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Building Business

Building Business

Self Taught MBA: Going to Where the Going Is Good, Part 4

comments (0) October 17th, 2012 in Blogs
FPR Fernando Pages Ruiz, contributor

Robert Hampton found what he describes as builders paradise in Ecuador. 
With a beach in the backyard, Hampton has a job site at Vistas del Pacifico, where high-quality raw materials and skilled labor abound. This project features all concrete construction, clay roof tiles, an easy permitting process, and affordable labor.  
Hamptons first finished and sold home at his Vistas del Pacifico development in Ayangue, about one hour north of Salinas. 
You can build a home with luxury finishes, including tonuge-and-groove ceilings, ceramic-tile floors, hardwood trim, and granite countertops for about $50 a square foot, says Hampton.
Like a postcard, the coast at Ayangue, Santa Elena, Ecuador. Not a bad place to make a living. 
Robert Hampton found what he describes as builders paradise in Ecuador. Click To Enlarge

Robert Hampton found what he describes as "builder's paradise" in Ecuador. 

A successful Midwestern developer dodges the recession and finds growth and prosperity in Ecuador

I've wanted to write about Robert Hampton for a long time, but he's been hesitant to publicize the opportunity he found in Latin America. He's worried you're going follow him and become a competitor. North American businesses of every type now find their best opportunities abroad, whether it's General Motors in China or John Deere in Peru. Emerging markets are growing rapidly. Boom times abound in Asia and South America, so why not build where the weather is warm, the land is cheap, and the buyers are motivated?

Hampton started doing his homework a long time ago while on vacation. "Even during the go-go years back home, I started nosing around the Caribbean real-estate markets, sniffing for opportunity," says Hampton. Every year when he sailed to the Caribbean with a group of his buddies, he mused, "I'd like to live here and develop beachfront property." He planned to do just that after retirement. With profitable land developments in Nebraska and Wyoming, and other business interests, such as a ready-mix company and a retaining-wall system he invented, Stone Strong, Hampton couldn't possibly indulge his dreams right away. Then came 2008, and courtesy of the Great Recession, Hampton's time was quickly (and somewhat painfully) freed up-so he went back on vacation.

This time, though, it was for business. Hampton started scouting in earnest the real-estate potential of his favorite destinations--Panama, Costa Rica, Mexico--and through word of mouth and a little Internet research, he decided to visit Ecuador. As an experienced developer with a keen eye for potential, Bob was not as interested in places like Cabo San Lucas or Saint Martin, where the relocation boom was well established and prices had peaked. He was looking for an emerging market with all the right ingredients: an undiscovered place with beautiful beaches, a stable government, and a U.S. friendly real-estate investment climate that allowed for foreign ownership. 

The government of Ecuador has been making a concerted effort to attract foreign investment by liberalizing its investment regulations. Equal treatment is given to local and foreign investors, so if you invest in Ecuador, you'll receive the same rights as Ecuadorian citizens. "International Living and several other retirement travel newsletters pointed the way to Ecuador. Ecuador is the new Costa Rica," Bob said by email. "The cost of living is cheap and the quality great."

After visiting and spending a few weeks doing his due diligence, which included eating lobster and taking long walks on warm, sandy beaches, Bob decided on Ayangue, a quiet beach town about one hour north of Salinas. Hampton cashed in his retirement savings, bought a peninsula jutting out on the blue Pacific Ocean, and started his first South American venture, Vistas del Pacifico.

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