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Making the Move to San Rafael, Argentina

by Dan Hathway

It seems like San Rafael in Argentina is the growth region for expats at the moment and I’ve read with interest some of the articles posted on this site’s forums by Neil, who too chose to make the switch from the UK.

I moved to San Rafael with my Argentine wife (Laura, who is from San Rafael) in October last year, after having lived for several years in London. We wanted to try something different and Laura wanted to be near her family again. Our feet haven’t yet touched the ground. The whole experience has been amazing but hard work. After 1 year, I can say that it has been worthwhile (2 property renovations and 2 businesses launched and more family time), so I thought that I would share some observations and comments with other members.Investment

From an investment perspective, San Rafael is experiencing a property boom based upon two pillars; the devaluation of the peso in 2001, and the growth in internal investment in tourism and wine production in the last 2 years.

We believe that bricks and mortar, and land are still significantly undervalued and represent an exciting and stable investment opportunity. The stability is due to the way that Argentines view property – as their bank accounts. Many middle-class Argentines invest in properties as a large part of their investment plan, and in San Rafael this is no different. Investors from not only Buenos Aires, but also Europe and the United States are investing now to take advantage of the value.

With respect to income from your working investments, you decide how much you want to be involved; this may vary from a sufficient income to sustain its upkeep to more ambitious business propositions of farm/wine production or property rentals.

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For those who wish to relocate, San Rafael has a multitude of benefits,10 of which we describe below (in no particular order):

1: Dramatic scenery:- Andean mountain ranges, white waters, pristine lakes, desert, wine country, to name but a few. You are never more than 10 minutes away from dramatic and unspoilt scenery.

2: Safety: San Rafael is a very safe city, where you feel comfortable day and night, and where antisocial behaviour is practically non-existent. Of course, it is advisable to take normal precautions regarding your property and car, but crime is generally not a problem.

3: Prices: Value for money applies right across all costs of living; from your initial property investment, through to food, clothing, gasoline(except for our friends from the US!), utilities, entertainment and domestic flights. Consumer electronics and automobiles are similarly priced to the EU or US, reflecting their international cost base. The main benefit is that your home currency has the potential to provide a much higher standard of living than in the US or EU. For those who are considering retirement, Argentina may be the right solution to ensure financial peace of mind through consistently low-cost living.

4: Climate: Mendoza benefits from 350 days of sun every year, but with clear and distinctive seasons. San Rafael is cooled by a network of freshwater canals, which lower the temperature during the summer months, making a hot but not unpleasant climate. Humidity is low, so the heat is not oppressive. Siesta is observed (but not obligatory!)

5: Family life: Many people come to San Rafael to rediscover the simple pleasures of family life – often forgotten in Northern Europe and the States, with pressures of time, travel and work. Argentines are very family-oriented, and they enjoy meals and family get-togethers frequently and late into the night. Often noisy, animated but good-spirited, you will soon become accustomed to the pleasures of socialising without time pressure.

6: Education: San Rafael, like Argentina in general, has a good education system from early schooling through to university. The public sector dominates, but there are private schools and universities, where the fees are nothing in comparison to those in the EU or US. There are 5 universities represented in San Rafael, including the important Universidad de Mendoza and Universidad de Cuyo, where a wide spectrum of courses can be read.

7: Food and drink: top quality and value for money are the key points here. Whilst meat and wine come top of the list, there are other pleasures to be tried and options to be explored. Home style cooking is popular here, free from additives or complication. For those who may miss the more cosmopolitan selections, nearby Mendoza city has much to offer.

8: Transport: With frequent flights direct to Buenos Aires, San Rafael airport connects you to all of Argentina rapidly. For even more flexibility, Mendoza airport (2.5 hours away) provides several daily flights direct to the capital. San Rafael is also well-situated for tours to the North and South, and is within 4 hours of the capital of Chile, Santiago. Many coach services operate from the centre of San Rafael to many Argentine and South American destinations, at reasonable prices and with comfortable sleeper facilities.

9: Beneficial asset planning: For citizens of the EU, Argentina is considered a tax-free destination, meaning that you can have wealth management plans in tax-free domiciles such as the Isle of Man and Jersey. We advise that you speak to your financial adviser about your options.

10: Follow your head and your heart: What’s the catch? – there is none, but as with all life changes, we recommend that you research your move carefully and take time to look at all the options. Argentina has much to offer both the investor and expat. We do recommend that you begin to learn Spanish, as English is not widely spoken, and that you take time to understand the customs and systems of the country at the beginning, before diving into ambitious projects immediately. That said, within a year, you should be well established and wondering why you hadn’t done it sooner…

We would like to hear from anyone who is interested in making the move over here – whether for investment advice, vineyards or property, or just a friendly chat! See our website for details: www.andinoproperty.com

Dan Hathway is the Director of Andino Property.