International briefs

Marinas are new golf courses in Latin America

Marinas for superyachts, or boats longer than 98 feet, are taking the place of golf courses as essential amenities for builders hoping to sell vacation homes on the coasts of Mexico, Costa Rica and Panama, the International Herald Tribune reported.

At Peninsula Papagayo, a residential and resort project on the Gulf of Papagayo in Costa Rica, 42 condos near the marina have already sold. The project is slated to have 500 residential units, with prices ranging between $350,000 and $1.2 million. Also in Costa Rica, 30 percent of the owners at Los Suenos Resort and Marina own a boat. Ashley Bretecher, executive director of marketing for the development, said the marina, with 300 slips, is responsible for bringing in most buyers.

But some industry experts said they doubted superyacht owners would come to the region in large numbers. Bob Saxon, an industry consultant in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., said the region doesn’t have enough “on-water experience” to attract superyacht owners. Others said developers don’t realize how many amenities superyacht owners need.

Croatian real estate market stalls

While Croatia is still a prime vacation destination for European travelers, its real estate market has dwindled significantly. Brokers report few sales and no new development, the International Herald Tribune reported.

There is “total stagnation and illiquidity in the residential market,” said Vedrana Likan, general manager of the Colliers International real estate office in the Croatian capital of Zagreb. According to Likan, Croatia had almost 13,000 unsold apartments by the end of the first quarter of 2009.

Sign Up for the undefined Newsletter

The reasons for the slow real estate market include zoning laws prohibiting the building of apartments and villas on a large chunk of land on the coast, known as the T2 site. There are also lingering disputes over land entitlement because Croatia used to be part of Yugoslavia, where most of the land was owned by the state.

Croatian real estate prices have fallen nearly 25 percent since last year, and 65 percent of real estate agents said, in response to a recent survey of 50 Croatian agencies, that they expect prices to fall further in the next year.

“The price of real estate in Croatia is already at the level of the rest of the E.U., or even higher, so we certainly see no room for increasing prices,” Likan said.

Real estate investment in Africa declining

When the global economic downturn began, Africa seemed likely to be spared: African banks had put almost none of their assets in the subprime mortgage market, and investment firm Dubai World was set to invest $230 million in Rwandan tourism. But investments in real estate projects in Africa have been drastically cut, the International Herald Tribune reported.

Dubai World has slashed its slated number of tourism projects in Rwanda from eight to two, and a joint British Gas and ETAP project in Tunisia has been stopped due to lack of financing. The Congo hopes for at least $600 million in foreign investment this year, down from an expected $2.4 billion.

Nathaniel Barnes, Liberia’s ambassador to the United States, said he would rather receive foreign investment than foreign aid, because investment projects hire people to do construction work and create service jobs for the community. When the economic crisis lifts, many investors believe economic interest in Africa will swell again. Emerging Capital Partners, an equity firm based in Washington, announced last month that it was spending at least $26 million for controlling stakes in two North African construction companies.