When Anderson Cooper first traveled to the Brazilian beach town of Trancoso in 2016, he immediately knew he had to own a vacation home there.
“I had been going to Brazil for over a decade by then and had heard about the charm of Trancoso for years,” the CNN anchor said. “From the moment I visited I was taken by the magic – the beaches, the main square called the Quadrado, the mix of cultures and how authentic and non-touristy it was.”
Mr Cooper is one of the growing contingent of home buyers, both Brazilian and international, who are aiming to own a vacation property in Trancoso. Located in the state of Bahia, northeast Brazil, the destination was originally a fishing village that had no electricity until the 1980s. Characterized by colorful houses, more than one half a dozen long stretches of beach and the Quadrado, the grassy central plaza with ocean views, it was a hippie paradise in the 1980s and 1990s.
With homes for sale in prime locations scarce, Mr Cooper found land near the Quadrado and commissioned Wilbert Das, architect and co-owner of Trancoso’s Uxua Casa Hotel & Spa, to build his idyllic escape. Comprised of four buildings, the property has three bedrooms and is built in a style emblematic of traditional houses in the town and surrounding areas. It has a forest green facade paired with cream-colored colonial doors and features sustainable materials such as reclaimed wood, Brazilian hardwood, clay, and eucalyptus.
“Knowing that I have the house makes me very happy and I visit my family whenever I can,” Mr Cooper said. “I like the lifestyle in Trancoso and the relaxed pace.”
How the Trancoso boom started
According to Edmond Van Wijngaarden, owner of Exclusive Realty Brasil in Trancoso, jetsetters discovered Transcoso more than two decades ago and, like Mr. Anderson, were drawn to the rustic sophistication, nearly year-round sunshine, intimacy and the preserved natural setting. .
It didn’t take long for celebrities to realize: Beyonce visited 2013 and reportedly loved it so much she used it as a filming location for her song ‘Blue’ video. Leonardo DiCaprio vacationed there a few years later and returned there at least more than once. Today, Mr. Cooper is one of many bold people who own property in the city. Another example is acclaimed design duo and husband and wife Robert and Courtney Novogratz, who recently redecorated their home in the city.
While Trancoso has seen a tourism boom over the past decade, the luxury residential property market was relatively small until mid-2020, Mr Van Wijngaarden said.
“In the months since the pandemic began, demand for high-end homes has skyrocketed,” he said. “The interest started with wealthy Brazilians, mostly from Sao Paulo or Rio, who couldn’t travel abroad due to border closures and were desperate to get away without the crowds.”
Today, according to Mr. Van Wijngaarden, foreign buyers, most of whom have already visited Trancoso, are buying or building more and more properties.
“Trancoso had a distinct international flavor before the pandemic, and with the reopening of borders that pattern has continued,” he said. “We see Americans, Italians, Dutch, Belgians and French buying houses.”
Mr Van Wijngaarden’s company sold $52 million worth of property in and around the city between March 2020 and September 2022; before the pandemic, it was less than half the amount for the same period. (Homes are generally marketed in Trancoso in US dollars to attract international buyers.)
Another indication of the city’s new appeal: Fasano, the upscale Brazilian hotel brand, launched the sale of 23 beachfront villas there in 2018. Designed by renowned Brazilian architect Isay Weinfeld, these are contemporary homes that begin at $2 million. In the months following Covid, they quickly sold out, according to Davi Frota, managing director of Bahia Beach, the development company behind the villas as well as Hotel Fasano in Trancoso.
He said his company plans to develop an additional 130 plots on a hilly stretch of land over the next five years. “They can be under the Fasano name or unbranded. We haven’t decided yet,” he said.
Beach houses and massive estates
Aside from Fasano, Trancoso’s housing stock includes single-family homes, either on the beach or inland. Many are in developments such as Altos de Trancoso, which faces the sea, and Terravista, built around the local golf course and also beachfront. Homes typically start at 1,500 square feet and have a minimum of two bedrooms, but can have up to eight or more. Mr. Riche’s landlords often own estates of at least 20,000 square feet, Mr. Van Wijngaarden said.
Regardless of size, homes are generally built with sustainability in mind, using reclaimed wood and environmentally friendly materials. They tend to have an open plan with areas that integrate indoor spaces with nature outside, and if they are in gated communities, owners can take advantage of common amenities such as 24-hour security, a swimming pool and a gym. Lush landscaping that includes pink pepper, jackfruit, and coconut palms is another common element.
“Our version of luxury is rustic luxury because we’re building the same way houses have been built for thousands of years here,” Das said. The desire for property caused by the pandemic has seen house prices rise, he said, to double in recent years. Homes start at around US$350,000, but well-located luxury properties cost well over $1 million, Mr Van Wijngaarden said. Beachfront living means an entry price of at least US$5 million.
For homeowners, Trancoso offers uncrowded beaches along with the surrounding rainforest and ocean backdrop. As the sun sets, the scene gravitates from the sand to the Quadrado where bars and restaurants begin to open at dusk, and local musicians entertain the crowds with lively Bossa Nova songs. The hubbub continues long after midnight. The seafood-focused cuisine and high-quality restaurants are also a draw — Capim Santo, for its part, serves freshly caught fish and shellfish like grilled lobster in a lovely biophilic-themed dining room.
laid back life
Other benefits include security with a low crime rate and the extra income owners can generate by renting out their properties to vacationers, a common practice in town.
“Transcoso is a haven for affluent shoppers looking for an off-the-beaten-track destination where they can enjoy myriad lifestyle benefits among like-minded people,” said Chris Graham, the founder of the London-based luxury real estate branding consultancy. Graham Associates. “It’s a laid-back, eco-chic town with a rustic sophistication that ticks a lot of boxes.”
Michelle Riley, who lives in Manhattan and is an attorney for a private equity firm, echoed that sentiment. She bought a house with her wife in 2016 which Mr Das helped renovate and visits five or six times a year for ten days at a time.
Located right next to the Quadrado, it is a mini complex of old fishermen’s houses and has a swimming pool. Mrs. Riley and her wife paid US$500,000 for the house and spent the same amount redoing it.
“We’re now getting offers from people to buy it for a lot more money, but it’s not for sale,” she said. “We love everything about Trancoso and never plan to leave.”