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Money to be Made on the Central Coast of Chile

Last week, I had a few rare days off work in the middle of the week so I decided to get out of the city and head down the central Chilean coastline. The trip wasn’t all fun and games though, I had to stop by a couple of government offices and meet with a few local business people and property owners that I’d been meaning to see for several weeks. In the end, the days were quite productive and I managed to catch quite a few ten foot waves while I was at it.
The Tiny Town of Puertecillo
Heading out of Santiago, my first stop was a secluded beach with difficult access called Puertecillo about three hours southwest of the capital. Puertecillo is a tiny town of about 200 people that’s quite well-known within the local surf community because of the quality of its waves.
It’s still a really low-key place but it’s definitely becoming more developed. The owner of Mall Sport (the largest outdoor gear retailer in Chile) bought about two kilometers worth of beach a number of years back and there’s lot of construction going on around the bay.
On one of my first trips to Puertecillo, I met a couple of the local old timers that told me how the access road was built about 15 years ago and how before that, it was only accessible by foot. Had you bought property in this area in the late 1990s, before the road was built, today your land would probably be worth around ten to twenty times what you would have paid for it.
Pichilemu: Chile’s Surf Capital
Heading farther down the coast, my next stop was Pichilemu, the surf capital of Chile. Quicksilver holds their big wave surf competition in Pichilemu this time of year so there were quite a few international competitors in town while I was there.
The waves my first day in town were incredible; long, clean rollers with about 8 guys out. I wanted to spend all day in the water but knew I needed to take advantage of being there during the week when I could really get some work done.
My first order of business was the municipality. I needed to pick up a couple of documents concerning the zoning of an area just outside of town called Punta de Lobos, where the surf competition is held every year.
Things move at a leisurely pace in Chile so I was surprised to have the papers I came for within about a half an hour. Upon reviewing them, I realized that a certain neighborhood within Punta de Lobos that is of interest to me had some zoning changes done that I wasn’t expecting, at least not yet. In the matter of about 6 months, this particular area had been changed from “Rural” to “Urban”.
When properties are zoned as “Rural” in Chile, it’s normally quite easy to subdivide them into half hectare parcels but any smaller than that can be a real pain in the neck. “Urban” properties fall under a different set of rules. In this specific case, the regulation said that parcels could be subdivided down to 600 square meters (m2), much smaller than most of the properties in the area.
Doubling Your Investment Within a Few Months’ Time
The price per square meter for smaller parcels (1,000 square meters or less) around here is often times 2 or 3 times what the price per square meter is when buying a half hectare or more (one Hectare is equal to 10,000 square meters or 2.47 acres). I covered this area in my Chile Property Investment Guide that was released earlier this year so those who took the advice in the guide could very well have doubled their investment over the last few months.
In some ways, I’ll be sad to see the landscape change as more houses are built and the area really goes from being rural to urban, but good things don’t last forever. In terms of development, most of the coast of Chile is still about 50 years behind California but the geography is strikingly similar that I have to be glad that I stumbled upon this little corner of the world when I did.
Written by Darren Kaiser

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