In Patagonia, meanwhile, fly-fishing enthusiasts are purchasing secluded, riverfront lodges with 100 hectares or more of land near the tiny town of San Martin de Los Andes, nearly 1,000 miles west of Buenos Aires. The properties are expensive – established estates run between $1 million and $8 million, while undeveloped land costs from $3,000 to $5,000 per hectare, according to Luis Bonsegnor, president of Buenos Aires-based Christie's affiliate ReMind Group, which is offering the 2,500-hectare estate Lago Bueno for $13m.
"Most of the buyers come from Europe and the U.S.," says Bonsegnor, who adds that his firm makes two to four lodge sales each year. "The properties always include their own water sources and are close to an airport."
In the U.S., where sales figures in "over-discovered" markets such as Miami and Manhattan are hitting all-time highs, a string of unremarkable south Texas towns have experienced unexpected growth. Some buyers are middle- and upper-class Mexicans fleeing drug-related violence in neighbouring border communities.
Most purchase in secure, gated developments such as Sharyland Plantation near the hamlet of Mission, says local agent Rene Galvan of RGV Realty. And most pay less than $300,000 – modest by Manhattan or London standards but enough to boost the housing market in one of America's most depressed regions.
"These people could definitely afford to spend more, but they don't want to show their wealth, they want to blend in," says Galvan. "Lower-priced homes are also easier to sell if the need arises."
At the opposite extreme is Portugal, whose upper-end real estate market has proved buoyant despite price decreases of between 4.5 and 15 per cent in nearby Paris and Rome, according to Knight Frank's early November Global Cities Guide.
Local agents say Portugal's resiliency amid three years of economic contraction is a result of timing, smart planning, and good luck. Angolans and Brazilians – lured by colonial and linguistic ties, and funded by oil and commodities-based wealth – have become buyers across the Lisbon area. Today, they comprise between 30-40 per cent of Portugal's upper-end market, says Tiago Queiroga, partner at Sotheby's Realty Portugal.
"At the highest end, property prices have declined by just 10 per cent at most," says Rafael Ascenso, chief executive of Christie's affiliate Porta da Frente real estate in Lisbon. Yet even the most expensive Lisbon-area properties, such as Atlantic-front homes in nearby Cascais and Estoril, are still one-third the cost of comparable real estate in most western European resort areas, Ascenso adds. "We didn't overbuild, we didn't inflate our prices and we're linked to these wealthy ex-colonial communities," he says.
Although it may not be enough to rescue the rest of the country's economy, such prudence and prescience have made Portuguese property the EU's unexpected success story of the eurozone crisis.
Beyond Portugal and Panama, east Africa and Argentina, Christie's Wrang-Widen cites both the Namibian wilderness, where conservation-minded buyers are creating private game reserves, and mineral-rich Mongolia as other markets at the edge of conventional real estate consciousness. Other locations include Beirut, with its steady supply of Middle Eastern money and residential towers, and even agricultural estates in Ukraine.
"The majority of buyers today are still focused on the most mature markets," says Wrang-Widen. "But for those willing to look further afield, property is not just about wealth preservation. These clients truly take a different approach to using their real estate investments."
While both Somali pirate attacks – and property purchases – have decreased in east Africa, 2010's investment boom has clearly left its mark on Nairobi's upper-end real estate market.
According to November's Knight Frank report, property prices in Nairobi have risen by nearly 18 per cent this year, making it one of the world's top performing capitals. Ben Woodhams, Knight Frank Kenya's managing director, attributes much of this spike to the reported $100m in remittances Kenyan expats send home each month. But, like Panama's Portobelo – where the 17th-century pirate wars first helped to make the region rich – bandits and their bounty can still prove a boon to obscure locations.