Happy New Year and Happy New Decade! Where on earth did the noughties go? They have simply flown by. Its funny, as I sit here typing this its almost exactly ten years to the day that I started filming A Place in the Sun. If only Id had known then what a phenomenon it would become.
This decade has seen some real highs and real lows when it comes to buying property abroad. In the early days it was such a new concept for most people. Until then buying abroad was something reserved only for the uberrich and certainly not for ordinary people. I think programmes like ours helped to break that mould. We became the pioneer if you like for people to actually think Hey, I could go for that too. It was lovely to sit and watch the programme and think you could swap your two-bedroom semi in London for a chateau in France.
One of the very first programmes I ever filmed in Spain was a search for a couple who eventually bought a two-bedroom apartment off-plan for 65,000 and sold it on a year later for treble that. People caught the gold rush fever and more and more Brits every year were taking the plunge and buying abroad. The favourites in the early days were France, Spain and Portugal, with a few brave souls venturing further afield to places like the US and the Caribbean. I was spending 35 weeks of the year abroad filming the series and we started filming million-pound and celebrity specials. Can any of you remember the Tara Palmer-Tompkinson episode in the South of France? I will never forget it!
As the demand for buying abroad increased, prices shot up dramatically in places like Spain and France, and people started to look much further afield. Many countries in Eastern Europe joined, or looked set to join, the EU and the area became hugely popular with us Brits. I remember filming in Romania and finding a house on the market for just €4,000. I think it still remains the cheapest property ever filmed on the show to this day.
Lesser known or more unusual areas and countries like the Cape Verde Islands, Dubai and Central and South America became popular too and the gold rush fever looked like it showed no sign of stopping. But stop it did, or rather slow down dramatically. There have been countless articles and programmes trying to analyse where it all went wrong. There are numerous factors to why it suddenly became very risky to buy abroad but I think global recession aside, the main factor that I could see was greed.
Everyone from buyers to developers wanted to make vast amounts of money and the main reason for buying a property abroad stopped being about gaining pleasure from your purchase and turned into trying to quadruple your money overnight. Developers overstretched themselves trying to build more and more apartments, then ran into debt and couldnt sell them all. All of a sudden there became this huge glut of properties for sale. Headlines screamed disaster and almost overnight the bottom seemed to fall out of the global property market.
We were doomed, all doomed. However, if you look really carefully, you can see a glimmer of light at the end of what seems like a very long tunnel. The economy is very very slowly starting to pick up and we have all learnt some very valuable lessons.
There are still some fantastic places to buy abroad, in countries that are full of life and vitality and we shouldnt be afraid of at least looking and researching. I think the next couple of years will see confidence slowly returning to the market. We certainly didnt end the decade the way we started it but I think this new decade will see the beginning of a whole new chapter, a very exciting chapter at that, and I for one cannot wait to see where it takes us all.