Work Abroad but earn in USD

Saturday, June 04, 2005


I received a comment today that I feel needs to be responded to. I just completely disagree with everything that was stated. Just because you expatriate somewhere, doesn't mean you have to give up your point of reference (how things work in your own country). I find it quite useful to compare how things work here and how they work in the US.

There are quite a few things I like much, much better about Argentina than the USA. Still, there are some things where the U.S. obviously has it right. Real estate is one of them. I don't think there's anything wrong with pointing out those differences to help all our readers become aware of them before they experience them first-hand.

Reader's Comment

You need to change your expectations. Not only does this market operate very differently, this is a sellers market right now and prices will change not only because of demand but becasue you are an expat....Maybe not fair but it is reality.

My Response

Wrong. The simple fact is that I expect to be treated fairly and with respect. Just because I'm an expat, that doesn't mean I deserve to pay different prices than everyone else. It also doesn't mean I deserve to be treated any differently. Its all about choices. People have the choice to treat me unfairly, but I also have the choice not to purchase their apartment or do business with them. In the end, you'll do a lot more business by treating people fairly and honestly than you will by trying to extract a few extra thousand dollars from them.

I also don't know whether I'd categorize real estate in Argentina as a "seller's market" right now. While I'm no expert, my agent did tell me that properties were remaining on the market for about 3 months before selling. If that's what qualifies as a seller's market here, I'd hate to see what a buyer's market looked like.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Let me restate and clarify my points. I think changing expectations and giving up points of reference are different things. Its like going to the supermarket here, its not going to be the same as in the states and if you expect Superduper safeway you are going to be disappointed. You should conduct business in a way that you feel comfortable and feel is fair and ethical, however the rules are different here and someone changing the price on you doesnt equate to lying here. As to the RE market here, I have lived here since 98. This is a relative sellers market. Not since the bottom feeding that took place after 2002 by mostly North Americans, have properties moved so fast. It is more broad based than just movement in the Recoleta. Houses in the Northern Suburbs are especially tight.

I wish you luck and I dont presume to tell you how to conduct making a home for yourself here. Just some advice from someone who has done exactly what you are doing.

6/05/2005 11:22:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I forgot to mention one other thing. New expats tend to spend a lot of time comparing things from home with the new experiences they are having in the host country, that is natural. Be be weary of judging everthing as better, worse right, wrong. You state the US RE paradigm is "right", I would agree that for us it is a lot more explicit and clear how business is done, is it "right", maybe not, its just culturally coming from a different place than Argentina. Is Argentina's wrong? maybe not, just confusing and ambigious and random, difficult for us to navigate but familiar to Argentines.

6/05/2005 11:54:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am a different poster than the other anon poster here, but I totally agree that if you look like a gringo, smell like a gringo, and act like like a gringo, you will be charged as a gringo. Fact of life that you cannot avoid without going through some long term "hazing". Enjoy, becuase it's only money, and frankly, the exchange rate is such that it's certainly not alot of money for a guy like you. And If I were you, I would kick back, let the winter kick in to deflate the seller's a little, and then buy once you really get a grip on things.

6/05/2005 02:51:00 PM  
Blogger elizabeth said...

El Expatriado:

I hope you dont feel ganged up on, but I have to agree with the other posters...This is what they call cultural shock and changing expections or at least trying to understand how and why things work differently will make your transition more positive. Although everyone has issues and moments when it is beyond comprehension (my trial was buying a used car and accounting for taxes paid by someone else years ago)and difficult to not say the Argentine way is "wrong".

Its a big deal doing what you are doing and buying a home is a huge financial and emotional investment. Your frustration with the new culture is natural and will ebb with time.

6/05/2005 03:43:00 PM  
Blogger said...

I can relate to both sides. I'm fully entrentched in the real estate market here but I'll never really get used to all the lies/games/unethical behavior by the sellers and the other realtors in town.

The biggest mistake my clients make is they try comparing the system in the USA/UK with the system here. You can't or you will just give up. There are two different worlds. I have clients that literally want to walk away because of all the games but I walk them through the process and show them that this is "normal" here. What we consider normal and the locals consider "normal" are two entirely different things.

You are doing well El Expatriado. You did your homework and you are using good people to help you. Perhaps the most important thing as Elizabeth correctly pointed out before is having a good lawyer. It's always amazing to me that people try using the cheapest attorney out there. Most Americans coming here don't speak any Spanish yet they use a realtor or lawyer that speaks no English.

This is a good recipe for disaster. Most foreigners don't know the laws here so it's easy to get cheated. I could write a book with story after story of how many people made mistakes. Just recently, I got a new client, RD from New York. He was buying a $165,000 property and he didn't speak any spanish. He was using a realtor and a lawyer (that was referred by the realtor) that spoke no English.

He felt uneasy and started searching the internet and found me. He gave him some free advice but it sounded like he was in big trouble. He was supposed to put down a deposit of $15,000 the next day but he didn't feel right about it. He hired me the next day. I called the lawyer and the realtor and they didn't want to share any of the paperwork with me. I told them we wouldn't buy without the paperwork.

I had them deliver the paperwork and guess what? The paperwork was all incomplete. They didn't even have a certifado de dominios (title check), the photocopy of the last title was incomplete and a person didn't own the property. It was a corporation. They did supply a power of attorney for the person to sell the property but guess what? It was for a different property than the one he was buying.

Another mistake was on the reserva (reserve form) they listed the wrong address of the apartment he was buying. Of course I advised to walk away from this.

I wish I could say this was not common but that isn't the case. People buying property here really need to use common sense. It's not like the States. It's a jungle here and very much unregulated like many have mentioned.

6/11/2005 09:46:00 PM  
Blogger Patagonia Traveler said...

Finding a good, confident honest Escritorio is the key to completing a realestate transaction here. The Escritorio duties are to make sure that it has clear title and no emcumbrances are found. Also that public records are searched and verified that ownership is indeed the person that you are buying from. And that the cash that you are putting on the table and following signatures is documented with local city offices. I know of whole developments that were sold thru realtors and the owners had contracts with the developer for the sale, however the developer defaulted with the both the banks and the buyers money. Well anyway the banks are going after the people for the current market value of thier homes. Thats in San Justo BA. Pretty sad becuase alot of poor families and old people involved.

9/07/2005 02:58:00 AM  

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