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Les Calvert is the owner of and many other property and travel related websites. Les writes news and articles on the overseas property market for leading websites, trade magazines and newspapers.

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A new trend is emerging in Europe, with an increasing number of property purchasers keen to buy second homes on golf courses.

Many people are increasingly attracted to the idea of spending money on a second home in a foreign country that is located on a golf course, but they’re not necessarily interested in playing the sport. According to some investors, the main reason for purchasing a property on a golf course is not to have the opportunity to hit a ball around the course whenever they feel like it, but it is simply to enjoy some of the most beautiful landscaping work from the living room window.

Spain is renowned for some of the most impressive golf courses in the world, which are usually accompanied by sports and health complexes such as the famous La Manga resort a favourite for football stars during the summer months. The quality of such institutions is having an effect on buyers, who are increasingly keen to purchase homes on golf courses because of the breadth of services easily available to them.

And then there’s the courses themselves. As David Spencer, director of Nakheel Golf, which is currently building a course in Dubai, people do not have to be interested in golf to appreciate the spectacular views a course can offer. People are “very pleased to have Greg Norman landscape their backyard”, he told the International Herald Tribune, even if they would not be interested in taking on the Great White Shark on the fairway.

In some parts of the world golf courses are now becoming integrated into housing initiatives, so that beautiful landscapes are crafted as part of new housing estates. Spain can benefit from this trend, with its reputation in the golfing world dovetailing beautifully with its strong presence in the overseas property investment arena.

Regions such as the Costa del Sol have seen prices rise by as much as a quarter in the last five years, thanks to the increase in developments using golf courses as part of the attraction. It seems that property developers have caught on to the major potential in combining golf and housing developments in one programme and the fact that many Brits are keen to spend their money to play golf means that the Spanish property market is set to continue benefiting from the trend.

Source: Assetz

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New York – Charming Tuscan villas lure with views of lush olive groves and ancient hill towns. Beachfront retreats in the Caribbean call like modern sirens. While traveling abroad, who among us hasn’t been tempted to splurge on an exotic vacation home?

But international real estate is more than an impulse buy–or, it should be if you’re smart.

Along with the appeal of owning a second (or third, or fourth) home, there are pragmatic reasons for buying abroad. It can be a way to diversify an investment portfolio or provide rental income. Buy in Dubai, and you automatically receive a visa that permits you to do business there. Some international purchases made a decade ago would be considered very wise today.

“It turns out investing in Europe has been a good idea, because the euro has increased in value to the dollar,” says Delores Conway, director of the Casden Real Estate Economics Forecast at the USC Lusk Center for Real Estate.

Of course, there are risks as well: Currencies can slide, taking with them the value of overseas investments; political changes can affect ownership laws; and the buying process can be complex and confusing. So while it may seem like a lark, international buyers should put even more care and thought into purchasing internationally than at home.

“You should make no assumptions whatsoever that the system is like your own,” says Ian Payne, vice president and managing director for Europe, Middle East, Africa and Asia Pacific for Cendant Mobility, a global relocation firm that is part of Cendant (nyse: CD – news – people ). “Everything from how it’s marketed to the tax system can be different.”

There are some principles that should be followed when buying real estate anywhere. It is common sense to make sure that the person selling you your dream home–whether it’s in Miami or Mexico–has full title to the property. Check that the company behind that new development in Thailand or Toronto has a rock-solid reputation.

Every country has different rules and conventions, which means prospective buyers need to take a number of issues into consideration, including ownership restrictions, tax ramifications, development regulations, currency issues and political climate–before they fall in love with a home.

There are no statistics available on the number of people who buy real estate abroad. But U.K.-based estate agent Knight Frank says international markets are burgeoning. Overseas home ownership by British households rose by 95% between 1993 and 2003, according to a report by the company. Buyers have been encouraged by increasing affluence, as well as by a travel industry that has made the world easier than ever to explore.

“I think it’s safe to say that more people in this country are looking overseas,” says Jim Gillespie, president and chief executive of Parsippany, N.J.-based Coldwell Banker Real Estate. “The world is smaller. There are more job opportunities overseas.”

But before you jump into a deal, experts say it’s smart to get to know a place in more than a passing fashion. Gillespie advises that prospective buyers take several trips to an area and rent a house instead of staying in a resort.

“Real estate is very local,” Conway agrees. “You require enormous local information about the investment–it is not like simply buying into a mutual fund of overseas companies.”

Check whether you are legally able to own property as a foreign national. Until a few years ago, foreigners could not own in Dubai, says Tony Layson of Elegant Properties Realty, which is marketing new developments there. Mexico’s constitution bans foreigners from owning within 30 miles of the coastline or 60 miles of the U.S. border. So, until a dozen years ago, ownership was only permitted through a 28-year trust, says Chris Snell of Snell Real Estate in San Jose del Cabo. The regulations have been relaxed; though foreigners must still own through trusts, they now last for 50 years and can be extended indefinitely.

Once you ascertain that you are willing–and able–to buy, you may discover that there are differences in how properties are marketed.

“The multiple-listing system that you enjoy [in the U.S.] is not prevalent in Europe,” Payne says. “You have to go from real estate agent office to real estate agent office and put together your own schedule of viewing.” That’s especially true in Spain, where many properties are offered privately and require local contacts to track down, he says.

Offers may also be made differently. In the U.K., when a buyer’s offer is accepted, there is no deposit required, Payne says–but also no contract.

“Between that point and the point of any binding agreement, you have mortgage applications and inspections,” Payne says. “You would end up spending money before you even have a binding agreement.”

When buying internationally, it’s important to consider currency risks as well as government controls.

“If I invest my U.S. dollars in Italy, does the seller take U.S. dollars, or do I need to convert them to lira to pay him?” says George Damianos, of Damianos Sotheby’s International Realty in the Bahamas. “Once I sell my property, am I able to freely take out my money without being taxed by that country?”

In the Bahamas, he explains, you can obtain a verification from the government that you have invested in the country. If you sell and want to wire $1 million back home, you can easily exchange the money and send the cash from a commercial bank. That may not be true everywhere, however.

Tax and estate laws are another concern. Some countries have no taxes, other have very high taxes. Some levy taxes only on legal residents, others may tax foreigners at a higher rate. Will there be a huge capital gains hit if you sell for a profit? In some places, if a property owner dies, the government automatically divides the estate evenly among survivors, Payne points out.

“Also check with your tax person here in the U.S.,” Gillespie says. “You can’t escape paying taxes just by buying a house in France and saying you’re living there.”

And if concerns about historical restrictions (local laws may say that charming stone cottage can only be repaired using original materials), security (who will look after the place in the off-season?), transportation (Costa Rica is known for rutted and bone-jangling roads) and utilities (in some countries, a water connection isn’t part of the real estate deal, Conway says) aren’t exhausting enough, there are political issues to consider. Is a place safe? Is it stable? Does the government respect property rights?

Conway knows people who have bought in Shanghai, hoping to see dramatic appreciation in their investments. But they acknowledge, she says, that their ownership cannot be taken for granted.

She points out that–in addition to tax problems, historical restrictions, security concerns and possible devaluation–in some countries, the government can repossess your property. “It really is not for the faint of heart.”

Wade through the challenges, and the rewards of owning property internationally can be endless. But choose the wrong place, and the hassles can be endless as well.

Source: Forbes

Among the new property markets emerging in south-east Asia, the palm-fringed white beaches, lush inland tropical forests, majestic peaks and paradise islands of Malaysia are opening up perhaps a little faster than others.

The country is benefiting from the effects of an ambitious new scheme, called Malaysia My Second Home, which launched in 2002 with generous government backing and the aim to drive up numbers of long-term foreign visitors and private property prospectors.

The scheme has steadily been pulling in applicants territories including Australia, Japan, Hong Kong, the UK, France, Canada and South America, all lured by a package of incentives designed to speed the process of setting up home, or a second home, in the former British colony.

Mohmed Razip Hasan, director of Tourism Malaysia for the UK and Ireland, explains: “We want our friends from countries overseas to come and live in Malaysia. We offer so many attractions in terms of our standard of living, our forests and beaches, weather and political stability. Our education system and rule of law are both British, and we have excellent, modern medical facilities.”

In the 12 months to August 2005, around 5,700 foreign nationals registered for the Malaysia My Second Home programme internationally, including 550 from Britain.

The qualifying criteria for the scheme, which is backed by the Malaysian Ministry of Tourism and the Immigration Department of Malaysia, are continually being revised. However, the main improvements made to welcome foreign nationals include the extension of visitor visas from five to 10 years, with the promise of relatively automatic renewal; increased flexibility over financial security (applicants must place a fixed deposit, fully refundable upon departure, of either M$100,000 (£15,000) if single or M$150,000 if a couple, with a Malaysian financial institute or they must prove they have a monthly income of at least M$7,000); and, in response to demand, the relaxation of the requirement for a full medical report (instead an applicant can just secure medical insurance once their application has been approved). The whole application process also now takes just one month to complete.

From there, househunters can explore the bustling capital Kuala Lumpur, areas near world-famous nature parks such as Taman Negara and the tropical forests and waterfalls of Pahang on the east coast, the fabulous beach communities of Penang and the numerous award-winning island resorts of Langkawi.

In all, they will find inexpensive property, available mostly on a long leasehold basis, with prices ranging from M$150,000 (less expensive homes are reserved for ethnic Malays) to about M$500,000. Foreigners can buy up to two residences and they are even eligible for a 60 per cent loan from selected financial institutions, subject to qualifications.

The Malay housing stock ranges from new luxury condos and mini-developments on the edge of golf courses to bungalows, semi-detached houses, terraced houses and traditional wooden beach-front kampung-style chalets found along the coastal areas of Langkawi, Penang and Malacca. Some of the most attractive residences are in tourism zones – on beaches, in jungles and near the country’s national parks.

“People can buy a decent home for around M$250,000, while they can get a semi-detached house or bungalow for nearer M$400,000,” says Hasan. “Pensioners tend to prefer the islands or beach areas, but some professionals like to stay in the more upmarket areas of Kuala Lumpur.”

Langkawi, the legendary archipelago consisting of clusters of sun-drenched islands in the north west corner of Malaysia, is the most popular resort location in the country. Properties there range from M$100,000 for a single-storey sea bungalow up to M$500,000 for a luxury chalet. Other top destinations include Kuala Lumpur, Penang, Malacca and Kota Kinabalu and Kuching, the two state capitals in Malaysian Borneo. Two-thirds of Malaysia is surrounded by water, so sea-view or seafront properties are plentiful.

Simon Naylor, a 46-year-old British telecoms worker, bought a detached four- bedroom house with a pool in KL three years ago after living in Asia for 16 years. “We had been renting places elsewhere, in Hong Kong and Singapore, and thought it was about time to invest in a property,” he explains. “The Malaysian government is making it easy. The Second Home scheme was one of the reasons we bought here, combined with the decent price of houses, the excellent infrastructure, the weather and the friendliness. You pay half the price here for the same property in Singapore or Spain, and Malaysia’s economy is developing so property is a good investment.”

For expat buyers who eventually want to move on, there are no restrictions on property sales and they can keep every penny, or Malaysian ringgitt, they make on the transaction with no sneaky taxation imposed before they exit the country. Hasan says, given current market conditions, gains can easily be realised within five years.

There is only one thing that foreigners can’t do under the Malaysia My Second Home scheme: get a local job. But then maybe that’s not such a bad thing.

Source: FT

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Contact Property Frontiers from more info

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A new report has revealed that the massive interest in second homes abroad among British people is set to continue.

According to research carried out by Barclays, the number of British homeowners with properties abroad is set to double over the coming years, as people look to flee from the UK during the cold winter months.

Spain topped the poll by Barclays of the place that most people would want to purchase a property, with 30 per cent of the vote. France came in third, with 14 per cent of the vote, with both scoring highly because of their cheap housing prices compared to the UK at present.

The UK’s continued price inflation may have started to slow, resulting in a significant cooling of the housing market, but prices have not fallen low enough for many people, resulting in millions preferring properties abroad over ones in the UK as ideal second home destinations.

Destinations such as France and Spain remain popular with those from the UK looking to invest in properties abroad, due to the fact that they see them as ideal destinations for winter breaks to get away for a short period to top up on some sun instead of the long dark nights of British winter. And with predictions that this winter could be the coldest for ten years, more people than ever are now interested in purchasing a second home abroad.

Barclays found that, while 2.2 million people currently own properties abroad, there are just as many people in the UK who are definitely intending to buy a second home in a foreign country in the future. That would raise the proportion of UK citizens owning a second home to ten per cent of the country’s population.

But even that could dramatically rise in the years to come, as the survey also found a further 37 per cent of those polled are currently considering purchasing a property abroad. That would result in a mass exodus, with millions leaving these shores every year to invest in overseas properties, both as second homes and as property investments.

Many people are inspired by property programmes such as Channel 4’s A Place in the Sun, which tracks people purchasing property in foreign climes, because of the investment opportunities explained in such programmes.

Commenting on the findings of the report, Barclays head of European business development Suzanne Clay said: “The trend towards owning property abroad shows no sign of abating and could go through the roof if people were more confident of a hassle-free purchase.”

Source: Assetz

The number of Britons who plan to buy properties abroad is set to double, according to research released by today by Barclays.

Some 5% of people questioned by the bank already own a home abroad, while a further 5% said they would “definitely” buy a property overseas in the future.

In addition, 37% of respondents said they were “considering a purchase abroad”.

But while people are attracted to the idea of buying overseas, the survey revealed there are some practical concerns they need to address.

Over half (58%) of those who are considering a purchase said they were concerned about local legal or tax issues; 17% were worried about the security of an empty property; and 8% feared they might be overcharged by the seller.

A further 14% were worried that they did not know the local language well enough to arrange the deal.

Among those questioned, Spain (including the Balearics and Canary Islands) was the most popular location for a second home, with 30% of potential buyers naming it as their preferred destination.

Perhaps surprisingly, the US was second on the list, favoured by 15% of Britons, while 14% said they wanted to buy in France.

Some 9% of those asked said they didn’t yet know where they wanted to buy.

“The trend towards owning property abroad shows no sign of abating and could go through the roof if people were more confident of a hassle-free purchase,” said Suzanne Clay, head of European business development at Barclays.

Speculating on reasons for the surge in interest in overseas property, Ms Clay said: “Many people buying a second home overseas are likely to use it for holiday purposes, but are not averse to letting the property out to help with mortgage repayments.”

“They might also be looking at it as a place to retire to,” she added. “To others, this may be a significant step towards moving overseas permanently.”

The popularity of second homes abroad has risen in recent years, according to figures released by the Office for National Statistics in June.

They revealed that between 2002-03 and 2003-04 the number of British families who owned a second property overseas increased by 20% to reach a quarter of a million.

Source: Guardian Unlimited

People should think very carefully before placing their incomes in retirement at the mercy of the buy-to-let property market, warns the Actuarial Profession.

The warning comes as product providers gear up to for changes to the rules for Self-Invested Personal Pension Plans (SIPPs). From 6 April 2006 SIPPs may, for the first time, invest directly in residential property. This may at first sight appear to offer an attractive income and capital tax shelter for buy-to-let properties inside a pensions wrapper.

But the Actuarial Profession cautioned that there are a number of reasons why residential property may not be suitable for many peoples’ pension investments prior to retirement, or for a fund which is being drawn down in order to provide an income:

The initial outlay is likely to be substantial in relation to the existing savings. Existing property cannot be injected directly into a pension fund, and investors should consider the cost of rearranging existing pension investments, and the balance of their revised portfolio.

Savers are permitted to borrow part of the cost of the property, leading to an element of gearing which increases the overall level of risk, especially if interest rates were to rise

Most people need to draw their pensions as soon as they retire, and may have little discretion about when this happens. If the property market is not performing well at that time, a forced sale may be required at a relatively low price

Overseas property investments may be subject to local legislation that inhibits dealing with them, and in some circumstances they may prove extremely difficult to sell.

Residential property can be a volatile investment. Rental income (which cannot be guaranteed) represents a large part of the return, and letting voids and/or marketing costs can quickly erode estimates of rental returns. Properties come in relatively large units and cannot be subdivided; and the property cycle (the period over which values rise and fall) is very long; all one’s eggs are in one basket.

Uncertainty over rental income is especially risky if the property is retained after retirement as part of a “draw down” arrangement, and the investor relies upon the income to fund his or her pension.

Only more financially-secure investors, such as those who already own a buy to let property and who wish to ensure that future rises in value are free from CGT, or those who have large existing pension funds and who perceive property to offer high returns for acceptable risk, should consider buy-to-let property.

Alan Goodman, Chairman of the Financial Consumer Support Committee of the Profession, commented: “There are just 150 days to go before the rules change and people may invest their pension funds in buy to let properties. We are sure some providers will be looking to cash in on this market with enterprising new investment vehicles.

“But people must not be seduced into buying them – even though house prices have rocketed and stock markets have slumped in the recent past. The value of houses, too, may fall as well as rise and the lack of liquidity that could arise from being a forced seller in a falling market could have very serious implications on an individual’s ultimate income in retirement.

“We have identified important reasons why people should think twice about putting all their pension eggs in one property basket. There may be a place for property within a diversified portfolio, but this is best achieved using a property fund rather than investing directly in bricks and mortar.

“In our view the vast majority of people should invest in pooled funds, rather than much riskier individual properties. We therefore urge everyone to consider very carefully whether residential property is a suitable investment for their pension funds and if so, ensure they get good independent financial advice before they go ahead.”

Source: Easier

Pension funds extended their gains to nine consecutive months in the second quarter of 2005, the longest unbroken period of gains since the mid-1990s, according to research company Russell/Mellon on Friday.

Funds classed in the pooled balanced category achieved a median positive return of 4.7 percent, led by strong performance in stock markets, it said.

Pooled pension funds hold assets on behalf of several pension portfolios and run them as a single pot.

“This recent run of positive performance also brings pension funds that bit closer to where they were before the bear run at the start of the decade,” Daniel Hall, Russell/Mellon’s publications and statistics manager, said in a note.

On one measure, a typical balanced fund — holding a mix of bonds, stocks, cash and other assets — would be worth about 98 percent of its asset value at the end of 1999, he said.

Positive returns were achieved across all major asset classes, with UK equities returning 5.0 percent and overseas stocks logging 6.7 percent gains. UK bonds recorded a return of 4.7 percent, and property returned. 4.5 percent.

Pension fund managers shifted out of domestic UK equities and bonds over the quarter, continuing a trend seen in recent years. UK equity weightings fell by 0.6 percent to 50.6 percent.


Scots lottery winners are the least likely to splurge after a big win, preferring instead to spend sensibly and invest the cash, a new survey has revealed.

The spend spend spend lifestyle is out, with most winners using the money to buy a new house or go on a nice holiday.

Almost a quarter of those surveyed said they would share their good luck with family and close friends, however 7% said they would not tell anyone about their big win.

The survey, for National Savings and Investments (NS&I), asked almost 1,500 Brits what they would spend a £1 million win on. Not one Scot said they would blow their win on flashy cars or designer clothes and jewellery, in fact 11% said they would not spend anything at all.

Half those surveyed said they would spend the money on a new house or car or a property abroad, while almost one in 10 said they would put it in secure savings and investments.

But while the Scots have a reputation for being tight-fisted they are more likely to give some of their win to charity than winners south of the border, with more than 80% saying they would give to a good cause.

Scotland has had a run of lottery luck in recent weeks. Last weekend Midlothian couple Alex and Sandra Fraser scooped the £8.5 million Lotto jackpot.

In keeping with the survey’s findings the couple said that they would be spending their win on a nice house, a car – and a box at their beloved Hibernian FC.

Just the week before the Frasers’ big win six distillery workers from Glasgow shared in a £15 million Lotto prize. The colleagues from Morrison Bowmore Distillers, each won a £2.5 million share of the jackpot.

But while the Frasers and the distillery workers went public with their big wins according to the NS&I survey most people (61%) would only tell family and close friends.

One in four winners would only tell their partner while 7% would not tell anyone at all, with men more likely than women to keep their good fortune a secret.

Enterprising Scots are also more likely to use some of the money to launch a business idea – with the majority naming their role model in terms of managing their money as billionaire entrepreneur Richard Branson.

Just 4% of Scots said they would model their spending on the Beckhams, almost a quarter chose to follow Harry Potter author JK Rowling’s example when it came to how to spend their riches

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The confidence of Shanghai property developers has plunged to its lowest level since 2000 amid a government blitz on rampant real-estate speculation in the city.

The Shanghai Real Estate Confidence Index of Entrepreneurs, compiled by the central government’s National Bureau of Statistics, fell to 95.8 in the second quarter, a drop of 64 points, or 40 percent, from the first quarter.

A reading above 100 indicates positive sentiment, while a reading below 100 reflects negative sentiment.

The latest reading is 50.4 points below the second quarter of last year and the lowest since the first quarter of 2000.

The statistics bureau said most developers it surveyed expect the confidence index to drop further in the third quarter.

Governments at the national and municipal levels have piled on the hurt for property sellers this year in an effort to crimp speculation, which has been especially rife in Shanghai, though it is also a recognized problem in Beijing and Guangzhou. Residential prices in Shanghai rose 44 percent from 2000 to 2004, according to property consultants, Colliers International.

In May, the central government imposed a 5 percent tax on proceeds of home sales within two years of purchase. It also banned the transfer of titles for uncompleted units. Not long before, the Shanghai municipal government imposed a 5 percent capital gains tax on flats sold within a year of purchase.

The statistics bureau said finding money for projects has become the biggest problem for 58 percent of the developers it polled.

“A lot of developers, especially the smaller ones, are finding it very difficult to get further financing for their projects,” said Wayne Zane, Shanghai-based associate director for research at Colliers.

Tenants in areas due for redevelopment were also digging in their heels and demanding better compensation from developers before agreeing to move out, he said.

Zane said a major factor in project delays in the center of Shanghai was the decision early last year to reduce plot ratios, which determine the size of new developments, inside the city’s inner ring road.

“A lot of developers who bought land before 2004 are suffering because the buildable area of their projects has been significantly reduced,” he said.

As a result, many developers, including Hong Kong’s Kerry Properties, were still locked in arguments with government officials over plot ratios.

Some major mainland developers said they had slowed the pace of property investment in Shanghai in the second quarter of the year when property sales fell.

For example, China Overseas Land and Investment, a listed firm controlled by China’s Construction Ministry, said it would focus on developments outside Shanghai because its expects prices in the commercial metropolis to fall by 20 percent this year.

Another state-run company, China Resources Land, said the number of property transactions in Beijing and Shanghai plummeted by more than 30 percent in May alone, though prices in Beijing had not been severely affected.

Beijing Capital Land, the property arm of the city’s municipal government, which recently issued an interim profit warning, said the central government’s austerity measures imposed last year, prior to this year’s targeted anti-speculation measures, had delayed approval of three of its projects in the capital for nine months. As a result, “pre-sales” of uncompleted properties in all three were pushed back to this year from last year.

Christine Mui, a spokeswoman for Shui On Construction and Materials, said the company’s Shui On Land unit had no plans to delay any of its Shanghai projects, though this could change according to the market’s evolution.

Shui On chairman Vincent Lo said Monday the firm might adjust its sales strategy for upcoming launches, by offering fewer units for sale and more for rental, for example.

Source: The Standard