House Hunting in … Uruguay

House Hunting in … Uruguay

The main house has a large, central living room on the first level, with vaulted ceilings and a wood-burning fireplace. Several oversize windows look out onto the grounds, which are wooded, with a large pond.

To the left of the living room is a formal dining room, which has two sets of sliding glass doors. One side opens to a covered wraparound deck with a brick barbecue and an outdoor dining area; the other side opens to a garden with fruit trees. “All of the rooms in the house have access to the outside,” Ms. Sofio said.

Off the dining room is a closed kitchen, with stainless-steel appliances and a large marble island. The walls and cabinets are Brazilian Ipe wood, painted white.

On the other side of the living room is an office-and-television room with another wood-burning fireplace and pocket doors. The lower level has two en-suite bedrooms.

An en-suite master bedroom is upstairs, with a marble and tile bath that has a separate soaking tub and shower stall. There is a seating area near the balcony, which, Ms. Laich said, looks out onto the pond.

Throughout the house are concrete and wood floors, high ceilings, large windows and glass doors.

La Barra is in the Maldonado Department (with a population of around 165,000), which encompasses Punta del Este. Once primarily a fishing village, it has become increasingly popular during the summer season, from December to February, offering restaurants, clubs, shops and art galleries, as well as surfing and other water sports, to beach-seeking tourists.


Uruguay’s housing market peaked around 2010, Ms. Sofio said, and then softened over the next few years, in large part because of economic and political tumult in neighboring Argentina and Brazil.

There are signs, however, that the market is now on an upswing.

“Business has been growing for the last year and a half, since Argentina’s political climate has improved,” Ms. Laich said. “We’re also seeing a lot of Europeans coming to South America, which they see as safe.”

Ms. Sofio said that sales volume in the Punta del Este area is up around 15 percent over last year, though prices have been largely flat. She described the current market conditions as more favorable to buyers, with more inventory available. For now, she said, “You still can get some bargains.”

Luxury properties on or near the beach typically start at just under $2 million, she said, and can go as high as $20 million, while more modest homes are available farther from the beach, starting at around $200,000 for a small two-bedroom house.


The country’s luxury market is dominated by foreign buyers, particularly from Argentina and Brazil, agents said. There is also strong demand for vacation or retirement homes from buyers in the United States, as well as Europe, particularly Germany, Belgium, Britain, Italy and Spain.

“The most beautiful thing Uruguay has to offer is the countryside,” Ms. Laich said. “It has these non-ending views.”

Ms. Laich said that many young American buyers are looking for rural properties in Uruguay that can be farmed.


There are generally no restrictions on foreign ownership of real estate in Uruguay. “It’s very foreign-investment friendly,” said Juan Federico Fischer, a managing partner of the law firm Fischer & Schickendantz, in Montevideo.

Financing, however, can be difficult to obtain, he said, and is typically offered at terms that are far less attractive than those in the United States.

Mr. Federico Fischer also noted that there is no multiple listing service in Uruguay. Homeowners, he said, will often list their properties for sale with more than one brokerage firm — as is the case with this house.

All buyers must retain a lawyer who oversees due diligence of the property and provides notary services.

The buying process begins with a reservation agreement, or formal acceptance of a purchase offer, at which time a 10 percent deposit is held in escrow and a closing date set, usually in 30 to 45 days, Mr. Federico Fischer said.

It is not necessary for buyers to appear at the closing, he said. Power of attorney can be granted to the lawyer, and all the necessary documents signed remotely. Many real estate transactions are done in American dollars, he added.


Official Uruguay tourism site:

Ministry of Social Development:


Spanish; Uruguayan peso (28 pesos = $1)


Buyers can expect to pay around 8 percent of the purchase price in closing costs, Mr. Fischer said. Of that amount, he said, 3 percent goes toward legal costs and 2 percent to the government for fees like property registration and transfer tax. The buyer also pays half of the sales commission, typically around 6 percent.

The annual taxes on this property are around $4,500, Ms. Sofio said.


Agents include Sandra Sofio, Engel & Völkers Punta del Este, 011-59-842-771444,; and Betty Laich and Silvia Lezue, Terramar Servicios Inmobiliarios/Christie’s International Real Estate, 011-59-842-770707,

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