One of the main tourist attractions in Ceará, the beach town of Canoa Quebrada sits just 90 minutes east of Fortaleza, but the vibe is much more relaxed. With a variety of restaurants, bars, shops and inns lining the lively street known as Broadway, many Europeans have settled or invested in the area in the last decade.
Paraiso da Canoa is one current project that has attracted the attention of many foreigners, including Americans. Made up of 820 lots starting at R$30,100 (US$16,108) and going all the way up to R$130,000 (US$69,633), the development sits directly on the sand dunes of Canoa Quebrada beach. Just a few minutes by car from the activity on Broadway Street, the development is located next to land that is slated to be a five-star resort, although construction on this property has not begun.
According to Paraiso da Canoa real estate agent Joselino Ximenes, 89 percent of the lots are sold, but none of the buyers have started to build, demonstrating the immense speculation that is going on in the area. A visit to the site in August 2009 showed a lack of maintenance on the lots, which are not level and sit with stagnant ocean water, and no construction activity whatsoever. Of the investors that have already purchased lots, Ximenes says some have plans for restaurants or condominiums on the property, indicating the development could be a mixture of commercial and residential structures once building does kick off. When asked about zoning restriction, Ximenes could not specify residential areas versus commercial ones or provide the name of the resort that is slated to go in next door.
Another real estate project being advertised in Canoa Quebrada is the Residencial Canoa Quebrada condominiums, which are already under construction. Overlooking the ocean at the bottom of Broadway Street, this development is set for delivery at the end of 2010. The project consists of 20 two-bedroom apartments, ten on the ground level and ten on the first floor, that range in price from R$245,000 (US$131,232) to R$250,000 (US$133,934) with the more expensive units on the upper level. Amenities include a pool, assembly room with sauna, and barbeque area.
Just a walk down the beach from Canoa Quebrada, Majorlândia is another spot that has seen an influx of foreign investment in the last few years. While the small fishing town is the sleepier counterpart to the touristier Canoa Quebrada and Cumbuco—the population is just around 6,000—Majorlândia and neighboring cities host a popular Carnival celebration each February that attracts close to 70,000.
Majorlândia native and real estate agent Jane de Andrade Crispim said expats from Denmark, Italy and Germany own property in the area, building vacation homes where they spend three weeks at a time, and more seem to be turning their eyes this way.
“At this time Majorlândia is still an interesting market to invest in raw land, build a house for resale or for a second home with a guaranteed return on your investment in two years,” Crispim says. “Unlike Canoa Quebrada, which is more of a developed recreational and tourist area, Majorlândia still has the structure and reputation for a family–oriented beach resort and residential community.”
The hook for real estate investment in Majorlândia seems to be the affordability of beachside land. Unlike Canoa and Cumbuco, where many of the ocean side lots have already appreciated in price, Crispim says an 11,250 square foot lot can still be purchased for about US$20,000 in Majorlândia with electricity at the door and water in the back yard. Manual labor and building materials are also affordable—a one story, 1,800 square foot house can be built for about R$70,000 (US$ 35,000 to US$40,000).
Down the beach from Majorlândia in the small town of Quixaba, an expat recently sold a two-bedroom oceanfront home for a significant profit. Purchasing the land and building the home in 2003 for R$28,000 (equal to US$9,000 at the time), the owner sold the house to another foreigner for R$100,000 (equal at the time to US$50,000).
Regardless of the reason many foreigners are making investments in the coastal towns of northeastern Brazil, the attraction of the area can truly only be felt in person. From the hammock, the swaying palm trees and crashing waves still tell the story of tranquility—something that is becoming a scarce commodity in many beachside towns all over the world.
Story and photos by Giannina Smith Bedford.