By Cathy Brown
The main areas to know about, from south to north, are Punta del Este, La Barra, Manantiales, the super-elite Jose Ignacio and now Laguna Garzon 30 to 40 kilometers north of Punta del Este and the limit of the Maldonado department (similiar to a state). Punta del Este is of course the largest, most happening option that houses a large casino, nightlife, shopping and restaurants galore, but it also happens to be where most of the tourists go. You can see that as a plus or as a negative.
La Barra is slightly north of Punta, once a more laid-back neighborhood vibe, it has been converted into one of the area's most hip and happening locations. This "it" town's bumper to bumper high season means that some buyers have started to search further afield in more exclusive areas like Manantiales and Jose Ignacio. The skyscraper condos and hustle and bustle of Punta Este is the opposite of the Manantiales tranqulity — a mix of low-rise luxury condos, ultra-lux villas on the water, and exclusive gated communities. The town's restaurants, bars and boutiques, give Manantiales a Malibu or Hamptons feel. Unlike Jose Ignacio, a bustling main street of eateries and bars offers more of an all-day appeal geared toward active travelers.
Jose Ignacio, 25 miles north of Punta, is a small fishing village which has converted itself into some of the most expensive real estate in Latin America. Insiders know that this and the nearby surrounding areas are where most of the real players are investing because of its always-in-demand exclusivity. It is the playground of everyone from Ralph Lauren, Shakira, The Rolling stone Ronnie Wood, and Mark Zuckerberg. Last year this tiny pueblo expanded into a vacant adjoining land on Jose Ignacio Brava beach that is now part of town, adding 65 new land lots. Also, the town connects with neighboring beach La Juanita towards its Mansa coast, with other 40 exclusive beachfront lots.
Laguna Garzón, furthest north has now supplanted Jose Ignacio the new northern border for high-end properties. This area, which is more ground than glitter, more space than sparkle, is perfect for buyers that want more privacy, more land, and more room to spread out. The area is littered with 5 to 10-hectare estates and the some of the most exclusive buys are in Laguna Jose Ignacio and Camino Las Portuguesas located inland Jose Ignacio, and La Rinconada on the edges of Laguna Garzón.
Uruguay Oceanfront for a Few Million Bucks
An example of a luxury property in Jose Ignacio is this ocean-view villa in Laguna Escondida. This 5-bedroom, 6 and a half bath home will set you back 3.5 million and is inside one of the area's exclusive gated communities. The house has a large master suite with terrace, a guest cabin with separate entrance, indoor and outdoor dining areas, a pool and other amentities.
If a condo unit closer to the happenings of Punta del Este is more what you are looking for, Fendi Chateau Residences is an option on Playa Mansa. Units in this 27 floor condo tower range in 200+ square meters range including their wide balconies. The complex includes several swimming pools, a top-notch spa, gym, outdoor grill area, and private indoor cinema. There is also the still-under-construction Venetian Luxury Residences on the same beach, with about the same meters squared, three-bedroom, three bath units with many of the same amenities. There is little difference in price between condo under construction and those that are finished, except that condos still in the building process can be bought in payments, generally arranged by the project's developers. Previously owned units, still in immaculate condition, are generally furnished and can be purchased at about 10% less than the cost of a new condo.
An option for someone looking for a quieter ambiance is this Countryside Retreat in La Barra. This sprawling 6-bedroom, 6-bath house would be great as a vacation home for an extended family. The house is separated into two modules connected by a central patio with lots of outdoor space for dining and relaxing. Estates like this run from 1.5 to 10 million, depending on location, construction and facilities.
Hundreds of luxury condos have been built in the past 2 or 3 years and that stock will likely take several years to sell, says Arguello. One of the areas where you can find some of that stock is Manantiales. This 3-bedroom condo unit in Manantiales costs $650,000 at around 170 square meters. This unit is not beachfront but it's close enough to walk to Bikini beach nearby. It's in a building with 1 to 3 bedroom units with amenities like a gym, sauna, pool and outdoor dining
If you want to explore but still aren't ready to take the leap to buy, villa rental is a very popular way to get to know the area and there are hundreds of great options for spending a week or two in the lap of luxury. Rental prices for luxury 4 or 5-bedroom villas (fully equipped with staff) for the high season (Christmas to January 15th) start around $4,000 a day. Luxury beachfront villas range from $6,000 to $15,000 a day for a 10 day stay. Starting January 16th prices drop precipitously and can be almost half by February.
If you have interest in any of these exclusive properties or want more information about investing in the Punta area, you should contact Henry Arguello at hello[at]curiocityvillas.com. He is also a great resource (super well-connected in the international high-end travel world) to help you rent out your property in the times when you are not there. It should be noted that prime properties can rent for upwards of $100,000 a week in the peak season of late December to early February. That said, most investors purchase property for the resale value and not as an investment expected to make constant income.
So, while Punta may boast some of the highest property prices in Latin America, remember that it’s always all about supply and demand. Between the gorgeous beachfront and the secure market Uruguay, prices in exclusive Punta del Este only look to continue to rise. There are investors from multiple continents clamoring to enter this exclusive world of glamorous yet laid-back beach living.