While ordinary Egyptians have rejoiced in the "Arab Spring", it hasn't done much for the Egyptian holiday homes market - with many overseas buyers staying away. This is despite Egypt being a first class winter sun destination with so much to recommend it, including highly affordable property that should appeal to culture vultures, watersports fans and snowbirds, and all a long, long way from the demonstrations in Tahrir Square.
Hurghada is the newest resort area on the Red Sea and a serious challenger to winter sun destinations such as Dubai, Cape Verde or the Caribbean. There is a wide range of development styles and prices, with developments including upmarket resorts like Soma Bay and El Gouna while in downtown Hurghada you can buy a 90-square-metre apartment for less than £50,000, second line to the seafront.
There have been problems in the Hurghada area with several resorts being sold on land without the correct permissions, but those mistakes are (hopefully) long in the past now. Over the long term, Britain's long and largely friendly history with Egypt should continue to ensure success, and budget flights from the UK to Egypt make a huge difference, too, with a dozen carriers from all over the UK flying into Hurghada and Sharm-el-Sheikh. There is a wide range of development styles and prices, with developments including upmarket resorts like Soma Bay while just down the road you can buy a 90-square-metre apartment for less than £50,000, second line to the seafront.
There have been problems in Egypt, with property priced too low and never being built, but those mistakes are (hopefully) long in the past now. Over the long term, Britain's long and largely friendly history with Egypt should continue to ensure success, and budget flights from the UK to Egypt make a huge difference, too, with a dozen carriers from all over the UK flying into Hurghada and Sharm-el-Sheik.
Hurghada was little more than a fishing village until 15 years ago, but is now the fun-loving hub at the centre of Europe's scuba diving industry. Off-plan apartments go from an amazing £10,000 for a small studio – but large enough to sleep and dump your stuff between scuba diving and hitting the town. There are resorts to the north (such as Soma Bay) and the south (Sahl Hasheesh) that offer the very best of entertainment including family friendly hotels, golf courses and spas to complement all the watersports. Family-size properties at Soma Bay start from £150,000 with a good choice of apartments, town houses and luxury villas.
Two other resorts on the Red Sea coast worth a look are reasonably priced Marsa Alam, a couple of hours' drive from Hurghada, and El Gouna, an area popular with well-heeled house-hunters. Marsa Alam is cheaper because it’s out on a limb, down in the south. However, it has its own airport and is arguably the best dive destination of them all, with coral reefs and plentiful dolphins and dugong – an astonishing sea-cow-like creature. With these natural advantages - and apartments coming in well below the £40,000 level, three-bed villas for under £150,000 - could it one day take over from Hurghada as Egypt’s dive capital?
El Gouna, pride of the Red Sea Riviera, is a self-contained community that includes two marinas, a golf course, numerous five-star hotels, a village with restaurants and bars, hospital, library and international school. Property ranges from resale apartments from around £80,000 to £800,000-plus custom built villas.
Across the water in the Sinai Peninsula is the second major beachfront favourite, Sharm-el-Sheikh, which has expanded beyond its diving base to be a holiday-home hotspot for European buyers, especially Italians who are only a couple of hours flying time away. Sharm has 40 flights a week from all over the UK and is a holiday destination to rival any in Europe, with nightclubs including Ministry of Sound, a huge shopping mall and plentiful western restaurants. Sharm also has world class diving, camel trekking, jeep safaris and horse-riding in the national parks that surround it. Two-bedroom apartments go from well under £100,000, townhouses a little over, and villas from £175,000.
Away from the Red Sea coast, situated at different ends of Egypt’s stretch of the River Nile are Luxor and Cairo. Luxor has traditional Egyptian homes in local neighbourhoods, and plenty of Nile-side apartments. A budget of £40,000 will secure a one- or two-bedroom apartment, possibly a grand and high-ceilinged property from the colonial era, though maybe in need of a little TLC. You’ll need more like £60,000 for two or three bedrooms on a smart, new development overlooking the River.
Cairo, loud, busy and overcrowded, is Africa’s largest city. While probably not a holiday home option for most people even with all that history, it is a buy-to-let option, especially in the smart new satellite cities built around the old city. In 6th October City you could buy an apartment for £30,000, a large villa for £150,000 and rent it out in the expat market.
To get away from it all, many Cairo residents head to Alexandria on the Mediterranean coast at weekends. The resort has more of a colonial-era feel, but with the downside of going quiet in the off-season.
There are various different systems of buying in Egypt, depending on the area and whether it's a new-build or resale property. For new or off-plan properties, you'll normally pay a reservation deposit of £200-500. When the bilingual contracts are prepared they are likely to include all details of title, boundaries, planning permissions and further instalment "milestones". Off-plan installments are only paid on completion of each stage, and when the building is finished and the final installment paid, the property is registered.
For completed properties, you pay a 10 per cent deposit while your independent lawyer goes through the essential but often difficult process of checking title and encumbrances. The balance of money is paid when the title is transferred via a Green Contract. Ownership this way restricts expat buyers to only two properties, however. A signature validation is less restrictive, cheaper, but also a less secure route to ownership.
One complication is in Sharm-el-Sheik, where freehold purchase isn't allowed and property is sold on a 99-year lease.
Buyers pay registration fees of £1,000-plus with the Green Contract but only around £200 with the signature validation. Homes over £109,000 also pay duty of one per cent. Homes under £45,000 have no purchase tax. Legal fees are around three per cent.
There is an old Bedouin saying: “Trust in God, but tie your camel”. Buying in Egypt can be problematic, and certainly requires the services of a clued up lawyer. For older properties, registration is often the biggest issue, with many properties - like, 90 per cent - never properly registered and many different family members having a claim. However, overseas buyers are getting around this, and around the restrictions on the number of properties they may own, by accepting a signature of validity as an alternative to full registration.