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What can you do with £500,000? It isn’t loose change. Half a million pounds might stretch to one leg of a semi-successful racehorse, a Rolls-Royce, or a very small yacht. You can buy most luxury dogs for less than £500,000. You can buy all sorts of things. A sum of £500,000 is not to be sniffed at.
But supposing you already have a filly and a pedigree hound. And supposing you need somewhere to live. Well, even then £500,000 isn’t nothing.
Where to begin? Begin at the beginning and the Garden of Eden. General Gordon — Gordon of Khartoum — discovered the Eden of Adam and Eve in the Seychelles. He found evidence for the discovery in the form of a naughty, native nut — coco de mer: the female nut looks like a woman’s hips and the rest, so to speak, while the male “parts” are adorned with yellow flowers. Eden Island — a new marina off Mahé, the largest island in the archipelago — could be yours, or certainly a slice of it. Marketed by Savills, prices begin at £464,832 for a three-bedroom maison. And you can park the yacht outside.
One of the perks of paradise — or Eden Island — is that owners may apply for residency of the Seychelles. With similar beneficence, Spain offers residency visas if you invest €500,000 in property. So, for £500,000, you could nail down a flash two-bedroom apartment in Sierra Blanca, Marbella, or a two-bedroom place in nearby Benahavis surrounded by golf courses, and become a resident of Spain, free to wander the EU’s Schengen-visa countries like Don Quixote. Both properties are marketed by Winkworth.
Yet perhaps you are a Francophile. Good news: since la crise French dwellings are cheap — at least you can buy something rather charmant with £500,000. Something rather spacious, too. At that price, Hamptons is selling a townhouse with 10 bedrooms in St-Jean-d’Angély, 60km southeast of La Rochelle. Built in the 18th-century, the house was the birthplace of Louis Audoin-Dubreuil, leader of the first expeditions across the Sahara in a Citroën in the 1920s.
If the 18th century is too recent for you then you may feel more content breathing in the 17th-century mustiness of a manor 35km north of Poitiers. Marketed by Savills, the house has six bedrooms, two towers and a baker’s oven.
Older still, Chestertons has a 16th-century cottage in the Pays d’Auge region of Normandy. It has three bedrooms, it’s idyllic and it’s near the birthplace of assassin Charlotte Corday. It could be yours for a slim €390,000, leaving you with almost £200,000 spare to buy furniture. And in quiet moments, you can think of Corday stabbing Jean-Paul Marat in his bath.
The right chalet for your ski season is not so easy to find with so little to spend — but not impossible. Hamptons is selling a three-bedroom chalet in the Trois Vallées for £473,000. Less than a mile from Saint-Martin-de-Belleville, it has a terrace (where you might paint watercolours), a boules pitch and the slopes are a 15-minute walk away.
But skiing isn’t just Alpine. Indeed, many of the best people — such as you — ski in the Atlas Mountains of Morocco, so why not buy Villa Nejm, in the Al Maaden golf resort. On sale through Aylesford International, it is a four-bedroom house, 20 minutes from Marrakech, about an hour from the slopes. At £555,000, it is also beyond your means. But just think: if you could squeeze an extra £50,000, a measly £50,000, you could spend mornings in the snow and afternoons flying in a balloon or tending to your tan by the pool.
Life isn’t all beer and skittles, however, and some people go to work. Do not despair. For every thatched hut in the Indian Ocean, there are dozens of damp basements in south London. In Clapham, for example, you can fork out £500,000 for 500 sq ft of living space. And through Cluttons, you can buy a home with one bedroom and one sitting room in Sisters Avenue for exactly that. It isn’t in the basement — and it does look dry — but it is only 500 sq ft.
Whether you choose one bedroom in south London or 10 in St-Jean-d’Angély may depend on your state of mind, but compared with the rest of London, Clapham is not excessively priced. Venture north and you will find a 19th-century maisonette with two bedrooms near King’s Cross rail station or one very similar near Tufnell Park.
If you crave being centre stage, you could choose a place near Hyde Park. Kay & Co is offering a studio in Forset Court, which is neither big (349 sq ft), nor beautiful, but well within budget (£375,000). Added to that, Tony Blair would be your neighbour.
Other financial centres, such as Hong Kong and New York, may offer better value. In Manhattan, a brownstone apartment off Park Avenue will set you back £440,000. Forset Court may be cheaper, but this one-bedroom abode — on sale through Sotheby’s — has a wood-burning fireplace, parquet floors, beauty and prestige. Or if size matters, Halstead has a two-bedroom apartment for £495,000 in Midtown East. It has a huge bathroom, views of the East River and 1,300 sq ft to roll around in.
Flats in the middle of Hong Kong tend to be pricey. Soho — South of Hollywood Road — is teeming with hip bars and expats. And here, in a high-rise on Aberdeen Street, you could snaffle a dapper 300 sq ft studio available through Hong Kong Homes for HK$6m (£511,000).
With £500,000 — or 50m roubles — you could purchase a one-bedroom pad in the middle of St Petersburg. Two miles east of the Hermitage museum, Knight Frank is selling a 1,500 sq ft apartment fit for a mini oligarch. It has chandeliers in almost every room and the marble floors are so shiny you could gaze into them and flash a gold tooth.
But then you may feel nervous living under a ruler who seems thirsty for a third world war. In which case, try India. The city of Gurgaon, 20 miles from New Delhi, is full of high-tech jobs and the International City, just north of the centre, might hit the spot. LuxuryEstate.com is selling a 4,500 sq ft villa with five bedrooms and five bathrooms, inside a gated community. What could be better?
And if India also makes you nervous, you could try Scotland, which makes no one nervous apart from England. Indeed, try the New Town in Edinburgh, which is Georgian and elegant in ways that London will never be. In fact, try Dublin Street — New Town to the hilt — where Knight Frank is selling a 1,800 sq ft flat with high ceilings, sash windows and four bedrooms for precisely £500,000.
But where will you be happiest? No doubt, the west coast of Scotland, which is wonderful in every way apart from the midges and the rain. On the Isle of Lismore, 11 miles north of Oban, you could have a whitewashed manse built in 1760 with four bedrooms, a walled kitchen garden, a paddock and eternal happiness.
And that’s that. If Lismore doesn’t suit you, then you are a lost cause. And maybe you should live — and die — in Venice. In which case, there is a lovely attic, in a listed “palazetto”, on the Giudecca, with your name all over it. It has two bedrooms and Savills is selling it for a little less than £500,000.
Alexander Gilmour is a commissioning editor on House & Home