Brits are hungry again for a place in the sun

MEET an overseas property agent these days and they’ll be chirpy, well slept and optimistic about the future – the exact opposite of how they would have been at the beginning of the year. The reason? After 18 months of its having no appeal whatsoever, the British love affair with buying a place in the sun appears to have reignited. Research from estate agent Cluttons reports that, as of October, enquiries from potential clients are up 80 per cent compared with the beginning of the year. The Primelocation International Search Index backs this up, indicating that searches have gone up by 14 per cent in October alone, and by 68.7 per cent year on year.

“There is a definite strengthening in confidence in overseas property,” says Rob Green, director of Cluttons Resorts. “This is because prices have gone down worldwide, while house prices in the UK have gone up, and as long as the UK market does well people will happily invest in overseas property. Brits have always loved buying a home overseas, and now they feel able or willing to buy again.”

As Green points out, his clients’ attitudes to overseas homes have changed dramatically. They are no longer interested in buying only for investment purposes: too many of those buyers got burned in the last few years. Before 2007, some clients were looking for high capital appreciation, buying property they had never seen, flipping their properties in a year or two. Nobody would dream of treating property in such a way, now. Clients are buying to enrich their lifestyle, or perhaps as a mid-to-long-term investment. Many are enquiring about buying in France, for example, where traditionally house prices haven’t gone up hugely – and consequently haven’t gone down very much either – looking to sell in five to 10 years for a modest increase.

So, where to buy? France has now overtaken Spain – a country dogged by relentless housing scandals and up to 70 per cent price falls – as the country of choice for British buyers. Overseas mortgage specialist Conti recently reported that 31 per cent of enquirers were looking to buy in France, compared with 22 per cent in Spain. After the scandalous stories of dodgy dealings and sheer incompetence associated with many property purchases in Dubai and some eastern European countries, including Montenegro and Bulgaria, people are now sticking to old favourites.

In the past eight months, interest in the new up and coming areas has disintegrated, returning to the more mature core markets of Europe and the Caribbean, where prices have continuously remained stable, accessibility is good, infrastructure is solid and security is not a concern,” says Georgina Richards of the International Residential department of Knight Frank. She reports that the company is mostly seeing enquiries in the south and southwest of France, Italy, the Algarve, Mallorca and the Caribbean. “We are finding that some of our clients who have been looking for years have decided that now is the time to buy; specifically where prices have reduced over the last six months.”

Charl Ackerman, marketing manager for Aylesford agency, which sells high-end property around the world, reports that many buyers are interested in property outside Europe – places like Cape Town, Marrakesh and the Caribbean, where recent price falls haven’t been dramatic, economic prospects are good, and where the pound stretches further.

If you have your heart set on buying in Europe, however, but feel uneasy about the present currency conversion rate, there are steps that can be taken. Cluttons’ Rob Green reports that if you’re buying newbuild, lots of developers are delaying installment payments until next year, when the pound will hopefully be stronger. And it’s worth factoring the loss you’ll make on buying in Euros into your asking price, too. “Because of the currency issue, we’re finding lots of sellers in European countries are willing to negotiate,” says Aylesford’s Ackerman. There’s still plenty of haggling going on, so with a little patience and skill, now might be the perfect time to swoop.

Price: £855,678
This five-bedroom property is located in a panoramic position above the village of Sant ’Arcangelo, overlooking Lake Trasimeno in Umbria. The juxtaposition and interconnection of stone buildings of different shapes and sizes creates a pleasing effect externally. Inside, there is a fascinating flow from one level and one living area to another.
The house is set in one hectare of fenced garden with a large swimming pool. Perugia airport is about 30 minutes’ drive away.
Contact: Cluttons Italy, tel: 00 39 075 8450100,

Price: £788,141
A lovely three-bedroom, three-bathroom country house in Capdellà, in southwest Mallorca (250 sq m). The house has a lounge, separate dining room, newly renovated kitchen and a covered porch for outside dining. There is also a little one-bedroom house for guests, and a second little house in the garden which is not yet finished. The house has a swimming pool, plenty of parking and views of the countryside.
Capdellà is close to Calvia and Port Andratx and is about 25 minutes’ drive from Palma.
Contact: Cluttons Mallorca, tel: 00 34 971 734 073,

Price: £819,381
A two-bedroom/two-bathroom first-floor apartment within Reeds House, a beachfront complex of 14 apartments located just south of Mullins Bay and Speightstown.
The master suite is complemented by a walk-in closet and opens out to a private terrace, while the guest suite leads out to the dining terrace. Both bedrooms are air-conditioned. Adding to the luxury of this beautiful residence is an open-plan living area, a charming dining terrace with a wet bar and fridge, and a plunge pool.
Contact: Knight Frank, tel: 020 7629 8171

Price: Starting at £139,915
Apartments for sale in a development with 18-hole golf course in the Loire Valley, starting at £139,915. Most of the homes have views over the golf course.
Contact: Cluttons Resorts, tel: 020 7584 3050,

Price: €700,000 (about £631,000)
Seven-bedroom riad located in a quiet street in the Medina. Arranged over three floors around the central courtyard, there are two terraces with views over the city and towards the Atlas mountains, and the property is equipped with a hammam, plunge pool and staff room. With living space covering 320 sq m, the property represents particularly good value.
Contact: Aylesford, tel: 020 7351 2383,

Price: £10.8m
This four-bedroom classical-style villa in the heart of Saint Jean Cap Ferrat benefits from beautiful sea views and a charming south-facing garden with pool. It also has a solarium and additional self-contained accommodation comprising a kitchen, living room and shower room.
Contact: Beauchamp, tel: 00 33 04 93 94 45 45,