By Joe Naab
May 7, 2012
For most Americans today, we have long forgotten the era when people bought a residencial lot and then designed and built their own home. Today, homes are what developers of residencial housing tracks build for resale in the ever widening landscape of Suburbia. Not so in Brazil.
In Brazil, the lost art of unique and personalized home design is not only alive and well, it is by far the norm. Of course, this won’t apply as much in densely populated urban areas where there are no available lots to build, but Brazil is giant and there are so many beautiful places to live, some would say the better places, where inexpensive lots are available and the owner is free to build to their own taste with very little restriction or regulation.
The Size of Lots in Brazil
The standard-sized lot in Brazil is 450m2 (square meters). For those thinking in square feet, there are 11sqft in 1m2, so you can think along the lines of 5000sqft. Lots can be as small as 350m2 up to about 1500m2. Getting above this size you move into a range that is certainly available, though not so available in urban and suburban zoning. Also, above this size, the word lot”, or “lote”, no longer applies, and you enter the size range of “Chcara”, which could be translated into “small estate”.
The Price of Lots in Brazil
The price of lots varies tremendously, not only within a city, but from region to region in Brazil. I’m going to use Florianópolis as an example because I’ve been here studying and working in real estate for eight years. There are several factors affecting values other than size and neighborhood, and I won’t cover them here for the sake of brevity. They consist of things such as the type of title, if the lot is in a gated neighborhood (here, called a “condominium”), legal residencial tract, or in neither of these two.
A lot in a nice gated neighborhood will cost from R$250,000 to R$500,000. These are the most expensive lots on the island, and these neighborhoods can be in the hills with panoramic views of the sea, or very near the beach, or both. A lot in a legalized residential tract where all the lots within the tract have public title, roads are paved, sewage system is installed, there are usually sidewalks and easy access to electric, water and phone, – will cost from R$90,000 to R$200,000. (NOTE: our readership is international and exchange rates can be all over the place so I leave it to the reader to convert into their local currency).
Lots that aren’t in gated neighborhoods nor in legalized residencial tracts most often cost the least. Today, about the lowest price that can be paid on the island is R$50,000, and for these lots, which vary a great deal in size, location, quality, etc., you could pay up to R$150,000 and above. The general range is R$50,000 to R$150,000.
Note that eight years ago, when I arrived, the simple lots averaged R$15,000, the residential track lots R$40,000, and the gated neighborhood lots R$80,000. Prices have increased dramatically, though they are flat and stable today.
The Broad Measure of Construction Cost for Homes in Brazil
It is very, very difficult to get any architect or builder to give you a phase by phase breakdown of the costs associated with building a home. What you’ll get instead is a quote for a price per square meter of the size of the home, and this includes everything – foundation, walls, roof, doors, windows, complete bathroom and kitchen, electrical, hydraulic, deck, and most finishings.
Within this system of pricing, you will often hear of different levels of quality, such as “this price gets you a simple home, this price gets you a typical home, and this price gets you a luxury home.” The difference is often in the finishings, such as the quality of doors, windows, floors, and the kitchen and bathroom installations.
One very important thing to consider is the size of the deck, which here is called “varanda”. Because this is outside had has fewer walls and may not have hydraulic (water) and electric, it is factored in at 50%. The way this is done is taking half the area of the varanda and adding it to the size of the enclosed space of the home. So, for example, a home with 200m2 of inside space and a 50m2 varanda will have a 225m2 (200m2 + 50% of 50m2), for the purpose of giving bids and calculating construction costs.
Home Construction Costs in Reais per Square Meter
The following prices are for the combined costs of a labor and materials. The going rate of good labor today is R$300 to R$350 per square meter, so you can figure the difference in cost is due to materials. This cost number, in portuguese, is called the “cubi” (KOO-bee), the construction cost per square meter.
- R$800/m2 – Simple home, still quite nice, modest finishings, no complex design elements.
- R$1100/m2 – Very nice quality home, good architect, reputable builder, quality, but not extravagant finishings.
- R$1400/m2 – This would be a luxury home (marble floors, luxurious detail) and the price could be much higher, too.
Home Construction Costs in U.S. Dollars per Square Foot
To help you do this yourself in the future, simply divide the price above twice as explained here. The first division is the exchange rate of the USD versus the Real. This will get you USD’s per square meter. For example, today the exchange rate is 1.90. Then, you divide this outcome by 11, which is how many square feet there are in a square meter. This gets you the cost in USD’s per square foot.
- $38/SqFt – Simple home.
- $53/SqFt – Very nice quality home.
- $67/SqFt – Luxury home.
Adding it All Up
I’ll leave it to the reader to calculate the myriad of cost combinations of lots, home sizes, and quality levels. There is no upper limit to what you can spend, so I’ll give you an example of a lower limit.
You buy a lot here in the reasonably priced beach neighborhood of Rio Vermelho 1-2km from the beach for R$50,000. You build a 70m2 two-bedroom home with a 20m2 varanda. Your building size for the “cubi” calculation is 80m2. Your cost to build will be R$64,000, so you’ll invest R$114,000 total. With today’s exchange rate of 1.90, this would be $60,000 USD’s.
I hope that helps you to gain a better understanding of the costs of building your own home here in Brazil.
Joe Naab is the author of Brazil for Life!, a how-to living guide for those who want to start a new life or have a second home in Brazil. He is presently working on a near-coastal, countryside real estate subdivision project outside the city of Florianópolis, Santa Catarina. He can be found at http://brazilforlife.com and reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. His Youtube channel is called BrazilforLifeTV.
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