House prices on the other hand, rose by around 9% y-o-y to November 2013, to an average selling price of US$ 1,750 per sq. m., according to property valuation firm Valora, as reported in Situacion Inmobilaria’s December 2013 newsletter.
Montevideo's most expensive houses can be bought in Pocitos Nuevo at around US$ 2,385 per sq. m., followed by Punta Carretas and Carrasco, which have average prices of around US$ 2,312 and US$ 2,253 per sq. m., respectively. The highest house price gains (ranging from 5% to 10%) were in Brazo Oriental, Cerrito, Ciudad Vieja, La Blanqueada, La Comercial, Parque Batlle and Parque Rodo. Areas with lower than 5% price hikes include Buceo, Carrasco, Malvin, Pocitos and Tres Cruces. In contrast, house prices fell in the districts of Sayago (-7%), Reducto (-6%) and Punta Gorda (-3%).
Apartment prices in Buceo, Carrasco, Parque Rodo, Pocitos Nuevo, Punta Gorda, and Tres Cruces enjoyed annual price hikes ranging 5% to 10%. Apartment prices in both Malvin and Punta Carretas increased by less than 5% annually.
The real estate market in Uruguay, and particularly its beach resorts, heavily rely on Argentina’s high-end buyers. Around 75% of foreign buyers in Uruguay are Argentines, followed by Brazilian buyers, making up around 20%, while the remaining 5% are buyers from other countries.
In 2012, the number of sales fell by around 15%, although prices remained steady as sellers refused to settle for a lower price, according to 360 Terra International Realty’s managing partner, Sancho Pardo Santayana..
Aside from a decline in sales, new construction fell by 6.2% in 2012, after a 5.2% drop in 2011. Housing permits measured in terms of surface enabled also fell by 9.43% in 2012, based on the building permits issued by Comptroller of the service building of the Municipality of Montevideo.
In order to stem capital flight from Argentina, its government imposed tighter currency controls by limiting dollar purchases, which in part lowered demand for real estate transactions in Punta del Este and is also expected to affect Montevideo as well.
Alberto Prandi, Former Deputy Tourism minister and member of the Real Estate Association of Punta del Este, Adipe, believes that the tax information exchange agreement with Argentina in 2012 has also affected the real estate market in the Atlantic Uruguayan international sea-resort.
Foreign buyers are not restricted when buying properties in Uruguay. However, in November 2013, the Uruguayan government filed a new bill in Congress, which prohibits ownership of productive land by corporations in which foreign countries are direct or indirect shareholders. The bill does not affect individual foreign buyers, who can still purchase land in Uruguay.
The bill, which is proposed and signed by President Jose Mujica, was made for "the preservation and defense of the full sovereignty of the Uruguayan state, in relation to natural resources in general, and land in particular."
Analysis of Uruguay Residential Property Market »
Apartments in Montevideo cost around US$2,100 to US$2,500 per square metre (sq. m.) or around US$200 to US$235 per square foot.
Houses in Montevideo cost around US$1,500 to US$1,770 per sq. m., or around US$150 to US$165 per square foot.
Gross rental yields are moderate to good, at around 6% to 7.6%
Individuals who obtain income derived from renting properties shall pay a monthly payment in advance of the abovementioned tax. The amount of withholding tax arises to 10.5% of the total amount of income received each month. In case the only income obtained by individuals is derived from renting properties, advance payments can be considered as definitive tax payments.
Capital Gains: Capital gains realized by individuals are taxed at 12%. Taxable capital gains are the difference between the sales price and acquisition costs.
Inheritance: There are no inheritance or gift taxes in Uruguay.
Residents: Resident individuals pay tax on their Uruguayan-sourced income. Labor or earned income is taxed at progressive rates, from 0% up to 25%, while income from capital and capital gains are taxed at 12%.
Property registration takes about 66 days, and involves eight separate procedures.
Rents: Rents can be freely agreed between landlord and tenant, except for properties constructed before June 2, 1968.
In the free sector rent increases may be freely mutually agreed between landlord and tenant.
For rent-controlled properties, rent increases are indexed to the Unidad reajustable de alquileres URA or (Re-adjustable Unit for rent), published by the government.
Tenant Security: The duration of a rental contract can be freely agreed. The court system works adequately to enforce evictions and lease agreements, but is quite slow.
After more than five years of an average GDP growth of 6% from 2005 to 2011, Uruguay’s economy slowed to around 3.9% in 2012 and was expected to expand by 3.5% in 2013. The slowdown in the recent years is attributed to slow global growth, affecting also Uruguay’s trade partners, such as Argentina and Brazil.
The downward trend is expected to continue. The IMF predicts 3.3% GDP expansion in 2014. Banco Central del Uruguay (BCU), on the other hand, expects 4% growth in 2014.
One of Uruguay’s main risks, as pointed out by the IMF, is its high inflation. Despite bringing down inflation in 2013 to around 8.5% y-o-y last December, Uruguay ranked 10th in the world's inflation league tables in 2013, and 3rd among Latin American countries, following Venezuela (56.2%) and Argentina (10.9% using fictitious government figures, in reality around 50%). Needless to say, INE’s official inflation figure for 2013 has exceeded the central bank’s target range of 4% to 6%.
Throughout the year the central bank has kept its benchmark interest rate at 9.25%, after raising it by 25 basis points from its previous 9% in January 2013. The IMF expects a slightly higher inflation in 2014 at about 8.61%, easing to 8.1% in 2015.
Uruguay’s unemployment rate has reached record lows in the recent years, falling to only 6% of the total labor force in 2011. In recent months, however, unemployment rose from 6.1% in September to 6.4% in December 2013. IMF predicts a slight increase in unemployment in 2014 to around 6.8%.