The Expat Files: Living in Latin America A guide to moving to Latin America, finding work, and settling in.

February 28, 2011  

The Insider’s Tricks To Building a House In Latin America:

- Building standards... if you don’t set them quite high right off the bat your contractor will set them the usual 3rd World way, and you’ll be sorry.

- Chronic moisture problems... how after 500 years of building in the tropics, the Latin contractors still can’t stop a simple leak. And that means you’ll either have to train them yourself or grab a bucket and join in with the bailing.

- Latin irony #2345... how water damage can be good for tourism (say what?).

- A few more little things that drive expats nuts (especially women expats)... like closet mold that eats leather shoes...., and how to stay relatively sane and avoid such minor disasters.

- Why you should keep clear of local paint brands and waterproofing agents, and why written guarantees are a joke.

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February 23, 2011  

Furnishing Your House and the Black Art of Shipping Your Goods Down

- The do’s and dont’s of shipping household goods and materials down to L.A. Why dealing with airport customs is so much easier than dealing with seaport customs and shipping containers.

- Well known 1st World appliance names (are they even available?) –vs- the cheaper Latin brands that look just as nice... a word of warning.

- The tricks of dealing with your shipping container at the Latin customs office and how to get a lowball tax break (just bring a sexy lady along- its a macho society after all).

- Why you should never ship your antiques down, but why paridoxically, local antique hunting is a treasure hunter’s dream.

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February 21, 2011  

Building and/or Buying a House: PART 5

- Costa Rica; the ‘Switzerland’ of Latin America, and other blatant lies.

- Where the 'real' real estate deals are, and why newly abandoned single family construction projects are unbelievable bargans now that there's a huge housing surplus at the medium and high ends, and how to buy in for 25 cents on the dollar... peso, colon, lempira, quetzal, bolivar or whatever.

- How to find good, honest, household help. The do’s and dont’s of hiring and firing workers and domestics.

- Why Latins nearly always prefer Expat bosses over Latin ones.

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February 16, 2011  

Building and/or Buying a House: PART 4

- Hiring a general contractor, and why you don’t want him to speak English, dress nice or drive a decent car.

- Latin skilled labor, and why you should never judge a man by his sorry looking tool kit.

- The lost art of plastering walls is alive and well and everyone and his brother’s an expert (and its infinitely better than drywall). And why if you do use drywall, you’ll be sorry.

- Why checking written references or letters of recommendation are complete wastes of time.

- Contractors do guarantee their work, but you should never fully believe them, even if its signed in blood.

- Petty theft; when things walk off your construction site, and they will, and what to do about it.

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February 14, 2011  

Building and/or Buying a House: PART 3

- Because of phantom building inspectors, you’re on the honor system when it comes to building your house to blueprint specs and to the local codes.

- How the cost of a building permit is arbitrary (and subject to bribes) and how to avoid getting charged ‘gringo’ prices.

- Hiring an architect. Why good architects are a dime a dozen, unbelievably affordable, and will do practically anything to land an expat’s building contract (a 1st world style project is a huge portfolio booster).

- How to disperse funds and how to avoid (er.. minimize) pilferage and ripoffs.

- Getting big cash discounts on materials and how Latins skirt the taxman.

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February 9, 2011  

Building and/or Buying a House: PART 2

- Home Financing? Is that even a possiblity for an Expat with no real job? You’d be surprised.

- Title insurance? Fuggedabout it! But there are age-old Latin style unconventional ways to to check on property titles... though a few bribes might be in order ( in fact they're always in order).

- Workers liability coverage, performance bonds and/or bonded contractor/builder coverage? Fuggedabout that too! They’re not on the menu, not for small projects like single housing units, not yet anyway.

- Why everyone’s naked in Latin America (insurance naked that is), and why practically no one ever bothers to purchase even a simple homeowner’s policy.

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February 7, 2011  

Building and/or Buying a House: PART 1

- Has the housing crisis hit down there yet. YES, but how bad is it?

- Building -vs- buying. The two best buy right now; new homes in guarded communities and residential towers (ahem, ... but what about those pesky earthquakes Chile style, when you’re happy as a clam and living in stylon the 29th floor?)

- How to make sure you get 1st World standards and quality in the 3rd World, and at half the price (or less

- Location, location, location: in Latin America its definitely true, but its also about the water supply, or lack of it... and why you Don’t want to be hooked to any local municipality cuz you'll be sorry.

- Property taxes Latin style: though they’re almost laughable, you still get what you pay for.

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February 2, 2011  

- Part 3, the conclusion of Love and Romance Latin Style - The EXPAT Advantage: Unlucky in love in the 1st world? In the Latin love lottery you’ll almost always win. Down there the odds are heavily stacked in your favor due to over-the-top and sometimes downright irrational stereotypes Latins have about 1st Worlders (I know its crazy but why complain?) But watch out! South of the boarder jealousy and posessiveness rule, in fact they’re practically on steroids and always on a slow boil ready to go ballistic at any time.

- Why if you start a business you’ll need TWO lawyers: An honest one and a crooked one, and why if you’re really unlucky, you’ll get them both in one package.

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