New Rules of Real Estate 2007

4 smart housing plays

From snapping up condos on the cheap to tapping the social networking craze to find the best deals, there are ways to work the housing slump to your - and your bank account's - advantage.

Go bargain-hunting abroad
Globespotter: Laclau is creating a database of properties around the world.
Strategy 2:
Go bargain-hunting abroad
Forget that dreamy Tuscan villa or that idyllic goat farm in Spain. If you want to make money investing in real estate abroad, you need to be trolling for property in places like Bulgaria, Romania, and Tunisia. Think of them as neighborhoods on the upswing, without the Starbucks.

Even with the weak dollar and the credit crunch, opportunities exist in places where the Michelin Guide is mostly thought to be a manual for installing tires. The hard part is getting leads, especially if you're stuck in an office Stateside. That's where online real estate listing service Properazzi comes in.

Founded in 2006 by Yannick Laclau, Barcelona-based Properazzi boasts listings for 4 million properties in 49 countries, wrapped up in an easy-to-use Web 2.0 interface. For finding a flat in Cairo or a castle on the Black Sea, it's hard to beat.

You can search for properties either by naming a locale and then drilling down by number of bedrooms and amenities or by moving a ball over a Google map and calling up properties for sale by region. Set your language and the currency you prefer, and you're good to go. Properazzi gets its listings directly from real estate agents and by crawling more than 10,000 property sites throughout Europe and North Africa.

Europe has never had a multinational multiple listing service, but in some ways that's what Properazzi has become. Europeans will talk all day about sex, Laclau says, "but they won't tell you what they paid for a house; that is taboo. We're taking a step toward transparency in a market that is shrouded in mystery."

The service offers a glimpse into markets like North Africa that most Americans typically ignore but that enterprising Europeans are targeting because they're undervalued. Laclau plans to next turn his Web crawlers toward the United States and Central America and build a global database of properties for serious investors or wannabe expats. "What you want to be able to do is find that place before everyone else does," he says. "The place that everyone knows about 10 years from now, but that you got in early."

Be a carnivore

Go abroad


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