Some Of Brazil’s Best Property Buys Are At The End Of This Bridge

Plus: Maceió…Are You Stupid?

US$1=R$2.24 Brazilian reais

Dear Overseas Property Alert reader,

The Brazilian city of Natal is marked by its miles-long crescent beach, protected by a giant dune that shelters it from the onshore winds. The adjacent waters are calm, clear, warm, and fairly shallow.

The cafes, restaurants, and nightlife are renowned throughout Europe and Brazil, and right now, the property prices are great by any standard.

Here in Natal, there are three things that should get your attention right now…
aside from this week’s World Cup matches.

There's a new bridge There’s a new bridge, which has now made a beautiful stretch of coast easily accessible to the city. This isn’t your standard fabled bridge—a staple of property developers around the world—but one that’s completed and in service. Broad, sandy beaches that were once more than an hour away are now within 15 minutes’ drive.


They've just finished a new international airport They’ve just finished a new international airport within the past month, which will greatly increase domestic and international passenger and freight capacity. This new airport is just north of town…and connected to the city by the new bridge.


the U.S. dollar is strong now against the Brazilian real Finally, the U.S. dollar is strong now against the Brazilian real, which has rolled the prices back to approximate 2009 levels…giving us all a second chance to get in on some great property deals that are now more affordable.

Natal is the capital of the Brazilian state of Rio Grande do Norte—the closest state to Europe—and it’s very popular with vacationers and expats from Europe and the UK.

The world-famous sand dunes and beaches of Genipabu lie to the north—on the other side of the new bridge—while the postcard-perfect beach town Praia da Pipa sits to the south. In between, there are a number of smaller towns and areas popular with tourists and expats. As you tour them, you’ll see that some seem very homey…while others are more touristy.

Natal is billed as one of the sunniest cities in Brazil, with more than 300 days of sunshine per year. Most of the rainfall comes between March and July, with April being the wettest month. The driest months are from August through February.

There are only a few degrees of seasonal variation in temperature, with the warmest average high temperatures coming in at about 88°F (31°C). Bathers here enjoy calm, warm waters with water temperatures averaging a comfortable 79°F (26°C).

And with the pure onshore breezes, Natal claims to have the purest air in Brazil…although I’ve heard the same thing just down the coast in João Pessoa. Natal, which means Christmas in Portuguese, serves as a major seaport in addition to having a substantial tourist industry. The population is just under a million people in the city.

During my early visits to Natal, I focused almost exclusively on the Ponta Negra district. It boasts a beautiful beach that goes on for miles as well as one of the nicest waterfront areas of any city I’ve seen. Lined with restaurants, shops, and night clubs, it’s busy long into the night. Yet by 7 a.m., the beach is already busy with strollers, sunbathers, and swimmers. Some of the hot waterfront nightspots transform themselves into open-air seaside coffee shops at sunrise, and begin the fresh new day without ever closing the door.

Ponta Negra’s commercial center, located a few blocks back from the beach, hosts one of the northeast coast’s best selection of convenient shopping venues, with modern malls, fine dining, huge car dealerships, large 24-hour supermarkets, hotels, and building supply stores reminiscent of Home Depot. One of my favorite restaurants in Natal was off the beach…take a look at Camarãoes here ( ), if you’d enjoy a large and creative array of succulent shrimp dishes.

Here are a few examples of properties on the market today.

bullet The best value I saw in Ponta Negra was a two-bedroom, two-bath, 14th floor condo, about 200 yards back from the beach. It’s within easy walking distance to the beach, restaurants, and clubs. The view is its best selling point…you can see miles of beach and the famous dune from this apartment. The asking price is R$210,000…only US$93,750 at today’s exchange rates.


bullet For something larger, another ocean-view apartment in Ponta Negra has three bedrooms and two baths, with a large living area. You also get two garage spaces, and building amenities include a pool, barbeque, garden, alarm system, and sports courts. The asking price is R$390,000 (US$174,107 today).

But I’m no longer hung up on Ponta Negra, as much as I still like it. The completion of the bridge has opened up some of the most beautiful beaches in the region, while the airport has made these north beaches more convenient to get to.

A good example is the village of Genipabu (zhen-ee-pah-BOO). I like this town, with its narrow, quiet streets, safe neighborhoods, and fantastic beaches. In fact, the beach here is so well known that many Brazilians (and a lot of foreigners) can immediately identify a picture of it on sight.

This beach is now 15 minutes from downtown, thanks to the new bridge

This beach is now 15 minutes from downtown, thanks to the new bridge

The first significant beach town north of the city, Genipabu has enough tourism to keep it clean, well maintained, and with good amenities…but it is not overwhelmed with tourist traffic. And when compared to the towns south of Natal, the prices are still reasonable, despite the new bridge and the airport making it more accessible.

bullet The first thing to grab our attention here was a big price cut on a large, four-bedroom, four-bath villa about three minutes from the beach, with ocean views from the veranda upstairs. In an upscale gated community, it has upstairs and downstairs living areas, with a community pool, private backyard, and barbeque. The reduced asking price is R$220,000 (US$98,200)…and it comes fully furnished.


bullet And if you’d rather not live in a gated community, the same price will get you a nice three-bedroom home, with lush tropical gardens and a private swimming pool. It’s also a few minutes from the beach and 15 minutes from Natal proper over the bridge.


bullet This one got my attention for its land, which is more precious than gold around here. The house is on a quiet residential street just 20 yards from the beach and about 50 yards from Genipabu’s famous sand dunes. The main house has four bedrooms and three baths, while the guest house has two bedrooms, two baths, and a small kitchen. We stopped and had drinks with the owner, and he walked us through the huge 1,700 m2 gardens with mango trees, bananas, limes, cashews, and olives. This is about three times the standard lot size around here (1,700 m2 is just shy of a half-acre). The asking price is R$170,000, or US$75,900. It’s even got a view of the dunes.

My preferred real estate contact in the Natal area is expat Mike Smith of Brazil Beach House ( ). He’s one of Brazil’s very few fully licensed expat realtors (the test is difficult, and you need to be fluent in Portuguese).

If you’d like to see the area, I’d recommend that you try one of Mike’s real estate tours. For R$200 (US$89) he’ll show you Natal—and a good stretch of coast to the north and south of the city—along with properties selected per your specifications. It’s well worth it, and he’ll refund the cost if you buy something. If you have questions, you can write to Mike at his personal email here.

Is Natal For You?
Natal has an excellent tourism infrastructure, meaning that they have more than their share of fine dining, bistros, and things to do. The city is known for its nightlife, and the shopping is excellent.

The weather is great, and the beach and beachfront areas in Natal—and the areas north and south of Natal—are among the best you’ll find anywhere.

Lee Harrison
Editor, Overseas Property Alert


Letters To The Editor

You are promoting Maceió, Brazil as a tourist and retirement destination? Maceió is listed as one of the most dangerous cities on earth.



The article did in fact address the crime rates in Maceió, where it occurs, and the major source of the crime, which is drugs. To recap, don’t “play tourist” in the slums outside of town and avoid the drug trade (which includes buying drugs for yourself).

Art may have an issue with these restrictions, but most readers can comply with these simple rules.

In fact, I found the areas I discussed in the essay to be safe…and we were out walking around in both day and night.

Remember, city-wide and country-wide statistics can be deceiving when considering a specific area. And they’re certainly no substitute for being there.



I have a question for you because I am new in the world of investing. Do U.S. citizens get the same tax benefits for investing overseas as they do when they invest domestically?

A lot of these overseas opportunities sound so good…but how does the United States deal with real estate investors outside the country as far as tax incentives go?


I checked with Lief Simon, and he said “the simple answer is yes; overseas real estate investments are treated the same for U.S. tax purposes as U.S. real estate investments. Of course, there may be some things that aren’t treated exactly the same, but, for example, a rental property overseas is put on a Schedule E and gets the same deductions as if it were in the United States.”

One thing I’d add is that while the deductions may be the same, there are other “incentives” that you will not get; things like Residential Energy Credits, for example, that involve property-related government subsidies.

Have a question? You can write to Lee here.