By Laura Henderson
Published: September 24 2010 23:29 | Last updated: September 24 2010 23:29
The Arelauquen Country Club is at the heart of a region luring skiers and second-home buyers
Fresh mountain air with a five-star edge has been San Carlos de Bariloche’s guiding motto since the 1930s, when the international jet set first descended on the Argentinian ski resort. Now, six decades on, with an $8m (£5m) improvement plan nearing completion, this elite mountain getaway is attracting a fresh influx of seasoned skiers and second-home owners. The prospect of pristine slopes from July to October is an undeniable attraction, particularly for foreigners but, as Peter Haller of estate agency Maison Buenos Aires points out, it’s not just about the snow.
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“Bariloche and surrounding lake-and-mountain resorts are open for business all year round,” he says. “Pursuits like hiking, riding and white water rafting are leisure staples, along with more sedate pastimes such as boating and fly fishing. Wealthy Argentines already enjoy Patagonia’s wild open spaces. Now Americans, Brazilians and Europeans are gaining a foothold, lured by favourable prices – upscale homes on a par with those found in Aspen or Whistler for 50-60 per cent less – a tax-light regime and a buoyant rentals market.”
The country’s economic history has also helped shield it from the worst of the recession, according to local property agent Keen Van Ditmar. “Argentines got badly burnt during the country’s financial collapse in 2001. Ironically, this has made it one of the safest places to invest,” he says. “Historically near non-existent, mortgages are still rare – so the risk of a local real estate bubble is low. Property is also valued in US dollars, which insulates it from the inflation in the peso. Long term, a culture of mortgage-backed buying is on the cards with inevitable upward price pressure. Until then, however, it’s a good time to exploit under-value opportunities.”
Hanging off the southern lip of Nahuel Huapi Lake, Bariloche’s chalets bear a resemblance to the getaways of the Alps, and with good reason: Germans, Swiss and Austrians were among the first to settle in the area during the 19th century. Tree-lined runs and off-piste trails cater to all levels and the Arelauquen Country Club, just 20 minutes from Bariloche centre, has an 18-hole golf course, polo field and tennis centre.
“Property prices have risen by 40 per cent in the past three years,” says Haller. “Chalets of 1,600sq ft sell for around £200,000. Lock-up-and-leave apartments with direct access to the slopes can be picked up for as little as £80,000.” Most in demand are ski-in, ski-out chalets with Shaker-style decor and log fires.
The resort has a selection of two-bedroom apartments from $170,000 with vaulted ceiling open-plan interiors and wraparound balconies. Larger two-storey villas for $450,000 have exposed beams, under-floor heating and picture windows. All have spectacular views of the golf course, Lake Gutiérrez and mountains.
Josh Herlihy, a company director from London, bought his five-bedroom stone-and-wood retreat overlooking the golf course in 2007. “It’s a sports paradise here,” he says. “I spend at least four weeks of the year here with friends and family and we’re never short of things to do.” Herlihy rents his property for several months of the year – netting about $2,300 a week from July to September, which comfortably covers running costs. Flight options are also improving. BA operates a red-eye service from the UK to Buenos Aires, which takes 13 hours (flights from New York take 11 hours). From there, it’s just a 50-minute hopper flight to Bariloche airport. Time it right and you can be on the slopes by noon.
A property overlooking Nahuel Huapi Lake
Buyers drawn to a secluded waterfront bolt-hole will find plenty of choice along Avenida Bustillo. This scenic corridor of seven lakes, which connects Bariloche with the resort of San Martín de los Andes 150kms north, has seen a proliferation of million-dollar lakeside homes, rebuilt historic lodges (estancias) and chalets entering the mix, many around the hamlet of Villa La Angostura.
“Construction in Angostura is controlled by a strict architectural code which keeps it niche and exclusive,” explains María Reynolds of Reynolds Properties. Christie’s Great Estates are marketing a four-bedroom home in Villa La Angostura for $2.3m comprising a main house, three guesthouses and separate staff quarters.
Financed by a consortium led by Buenos Aires-based developer Proideas, a revamp will double the 200-hectare piste and off-trail skiing area and see construction of two five-star hotels as well as 1,300 acres of real estate. Phase one, completing by July 2011, will include 48 residences with slope-side access. Prices for a studio start from £120,000, rising to £450,000 for a chalet.
“Change is a necessary lifeline,” says Haller. “Tradition still holds the upper hand – but the resort will soon sport a new look and a cosmopolitan investor base, which will give it a welcome edge.”
ARGENTINA: Buying property
● There are no restrictions on foreign property ownership.
● Property is valued in dollars, which insulates it from peso inflation.
● Most regions including Patagonia are four-season destinations, with plenty to do year round.
● There are no international flights into Bariloche. Access is via Buenos Aires, with a flight time from London of 13 hours (11 hours from New York). Hopper flights from the capital to Bariloche airport take 50 minutes.
● A fledgling mortgage sector means either a cash purchase or a loan in your home country.
● Purchase laws are not the same in each province – buyers need to check if special permits are required.
Arelauquen Golf and Country Club, tel: +54 11 4311 1919, www.arelauquen.com
Maison Buenos Aires Real Estate Advisory, tel: +54 11 4816 1108, www.maisonbuenosaires.com
Cerrobayo Ski Resort, tel: +54 11 5258 4505, www.cerrobayoweb.com
Van Ditmar Patagonia, tel: +54 2944 42 4477, www.van-ditmar.com
Reynolds Properties, tel: +54 2944 461 441, www.reynoldspropriedades.com