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.
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.
Only 11% of Latin Americans have access to credit from formal institutions. In fact, in Chile, 37% of adults have no accounts with a formal financial provider, even though Chile has one of the highest levels of financial inclusion in the region.
In comparison, under 40% of adults in Colombia, Mexico, and Peru have formal bank accounts. However, in one of the most chronically underbanked parts of the world, improvements in financial technology have opened the doors for widespread financial inclusion throughout the Latin America.
More and more people are accessing mobile payments, credit systems, and P2P lending opportunities through recent advances in local fintech, and investors are catching wind of the enormous opportunity.
While there have been considerable advances in financial technology in Latin America in the past five years, many tools are still only available in the countries where they were founded. A report by Oliver Wyman, released in September 2016, provides a snapshot of local fintech players in Chile, Brazil, Mexico, and Colombia.
I asked Cristobal Perdomo to join me on this episode of crossing borders to talk about venture capital in Latin America. Cristobal is one of the founders of Jaguar Ventures, a Latin American based VC firm.
After getting an MBA and consulting for a couple of large companies in Brazil, he realized that the VC world was largely ignoring the rest of LatAm, so he set about to expand funding opportunities for startups in Argentina and Mexico. He shares advice for managing a business in multiple countries, investing in startups across the region and tips for managing teams across borders.