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?\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\nWhile 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\u2014and far more practical.\u00a0\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\nLet\u2019s say you have $500,000 to spend on real estate. What would that buy you in wine regions around the world?\u00a0\u00a0\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\nNapa Valley, California\u00a0\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\nBuying a home in an esteemed wine region in America\u2019s most expensive state leads to some obvious conclusions. Namely, don\u2019t expect your money to go far.\u00a0\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\nNapa 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.\u00a0\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\u201cNapa continues to be a highly desirable place for many, both primary and secondary homeowners,\u201d 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.\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\u201cNo matter how you look at it, we continue to have very low inventory\u201d throughout the region, she says. Listings in the $500,000 range, which is considered modest in this market, are especially competitive.\u00a0\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\nIn Napa, townhomes start at around $500,000\u2014with caveats. \u201cIt won\u2019t be very special, and it will be lacking amenities and large spaces for relaxing,\u201d 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. \u00a0\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\nHowever, 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\u2014at an attractive price point.\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\nReal 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\u2019s owned by a third party, usually the developer.\u00a0 \u00a0\u00a0\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\nBordeaux, France\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\nBordeaux\u2019s residential property prices aren\u2019t 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.\u00a0\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\nAccording to Priscilla Gimeno, an agent with Bordeaux Beyond, the hottest markets are in the Libournais, which includes Saint\u00c9milion and Pomerol, while the region of Entre-Deux-Mers offers good value for homes (and, coincidentally, for wines).\u00a0\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\nWith $500,000 to invest, Gimeno recommends looking in the countryside within an hour drive from Bordeaux city. \u201cDepending, 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,\u201d she says.\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\nIt can be difficult for international buyers to get financing from French banks, she says, so plan to have cash ready for purchase.\u00a0\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\u201cOnce a property is purchased, owners will need a bank account to pay utility bills and, of course, property insurance,\u201d she says. \u201cWe 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.\u201d\u00a0\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\nThis 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.\u00a0\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\nMendoza, Argentina\r\nHave 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.\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\nMichael Evans, CEO and founder of The Vines, says that prices for real estate in Mendoza have dropped 10\u201330% over the last two years. \u201cDue 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,\u201d he says.\u00a0\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\nPablo Goldemberg, Vines\u2019 director of sales in Latin America, says residential building is booming due to low construction prices, ideal for those seeking investment properties. \u201cMost of the movement is in gated and planned communities in Vistalba, Maip\u00fa, Chacras and the Uco Valley,\u201d says Goldemberg\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\nIn 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 \u201cgiven the warmth, outdoor living and open spaces.\u201d\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\nWith $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\u2019s gated communities like Vistalba. \u201cIt\u2019s a hot market for people looking for a semiurban place that\u2019s close to downtown, the airport, and has infrastructure as well as an old town feeling amidst the vineyards and wineries\u201d says Goldemberg.\u00a0\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\nThose seeking a rural experience, however, can also purchase or build within the Uco Valley.\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\u201cIt\u2019s growing like crazy,\u201d says Evans. \u201cFor $500,000 you could build a custom home or even purchase a villa at The Vines Resort & Spa.\u201d 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. \u00a0\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\nAnd if you decide to buy an entire vineyard, The Vines sells those, too.\u00a0\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\nSouth Africa\u00a0\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\nAnnien 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\u2019s noticed international buyers are especially interested in the towns of Stellenbosch, Franschhoek, Paarl, Somerset West and Wellington.\u00a0\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\nWith 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.\r\n\r\nWith the current strength of the dollar against the rand, South Africa is one of the more affordable wine regions for U.S. buyers.\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\nIn 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. \u201cHomes like those in Val de Vie are contemporary and comfortable and take advantage of the surrounding views,\u201d says Borg.\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\nIn Wellington, a Cape Winelands town approximately 45 minutes by car from Cape Town, there\u2019s been an \u201cinflux of buyers,\u201d 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\u2019s located within the Diemersfontein Wine and Country Estate, a functional vineyard and farm with its own school, coffee shop and restaurant.\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\nBorg says the residential property market in Somerset West offers \u201chuge value for money.\u201d 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\u2019s version of barbecue.\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\nStellenbosch continues to be a good buy, says Borg, showing \u201cresilience\u201d to price fluctuations while \u201coffering the best of both worlds\u2014country living close to the city and all its amenities.\u201d Prices for family-sized homes range from $450,000\u2013$550,000.\u00a0\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\nSimilarly, 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 \u201cwell-run, secure estates,\u201d 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.\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\nBarossa Valley, Australia\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\nBarossa\u2019s 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\u2019s real estate market has been \u201crunning hot\u201d ever since the start of the pandemic, \u201cwith no sign of slowing down.\u201d\u00a0\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\nIn the main townships within Tanunda, Angaston and Nuriootpa, prices have \u201cexceeded expectations,\u201d she says. \u201cNormally, time on the market averaged around three to four months,\u201d but these days, homes are selling from \u201ctwo weeks, two days, even two hours.\u201d Some homeowners host a single open house before accepting an offer.\u00a0\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\nDespite 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\u2019s 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.\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\nAlso 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.\u00a0\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\nFor those eager to buy in Barossa, La Nauze says to be ready to go, preferably with cash.\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\nSicily, Italy\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\nItaly\u2019s largest island, Sicily sits southwest of the boot\u2019s toe in the Mediterranean Sea. The island\u2019s culture and diverse landscapes, from mountains to beaches to vineyards, make it an endlessly fascinating place to visit\u2014or live.\u00a0\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\nDiletta Giorolo, Head of Residential Italy at Italy Sotheby\u2019s 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.\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\u201cWe\u2019ve seen interest from international buyers throughout the coastal areas, however the most successful subregion is the Val di Noto in southeast Sicily,\u201d says Giorolo, 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.\r\n\u00a0\r\n\r\nGirolo believes $500,000 is a healthy budget for buying an apartment with a terrace or garden in Noto\u2019s 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.\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\nAlternatively, 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.\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\nAlso 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.\u00a0\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\nUnlike some parts of the world, American buyers aren\u2019t treated differently from Italians, says Girolo. Sotheby\u2019s 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.