International Real Estate
Real Estate Overseas
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Slow-to-recover real estate markets across Europe are producing pockets of great value, report the editors at InternationalLiving.com, whose new report highlights an array of attractive properties on offer for less than $150,000 in France, Italy, Ireland, Spain and Greece.
It’s a quiet day in late June on the beach in Deauville. As I walk along the water’s edge, golden sand crunching beneath my toes, it almost feels as if the mile-long beach is all mine. Tranquility reigns right now, but a change is coming. Near the boardwalk, row after row of multi-colored beach parasols, elegant as Ralph Lauren models, are standing as ready as soldiers.
Rounding a bend in the road, you catch your first glimpse of the bay of Honduras. The stunning silhouette of Guatemala’s mountains to the south provides the perfect backdrop as the light scatters off the sparkling Caribbean water. The skies are a cloudless blue and a series of houses painted different colors, here white, there yellow, another green—and all with neatly-groomed yards—greets you along the coast road into the town of Punta Gorda.
Now this is why I live in Colombia: sunrise over the mountains and a view of puffy white clouds hovering over the valley. To get from my home in Líbano to Manizales— located in the Central Andes region—I can take the easy route, which passes through the Magdalena Valley, or go over the mountain and around a few volcanos… For my latest trip, I choose the mountain passage and a 5-a.m. departure. The road twists and turns through isolated farmlands, until it enters the Los Nevados National Natural Park, well worth dawdling through.
“Life here is easy, convenient, and what’s more I can afford to really enjoy it,” says Pennsylvania-native, Paul Matlin. “You meet so many interesting people from all over the world. The health care is great, the food is superb, and the weather is warm.” Founded over 700 years ago, Chiang Mai nestles in the mountains of Northern Thailand, on the banks of the Ping River and the good climate has acted as a major draw for thousands of expats who call the city home.
Natchi and her husband own the biggest guesthouse in town and business is booming. Wind energy is a big deal in this part of Brazil. When I stayed in their place—midweek during off-season—the place was packed to the rafters with 45 wind-energy workers. This is Icaraí (pronounced ick-areye), the closest town to the nearby wind farms. But sheltered in lush vegetation and right on the empty beach…this certainly doesn’t feel like a frontier energy town. It’s a tropical paradise.
For decades the Iron Curtain divided Europe in two. Folks in the U.S. and Western Europe were afforded only glimpses of life in the Eastern Bloc. The political situation severely restricted travel. And half of Europe became an uncharted and unknown land. Then the Berlin Wall fell and a dozen or so nations opened up, embracing new freedoms. Visitors were welcomed and discovered a history going back thousands of years, regions of untouched natural beauty, and a seriously low cost of living.
The aroma of freshly-brewed cappuccino is an essential ingredient of the Italian morning. While this morning delicacy can be enjoyed anywhere in Italy, a quiet café in a small Umbrian town provides an opportunity to truly savor la dolce vita—the sweet life. Tucked away in the southwest corner of Umbria and exuding the same Italian charm of nearby Tuscan towns, Orvieto is a wonderful alternative to its more famous and sometimes overly pretentious neighbors.
Every day in my travel research I come across the terms “hidden gem,” “off the beaten path,” “unspoiled, authentic, undiscovered…” The Dordogne region of France is the only place I have been to date where it is actually true. Castles sit like crown jewels along the river banks. My family and I often found ourselves beating our own path through the oak forests toward the river bank.
Pundits are divided on whether Spain’s property market will see further price falls. A huge overhang of unsold homes remains, but for the first time in seven years, sales in Málaga province showed an increase in 2013. Spain will always be a popular retirement destination for northern Europeans, and the number of U.S. citizens registered as living in Spain has increased, too.
With a population under 450,000 people, you won’t have to fight your way through crowded sidewalks or sit in frustrating traffic jams in Manizales. Daytime highs rarely exceed 72 F and 53 F lows give you an excuse to show off your favorite sweater. Best of all, Manizales offers an affordable, relaxed lifestyle, with all the amenities you’d find in larger cities such as Bogotá, Cali, and Medellín. It’s the type of place I love most, with a comfortable climate, warm people, and loads of things to keep me busy.
If you dream of life among rolling hills dotted with stone farmhouses and patchwork views of cultivated fields, sunflowers, olives groves, and grapevines, Le Marche is the place. There are no large cities; the biggest is Ancona, the regional capital, with about 100,000 people. Towns here are on a human scale, often small enough to get around on foot, by bike, or scooter. Most are large enough to have shops, restaurants, cultural attractions, and services, yet remain small enough to be personal and engaging.
Southern Colombia is like a rainbow of landscapes and subcultures. Cali, the area’s largest city, is a melting pot of ethnicities and the birthplace of Colombian salsa. South of Cali, Afro-Colombian and indigenous communities dot the landscape. And one hour north you’ll find one of Colombia’s true undiscovered jewels. With high temperatures reaching 80 F during the day, Buga offers its 100,000 or so residents an airy lifestyle, with doors and windows open wide throughout the day. In the city center, students from the University of Cauca’s Buga extension mingle in cafés, and in the main plaza children frolic in the shade while old men shoot the breeze.
Located about three hours northwest of San José, Costa Rica’s capital, the Arenal region has been drawing eco-minded travelers in search of opportunities in wildlife watching, jungle hiking, water sports, and other activities for decades. But in recent years it’s become much more than a tourist destination, attracting an increasing number of expats interested in making permanent homes here. The area is dominated by the 33-square-mile Lake Arenal. Also, looming above the landscape at the east end of the lake, is the 5,479-foot Volcan Arenal, a cone-shaped volcano that is active but not dangerous
South of Colombia’s Coffee Triangle, the Pan-American Highway wends through the foothills of the Central Andean mountain range and into the Cauca Valley. Haciendas, orchards, and colorful fruit stands line the road and the air becomes warm and moist. Just past Tuluá, the sky seems to expand and the horizon fills with sugar-cane fields as far as the eye can see.
I regularly meet readers who are smart and cautious when it comes to buying a property back home. They hire an attorney, they check their sale contract carefully, and they investigate every little thing that could affect the value of the property. But for some strange reason, when they’re buying overseas, these same people forget their common sense.
For many visitors, Baños’s thermal baths are miracle enough. You’ll find several places to soak away to your heart’s content here, in pools of varying degrees of delicious heat. The most popular public baths are right in town at the base of the 260-foot waterfall called Cascada de la Virgen, where Nuestra Señora allegedly once appeared. A shrine there is dedicated to her and her healing waters.
I’ve always lived near the coast. But in Florida, where I’m from originally, a trip to the beach wasn’t always fun, thanks to crowds, noise, and looming hotel towers. But during my recent trip to Nosara, a Pacific-beach community on Costa Rica’s Nicoya Peninsula, I found the polar opposite of those overrun Stateside beaches…and a place unlike any other I’ve visited during my two years in this country.
As I walk across the sunny piazza I think how easy it is to feel at home in Ascoli Piceno. I’m still blurry-eyed when I arrive at the coffee bar, but without my having to say a word, a frothy cappuccino is placed before me, followed by a cornetto filled with a dab of sweet almond paste. The barista, Giuliano, smiles broadly and then chats about the happenings in the neighborhood.
Distressed real estate in my favorite European markets is one of the hottest plays on my radar today. In Spain, this crisis opportunity has handed us some tremendous deals. Next door in Portugal, a similar situation is coming together—specifically in the Algarve. As the market price of certain real estate has fallen, the cost to rent that property has dropped by a much smaller percentage.
Warm and sunny days…beautiful people lounging on the sand as surfers vie for choice waves… palm tree-lined boardwalks in picturesque beachside towns, dramatic craggy cliffs…the California coast has certainly captured the popular imagination. No wonder; it’s one of the most pleasant places in the world to live. But on the flip side, it also has some of the most expensive real estate in the world and a high cost of living.
Steeped in memories of Moorish Al-Andalus, the narrow streets, shady gardens, and stunning architecture of Granada make it one of Spain’s most iconic cities. In the Realejo, the old Jewish quarter, a refurbished 913-square-foot apartment close to Campo del Príncipe (which has some wonderful tapas bars) is reduced from $162,000 to $134,000.
Land in the Tulum area on the southern edge of Mexico’s Riviera Maya can be a strong opportunity…as long as it’s the right land. On my recent scouting trip I put boots on the ground at more than a dozen interesting communities (including some planned lot communities). As long-time readers of Real Estate Trend Alert know, Tulum is stunning. It’s home to some of the world’s finest white-powder beaches…backed by palm trees that rustle in the Caribbean breezes.
Thanks to Europe’s financial and economic crisis, you’ll find some of the best real estate values in the best parts of Europe right now—and some of the best opportunities to profit. Specifically, the deals are to be found in Ireland, Portugal, and Spain. These places were hit hard by the crisis—and pricings finally reflect that.
Las Terrenas on the Dominican Republic’s Samana peninsula is a little piece of paradise. It boasts 19 miles of walkable, public beach, palm trees, warm breezes, and stars so bright it feels like you could pluck them from the sky. This isn’t a manufactured beach or resort. It’s a laid-back, cultured getaway. In town, behind and between the palm trees, are chic cafés and restaurants run by French and Italian expats.
I spend up to two weeks a month scouting out the best real estate opportunities for Pathfinder. It’s part of my job. And I enjoy every minute of it. Because I spend so much time on the road, I’m a huge fan of vacation rentals. I get more space than a hotel room and a lot more privacy. And I get to experience life as a local, buying groceries and eating at cafés and restaurants close by.
Right now, in Mexico, there’s a place where rich celebrities, like Cameron Diaz, Demi Moore, and Orlando Bloom come to hang out…but where you can still buy a condo without the millionaire-price tag.
Most folks think that finding a property overseas that fits their tastes and budget is tough. In fact, it’s much easier than they think. There’s plenty of opportunity out there when you know where to look, even when you’re on a tight budget.
Many Americans of or near retirement age count their IRA as their greatest source of wealth. But despite contributing as regularly as they possibly can and watching their nest egg grow, many of those same people are at a loss when it comes to deciding how to make that investment grow further.
What’s not to love about cultural riches and cobbled charms? Throughout most of Europe, the property market remains in the doldrums, which means you can find bargains. From the Atlantic to the Mediterranean…from Ireland to Greece, there’s a tempting array of move-into properties that will leave you change from €100,000 ($137,000).
It’s 10 a.m. in Buga, Colombia, and downtown is buzzing.I’m sitting in an open-air café with British expat Richie Holding, taking in the sights and sounds that make this a one-of-a-kind town.
If your idea of paradise is a tranquil beach where a couple can live comfortably for $1,200, including renting a furnished home, then Uruguay’s Department of Rocha is a place you should definitely know about. A “department” in Uruguay is like a state or province. Rocha covers 4,074 square miles and stretches 112 miles along the Atlantic coast between Punta del Este, the largest beach resort in Uruguay, and the Brazilian border.
The grand old commercial, religious, and learning center of Chiang Mai, in northern Thailand, is set to regain its previous status as a major regional player. This academic hub is returning to the significance it held before wars and political upheavals stopped people from flocking here.
It’s called the “Old World” for a reason, and despite two world wars and decades of development, history is evident in the architecture of Europe. You can stroll cobbled streets where lords and ladies once rushed to galas, climb castle steps in the footsteps of armored knights, and explore villages preserved for 500 years or more.
I was accidentally napping (it happens sometimes) in my favorite chair in the den when I was awakened by the loud, unmistakable lowing of a cow. It was the local milkman announcing his arrival with an amplified recording. In just a few minutes, we received our delivery of milk and cheese from his specially equipped motorcycle and cart. Other vendors regularly wind their way through our middle-class Mexican neighborhood selling fruits, vegetables, prepared food, bottled water, and even pots and pans. It is not only charming, it is convenient.
Toucans and macaws glide around the lush jungle canopy and scores of monkeys parade through the overhanging branches. Neon-green and electric-blue butterflies of preposterous sizes flit across gurgling streams, while waterfalls drop into deep pools. Welcome to one of my favorites among Ecuador’s secret spots…a place hidden in the east of the country, where indigenous shamans still perform timeless rituals and a small number of adventurous expats have found new lives surrounded by nature.
I visited the Lake Arenal region a few weeks back with family from out of town. When people visit us here in Costa Rica, we usually end up there at some point. Just three hours by car from our home in the Central Valley (and the international airport), it’s an easy drive—very picturesque as you pass through the rain forest, farmland, and small villages of the countryside.
I’m just a middle-class gal. There you can pay $1.5 million for something like that. Yet in San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua I own a small two-bedroom/two-bathroom house, on an acre with an ocean view, which cost just $132,000. I pay real estate taxes of just $151 a year. And in my backyard, in addition to what I mentioned before, I also grow mangos, papayas, citrus trees, a cinnamon tree, and even moringa, the tree of life.
Malta is a safe place to put your real estate dollars, reports InternationalLiving.com’s property expert, Ronan McMahon. Though economic crisis has plagued much of Europe over the last six years, this stable and peaceful haven in the Mediterranean has escaped untouched.
When I first went to Fiji in 1999, I had no thoughts of buying a lot, designing and building a house, and becoming a vacation rental expert. Of course, life often turns out better than we ever imagined…and I’m living proof of that. In 1999, my only thought on that trip to Fiji was escape