Though Cuba’s reputation as a land of eternal cigars, sun and communism is sort of cemented into the popular consciousness, it’s impossible to deny that the country is slowly opening itself up to capitalism. For the past few decades, Americans have been travelling there for cheap holidays through third countries, and the American dollar has become a sort of shadow currency there. Tourists will profess that a little bit of cash will get you a lot, so it’s no surprise a lot of people are flocking there not just for a holiday, but to stay as well. We decided to take a look at just how feasible long-term living in the former land of Castro really is.
The entire process of buying real estate in Cuba is incredibly carefully vetted at this point. If you know anything about Cuban history pre-revolution, you’re probably aware of why they’re so hedgy about allowing Americans to own land in Cuba again. Regardless, the Cuban Ministry of Tourism is keen to make it a reality, and has opened up a 150-hectare plot of land for development, in association with Palmares S.A., a wholly owned subsidiary of the government. They’ve teamed with noted golf and country club designer Tony Jacklin to create what they’re calling the Carbonera Club.
The Carbonera Club is planning to turn the plot into an exclusive golf and country club, with over 800 properties supposedly to go up for sale. It seems like the perfect setup. Live cheap on the beach in Cuba. Enjoy waking up on the oceanfront, then sip the rum and puff cigars while you play out 18 rounds of golf. Almost too good to be true, right?
Of course, you’re going to have to contend with the reality of living in Cuba. While the ocean is gorgeous, and the living can be luxe, it’s still very much a communist nation, especially outside the gated plots. You won’t be able to hop down to the mall and pick up the new Air Jordans, or even a bottle of Coke. While major cities like Havana have been touristified, there’s still some concerns about living outside major cities.
And if you’ve ever seen The Rum Diary, you understand the complexities that life can develop if you’re living in luxury, while the people outside the properties live in relative poverty. And Cuba does have a history of not treating the landowner class well.
To add to this, the Carbonera Club was expected to begin construction in 2009, but there’s little word on what the current status of the project is. Other properties are still widely available, and undercover realtors offer properties to foreigners who know where to look. Backhanders and kickbacks are an accepted norm if you want to get anything done, and under the communist government, property agents are technically illegal, even though owning and selling land is not.
Property valuations fluctuate wildly, as really, nobody in Cuba has bought or sold a home for 54 years, since Castro took over. Prices tend to vary day to day, and you may wake up to find the realtor you were talking to on the phone has to delay the deal as the lawyer drawing up the papers for your new villa has been arrested.
It’s a wild world in Cuba, where people willing to take the risks can reap the rewards. But it’s there if you want to make the leap.