House Hunting in Sri Lanka: Outdoor Splendor with Ocean Views

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This six bedroom villa With elements of classical Sri Lankan architecture, an eight-acre tea plantation is moored atop a hill near the city of Galle on Sri Lanka’s south coast.

The 8,100-square-foot, two-story villa called Pokkuluwa features views of the Indian Ocean and can be purchased separately or with a two-bedroom companion for $3.9 million. beach house about three miles away.

Designed by the owners in collaboration with Sri Lankan architect Sunela Jayewardene, Pokkuluwa was created by blasting into the hilltop rock and integrating the house’s hidden structures, many of them open, into the natural tropical setting, said house owner Charlie Wrey. wife Tweenie.

Completed in 2010, the house sits at an altitude of 800 feet with an opening in the living area’s vaulted ceiling to house a tall santol tree. Mr Wrey said the red clay roof tiles are a nod to the traditional village “wallauwa” or mansion, the roof trusses are from sustainable tulang wood and the ceiling tiles are Ceylon mahogany.

“The house is definitely a mix of architectural styles and themes, but in the open-air flow of Sri Lanka from the inside out,” he said. “There are classic Dutch elements that are common on Sri Lanka’s south coast, with large pillars along with much of the style of the house.”

The Wreys have planned every detail in the elegantly furnished property, including the colorful fabrics they design and print on traditional Sri Lankan handlooms by local artisans. Mr Wrey said the furniture and accessories were not included in the asking price of the house, but it was negotiable.

A forest path leads to an outdoor parkland a short walk to a long patio with colonial planter chairs and cane sofas adjacent to Pokkuluwa’s 1,200-square-foot main living area. Straight ahead, an open pavilion with polished titanium bench sofas surrounded by a lily pond with a view of the paddy, stairs to the left of the santol tree lead to a roof terrace. To the right is a kitchen with a large island and an open dining area with a soaring ceiling. The kitchen also opens onto a covered patio for dining.

The left wing of the house has an air-conditioned TV room and master suite. The open-air master bath features natural rocks and flowering shrubs that house two showers and a molded stone bath. The master bedroom has a sitting area and doors that open onto a patio that overlooks the 53 x 18 foot L-shaped swimming pool with an infinity edge. Stairs lead to a lower terrace level, shaded by trees and furnished for dining.

“The master bedroom essentially serves as its own little apartment that can be neatly closed, which is ideal when renting the house,” said Mr. Wrey.

Beyond the kitchen and dining areas is a courtyard surrounded by hidden structures, one on the second floor, with four en-suite bedrooms with free-standing bathtubs on the balcony. All steel tubs of the 1930s were recycled from the Galle Face Hotel in Colombo, Sri Lanka’s capital and largest city. The furnishings include Ceylon antiques and one bedroom has a daybed molded into a natural rock. A porch opens from the courtyard into a freestanding structure housing a sixth bedroom with en-suite bathroom and a massage room. There is also a bungalow for practicing yoga.

The eight-acre field, overseen by a manager, grows tea, cinnamon, peppers and fruit including mangoes, avocados and pineapples. There are monkeys, peacocks and other exotic birds. A separate residence on site is for staff.

Complementing two bedrooms with en-suite bathrooms and set on an 8,700-square-foot waterfront plot, the companion beach house was completed in 2011 and, like the main house, borrows from the classic Dutch colonial design with columns and an outdoor patio. said Wrey.

Both properties are less than 10 miles from the city of Galle, with approximately 93,000 residents, the largest city in the Southern Province, one of Sri Lanka’s nine provinces. Nearby Unawatuna Beach has cafes, bars and shops as well as scuba diving and surfing all along the coast, including whale watching, especially in Hikkaduwa, Weligama and Mirissa. Yala National Park is approximately 88 miles east of Pokkuluwa.

Colombo, with a population of about 5.6 million, is 80 miles north of Pokkuluwa and the international airport is a two-hour drive away. Max Duddy, co-founder of The New Sri Lankan House, a Colombo-based real estate, said there is also the option of a 35-minute seaplane flight to Colombo from Lake Koggala, a 15-minute drive from Pokkuluwa. Agency with Pokkuluwa listing.

Sri Lanka, with a population of about 22 million, is a tropical island country in the Indian Ocean, about 40 miles off the coast of southeast India. Since a 26-year civil war ended in 2009, the country has seen infrastructure improvements, such as a highway connecting Colombo and Galle to the south. Sri Lanka has grown in popularity as a second home destination for foreigners, despite tragedies such as the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami and the Easter Sunday bombings of 2019, both of which caused mass casualties.

Brokers said much of the country’s appeal has to do with a warm year-round climate, gorgeous beaches, exotic forest regions, picturesque paddy fields and a largely English-speaking population.

“Sri Lanka has very hospitable and very friendly people,” said Pranesh Paramanantha, real estate specialist at Sri Lanka Sotheby’s International Realty. “There are a lot of tourists who are really interested in this country and tourism is a major driving factor for the real estate market.”

However, as tourism recovered from the Easter attacks earlier that year in the fourth quarter of 2019, Sri Lanka saw its first case of coronavirus in January 2020 and began restricting travel from certain countries in March.

Ivan Robinson, director of Lanka Real, has put their homes on the market as some foreign landlords in Sri Lanka are no longer able to earn rental income due to the lack of tourists, and locals are scrambling to buy these luxury properties throughout the pandemic, he said. Land.

“Locals are investing in real estate as a hedge against inflation and depreciation of the Sri Lankan rupee,” Robinson said, “the idea is that once the pandemic is over, locals will be able to sell it to foreign investors at an affordable price. US dollar value rather than Sri Lankan rupee value.”

Mr Duddy said he sees the same local enthusiasm for higher value properties in both Colombo and coastal areas like Galle. “We felt that the two effects of foreign buyers had almost completely disappeared for practical reasons, but that domestic demand had really increased,” he said.

The country is now recovering from the third and most intense wave of coronavirus, which peaked last May and June. But brokers said the real estate market remained stable. Lanka Real Estate Web The housing price index shows that the average house price in Sri Lanka increased by 20.7 percent year-on-year in the first quarter of 2021.

The steady price increase has encouraged many Sri Lankans to buy property despite the uncertainty of the pandemic, said Mr Pranesh: You have reason to invest.”

Mr Pranesh said luxury homes in Colombo typically cost $500,000 per square foot, ranging from $350 to $650.

Three- or four-bedroom beach villas typically range from $1 million to $5 million, or about $200 per square foot, Mr Robinson said. There are still deals to be made: High-end villas with swimming pools located inland on the southwest coast can be found for as little as $270,000, he said.

Foreigners usually buy it in the Colombo region and coastal areas. Mr. Duddy said that in the past decade Sri Lanka’s southwest coast has been particularly popular with foreign buyers, but interest has gradually shifted eastward to the cities of Weligama, Matara and Tangalle.

In recent years, a growing number of German, French and Italian buyers have joined the mostly British and Dutch buyers, he said.

“A lot of foreign buyers came from existing European expatriate places like Hong Kong and Singapore,” he said. “We’re also seeing interest from Australia and New Zealand, with buyers there perhaps starting to see Southeast Asian countries closer to home as a bit crowded.”

Mr Pranesh said there are many Sri Lankan expats investing in properties, mostly from Canada, Australia, the UK and the United States.

Currently, foreigners cannot directly purchase property in Sri Lanka, but many changes were made to a law restricting property purchases in 2013.

Mr Duddy said foreigners could buy land on the basis of a long-term lease agreement or set up a Sri Lankan company to purchase the property, in which a local trustee holds at least 50 percent of the shares.

Brokers recommended hiring a Sri Lankan lawyer to help navigate the complex buying process. Mr Duddy said in the past local lawyers routinely charged 1 percent of a home’s selling price, but are now more likely to charge a flat fee or hourly rate.

“Appropriate lawyers can provide a service of between $100 and $150 an hour,” he said.

While the definition of a condominium is vague, including “some villa developments with a common area,” said Mr. Duddy, foreigners can buy most condominium units outright.

Mr Duddy said that because Wreys bought Pokkuluwa under a corporate structure prior to the 2013 law, foreigners could purchase the property directly on their behalf simply by purchasing shares of the company.

He said that while Sri Lanka currently has a stamp duty of around 4 percent, there is no stamp duty on share transfers.

Company start-up costs vary, but most vacation home purchases cost around $1,500, Mr Robinson said.

While property listings are usually in US dollars, sales transactions are always recorded in Sri Lankan rupees, he said. Sellers usually pay 3 to 5 percent real estate broker commission. Brokers said very few Sri Lankan banks offer mortgages to foreigners.

Sinhala, Tamil; Sri Lankan rupee (1 rupee = US$0.005)

Mr Wrey said there is no annual property tax on his Pokkuluwa or companion beach house.

Max Duddy, New Sri Lankan Home, 011-94-76-640-4373, thenewsrilankanhouse.com

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