Thursday, January 18, 2007

Questions About El Valle de Anton from a Reader, Part Two

In Part One, I answered some questions from a reader regarding El Valle de Anton's summer winds, temperature and internet connections. He also asked me to look at the El Valle property he is thinking of buying, and share my impressions.

To get to the property, go...

"beyond the Catholic church...

"...turning right to cross the bridge..." (with La India Dormida, the Sleeping Indian, perfectly framed in the background)

...past the Oriente Market...

This is the property. It's a good size, larger than it looks in this photo. And notice the view of Cerro Gaital through the trees at the back of the property. I like that.

And looking in the other direction, towards the front of the property, you have a partial view of La India Dormida.

One side of the property is bordered by a creek.

The Bad News

Ok. Let's start with the bad news, and before you accuse me of being a snob, let me preface my remarks by saying that this does not necessarily reflect my thinking, but it is the common wisdom and I am sharing it as such.

The side of El Valle that lies on the other side of the bridge (the side this property is on) is generally considered less desirable, and for this reason the prices per square meter are usually about $5 lower. The reason for this is that it's on this side of El Valle that most of the permanent, year-round residents of El Valle reside. Most are very poor. They are subsistence farmers, or construction workers, or work at the local stores and restaurants, or serve as gardeners, caretakers, maids and nannies to the wealthier population.

There's nothing wrong with any of this, except that when you take a family (such as a gringo family) that by comparison is quite wealthy, and sit them down in the middle of this poor environment, then you have to worry about things like petty theft and maybe even burglary. There are not many such crimes in El Valle, but those that do happen often occur on that side of the bridge, usually around the tourist spots. Also, whenever I see a drunk staggering home at the end of the day, he is inevitably heading accross the bridge.

End of "common wisdom" remarks. Remaining comments are my own thoughts.

I don't really care for the Oriente Market. There are always so many men just lounging around in front, sitting on the benches. I don't like the vibe there. And because the Oriente services the lower income side of town, they tend not to have any of the nicer products, like real cheeses, real juices or Snickers bars (my own bias there).

The last item of bad news is that your property sits on a busy bus route. I saw several buses plying the road in front of the property just in the short time I was there, both the small coaster buses and the larger diablos rojos. This means a steady supply of noise and bus exhaust during busing hours.

With that said...

The "common wisdom" on any issue is often B.S.. There are many nice homes being built on the far side of the bridge, and a number of large haciendas as well. As the trend toward gentrification of El Valle continues, you'll probably see some better stores and restaurants opening up on that side of town. Also, your property is only a short walk from the church, the library and some good restaurants such as Pinocchio's Pizza, Bruschetta, and the Panaderia.

And in any case, the immediate area around your property seemed to be quiet. It's not a crowded area at all, and seemed quite peaceful. As far as the bus traffic, if you build a wall along the front of the property and line it with bamboo or other vegetation, it might block most of the traffic sounds. And of course if you plan to use the buses, then being on a bus route could be an advantage.

The Creek

The creek that runs through your property is lovely, but will require some maintenance and upkeep. I noticed some trash in the creek. You will have to clean it out occasionally. Also, you should terrace your side of the creek to prevent it from eroding your property. A well built and planted terrace can be quite pleasing. I can just imagine spending an evening sitting on a terrace planted with flowers, watching the stream go by.


The property has nice views and the area is green and peaceful. It's within walking distance not only of the the town center and restaurants, but also of El Valle's best known natural attractions, such as La India Dormida, La Piedra Pintada, Chorro Las Mozas, and Chorro El Macho. Two thousand square meters is a very good lot size and will afford you plenty of room for a home and a beautiful yard. There are very few lots of this size for sale in El Valle. Most of the available lots tend to be very large - I'm talking hectares - or very small, 1000 m2 or less.

I don't have enough information or experience to judge the property as an investment, eyeing future returns, though I can say that all of El Valle is appreciating to one degree or another. If I had the money and I were in the market, I would be willing to buy this lot as an investment.

There are potential problems, but as long as you are aware of them and prepared to deal with them, I would say this is a good buy and could make a fine homesite.

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