Real Estate Tech Opportunities in Latin America

Even in the United States, the process of finding and buying property, as well as securing a mortgage, is not an easy one. In Latin America, where real estate agents are often not officially licensed, countries use notaries instead of escrows, and mortgage rates can be staggeringly high, buying a property in Latin America can be much more difficult. Most Latin American countries lack an MLS (multiple listing service) so there is no central place to search for properties, no exclusivity for brokers, and prices for the same property can differ from broker to broker. It can be hard to know whether you are getting a straight deal when the process for researching properties and brokers is anything but transparent.

Even in countries such as Chile, which is one of the more developed real estate markets in the region, renting an apartment as a foreigner can be daunting. Local landlords usually require significant paperwork before signing a lease, including a cosigner, local employment documents, proof of local taxes, and other documents most foreigners do not have. Landlords may also require your monthly income to be triple or quadruple the monthly rent, meaning that renting many properties is out of reach even for well-paid locals.

In 2013, Vijay Kailas, a fellow Start-Up Chile entrepreneur and I started Andes Property to help foreigners buy, rent or invest in properties in Latin America to help provide more clarity into this market. In 2014, my fund, Magma Partners, made Adrian Fisher’s PropiedadFacil our first investment. Adrian has been involved in the real estate tech sector since 2012 in Argentina, Chile and now the US with PropertySimple, so we had significant experience in the real estate tech sector.

Because of a lack of information, low levels of competition in the Latin American real estate market and corruption in certain markets, potential property owners can take on risks when buying a property that they wouldn’t otherwise take on in the US, where we take many of our existing systems and platforms for granted.

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3 Ways China is Fueling Latin American Startups

In January 2018 Magma Partners teamed up with Chinese coworking business, Kr Space, to launch the first China-Latin American accelerator to connect Chinese and Latin American entrepreneurs and investors.

With the recent news that Tencent invested $180M into Brazilian neobank Nubank at a $4B valuation, we’e seeing Chinese interest and investment in Latin America move beyond the common infrastructure projects backed by the Chinese government. The Chinese private sector is taking note of Latin America’s growing tech ecosystems and is capitalizing on opportunities to help the region follow a similar development path to China’s.

As the US pulls further away from Latin America, China is becoming an increasingly important partner for startups and companies across the region looking for investment and direction. As President Trump’s trade war intensifies, Chinese FDI into the US has dropped by 92% to $1.8B, while Chinese FDI to Latin America has surged to $15.3B in the first half of 2018.

This move by China is a strategic one. Latin America is ripe for investment and China and Chinese companies could be interesting partners for the region.

For one, Latin America is now a mobile-first market with over 200 million smartphone users. It is the second-fastest growing market for mobile in the world, and Latin American consumers are becoming quick adopters of new technologies and global apps.

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Carlos Jordan: Starting Ultracasas, The Zillow of Bolivia, Ep 58

Most dialogues about Latin America’s startup ecosystem overlook Bolivia. The landlocked 11-million person country has yet to develop a thriving homegrown tech scene, but it shows tremendous potential for growth. It often just takes one or two success stories to catalyze the whole industry. Carlos Jordan, founder of UltraCasas and UltraCreditos, might be just the entrepreneur Bolivia needs. After raising the biggest round in Bolivian history from international investors, Carlos became one of the most influential actors in Bolivia’s nascent tech ecosystem. He takes this responsibility seriously, reserving a fierce optimism for Bolivia’s development potential.

I sat down with Carlos on this episode of Crossing Borders to discuss Bolivia’s nascent entrepreneurial ecosystem, Carlos’ role in building the industry, the inflection point for his business, UltraCasas, and what it was like to raise funding from abroad. We also talk about doing business in Bolivia and the future of its tech ecosystem. Carlos is the first Bolivian entrepreneur to join me on Crossing Borders, so check out this episode to learn more about one of Latin America’s youngest tech economies.

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Ignacio Guglielmetti: Cuida Mi Mascota, The Airbnb for Pets in Latin America, Ep 57

If you don’t believe entrepreneurship is a grueling job, just ask Ignacio Guglielmetti. Ignacio says he has never worked harder than he does for his startup Cuida Mi Mascota, and he used to be a management consultant – one of the most demanding jobs out there. His path from consulting to building a pet-sitting startup was far from clear; it took him to the Netherlands, USA, Mexico, Argentina, Puerto Rico, and Brazil. One might say that Ignacio knows a thing or two about doing business across borders.

In this episode of Crossing Borders, I invited Ignacio to discuss his two startups, how he studied in Buenos Aires and Rotterdam, what it was like to merge with a competitor in Latin America, having a startup acquired, the difference between all the accelerators Ignacio has participated in (three, in three different countries!), and how Ignacio became an angel investor. Check out this episode to learn about doing business across Latin America’s biggest economies, including how to do business in Brazil as a Spanish-speaking entrepreneur.

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