New York, sung about by Frank Sinatra, chronicled by Carrie Bradshaw and trampled by King Kong, is not the only city capable of captivating the un- encumbered and adventurous. The world is dappled with electric and stor- ied cities, and real estate is staggeringly affordable in many of them.
“There is so much value in a lot of foreign countries,” said Nigel Leck, an international property expert on the BBC-TV program “Uncharted Territo- ry.” “The capital growth will be very, very good.”
Entrepreneurial types should seize the moment in Eastern Europe, where cities like Budapest, Prague and Krakow, Poland, are in need of basic services and programs to propel them into the future. Those who want to be certain of a transparent market and the protection of property rights – but want more bang for their buck – should consider Toronto, Montreal and Quebec.
Sun-seekers looking to live and in- vest in a more tropical climate may want to migrate to one of the many flourishing cities in Latin America.
Young executives who want to posi- tion themselves for the next decade can get deals in Shanghai, even though the market there has been somewhat vola- tile of late, while romantics can em- brace a piece of Paris for less than they may have thought.
Information about ownership laws in 24 countries can be found on World- Properties.com. Click on “Country Info,” then “Business Practices.” Select a country from the drop-down menu. Where it reads “Select Business Prac- tice,” choose “Foreign Ownership.” Any restrictions should be listed.
In Mexico, for example, Article 27 of the Mexican Constitution of 1917 pro- hibits foreigners from owning residen- tial real estate within 48 kilometers, or 30 miles, of any coastline or 96 kilome- ters of the borders.
“As a rule of thumb, countries that were former British colonies have few, if any, restrictions, whereas many other countries restrict and require you to get a special permit to buy,” David Michon- ski, chief executive of Coldwell Banker Hunt Kennedy and an international real estate specialist, wrote in an e-mail message. “But in resort markets, the countries often make exceptions.”
Renting is a more informal process. “It is always easier to rent in a foreign country than to buy and I know of no restrictions on renting anywhere,” Michonski wrote.
Latin American cities are among the most exciting and affordable, especially Buenos Aires, the sultry, party-until- the-wee-hours city known as the Paris of South America. In 2002, the Argen- tine peso was devalued by the govern- ment, resulting in a currency crash. But four years later the city is recovering.
“This is a city that is getting more ex- pensive because the economy is on the recovery, but it’s still at a fraction of the cost” of property in New York, said Jeff Hornberger, manager of international market development for the National Association of Realtors.
The enclave of the moment is San Telmo, a “young, hip urban scene with a thriving arts community and a strong ex-pat community,” as Hornberger put it. The neighborhood is dotted with res- taurants, bars, boutiques and colonial houses. Property costs $56 to $93 a square foot, Reynolds said. Renting also is affordable. There are furnished studi- os with weekly maid service for $450 a month at www.buenosaireshous- ing.com.ar.
Real estate is more costly, though still reasonable, in Recoleta, an elegant downtown tourist magnet. Prices are about $180 to $300 a square foot, Reyn- olds said.
Lief Simon, the editor of Global Real Estate Investor, a newsletter published by International Living, likes Panama City with its high-rise buildings, restau- rants and some 80 banks. “It’s a first- world city,” he said, and yet two-bed- room apartments can be had for $60,000 to $80,000.
Mexico City is recommended by some property experts, but its crowded streets and polluted air makes others cringe. Hornberger suggested living in Condesa, a chic area that has been likened to New York’s East Village. There are two- and three-bedroom apartments in the neighborhood for about $1,200 to $1,500 a month. Some one-bedrooms in downtown Mexico City are less than $700 a month.
Those who are partial to cooler tem- peratures could head to Canada. “‘It’s a great opportunity for kids today,” Michonski said.
Toronto is the financial headquarters of the country and three of its trendiest neighborhoods – The Beaches, West Queen West and King West Village – are among the most affordable. “It’s a mini-Manhattan, but we’re decades and decades behind in terms of where you are with your price points,” said Mi- chael Kalles, president of Harvey Kalles Real Estate (harveykalles.com) in Toronto.
In Montreal, the “place to be and to be seen” is Plateau Mont-Royal, said Bertin Jacques, a spokesman for Tour- isme Montreal. Property in this area, which is popular with young Canadians because of its cafes, restaurants and nightclubs, is about $220 to $240 a square foot and rentals are about $650 to $1,470 a month, he said.
If Buenos Aires is the Paris of South America, Quebec City is the Paris of North America. It is divided into Haute- Ville, the more expensive upper town, and Basse-Ville, lower town.
Warehouses converted into 750- to 2,000-square-foot apartments are about $170,000 to $390,000, said Richard Seguin, a spokesman for Quebec City Tourism.
Speaking of Paris, the city of Renoir and haute couture is far less expensive than New York and San Francisco, a fact that has escaped many.
“There’s a lot that is still way under- priced because it needs renovation and gentrification,” said Adrian Leeds, who moved from Los Angeles to Paris in 1994 and is the editor of www.parlerpar- is.com, a newsletter about Paris, as well as other Web sites about France, includ- ing French Property Insider (www.frenchpropertyinsider.com).
Those looking for a deal should con- sider arrondissements where the city’s bohemians and “bobos” (bourgeois bo- hemians) flock: the 10th, 18th and 19th.
In the 10th, the areas along the tree- lined Canal St.-Martin are beautiful, but those near the Gare du Nord “can be horrible,” said Yolanda Robins, a prop- erty manager for French Property In- sider who moved from Philadelphia to Paris two years ago. The average price per square foot in the arrondissement is about $530 to $670, she said.
Long-term furnished rentals in those arrondissements are about $320 to $430 a month, according to Leeds. “It doesn’t even come close to London,” she said.
As Hornberger put it: “London is out of reach unless you’ve got a really good trust fund.” Yet some Anglophiles and English majors remain undeterred.
Ryan Benson, director of Dream Properties London, suggested renting in St. John’s Wood. But even there, a 270- square-foot studio on the famous Abbey Road is on the market for about $1,470 a month (at www.foxtons.co.uk). Other areas to search are Maida Vale, West Hampstead and Little Venice, though the pickings are slim. Suburbs like Stanwall and Radlett are less expensive but what is saved in rent is paid for in gasoline or commuting time.
Those doing business in China (Michonski calls it “the land of the fu- ture”) may want to work and buy in Shanghai. Adrienne Farrelly, general manager of Shanghai Properties (shanghaiprops.com), suggested look- ing in People’s Square, nestled among two of the city’s major commercial and retail streets. Nearby is Top of the City, an apartment complex where property is about $350 a square foot and rentals start at around $700 for a 689-square- foot one-bedroom, Farrelly wrote in an e-mail message. “It’s probably the best value in town given that it’s at People’s Square,” she wrote.
Property experts agree, however, that the best values are really in Eastern Europe. There are “huge swaths of land” available for “knockdown prices,” said Leck of “Uncharted Territory.”
“That’s where the opportunities lie,” Simon said, “and that’s where the young person who’s entrepreneurial could make some money.” It costs about a $110 a square foot to buy in Bucharest, he said.
“I think the biggie there in Eastern Europe is Bulgaria,” said Michonski, adding that it has magnificent beaches as well as mountains for skiing and that “you can live like a king on $10,000 a year.”