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RealtyCast Global #3: A Resource Guide for Investing in Central America with Michael Cobb

RealtyCast Global #3: A Resource Guide for Investing in Central America

Welcome to episode #3 of RealtyCast Global – a global connection to all things real estate, hosted by Hugh Gilliam, president of Global Property Pros.

Navigating the world of investing & international real estate can be quite an endeavor. However, the journey can be significantly smoother when guided by experienced individuals like Michael Cobb, co-founder, and CEO of ECI Development. With over two decades of experience in developing in Central America, Michael Cobb has a wealth of knowledge and insights that can be instrumental for anyone considering making a move overseas.

The story of Michael Cobb is far from ordinary. A daring leap from the tech industry into the realm of Belizean real estate led him and his business partner, Joel, to identify a unique opportunity in Central America. This bold venture involved creating a mortgage company in Belize, a move filled with challenges, misconceptions, and valuable lessons. The journey saw the duo raising money, applying for a banking license, and eventually, the creation of a development company.

However, Michael’s journey did not stop there. He noted that the quality of local development standards left much to be desired. He took it upon himself to make changes to the development company’s standards, thereby improving the quality of the properties. This was just one of the many lessons Michael learned from his journey, which he has graciously compiled into a Consumer Resource Guide (click here to download the guide). This guide is a treasure trove of information, designed to help individuals avoid common mistakes and ease the transition of moving overseas.

The process of purchasing real estate, both domestically and abroad, carries its nuances. In the US, the majority of individuals opt for the guidance of a realtor when buying a property. However, this trend does not seem to carry over when purchasing property overseas, with many people going straight to a seller or developer. This fast-paced approach often results in buyers overlooking crucial factors and making uninformed decisions. The importance of slowing down and thoroughly assessing a property, especially in earthquake and hurricane-prone zones, cannot be overstated.

In terms of construction, building a new house overseas is only slightly less expensive than building one in the US. The costs associated with materials such as concrete, steel, doors, windows, and electric wires are priced at the world price, making them relatively uniform. The primary variable in the cost of construction overseas is labor, which is significantly cheaper. This lower labor cost can allow for intricate detailing and craftsmanship, creating a house that would cost significantly more to build in the US.

Lastly, Michael Cobb’s ‘Are You Ready to Live Overseas’ quiz is an excellent tool to gauge one’s readiness for a big move. It’s important to understand that moving overseas isn’t simply a romanticized notion; it requires thoughtful consideration and careful planning. The insights shared by Michael Cobb can be instrumental in navigating the world of international real estate and making a successful transition to living overseas.


For real estate agents looking to expand their business internationally, expose existing listings to a global pool of buyers, and connect with new clients, check out Global Property Pros.

For Property Buyers & Sellers seeking assistance in the international market, check out RealtyHive’s property marketing solutions.

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About the Guest – Michael Cobb:

At the height of a successful career in the computer industry, Mr. Cobb left to pursue more pioneering opportunities in the emerging real estate markets of Central America.  In 1996, he and his business partner formed a company, Exotic Caye International, to provide loans to North Americans purchasing properties in Belize, Honduras and throughout the region.  As the need for capital outstripped the supply, the mortgage company was converted to an international bank under the jurisdiction of Belize.  It continues to provide mortgage services but has expanded its services to encompass the full realm of financial products. 
 
Mr. Cobb also saw the need for a regional real estate company that would serve the Baby Boomer consumer with a North American standard product for the next 2 decades.  He led the group into real estate development and created a holding company for several properties including a resort on Ambergris Caye, Belize.  In August of 2000, Exotic Caye purchased 3.5 miles of Pacific Beachfront property due west of Managua, Nicaragua. 

This master planned community hosts world class infrastructure, homes and condominium units.  In February of 2006, the ECI Development group acquired 1100 acres and 3km of coastline in Costa Rica, setting the stage for expansion into this popular market.  Most recently they merged their Belize property with a much larger parcel and have begun to develop 200 condominiums units on Ambergris Caye, Belize
 
Additionally, Mike Cobb has spoken at hundreds of international conferences about real estate financing and development.  He has acted as a consultant to The Oxford Club and gives counsel to various real estate projects throughout Central America.

Website: ecidevelopment.com

Phone: +1.703.795.2555

Email: mcobb@ECIdevelopment.com

About the host – Hugh Gilliam:

Hugh Gilliam co-owned a national transportation company, created a land development business, and worked as a general contractor in residential and commercial construction for over two decades. Hugh also co-founded an international distribution company and successfully negotiated and contracted with 135 sales representatives in the United States, Canada, France, Brazil, Japan, and the Netherlands.

Today, Mr. Gilliam is affiliated with RealtyHive, LLC where he serves as Director of International Real Estate and President of Global Property Pros. His duties include involvement in commercial and residential transactions, plus promoting marketing systems and lead generation platforms.

He is also co-founder of the luxury digital magazine, DOORWAYS INTERNATIONAL, powered by RealtyHive, which serves as a platform for Brokers and Buyers throughout 70 countries.

Hugh’s Designations Include:

  • Certified Luxury Home Marketing Specialist
  • Certified Distressed Property Export
  • Certified International Property Specialist
  • Certified International Investment & Immigration Specialist
  • Transnational Referral Certification

Hugh’s Memberships Include:

  • Georgia Association of REALTORS
  • National Association of REALTORS
  • International Real Estate Federation (FIABCI-USA)
  • Asian Real Estate Association of America
plan, vacation, map, wanderlust,trip,planning,travel

Central American & Caribbean Vacation Spots

While all-inclusive mega resorts have their time and place, sometimes you want your trips to be a little farther off the tourist path. Whether you’re looking for a less-than-conventional vacation spot, a location for a vacation or retirement home, or are considering an expatriate lifestyle these are some of the best places to check out in 2018.

Belize

While the beachy Ambergris Caye gets all the attention — and a lot of tourism — the Cayo District, home to the capital city of Belmopan, is where an adventure vacation awaits you. This jungle-covered landscape is home to many eco-activities and adventures and is dotted with Mayan ruins. San Ignacio, a town with a population of nearly 18,000 serves as the perfect point to launch your trip as all roads and activities branch out from this hub. Here you can find waterfalls, cave exploring expeditions, Mayan ruins and so much more!
Must Try Activity: Explore the hidden depths and crystal clear waters at Actun Tunichil Muknal, a natural wonder featured in National Geographic. From here you can swim into a mysterious cave known as Xibalba, which the ancient Mayans considered to be a portal to the underworld. You’ll have to hike, climb, and possibly even swim, but the history and beauty can’t be beaten.

Costa Rica

If your ideal vacation involves fewer beaches and more jungles, you must check out El Castillo in the Alajuela province. Getting there can be quite the trip as it’s about a 2.5 hour trek by car or bus through Costa Rican jungle roads, but once you make it, you’ll know the trip was worth it.
Must Try Activity: There are a ton of great things to do using El Castillo as a jumping off point, but visiting the hot springs of the Arenal Volcano tops the list. While there are numerous hot springs in the area, those looking for a more intimate and natural experience will enjoy Eco Termales Fortuna, where the number guests is limited per day.
Coming in close behind are the Mistico Arenal Hanging Bridges Park and the Sky Adventures Arenal Park (both offer a great view, neither are for those who are afraid of heights!) and the Arenal Ecozoo.

Tobago, Trinidad & Tobago

Scarborough, the capital of the island of Tobago lays outside the hurricane belt in the Caribbean. The population of around 17,000 gives off the smalltown vibes while having a deep-sea port allows for an influx of cruise tourists and a nearby rainforest preserve will make you believe you are in a much more remote locale. English is the official language of the island which makes it easy for Americans to travel around, although tourists should be aware that prices can be quoted in either USD or Trinidad & Tobago (TT) dollars, so make sure to ask which one your purchase is in!
Must Try Activity: Take a glass bottom boat out to Nylon Pool. It’s a shallow area in the ocean that you can bathe in! The “sand” is pulverized coral (so exfoliating!) and people who bathe here are said to return looking 10 years younger! Along the way there are beautiful, tropical fish to see and is very inexpensive with many tours under USD 10. Other notable attractions include Argyle Falls, a three-tiered waterfall with natural rock tubs (great for relaxing!) and swimmable areas and Fort King George, a military outpost from the 1700s with gorgeous sunset views.

Trinidad, Trinidad & Tobago

Gasparillo, a small town near Upper Santa Cruz in the San Juan/Laventille region (not to be confused with the town of about 16,000 on the southeastern side of Trinidad), located 5 miles (8 km) from the capital city of Port of Spain.
Must Try Activity: Spend your day lounging on the nearby Maracas Beach, the best place for sun, sand, and surf on the island of Trinidad. When you get hungry, head over to Richard’s Shark and Bake where they sell deep fried shark sandwiches with all the fixings. There are other shark and bake shops, but this is the local favorite!

Jamaica

Jamaica is known for beautiful, turquoise beaches, but almost as well known as the beauty are the hustlers and vendors that crowd the tourist areas trying to vend their goods. Looking for a more unadulterated paradise experience? Set up camp in the town of Green Island, located in the Hanover Parish on the northwestern side of the island.
Must Try Activity: Half Moon Beach is a private beach with a small entrance fee and provides the peace and serenity vacationers are looking for while having an onsite bar and restaurant for those whose version of paradise still includes a well-cooked meal. The beach also offers a nearby healthy reef for snorkeling and a bamboo rafting tour–the only of its kind on the open sea! Other fun vacation activities nearby include the Crocodile Reserve and Bird Sanctuary as well as the Kool Runnings Adventure Park, a theme park based off the 1993 movie Cool Runnings.