International Real Estate: House Hunting in … the Dominican Republic

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This Mediterranean-style villa, perched on a cliff overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, is in the gated Sea Horse Ranch resort, near the beach town of Cabarete, on the rural northern coast of the Dominican Republic.

Sitting on just over an acre of landscaped property, the house, known as Villa Ataraxia, was designed by Sergio Escarfullery, a local architect, in the early 2000s and built out of concrete and stone, with a massive terra-cotta roof. Its 7,857 square feet include five bedrooms and six full bathrooms. All of the rooms have oversized windows, and the living room, in the back of the house, opens on three sides to outdoor spaces with the same Mexican tile and mahogany finishes found inside.

A walkway cuts a path through the center of the backyard to a large lap pool, a brick barbecue and a palapa, or thatched structure, overlooking the ocean.

“The views are amazing,” said Luis Gonzalez, an agent with Holden Sotheby’s International Realty in Cabarete, one of the property’s listing brokers. “You get great views of the ocean and the rocks below the cliff.”

The owners, a family from California, have used it as a vacation home for the last five years, Mr. Gonzalez said. They are including all furnishings in the sale.

The gated estate is entered via a stone driveway with a covered, two-car carport on one side. A large wooden door opens to an entry hall that stretches back to the yard and tropical gardens behind the house. To the right of the hall is a den that could be used as a TV room or library; to the left is a formal dining room that opens to a chef’s kitchen with granite countertops and stainless-steel appliances. At the end of the hall is the living room, anchored by an ornate iron chandelier, with large sliding doors that open to covered patios on two sides and the backyard in the rear.

The living room opens on three sides to outdoor spaces with the same Mexican tile and mahogany finishes found inside.CreditRicardo Piantini for The New York Times

Although the living area is on one main level, soaring beamed ceilings throughout — reaching as high as 35 feet in some places — offer additional mezzanine space. Two of the guest suites have sizable sleeping lofts, and a small stairway off the kitchen leads up to the staff quarters.

The en suite bedrooms are in a separate wing of the house and include a large master suite with a seating area, a marble bath with a whirlpool tub, and a covered terrace. In all, there are two king and nine queen beds in the house, making it well suited for large gatherings.

The 250-acre Sea Horse Ranch resort offers numerous amenities, including tennis courts, an equestrian center, pools, a beach club and beach access. It is just outside the town of Cabarete in the Puerto Plata province (population around 330,000), about 19 miles from the city of Puerto Plata and a short drive from Isabel de Torres National Park. It is seven miles from Gregorio Luperón International Airport and about 140 miles north of Santo Domingo, the capital city on the southern coast.

Although the Dominican Republic’s housing market slowed after the 2008 global financial crisis, “it never fell as much as other parts of the Caribbean and the world,” said William Holden, the broker-owner of Holden Sotheby’s International Realty.

In the years since, he said, the market has been “on a slow uptrend,” thanks to a stable economy and an increase in tourism. Popular tourist spots along the southern and eastern coasts, like Casa de Campo and Punta Cana, have seen more growth than those on the northern coast, where there are fewer international flights and tourist attractions, real estate agents said.

In the backyard, the lap pool overlooks the Atlantic Ocean.CreditRicardo Piantini for The New York Times

“Everything is on a smaller scale” in the Puerto Plata region, said Sabine A. Mertes-Urbahn, the broker-owner of Select Caribbean Properties. “But you have a very nice international, cosmopolitan community here, with many families from all over the world.”

Mr. Holden estimated that sales volume in the northern region is up around 2 percent from last year, although he and others said that prices have remained level.

Luxury properties in the Cabarete area typically start at about $200,000 for an older, two- or three-bedroom condominium farther from the water, agents said, while oceanfront homes in newer luxury developments, like Sea Horse Ranch, sell for at least $700,000.

Several new oceanfront luxury condominiums have been built in the last decade, Mr. Holden said, with unit prices ranging from $500,000 to $2 million.

Americans and Canadians looking for vacation or retirement homes make up a large portion of the foreign buyers in the Dominican Republic, real estate professionals said, noting that there is also strong interest from Europeans, particularly those in France, Italy, Spain and Germany.

Mr. Holden said he has also seen a growing number of Russian buyers, as well as a recent influx of Venezuelans. “It’s very stable politically, and property rights are very secure,” he said of the Dominican Republic.

Buyers on the northern coast are typically drawn to the miles of sandy and rocky beaches, as well as the excellent surfing and sailing, particularly in Cabarete.

The Beach Club at Sea Horse Ranch, about a half-mile from the house, has a bar, restaurant and event space. CreditRicardo Piantini for The New York Times

“If you’re looking to make a growth on your investment, the northern coast is the way to go,” said Juan Manuel Suero, a senior partner at the law firm Aaron Suero & Pedersini, in Santo Domingo.

Other buyers are lured by the diverse terrain. “In the north coast we have mountains, and rivers where you can go rafting,” Ms. Mertes-Urbahn said. “The area is also famous for surfing. And there’s snorkeling. It’s more diverse here.”

There are generally no restrictions on foreign ownership of property in the Dominican Republic.

Local financing is available, but usually at less attractive terms than many buyers could get at home, Mr. Suero said, so most international buyers pay in cash or obtain loans elsewhere.

Although it is not required, buyers are advised to hire an experienced local lawyer to represent them during the transaction, which usually takes around 45 days. The lawyer will oversee due diligence on the property, Mr. Suero said, arranging for a title search and appraisal, among other things. Legal fees are usually 1 to 2 percent of the sale price of a property, although they are negotiable.

Closing documents must be notarized. Notaries, who are required to have a law degree, charge a nonnegotiable fee based on the property’s value.

Spanish; Dominican peso (1 Dominican peso = $0.02)

Sellers typically pay the real estate agent’s commission, which ranges from 4 to 8 percent of the sale price. Buyers are responsible for a number of closing costs, including a transfer and stamp tax.

The annual property taxes on this home are $7,000, Mr. Gonzalez said, and monthly homeowner association fees, which cover common-area maintenance, security and garbage collection, are $755.

Luis Gonzalez, Holden Sotheby’s International Realty, 809-571-0072,; and Jennifer Kirkman, Sea Horse Ranch, 800-635-0991,

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