Sound Real Estate Lessons from the Incas

One look a Machu Picchu and you’ll see how the Inca were some of the first Real Estate experts. Here are a few real estate pearls of wisdom from the ancient Inca.

This is a guest blog post by our very own Kalpana Krishna-Kumar:

This year I resurrected my travel bucket list and the destination I picked was Peru – in particular Machu Picchu – the mystical “Lost City of the Incas”. To make a long joyous story short, it was every moment the fabulous experience I had dreamed of. That story is for my personal blog; but during my visit there, I kept seeing sensible real estate wisdom the Incas followed many centuries ago that are very relevant to every buyer, home-owner or seller in today’s housing market. Here they are:

Location, Location, Location:

Yes, the Incas must have certainly known of this central tenet of home ownership. Machu Picchu (in original Quechua language meaning “Old Mountain or Peak”) is considered by some to have been the summer retreat of the greatest Inca king – Pachachuti. It was obvious that he thought strategically while picking the location. Machu Picchu has:

– Some of the most spectacular and mystical views in the world
– Abundance of water and food supply from the fertile lands, and
– Natural defenses – steep mountain cliffs and deep precipices that surround it along with the fast-running Urubamba River running along the base of the mountain.

No wonder the invading Spaniards (and the rest of the world) spent so much energy looking for it and could not find it for a long time.

Real Estate Wisdom: Location is key to home value. As a buyer, determine what’s important to you – commute time, schools, amenities, views, neighborhood, etc. and prioritize them. Use these as search criteria whether looking online (check out or the Sitegeist app available for iPhones and Androids) or with a Coldwell Banker real estate professional.

Location is key to home value

Knowledge is power:

Have you been taken by surprise when your basement flooded the first time it rained after you moved into your new home? Or you found large cracks in your foundation – thanks to the roots of the beautiful white Spruce on the side of the house? Take a lesson from the Incas – the Incas knew about the seismic activity of the Andes when they decided to build Machu Picchu. They were no strangers to the perils of earthquakes and erosion due to heavy rainfall either. So they borrowed sound construction concepts from the civilizations that occupied the land before them. Inca engineering has amazed historians and tourists alike – even giving rise to speculations of alien intervention (remember Indiana Jones’s adventures in the Land of the Incas?). No – I didn’t find evidence of any extra-terrestrial beings. But I did find smart architecture and efficiency to manage the issues that could affect their sacred abode.

Real Estate Wisdom:

a) Buyers – Before you put your bid in, learn more about the potential home and neighborhood. Some suggestions:

– Ask your real estate agent for a Sellers Disclosure (if available)
– Get the home inspected by a certified Home Inspector
– Request for information publicly available from the Town or simply get a ready-made report from Find out about the flood hazard area of the property with this nifty online tool.

b) Homeowners – Besides learning more about your home with the suggestions above, take a bird’s eye view (walk around your property) with your camera or smartphone and note the nuances that you might have missed; such as soil type, water table level and gradient of the land. Also be sure to walk the area to and away from your home to take note of the trees on your surrounding property, flooding potential, or even sink hole hazards (for Florida residents) etc. Make sure to record your observations.

Know they property as thyself

Use your resources wisely:

Every Inca city and settlement I visited from Ollantaytambo to Pisac was a testament to their harmonious existence with nature. Machu Picchu was exemplary in this matter, for instance:

– The multi-ton blocks they used to build Machu Picchu came from the rocks of the mountain site itself. The city simply developed in and around the quarry.
– They used naturally occuring mountain springs and water sources through well planned aqueducts.
– They built their homes to maximize natural light.
– Terrace agriculture was their chosen way to grow seasonal crops on mountain sides that not only stopped soil erosion but also aesthetically enhanced their community.
– They reserved their most labor and cost-intensive construction for special buildings like their temples and royal quarters while using common materials for the rest of the city.

Real Estate Wisdom: Fast forward to the 21st century, using resources wisely in the context of your home:

– Prioritize home renovations based on the value it will add to your home’s equity. It is widely stated that kitchen renovations return a sizable value for investment. Check out this Cost vs. Value Report for other types of renovations and home improvements.
– Greening your home is not only a sustainable alternative but also increases the value of your home according to a research study conducted by UC Berkeley and UCLA. From simple steps like using Energy Star appliances to using geo-thermal energy to heat your home, there are many sustainable and cost-effective things you could do to bring about extraordinary efficiencies.

Greening – a sustainable value proposition for your home

The last and most poignant lesson I felt in my veins as I stood admiring the grandeur of the mystical city was a sense of never wanting to leave – just the same as when I am finally HOME!

“Machu Picchu isn’t just beautiful, it’s sublime.”

― Mark Adams – author of “Turn Right at Machu Picchu”


*Header Image Courtesy of Flickr User: TheCsMan

Senior Manager, Consumer Engagement at Coldwell Banker Real Estate LLC. In his role he works on all national TV and online advertising initiatives, heads the brands’ internal video production as well as a slew of other projects. He’s held other roles within the Marketing Department ranging from Previews & Product Development to the day to day management of the redesign. Besides being a marketer, Gustavo is a musician, writer, film & TV buff, avid sports fan, cereal aficionado, traveler, Tumblr and Tweeter.

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