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June 3, 2011 10:06 pm

Hot property: business potential

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The purchase of a home overseas – especially one with business potential – involves careful planning. As well as having a sound understanding of the legal and taxation issues, buyers must prepare for currency fluctuations.

Simon Rubinsohn, chief economist at the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors, warns that short-term investments are ‘high-risk, so you need to be savvy and in the know’.

And for medium- to long-term agricultural ventures, ‘you need to be aware that land prices are more likely to reflect commodity prices, and as the commodities fall, the land prices may follow’.

For the savvy property hunter, looking for a good business opportunity, we offer five of the best propositions around the world.

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Olive estate

Olive estate, Aix-en-Provence, France, €8.25m

Where: About 30km (19 miles) north of Marseille, 30 minutes from Marignane international airport and three hours by train from Paris.

What: This restored classic bastide (fortified settlement) has eight bedrooms and five bathrooms covering 600 sq metres and a farmhouse converted for entertainment purposes, with a dining hall, library, kitchen and cinema room. There is a pool and tennis court, and orchards, lavender plantations, oak and cypress trees in the grounds.

Why: The property has a functioning olive estate, with a young plantation taking up 25 acres (1,000 trees) producing 270 litres of olive oil. There is potential to expand the business as the plantation matures to up to 10,000 litres of olive oil production.

Who: Provence Dream Property, www.provence-dream-property.com, tel: +33 6 15 05 28 49

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Castello dell Aquila

Castello dell’Aquila, Tuscany, Italy, €13m

Where: Overlooking the town of Gragnola, with views over the Apuan Alps, an hour from Pisa international airport.

What: A castle dating back to the 1100s, restored by its present owner in the 1990s. Set in 77 acres (31 ha) of private woodland, it includes a chapel (still consecrated for weddings), and an owner’s apartment with kitchen, sitting room and library. The main tower has nine guest suites and a further building in the courtyard has potential for another five suites.

Why: It is already an income-generating venue for events. The current owner has built a tax-efficient company to run weddings and events, and a boutique hotel. With only four staff, there is the potential to double its business from the current three to four summer weddings and six to seven winter-time business events.

Who: Cluttons Italy, www.cluttonsitaly.com, tel: +39 075 845 0100

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Hemingford Grey House

Hemingford Grey House, Cambridgeshire, UK, £2.25m

Where: Five miles from Huntingdon, 14 miles from Cambridge, 55 miles from London (51 minutes by train to King’s Cross station).

What: A grade II*-listed William and Mary former rectory, dating back to the late 17th century, set in grounds of 3.6 acres (1.5 ha) with frontage to the Great Ouse river. There are 28 bedrooms, most with en suite facilities, and kitchens adapted for commercial use.

Why: Its current owners have run a residential conference and training centre here for the past 35 years, living in a separate annexe. The seven conference rooms can hold up to 70 people. With its setting in a meadow by the river, the house could also be made into a boutique hotel.

Who: Carter Jonas, www.carterjonas.co.uk, tel: +44 (0)1223 368771

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Sakonnet vineyards

Sakonnet Vineyards, Rhode Island, US, $5.7m

Where: On the coast overlooking the Atlantic Ocean and Patchet Brook reservoir, a few minutes from the town of Little Compton, three to four hours’ drive from New York City, one hour from Boston Logan international airport.

What: A two-bedroom, three-bathroom house with a deck overlooking the vineyards and water. The property includes a 25,000 sq ft hospitality centre, tasting bar, office, vintner’s residence and warehouse.

Why: The award-winning working vineyard and winery attracts locals and tourists throughout the year – and hosts a few weddings too. At present, 30 acres are planted with vinifera varietals including Chardonnay, Gewurztraminer, Pinot Noir, and Cabernet Franc, producing about 30,000 cases annually. An additional 56 acres are available to be bought, contiguous to the 114 acres of vineyard, along with planning for a further building.

Who: Lila Delman, www.liladelman.com, tel: +1 401 284 4820

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Laguna del Sauce

Laguna del Sauce, Punta del Este, Uruguay, $5.6m

Where: On the southern tip of Uruguay, on the banks of the Laguna del Sauce, 15 minutes from Punta del Este international airport.

What: Lagoon-front property, set in 25 acres, designed by architect Horacio Ravazzani, with its own private beach with 980 ft of soft sand. The site has two main houses, a four-bedroom guest house with gym and pool and separate service quarters, and extensive grounds.

Why: Punta del Este is often called the “Saint Tropez” of South America. It is popular with North Americans and Europeans, and there are no special restrictions on foreigners buying property in Uruguay. Purchase tax is only 2 per cent. The current owner has not rented it out to date but this property could make an upmarket lodge or spa destination, with bird-watching in the forests and nearby polo, golf and watersports facilities on the Punta del Este.

Who: Engel & Volkers, www.engelvoelkers.com, tel: +598 042 44 6602

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