Wine Importing and Marketing Services

What Does $500,000 Buy in Wine Country?

A listing in South Africa / Pam Golding Properties

Zillow surfing, or endlessly scrolling through real estate listings in far-flung destinations, has become an escapist obsession particularly suited to pandemic life. As remote work opportunities expand and priorities shift, many wine lovers are pondering an eternal question anew: Can I move to wine country?

While a slew of wealthy entrepreneurs and retired hobbyists have bought wine country estates in prime locations around the world, for some buyers, a home close to vineyards in a wine region they love is good enough—and far more practical. 

Let’s say you have $500,000 to spend on real estate. What would that buy you in wine regions around the world?  

A living room in Sicily, Italy / Courtesy Italy Sotheby’s International Realty

Napa Valley, California 

Buying a home in an esteemed wine region in America’s most expensive state leads to some obvious conclusions. Namely, don’t expect your money to go far. 

Napa Valley has long been among the most desirable wine regions in the U.S., not just for its pricey Cabernet Sauvignon vineyards, but for second homes. Proximity to San Francisco and Silicon Valley has only pushed the market higher

“Napa continues to be a highly desirable place for many, both primary and secondary homeowners,” says Elizabeth Olcott, a broker associate who runs her own group in Keller Williams Napa Valley. She says that St. Helena and downtown Napa are the most popular and priciest areas.

“No matter how you look at it, we continue to have very low inventory” throughout the region, she says. Listings in the $500,000 range, which is considered modest in this market, are especially competitive. 

In Napa, townhomes start at around $500,000—with caveats. “It won’t be very special, and it will be lacking amenities and large spaces for relaxing,” says Olcott. For example, this recent listing in Napa asked $475,000 for approximately 1,200 square feet. Of course, it was snapped up less than a month after hitting the market.  

However, for second or vacation home buyers, a few options exist. Pacaso, a co-ownership second home company, has helped expand inventory by selling one home to up to eight owners—at an attractive price point.

Real estate shares are another option. In St. Helena, less than $450,000 will get you an eighth share of a $3 million fully renovated three bedroom, two bathroom home with additional one bed, one bath accessory dwelling unit (ADU). The co-ownership arrangement differs from a traditional timeshare in several ways. The most important distinction: Pacaso sells co-ownership of a real estate property asset; time shares sell allotments of usage of a hotel room or condo that’s owned by a third party, usually the developer.    

A villa with a view in Taormina, Sicily / Courtesy Italy Sotheby’s International Realty

Bordeaux, France

Bordeaux’s residential property prices aren’t quite as high as in Napa Valley but, when the pandemic hit and remote work expanded, French and international buyers started to seek wide open spaces in the bucolic Bordelais countryside. 

According to Priscilla Gimeno, an agent with Bordeaux Beyond, the hottest markets are in the Libournais, which includes SaintÉmilion and Pomerol, while the region of Entre-Deux-Mers offers good value for homes (and, coincidentally, for wines). 

A Pomerol home listed for less than $500,000 / Photo courtesy Beyond Bordeaux

With $500,000 to invest, Gimeno recommends looking in the countryside within an hour drive from Bordeaux city. “Depending, of course, on individual needs, the best investment option today is a property that gives you a primary or secondary home, with either the possibility to renovate and update, as well as expand into the property or even create a business,” she says.

It can be difficult for international buyers to get financing from French banks, she says, so plan to have cash ready for purchase. 

“Once a property is purchased, owners will need a bank account to pay utility bills and, of course, property insurance,” she says. “We also advise non-European buyers to verify if they need a visa for long term stays, and to check their access to health insurance and their ability to work in France, if they need to.” 

This 2,420-square-foot, semi-detached classic stone house in Pomerol listed for $509,000 has four bedrooms, three baths, an elegant stone spiral staircase, terrace, fenced yard with room for a pool and a private garage. While your neighbors grow and make Merlot, you can kick back in your new lounge and drink it.