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CASA COR 2012 - Rio de Janeiro
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  • As prices stabilize across the country, Rio de Janeiro cements its position as the most desirable and prestigious Brazilian real estate address, with areas like Ipanema and Leblon joining the ranks of other top international destinations such as New York, Paris and Shanghai. Recent statistics published in O Globo show that a luxury real estate in Rio can fetch as much as twice as high-end offerings in Sao Paulo, and that Brazil is living up to its reputation as an emerging market powerhouse with prices per square meter in Ipanema on par with the chicest of neighbourhood in Shanghai, Pudong.

    So what is it that makes Rio so desirable?

    ´The Rio real estate market, has much more in common with places like New York and London than with any other Brazilian or Latin American city,´ according to David Seale, Managing Director of Rio-based boutique real estate brokerage InTown Property. `Rio, attracts investors and homebuyers not only from the region and other parts of Brazil, but also internationally.

    Luigi Gaino Martins of Lopes Rio real estate company agrees. ´Ipanema beach has become a status symbol. This is not a typical real estate market, this is a luxury property market. If you want to buy a good property, you need to search hard, and pay for the privilege.´

    Other factors feed into the high real estate prices being achieved in Rio. Alongside being one of the world’s hottest tourist destinations, there are relatively few properties to cater to a high level of demand. Fundamental changes such as increased security and economic development have built upon Rio’s eternal natural beauty and attractive outdoor lifestyle to draw an increasing number of Brazilians from across the country, now combined with an international market lead by Chinese, Italian and French investors. While Sao Paulo’s size has allowed for new exclusive neighborhoods to develop over time, Rio’s Zona Sul is hemmed in by the beach, mountains and lake and available land is limited. Often referred to as the Manhattan of Brazil for topping the list of the country’s most expensive properties per m2, Rio’s Zona Sul now matches property prices in Shanghai’s most expensive neighborhoods, defining its position as one of the international real estate markets top spots. As demand increases, both Brazilian and international investors are increasingly turning to local experts, such as Intown Group, to find the run-down properties in a prime locations that can still be bought at competitive prices and are ripe for renovation, rather than buying the pre-designed penthouses of the past.


    While Rio’s reputation as the ’Marvellous City’ may be well deserved, property prices in recent years have bordered on the fantastic. However just when property watchers thought the market was near peaking, a combination of factors is driving local and international investor interest again. A recent weakening of the Brazilian real combined with first quarter property figures showing a temporary dip in prices has provided the best environment in the past 12 months for international buyers to be part of the Brazil property success story.

    The melting pot of contributing factors to Rio´s recent property boom is nothing new. The country’s strong economic performance drove an ever-strengthening real and increased investor confidence, encouraging Brazilian banks to lend money to consumers like never before. Combined with increased security and a growing international interest due to the World Cup and the Olympics, Rio rapidly turned into both one of the most desirable, and most expensive, cities to live in. Property prices set off like galloping horses, rising a jaw-dropping 140% on average since 2008. However by the end of 2011, there was the feeling among experts that things may gone too far - China’s voracious appetite for Brazilian commodities showed signs of slowing, while a drop in Brazilian productivity and lower than expected GDP caused the government to embark on a currency war to ensure Brazilian exports remained competitive. Recently regarded as one of the world’s most over-valued currencies, the Brazilian real has weakened throughout 2012, and last week hit the psychological level of 2 per US dollar, its lowest point since the beginning of 2009. While currency experts predict that the real will remain stable for the foreseeable future, for foreign investors this equates to a 22% increase in spending power since this time last year.

    For David Seale, Co-Director of property consultancy InTown Group, ´The weaker real mixed with recent consolidation in property values is making Rio property a better investment now than at any point in the last 12 months.´ Recent market data shows property prices in Rio stabilizing for the first time since 2008. Prices have dipped slightly in 2012 and are predicted to continue to do so in coming months before beginning to rise again before the end of the year. Experts believe that following the present consolidation, prices will increase again, however at more sustainable levels than in previous years. Rubem Vasconcellos, the president of real estate agency Patrimovel, is predicting that real estate prices could fall as much as 30% until the end of the year as the market stabilizes. For Samantha Mortner Flores, Co-Director of property consultancy InTown Group, `The coming months are a great time for bargain hunters to be looking to pick something up in order to get in before prices start to rise again in the lead up to the World Cup and Olympics.´ Her multi-lingual consultancy, InTown Group, is a one stop property, architecture and construction group created in response to a growing number of discerning international clients looking for first-rate property brokerage and renovation services.

  • When Rio succeeded in winning the bid to host both the World Cup final and the Olympics within the space of two years, one of the biggest challenges it faced was cleaning up its crime record to ensure that the millions of international visitors could breathe easily. Determined to succeed, Rio´s Government launched an intensive program of pacifying the favelas, driving out the drug traffickers that controlled them and installing Police Pacification Units (locally known as UPP´s) to protect the local communities and assist the transition.

    Towards the end of 2011, the government succeeded in securing the last two remaining favelas in Zona Sul- Rocinha and Vidigal, each a precious prize due to their prime location and strategic importance to the drug lords. While Rocinha, Rios largest favela, is nestled between the upmarket neighbourhoods of Gavea and Sao Conrado, Vidigal sits above Leblon, boasting some of the most spectacular sea views in Rio. On the whole, the pacification has proved largely positive, with many residents noting a rapid transformation in their quality of life due to the increased security, which in turn has opened up the favelas to new businesses, investment and the real estate market.
    As Rio´s real estate market has soared in recent years, the market has proved increasingly challenging for developers looking for the bargains that defined the past, driving the intelligent investor having to look further afield than the favoured foreigner haunts in Zona Sul for interesting deals. With the recent pacification came a loop hole, a last golden opportunity to bag a bargain pied a-terre in Zona Sul with sea views... but does it all seem too good to be true?

    While prices may have been rock bottom before the favelas were pacified, the market was quick to reflect the changes, with prices in Rocinha recorded to have shot up 50% in the 3 days post pacification. Given the continuing lack of infrastructure and services, this jump may be over-ambitious and it remains to be seen whether the market will respond. From an International investor´s perspective, those longing for a winter bolt hole overlooking the beach, Vidigal´s views and proximity to the beach make it the number one choice, although prices aren´t cheap. One 3 bedroom property in Vidigal with breath-taking views was advertised on the property website Zap classificados for $800,000-which although considerably cheaper than its counterpart down by the beach, it is hardly what you would call a bargain. Despite the recent eviction of the drug traffickers who ran the favelas, they have left behind insular, tight-knit communities with their own set of codes that does not necessarily welcome outsiders. When one German entrepreneur attempted to create a tourist complex in Vidigal, investing 1.1million in 37 individual properties for conversion back in 2009, the local governing body denied him permission, and he went back to Europe with his tail between his legs. Although his fortunes would have been well reversed with the recent transformation in the market, it does serve as a warning to foreigners looking to profit from the situation. Whether this same rule applies to Brazilian´s remain to be seen- rumour has it that the favelas of Pavoa and Pavoazinho, which lie directly behind Ipanema, will benefit not only from a new access road, but that Brazilian business mogul Eike Batista is planning to build a panoramic restaurant with 360 degree views across Zona Sul. While Vidigal and Rocinha have been home to gringos for years, the first foreigner has only recently bought a property in Pavaozinho and prices remain competitive- as usual, Eike may be on to a good thing.

  • Recognized as the most influential woman in architecture, last week Zaha Hadid was in Rio to take part in the second edition of Arq Futuro. Arq Futuro is a biannual event launched in 2011 to bring together the world´s architectural stars to discuss the role of architecture in modern society, both as a means of artistic expression as well as its role in social development. Spotted hanging out at the Fasano pool after the press conference, she also headed up the main event on the 30th of March at the Espaco Tom Jobim as the keynote speaker. Hadid discussed the challenges of designing for the Olympics, after taking part in London 2012´s Olympic swimming pool project. Due to the short time period between a city winning the bid and hosting the actual event, developments tend to focus on building a specific project rather than more long term needs for regenerating an area, such as investing in housing and schools- something that Rio appear to be taking note of. She also spoke about the importance of Niemeyer´s work in redefining Brazil´s modern identity as it moved away from the vestiges of colonialism. ´Brasilia is an amazing work, and a very abstract one. To achieve that level of abstraction with fantastic detailing was very difficult, and something I think you can communicate more successfully here in Brazil. He was a very important step for Brazil and a precursor, along with the Russian abstracts, to my work.´ Although Zaha has yet to design a project in Brazil, with this recent visit the seed has been planted, so watch this space…