Adore caravans and want to own a place in the sun? Well, here's your answer...
Here in the UK caravanning has become cool, with everyone from Helen Mirren, Billie Piper and Jamie Oliver giving it a go, and most recently Coleen and Wayne Rooney have bought a caravan in North Wales to use for holidays when they want something a little more accessible than their Barbados villa. In Britain we are always at the whim of the weather, but have you considered buying a caravan abroad?
Keith and Yvonne Bourne from Malvern, who have always loved touring France in their touring caravan, have bought a static caravan (or mobile home as they are also known) that is sited in a rather lovely spot of the Eastern Algarve, in Portugal.
In their early sixties, they are on the cusp of both being retired, and began thinking about buying a place abroad for family holidays. They never set out to buy a home in Portugal, or even a new caravan, but it all began with a chance sighting at a motorway service station, reports Keith.
"We'd been driving home from somewhere when we stopped to fill up and saw a vehicle parked up branded 'Caravans in the Sun'. We had a bit of a chat with the owner and the idea of having a caravan abroad began to grow. The company offers homes on various sites across Europe, including France, Spain, Portugal, Greece and Italy.
Once you have chosen your caravan, and which site, the company will arrange transport and set it up for you. I've always played a lot of golf and the idea of the Algarve took over from France when we realized that taking a flight to Faro (from Birmingham) was going to be far easier than driving down through France."
The quality of the homes on offer surprised them both. Caravans have come a long way from cheap drop-down melamine fittings and poky bedrooms, and now you can get high-spec models that cost £200,000 if you want all the latest gadgets and gizmos.
Certainly, the centrally heated Willerby Chambery model chosen by the Bournes feels more like a small apartment than a caravan. It's 36 x13 feet, and offers two elegant bedrooms with plenty of storage, a family bathroom and a mini ensuite toilet and basin in the master. There's a fitted kitchen with cooker/microwave, fridge/freezer, a table for four, leading out onto the lounge that opens out onto smart decking around the home.
"It cost us around £50,000 in total, including shipping, and we pay €370 a month ground rent on the pitch (that includes council tax)," says Keith. If we wanted a two-bedroom property in the same area it would cost around £120,000, and we felt there was less of a risk paying £50,000 - and none of the legalities of property ownership.
Yes, the resale value will diminish, but we are not buying it for investment, we are buying it so we can enjoy family holidays with our daughter Natalie and her husband and baby daughter. We may well spend every winter here ourselves when I retire, says Keith, whose for most of his career ran his own marketing company, but has recently been working for a housing association.
He says they have shipped out all their kitchen equipment and linens via Algarve Removals, who they have found to be affordable and very professional, and they report that Caravans in the Sun have been incredibly efficient and helpful. "Both the team here in the UK office and the team on the site in Portugal have been brilliant," says Keith.
The site is in the beach village of Cabanas, part of the traditional fishing town of Tavira. "It's a lovely laid-back area that is not as developed as the big resorts like Albufeira," says Keith. "It's great that we don't have to drive but can take the train to Faro and Monte Rei golf course is nearby too. If we get the 6am flight from Birmingham we can be in our home by about 10.30am, it's so easy."
The Bournes are happy that they are not allowed to rent out their home and that the site is a gated community that feels very secure. "There are a few British who live here full-time (not all caravan parks allow this), some that have second homes like us, but also quite a few Dutch and Belgians," adds Keith. "It's also for touring caravans and RVs."
Does he think there's still a bit of snobbery about caravans? "Not any more. Maybe a few years ago it was a poor man's holiday but things have changed and now there's a waiting list for this site. I think it's quite the reverse - it's a better lifestyle than on a holiday apartment complex where you have no control over who is staying next door. We really recommend it." Am sure the Rooneys would agree.
How much does a caravan on the Mediterranean cost?
Caravans in the Sun have sites across Europe, including:
- Vendee, France: £5,000 to £100,000
- Dordogne, France: £25,000 to £120,000
- Algarve, Portugal: £17,000 to £80,000
- Tenerife, Spain: £17,000 to £80,000
- Zante, Greece: £29,000 to £60,000
- Crete, Greece: £29,000 to £90,000
- Tuscany, Italy: £12,000 to £140,000
- Marbella, Spain: £16,000 to £38,000
- Benidorm, Spain: £17,000 to £42,000
More info: caravansinthesun.com