Mauritius opens its arms to foreign buyers

Mauritius has long been popular with honeymooners, but buying property there has been tricky. So should you take advantage of the government's decision to open up to foreign ownership?

The tropical island of Mauritius, in the remote reaches of the Indian Ocean, has long been popular with British honeymooners. Carpeted in sugar cane fields and with a coral reef that calms its surrounding waters, the island has just the kind of gentle quality to earn a reputation as a romantic get-away. However, until recently attempting to buy property there has been a bit of a headache. Up until 2001, the local government banned foreign ownership of property outright, determined not to price their own people out of the local market. But with the sugar and textiles trade struggling, the government decided to open up to foreign ownership, sanctioning the development of a few resorts that are gradually coming to market.

The first resort available the Tamarina Gold Estate and Beach Club, which has 119 luxury villas and stretches across 104 acres on the south of the island sold out in 2004. But a further development on the other side of the island looks an attractive prospect for those hunting for a luxurious tropical retreat. The Anahita complex sits along a magnificent lagoon, stretched along six kilometres of the eastern coastline, with gourmet restaurants and a golf course designed by Ernie Els. The 70 two- and three-bedroomed flats offered off-plan last year, ranging from about £300,000 to £500,000, sold out in six hours. The three-to-five bedroom villas that have just gone on sale are going for around £690,000 to £1.7m. That doesn't include the $70,000 (around £35,000) land registration duty the government levies.

Not cheap then but the government unashamedly wants to attract the high end of the market only. And that means no Benidorm-style over-development. In all, there is likely to be in the region of 3,000-3,500 homes by the time government-sanctioned development is complete, with Anahita the only beachfront resort currently approved. The island also has a good legal system and there is no capital-gains tax on selling the property. Rental yields on the just-released Villas Valriche part of Anahita are quoted as 8.5% and the two-bedroom flats can rent for as much as $2,000 a night over Christmas. For those undaunted by the 12-hour flight, this could be an ideal investment, especially if you're after a winter getaway.

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