Our House Hunting Experience in Bogotá, Colombia

By Michael
February 2017

My wife decided it was again time to look at homes in Bogotá. Such is not always an easy task. There aren’t that many of them. The city has the 9th worst population density in the world. When comparing the quantity of apartments to houses the latter is a definite minority. My better half believes people in houses represent less than 20% of the population. We found no new construction of middle class homes. Even with used homes you do not get what is most common in the United States. Yards are smaller, if existent at all, and it is not unusual for neighbors to share a common wall. We did find some construction more similar to what I was use to in the States, but the prices started at $1 million U.S. dollars and went up from there. Not to mention they were in an estrato six neighborhood.

Keep in mind that Bogotá houses are constructed different than houses in the Midwest of the USA. Rather than wood, these are mostly concrete and blocks including the interior walls. Because of the year-round cool spring weather there is neither heating nor air conditioning. Electrical is not Romex. Some homes even run 16 gauge wires. And many times I have seen the wires not color coded. You have no idea from one outlet to another which wire is hot and which is neutral.

When I first arrived in the South American country we purchased a house in a small town about an hour drive from the capital city. I spent much time and money in renovation including such things as putting in a kitchen, grounding the electrical, building a staircase and reinforcing the second floor so it wouldn’t fall into the first floor. I learned much about Colombian construction and workers.

Unfortunately massive small town corruption and terrorism made our first home unlivable. We moved and have been renting since. The houses include ones in the city and in smaller towns.

My wife is interested in prices of homes near her sister who lives in the North of Bogotá. Therefore we restricted our search to that estrato four area.

 

Following are the six houses we checked out. Three different real estate agents helped us in our selection. To help readers I will scale the prices in US dollars using two different exchange rates of 2,500 and 3,000 pesos for the dollar.

One thing to remember is that, unlike the United States, Bogotá does not have multi-listing realtors. Many Colombians begin their search with the website of metrocuadrado.com. The site allows you to search by location, size, price and other parameters.

There are other websites offering homes in Bogotá. These include Century 21 and Christie’s Real Estate. However I found their listings to be more expensive than what we were looking for with what I like to refer to as “gringo tax” prices.

House #1 – Located on a corner, the house is a two story with 152 sq meters (1,636 sq feet). A half block away there is a park where a group frequently plays loud music as people exercise. The area with grass is about 18 sq meters (200 sq feet). While most of the house has recently seen remodeling and painting the kitchen needs to completely be replaced. All the floors are of tile. Living room, dining room, studio, kitchen, bathroom and patio are on the first floor. Three bedrooms occupy the second floor. The master has a private bath, but those in the other bedrooms must use the downstairs bathroom. The roof of the upper floor has a beam that is broken. When I pointed it out, both the owners and real estate agent told me there was nothing to worry about that other homes have the same thing.

My wife asked the price anyway. In a quick response the owner said, “620 million pesos.” But because we were nice people they would sell it to us for 610 million pesos ($203,333 to $244,000 USD)

House #2 – This place is another two story and slightly smaller in square meters. Three bedrooms, kitchen, dining room, living room, small studio and glass enclosed patio. Upon entering the feeling is that of darkness. Ceilings are dark wood and so low that I palm them when I reach up. Some of the ceiling wood pieces need replacing. The flooring is that kind of a vinyl sheet glued to pressed wood. In many places on both the lower and upper floors it is bubbling and peeling off. There is no green grass section. The part that was grass previously is now a glass covered porch. A public park with swing sets is directly behind the house. One can easily hear the screams of kids. The garage is small. Kitchen is dark (black counters) with almost no lighting except at the end where the laundry room is. It is usable, but could be better. Showers are the one you find in Colombia where a large head is attached to shower pipe. It is then attached to an electrical outlet. After activating the electricity in the head the water flowing into it is heated then drips on you. Master bedroom is small of 3 meters (9.8 feet) by slightly less than 3 meters. Bedrooms have vaulted ceilings. Closets are small at less than two meters in length. Electrical in the bedrooms is run on the outside of the wall instead of inside the wall.

Asking price is 460 million pesos ($153,333 to $184,000 USD)

House #3 – The place is in what they call a conjunto cerrado. Rather meaning, in this case, there are four houses past a gate and surrounding a central parking area. That means no garage for the car. The home is completely remodeled. The living room and dining room have crown molding though the ceilings are considerable less than eight feet high. The galley style kitchen is well designed and lit with almost everything new. There is no grass area. What was grass is now a tiled floor with no roof over it. Upstairs there are three small bedrooms and the master has its own bath.

Location is a problem. It is only a half block from a very busy highway. Then directly across the street is a preschool with two more schools within a couple blocks. At 530 million pesos ($176,666 to $212,000 USD) some consider it a deal because of the renovations.

House #4 – From the outside it looked pretty normal. But once inside the rooms were of odd sizes with sometimes you having to go through one just to get to another. Beside the normal rooms there was a studio, a library, a gym room and a covered tiled area where they kept dogs. No where was there grass. In speaking with the owner he stated that originally the property had two homes on it. But when the occupant of the second home died they just connected the two places. Indeed that explained the angled hallways that looked like something out of a Harry Potter movie. Kitchen is galley type with poor lighting and inefficient in its layout. We never asked the price, but later the real estate agent told us it was around 630 million pesos ($210,000 to $252,000 USD).

House #5 – This one turned out to be an apartment on the ground floor of an eight story apartment building. The realtor insisted we see it because it was a good deal at 350 million pesos ($116,666 to 140,000 USD).

Before arriving the agent said it has over 200 (2,152 square feet) square meters and there is a large patio. Upon arrival we saw the apartment is about 75 square meters (807 square feet). The rest is brick patio along two sides of the apartment. The wall on both sides border larger apartment complexes. On one side is the childrens’ play area for the other building. The building itself is perhaps 10 years old. However many newer apartment buildings (and the noise associated with the construction, are going up now. The apartment is in the back of the building though the street in front is very noisy with much traffic.

Some of the patio bricks are replaced by glass cubes to allow light to the underground garage. So the place does receive noise from the below ground parking. Some of those glass blocks are broken with broken glass exposed. In addition the elevator going to upper apartments could be heard from inside the rooms.

Water damage shows on the inside walls of the apartment and on the outside walls as well. Previous patches are also visible.Ceilings are so low that I can palm it and still have my elbow bent.

There are three bedrooms. The largest is the master bedroom with attached bathroom and measures just under 3 (9.8 feet) meters by 3 meters. Closet is small at about 1.5 meters in length. The other two bedrooms measure 2.5 (8.2 feet) meters square or slightly less.

The kitchen is about the size of one you will find in an efficiency motel room. Though there is a little nook to place a small washing machine.

The open area off the kitchen seems to serve as a living room/dining room combination. Perhaps enough space for a small table and one sofa.

House #6 – From the street one notices a veterinary office on the other side of the road and a preschool four doors down. The two story house looks pretty much like others on the street except for bottom rotted boards on the front gate. A guard shack servicing the block is about three houses away. Unlike many other homes in the approximately 40 year-old tract area this one does not have a covered driveway.

Once inside a different story presented itself. In the USA we would classify the house as a fixer-upper. The four bathrooms are in such bad condition that my wife said that she would not use any of them even in an emergency. Every single bedroom door as well as many of the closet doors are of the hallow core type and the cover is separated from the frame. The kitchen has massive mold issues and the metal cabinets are rusted and bent. Rain water enters the house through a fist size hole in the roof. Basically there has been no maintenance since construction.

A large living room and dining room occupy the downstairs along with a studio, kitchen, laundry room, 1/2 bath, maid’s room and glassed-in patio. A small grass yard is beyond the patio. Upstairs is three bedrooms and two baths. All of this occupies around 200 square meters (2,150 sq feet)

The real estate agent told us he already has an offer of 450 million pesos ($150,000 to $180,000 USD) for the house.

We really did not expect to find something, but had fun looking to report back to readers. Renting is still in our future.

Thank you for reading - Your comments are always welcome