Source: Daily Wealth / The Casey Report
By: Doug Casey
08.02.2008I've been to about 175 countries, and lived in 12. All the while, I've felt the U.S. and Western Europe in particular (but also Canada, to a somewhat lesser degree) are on a slippery slope. So I've always had an eye open for a real second home.
My longtime subscribers will recall my enthusiasm for New Zealand back in the late '90s. Since then, its currency has risen about 75% against the dollar, and well-selected property has roughly doubled or tripled in addition.
New Zealand is still a great place to hang out. I bought a bunch of property and still go there about three months of the year, mainly to play polo and just enjoy the mellow lifestyle. But New Zealand is no longer the bargain it once was; far from it.
I think it's imperative to have a crib outside your home country in today's world. I don't want to get into a detailed discussion of all the possibilities here; that would take a book. But my bottom line is that Argentina is simply the best place in the world right now, all things considered.
It's certainly the cheapest "nice" country in the world. Indeed, Buenos Aires is absolutely one of the world's greatest and most livable cities. The country is running a massive balance of trade surplus. The government (most surprising of all) is running a big fiscal surplus. Rich Europeans are piling in, since Argentina is now ethnically and culturally the most European country in the world. And it should be fairly insulated from WW3. All the stars are aligned for this place. Even as stupid as Argentina's government has traditionally been since the days of Peron, the bull market has a long way to run.
So I'm looking to spend around half the year there. Along with a partner, I bought a ranch in Patagonia 10 years ago, and it's been a spectacular investment.
But if I'd been familiar with Salta province - in the northwest - at the time, I'd never have bothered. The province averages about 5,000 feet in altitude, but is at about the same latitude south as Cuba is north. As a consequence, the climate is perpetually mild. And it's dry. Most of it is indistinguishable from Northern Arizona, New Mexico, or Colorado.
It's possible to buy huge parcels of land very cheaply (e.g. 100,000 acres for US$1,000,000), but that's literally in the middle of nowhere and of very little practical value. You're a feudal lord for the people living there. But if you want a latte and an International Herald Tribune, or anything to eat besides an animal some of the peons have butchered, forget about it.
It's a long-standing tradition at Casey Research that we eat our own cooking, so we've bought a lot of property in Argentina in the last few years. But frankly, I wasn't looking for a bunch more trading sardines; that's what stock certificates are for. I really wanted something I could personally use and enjoy. What we did, therefore, was buy 1,200 acres on the edge of the town of Cafayate, in the south of Salta.
Like San Martin de los Andes in Patagonia, Cafayate is going to become another Aspen. Or maybe the resort town of Taos, New Mexico, is a better analog. Located in a huge bowl, surrounded by the high Andes, it's quaint and picturesque. Especially since it's the center of a large wine region. So the area is really more like a "Taos meets Napa."
What we're doing on this land is putting in a world-class golf course, spa, health club, vineyard, equestrian facilities, and, in fact, lifestyle amenities of all types. A library, billiard room, cigar bar - you get the idea. Since good workers go for $200 a month, costs will be low, and services will be excellent. My personal vision is to take the best features from developments I know all over the world and put them together here.
I think we've got the right place, the right idea, and the right time. I also think the cost will be right. I expect it will, initially, go for something like 10%-20% of what something similar - but not even close to as nice - would go for in the U.S.
I hope early buyers will be successful people of a libertarian character; no jerks need apply. Then, as soon as possible, we're going to raise prices as high as possible to keep out the riff-raff.
So that's the story right now. For traveling or an outright real estate purchase, Argentina, all things considered, is my favorite place in the world.
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