Home-buying bargains in exotic locales
With air starting to leak from the U.S. market, savvy speculators are now looking to Europe and South America.
Elizabeth Esfahani, Business 2.0 Magazine

(Business 2.0 Magazine) - Last year, Vladimir Gasic had an enviable problem. The 50-year-old former IT executive made a small fortune flipping a dozen properties in Phoenix's Maricopa and Pinal Counties. But he couldn't figure out where to reinvest his bounty. Trouble was, after a two-year stretch during which Phoenix-area home prices jumped more than 60 percent, Gasic worried about a looming slowdown, and his confidence in the U.S. economy began to sour.

So where does a bubble-wary real estate player turn?

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Gasic thinks he's found the answer--in San Rafael, Argentina. Last November, capitalizing on Argentina's devalued currency, he snapped up 120 acres of farmland for just $140,000. The region's soil and climate are ideal for growing grapes for malbec wine--a Bordeaux varietal that's catching on outside of South America--and Gasic, an aspiring vintner, swears the area is a potential gold mine. "The land would sell for five times as much in Chile," says Gasic, who plans to turn his acreage into an income-generating vineyard within three years.

Gasic's six-figure bet doesn't look so radical, though, when you consider that more and more U.S. dollars are moving into foreign real estate. According to research firm Jones Lang LaSalle, Americans invested $12 billion in foreign commercial real estate ventures last year, almost double the amount spent in 2004. Meanwhile, global cross-border investment hit a record $475 billion in 2005.

What's driving the growth? Investors in many countries where prices have peaked are scouring the globe for better returns, according to Paul Willcox, founder of U.K.-based brokerage Someplace Else. "As their own markets have slowed," he says, "they're betting on locations they wouldn't have imagined a few years ago." Finding property abroad is also easier now because of the Web, where buyers can skim listings and contact sellers instantly.

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