It was early 2007. I was a Real Estate Broker in Naples & Fort Myers, Florida and it was all beginning to crash. I had a small office and about a half dozen realtors working with me and no one was making any money. Needless to say, it was getting stressful! So, I did what any red-blooded American would do: I put on my thinking cap and started researching ways to continue to be successful. In November of 2006, I decided to go to the National Association of Realtors annual convention in New Orleans. This is the yearly showcase of everything to do with real estate. Both National and International realtors gather to share their products. It’s huge!
I toured around all the many booths, and eventually, I ended up in the International Pavilion. This resulted in five full days of intensive study there. I looked at real estate offerings in dozens of locales. Belize, Costa Rica, Honduras, Panama. Many other places from our side of the pond were on display – including the Dominican Republic. On the other side of the pond, I looked at places like Portugal and Greece and more. All these places had their charms and reasons for further investigation, but one place stood out and kept beaconing me. In fact, it was kind of slapping me around a bit! it really made me stand up and pay attention. This was the Dominican Republic!
Every Question I Had, And Some I Couldn’t Think of, Were Satisfied in the DR
Question 1 – Was there inventory that would attract an American Buyer?
Wow! You name it! Houses, homes, apartments, condominiums gated communities, raw land, income producing properties, businesses, vacation hide-a-ways … anything you could think of were available — and the prices were AWESOME!
Question 2 – What was the infrastructure like? Could American Buyers be comfortable?
Again, Wow! The Dominican Republic was in a renaissance! They were pouring money into infrastructure. They knew what they had and what they needed to do to turn this beautiful country into something extraordinary. And they were doing it.
When I first saw what they were doing, and all the energy involved, I was practically slobbering with excitement. They were building new super highways, new airports, new water and sewer plants and more. Access to some of the more remote locals was becoming easier and easier. They were promoting tourism on a major scale, and the Government was making it easy to invest. The energy was palpable. I did not feel the ‘sluggishness’ that had been suffocating me the past year or so since the American Real Estate Market started to tank.
The Samana Peninsula was one such place, and it was getting the most attention. The Dominican Government had decided that the Samana Peninsula was going to be the “Jewel of the Caribbean”!
Already under construction was a new Highway from the Capitol, Santo Domingo, and a brand new International Airport with direct flights coming from the USA. The new Highway cut the driving time from the capitol from 4.5 hours to just less than two! The new airport, Samaná El Catey International Airport, also known as Aeropuerto Internacional Presidente Juan Bosch (AISA), is located just west of Sánchez, and is 30-40 minutes drive to Las Terrenas and the provincial capital of Santa Barbara de Samaná. would now open all the north coast to the DR’s big money-maker, tourism. This was heady stuff for me!
Question 3 – How did a foreigner buy real estate in the Dominican Republic?
As it turned out, quite easily. In fact, it is exactly the same way it is done in the USA – Fee Simple Title. This also means that you do not have to have a Dominican National on your title holding x% ownership like it was in several of the other countries I had researched. This was another slap in the face to me. Wow! How could all these things be falling in to place like this! Fee Simple Title basically means that the person holding title to the Real estate in question is the actual owner and is free to use the property as they see fit.
Question 4 – How easy is it to get there?
Wow! (you knew I was going to say that didn’t you?) The airport in Santo Domingo is a short two-hour flight from Miami or Fort Lauderdale and only about 3.5 hours from New York. This was by far the most accessible location of all the others that I studied while at the Real Estate Convention. This was just getting easier and easier.
I met a woman at the convention that was representing Cap Cana which is a new Luxury Home and Condo development on the DR’s east coast. It is near popular Punta Cana (think WHITE sand beaches!). It boasts a Jack Nicklaus Golf Course that has several holes right on both the Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean Sea. Amazing!
Mariana Fiorentino, Broker/Owner of Terra Nova Global Properties (located in Chapel Hill, NC) was so helpful. She knew her product, and she knew the DR. She and I hit it off pretty darn good. She could see my growing excitement. And, she was gracious enough to invite me (plus one) to visit her at the beautiful Cap Cana Resort. Say what?!?!
While in New Orleans, and over the course of my five-day visit there, I kept returning to her booth. If the photos and videos were even 10% true, then this was not a place I wanted to miss out on. If the hook wasn’t actually set yet, it was certainly in my mouth!
So this was in November 2006, right? As soon as I got back to my office in Naples, I started making plans. The first opportunity I had to get away (from it all!) was in late February. I booked my flight. During the following couple months, I kept doing my research. I lived and breathed it and by the time of my departure, I knew the country as well as any man could whom had not actually visited. I knew about the climate(s), I knew about the major cities, the mountains (another climate), the Caribbean side and the Atlantic side. And of course, I studied up a lot more on the Samana Peninsula, and the opportunities for all of us there.
I was growing more and more excited every day. Everything I heard or read that came past my desk reinforced my previous thoughts and findings. This place was HOT! By the time I boarded my plane, I was as excited as a seven-year-old at Christmas.
In my next post, I will fill you in on all the wonderful things I was introduced to on this memorable trip. These range from a clairvoyant bartender, to a gigantic pig being butchered on the side of the road. Don’t miss it! Meanwhile, I am here for all your questions, thoughts and input. Please don’t be bashful!