The sale of Estancia La Margarita in the Provincia de Buenos Aires () is without doubt, in our opinion at Escape Artist, an incredible buying opportunity for someone. This lovely estancia (I know, I have been there and I loved it) located just 280 kilometers from Buenos Aires is one of the most visible estancias on the internet (just have a look at its Trip Advisor reviews for starters.
La Margarita is often featured in national papers, magazines and has been featured on numerous TV shows. It has been used for model shoots and this year (Aug 2011) it has been listed not only in Rough Guide, Buenos Aires but also Lonely Planet, Buenos Aires. It has been chosen by the Mayor of Tapalque to make a film promoting tourism in the Provincia de Buenos Aires and is the location for a Argentina film production called “Salome y el Forastero” (Salome and the Forester) which starts filming end of September 2011.
We, at Escape Artist, know the owner David Cummings alias The English Gaucho well (see his blog about life on La Margarita and in Argentina (http://englishgaucho.blogspot.com/). He has written a number of articles about life in Argentina and on La Margarita for us. With this in mind I decided to let David tell his story of why, after seven years he is selling the now famous estancia. I also asked him why he thinks it is such a fantastic opportunity to buy it and what sort of life style it could offer you. Finally, I asked him his price. I think once you have read his story you will agree with me that opportunities like this don’t come by often at any price – here’s his story……………
“I remember as if it was yesterday the first day I arrived on La Margarita. In fact I had been looking for Estancia La Margarita for a good few years! Well, not literally, it’s just that I had a vision of what I wanted to buy here. It had to be, amongst other things, in a location far from the maddening crowd but near enough that if I needed some civilization I wouldn’t be too far away. I viewed many properties and gave them all “the closed eyes test”. I sat down in the grounds of the property and listened – what I was listening for was the sound of the pampas countryside, cows in fields, horses chatting and the wind in the trees and grass. What I mostly got was the sound of trucks rushing by or the neighbor’s radio playing too loud. If the location didn’t pass this first test I didn’t even bother to look at the rest of the property.
When I arrived at La Margarita I knew even before I arrived at the house it would pass the closed eye test. The thrill of the wonderful one-kilometer drive up to the house and grounds still stays with me. The blue open skies, the cows and horses in the fields and the wonderful bird life was spectacular and to be honest it still is. Believe me, I still get that buzz as I pass the famous white pillars, which mark the entrance to La Margarita. Every time I arrive back at La Margarita after being in the city I stop half way up the drive way to the estancia, I get out of my car and breathe in the fresh air and take in the beauty of the surroundings – I love it I really do. But nothing lasts forever as they say and I am now putting it on the market for various reasons, which, in someway, still hasn’t sunk in yet and without wanting got be too dramatic I am sure writing this will bring a few tears to my eyes.
After La Margarita sailed through my closed eyes test it was time to have a look at the property. I really didn’t need to since I guess once the closed eyes test had been passed I had already purchased it in my mind. So one day in January 2005 I had the keys to La Margarita and it was mine. I asked my estancia foreman (that made me feel important!) to saddle up a couple of horses and off I rode with Maria my partner at the time into the famous Argentine pampas as estancia owners do! – I can’t begin to describe to you how exciting that felt but I am sure you can imagine. As we rode out on that lovely sunny day (honest it really was) we talked excitedly about the future plans for La Margarita as we rode over pampas.
La Margarita had already been opened to guests for about twelve years before I eventually purchased it. Enriqueta Aguilo of the original Aguilo family who had owned La Margarita since it was built in 1873 had opened its doors to the public with good success in the 90s. However, due to personal reasons she had let the estancia slip and guests had almost stopped coming by the time I saw it. However, even though she had neglected it, this was a strong spirited and beautiful estancia and I could see that with some elbow grease and a team of good builders we could get it sorted out. In fact, as it turned out we had a team of about five builders on and off working on La Margarita for about a year or so. Renovating, painting, wiring, putting in new bathrooms, fixing things and converting barns and run down houses into living accommodation – you name it we did it. In the evenings as the builders went home and left us alone on La Margarita we would take a bottle of Malbec and sit in the lovely grounds and drink the wine while looking up at the stars amazed by the shooting star shows offered each night by the clearest night skies you have ever seen.
By the time we had finished renovating, the main estancia house consisted of five bedrooms with private bathrooms with a further three bedrooms with a shared bathroom. There is the huge and inviting living room, complete with a great fireplace – if only that fire place could talk it would talk of the wonderful evenings we have sat around it with guests on the historic Margarita playing music or chatting over a famous Malbec and just generally having a wonderful time.
Outside of the main house there is what we now call Casa Rosada – if you come you will see why! Casa Rosada was in fact the original house in which lived the then foreman of La Margarita when it was built in the 1870s while the owners were building the main house. It is a lovely building but when I purchased the estancia La Casa Rosada needed a fair bit of renovating. After it was renovated I have to say it looked great – a real piece of history revived and I am very proud of it – especially when we have Argentines come and visit and tell us how wonderful they think it is that we were preserving what is a very important part of their heritage.
I decided over time that La Casa Rosada could offer a nice profit centre for La Margarita, which was almost unique in the world of estancias. I had been to many other estancias and also had a look at what other estancias were offering. What I found they weren’t offering was self-catering units (and still don’t) and La Casa Rosada was perfect for this purpose. I equipped the rooms with small kitchens, bathrooms and put in wood burning stoves and I have to admit it has worked out fabulously. We have a constant stream of guests who are on a tight budget but who want to stay on an estancia but their pennies won’t stretch to a stay in the main house where all meals and wine are included – with this facility we could now open the estancia to this market – and it has worked out great – guests love to stay in it.
To be honest I myself could write a book about my time being the owner of Estancia La Margarita but I am aware that’s not why you may be reading this and I am also aware that Susan the editor asked me to answer some specific questions so here goes:
What does La Margarita consist of?
The estancia consists of the main estancia house built in 1873 with its five bedrooms with private bathrooms all with fireplaces plus three other bedrooms. There is the lovely one hundred square meter living room plus large kitchen and a dispensa. There is also a large general bathroom, which was the original bathroom of the estancia. The main house has extensive terrace areas. . The house has a large internal patio area – perfect to use in the winter and very colonial. Outside the main house is the TV room, washing area plus covered parking for about 4 cars. There is also a room we reserve for a volunteer we regularly have on La Margarita, which is complete with a wood burning stove and private bathroom. There is a further building, which has a toilet and storage space for freezers etc. Of course, lets not forget the huge swimming pool, which in summer is wonderful and is generally open from Nov until April (if you are brave it can stay open longer).
There is the self-catering house which I have talked about, that is, La Casa Rosada, which consists of four bedrooms with private bathrooms – one of the bedrooms has a living room. There is a huge stone barn built in 1872 which is divided into a workshop, a chapel, a general storage area and there is an another barn for storage of tractors etc. Above this barn is an area, which I have converted to what I call the yoga and chill area –it’s huge and has lovely views of the surrounding countryside and a great place to escape- in fact its here that I used to escape to so I could get away from the builders sometimes times in the height of the renovation. There also is a two-bedroom house for the estancia foreman and another studio for his assistant with small kitchen and bathroom. There is a further house, which is nice and private, which I have converted to use recently for myself when the main house is busy. The total land is forty hectares (about 100 acres). There are corrals for horses and the land has a large wood so there are always logs for the fires.
Included in the sale will be all the furniture, the horses, which as I write today are about 15, the milking cows, a bull and about 35 sheep. The tractors and tools are also included in the sale – in fact everything is included that will enable you to receive guests immediately.
Why is buying La Margarita such an exciting opportunity?
For me there are a many reasons why this is a great opportunity. One is simply that all the hard work is already done – not only in the physical sense but in the marketing sense as well. Over the past six years I with my team have put our hearts and souls into making La Margarita what it is today – a much visited, written about and loved estancia. When I purchased it my aim was to make La Margarita one of the best loved estancias in Argentina by offering a place where guests could relax and enjoy the gaucho life style and chill out. A place where they could ride out on horses and enjoy an experience of the real gaucho Argentine pampas both for Argentines and foreigners. I wanted those who came to experience what I had experienced when I first came to La Margarita. I think that if you have a look at what has been written about La Margarita we have succeeded. So much so that the editors of the guides Rough Guide and Lonely Planet put us in their Buenos Aires guides this year – something we are very proud of.
If you purchased La Margarita you would not only be buying somewhere beautiful to live but a turn key business that has been built up over more than 20 years. I say over twenty years because there is no doubt that Enriqueta the former owner did much on her part to make this a wonderful estancia too – we just took it to the next stage. The difference is that we opened up the international market and with the installation of the self-catering units we have opened up another niche market. Of course that’s aside from the huge amount of renovation we did over the years. One thing you need not worry about – guests don’t come to La Margarita to see me – if only! In fact the guests see very little of me and they don’t want to see me a lot or who ever is looking after them. Guests come to La Margarita to enjoy what it offers – not the owner.
Another reason that this is an exciting opportunity is that the leaders of the town of Tapalque have been exploring the possibility that there was warm spring water in the area. Last year they found the warm spa water and its full steam ahead (sorry for the pun) to put natural spa facilities in the town. The Tapalque Municipal has already been approached by a private company to build the spa complex on a 15-acre site. The spas will be near to La Margarita. This will certainly bring more people to the town, which will without doubt certainly bring more guests to La Margarita. Also the Tapalque council leaders have already built and finished a brand new tourist office on the main route, which is due to be opened September 2011. The office will offer info to people who are looking for things to do in the area as more and more Argentines explore their own country. This will no doubt also have the potential to attract more guests to La Margarita. All in all without doubt, the future is bright for La Margarita.
Why I am Selling?
I have asked myself this question a number of times to be honest. The truth is if there is no one to buy it I will not be unhappy and I will continue to run it with my team since I do love it here but I do have my reasons for putting it on the market.
One is personal in that I have spent the past six to seven years building the business of Estancia La Margarita. I am from the UK and I have four grand children and I am ashamed to say that I have only seen them about four times during that time. I now want to spend more time with them before they themselves get married and I end up with great grand kids without the energy to enjoy them. I have also been offered a partnership in another project, which is in the city of Buenos Aires, and I have accepted it – it will take up quite a bit of my time and I will also need to raise some money. So with the situation with my grandkids and the other projects I have I just don’t have time or money to do everything. Also, maybe its time for someone to take La Margarita to its next stage.
Once thing is for sure for me, La Margarita has turned into a success but it has plenty of room for further growth – of that I am 100% sure. The person who buys it will have plenty of opportunity to be creative and to grow the potential that La Margarita offers with the benefit of it being an established business providing a steady flow of guests visiting the estancia giving a secure income stream. For example one way you can grow the estancia more can be found in the words of one of our guests. Every year we have a group of guests come here who are the bosses of the Intercontinental Hotel chain. Last year when they were here I asked one of the bosses what was the trend in travel tourism and what tips he could give me – he said that the trend is to lower the footprint of the food we eat – here on La Margarita the footprint can be got to almost zero. He also said that when he retires (he is a bit young yet) he was going to buy somewhere just like La Margarita.
What type of lifestyle can La Margarita offer you?
I have to say if you were just buying La Margarita to live in and forgot about offering it to guests then La Margarita would be the perfect escape. It would offer you a safe and fabulous lifestyle especially if you love horse riding, the countryside and breathing pure fresh air and eating fresh food. It offers a chance to live the green life in a wonderful setting with views to die for and yet still be in striking distance of the glamour of Buenos Aires. But, there is no doubt it can also offer much, much more.
You have the chance to own and run a really enjoyable business with a steady income stream that can be grown and that offers you the chance of meeting people from all over the world – you will love this part as I do. The way the property is, you have the choice of living in the main house and just renting out the self-catering units for which the demand is definitely growing. Another option is you could live in one side of the large main house and make that totally private and let the other side out to guests along with the self-catering units. Finally, you could live in the small house I have recently converted and rent everything out. There is no doubt that this is a very flexible property and if you have had enough of the hustle and bustle of city life and want to make a new life this really could be for you. And it’s in a country, which many are tipping as the place to live for the future (Google multi- millionaire Doug Casey).
What am I asking for La Margarita?
Well, for me La Margarita is priceless and it has been that way for a long, long time for me since it has been a major part of my life over the past seven years. However, everything has a price and I am looking for around 800,000$US-900,000$US which without trying to sound like a property sales man sounds cheap to me for what’s on offer. For this price you get the property, the turn- key business plus the land. You also get all the tools and tractor plus the furniture in the house. I am also prepared to throw in the Ford Ranger (2008) into the sale if the price is right. You get all rights to the business and the website. I am very happy to stay on to help you get on your feet and show you the ropes for an agreed period of time. Also included are all the animals including, as mentioned, around 15 horses. I am prepared to listen to any ideas you may have re the sale price and I will offer credit if needed, however, one thing is that at least 60% of the agreed price needs be paid. For the rest I am prepared to wait or accept a part exchange. I am also prepared to be a silent partner in La Margarita since I am not leaving Argentina. I am happy to listen to any offers and to any proposals you may have. You will find heaps of info about La Margarita on our website http://www.estancialamargarita.com and if you punch in David Cummings Argentina in Google you will find many of the articles I have written about life here. If you need to ask me questions please e-mail me at my personal email address firstname.lastname@example.org and I will be happy to answer any questions you may have.
Ok that’s David story. As I mentioned I have to been to this wonderful estancia and stayed on it and I assure you it is a wonderful and beautiful place and the possibilities it offers are endless– my only surprise is that David is selling La Margarita. However, as he mentioned, nothing is forever and it now opens the door for someone to buy a unique bit of Argentina that as David says is really priceless.