My Four-Year Search For My Dream Retirement Home Overseas Led Me To This Beach…
“Super-cheap beachfront,” says new Brazil Correspondent Will Davis. “That’s what attracted me to Brazil at first. That and the super-low cost of living.
“When my wife Eileen and I first left the States, we settled in Cuenca, Ecuador. We enjoyed Cuenca, but, frankly, this colonial city wasn’t our dream. Our fantasy retirement involved a home at the beach. I spent four years, therefore, scouting the beaches of Latin America in search of a beach house available for an affordable cost. It was on the island of Itamaracá, about an hour from the city of Recife on Brazil’s northeast coast, that I finally found what I’d been looking for.
“Now my wife and I are the proud owners of a 2,000-square-foot, three-bedroom house. It has good living space and a little winter garden on the roof, and the bedrooms have been built in such a way that they all have great views to the ocean. But perhaps the best part is this: We bought the property (the land and the house) for the equivalent of about US$60,000.
“Right now, you could get an acre of beachfront land (on which to build your own dream home) for maybe 180,000 to 200,000 reals (around US$100,000 to US$110,000 at today’s rate of exchange). I can’t think of anywhere else in the world where you could buy a slice of beachfront at that price…and actually want to live there. I speak from experience. More than a house at the beach, here in Brazil, we’ve invested in a dream house at the beach that has brought us our dream lifestyle, too.
“What surprises me most about Brazil is how neglected it is by North Americans. Europeans are coming to this country’s northeast region for vacations and part- or full-time living. On Itamaracá, for example, there are maybe 45 British families in residence, but only 4 or 5 American families.
“I think a lot of this has to do with the living options here. We Americans are more accustomed to the protection and the amenities of a gated community. In Brazil, that option really doesn’t exist. You have to get out and live among the locals. Gated communities likely will come in time. But, for me, the fact that my neighbors aren’t gringos is part of the attraction.
“A lot of people, I think, are put off Brazil by the language. For some reason, Portuguese has a reputation of being more difficult to learn than Spanish. I’ve had to learn both, and I can honestly say that the learning curve is the
“Another big attraction of this country for me is how far removed it is from what I was used to back home. This is the Third World, meaning the experience of living here is completely different from living in the more developed world. In Brazil, there’s no mistaking that feeling of other-worldliness.
“Of course, ‘other-worldliness’ has its downsides. Getting things done, for instance, can be painfully slow. I was frustrated when I had to get my driver’s license translated into Portuguese. After paying a translator to do the job, the local police would certify it for only six months. (I was tempted to ask when the language was scheduled to change.) I’m not looking forward to going through the process again. But you get used to these little ‘quirks’…to gritting your teeth and dealing with the red tape.
“And, in fact, in many ways, Brazil is ahead of other Latin American countries. I’ve had friends in Nicaragua complain about the common power outages and the unreliable Internet connectivity there. Eileen and I have been living full-time in Brazil for three months now, and we haven’t lost our electricity once. Nor can I moan about connectivity issues. Last week, I had an hour-long call, via Skype, with a business contact in Europe. We had a clear line for the duration of our call and didn’t get cut off once.
“Whatever frustrations we’ve experienced during our time here so far are easier to put into perspective when we remind ourselves of the low cost of living we’re enjoying. We eat out regularly at one of the local restaurants by the beach. For less than US$25, we enjoy a grilled shrimp dinner, including salads, dessert, and drinks. The downside is that the two-dozen or so restaurants on the island, serve pretty much the same menu. If you want diversity, you’ll need to cook at home–or escape to one of the mainland cities for a weekend.
“This is part of the reason that we’ve decided to live in Brazil just four months of the year. The rest of the year, you’ll find us in Punta del Este, Uruguay. We prefer Punta’s amenities but could never afford a beachfront home at this world-class resort. Plus, the Uruguayan winter is a little too cool for me. Brazil makes the perfect complement. Here on Itamaracá, I don’t own a coat, and I can swim in warm water year-round.
“We’ve chosen to settle on Itamaracá, but my favorite city in northeast Brazil is actually Fortaleza. The city has lots going for it–far more amenities and dining-out options than anywhere else on this stretch of coast. The problem with Fortaleza right now is limited inventory. And prices, while affordable, are higher than what I’ve found on Itamaracá.
“For my US$60,000, I might have bought a 700-square-foot condo in Fortaleza, for example, which wouldn’t have been as comfortable for long stays.
“A condo in Fortaleza, on the other hand, is an ideal vacation home rental…”
More on this tomorrow.