More Britons than ever chase a place in the sun

More Britons than ever chase a place in the sun

A huge demand for homes in the sun has seen Britons’ spending on properties overseas increase by 45 per cent in four years. The number of them owning second homes abroad now exceeds a quarter of a million people, at 257,000.

The official Social Trends report today says British families have invested more than £23 billion in overseas property, with most of that invested in Spain and France although increasing numbers are turning to Canada, the Caribbean and New Zealand.

The Office for National Statistics says more than a million British families own a second home, the vast majority of which (72 per cent) are in England, with five per cent in Wales and Scotland, and the remainder overseas.

“In recent years the increasing affordability and accessibility of foreign property markets has contributed to a rise in the number of UK households that own second homes abroad,” the report says.

“Between 1999-2000 and 2003-4 the number increased by 45 per cent.”

Spain accounted for 27 per cent of all second homes abroad, followed by France at 20 per cent.

But in 2003-4 over a third of all homes owned abroad were outside Europe, with property ownership by Britons increasingly common in places such as the United States, Australia, Canada, the Caribbean, India, New Zealand, Pakistan, South Africa and Sri Lanka.

Alex Wright, director of the currency specialist HIFX, which assists Britons buying property abroad, said there was strong demand in more adventurous locations.

“Spain and France are still the most popular destinations but we have seen increased interest for investment property in Bulgaria and Dubai. Even Canada and Switzerland have seen their fortunes rise and new locations pop up all the time, including Egypt, Brazil, Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic.”

The Association of British Travel Agents estimates that home ownership abroad will double over the next five to seven years. The Spanish Ministry of Tourism predicts that more than one million foreigners will set up home on the Spanish coast in the next six years, a figure expected to treble by 2025.

Sarah Vaughan, a property specialist and director of a public relations firm based in Spain, said: “Realistically the minimum you can spend is £145,000 for a two-bed apartment, or £210,000 if it is in Marbella.

“The Costa del Sol is not the place to buy if you are looking for a good investment. You can still buy places for a song in northern Spain and inland, but northern Spain tends to be rainy and without the bars and if you are inland you might not be near the airport, or have a phone connection, or the property might need a lot of work.”

Recent research suggested some young Britons were looking abroad to take their first step on the property ladder because house prices were too high in Britain.

A poll of more than 4,600 adults, conducted by YouGov, found that nearly half of the 18- to 29-year-olds questioned planned to buy abroad, with two thirds saying their foreign investment would be their first property purchase. More than 80 per cent of those first-time buyers said they would rent out their property.

Source: Telegraph 25/02/2006