House Hunting in … Mauritius New York Times – Oct. 2, 2019

02 Oct 2019
A Golfer’s Dream

Completed in early 2018, the 5,468-square-foot concrete house “is oriented west so you get beautiful sunsets in the living and pool areas,” said Mridula Sembhoo, an agent with Pam Golding Properties, which has the listing. “The pool has LED lights that make it look like you have stars in the water at night.”

The villa’s main entrance opens into a spacious foyer, with the open kitchen, dining and living areas to the right. Glass doors open across the back of the house to allow for a free flow between the interior and the pool area. The covered, furnished patio traces the back of the house, facing the pool and the backyard. At the far end of the pool is a covered barbecue area with additional space for dining and an outdoor shower.

The villa’s floors and patio are all Italian tile. Decorative wood and stone accents are used throughout the property.

The kitchen, with white cabinets, quartz counter tops and an island that seats four, is primarily for entertaining, with a separate scullery for food preparation, Ms. Sembhoo said. It is common on Mauritius for homeowners to hire people for cooking and cleaning, and such help is easy to find, she said.

The master bedroom, with sliding doors onto the patio and an en suite bath, is on the ground floor. Three additional bedrooms with vaulted ceilings and en suite baths are on the upper level, which has a terrace.

The property, on a cul-de-sac among 14 similarly styled homes, sits on about a fifth of an acre and includes a two-car garage, store room and laundry facilities. Dense vegetation provides privacy from the adjacent 18-hole golf course, Ms. Sembhoo said. The purchase price includes a golf-club membership for one.

The resort currently has 210 residential units, with another 52 having just begun construction, she said. The golf clubhouse has a pro shop and restaurant. A separate beach club, with a bar, restaurant and lounge areas, is nearing completion.

The tourist-friendly village of Grand Baie, about five minutes away, has beaches, restaurants, nightclubs, marinas, and a large shopping mall, Grand Baie La Croisette. Other island attractions include elaborate Hindu temples, botanical gardens, smaller offshore islands and national parklands. The capital city of Port Louis, with about 150,000 residents, is 30 minutes south by car, and Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam International Airport is about an hour away.

The Republic of Mauritius, located about 1,200 miles off the southeast coast of the African mainland (with the much larger island nation of Madagascar between them), is a multiethnic, multilingual society of about 1.3 million people. Colonized first by the Dutch, then the French and finally the British over three centuries, the island finally declared independence in 1968.

Today, real estate, tourism and financial services are Mauritius’s primary economic drivers, aided by a tax climate favorable to foreign investors. The island has a flat 15 percent tax on corporate and individual income, and no taxes on property, capital gains or inheritances.

Foreigners may only buy property in what is called a “property development scheme,” which can be a resort-like development like this one, called Mont Choisy Le Parc Golf & Beach Estate, or a master-planned, mixed-use area known as a “smart city.”

The price range is vast, starting at $160,000 for a 1,000-square-foot apartment all the way up to $10 million for an 8,000-square-foot oceanfront villa, said Outi de Falbaire, director of the Mauritius office of Barnes International Realty.

Mauritius does not have a central electronic deeds database, so tracking home sales and price data is difficult, said Richard Haller, the director of the Mauritius office of Pam Golding. But his agency does its own analyses of how values are faring in the main tourist hubs of Grand Baie and Tamarin, located on the island’s western coast.

“Clients that bought off-plan in developments and resold four or five years later have seen average capital growth rates of 7 percent per annum over the last four years,” Mr. Haller said. “But the growth rate is very location specific — some had 15 percent capital growth, and others had only 2 or 3 percent.”

Sales have been slow of late, but the market was expected to pick up come October, when the peak tourism season begins, said Daniel Col, an agent with Mauritius Sotheby’s International Realty.

Ms. de Falbaire attributed the recent slowdown in part to uncertainty among European buyers about the prolonged political debates around Brexit. “It seems that everybody in the whole of Europe is kind of waiting to see what is going to happen,” she said.

Mauritius’s reputation as a tax haven, as well as rising inequality among its residents, have lately drawn media scrutiny, with one investigative report alleging that the government’s use of tax treaties diverts tax revenue from poorer nations.

Ms. de Falbaire said foreign buyers tend to fall into three categories: investors, retirees and people seeking a change in lifestyle. Most are from France and South Africa, with the rest a mix of Europeans and Africans.

South African buyers, in particular, have increased in recent years, she said, noting that the flight from Johannesburg is just four hours.

French buyers, long a presence on the island, have declined a bit, perhaps choosing instead to take advantage of foreign-buyer incentives in Portugal, Mr. Haller said.

Ms. de Falbaire said that the island’s restrictions on property purchases by foreigners stem from the government’s desire to protect the existing Mauritian population, since “it’s a small island and land is scarce.”

But, she said, “it’s also to protect the foreign investor. In this country we have rules and regulations, but they are kind of artistically exploited, if I could put it that way.”

Foreigners who spend at least $500,000 on property are eligible for a permanent residence permit. Those who buy for less may spend up to six months a year on the island on a tourist visa, Mr. Haller said. Noncitizens may also apply for a combined work and residence permit, which is good for three years, if they meet certain criteria.

Transactions are done in Mauritian rupees, euros or U.S. dollars. On resales, the agent’s commission is split between buyer and seller, usually two percent each. For projects under development, the promoter pays the commission, Ms. de Falbaire said.

English, Creole, French; Mauritian rupee (1 Mauritian rupee = $0.03)

Transaction costs typically total around 9 percent of the purchase price, including transfer taxes, notary and agency fees, Ms. Sembhoo said.

There is no property tax on Mauritius. Homeowners association fees on this listing are about 750 euros ($820) a month, she said.

By Lisa Prevost – Oct. 2, 2019

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