Real Estate Overseas
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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.
What if you could go back in time to a white-sand beach on the Atlantic coast before heavy development came and prices went through the roof? A time when a beach home was a cottage instead of a high-rise condo, and owning it was a lifestyle choice, not a status symbol…
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
If you’re thinking of buying property overseas, right now the stars have aligned to bring you an unbeatable opportunity on Mexico’s Caribbean Coast.
This stunning stretch of coast is on the up thanks to the convergence of major trends along these stunning white sands. North Americans are back buying in numbers thanks to a strong stock market and recovering real estate values back home.
Five years ago, my husband, Jeff, and I started looking for a vacation home where we could eventually retire and—after extensive research—we decided on Las Terrenas in the Dominican Republic. It has everything we were looking for.
Picture waking up to the sound of the Pacific Ocean crashing against the rocks outside, the sun bursting through your windows, warming your skin, and the fresh, clean, salt air filling your lungs as you step onto your balcony to survey the scene below.
Mexico is set to become a developed country. Right now, this “investors’ darling” is entering the end game of decades of change, which will culminate in a fast-paced “convergence” with its powerhouse neighbor to the north. The idea of convergence is a simple one. Over time, forces will reduce great disparities.
Do you like the idea of a life at sea…but only in short doses? Sunset cruises, fishing excursions, day trips, and the occasional long weekend jaunts to anchor off a remote island…? The ocean can be your playground.
When I’m back visiting the U.S. and tell people I live in Costa Rica…I already know the picture they have in their mind. It’s a shoreline. First, the brilliant blue water…a strip of sand unmarred by footprints…a fringe of palm trees…then a rain forest with towering trees and lush vegetation alive with toucans and capuchin monkeys…and finally jagged green-covered mountains looming behind it all.
“What are you doing tomorrow?” That’s how the best weekends start in Panama. Last-minute invitations are never considered rude. And I’ve learned they should always be accepted…especially if you want to explore the country. So the next thing I knew, I was piling into a pickup truck with two local friends and heading to the little mountain town of Cerro Azul.
Whether it’s for a summer or a lifetime, Italy isn’t only for the wealthy. I first got hooked on la dolce vita when I was young and had very little cash to spare. But as I was in love with the vagabond lifestyle, relative impoverishment was no barrier to doing my own version of a Grand Tour.
In Tulum, Mexico, you’ll find some of the world’s finest white powder beaches… They’re backed by palm trees that rustle in the Caribbean breezes… It’s a special place to spend time. You can kayak on a white-bottomed lagoon…or stroll along picture-perfect beaches to your yoga class before breakfast. You can visit ancient Maya ruins or swim in a cenote.
Nancy’s dream is a simple one. She wants to live by the beach. She approached me at an IL conference, concerned that she couldn’t afford her dream lifestyle on her small budget. She’s had it with the freezing winters back home, she told me. She’s done with shoveling snow and scraping windshields and worrying about heating bills. She’ll wave goodbye to winter by moving overseas.
The Southern Zone, for me, is the nicest part of Costa Rica’s Pacific coast—it’s largely unspoiled because for a long time, it was difficult to get to. That’s why prices stayed low here while values went through the roof up north. Previously, it was about a nine-hour drive from the capital San Jose to the Southern Zone.
Last December, when “The Economist” announced its “country of the year” for the first time, Uruguay was the country that took that spot. It was chosen on the basis that it has been a trailblazer at enacting policies that not only benefit its citizens but humanity as a whole. It’s a great place to keep you—and/or some assets—in times good and bad.
To me, there’s something almost magical about the beach. From the peaceful sounds of the surf breaking against the shore to the squawking of the gulls high above, it conjures up visions of simpler times when the only worry in the world was whether or not the water would wash away our sand castle.
Whenever my husband and I have guests who visit us, we make sure to take them to the highland town of Volcan, in the Chiriqui Province in western Panama. Named for Baru Volcano, the only volcano and the highest peak in Panama—reaching 11,480 feet—Volcan is a pleasure to travel to. The drive from our home in the city of David involves driving past some stunning scenery.
I have never felt spring emerge the way I have in Aix-en-Provence. In April’s infancy, the plane trees were ghostly bare and the shoppers at the outdoor markets were still bowing to the wind, heads down and tucked into their beautiful French scarves.
Thailand easily ranks as one of Southeast Asia’s most liveable countries. From modern amenities and top-notch medical care to affordable costs and a year-round tropical climate, expats in “the land of smiles” enjoy a lifestyle they’d only dream about back in their home countries.
You’re buying property in Sihanoukville? Are you crazy?” I lost count of how many times I heard those words when I decided to move to this Cambodian beach town. To my friends back home, Sihanoukville was a little-known backwater in a dangerous and unstable country. I shared their feelings until—on a whim of curiosity—I took a side trip there while traveling in Asia. I intended to spend just a few days there before moving on to Thailand.
There’s no question…Barcelona is fabulous. A mild Mediterranean climate; attractive urban beaches; a vibrant cultural scene; lively street ambience; great shopping; and some of the best food in Spain…Barcelona has it all. But—while Barcelona is a great place to visit—not everyone wants to live in a major metropolis. If you like what Barcelona offers but prefer day-to-day life on a smaller, more intimate scale, you have options here.
What if you were sitting in the shade of a palm tree looking out at coral white sands on a tropical island? Yesterday, you were learning to paddleboard from a hidden cove, and tomorrow you’ll explore surfing spots farther up the mainland coast. Tonight you’ll choose from French cuisine, Italian pasta, or feast on fresh-caught tuna while watching the game at Smileys bar.
In many ways, Costa Rica is the “veteran” among Central-American retirement destinations. North Americans and Europeans have been flocking to this little country for more than 30 years, attracted by the tropical climate; low cost of living; top-notch, affordable medical care; bargain real estate; and natural beauty.
Malta is a safe place to put your real estate dollars. During the last six years of economic crisis this stable and peaceful haven was left untouched. That comes as no surprise to the international business community that knows this Mediterranean island nation well. For the past five centuries, Malta has managed to negotiate its way out of troubles that have crushed empires.
In the popular imagination, it’s the great capitals of Europe that get the most attention. Tourists flock to Paris, Rome, Madrid, and London for the big-city flair, museums, and monuments. It’s the thing to do. And granted, you should seize any opportunity to stroll the Champs-Élysées on a beautiful spring evening or explore London’s international cuisine and regal parks.
“Gascony’s the real France,” Jean-Jacques said. “Everywhere else—it’s another country.” Jean-Jacques, a local farmer, was leaning from his tractor—behind him, a bright field of sunflowers and the 18th century farmhouse my parents call home. His sun-beaten face squinted down at me. “Gascony is the hidden jewel of France—it’s our best kept secret.”
We discovered our colonial highland home by accident. We were on a year’s sabbatical, exploring the popular expat haven of San Miguel de Allende, when a couple we knew invited us to join them on a day trip to the nearby town of Guanajuato. We climbed the steps from the underground parking lot to a view of lively plazas, colonial-style buildings in bright orange and turquoise, and plentiful pedestrian areas. After an hour’s stroll, we knew this was where we wanted to base ourselves in Mexico. After that first visit in 1999, we kept returning.
There’s no shortage of natural beauty in northern Thailand. There are dozens of rivers like the Mae Ping, which originates in the forest-clad Daen Lao mountain range and flows down through the temple-laden city of Chiang Mai. Waterfalls gush into fertile valleys like Mae Sa, where you’ll find elephant camps, orchid farms, and miles of lush jungle. This is a peaceful—some might say serene—part of the country, where for very little money you can enjoy a high level of comfort. With just $1,200 a month a couple won’t want for much, and that includes rent.
Of all the places I’ve visited in Costa Rica, the Nicoya Peninsula is the one that feels most like the frontier. It’s a somewhat isolated region, with mile after mile of untouched coastline along the blue Pacific, craggy hills, vast cattle farms in the interior, and mazes of what are often dirt roads running through forests and fields. It’s also one of the world’s Blue Zones, where researchers have found that locals live longer on average due to a combination of diet, climate, and lifestyle.
When moving abroad, renting a place to stay is an attractive option that offers a lot of advantages, whether you’re headed to Costa Rica, Malaysia, France, Mexico, Ecuador, Ireland…or any country. If you plan to buy or build a home eventually, renting allows you to investigate a region and/or community…or several…before you put down roots. You don’t want to be stuck in a neighborhood, region, or home you don’t like.
Are you dreaming of a California lifestyle…but think that you’re unable to afford it? If so, you’ll want to consider Coronado, Panama. Just an hour’s drive from the only First-World city in Central America, at first glance you might notice that Coronado isn’t the cheapest retirement choice in the world…or even in Panama. A couple would want a total of $2,000 to $3,000 a month to live comfortably within the Coronado gates (including rent). Monthly rentals can be found for $1,000 to $2,000, and homes sell for $175,000 to $300,000…
If you want to increase your future returns while reducing your risk, you should add some emerging-market stocks to your portfolio. It may surprise you that adding riskier, emerging-market assets to a portfolio will reduce overall risk, but it shouldn’t. These markets do not move in lockstep with the U.S. market, which hit a series of all-time highs in the fourth quarter of 2013.