Guru’Guay thanks Canelones-based real estate developers Balsa & Asociados for making this article possible. Until now the Uruguayan department of Canelones has had no visibility internationally in English. Together Guru’Guay and Balsa are working to put Canelones on the map with a series demonstrating why this part of Uruguay is an unexpectedly interesting place to live, work and visit. Guru’Guay’s opinions are always our own.
Camino de los Horneros is currently one of Uruguay’s most sought-after locations. Real estate prices have risen dramatically in the last 24 months. Why is this area of gated communities close to the international airport so in demand?
Ten minutes east of Uruguay’s international airport, you turn left crossing the highway to turn onto Camino de los Horneros*. Things look a bit different from regular old-fashioned Montevideo. On the right, the car dealership and major sporting goods store wouldn’t look out of place in suburban USA or Europe. The road is tree-lined and curves gently past sports complexes and two state-of-the-art primary schools. Off to each side lie the entrances to different gated communities.
Five minutes later, you reach a small shopping mall that has practically everything a discerning neighbour could look for—a car mechanic, florist, sushi, a health clinic, hair salon and real estate agency. A restaurant and gourmet coffee shop’s adjoining convenience store stocks a sophisticated selection of wines, spirits and cheeses—happily, many of them local. Close by there’s a laundry, a vet and a golf club.
The mall is at the heart of Camino de los Horneros—a residential area of over twenty gated communities and a working-class neighbourhood whose streets are named after the world’s historic airlines. It lies in the department of Canelones, forming a triangle between Route 101, the Pando river and the IB—the coastal highway running east from the airport to Punta del Este.
The gated communities host around 2,000 houses. A number estimated to triple in the next few years.
Its residents—which included Uruguay’s president till he moved into the presidential residence in 2020—are looking for a different quality of life from the city. The facilities and infrastructure in the area create a ‘hybrid’ environment for residents—green surroundings with rapid access to the capital, the beach and wineries. Most are looking for modern amenities close by, greenery and security.
* Sometimes also called ‘La Tahona’, after the construction company which first began building in the area several decades ago.
Real estate prices booming
Real estate price indexes for the departments of Montevideo and Maldonado are a relatively new thing in Uruguay. Figures for Canelones and the gated—known locally as ‘barrios privados’ or private neighbourhoods—are not currently disaggregated though one would expect them to be available in the not too distant future.
To be able to provide readers with some figures we talked to a number of realtors. They mentioned prices of new houses have risen on average 20-25% in the last 24 months. Land prices more so (Broker Bienes Raíces). The price of new builds of 105 and 150m2 rose 17-20% between April 2021 and July 2022 (Balsa & Asociados). Others preferred not to cite average increases—given the wide variations in the types of properties available—but confirmed that prices have boomed depending on the barrio since the pandemic (Engel & Völkers).
Why is Camino de los Horneros so in demand?
The pandemic further increased demand as people looked to live outside the capital of Montevideo, in a home with lawns and often a pool. With remote working a reality for many, and prices more affordable than in the city for a property of comparative size, demand has consolidated.
The typical mode of construction until a few years ago was driven by individual property owners buying a plot and hiring a builder to build a large detached home. Nowadays developers like Balsa and Asociados have popularised the option of buying a pre-designed sustainably-constructed new build built by a sole developer with the accompanying economies of scale and lower prices. An area that was once solely home to wealthier people and retired international footballers has become accessible to middle-class professionals with families.
Many work in the burgeoning Canelones industrial corridor (where Google is installing a data centre) and have traded a forty-minute commute from an apartment in Montevideo for a five minute drive.
Entrance to each community—known locally as ‘barrios privados’ or private neighbourhoods—is by invitation of a resident only. Residents like the fact that they can leave their cars and homes unlocked and small kids can play outside unsupervised. The winding roads inside each community (often around small lakes) are generally beset by signs cautioning ‘children at play’.
Frequent travellers and snowbirds like the peace of mind of knowing their houses will be supervised whilst they are out of the country.
Amenities on site depend on the barrio. They may include a clubhouse, children’s play areas, tennis courts or a convenience store. Two have golf courses (one open to the public). Public transport is still lacking which makes things harder for teens and others without a car. For now most barrios offer hourly shuttle service to Carrasco or other points where bus routes converge.
Amenities in the surrounding area include three shopping centres (Costa Urbana includes a cineplex), healthcare centres, sports and equestrian centres and a premier league football stadium. Two private bilingual schools currently take children up to second grade, though each year as the children grow a higher grade will be added. Older children must travel to school in Ciudad de la Costa or the Montevideo suburb of Carrasco.
The closest urban areas are Ciudad de la Costa (unofficially Uruguay’s second biggest city—though it certainly doesn’t look or feel like a city with all its trees and green lawns—with around 100,000 people), Pando and Carrasco for high schools, banks, utilities offices and the like.
Uruguay’s principal international airport, also called Carrasco, is 8-10 minutes drive. Living near an airport sounds like a downside but instead it’s a real plus point, especially for frequent fliers. Carrasco could be considered ‘boutique’—with just 20-30 flights per day at the time of writing.
Location, location, location
Ciudad de la Costa hosts outstanding restaurants, taking advantage of its proximity to both the coast and countryside.
Uruguay has been winning awards for its wines internationally for several decades. Many vineyards are located around Montevideo and Canelones. It wouldn’t be inaccurate to say that Camino de los Horneros is located in Canelones wine country.
The capital of Uruguay, Montevideo, has a very active restaurant and culture scene and is a 15-40 mins drive depending on the neighbourhood.
The wide, sandy beaches of the Costa de Oro (or Gold Coast) bordering the vast Río de la Plata lie just ten minutes drive south. Quiet, pine-fringed, with white sand as powdery as confectioners sugar, they are usually deserted—except for summer weekends and holidays. The water is generally blue-green. Some days as calm as a mirror. Other days it looks—and acts—like a calm ocean. The beaches are very safe for small children.
Uruguay’s most famous beach towns—Punta del Este and José Ignacio are easy drives east, 90 and 110 minutes respectively along small well-maintained highways that are rarely busy outside of summer, especially on weekdays. You can reach Uruguay’s wildest beaches near the border with Brazil in a morning.
In this video the author takes you on a google search of what’s close by
The recent history of Camino de los Horneros
Thirty years ago, Camino de los Horneros was primarily rural land. The name means ‘hornero way’, horneros being small birds which build nests that look like small wood-burning ovens. Amongst the farms were dotted with the rugby, football and tennis pitches of a handful of private schools. It was also home to Montevideo Cricket Club.
Then in the 1990s, a group of investors bought land with the idea of creating a golf course exclusive suburban style houses with ample grounds. The first developments were referred to as “the new Carrasco”, after Montevideo’s most elite neighbourhood. However Uruguay was hard hit by the collapse of neighbour Argentina’s economy in 2002 and development slowed.
In the last decade, demand for housing picked up in response to the economic and industrial development—the free trade zones, the Science Park—around the nearby airport.
Then in 2017, the Canelones government development plan for the area came into effect. The plan plotted the infrastructure needed to support the conversion of Camino de los Horneros from rural into residential. It also regulates the maximum heights of buildings, the number of houses, the percentage of greenery to construction. In addition, it limits the extension of individual barrios to keep neighbourhood size manageable (the maximum size is twelve hectares, about thirty acres). Builders and real estate companies tend to agree that the municipal government is a real partner which understands that investment will bring prosperity to the whole department.
The working class neighbourhood, Barrio Aeroparque, is part of the plan. A sanitation system was recently installed and the roads are being paved. Better public transport frequencies are also expected.