Guides and Tips

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Dear Overseas Property Mall,

I am a little confused about the state of the Spanish property market. I read conflicting reports and projections about Spain all the time and the newspapers are filled with doom and gloom alongside glowing projections. Should I invest in Spain or not ?

Yours sincerely,

Confused in Coventry

Dear confused in Coventry,

Your confusion is understandable. Several small and medium sized Spanish property developers have recently run into financial difficulties, some of the smaller ones taking deposits from customers with them.

The most recent casualty, Colonial, saw it’s shares plummet 40% in 2 days, seemingly for no reason other than worries that the Spanish property boom is over. The president and largest shareholder, Luis Portillo quit after this drop.

This follows on from two other medium sized casualties. Astroc saw their shares drop 85% in July last year causing the founder, Enrique Banuelos to quit and Llanera, a developer based in Valencia, filed for credit protection a few months later.

The Financial Times has a more in-depth look at these casualties here.

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We reported recently on the likely boost in French property in Paris and Lille due to the introduction of a new Eurostar train service. But Eurostar connects to more than just Paris. There is a direct service to Brussels in Belgium with connections on to Brugge, Namur, Antwerp and Ghent.

Brussels in now less than 2 hours from St Pancras station and is already seeing an increase in interest from British buyers keen to snap up a bargain before everyone jumps on the band wagon – or should that be railway carriage?

According to the Telegraph, Restored studio flats a few yards from the Grand Place can be picked up for as little as €70,000 (£50,000), and vast, contemporary loft-style duplexes in former industrial buildings go for €500,000 (£360,000).

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According to “Emerging Trends in Real Estate Asia Pacific 2008,” just published by the Urban Land Institute (ULI) and PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP, Shanghai, Singapore and Tokyo rank as the three most promising Asia Pacific cities in terms of real estate investment prospects.

David Sandison, a Tax Partner with PricewaterhouseCoopers in Singapore said, “It is expected that even greater amounts of capital will be flooding Asia Pacific real estate markets in 2008. The real challenge for investors will lie in finding the right assets against the backdrop of yield compression and scrutiny by regional governments and tax authorities.”

Shanghai topped the list for investment prospects, edged up from its second-place ranking last year. Singapore received the highest rating of any of the cities included in the report in terms of overall risk.

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Even for us, it is sometimes difficult to sort the informational wheat from the chaff and we are looking at conflicting reports coming from the Indian property markets at the moment.

On the one hand, its all good news: Mumbai Billionaire Mukesh Ambani is busy creating what is likely to be the â”most expensive home” in the world. The Financial Times is reporting that “property prices have soared” and the Indian Government has now allowed direct foreign investment in all construction projects without prior approval, which means foreign investors are permitted to invest in wholly owned subsidiaries or in joint ventures with Indian real estate companies.

There are a few minimum requirements, such as minimum capitalization requirements must be met within six months of the commencement of operations and the capital must remain locked in for three years thereafter. Foreign-invested projects must include at least 50,000 square meters of floor space and at least half the project must be completed within five years of receiving statutory clearance.

The Irish Independent had an article this Sunday that attracted our attention. With the massive increase in property values in Ireland recently, many Irish home-owners have jumped on the worldwide buy-to-let market abroad. Particular favourites have been the USA, Spain and Bulgaria.

All these markets are taking a beating at the moment, particularly the American market. GE Money Home Lending subsidiary “British Mortgages Abroad” recently pulled out of the Florida market and are not accepting any more mortgage applications on properties in Florida

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To a certain extent, the decision to buy off plan or a second hand home depends on the market concerned. In a fast moving market, off plan will be a far more appealing and practical investment than in a stagnant market. Here is a comparison and a list of potential advantages and disadvantages. First the difference between off plan and on plan needs defining. On-plan is a property that has already been constructed, perhaps even changed hands several times already. Off-plan is a property that is literally off the plans, meaning construction may not even have started yet. Some of the most important things to take into consideration when looking at off-plan investments are: The state of the market. Is it buoyant or stagnant? The reputations of the builder and promoter. Are they reliable? Do they have strong track record of completing projects on time and to specification?

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London is supposed to be one of the most expensive cities in the world, but, having recently read a report on the cost of a parking space in Manhattan and reports of people paying upwards of £500 per month in Tokyo, I thought a comparison would be in order.

According to the New York times, this woman is cursing herself for not taking advantage of an opportunity to buy a parking space outside her loft apartment at $165,000 when she had the chance. A few months later, the spaces were changing hands for $225,000. Also according to The Times, the AVERAGE cost of a parking space is $165,000. Average.

London spaces have changed hands for as much as £250K but here are a few London bargains I found.

For the measly sum of £80,000 one can buy a garage on the Fulham Rd, SW6.

Craigslist also have a few bargains available, and this one jumps out. Considerably cheaper than the spot in Fulham. “I am selling my parking space in Whitechapel. It is on a private gated road next to the London Hospital. It is just outside the congestion charge zone so is very convenient for the City etc. It has been valued at £25K but I am keen to sell quickly.”

Sounds like a bargain to me. Although they might consider the use of an Estate agent to jazz the sales pitch up a little. “Bizou parking space in sought after neighborhood. Minimalist black, with no yellow in sight. Handy lack of walls makes for easy car positioning. Good renovation project. Might suit a young couple with small family.”?

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Every year, the World Bank produces a report on the ease of doing business in 178 countries, ranking them from 1 to 178. The World Bank uses several criteria to determine the rankings, but factors taken into consideration include the ease of hiring employees, the ease of starting a new venture to the ease of putting a company into bankruptcy.

Doing Business 2008 - World BankSingapore tops the list as the number one place to start and run a business in the world, closely followed by New Zealand and the USA. The factors that helped Singapore to this slot are “Employing workers” and “Trading across borders.” Although, having recently discovered that the famous Raffles “Singapore Sling” cocktails are now automatically dispensed by a machine rather than hand made, I feel the position is unwarranted. What is the world coming to? Personally, I feel at least one of the criteria should be, “best cocktails.”

Perhaps more interesting to property investors is the top reformers report. Singapore has already been through a major property value upswing, whereas changes in the tax and property laws in places like Egypt and China will likely create a more investor-friendly environment.

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Buying a property in France, for the most part is no different to buying in the UK or the US, but there are a few things that need to be taken into consideration before making a commitment, especially in light of the recent and continued changes in French Property laws and social security rules.

State Medical Cover. Top of the list has to be the planned introduction of new rules governing National Health care for ex-pats below retirement age living in France. The French social security recently released a statement announcing that inactive people (read retired or unemployed) below state retirement age will no longer be eligible to receive state health coverage. This will affect many thousands of Britons already living in France and is certainly something to take into consideration if you are thinking of buying in France, are below retirement age and have any kind of long term health issues.