By Lindsay Spratt, Sub Editor
RIO DE JANEIRO – The coastal city of Xangri-lá in Rio Grande do Sul was inaugurated in 1992. On the municipal website, reference is given to the origin of its name in a novel by James Hilton as defining “a happy place, where life grows among love and wisdom”.
If it sounds to you like the right place for a holiday home, then you are not the first to think so. Real estate on the Gaúcho coast is booming, especially around the biggest city Torres, where Xangri-lá is located.
It is not difficult to see why Rio Grande do Sul makes a good choice for the prospective investor. The most southern state in Brazil, it has the country’s highest standard of living, along with an excellent infrastructure and services. It is an area with a strong cultural identity, stemming from the historic influx of European immigrants to the region in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries and is famous for its churrascos (barbecues), eco-tourism, fashion and supermodels.
The climate is the most temperate in all of Brazil, with a short, cold winter from July to September. The market has been rather overlooked by foreign tourists and investors perhaps for this reason, who are more attracted to the tropical states of Rio de Janeiro and Bahía. But as it becomes more difficult to find a bargain on these stretches of coast, Rio Grande do Sul offers a perfect alternative.
Due to the lack of beaches in the state capital, Porto Alegre, Gaúchos flock to resorts such as Torres and Xangri-lá, contributing to the rapid development and expansion of these cities. Argentinians and Uruguayans also enjoy holidaying in the area.
The biggest city on the coast is Torres, located 197 kilometers from Porto Alegre and only a few kilometers from the border with Santa Caterina. The waves at Ilha dos Lobos (Island of the Wolves) in Torres are considered some of the best for surfing in all of Brazil, reaching heights of three meters.
The city is also a mecca for extreme sports such as kite-surfing, wind-surfing, jet-skiing and hang-gliding and was awarded the title of ‘Brazilian city of hot-air ballooning’ in 1989 for its festival held every summer. The mountains further inland also offer opportunities for camping, hiking and eco-tourism.
Properties are available from Torres Imóveis, where a one-bedroom apartment just five blocks from the beach costs R$70,000 and a two-bedroom rural house with garden is just R$35,000.
Higher-end properties include unfinished apartments in a condominium in the city center. Each property has two or three bedrooms with en-suites, a balcony with view of the mountains and coast and a barbecue area, and prices start at R$190,000. For those wishing to start from scratch, there are plots of land available from R$32,000.
Capão da Canoa is smaller than Torres and 132 kilometers from Porto Alegre, with a population growth of almost two percent per year. From Imóveis Capão, a fully-furnished one-bedroom apartment costs R$65,000 and a two-bedroom apartment with a sea view is on the market for R$140,000. Luxury properties meters from the ocean are available with three bedrooms from R$350,000.
Xangri-lá is one of the newest resorts on the coast and is growing quickly. Somar Imóveis offers a selection of 25 brand-new condominiums for summer 2010 with prices available upon request.
Properties are well priced in the city, with a two-bedroom beachfront apartment for R$152,000 and a three-bedroom two-story house with two living spaces, barbecue area, games room and garage for R$452,000. At the luxury end of the market is a beachfront house of 590 square meters with five bedrooms, two living rooms, jacuzzi and view of the sea and mountains for R$2.5 Million from Praia RS.