Go Stake Your Claim

Going International

Jan 20, 2000
Outside Magazine

No Irish luck required: the green coast of the Emerald Isle

There are hundreds of reasons why Americans become temporary expatriates: wanderlust, job transfers, and prior convictions, to name a few. But the larger, better reason, we think, is to settle into and harmonize with a different culture and landscape, maybe learn a new language, grab a fresh perspective on life.

If you're with us on this, consider starting your search on International Living's Web site (www.internationalliving.com) or on EscapeArtist.com (www.escapeartist.com); both offer real estate leads worldwide. After you zero in on a locale, "Get title insurance," says Lief Simon, a real estate consultant with International Living. "It's cheap peace of mind." More tips? "The asking price in most countries is just that: asking price. There is no way to legitimately and easily, except by hearsay, find out what the person next to you paid. So don't be afraid to offer as little as 50 percent."
Here are a few prime overseas precincts where, at the moment, the Yankee dollar goes long.

NEW ZEALAND: This perennial sweetheart of globetrotters' "Favorite Destination" polls has endured a double financial whammy: Its currency and the underpinning of its economy (timber, wool, mutton) have sunk like anchors. This means that prime slices of its Middle Earth landscapes—ranging from tropical bay islands and aquamarine glacial rivers to snowcapped Southern Alps and mock-Irish farmlands—often come on the block at nostalgic prices. One recent example: a prim two-bedroom cottage on Great Barrier Island, near Auckland, with solar panels, diesel and wind generators, and panoramic views of Hauraki Gulf, just minutes from the beach, all for a modest $98,000.

IRELAND: Expect no bargains in and around Dublin, but in the more remote regions—County Sligo, in the less-developed western part of the country, and County Roscommon in the northwest—you can still find old stone farm cottages (in need of TLC) on three-acre parcels for less than $50,000. Both areas boast rolling hills, glacial valleys, deep glens, rushing trout-filled rivers, and enough shades of green to exhaust your supply of adjectives in no time. Bonus: Irish residential land incurs no property tax.

OUT ISLANDS OF THE BAHAMAS: Turquoise bathwater coves, sugar beaches kissed by trade winds, kaleidoscopic reef fish, and pastel villages are a given on these 700-odd outposts, sprinkled over 100,000 square miles of the Atlantic and a mere hour-long flight from Fort Lauderdale. Now factor in an English-speaking population and beach frontage for perhaps a tenth of the going rate in Nassau or Freeport. On Cat Island or Long Island, half-acre ocean-view tracts sometimes list for $50,000. Two provisos: Transfer taxes and fees can add as much as 15 percent to land prices, and the cost of living is, to put it politely, Caribbean.

FRANCE: The upshot of rural France's youth migrating to cities is a sinking real estate market in the countryside, and such tantalizing recent offerings as these: a ramshackle 1700s stone two-bedroom on nearly an acre in the Charente region of southwestern France, with exposed beams, fireplace, and barn, for $47,000; four-bedrooms of the same ilk in the Auvergne, in the Massif Central (densely wooded, braided by rivers, and home to the country's largest natural park), in the $60,000 range; and a stone-and-slate one-bedroom cottage with garden in Brittany, ten minutes from the beach and two hours from Paris, for $20,000.

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