What’s the real estate market for rentals in Antigua Guatemala like? Depends on who you ask.
As a popular expat destination and a real estate market worth investing in, Antigua Guatemala has a dual personality when it comes to rentals. Lots of properties here sit empty, often because owners are unwilling to rent to locals, preferring to rent to foreigners instead (they can charge higher rental prices), or because the properties belong to wealthy Guatemalans who come in once or twice a year to enjoy the holidays and religious processions with their families.
This is why many communities here, while immaculately kept, often appear deserted. My wife refers to them as “ghost communities”. But we didn’t know this upon arriving to Antigua Guatemala.
And so when I looked for a house to rent here, I was astounded by how much “house” I could get compared to the states. “Dollar eyeglasses”, what I call the constant tendency to mentally convert everything into a dollar amount, is something you have to get rid of as soon as you travel out of the US. Just because something is relatively inexpensive compared to the US does not mean you’re getting the best price you could get.
Get a sense for what things cost in your new surroundings and then you’ll be able to make better buying decisions.
To give you a better idea of what you could expect to pay, I’ll show you the two rentals I’ve lived in while in Antigua Guatemala. My first rental was a mid-priced house in the outskirts of Antigua (one of the “ghost communities”). My second rental is more in line with what the locals pay for rent down here. Both communities are about 5 minutes from each other.
In this two-part series, I’ll show you what you can expect from both. First, let me show you what sort of community I got for my money:
The first house we rented was in residential development of about 40 houses. Out of those 40, about 10 were occupied full-time. And I may even be overestimating that number. Only during holidays would we notice a spike in activity. The rest of the time, we wandered about as we pleased. The only friends we made were the neighbors across the street. As for the make up of the few residents there, some were retired, a couple families were foreign missionaries, and a couple more were real locals.
The Good: The place was very well-kept, with two pools (adult and kiddie sized), manicured lawns, electric gate, garage, armed commandos (security guards here looked like disposable extras from a Rambo movie), cobblestone streets and great views of Volcan Agua and Volcan Acatenango. We were stoked that we all this could be ours for just Q4,000/$500 a month (utilities extras).
The Bad: A pool in Antigua Guatemala is no good unless it’s climate-controlled. The weather is always pleasant, but rarely hot enough to make you jump into a pool filled with cold-water.
We didn’t do much socializing either and there wasn’t a girl my daughter’s age that she could play with. There wasn’t a single community gathering ever organized. Everyone mostly kept to themselves.
For our second house, we decided to seek something less decidedly upscale. Just about five minutes from where we first lived, we found another gated community. Here, the houses were smaller… MUCH smaller. There were also definitive signs of life here: Children played on the streets and we actually spotted people walking around.
This community had no pool, manicured gardens or armed guards (just a couple of 24-hour watchmen). This residential community had been recently developed and some houses are still being finished up. With about 60+ houses, this community was already filled to about 60% capacity. Just your basic, no-frills community for middle-class locals.
The Good: The biggest draw, besides the community being fairly quiet and secure, was the price. This house, which was brand new, could be had for only Q1,000/$125 a month. And since it was the cheapest of all rentals inside gated communities that we saw, we snapped it right up.
There’s definitely a community vibe here. We spotted flyers on two occasions inviting resident to attend Christmastime parties. My wife has already made a friend and my daughter has recently made several friends her age.
Here’s something that shouldn’t weigh heavily in your decision to rent a place here: Don’t choose a house solely for the views. Volcan Agua, a novelty when one first arrives, becomes part of the background once you’ve been here for more than a couple of weeks. You’re almost guaranteed a clear view of volcanoes either from somewhere in your house, or as soon as you step outside, no matter where you live. This community was no different.
We’ve got great views of the volcano and a full view of Antigua and the Panchoy valley. Easily recognizable landmarks dot the landscape below. Arco Santa Catalina, La Merced Church, San Jose Cathedral and Cerro de la Cruz can be spotted from my driveway and even the Arco is recognizable at night when it’s lit up. A beautiful sight… that got old after a week.
The Bad: With a minuscule rental price comes a minuscule house. Then again, it fits perfectly with our goal to continue to simplify this year. You can’t become a hoarder if you don’t have room to put stuff in.
Antigua has options for all price ranges. For us, a lower price and a more active community trumped manicured gardens and huge, empty houses. This is the house I wish we’d rented first, until I got my bearings. Less is often more.
You can definitely go the other way and rent a fully furnished villa, with private pool, if you’re willing to spend $1,000+ a month on rent. There are even more expensive rentals here, though most will be around the $350 - $750 range, often furnished.
To get the scoop about real estate in Antigua Guatemala, tun in tomorrow. I’ll tell you what to look for in a house here and show you the difference between a Q4,000/$500USD house and a Q1,000/$125USD house.
Have you thought about living in Antigua Guatemala?
Which of the two communities would you prefer to live in?