If you like the warm and beautiful scenery of the tropics, you might want to consider adding Central America to your list. It’s your lucky day because, in today’s episode of The Real Estate Diplomat, we have Michael Cobb to discuss how they build communities in Belize, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and Panama. Michael is the founder and CEO of ECI Development, a residential resort development company. He shares how he started the company and what it was like moving from the United States to becoming a developer in Central America. And there’s a lot to take away from this episode, so stay tuned and enjoy the show!
Condos in Belize
It only took one call from Michael’s friend, to bring himself to Belize for a weekend. Michael at the time worked in the computer business, and his friend asked him to go with him for a vacation. The place took Michael’s breath away, and that made him want to come back. So he did return a few months later, and that is when they purchased two condominiums. That became Michael’s first purchase of an investment property, and it was in Belize. The properties faced the ocean, which convinced Michael to buy it. From there, he wanted to expand his buisness, but realized they had a little problem: there is no financing for North Americans in Belize, and no bank there would lend money. So as a solution, they had to finance new purchases and developments on their own before selling it. Long story short, they became a mortgage company. It continued when they bought their first resort property as a developer and eventually came down to Nicaragua. Michael eventually loved the area so much, that he decided to move his family there. Looking back, if not for that trip with his friend, Michael might not have gotten into the business.
Acceptance Without Acquiescence
Michael believes that working in Central America is finding acceptance without acquiescence. When asked about his job, Michael would answer that he tames chaos. He loves and enjoys it because it is exciting and different every day. It is a matter of accepting the local culture of the place of work. Business and productivity cultures differ among countries, and Michael says one should accept or else it will drive one crazy. Regardless of the change when moving overseas for work, Michael still envisions what he wants to deliver to the consumers be done right and he understands the purpose and significance of the organization. So many people lose track of the sense of the quality of life and get hung up on the cost of living. Community ceases to exist in a physical relationship. The vision Michael has is to deliver that kind of community through the design of his communities.
About Michael Cobb:
At the height of a successful career in the computer industry, Michael Cobb left to pursue more pioneering opportunities in the emerging real estate markets of Central America. In 1996, he and his business partner formed Exotic Caye International to provide loans to North Americans purchasing properties in Belize, Honduras, and throughout the region.
As the need for capital outstripped the supply, the mortgage company was converted to an international bank under the jurisdiction of Belize. It continues to provide mortgage services but has expanded its services to encompass the full realm of financial products.
Michael also saw the need for a regional real estate company to serve the baby boomer consumer with a North American standard product for the next two decades. He led the group into real estate development and created a holding company for several properties, including a resort on Ambergris Caye, Belize. In August 2000, Exotic Caye purchased 3.5 miles of Pacific Beachfront property west of Managua, Nicaragua. This master-planned community hosts world-class infrastructure, homes, and condominium units. In February of 2006, the ECI Development group acquired 1100 acres and 3km of coastline in Costa Rica, setting the stage for expansion into this popular market. They recently merged their Belize property with a much larger parcel and have begun to develop 200 condominiums units on Ambergris Caye, Belize.
Additionally, Michael has spoken at hundreds of international conferences about real estate financing and development. He has acted as a consultant to The Oxford Club and counseled various real estate projects throughout Central America.
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