When choosing a place to buy abroad it’s not just about how cheap the property is. Of course, this is a pretty big driver for most buyers, but along with accessibility, lifestyle factors also come into play. So how do you choose between your favourite countries? Here we look at five of the key considerations for buyers...
1) Climate and seasonality
There are many people who would stay in the UK if it offered more sunshine! Just waking up each morning knowing there is going to be sun is one of the most highly prized factors frequently flagged by buyers abroad because it allows an outdoor lifestyle and also has tangible health benefits. But think about local conditions carefully - will it be too hot in the summer holidays when you need to go there - or play golf? Bear in mind that in many southern European countries it can reach 40 degrees in peak summer. Likewise, what are the winters like? Are they mild or surprisingly bitter? Even on an island, conditions vary from one side to the other.
What’s more, consider the seasonality of a place as well as the year-round weather. Do all the restaurants close down in the winter in the resort where you want to buy? Check whether flights to the UK run all year round.
This usually comes down to how much English is spoken where I hope to live? Many of us have great intentions about learning the local language before we buy a home abroad but when it comes down to it, it’s not always easy when everybody talks back at you in English. Or, conversely, just looks back at you blankly. Work out if you are going to be comfortable ‘getting by’ or whether you make serious efforts to learn the language. In Spain, there are often sessions held in bars to encourage locals to chat to newly arrived expats, or there are often classes held in the village, organised by the mairie (town hall) in France. Or maybe you prefer to move somewhere where English is the most widely spoken language?
3) Cost of living
This is especially important if you are spending longer lengths of time at your overseas home, or living there full time. Your day to day living expenses can vary considerably between countries (Portugal, for example, is generally very affordable) but also between regions and towns. Tourist towns and cities are more expensive than off-the-beaten-track locations, and often Island locations where many products are imported. Weigh up yearly taxation (council tax equivalents), as well as the cost of utilities (electricity can be surprisingly high in some locations), healthcare and travel expenses.
4) Culture and community
When you buy your home do you intend to immerse yourself in the local culture and attempt to ‘live like a local’, or do you prefer having the security of plenty of other Britons around you? This may narrow down your choices to expat hubs, cosmopolitan towns with a wide variety of nationalities, or a small village with a real sense of community. Think about how you might wish to integrate. Also, how Anglophile is the country? Some people choose Cyprus because they feel safer driving on the same side of the road as the UK, whilst historic cultural connections of locations such as Malta, Barbados and Gibraltar are attractive to others. Conversely, the laid-back Mediterranean lifestyle is attractive for those who want to move down a gear, but will the fact that shops may close at lunchtime and on Sundays suit you?
In the past five years, the importance of security has risen to the top of many buyers’ lists. This not only includes the risk of terrorism in a country or region and political volatility but also economic security because buying a home is a long-term investment. There are many buyers who have gravitated towards locations such as Spain, Portugal, Greece and Cyprus in the last couple of years, for example, for their perceived lack of security issues. But there is also safety and security on a local level - you need to feel comfortable in your environment.
With so many issues behind people’s continued desire to relocate than purely sun, cheap property or endless beaches, it’s essential that you research location thoroughly. Visit places more than once, especially at different times of the year, talk to local owners and imagine how you intend to spend your day to day life there, whether it’s now, or - an equally important consideration - in five to ten years’ time.