What You Get for Your Tel Aviv Apartment: A Caribbean Island or an Italian Village

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The Chateau de Chenonceau. More modest castles in France's Loire Valley can be had for under 500,000 euros. Credit: Bloomberg News

Tel Aviv is one of the world’s liveliest cities, but when it comes to housing, it doesn’t have a lot to offer young families. Those who want to buy an apartment in the center of the city need to put down a lot of money up front. The typical price of a four-room apartment in the center of Tel Aviv is between 3.1 million and 3.8 million shekels — a million dollars, according to the Madlan website, which provides such data based on Tax Authority records. The price varies, of course, based on the age and location of the apartment.

The most expensive part of the city is in the area around David Hameleh Blvd., where new four-room apartments are selling for about 6 million shekels ($1.6 million) and second-hand apartments run for about 5 million. 

Those who have the wherewithal to buy an average four-room apartment in the heart of Tel Aviv will be surprised to find that for the same price and sometimes for much less, they could buy fantastic properties elsewhere around the world. They may not be near Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square or the Tel Aviv Mediterranean waterfront, but as compensation, they might have eight bedrooms, a ski lift, a private beach, a coral reef or they could be a historic structure. Here are some of the options:

A private island: Alligator Caye Parcel

The private island of Alligator Caye Parcel in Belize in Central America is currently going for just $99,000. The Private Island Online website, through which it is being advertised, says the owners are eager to sell. The price for the island was recently reduced from $169,000. The property is actually comprised of a number of small islands of a total area of about 43 dunams, just under 11 acres. The location is virgin territory and requires an investment in the form of development costs. Access is only by boat. It could be the perfect place for diving enthusiasts. The major attraction in the area is a coral reef that, at about 300 square kilometers, is the second largest in the world and has been declared a UNESCO world heritage site.

There are other islands in Belize that are available for sale and some are a bit more developed. Captain Willy’s Caye, for example, which is only 14 kilometers from Belize City, may be relatively small, at 8 dunams, but it comes with two buildings, including one on the water that is linked to the island by a bridge. The property is priced at just $300,000. Then there’s the Panamanian island of Isla Paloma in the Bocas del Toro region. It’s just a dunam of land, a quarter-acre, but it is very well-maintained and is going for $400,000. For half a million dollars, you can buy an island in Nicaragua’s exotically named Pink Pearl. It’s an island of about 8 dunams located 5 kilometers off the mainland and comes with a floating two-bedroom house that includes a living area, bath, a kitchen and palm trees amid turquoise seas.

Petzen: an entire village

For up to half a million dollars, ski and snowboarding enthusiasts can find a large selection of places for sale in the Alps. A particularly rare find was put up for sale this year in the Austrian Alps. The property includes 26 kilometers of ski slopes, a snowboarding site, an ice-skating rink, a restaurant, four residential huts and an equipment rental shop. The price? A nominal one euro, in an effort to attract investors to develop the spot, which is important to the regional economy and it therefore comes with an annual economic grant estimated at about 1.4 million euros.

On the Italian side of the Alps, there’s an entire village for sale, Calsazio, a place where the population has aged and the young people have left. It is currently home to just eight residents. It’s about half an hour’s drive from the Turin airport and includes 14 homes of wood and stone, some of which are well-maintained. Others are dilapidated. In addition, the buyer will be getting pasture land and a forest. And there’s a ski slope nearby. Winters in the area are harsh and the roads in the area are not well-developed. The village was being offered on eBay last summer for about $333,000.

Ko Samui, Thailand

Real estate in Thailand is cheap compared to Tel Aviv and Europe. Large luxurious homes there are available at attractive prices even on popular touristy islands. On the Rightmove Overseas website, we found several properties on Ko Samui island for a maximum of a million dollars. The least expensive option was a new private home that is part of a six-house development on the western coast of the island. The single home is going for $863,000 and comes with everything that most families would be looking for: a view of the water, a private beach, a spa and a private pool, three bedrooms, security and cleaning services and a modern design. For a bit more, $904,000, you can get a bigger pool, a sun porch with lounge chairs, six bedrooms, a bar, a lily pond and a large living room, and it’s fully furnished.

History for sale: J.D. Salinger’s home

In 1951, the American writer J.D. Salinger wrote “Catcher in the Rye,” which became an instant success. Reluctantly, Salinger also became famous, and in subsequent years he sought solitude and wrote little for publication. In 1953, as part of his effort to escape the public eye, Salinger left New York, where he was born and grew up, and moved to Cornish, New Hampshire. There he had little in the way of social contact, which was limited mainly to local high school students who visited him at his new home. He cut off those contacts as well after one girl managed to convince him to be interviewed for the local newspaper. When the interview received prominent placement in the paper, he cut off contact with the students too.

All this is simply background relating to Salinger’s house, which is now for sale. The writer died in January of 2010. His last home in Cornish went on the market in August of this year for about $680,000. It’s a 270 square meter (2,900 square-oot) home on a 50 dunam (12.5 half acre) lot. Strangely, if perhaps not as strange as its last owner, the house has five bathrooms but only four bedrooms.

Fairy tale homes

For a million dollars, you can realize a childhood dream and live in a castle. France’s Loire Valley has about 300 castles, or chateaus if you prefer. The region was designated a UNESCO heritage site in 2000. Most of the castles are from the 10th century, when they began to be built by feudal noblemen. In the 15th century, they became an expression of power and wealth and the kings of France built their chateaus there in grand, ostentatious style. The French aristocracy followed in their wake, building homes in the shadow of royal power.

The French real estate website Le Nail is offering a modest chateau for sale for 496,000 euros. It’s about 30 kilometers from the tourist town of Angers and features 540 square meters of living space on a 32-dunam piece of property. The ground floor includes a living room, dining room, work room, a bathroom and three additional rooms. One floor up, there are nine bedrooms and two bathrooms and on the upper floor there are seven more bedrooms and two bathrooms.

Another fantastic but perhaps more reasonable option is an estate in Cleveland, Ohio that was built in 1915 with a European-inspired design. It has an asking price of $900,000. The 2,260 square meter (24,300 square foot) home features eight bedrooms, eight bathrooms and two acres — eight dunams — of garden.

For a little more — $999,000 — a smaller 315 square meter (3,400 square foot) house on 10 acres, 40 dunams, is for sale in Vermont. It has eight rooms, including three bedrooms on grounds that include a pond with a fountain. The property is in a quiet, sparsely populated, wooded area. It’s an hour’s drive from the state’s largest town, Burlington, which has a population of 45,000, making it about the size of Carmiel in northern Israel.

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