More and more people are searching for greener pastures to live, work and play. We highlight a few options
WORDS: DEBBIE HATHWAY – PHOTOS: SUPPLIED
If you were born in 1969, the year that Harry Nilsson’s version of Everybody’s Talkin’ (Echoes) became a hit, you are part of a prime target market for countries open to applications for retirement visas. Foreigners over the age of 50 may now relocate to Mauritius under a residence permit granted by the island’s Economic Development Board. The permit is valid for 10 years and renewable. Gen X-ers keen to kick-start the next phase of their lives must commit to bringing into Mauritius $18,000 a year (about R300,000) to cover living and medical expenses, travel costs, holidays and so forth. However, this story is not about where to retire – or refire, for that matter. It’s about the song lyrics, which perfectly sum up the reasons for anyone of any age to consider moving their business, home or both, to this particular paradise island: “I’m going where the sun keeps shinin’/ Through the pouring rain/ Going where the weather suits my clothes/ Banking off of the northeast winds/ Sailing on a summer breeze/ And skipping over the ocean like a stone.” Of course, there’s more to it than that. When property developers such as the ENL Group talk to potential investors about the friendly, multilingual, multicultural locals who live in harmony, a safe environment a four-hour flight from Johannesburg, a healthy lifestyle and world-class education and healthcare, they get their attention.
Add the highly attractive tax regime (15% corporate tax and personal tax, no inheritance tax, no capital gains tax, among others) and they’re closer to making that sale. It doesn’t hurt that Mauritius ranks 13th on the World Bank’s Doing Business Index 2020 and GDP has been about 4% for the past decade consistently. The ENL Group is behind significant island property developments such as the Heritage Villas Valriche and La Balise Marina and, more recently, the Moka Smart City. The latter is situated inland, approximately 15 minutes from the capital Port Louis and 30 minutes from the international airport. “Stretching across 500ha, it has become the place to live, work and play. It offers a new property range that is a shift away from the high-value holiday or second homes traditionally sold to international buyers,” says Rob Hudson, property consultant at ENL Property Limited. Two-bedroom apartments with excellent buy-to-let investment potential start from R2.7m, offering long-term rentals with yields at 6.5% per annum and capital appreciation of 7% per annum. “South African retirees may also consider Moka an immediate option or as a future retirement back-up plan – and if the latter, a performing investment in the interim,” says Hudson. “As a retiree, you do not have to spend $375,000 on a property to obtain the permanent residence permit, so the apartments are a far more affordable option.”
Moka offers a substantial property price benefit in comparison to coastal investments, yet with easy access to the tropical beaches that are no more than 25 minutes away. The area has a very pleasant climate, verdant nature and a mountainous backdrop. The economic heart of the island also offers convenient access to major road networks and public transport. On the education side, Moka has every facility from nursery school to university. The Australian Curtin University on site ranks among the top 1% of global universities (along with Stellenbosch University) in The Times Higher Education World University Rankings. “Cost-wise, it is 30% to 40% more expensive than sending kids to a South African university but half the cost of studying in Australia or the UK. Parents may budget for about R250,000 to R300,000 a year per student, including accommodation if it is rented and not owned,” says Hudson. Should you decide to make the move with your family, Les Promenades d’Helvétia in the residential precinct of the Moka Smart City offers premium three- to four-bedroom apartments, penthouses and duplexes from R6.2m, most of which qualify buyers for Mauritian residency. Alternatively, Moka’s studio apartments offer an ideal solution for students, in addition to being an attractive, income-generating offshore investment. Moka Smart City has an eco-efficient approach to sustainability through waste management, recycling, energy-efficient building design and renewable energy. Almost a third of the total land area is set aside for green zones, public parks and spaces, including an open-air amphitheatre.
Where in the world?
Meanwhile, demand for additional residence and citizenship options continues. “We have seen extraordinary upheaval over the past few months. For investors and their families, having a second citizenship or an alternative residence is an even more precious asset than ever before, as concerns over access to first-rate healthcare, global mobility and quality of life take on a new urgency. In turn, investment migration programmes provide invaluable economic security to the countries that offer them,” says Henley & Partners CEO Dr Juerg Steffen. If you like the idea of Portugal, there is limited time left to apply for a Golden Visa. The Portuguese government announced late last year that it was considering some changes to this programme. These were put on hold during the pandemic but have been revived again. Although the changes are yet to be announced, they are expected to be implemented early in 2021 and could mean the exclusion of the greater Lisbon and Porto areas, and possibly some areas in the Algarve, from the programme.
“These changes will not affect those who are already in the programme. Meanwhile, we urge anybody who is still interested to apply as soon as possible, preferably before the end of 2020,” says Pam Golding International head Chris Immelman. “Given the difficulty of travelling internationally, you may want to consider one of the €350,000 developments that provide guaranteed rental income and a full return of funds at the end of the programme. Something like the new Porto Lapa Hotel development, which will be operated by Renaissance by Marriott.” Coastal areas hold a constant fascination for water babies and nature lovers alike. While we remain caught up in this pandemic, there are places on earth so beautiful, they almost defy description. “Perfect alabaster beaches. Lush rainforests. An iridescent blue ocean that shimmers like a jewel. This is Seychelles, which currently has no cases of Covid-19. Now is your time to plan your getaway to what we call paradise,” says Pam Golding International project sales manager Brian Gradner. What began more than 10 years ago as a reclaimed coral island is today a fully functional residential marina development within 56ha of lush landscaping. Eden Island offers buyers a unique opportunity for offshore investment in a successful development with freehold title ownership and proven capital appreciation. Owners and their families qualify for Seychelles residency on application. With more than 95% of homes already completed, Eden Island has become a vibrant and cosmopolitan community in the heart of Seychelles. Options comprise apartments, maisons and villas starting from $400,000.
Best commuter locations
For now, the pandemic and rapidly increasing property prices in cities have placed commuter towns firmly on investors’ radar. “There is an increasing demand for housing developments springing up on commuter belts worldwide and these are great opportunities for investors who are willing to shift their focus from conventionally desirable inner-city property,” says Hurst & Wills founder Lisa Bathurst. “Commuter belt areas, with their more affordable property prices, often offer investors better yields and fantastic capital growth. As long as there is good transport into the larger cities, people are happy to live a bit further away and benefit from more value.”
“For investors and their families, having a second citizenship or an alternative residence is an even more precious asset than ever before” Dr Juerg Steffen, CEO, Henley & Partners
In addition, more tenants are looking for larger properties to incorporate home offices. In London, where new railway networks such as Crossrail and the HS2 high-speed train are being developed, towns like Bracknell and Luton are popular options for city workers. Apartments are a third of the price of London alternatives. Northern UK towns like Preston are commuter towns on the doorstep of Manchester, less than half an hour away via the reliable public transport system. Apartments half the price of those in Manchester can be picked up from about £110,000 and offer a yield of 6% to 7%. Commenting on the impact of lockdown in the UK, Smuts & Taylor Ltd MD Mike Smuts says the measures dampened the demand for housing in the latter half of 2020 yet it remains 34% higher than in the same period last year. “Completed property sales for 2020 are expected to be just 6% lower than 2019, despite the fallout from the pandemic. South African investors, many of whom are looking to emigrate, have continued to buy property in the UK throughout the year, making the most of the weaker pound, the current stamp duty land tax holiday and the buyers’ market created by the pandemic.”