Thanks to the trials and tribulations of the American economy – sub-prime meltdown, the credit crunch and now New York banking disasters - property buyers are understandably wary of house-hunting across the Atlantic. And with indications that the rate of decline in property values is increasing, there is no foreseeable end to the troubled market.
© Nevis Tourism
“Prices nationally fell by 1.3 per cent in the final quarter of 2007 with Maine as the only state where prices did not fall,” says Liam Bailey, head of residential research at Knight Frank. “The greatest decline in residential property prices was in California, Nevada, Florida and Michigan.”
Yet there are bargains to be had and some exquisite property for sale for those willing to do thorough research and not expecting to make a fast buck. British buyers with pounds in their pockets can benefit from a favourable exchange rate, so here are some dollar deals that could appeal...
Nizuc, Riviera Mayan, Mexico
Visitors either love or hate Cancun, Mexico’s big, brash and busy holiday resort created in the 1970s on the site of quiet coconut farms, but you can’t deny it has some of the best beaches in the world. It is also home to the Mayan Reef, the largest in the western hemisphere.
New developments are concentrated at the eastern end of the Yucatan peninsula, south of Cancun, where white sand beaches and mangroves face out to the Caribbean Sea.
The latest arrival is Nizuc, a hotel and villa resort due to open in October 2009. Hotelier Adrian Zecha, the man behind uber-upmarket Aman Resorts, has taken the home of a former Mexican president and spent £91 million transforming it into a 45-room hotel with 160 private residences.
Property starts at $1.3 million (£660,750) for a fully furnished one-bedroom residence of 1,200sq ft, rising to $10 million (£5 million) for one of three beachfront villas.
The design will combine local Mayan culture with Asian influences – this is the team behind the ultra-chic Setai hotel in Miami and The Datai in Malaysia. Facilities include an ESPA Spa, three restaurants, eight pools, floodlit tennis courts and an on-site marina, while two Jack Nicklaus golf courses are a short boat trip away through the mangroves. Cancun airport, and those buzzing crowds, is 10 minutes away. Contact Nizuc (www.nizuc.com).
Nevis, The Caribbean
More US dollar property is available on the lush island of Nevis in the Leeward Caribbean islands. Royal Pelican Estates covers 21 acres of hillside below Mount Nevis with views of the Caribbean Sea. Windsurfers can head across to the Atlantic coast of this small 36 square mile island, while less active sybarites can indulge themselves at the resort spa or beach club.
Supreme Developers plans a full concierge and in-house management and rental service. Nevis has an established Four Seasons Hotel and strong American tourist market yet historic ties mean the island has a legal system based on English law.
There are regular BA and Virgin flights from London to Antigua, a short plane journey from Nevis. Prices at Royal Pelican start at $610,050 (£311,100) for a two-bedroom town house and from $1.27 million (£647,000) for a four-bedroom villa. Contact Knight Frank (www.knightfrank.com; 020 7629 8171).
Prices in California registered the biggest fall in the USA in the last quarter of 2007, down by 6.6 per cent on the previous year, according to Knight Frank’s Global Index.
Yet the Golden State is also America’s most populous with 37.7 million residents and buoyant industries including agriculture, technology, entertainment and aerospace. As long as buyers have a view to long-term investment – this is not the time to expect a fast profit - the state can provide good-value properties helped by a favourable exchange rate.
Family builder and Fortune 500 company DR Horton, one of America’s largest housebuilders, is certainly hoping the strong pound will entice British buyers to look at some of its new-build and off-plan developments. They have 11 developments in the state of California, most close to golf courses and with facilities including pools, tennis courts and high-spec gyms for those body-conscious Americans.
Close to the wine region of the Napa Valley in the San Francisco Bay area, Diablo Grande is a resort of detached three-bedroom houses overlooking a Jack Nicklaus Legends West golf course, priced from £140,000, while Seabridge in Ventura County is a 135-acre marina community with six separate estates and prices from £250,000. Contact DR Horton (www.drhorton.co.uk; 0845 888 3333).
Chicago in Illinois is the 10th-richest state in the world, according to UBS, and the fourth-most-important business centre. The property market performed well by American standards last year with price increases of 3.1 per cent.
The best-performing area, according to the Illinois Association of Realtors, was South Loop, once a run-down tired suburb but now a vibrant shopping and residential area with warehouses transformed into lofts and buzzing restaurants and bars. Transport links are good and residents like being close to parks and the shore of Lake Michigan.
The planned XO building in South Loop aims to bring cutting-edge design to this previously down-at-heel district with two highly modern glass-fronted towers of 46 and 33 storeys that are designed to look as if they are bending in the wind. Communal features include a large spa and gardens. Prices for the 485 one- to three-bedroom apartments start from £110,000. Contact Winkworth International Developments (www.xocondominiums.com; 020 7691 4269).