House Hunting in … Chile

This modern three-bedroom house sits on a secluded 17-acre plot near the entrance of La Campana-Peñuelas Biosphere Reserve, a Unesco-recognized site near the Pacific coast of Chile.

Built on a hillside in the Chilean Coastal Mountain Range with sustainability in mind, the property is about 45 miles northeast of the capital city of Santiago, and 25 miles west of the port city of Valparaiso.

A private road leading to the property traverses forest and opens onto a clearing with mountain and valley views. The 2,725-square-foot house is constructed from reinforced concrete and steel, and clad in Tepa, a native wood. Several staircases and walkways lead to the house’s stacked wood-and-glass modules, conforming to the geography of the site and providing space for gardens and natural water features — one of which, a 720-square-foot rectangular pool, is bio-filtered for swimming.

The owner, Anthony Behm Vidal, built the house in 2014 with the Santiago-based firm GITC arquitectura. In an email, he said it was designed for “maximum privacy, living together with nature.”

Rodrigo Belmar Expósito, the lead architect on the project along with Felipe Vera Buschmann, noted the care with which the house was constructed — from devising a system for delivering the construction materials with minimal impact to the land to curing the wood naturally without manufactured power. “The owner wanted the materials to get the energy of the place, too,” he said. “We had very high-tech construction, and on the other side, we had things that were more spiritual. It was a beautiful experience, energy and poetry at work.”

The ground floor features an open layout with two-story ceilings and a sunken living room that provides separation from the dining area and kitchen. The Fagor-brand appliances include an oven, an induction cooktop and an integrated gas hob. Sliding glass walls in the living room open to the Japanese-style garden and several wood decks around the house.

Skylights and large windows ensure views from all sides. Mr. Belmar said the window design maximizes light and breezes, while areas of the interior receive indirect sunlight, providing relief from heat during the day. Two of the second-floor bedrooms, one of which has an en suite bathroom, face east. The master bedroom, also with an en suite bath, opens onto a north-facing balcony and mountain views. A mezzanine sitting area overlooks the ground-floor common areas, and a catwalk leads to an elevated, glassed loft set up for stargazing.

The house runs on sustainable water and electrical schemes, including rain- and wastewater recovery, and on/off-grid energy systems.

A separate terraced complex houses a sauna, Jacuzzi and hot tub, and two bathrooms. The property also includes a one-bedroom guesthouse, a covered parking area for four cars and organic orchards with 750 avocado trees and other fruit trees with income-producing potential.

Situated in an area known for its natural resources, agriculture and the protected biosphere, the town of Olmué, with about 14,000 residents, is a 10-minute drive. It’s an area for “people who want to live in a more quiet environment, a healthy lifestyle where you can provide everything yourself on your own,” said Patricio Saavedra of Chile Sotheby’s International Realty, who listed the property.

The coastal city of Valparaiso, about an hour west by car, is Chile’s third-largest metropolitan area. Santiago, about 90 minutes southeast, has more than 6 million residents and the nearest international airport.

Chile is experiencing a tourism boom, helped by a stable economy and infrastructure projects including upgraded rapid-transport systems. Valparaiso — a Unesco-designated city that draws comparisons to San Francisco thanks to its steep hills and colorful houses — is transforming, too, from upgrades in restaurants and hotels to conversions of commercial buildings into residential.

Baltazar Sánchez Lecaros, an agent with Bórquez & Associates, a Christie’s International Real Estate Affiliate, said that while Valparaiso is on the rise, the growing mindfulness of its historic buildings makes new development a challenge. Outside the cities, he said, “The luxury market is strong, but it is small because we are a small country.”

A 19 percent value-added tax (VAT) on new homes imposed in 2016 and aimed at “habitual sellers” resulted in a 35 percent drop in national home sales, but since then the market has rebounded, reports, an online source for foreign investors.

In 2018, the Chilean Chamber of Construction reported a 5.5 percent increase in new home sales across the country, with a 6.3 percent rise in the Santiago area. The general residential home-price index saw a gain of 5.2 percent, down slightly from a 6.2 percent gain in 2017. Prices for houses rose 8.5 percent, while prices for apartments increased 2.5 percent.

In the Santiago metro area, a three-bedroom, 5,704-square-foot house listed with Christie’s International Real Estate is currently asking $3.4 million, while a five-bedroom, 5,209-square-foot penthouse apartment overlooking the sea just outside the city of Valparaiso is listed for $1.92 million.

Local agents say Chileans represent most buyers of second homes, though international agencies such as Christie’s and Sotheby’s field requests from European and American potential buyers.

Mr. Sánchez said while many Chileans are buying around Santiago, “you can find clients from other countries buying in the south, in Patagonia or in the area of Santa Cruz.” Those properties, he said, are commonly wineries, while in the north, closer to Valparaiso and Santiago, buyers seek beach houses in Zapallar and Cachagua.

Julio Alonso, a commercial law specialist and the executive director of Wines of Chile, said, “What is really going to be a distinctive element when choosing Chile is that you can have your property in an immaculate, pristine environment, just hours from a big city, at a very fair price.”

Purchasing in Chile is “extremely easy because Chile treats foreign investors equal to Chileans,” said Mauricio Banchieri, the former Chilean trade commissioner to New York and now a Santiago-based entrepreneur. “Foreigners have the same rights we do and the same treatment as Chileans in this market.”

Real estate prices are listed in Chilean pesos, but tied to the Unidad de Fomento (UF), a monetary unit that is interchangeable with pesos and adjusts with inflation.

There are no restrictions for nonresidents to obtain mortgages through Chilean banks, said Luis Alberto Aninat, a senior partner at Aninat Schwencke & Cia, a firm specializing in real estate. But such borrowers, he said, are required to comply with local regulations and obtain a taxpayer number, as well as demonstrate the ability to pay. For those reasons, most foreigners pay in cash, agents said.

Buyers with mortgages through a Chilean bank currently can benefit from a historically low interest rate — between 2 and 2.2 percent. “I am refinancing everything I can and reinvesting as much as I can,” said Mr. Banchieri.

Though attorneys are not required for property transactions — notaries and real-estate registrars can handle most paperwork — Mr. Aninat recommended hiring an attorney to draft contracts and oversee the steps of transfer and registration. The process may be completed in 20 to 40 days.

Lien searches aren’t required, Mr. Aninat said, but highly advised. “Since Chile’s legal system provides a statute of limitations for acquiring property through good-faith possession, it is absolutely necessary to verify if the property is unencumbered,” he said.

Spanish; Chilean peso (1 peso = $0.001)

Buyers and sellers split closing costs, which average about 2 percent each. The buyer assumes costs such as legal (1 percent of the property value) and notary fees (10 percent, but capped at $180) and stamp duty (20 to 30 percent). A 19 percent VAT is levied for a newly constructed home.

The annual tax on this property is about 260,000 Chilean pesos ($362).

Patricio Saavedra, Chile Sotheby’s International Realty, +56 9 7778 6303

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