France or Guatemala, three real-estate options

Can’t stop thinking about Guatemala :)

As Mo’ Money Mo’ Houses was thinking about buying property in the US,

I was considering where to invest the flat money that I should receive in a couple of months. My sale will be definitive on Friday, so until now I am not making offers on anything, but my plans have shifted dramatically.

You see, Europe is crazy expensive. And I don’t really have a steady paycheck nor the will to get $1,000,000 in debt to buy a two-bed 700sqft flat in Paris. I have around $100,000 between the flat money and savings that I can invest in real estate.

My options in France were:



The South-East of the country, near the mountains of the countryside of Provence. $100K would buy me a 900sqft house, with LOTS of repairs, structural like roof and isolation, and if I am lucky the property would have a small terrace or a balcony, but surely no garden.

PROS: I have many friends and my godmother leaving nearby, and the fast train takes me back to Paris in three hours. The beach is one hour drive away. Provence has lots of tourists so I could probably rent a room or two in summer.

CONS: Small house, in bad shape, if I fix it gradually, I will live in the middle of the work during three years. Those houses are often three 30sqft split levels, as they are old medieval houses. Not very practical to live in. You basically pay a lot for location.


Get even more remote and go to South-West France, between the Mediterranean and the Atlantic, next to the Pyrenees mountains. $100K would buy me 2000Sqft house on a small patch of land that you can call garden and not patio, so much more space and properties in better shape. Like this big house from 1762, with a garden, a brand new roof already and almost 5000sqft.

PROS: Space. In that particular house, I could make six apartments, and rent some short term and other long term. The region is nice, you can ski two hours away, and the food is amazing. Prices are lower so I would still have a little extra to renovate at least my living quarters and have decent housing while I tackle the rest of the work.

CONS: This part of France is really remote and rural. Meaning aging people, the young go to college and only come back to visit once in a while. Dating, making friends and socializing will be seriously compromised. Paris is 7 or 8 hours away, you have to change trains, well, it’s more complicated.



I received this add for a little piece of land by the Petén Itzá lake in Guatemala. I love that country and have already lived there for four years. The land is about 21500 sqft, with 35 meter of beach just for yourself! It costs only $30,000 so there is plenty of money leftover to build a lovely house. AND, there is the option to buy also a big ranch on the other side of the street, for $70K, I could get over 90 acres of land!! The ranch is next to a village so splitting part of it to make small plots for future extension of the village is a possibility, and would offset part of the buying costs.

PROS: Did I mention that it has its own private beach?? Any house like this in Europe would sell for half a million dollars, at the very least! It has a basic little house to live in, while the beautiful, amazing house that I have in my head gets built. The lake is warm year-round, the water is crystal clear, and there are plenty of activities for tourists if I want to start a small guesthouse. The UNESCO World heritage site of Tikal and its splendid Mayan ruins are nearby, as well as many smaller Mayan sites, like Yaxhá, where survivors Guatemala was shot, and the international airport of Flores is a 15 minutes boat ride away. How cool is that, your plane lands, you get on my boat, and in 15 minutes, you are relaxing on my little beach?

On a more down to earth side, I have lived in Guatemala for four years, speak the language fluently, have many friends who could give me a hand in case of a problem, and know my way around their slow administration.

CONS: Guatemala is pretty far from Europe. When I lived there I used to come back every 8 months or so. Tickets are usually around $1,000.

I won’t be able to see my family as often, specially my 2 year-old niece who doesn’t Skype or email like my mum or my close friends.

Some parts of the country can be dangerous, but not particularly this one.

SO…..the winner is…

Well, it should be Guatemala. I think the extra transportation costs are offset by a spring-like year-round weather, the lakeside property, and the much lower cost of the land and future house.

Still waiting until Friday to make a formal offer, when I am sure to get my flat’s money. Fingers crossed!!

Have you ever considered buying property abroad?


A 30 something French girl embarking on a journey towards Financial Independence. I blog about money, travel, simple and deliberate living, freedom and choices. You can find me on Twitter, Google+, or Reach Financial Independence's Facebook Page
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  1. I think option 3 looks great. But, I can understand it being far away and costs to get to and from France. That said, 1 looks ok…in comparison to 2.

    I am definitely open to buying land abroad. But, I think that it’ll have to wait until the kids are grown and on their own. I know my wife would love somewhere in Ireland as that is where we went for our honeymoon. But, somewhere more tropical would be nice too. I look forward to seeing what option you choose.
    John S @ Frugal Rules recently posted..I’ve Joined the Yakezie Challenge!My Profile

    • The second option is social suicide, but the kind of house I would like to buy in an ideal world where Provence is not that freaking expensive. I think I’ll play the lottery for once before I make a decision, and if I win $1 million, I’ll reconsider a big house in Provence :)
      Ireland is lovely too! You have to get used to the rain though…

  2. I personally think that any of these sound awesome! I am jealous of your options =)
    Holly@ClubThrifty recently posted..Why People Aren’t Buying Life InsuranceMy Profile

    • It is pretty exciting! I am more enthusiastic about Guatemala as the grass is always greener far from home, and I like developing country, I really feel like Europe is ”old” and starting a business is complicated. Let’s see what life brings!

  3. Wow! My family just returned from Guatemala and they loved it. On one of the last days they visited Tikal and it was easily their favorite part of the trip. Congrats on making a decision.
    AverageJoe recently posted..Two Guys and Your Money #13: How Wall Street Became the Capital of CapitalMy Profile

    • Thanks for stopping by Average Joe! sorry your two comments looked spammy to my Akismet, don’t know why.. Guatemala is a marvelous country, if you have the chance one day, don’t hesitate and visit!

  4. I am being completely serious when I say that my wife and I would be very interested in renting the guest house for a week.

    I hope you get it!

    I also like the idea of income from real estate. If you can make it work, especially in an awesome location like Guatemala, I say go for it!
    DC @ Young Adult Money recently posted..What are Health Insurance Exchanges and How Do They Work?My Profile

    • Welcome David! At the moment there is only a small house and I am thinking dreaming about either a big house with 4-5 extra rooms overlooking the lake, or half a dozen independent bungalows.
      Guatemala has pretty high yields as far as real estate is concerned, and wages are low so you can easily hire a maid and a cook if you plan on running a guesthouse.

  5. Man, it would be awesome to have the flexibility to make those decisions! I’d still be sad that I couldn’t be with my family. It’s really hard to pass up when you realize they’ll only be on this planet for a limited amount of time.

    Congrats on making a decision and being completely free to make choices like this. It’s pretty cool!
    Jason @ WorkSaveLive recently posted..Blog Income and Site Statistics – September 2012My Profile

    • I think the family thing can be solved quite easily, because of Skype, and other modern technologies. I will miss a few weddings, but being happy every day is much more important in my books than being half happy and attending those weddings. There is nothing money can’t solve and if I really want to go back, I can buy a very expensive ticket and go home.

  6. Congrats. We went to Guatemala as part of our honeymoon. We loved it. It was a beautiful place and the things do were amazing. I got to climb a live volcano. It was so cool.
    Miss T @ Prairie Eco-Thrifter recently posted..6 Ways to Improve Your MarketabilityMy Profile

    • Thank you! I love the volcanoes too, and could go on for hours talking about all the cool things one can do in Guatemala, that country is just amazing!

  7. It’s amazing how much different housing is in the US. Many of the cities are expensive, but I bought a 3,500 squ/ft house for $95,000.

    I’d totally go for something in France, but that’s because I’ve always wanted a vacation home there.
    JP @ My Family Finances recently posted..How Much Does the Average Family Spend on Halloween 2012?My Profile

    • France is very attractive indeed, but rural locations (within my budget) are remote, the population aging and apart from three months in summer when holiday houses are open, there is little life in the village. I was surprised at low prices in the US, you do have more space to build than we do but still, there are real bargains to grab.

  8. That would be the one I would pick! But I love, love, love France! The food is amazing! How fortunate you can actually do this though!
    Budget & the Beach recently posted..What Does Your Success Look Like?My Profile

  9. That sounds like an amazing location. I don’t think we’ve really considered moving, but when our daughter is grown, who knows? I like the winter less and less as I get older.
    Kim@Eyesonthedollar recently posted..Being a Boss, The Good, The Bad, and The UglyMy Profile

    • Guatemala is called ”the country of eternal spring” and it is amazing that you never need a jacket, unless you climb a 12000ft mountain. I like to have four seasons because you have this cycle of life around you, trees losing leaves, the snow, the longer days in summer, in Guatemala you kind of never know what month it is. Winter is my least favorite season too though, getting up when it is dark and cold outside is torture!

  10. It all sounds so exciting, I feel a little envious that you are able to just pick up and move to wherever you please.

    I have so many commitments that I wouldn’t know where to begin when it came to such a large change of life.
    Glen @ Monster Piggy Bank recently posted..Holidays with a dogMy Profile

    • My life has been pretty nomadic since I graduated from college 10 years ago. I have lived in 4 countries and traveled for months at a time, so I kind of chose my next country like some people chose their shirt for the day! It is hard to leave people you care about behind though.

  11. Why no Europe, maybe Portugal. Is cheap against France, more secure than Gatemala, and closer to fFrance i tink is 5k kilometers.


    • I don’t know Portugal very well, I lived in Spain for over a year and loved it. Well simply because I haven’t looked much, apart from Southern France I considered briefly Spain, but that opportunity arose and I jumped in!

  12. That. Is. Awesome!

    Love the Peten Itza area (even if it is a little more humid than my wife would like). Should make visa runs into Belize a breeze ;)

    I was there not even 3 months ago. Check out the pics to bring you back some memories:

    You’re welcome :-P

    Rich Polanco ( recently posted..World-Class Blogger or Unknown Blogger? Your Choice: 10000 Hour RuleMy Profile

    • Hi Rich! I had read that post already :) It is a pretty cool project, I prefer Antigua’s climate too, or Atitlán, but prices were much higher and Petén is growing a lot so looks like a good investment.


  1. [...] I am getting ready to move to Guatemala, I am also putting my financial life in order and planing to exchange a lot of currency before I go. [...]

  2. [...] I hope you all had a brilliant week! I have been actively preparing my blog and my life for my big move over the Atlantic to Guatemala! I am so excited I can barely stand myself right [...]

  3. [...] Only three days until I get on that plane, cross the Ocean and settle on my land in Guatemala!!! [...]

  4. [...] Before I move to Guatemala, I need to put all my valuable possessions into one suitcase, and one carry-on luggage. A task that is not much different to packing for a 2 weeks holiday, since in this case I will be able to wash my clothes on site. Still, I don’t plan on coming back for at least six months, so I have to be prepared for all kinds of climates and occasions. [...]

  5. [...] guys! I am writing a first update from Guatemala, since all the posts this week were scheduled before departure. I still have no electricity at the [...]

  6. [...] Monday everyone! Time to start a weekly update about the Guatemalan land, don’t you think? I have been so busy last week, with the move, getting settled, no [...]

  7. [...] come back. So I started looking for a job abroad. I was in Australia at the time, but landed a job in Guatemala. I worked there for three years. I was a hotel manager, and then worked in business development for [...]

  8. [...]  This is the fourth part about the (slow) conversion of the land I bought in Guatemala and my new life here, you can read Part 1, Part 2, Part 3 and Part 4 if you missed [...]

  9. [...] is the fifth part about the (slow) conversion of the land I bought in Guatemala and my new life here, you can read Part 1, Part 2, Part 3 Part 4 and Part 5 if you missed [...]

  10. [...] I moved to Guatemala, I was looking at houses in the South of France. For the same price, I would have gotten a run down house, that I would have had to fix myself. [...]

  11. [...] is the eighth part about the (slow) conversion of the land I bought in Guatemala and my new life here, you can read Part 1, Part 2, Part 3 Part 4 Part 5 Part 6 and Part 7 if you [...]

  12. [...] France or Guatemala, three real-estate options [...]

  13. [...] making the bank some money. I repaid part of my 7% loan earlier this year and when it was time to buy a property lamented not having the cash at [...]

  14. [...] Mexico. I just flew in, and my dream house, on a little patch of land by a big lake in Northern Guatemala is a 12 hour bus ride away. Sigh. I [...]

  15. [...] her loan but she is a government worker so not too worried on that front. Since I had plans to buy some land in Guatemala, I was very anxious that the sale comes through, not only to get the much needed money to buy [...]

  16. [...] is the fourth part about the (slow) conversion of the land I bought in Guatemala and my new life here, you can read Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3 if you missed [...]

  17. [...] is the third part about the (slow) conversion of the land I bought in Guatemala and my new life here, you can read Part 1 and Part 2 if you missed [...]

  18. [...] a few things in order to acquire a house cash. I chose a country with a low cost of living. I could have afforded a house in France but it would be a ruin in the middle of nowhere and I would have spent the next 5 years fixing it [...]

  19. […] When we came back to Guatemala, there was a big earthquake on the coast. We started considering that the world may not end, but there may be a big natural catastrophe that could change a lot of things in the region. After all, the Mayas supposedly predicted the end of their world, and we were living 30 miles away from the biggest city they ever built. […]

  20. […]  What I love about France […]

  21. […] bigger place in a smaller, sunnier town in the South of France. Before I relocated to Guatemala I had been looking at properties in France but didn’t have that much cash in hand, this time I can look for a 1,500 sqft easily, or at least […]

  22. […] it came to the decision of whether I would buy a ruin in the South of France or a small lakeside plot in Guatemala I envisioned myself fixing up the French house mostly by […]

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