AN 18TH-CENTURY CORSICAN PALACE WITH SEVEN BEDROOMS
$3.6 MILLION (2,750,000 EUROS)
This granite palace tucked among hills near the Mediterranean Sea is roofed in red tile and has nearly 5,400 square feet of space. It was built in 1780 by a local nobleman in the heart of a village about 15 minutes' drive from Ajaccio, the Corsican capital. Seven years ago, it was thoroughly restored by the current owner, who made use of salvaged materials like oak flooring and unpolished black slate, along with modern appliances.
The stone structure, fully air-conditioned and set on almost half an acre, now operates as a bed-and-breakfast inn called Carpe Diem Palazzu. It is equipped and functional; all furnishings are included in the asking price.
The palace consists of four stories and a rooftop belvedere with a view of Corsica's mountains and countryside. It has six bedroom suites on upstairs floors and a seventh bedroom and bathroom used by hotel staff members in the belvedere.
The entrance is flanked by cavernous living areas, each with a vaulted ceiling of ancient bricks. The space to the left is used as a salon and reception area for the inn; the one on the right functions as a dining room in the winter and a library in the summer (when dining moves to the two large terraces). Of the 12 fireplaces in the house, the one in the dining room is the only one that works. Beyond the vaulted rooms is the restaurant-grade kitchen, as well as a small room used as an office and a Turkish bath. The kitchen has appliances by the Italian manufacturers Smeg and Angelo Po Grandi Cucine and the British dishwasher company Winterhalter.
The foyer is dominated by a massive granite staircase; upstairs, each of the bedroom suites has about 540 square feet of space and a separate lounge, as well as a shower and sink separated by curtains or a divider. Two bedroom suites have mezzanine levels; several also have vaulted ceilings. Each suite has casement windows with restored wooden shutters that open from within, said Christian Mela, the palace's owner. The bathrooms have spa showers by the Italian company Samo and handmade marble sinks and other features from Carrara, Italy.
In addition to the two large terraces, the property has a 30-by-15-foot heated swimming pool and a large Jacuzzi spa. There is an outbuilding used for laundry, and a parking lot for inn guests. The palace is in the village of Eccica-Suarella, which is about 15 minutes from Ajaccio and its international airport. The beaches of the resort town of Porticcio are only about 10 minutes away, as is a six-hole golf course, Mr. Mela said.
Corsica, a 3,350-square-mile Mediterranean island between southern France and Italy, has some of the finest beaches in Europe, yet home prices can be 30 to 40 percent less expensive than on the French Riviera, depending on the property, said Alexandra Connolly, director of Alexandra Lloyd Properties, a real estate firm based in Nice that specializes in properties along France's coast and Corsica.
Also, while Corsica has contemporary apartments and villas, many of the homes tend to be stone farmhouses, with few examples of the Belle-Epoque and Art Deco style buildings found on the Riviera. "Corsica in the early 1900s really wasn't developed," Ms. Connolly said. "There are grand properties in Corsica, but they typically aren't as grand as those along the French Riviera."
Because Corsica is a small market, with large estates handed down inside families from generation to generation, the impact of the global financial crisis has been hard to gauge, brokers said.
"As everywhere in France, the top houses didn't drop in price, but dropped in sales volume," said Laurent Molinari, a broker with Lmolinari Immobilier de Provence, a real estate firm that specializes in the South of France and Corsica and has this listing.
As for the middle and lower ends of the market, prices fell by at least 10 percent in the housing crash, he said. They have since recovered, with an increase of 7 percent in 2010. The market is stable enough that pressure has increased to develop along Corsica's coastline, which is currently protected by strict regulations.
While 1.5 million euros will buy an attractive four-bedroom vacation home in Corsica, most foreign buyers are seeking a home with a sea view that is also within walking distance of the sea -- a rare commodity, Ms. Connolly said.
The average price for a mid-market home in Corsica is about 2,900 euros per square meter, and a high-end home costs about 6,400 euros per square meter, Mr. Molinari said. This palace is priced at 5,500 euros per square meter, a particularly good deal given the scarcity of such properties on the island, Mr. Mela said.
"In addition, this palace is near the sea, which is very rare, because back then, most palaces were built inland to protect them from invasions by sea," he said.
WHO BUYS IN CORSICA
More than half of the real estate sales in Corsica involve buyers who are not residents of the island, Mr. Molinari said. Most of those buyers are residents of mainland France, but some are from other European countries, including Italy, Britain and Belgium. Ms. Connolly also mentioned Russian buyers.
The most developed resort area in Corsica is Porto-Vecchio on the southeastern coast, often called the "Saint-Tropez of Corsica." It is especially popular with Italians, said Janet Rankin, managing director of DirectCorsica Ltd., a British travel company.
Corsica is one of France's 27 administrative regions, and the process of buying a home on the island is the same as for mainland France. There are no restrictions on foreign buyers. However, just as in mainland France, the government reserves the right to meet a buyer's bid and purchase a property that is particularly large or culturally significant, Ms. Rankin said.
A notary conducts all home sales in Corsica, and buyers pay a lump sum of roughly 10 percent of the sale price to cover the notary fee, stamp duty, land registration and other administrative fees, Ms. Connolly said. The fees of the real estate agent are typically built into the sales price of the home, she said. Foreign buyers face no difficulty obtaining a mortgage, brokers said.
Regional government: Corse.fr
Official tourism portal: Visit-corsica.com
Carpe Diem Palazzu site: Carpediem-palazzu.com
LANGUAGES AND CURRENCY
French, Corsican; Euro (1 euro = $1.31)
TAXES AND FEES
Annual property taxes on this property are 450 euros.
Laurent Molinari, Lmolinari Immobilier de Provence, 011-33-484-84-60-20; Lmolinari.fr
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.