This story was updated on March 1, 2021.
For frequent travelers who have always dreamed of living abroad, buying a second home internationally could satiate that desire. Buying abroad gets you a home base in an entirely different corner of the world; think of all the destinations that suddenly become “local” to you when you own a home in Europe or Southeast Asia. And if you’re particularly attached to vacationing along the French Riviera or often spend time in Dubai, a vacation home gives you an excuse to come more often—with the added, grounding feeling of being home when you arrive.
When it comes to the specific details (ie. figuring out second home mortgage rates or just securing a mortgage for your second home) there are plenty of aides to help you out, but since you're buying in a different country, you'll want to check the local laws before starting on your journey.
But when it comes to the wanderlust, we've rounded up eight destinations abroad that offer excellent potential for buying your second home. If you'd like to keep your search closer to home, we have a list of the best domestic vacation spots to buy a second home, as well.
The French Riviera is one of the most difficult vacation home markets to tap abroad. It also happens to be designated by World Property Journal as the world’s favorite second home market. There’s a history of glamorous homeowners in the French Riviera, and many of their properties (like the Cannes estate Brigette Bardot used to vacation at) wind up as multi-million dollar real estate listings. And, of course, while it may seem like the entire Riviera is glitz and glamour, there are many different atmospheres to choose from when house shopping in Provence. From beautiful, intimate, and historic towns like Aix-en-Provence, to the full-blown luxury of St. Tropez, there is something for every Francophile in search of a second home here.
Dubai, United Arab Emirates
For luxury buyers, Dubai is the hot ticket in international real estate of late. A second home in Dubai could be a waterfront mansion with an infinity pool or the penthouse of a brand-new high rise overlooking the iconic marina, depending on your taste and budget. If neither speak to you, there’s also residential hotels, like the Palm Jumeirah Dubai, where buyers can own villas or suites outright and benefit from the hotel’s amenities and services. The United Arab Emirates are, of course, an expensive venue for a second home, but considering it’s a Middle Eastern business capital, there's a clear opportunity to spend a good portion of your year here.
Los Cabos, Mexico
Los Cabos is on the rise for luxury buyers in search of second homes. Christie’s Real Estate reports 22% growth in “affluent retirees and telecommuting buyers” purchasing property in Los Cabos. And considering Cabo’s burgeoning culinary and hospitality scene, beautiful coastal setting, and the easy international flight from the U.S., it’s not hard to see the appeal. There are two different scenes to consider when house shopping in Los Cabos, and interestingly, it’s not picking between San José del Cabo and Cabo San Lucas. Rather, it’s honing in on whether you want beachfront real estate or a garden-chic inland retreat. While the coastline is absolutely stunning, it’s actually less swimmable—but the surf and boating possibilities are endless. On the other hand, the inland mountain-flanked enclave and downtown San José del Cabo are both known for their arts and fine dining scene.
Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic
There’s a concentration of expat buyers in Santo Domingo, the Dominican Republic’s capital, who have sought out this Caribbean country as tourism revenue continues to grow. While there’s certainly maintenance required when you own a home on a Caribbean island, the investment ensures you have the freedom to escape to your island paradise at a moment’s notice. Ownership of a Caribbean home is certainly more of an investment than a timeshare on St. Croix, certainly, but it also means more time in the surf and sand for your family, and a much better potential return on investment.
Panama City, Panama
Panama has been a major player on the global real estate stage in the last few years. The fervor originally started with investors coming from South America—Argentina, Colombia, and Venezuela, specifically—and Panama is now most notably attracting North American, European, and Chinese buyers as well. Buyers can do well in Panama City, buying in a new beachfront condo development and potentially benefiting from a strong rental market.
Singapore makes it relatively easy for foreigners to break into their real estate market—provided they have the capital to do so. The high prices in Singapore primarily attract luxury buyers after condos in high rises or homes in developments. Nonetheless, with a routine application to the Singaporean government and a down payment, you’re in. Singapore is a smart choice for a second home from a business travel perspective; it’s a unique connector to the eastern world. Not only is Singapore a perfect environment for business and pleasure, it connects travelers to Asia and the Middle East with geographic ease we simply don’t have coming from the U.S.
For long-term international living, Portugal makes a lot of sense, especially considering you can conceivably buy your second home at a good price. Unfortunately, a result of the Portugese financial issues from 2010 to 2014, real estate prices plummeted and have yet to fully rebound. For retirees looking to declare residency in Portugal, their universal healthcare system is another perk—and being able to vacation hop around Europe doesn’t hurt either. While, of course, coastal areas like the Algarve have distinct curbside appeal, buying in Porto or Lisbon makes it easier to access your second home and you’ll be more motivated to use the property year-round because the liveliness doesn’t come to a stand still in the off-season.
Koh Samui, Thailand
While we’re partial to Koh Samui, the Thai islands in general have a lot of potential and see a lot of interest from North American buyers. Home ownership rates in Thailand are particularly high—in fact, higher than they are in the U.S. and U.K., and that is partially a result of foreign buyers. When you’re browsing Koh Samui listings, you’ll be met with one distinct truth: buying in the Thai islands brings your dreams of owning a waterfront mansion with beautiful scenery and a private pool within reach. To buy in Thailand, you’ll have to follow certain Thai real estate regulations, not unlike ones you’d encounter in other countries around the world. Essentially, in buying property in Thailand, the buyer gets a 30-year lease or secured leasehold on the land, as approved by the government.