US$1=R$2.24 Brazilian reais,
Palm-studded sandy beaches, warm turquoise waters, and a great property market…this pretty much sums up my first impression of Maceió, Brazil. And after spending a few days in this city, it only got better as we explored the fine dining, beachside bars, and the wild and beautiful coast that runs north and south from the city.
Best of all, thanks to today’s favorable exchange rates, you can buy a home in one of Maceió’s best beachside neighborhoods for less than US$100,000.
Capital of the state of Alagoas, Maceió (pronounced mah-say-OH) is located on the peninsula that separates Mundaú Lake from the Atlantic Ocean, about 168 miles (270 km) south of Recife. A natural point of land juts into the ocean from the center of town and separates the town’s beach sector into two parts, each with two major beach areas. My favorite beaches were north of that point.
A wide beachfront avenue runs along Maceió’s clean and attractive boardwalk, which is busy all day with joggers, walkers, and people relaxing on a bench or keeping fit at the oceanfront exercise area.
Groves of palm trees surround seafront restaurants, beach bars, and the kiosks that dot the beach side of the boardwalk, providing everything from fine dining, to cocktails, to the day’s newspaper. On the city side of the boardwalk, the avenue is lined with tasteful buildings, restaurants, and hotels. And the eight-story limit keeps the boardwalk and beach from feeling crowded or hemmed in by a wall of highrises.
The waters in Maceió are warm and blue and calm thanks to a barrier reef just offshore.
The beaches in town are clean and well kept, with fine sand and swaying palms. They’re fairly busy too, especially during holidays and weekends. But at the city’s edge the crowds disappear…leaving miles of uncrowded beaches fringed by palms and natural vegetation.
This palm-lined coast starts at the north edge of Maceió and goes northward
Maceió also offers a good restaurant district with seafood as well as delicacies from all over Brazil. Whether you’re in the mood for cuisine from Peru, the Middle East, or anything in between, you’ll likely find it within a block or two of the beach.
And odd as it seems in a beach town, I was also attracted by the rest of what the city had to offer. With almost a million people, Maceió has an attractive and fully outfitted downtown, as well as a hilltop residential district called Farol, which offered awesome views of the city and ocean beyond.
Avoid The Favelas And Drugs, And You’ll Avoid The Crime
Outside the city you’ll find favelas (slums or shantytowns), which exist outside of many Brazilian cities. The rate of homicides in this area is high. So high, in fact, that Maceió has one of the highest homicide rates in the country. The homicides are almost always drug related.
My advice is to give these favelas a wide margin (I didn’t even see one in my travels). People who drive through as if they were a tourist attraction are foolish…as are those who attempt to buy drugs in Maceió.
Stick to Centro, Jaraguá, Farol, and the beach neighborhoods below, and you’ll be fine.
Residency Is Not A Casual Undertaking
To be honest, I only recommend that you get permanent residency in Brazil if you intend to live there for at least a substantial part of the year. The minimum for a pensioner’s visa is R$6,000 per month (US$2,680 today), and it has to be transferred into the country monthly; you can’t just send US$32,000 in January to satisfy your requirement for the year. This is a high threshold by Latin American standards and could go higher (in dollar terms) if the dollar weakens again.
And thanks to Brazil’s currency controls, sending money there is not something you can put on autopilot…it requires paperwork to clear it through the bank.
There’s a business investor visa too, but it’s intended for people who are going to run a real business. There’s too much red tape and overhead cost involved to start a business in Brazil simply to obtain residency.
But you can stay in Brazil for up to six months per year as a tourist by extending your stay at immigration. This satisfies the needs of most vacation-homeowners and part-time residents. If that works for you, I’d consider skipping residency altogether.
Maceió Enjoys A Strong But Stable Market
The property market here has performed well, and its growth looks to be at a sustainable rate. Prices in Maceió have gone up about 35% since 2009 (on the beachfront) which works out to about 7% per year—respectable, but sustainable.
And right now, thanks to the exchange rates, even though the properties have gone up 35% in Brazilian reais, the dollar price has rolled back to 2009 levels. So it’s a good time to look at Maceió.
Some Maceió Property Picks In Its Best Areas
Here are some of my favorite properties. I’ve concentrated on the beach areas of Ponta Verde and Jatiúca, as well as the off-beach area of Farol.
Ponta Verde was my personal favorite residential neighborhood in Maceió, and its beach was my favorite beach. Ponta Verde is the southern starting point of Maceió’s best area for restaurants, the boardwalk, and the city’s best hotels.
It also is the start of a long stretch of palm-lined, sandy beaches heading north.
|In the Costa Verde building of Ponta Verde, we found a 2-bedroom, 1.5-bath apartment with 72 m2 (775 square feet) of living area at an asking price of R$222,000, or US$99,107 at today’s exchange rates.|
|Also in Ponta Verde in the Fragata building, there’s an oceanfront, 3-bedroom, 105 m2 (1130 sqft) apartment with service area, balcony, and garage space, listed at R$360,000 (US$160,700).|
|In the Dona Tereza building of Ponta Verde, a 130 m2 (1400 sqft) apartment is on offer at this time, including 3 bedrooms, 3 baths, a double-sized living room, and garage space for R$330,000 (US$147,300).|
Jatiúca is adjacent to Ponta Verde, and is Maceió’s most popular area for visitors and travelers. Jatiúca starts at Ponta Verde and continues the same stretch of terrific beachfront northward. It’s Maceió’s best area for nightlife and has the highest concentration of hotels and resorts.
|In Jatiúca’s Villagio di Roma condominiums, we found a 3-bedroom, 2.5-bath condo for sale with 73 m2 (785 sqft) of living area, terrace, garage space, and service area, for the asking price of R$290,000 (US$129,500).|
|Another listing in Jatiúca is in the Gravatá building. This one has 80 m2 (860 sqft) of living area, including 3 bedrooms, 1.5 baths, a terrace, and garage space for R$210,000 (US$93,750).|
|In the newly completed Itajuí building in Jatiúca we found an apartment with just less than 108 m2 (1160 sqft) of living space, including 3 bedrooms, 2.5 baths, family room, large terrace, and 2 garage spaces. The asking price is R$300,000 (US$134,000).|
The Farol district sits on a hilltop overlooking the beach neighborhoods about 8 blocks away. The properties are priced lower here, and you can find some with a super view. Farol is definitely worth checking out if you enjoy the view, don’t need to be near the beach, and would like to save some money.
|In the Panorama building of Farol, we found a 3-bedroom, 2.5-bath apartment with 112 m2 (1205 sqft), garage space, and a double-sized living room listed for R$290,000 (US$129,500).|
|Also in Farol, listed at R$330,000 (US$147,300), there’s a 4-bedroom, 3-bath, 232 m2 (2700 sqft) house with family room, garage, service area, and covered terraces.|
Overall, at today’s exchange rates, the beach areas in Maceió averaged about US$1,350 per square meter, while Farol was US$1,016 per square meter. Both are deep into bargain territory.
Here are two good resources for real estate in Maceió. Both sites are in Portuguese, but I’ve prepared a dictionary so you can look at the ads and understand the terms. You can see my Brazilian Portuguese Real Estate Dictionary here.
Ponta Verde Branch: Rua Durval Guimarães, 1738, Ponta Verde
Farol Branch: Avenida Comendador Francisco Amorim Leão, 192, Farol
Avenida Dr. Antônio Gomes de Barros, nº 625
Edifício Comercial, The Square Park Office, Sala 210
Is Maceió For You?
As far as I’m concerned, it’s hard to beat Brazil for beach-town living. While it’s not exactly around the corner, nothing equals the warm ocean breezes, the culture, the food, and the Brazilian people.
Maceió has a small-town, laid-back feel, yet it has all of the necessities…
everything from malls, to new car showrooms, to a big selection of great restaurants.
What’s more, prices today are reasonable. If the Brazilian beachside lifestyle sounds good to you, then now is a good time to take a look at Maceió.
Editor, Overseas Property Alert
I just read your excellent Country Retirement Report on Medellín, Colombia. Could you recommend a good source for learning Spanish?
Most important for me is not grammar, vocabulary or pronunciation…but real language skills so I can start speaking and then build on them. I’m looking for something very practical like questions/phrases asked at immigration control, how to shop, finding a doctor, talking to a realtor…basically the fastest way to navigate on my own.
I’m a true believer in speaking native language, rather than always depending on someone who can help translate.
Well if you skip the grammar, vocabulary, and pronunciation, you’ll be silent…
But I know what Alex is getting at, and for those who want to learn useful phrases rapidly without slogging through grammar and conjugation drills, then Pimsleur is the way to go. I’ve taken lots of Spanish and Portuguese courses, and Pimsleur gets you to where you can survive the fastest. I’ve listened to them for hours, while driving, working in the yard, or varnishing the boat.
But don’t fall for the US$19.95 abridged courses. Expect to pay more than US$100 for each series of 30 lessons. You’ll get the best deal if you buy all 120 lessons at once. You can see the Pimsleur courses here ( http://www.pimsleur.com/Learn-Spanish-Latin-American?gclid=CMzI3KH8hL8CFYhafgodDY0AOQ#mp3 ).
There’s no better investment you can make prior to moving abroad than learning the language. Every minute you spend on it will be worth it.
I read your article on Uruguayan chacras with interest, but I’m really looking for a larger parcel of agricultural land…large enough to be commercially viable.
You mentioned a number of agents in Uruguay, but do any of them specialize in larger-scale farmland?
No, those guys may have farms from time to time, but they don’t really specialize in them. My advice is to touch base with English-speaking Juan Federico Fischer, managing partner of Fischer and Schickendantz in Montevideo. Let him know what you’re looking for, and he’ll point you in the right direction. He also has some good information on his farming website, www.uruguayfarms.com.
Have a question? You can write to Lee here.