Zillow surfing, or endlessly scrolling through real estate listings in far-flung destinations, has become an escapist obsession particularly suited to pandemic life. As remote work opportunities expand and priorities shift, many wine lovers are pondering an eternal question anew: Can I move to wine country?
While a slew of wealthy entrepreneurs and retired hobbyists have bought wine country estates in prime locations around the world, for some buyers, a home close to vineyards in a wine region they love is good enough—and far more practical.
Let’s say you have $500,000 to spend on real estate. What would that buy you in wine regions around the world?
Napa Valley, California
Buying a home in an esteemed wine region in America’s most expensive state leads to some obvious conclusions. Namely, don’t expect your money to go far.
Napa Valley has long been among the most desirable wine regions in the U.S., not just for its pricey Cabernet Sauvignon vineyards, but for second homes. Proximity to San Francisco and Silicon Valley has only pushed the market higher.
“Napa continues to be a highly desirable place for many, both primary and secondary homeowners,” says Elizabeth Olcott, a broker associate who runs her own group in Keller Williams Napa Valley. She says that St. Helena and downtown Napa are the most popular and priciest areas.
“No matter how you look at it, we continue to have very low inventory” throughout the region, she says. Listings in the $500,000 range, which is considered modest in this market, are especially competitive.
In Napa, townhomes start at around $500,000—with caveats. “It won’t be very special, and it will be lacking amenities and large spaces for relaxing,” says Olcott. For example, this recent listing in Napa asked $475,000 for approximately 1,200 square feet. Of course, it was snapped up less than a month after hitting the market.
However, for second or vacation home buyers, a few options exist. Pacaso, a co-ownership second home company, has helped expand inventory by selling one home to up to eight owners—at an attractive price point.
Real estate shares are another option. In St. Helena, less than $450,000 will get you an eighth share of a $3 million fully renovated three bedroom, two bathroom home with additional one bed, one bath accessory dwelling unit (ADU). The co-ownership arrangement differs from a traditional timeshare in several ways. The most important distinction: Pacaso sells co-ownership of a real estate property asset; time shares sell allotments of usage of a hotel room or condo that’s owned by a third party, usually the developer.
Bordeaux’s residential property prices aren’t quite as high as in Napa Valley but, when the pandemic hit and remote work expanded, French and international buyers started to seek wide open spaces in the bucolic Bordelais countryside.
According to Priscilla Gimeno, an agent with Bordeaux Beyond, the hottest markets are in the Libournais, which includes SaintÉmilion and Pomerol, while the region of Entre-Deux-Mers offers good value for homes (and, coincidentally, for wines).
With $500,000 to invest, Gimeno recommends looking in the countryside within an hour drive from Bordeaux city. “Depending, of course, on individual needs, the best investment option today is a property that gives you a primary or secondary home, with either the possibility to renovate and update, as well as expand into the property or even create a business,” she says.
It can be difficult for international buyers to get financing from French banks, she says, so plan to have cash ready for purchase.
“Once a property is purchased, owners will need a bank account to pay utility bills and, of course, property insurance,” she says. “We also advise non-European buyers to verify if they need a visa for long term stays, and to check their access to health insurance and their ability to work in France, if they need to.”
This 2,420-square-foot, semi-detached classic stone house in Pomerol listed for $509,000 has four bedrooms, three baths, an elegant stone spiral staircase, terrace, fenced yard with room for a pool and a private garage. While your neighbors grow and make Merlot, you can kick back in your new lounge and drink it.
Have you dreamed of gazing at the snow-capped Andes through your kitchen window? Or vineyards of Malbec grapes just beyond your front door? If so, Mendoza, Argentina might be right for you. Plus, compared to high-stakes real estate markets in Napa and other international regions, home ownership in Argentine wine country is more accessible.
Michael Evans, CEO and founder of The Vines, says that prices for real estate in Mendoza have dropped 10–30% over the last two years. “Due to the impact of the pandemic and the significantly devalued Argentine Peso, U.S. dollars go a long way in Mendoza, both for existing and new construction,” he says.
Pablo Goldemberg, Vines’ director of sales in Latin America, says residential building is booming due to low construction prices, ideal for those seeking investment properties. “Most of the movement is in gated and planned communities in Vistalba, Maipú, Chacras and the Uco Valley,” says Goldemberg
In addition to local buyers, Goldemberg has clients from Buenos Aires, the United States and Brazil looking at Mendoza for second homes and post-Covid escapes “given the warmth, outdoor living and open spaces.”
With $500,000, buyers have a few options. Goldemberg suggests that those looking for a permanent address or families with school-age children consider Chacras de Coria’s gated communities like Vistalba. “It’s a hot market for people looking for a semiurban place that’s close to downtown, the airport, and has infrastructure as well as an old town feeling amidst the vineyards and wineries” says Goldemberg.
Those seeking a rural experience, however, can also purchase or build within the Uco Valley.
“It’s growing like crazy,” says Evans. “For $500,000 you could build a custom home or even purchase a villa at The Vines Resort & Spa.” The latter starts at $400,000 for a one-bedroom, 1,000-square-foot residence with natural stonework, a kitchenette and a private deck overlooking a garden. Famous Argentine chef Francis Mallmann has a restaurant on resort grounds.
And if you decide to buy an entire vineyard, The Vines sells those, too.
Annien Borg, managing director of Pam Golding Properties in the Boland and Overberg, South Africa, has watched demand grow throughout the Cape Winelands over the last two years. She’s noticed international buyers are especially interested in the towns of Stellenbosch, Franschhoek, Paarl, Somerset West and Wellington.
With the current strength of the dollar against the rand, South Africa is one of the more affordable wine regions for U.S. buyers, she says.
With the current strength of the dollar against the rand, South Africa is one of the more affordable wine regions for U.S. buyers.
In Franschhoek, along the banks of the Berg River, homes in residential developments like Val de Vie start at $330,000 including value-added tax (VAT) for 2,100 square feet with three bedrooms, two bathrooms and two garages. “Homes like those in Val de Vie are contemporary and comfortable and take advantage of the surrounding views,” says Borg.
In Wellington, a Cape Winelands town approximately 45 minutes by car from Cape Town, there’s been an “influx of buyers,” says Borg, including young professionals and first-time homeowners. This contemporary property with five bedrooms, five bathrooms, indoor-outdoor space with a private pool and mountain views lists for $430,205. It’s located within the Diemersfontein Wine and Country Estate, a functional vineyard and farm with its own school, coffee shop and restaurant.
Borg says the residential property market in Somerset West offers “huge value for money.” Residents enjoy the small-town community, big city convenience, and attractions of the Cape Winelands, with schools and proximity to Stellenbosch University. Listed for $247,291, this three-bedroom, three-and-a-half-bathroom residence in the Croydon Olive Estate has a two-car garage, open-plan kitchen, garden, patio and of course, area for a braai, South Africa’s version of barbecue.
Stellenbosch continues to be a good buy, says Borg, showing “resilience” to price fluctuations while “offering the best of both worlds—country living close to the city and all its amenities.” Prices for family-sized homes range from $450,000–$550,000.
Similarly, the town of Hermanus, situated on the Whale Coast near the Hemel-en-Aarde Valley, attracts both young families and retirees. There, buyers can find “well-run, secure estates,” like the Hemel-en-Aarde and Fernkloof Golf Estates, says Borg, as well as homes with sea or mountain views. A modern three- or four-bedroom home on a spacious lot in Hemel-en-Aarde Estate starts at $315,000. This community includes 24-hour security, a clubhouse and swimming pool.
Barossa Valley, Australia
Barossa’s beautiful countryside sits close to beaches, farmers markets and the buzzy city of Adelaide. Sara La Nauze, sales consultant for Marx Real Estate, says the area’s real estate market has been “running hot” ever since the start of the pandemic, “with no sign of slowing down.”
In the main townships within Tanunda, Angaston and Nuriootpa, prices have “exceeded expectations,” she says. “Normally, time on the market averaged around three to four months,” but these days, homes are selling from “two weeks, two days, even two hours.” Some homeowners host a single open house before accepting an offer.
Despite the frenzied market, La Nauze says a budget of $500,000 still affords a nice range of options. For example, this bungalow in Angaston has two bedrooms, two bathrooms and a two-car garage and a modern renovation that honored the 1935 home’s original stonework. It was listed for $375,000, went under contract days later, and sold for $442,575 or $67,575 over the asking price.
Also in Angaston, this three-bedroom, one-bathroom stone villa built in 1910 was snapped up in a few days. Listed for $316,205 dollars, the home had original hardwood floors, a modern open kitchen, recently renovated bathrooms, a spacious yard and a picturesque location across from Yalumba winery.
For those eager to buy in Barossa, La Nauze says to be ready to go, preferably with cash.
Italy’s largest island, Sicily sits southwest of the boot’s toe in the Mediterranean Sea. The island’s culture and diverse landscapes, from mountains to beaches to vineyards, make it an endlessly fascinating place to visit—or live.
Diletta Giorgolo, Head of Residential Italy at Italy Sotheby’s International Realty, says the firm responded to increased interest in Sicily during the pandemic by opening an office in Noto, a Baroque city in Southeastern Sicily.
“We’ve seen interest from international buyers throughout the coastal areas, however the most successful subregion is the Val di Noto in southeast Sicily,” says Giorgolo, citing cities like Noto, Ortigia, Scicli, Modica, Ragusa Ibla and Palazzolo Acreide. The area accesses the Ionian Sea, late Baroque UNESCO World Heritage sites and flight connections from nearby Catania airport.
Girgolo believes $500,000 is a healthy budget for buying an apartment with a terrace or garden in Noto’s old town, or a small countryside home. If you have a little wiggle room in your budget, this 2,400-square-foot Noto apartment is listed at $559,000. It has four bedrooms, one bathroom and a 540-square-foot terrace overlooking the dome of the Crucifix. Each room features a cast iron balcony.
Alternatively, in the hamlet of San Lorenzo, $485,760 affords this 1,075-square-foot, two-bedroom, one-bathroom villa. The new construction property has a pool, garden and terrace overlooking the Mediterranean.
Also in San Lorenzo, this two-bedroom, two-bathroom farmhouse spans nearly 4,000 square feet and has millstone dating back to the 19th century. It features a palmento, or a building with a large vat used to produce wine in antiquity. In the surrounding half-acre orchard, owners can pick fruit from the pear, lemon and mandarin trees. The home sits in the heart of the Vendicari Reserve, a little more than a mile from San Lorenzo beach and the village of Marzamemi.
Unlike some parts of the world, American buyers aren’t treated differently from Italians, says Girgolo. Sotheby’s bilingual agents assist throughout the process and can provide bilingual notaries, lawyers, and recommend renovation companies for those buyers brave enough to restore a historic home.