santiago, and possibly near Viña del Mar or Concepción and possibly even Iquique, Talca, Temuco or Puerto Montt. However, many come with the intention of full retirement or partial retirement with some consulting, travel or internet business. In fact, most newcomers tend to be in their late 40s and 50s and are looking to retire or semi-retire. While every retiree would like to live in the nicer parts of Chile (First World sections), many will find these areas to be out of their financial reach.

I hate to see people be discouraged when they arrive or feel like they are living beyond their means. Thus, I hope to provide a “short list” of cities or towns for people to consider, listed according to one’s economic situation, which will allow them to begin studying options prior to coming down.

Where should retirees be looking to live? The table below summarizes my suggestions based on a couple’s net worth and/or pension check. These are my recommendations. And remember that I have been in every town over 500 inhabitants in Chile (except Isla Juan Fernández). So I speak from experience.

There are certainly other communities that would fit each category, especially categories 2 and 3, but I have chosen the places that I have visited that have some virtue and (with a few exceptions) that have at least 5,000 people. Hence, the towns come with at least a few shops, stores, churches, restaurants, etc.

Of course, the larger urban locations listed come with far greater commercial and social benefits. Having said that, I should point out that there are dozens of tiny towns, often in the middle of nowhere, in which a couple could survive on a very tight budget if they chose to do so. I just find that almost no couples that I have met have expressed such a preference.

Immigrant’s Net Worth; cost of home (USD); typical size in square meters
Possible places to retire (Dr. Cobin’s suggestions), towns ≥ 5,000 inhabitants, congruent with social class and affordability
Level of medical care quality, monthly cost per couple (USD)
Probability of personally having to do some agricultural or construction work to survive; local food costs
Likely transportation mode; non-local travel potential
Social class; variety of shopping, clubs, churches, jobs, schools, maid service, etc. accessible
Category 1
Net Worth: $75,000
House budget:
$11,000
House size (m2)
70
Rainy, coastal, cold
§ Puerto Aguirre (2,000 inhabitants only, isolated)
§ Puerto Cisnes
§ Porvenir
Low, $75
High; low
Bus, ferry; none
D; poor
Category 2
Net Worth: $250,000 or
$100,000 plus monthly pension of $1,000
House budget:
$45,000
House size (m2)
90
Desert, no rain, river
§ Camiña valley area (tax free zone)
§ Pica (4,200 inhabitants, tax free zone)
§ Alto de Carmen and San Félix valley area
Desert, no rain, sea
§ Huasco
Arid, little rain
§ Vicuña
§ Salamanca
§ Petorca
Dry 6-8 mos., farming
§ Limache
§ Quillota
§ Villa Alemana
§ Los Andes
§ San José de Maipo
§ Santa Cruz
§ Curicó
§ Chillán
§ Los Ángeles
Dry 8 mos., sea coast
§ Algarrobo
§ El Tabo
§ Quintay
§ Laguna Verde (near Valparaíso)
Green, rain, quaint
§ Curacautín
§ Lonquimay
§ San Pedro de la Paz
§ Collipulli
§ Angol
§ Santa Bárbara
§ Victoria
§ Temuco
§ Pitrufquén
§ Valdivia
§ La Unión
§ Río Bueno
Green, rain, lake
§ Lago Ranco
§ Futrono
§ Puerto Octay
§ Chile Chico
§ Cochrane
Green, rain, sea coast
§ Puerto Montt
§ Ancud
§ Puqueldón (only 1,000 inhabitants but close to bigger populations)
§ Queilén
§ Chaitén (tax free cars)
Green, rain, lake
§ Futaleufú (tax free cars)
§ Palena (tax free cars)
Cold, rain, sea, views
§ Puerto Natales (tax free cars)
§ Puerto Williams (tax free cars)
Moderate, $200
Moderate; low
Bus, metro, ferry;
C; modest
Category 3
Net Worth: $600,000 or
$300,000 plus monthly pension of $2,000
House budget:
$175,000
House size (m2)
90
Desert, no rain, ocean
§ Arica (tax free cars)
§ Iquique (tax free zone)
Arid, some rain, sea
§ La Serena
§ Papudo
Arid, some rain, river
§ San Pedro de Atacama
§ Paihuano
§ Ovalle
§ Illapel
Santiago area
§ Huecheraba
§ Chicureo
§ Ñuñoa
§ Las Condes (south)
§ Providencia (west)
§ Peñalolén (southeast)
§ Freedom Orchard (Curacaví)
Dry 8 mos., farming
§ Limache
§ Quillota
§ Villa Alemana
Coastal 5th Region
Dry 8 mos., coastal
§ Maitencillo
§ Viña del Mar
§ Concón
§ Algarrobo
§ Algarrobo
§ Rocas de Santo Domingo
Dry 8 mos, mountains
§ San José de Maipo
§ Santa Cruz
Green, rain, river/falls
§ Curacautín
§ Lonquimay
§ La Unión
§ Río Bueno
§ Valdivia
§ Coyhaique (tax free cars)
Green, rain, lake
§ Villarrica
§ Panguipulli
§ Puerto Octay
Cold, wind, sea
§ Punta Arenas (tax free zone)
Good, $400
Low; high
Bus, metro, ferry, basic car
C; very good
Category 4
Net Worth: $1,000,000 or
$650,000 plus monthly pension of $2,000
House budget:
$400,000
House size (m2)
140
Arid, some rain, coast
La Serena communities
§ Las Tacas
§ Puerto Velero
§ Serena Golf
Santiago area
§ Las Condes
§ Vitacura
§ La Dehesa
§ Providencia
§ La Reina Alta
§ Freedom Orchard (Curacaví)
Coastal 5th Region
Dry 8 mos.
§ Zapallar
§ Concón (south)
§ Reñaca
§ Viña del Mar (west)
§ Miraflores
§ Algarrobo
§ Rocas de Santo Domingo and Las Brisas
Concepción area
§ San Pedro de la Paz
§ Andalué
§ Idahue
§ Pingüeral
§ Lonco
Green, rain, city
§ Temuco
Green, rain, lake
§ Villarrica
§ Pucón
§ Panguipulli
§ Puerto Varas
§ Frutillar bajo
§ Puerto Octay outlying area
Excellent, $500
None; highest
Metro, ferry, nice car
C or B; excellent
Category 5
Net Worth: $10,000,000
House budget:
$2,000,000
House size (m2)
500
La Serena communities
§ Las Tacas
§ Puerto Velero
§ Serena Golf
Santiago area
§ Lo Curro
§ Santa María Manquehue
§ Las Condes
§ Vitacura
§ La Dehesa
§ Providencia
§ La Reina Alta
§ Freedom Orchard (Curacaví)
Coastal 5th Region
Dry 8 mos.
§ Zapallar
§ Concón (south)
§ Reñaca
§ Viña del Mar (west)
§ Miraflores
§ Rocas de Santo Domingo and Las Brisas
Concepción area
§ Lonco
Green, rain, lake
§ Pucón
§ Puerto Varas
§ Vichuquén (4,335 inhabitants)
Excellent, $600
None; highest
Metro, ferry, nice car, plane
A; excellent

Note that Freedom Orchard’s (Curacaví) target market is for categories 4 and 5, and possible category 3. Special thanks goes to my wife Pamela for suggesting that I do this blog entry and providing some input into the contents and structural improvements to the table above.

    Chile is a freer place than most countries (ranked 7th by Heritage Foundation for 2014) and looks better and better all the time. You might consider investing in the country and even moving to Chile. Chile has a new sustainable community starting called Freedom Orchard. Check it out. Buy your “Plan B” lot in it, and diversify out of the decaying assets in “First World” nations.
Also, be sure to tune in to Dr. Cobin’s radio program: “Red Hot Chile” at noon (ET) on Fridays on the Overseas Radio Network (ORN). You can also join the thousands of other people who download the shows each month via the archive link on our Red Hot Chile page (recorded show updated every Monday morning).
Be sure, too, to visit AllAboutChile.com for discussion and forums about the country and what’s going on with Freedom Orchard.
Dr. Cobin’s 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 $49.
Dr. Cobin’s sequel book, Expatriates to Chile: Topics for Living, adds even further depth on important topics to expatriates who either live in Chile already or who have Chile on the short list of countries where they hope to immigrate. The book deals with crucial issues pertaining to urban and rural real estate transactions, natural disasters, issues pertaining to emigration and its urgency, money and the quality of life, medical care and insurance, business opportunities, social manifestations (including welfare state and divorce policy concerns), Chile in the freedom indices, social maladies (lying, cheating, stealing and murder), as well as discussion of a few places worth visiting and some further comments about Santiago.
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)These and other resources can be found on the Escape America Now resource page.

A Sober Discussion About Immigrating to Chile

Too many expats think that they’ll get the red carpet treatment just for arriving in Chile. Showing up with nothing and no ability with Spanish is a recipe for disaster. This is made even worse if you’re not willing to just hunker down and do whatever it takes. Pioneers rarely have it easy. And an entitlement mentality will only serve to make things harder for you.
That doesn’t mean don’t do it. It’s rewarding and wonderful. Just don’t do so in such a manner that destines you for failure.

Record Number of Americans Renounce Citizenship

Record number of Americans giving up citizenship.
Socialism doesn’t work.
Closing thoughts about expatriation.

Sectors of Viña del Mar

Without a doubt, Viña del Mar (about 1:45 by car via superhighway WNW of northeastern Santiago) is the second most livable city in Chile. Note that when I make that claim I am not considering the many beautiful smaller Chilean towns with First World amenities reasonably close: Pucón, Zapallar, Puerto Varas, Rocas de Santo Domingo, Coyhaique or even Pica, San Félix, Vicuña (and surrounding towns), Vichuquén, Corral and Bahía Inglesa. I am referring to the most livable larger city in Chile outside of northeastern Santiago.

Viña del Mar is precisely that place, with La Serena running a distant third, followed by spots mostly in the southern and eastern parts of Concepción (as well as Pingueral) and then possibly Valdivia, Temuco and maybe Rancagua (in that order). Remember that the metro area formed by Viña del Mar and Valparaíso (Chile’s second most important port and home of the Chilean navy and Chilean Congress) has almost one million inhabitants, making it a commercial center, full of culture and attractions.

One can live and work in Viña del Mar, even though it is harder to do so than in Santiago, far more than he can in smaller regional cities in Chile. Only Concepción comes close to offering the same employment possibilities for professionals outside of Santiago.

The Viña del Mar area has three Jumbo supermarkets (if one counts the branch in Valparaíso), several Líder stores, Homecenter and Easy builder’s supermarkets and home improvement centers, all banking and medical services, car and replacement parts dealers, a hospital that is the best among the regions of Chile (the Clínica Reñaca), good bilingual private schools (Mackay and St. Margaret’s), several universities (including one of Chile’s top three engineering schools, the Universidad Federico Santa María in nearby Valparaíso), an elegant Casino, an upscale mall with a bowling alley, cinemas, good restaurants, fast food chains and most everything else one can think of.

Of course, it probably goes without saying that there are much less of these things in Viña del Mar than in northeastern Santiago. However, the level of infrastructure and amenities is more than adequate. Viña del Mar also has a better climate than Santiago, just like coastal southern California is more temperate than inland areas, with warmer winters and cooler summers (but with 7% to 19% more rainfall during the winter months).

The city seems to be full of flowers and gardens, including its famous flower clock. The people tend to be among the friendliest I have met in Chile.

Viña del Mar is a tourist city and hosts the famous Festival Internacional de la Canción de Viña del Mar, where many singers and musicians begin their rise to fame. There is still felt much of the British influence from the past when the port of Valparaíso was thriving and wealthier than before the Panama Canal era. For instance, the British institute has a good English language library and one can find several Anglican churches. 

The cost of living is lower in general (by about 17.8%) than in Santiago. Comparable housing in the upper class sections of Viña del Mar is about 30% to 50% cheaper than in northeastern Santiago, as are the costs of property taxes and community fees in apartment buildings and condominios (gated communities with common areas). Maid service is cheaper, too, along with public transportation costs (metro, bus, train).

Busses leave for Santiago every 10 minutes from downtown Viña del Mar, making the big city very accessible for just a few dollars. The air is far cleaner in Viña del Mar than Santiago, there is much less noise (other than the constant sound of rolling waves for homes near the shore) and, outside of the dreadful summer months, less traffic congestion.

2013-10-25 16.29.25

2013-10-25 16.29.29

On the hills above the city, one will find good ocean views looking one way and mountain views the other. Many pine forests run along the hills overlooking the coastline and there are areas with significant sand dunes just to the north in Reñaca and above Concón. Viña del Mar (up through Concón) features the interesting phenomenon of something like 90% vacancy in the thousands of apartments during the non-summer months, other than long weekends and holidays. Most of the beachfront apartments are owned by upper class people in Santiago, as are some a little bit further inland, although most of those tend to be owned by year-round residents.

Housing is well defined by sectors of Viña del Mar, which are strikingly more distinct than in Santiago. One can drive twenty kilometers in Santiago’s upper class area before seeing much in the way of lower or lower middle class housing. The same is not true in Viña del Mar that has abrupt and obvious distinctions. Immigrants from the First World should know before hand where to look, avoiding areas not highlighted in this article, and bearing in mind that apartments and housing closer to the shore will usually carry a much higher cost per square meter than interior properties. 

The main section just north of downtown is no more than 15 square blocks, along with the older part west of downtown called El Plan. It is an elegant area, located mainly between Avenida 1 Norte and Avenida 15 Norte, west of Avenida Libertad to the beach, full of apartment buildings, a mall, banks, pharmacies, private hospitals, automobile dealers, restaurants, the Casino, services and nice stores. Buildings range from 5 to 80 years old, with newer part being on the northern subsection near Avenida 15 Norte.

A second section of town, housing the “old wealth” much like the comuna of Providencia does in Santiago, is called Miraflores Bajo. It is located further inland (just past the famous horse racing track), with some of the homes going up the hill having views, but nothing spectacular. Some of the homes are elegant and well kept, with nice gardens, with larger ones being 350 square meters (around 3,750 square feet) for around US$600,000. It boasts its own hospital and fire station, too.


2013-10-25 16.32.15

2013-10-25 16.32.19

 

Other sectors include areas of newer apartments east and south of the central district’s seashore, hillside sectors called Recreo and Agua Santa, as well as basin sectors called Avenida Álvarez (and Avenida Vianna) and some of Avenida 1 Norte. I do not care for these areas as much as others, even though they are usually cheaper for the same quality, because the surrounding properties are either older or often not well kept up, the views are not always as good, and they are further from amenities and job sites or many business opportunities.

Nevertheless, bargain-hunters and future-looking buyers might consider them. Small, newer apartments can be had for under US$150,000. Like Miraflores Bajo, Avenida Álvarez and Avendia 1 Norte have an important advantage of being close to the Jumbo superstore and quick superhighway access.

The fastest-growing and thus most popular affluent sections of Viña del Mar fall along the north side of the ocean crescent and several miles inland from the shore. These communities include scenic places like Reñaca (right on the beach with stair step apartments and homes lining the adjacent hillsides), with easy beach access, easy shopping access, wonderful views and ocean sounds, but horrible traffic in January and February.

More popular among year-round residents are the communities directly inland, often with hillside sea views, pine or eucalyptus forests and mountain views to the east. The oldest of these in Jardín del Mar, mostly built in the 1980s and 1990s, but new construction is still going on, with many smaller (140 square meters or about 1,500 square foot) homes and apartments selling from US$200,000 to US$300,000. There are also larger homes priced near half a million dollars. The main branch of the Clínica Reñaca is in this section and the northwestern viewscapes are wonderful from just about everywhere.

Across the valley is a new, perhaps slightly more elegant section called Los Almendros, although prices do not seem much different. Much of the building quality is the same, but some spots do not have ocean views. One does see larger homes here and fewer apartments, and there are some gated communities with cookie cutter homes that are not found on the other side of the valley. Electrical and phone wiring are also buried on this side, making views better than from many homes in Jardín del Mar.

Finally, there is the ever-expanding section that bleeds north into Concón from Reñaca, called Bosques de Montemar. This section is residential and much like Vitacura or La Dehesa (in Santiago). Most have only views of the impressive sand dunes except for housing going up the hills toward the pines that have broad ocean views. Some of the homes are much larger and prices tend to be 20% higher in these neighborhoods than they are in parts of Los Almendros and Jardín del Mar. (Of course, it is hard to generalize such things!) The sector is also loaded with many 20 to 35 story luxury apartment buildings, some right on the cliffs overlooking the sea below. These apartments tend to be very elegant and range in price from US$250,000 to US$800,000. There are Jumbo, Líder Express, Easy, Construmart and Monserrat superstores nearby, along with St. Margaret’s private school for girls and a couple of service stations.

One thing that has struck me time and again is the relative lack of mansions and estates in Viña del Mar. Sure, there are some elegant and exclusive spots. But the real concentration of wealth in Chile is clearly in Santiago.

However, looking to the future, Viña del Mar is set to continue its expansion into greater prosperity and progress. Those who settle there will enjoy a higher quality of life in many ways over Santiago and a good chance for future gains in property values. If you want to bet on Chile’s future, besides Santiago, mining areas and farmland, Viña del Mar should be a prime consideration.

Chileans I have spoken with consider that Viña del Mar is Chile’s best overall city to live in. In many ways, I think they are right. I have been in every part of Chile, and it is hard to think of any other place that ticks all the boxes like Viña del Mar does. Every immigrant should have a plan to check it out.

Chile has a new sustainable community starting called Freedom Orchard. Check it out. Invest in it, and diversify out of the decaying assets in “First World” nations.
Also, be sure to tune in to Dr. Cobin’s radio program: “Red Hot Chile” at noon (ET) on Fridays on the Overseas Radio Network (ORN). You can also join the thousands of other people who download the shows each month via the archive link on our Red Hot Chile page (recorded show updated every Monday morning).
Be sure, too, to visit AllAboutChile.com for discussion and forums about the country and what’s going on with Freedom Orchard.
Dr. Cobin’s 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 $49.
Dr. Cobin’s sequel book, Expatriates to Chile: Topics for Living, adds even further depth on important topics to expatriates who either live in Chile already or who have Chile on the short list of countries where they hope to immigrate. The book deals with crucial issues pertaining to urban and rural real estate transactions, natural disasters, issues pertaining to emigration and its urgency, money and the quality of life, medical care and insurance, business opportunities, social manifestations (including welfare state and divorce policy concerns), Chile in the freedom indices, social maladies (lying, cheating, stealing and murder), as well as discussion of a few places worth visiting and some further comments about Santiago.
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:

These and other resources can be found on the Escape America Now resource page.

 

 

“Cuotas” on Credit Card Purchases in Chile

In terms of financial planning, using other people’s money to make money can be sensible–especially when the borrowing costs are zero. In the world of fractional reserve banking and fiat money, credit cards and consumer loans are a reality. Being wise as serpents and gentle as doves in such an environment may be prudent.

One thing that will puzzle Americans who shop in Chile is the cashier’s question about whether they want to pay for their credit card purchase in installments (cuotas, pronounced “quotas”). An American will ask, “Why? Why should I pay for $50 worth of groceries in installments?” They will tend to think that some Chileans are poor and cannot afford even little stuff unless they pay over time.
The fact of the matter is quite different. Chilean credit card companies make deals with merchants that make cuotas a good deal for consumers and the products sold by retailers more attractive. They also offer discounts to credit card users through the cuotas system. For instance, banks will sometimes offer 3, 6 or 12 monthly payments on an item purchased without charging any interest. Thus the prudent buy can make a major purchase using money interest free for up to a year, making the effective cost of the product less on account of the time value of money. And since all purchases are cumulative when the deal is being offered (which is almost always), it makes sense to put all purchases on the cuotas system and make payments but pay no interest, saving the money that would normally be used to pay for the item up front and gaining the interest on that money over the year. If one has a high enough credit limit to buy a car on the credit card, the savings can be substantial. Thus, if one can manage his money well in Chile, and has good self control, utilizing the cuotas system may make sense.