As some of you who have read a few of my previous articles for Escape Artist will know, I own and run Estancia La Margarita (www.estancialamargarita.com) not too far from Buenos Aires in Argentina. I have lived here for nearly seven years and have owned and run La Margarita since 2005. It’s a great life! I get to meet loads of people and have the privilege of living in the spectacular pampas – on top of that, I get to be a farmer. However, I also like to go fishing sometimes and over the years have often been to Uruguay to do just that. In fact I like fishing there so much I decided to buy a house there. After buying a house in Argentina (for sure it does have its quirks) I thought I had seen everything but I was in for a surprise.
I started my looking for a fishing shack in the beautiful UNESCO town of Colonia some years ago. When I first went there in 2004 I saw a house on the river which was a total wreck but it was located right in the old Portuguese built town and was right on the River Plate . I was with my then partner Vero and I asked her to ring the number on the sales board to see what the situation was and the person on the other end of the line said that it had been reserved for US$86000. Now that was a steal and I asked Vero to make an offer for more than that. It was refused even though I had offered US$10000 more. With a heavy heart I abandoned my search and within a year I had purchased La Margarita. I still liked fishing though and whenever I needed a break I took myself of to Uruguay. Last year I decided that ok David it’s time to buy in Uruguay and I set my budget at around 80000US. I didn’t want Punta del Este – too brash for me and in the summer it’s full of holiday makers of course. It’s sort of like a Buenos Aires on sea for me. Since I live part of my time in trendy Palermo in Buenos Aires which is full of chic restaurants and shops I didn’t need that in my holiday home – I was looking for rustic on the river.
With all this in mind I started to explore the small resorts located around 60 -100 kilometers from Colonia which is an hour’s ferry ride from BA. It’s very convenient because when I am in BA I can catch a ferry to Colonia and in one hour I am in Uruguay. There I can drive my own car or hire one and in 40 minutes I can be tackling up to fish. All seemed perfect to me. The small resorts near to Colonia are rustic, have a few food shops and not much else apart from great sandy beaches and the river to swim or fish in and some excellent walks – perfect. I knew what I was looking for. A small house with two bedrooms with direct access to the river, a house in good condition without a need to do much renovation , located in a nice peaceful location and within easy reach of the ferry terminal in BA– easy eh umm not quite.!
I started to search the internet for what I was looking for with not much luck. It seems that selling houses on the internet hasn’t quite reached this part of Uruguay (it’s not Punta Del Este for sure). However after a number of searches I found a house which seemed to fit the bill. It was a small two bed house of about 20 years old and it was first line. It did have a small road in front of it but on the other side of that road was the beach. The published price was 65000$US. It all seemed great, all I had to do was get there to see it. Problem was as always happens I didn’t have time to get and see it immediately – in fact it took a month. However, I was delighted to hear when I spoke to the agent and when I found the time to view it that it was indeed still for sale and I informed him ok I will book my ticket and see it the next day. Full of anticipation I set out to find the house with fingers crossed that it was what I was looking for. It was located 60 kilometers from the ferry port in a small resort called Blanca Arena and with a name like that how could I go wrong! .I found the house easily enough. I had told the agent to save him time I would have a look on the outside and if it was for me I would call him. When I arrived I knew immediately it was for me. It had a great view of the river, it was small so manageable and hey, I could fish almost from my doorstep!
On the white sandy beach were some guys fishing so I went to talk to them to see what fish were biting. Their catch was good and it was all by now getting pretty exciting. One of the guys asked me if I was just passing through and I said nope I was looking at that house over there with a view to buying it. ‘Umm’ he said,’ I think you are a day too late, it was sold yesterday for 46000US$’. My spirit wilted. I rang the agent and he said that as far as he was concerned it was still for sale but would check with the owners to confirm it. Five minutes later he called me back so say sorry it was sold yesterday by the owner who accepted that offer of 46000US. I repeatedly told myself the house just wasn’t for me the house just wasn’t for me the house wasn’t for me – dam why didn’t I come earlier my brain was really saying. Truth was I was really disappointed but one thing for sure I was determined to find my little shack on the river in Uruguay more than ever now. I decided to use my now extra time in Uruguay to explore some of the other resorts. A few kilometers down river I came across a house which looked as though it had direct access to the river. I stopped my car and made my way through the over grown garden and to the end of the garden and there it was – the beach of white sand and the river beyond. This was it, I had found what I had been looking for- now to do the deal. I rang the number on the board and the agent said he could show me the house but that the owner was away and if I wanted to do a deal I would have to return. ‘Ok’ I said,’ no problem just show me the house and I will be back as soon as the owner is around’. Within an hour Cesar the agent arrived with keys in hand. We did a quick tour of the small house which was rustic but suited me fine and then on to the terrace outside to see the view of the beach and river. It turned out that the owner was asking US$80000. OK just in my budget I thought and who knows he may accept an offer. I agreed to come back within 6 days when the owner was around.
The next week I arrived back in Uruguay with the full intention of buying the rustic house on the beach even if I couldn’t get the owner down a peso. When we arrived at the house there was the owner and Cesar the agent waiting for me. We did a quick tour of the house again and the owner told me the story of the house – how it had had been in the family for years and that he was sad to sell it but he had recently divorced and that he needed the money to settle with his ex. Once our tour of the house was over I asked to speak to Cesar in private. I said that I would make an offer for the house of 60000US$. He said he would speak to the owner. Off he went to his car and made my offer. Cesar came back and said he will take 75000US$. Ok! I thought we are in the game! Back and forth went Cesar until we settled at 69000US$ with the furniture included- I was very happy and so it seemed was the owner. We all immediately headed to the lawyers to sign a reserve contract with a 10% deposit of the asking price. When we got to the lawyers I realized that I had forgotten to bring all the money I intended to bring and had only 4000US$. The Lawyer said the owner would accept that and we duly singed the legal reserve document. In the document the lawyer inserted a fine clause meaning if I didn’t come back on the agreed date to finalize the deal I would lose my money and I would have to pay double the reserve i.e. US$8000 in total – I fully intended to come back so it was no problem for me . The lawyer said that in one week more or less we would be in a position to sign the contact and she would call me to confirm it. A week later I got a call from the lawyer but not the call I expected! She said that the owner had changed his mind and that I should come back and pick my money up and the fine money of 4000US$. One week later I was at the lawyer’s office picking up my money and the 4 grand from the owner thank you very much. To be truthful I was really sad – although I had made a quick 4 grand I didn’t have my house. The lawyer said it was the first time it had ever happened. She added that normally the fine is less but since I was a foreigner she thought it would be me who defaulted not the owner and the owner had asked to put in a bigger fine – how wrong can you be . Why he backed out I am not sure but I suspect the house was a bargain and someone offered a much bigger price
With my little windfall in my pocket I decided to explore some small resorts next to the one I was going to buy since there wasn’t anything suitable in Blanca Arena where I so nearly became the happy owner of a rustic shack on the beach.
The next resort I drove to was called Boca del Cufre. When I arrived in the tiny resort I liked it. Although it was tiny it had charm. As I headed towards the beach I passed a house which had a for sale board. I hadn’t arrived at the beach yet so I was pretty sure it wasn’t on the beach but I decided to have a quick look. I As I walked up the small path to the house my heart leapt – I saw that although it wasn’t on the beach it was right on the River Cufre with a great view of f the estuary and the beach beyond. That was it – I didn’t care what the house was like the location was all that mattered to me. In fact the house looked great and the location was perfect. I decided to have a chat with the next door neighbour who luckily was in. She said that they were asking 65000US$ and that it was a local family who owned it. I got the number form the sales board of the owners. I rang them and asked if I could have a look around the house. They agreed to show it to me the next day. The next day at 11am prompt I arrived and found the owners already there. They were busy tidying the house. They showed me around the property which it turned out was built in 1970 –it needed painting and a few bits of renovation but looked solid as a rock. It had two bedrooms a living room with a great fire place, small kitchen and bathroom. Outside was a further bathroom which needed to a bit of work and a small outhouse perfect for eating out with a great view of the river and beach. To say I was very happy was an understatement – it was just what I was looking for. A small house right on the river (I could fish from my garden), one minute to the beach and in a quiet peaceful location out of season but very rentable in season. Ok all well and good, now we had to talk about the price. Once again I was happy to offer the asking price but of course being a Brit I had to make an offer below the asking price – it’s in the blood! To avoid looking like I was really keen I said I would have a think about my offer and contact them when I was back in Buenos Aires. A few days later I rang Soledad who was in charge if the family sale. I offered US$40000 – cheeky, but hey worth a shot! She said,’ look David, we don’t intend to give this house away so come back with a better offer’ – ok I was in the game once again! . We finally settled on 48000 with me paying their legal fees – to me it was bargain and I was as happy as Larry.
We arranged a time for me to come to Uruguay again and sign the exchange contact. In July I was back in Uruguay to sign for the house. We agreed to complete the deal a few days after the final of the World Cup since I was to be in UK watching England get to the World Cup finals! I wished my new Uruguayan friends good luck in the World Cup confident that they would be knocked out well before us – gulp! Umm, how wrong can one be ! . They wished me and England good luck safe in the knowledge that they had won the World Cup twice to our once. The rest is history and no more talk of football here in this article.
On the agreed date I arrived back in Uruguay and we signed and completed the deal. I can reliably confirm that buying property in Uruguay is not the nerve racking experience it is in Argentina where all the cash literally has to be laid on the table and counted. We used cheques drawn on my account and within an hour I was the very happy owner of a little house in the river.
After the sale I went to my little house on the river and opened up the proverbial bottle of wine and sat by the river in my garden looking at the sunset- I was a very happy and I think a lucky man.
Since the purchase I have spent about 5000$US doing some improvements in the house and Soledad is now looking after the house for me when I am not there. I have decided to rent it in Jan and Feb since I will be working full out on La Margarita. It is already rented for Jan and Feb is looking very good. I love living in Argentina but I also love escaping to Uruguay and now I have my little house in the river to fish in I am very very happy.
Over the past few months I have spent some primetime in what is now called Waterside Cottage Uruguay and also tested to see if the fishing was as good as everyone said it was – it was in fact spectacular!. In November I went fishing at the bottom of my garden and caught my first Dorado and I can testify that they don’t have that reputation for being one of the fiercest fighters for nothing. Not only did I catch it we eat it that night in a recipe given to me by my neighbour – delicious!
I really love this little house and I am pretty sure others will too so I decided to do a little web page for it if you want to have a quick peek here is the link http://watersidecottageuruguay.blogspot.com/ and if you are ever in Uruguay and feel like renting it just send me an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. If you enjoy being chilled out and fishing you will love it
Hasta La Proxima