House Hunting in Brazil: A 19th-Century House on the Coast


This two-story colonial-style house with a courtyard and views of the ocean and mountains is in the historic colonial center of Paraty, one of the best-preserved towns on Brazil’s Costa Verde.

The 6,997-square-foot, four-bedroom house was built between 1860 and 1870 on a lot once owned by Pedro de Alcântara of Orléans-Bragança, second in line to the imperial throne of Brazil. But it had been left to crumble by the mid-20th century, said Guilherme Makansi, the co-owner of Anglo Americana Imóveis, which shares the listing with a local partner, imóvel F.

With government permission, the property was restored in the 1970s by a previous owner with attention to the Portuguese colonial period, Mr. Makansi said. River stone and double-cooked ceramic bricks were used to rebuild it, along with traditional colonial tile and hardwoods from the Brazilian Atlantic forest, such as peroba rosa, ipe and angico.

Six colonial-style balconies were fashioned with wrought-iron filigree and hanging lights, and 24 decorative ceramic and copper pineapples punctuate the home’s exterior. Striking geometric symbols painted blue on the exterior reflect a tradition in Paraty of adorning homes in recognition of the large community of Freemasons residing in the area during colonial times. Exotic doors with curved and pointed frames are from the former Portuguese colony in Macau.

“This restoration process brought back the original characteristics of the colonial period of Brazil,” Mr. Makansi said. “All the furniture in the house is included in the asking price, and these pieces were all bought in antique stores and evoke the Brazilian colonial period.”

The front door, painted bright blue, opens to the living room with stone walls, 15-foot ceilings and heavy ceiling beams. The room has floors of natural polished local river stone and arched windows with decorative muntins and interior shutters painted blue. A large dining room with tall windows overlooking the courtyard is to the right, along with a kitchen with hardwood cabinets painted red and white, and black granite countertops. Other ground-floor rooms include a pantry, office, reading room, sewing room, gym, steam sauna, laundry and workshop.

A stone staircase with a wood banister winds from the living room to the second floor. Three bedrooms have en suite bathrooms, built-in wood cabinets, balconies with interior shutters, and split air-conditioning.

Large doors from the living room lead out to the 1,615-square-foot covered veranda, which is furnished for dining and lounging. The swimming pool is surrounded by São Tomé stone and a grassed area, along with tropical plants.

The house sits on a corner lot of 0.2 acres, surrounded by streets paved with large and uneven cobblestones called “pés-de-moleque.” The center of Paraty is closed to automobile traffic, Mr. Makansi said. The house is about a block from the Atlantic coast, and has a security system with eight cameras.

The coastal town of Paraty, with about 43,000 residents, sits roughly equidistant between Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo, each about four hours away, and is known to tourists as a well-preserved former Portuguese colonial and Brazilian imperial center. It sits in a naturally verdant area bordering the Atlantic Ocean known as the Costa Verde; in 2019 the town was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site for its natural and cultural landscape. The historic center has preserved much of its colonial architecture from the 18th and early 19th centuries.

Paraty is surrounded by numerous protected sections of the Atlantic forest, such as the Serra da Bocaina National Park and the Cairuçu Environmental Protection Area. The closest international airports are Rio de Janeiro-Galeao and Santos Dumont Airport, both about 150 miles east of Paraty, and São Paulo-Guarulhos airport, about 150 miles west.

After facing a severe recession in 2015 and 2016 that dramatically hampered property sales and development activity, Brazil’s housing market began a period of slow recovery, which picked up speed during the global coronavirus pandemic, said Danilo Igliori, the chief economist of ZAP+, which maintains the FipeZAP Index, a main source of real estate information in Brazil.

“Even before the pandemic broke out, we started to see an acceleration of housing activity,” Mr. Igliori said. “Now, the pandemic has produced a huge impact on housing markets on the positive side.”

According to the FipeZAP Index, the average apartment price in 50 Brazilian cities monitored in October was 7,799 reals a square meter ($129 a square foot), which represents a year-to-date increase of 5.18 percent. From about 2016 to the start of the pandemic in March 2020, Brazil saw price growth hovering between 1 percent and -1 percent each year.

While the pandemic has spurred some of the same phenomena seen in other countries — buyers seeking larger properties and moving from city centers to the suburbs or countryside — much of the impetus behind housing sales amid the pandemic is Brazil’s historically low interest rates, which have been a “major booster,” Mr. Igliori said.

As a result, the value of mortgage loans doubled from September 2019 to September 2021, he said. Now interest rates are being hiked again, and that maneuver, combined with growing inflation, which has driven up construction costs, and negative forecasts from economists, may take the wind out of the sails of Brazil’s housing market, Mr. Igliori said.

Still, foreign home buyers are continuing to take advantage of Brazil’s weak currency, said Renata Victorino, a partner director at Bossa Nova Sotheby’s International Realty.

“With the real strongly devalued against the dollar, buying a real estate asset in Brazil can be very attractive,” she said. For that reason, along with the pandemic “the prices of luxury listings have risen significantly, and are not expected to fall.”

Edmond van Wijngaarden, the chief executive and founder of Exclusive Realty Brasil, said that before the pandemic, about 40 percent of second-home buyers in prime locations were foreigners. “After the pandemic,” he said, “only about 20 percent are foreign buyers, but the overall sales volumes have exploded as people are looking to move away from the crowded city centers into the exclusive coastal Brazilian property markets.”

Mr. Wijngaarden said a 5,000-square-foot villa on a 10,000-square-foot lot in a top gated community in one of south Bahía’s beach towns might sell for about $1.5 million. For about $5 million, a buyer can purchase a tropical but contemporary 8,000-square-foot villa on a 100,000-square-foot lot with 300 feet of private beachfront, he said.

While foreigners visit big cities like São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro for business purposes and tend to buy there, there is also a lot of interest in tourist areas, such as the beach regions of Rio de Janeiro, which include Angra dos Reis, Paraty and Búzios, Ms. Victorino said.

International buyers have also shown interest in the northeast of Brazil, such as Trancoso and southern Bahía state, and in southern areas, such as Balneário de Camboriú, she said.

Mike Smith, the director of Brazil Beach House, based in Natal, said his firm has been having a “bumper year” for high-end beach home transactions throughout Brazil, particularly in the states of Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo, Bahía and Rio Grande do Norte.

“The buyers are 50 percent Brazilian and 50 percent international,” he said, with the foreigners being “French, American, Canadian, Middle Eastern, Hungarian, Chinese, Austrian and Swiss.”

Many foreign buyers have some connection to Brazil, Mr. Van Wijngaarden said: “Either they are or were heading a Brazilian operation for an international company and fell in love with the country, or they own a business in Brazil, or they’re married to a Brazilian.”

There are no restrictions on foreigners buying property in Brazil, with some exceptions, such as the purchase of large areas of rural land, Mr. Smith said.

Notaries typically process property transactions, which can cost about 3 or 4 percent of the sale price but can vary from state to state, said Izi Grinberg, an international manager with Bossa Nova Sotheby’s.

About half the foreign clients of Brazil Beach House use a Brazilian lawyer; fees vary from about $2,000 to 5 percent of the transaction value, Mr. Smith said. While homes may typically be listed in Brazilian reals, “buyers pay in foreign currency, and the amount is then converted into Brazilian reals on arrival,” he said.

Closing costs are typically range from about 3 to 5 percent of the home sale price, depending on the state, Mr. Grinberg said

Portuguese; Brazilian real (1 real = $0.18)

Annual property taxes on this home are 8,777 reals ($1,560), Mr. Makansi said.

Guilherme Makansi, Anglo Americana Imóveis, 011-55-11-3887-4555, angloamericana.com.br

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