Property in Egypt
Egypt isn’t just a destination for winter sun and beautiful beaches where you can swim all year. It has history, culture and an exotic Middle-Eastern lifestyle where your money goes a long way.
Egypt proves one thing about buying property overseas: you don’t need megabucks to own abroad and get some relief from the British winter. Egypt has studio apartments for under £10,000 (or go mad and get two bedrooms for £20,000), with pool, landscaped gardens and a view of the Red Sea. Flights go all year from throughout the UK for less than £200 return. So you can spend long weekends splashing about in the warm sea, and relaxing in your Egyptian home while your friends are shivering at home. Why not rent it out to them when you’re not using it?
For those with bigger budgets, Egypt offers a luxurious lifestyle you would pay a lot more for in the Caribbean or Far-East, but without the travelling time, expense or jet lag. The flight time is around five hours and Egypt is just two hours ahead of UK time.
Egypt has a good choice of destinations for a bit of winter sun, permanent relocation or retirement along its long Red Sea coast or shorter Mediterranean coast. It’s one of the world’s great scuba-diving and snorkeling destinations, with protected coral reefs, wrecks at an easily diveable depth and friendly dolphins.
Popular resorts along the Red Sea Riviera include El Gouna, about the most luxurious, with its golf course, marinas and five star hotels. Soma Bay is also quite special, just a 20 minute drive from Hurghada and its airport. There are other resorts along this coast at varying price levels and accessibility. In the past some developers have failed to complete the surrounding infrastructure and facilities, so be careful to use a reputable agent and developer.
Other potential locations for your home in Egypt are along the Mediterranean coast, such as Alexandria, or in Cairo or Luxor. In Cairo you have a choice of the old city, with beautiful old colonial properties, or the clean, new cities built as satellites to Cairo. Luxor is a city along the River Nile of nearly half a million, described as “the world’s greatest outdoor museum”, but also a popular choice for overseas buyers.
The two aces up Egypt’s sleeve are its 5,000 years of history, with pyramids and valleys of kings, plus its British connection. Many Egyptians speak English and have an affection for the country that ruled here for a century.
Where to Buy Property in Egypt
Starting with the longest and most well-established areas, 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.
Created by the incredibly successful Middle Eastern developers, Orascom, this luxury enclave is a beautiful place to live and you can get everything from a studio apartment for £60,000, high-end two-bedders for £300,000 or a three-bed villa for roughly the same price. Homes go into several millions.
Somabay is another successful resort – 20 minutes drive north of Hurghada on the North Red Sea Coast – where there are various golf and marina properties for sale – at lower prices than El Gouna.
Another resort – this time south of Hurghada on the same stretch of coast – that offers family friendly hotels, golf courses and spas to complement all the watersports is Sahl Hasheesh.
Beware that although Sahl Hasheesh is a lovely location with thriving hotels, a lot of the infratructure such as bars and restaurants has not materialised around the private apartments – make sure you find out the status of this before investing.
Studios start at round £50,000; one-beds at around £70,000; three-bed properties at around £300,000 upwards.
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 destination for European buyers, especially Italians who are only a couple of hours flying time away, but also Brits, Russians and a few Germans. Sharm also has world class diving, camel trekking, jeep safaris and horse-riding in the national parks that surround it.
You can negotiate hard in Sharm, suggest agents, and you can lick up a studio or one-bed apartment for less than £30,000, two-bedroom apartments for well under £40,000 and small villas/townhouses with change from £150,000.
Note that properties in Sharm are leasehold, not freehold. Nabq Bay is the most prestigious area of Sharm, and in the resort community of the same name, you will pay slightly more – a two-bed apartment costs around £55,000.
Heading back down the western Red Sea coast, Hurghada is the newest resort area that has been heavily developed in recent years, with apartment blocks springing up cheek by jowl – to no particular masterplan.
What was little more than a fishing village until 15 years ago is now the fun-loving hub at the centre of Europe's scuba diving industry. Property buyers are mainly European – French, Swedish, British and German and Polish.
In downtown Hurghada you can buy a 24m2 studio for £6,000 or £7,000 but you must be very careful about what you buy – there has been a history of developers building too intensively on plots of land and thus the projects proving to be illegal – so as mentioned above, get a good Anglo-Arabic speaking lawyer to go all the checks and translate all the documents for you.
Tourist projects are only permitted to be 25 per cent build density but disreputable developers have built several that are 65 per cent – the density allowed for local residents.
In Hurghada apartment blocks are (legally) up to five-storey where elsewhere like Sharm, the three-storey limit has been enforced. If you are viewing an apartment complex that has been in the process of being built for five or six years, alarm bells should ring
Choose with care and you can find a highly affordable little winter-sun apartment, though – the well-established Tiba complexes (there are 12 projects) you can get studios from £65,000 – only 400 metres from the beach and a six-minute drive from El Gouna (where you can pay to use their beach).
Or right on the beach is Turtle Beach – nearly sold out but a few 40m2 studios left for £20,000.
Away from the Red Sea coast, situated at different ends of Egypt’s stretch of the River Nile are Luxor and Cairo. Both markets remain very quiet in terms of tourism and overseas investors yet Luxor still appeals to buyers who love the rich history and archaeology of the area – a mix of British, Belgian and Russians in fact.
Agents report the market “slowly returning” at the outset of 2015 – but tourism remains a slim fraction of the record levels reached in 2010.
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 £55,000 for two or three bedrooms on a smart, new development overlooking the River (Egyptian Experience) – or a studio for £30,000.
How to Buy Property in Egypt
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 £200-1,000 (5 to 10 per cent).
When the bilingual contracts are prepared they are likely to include all details of title, boundaries, planning permissions and further instalment "milestones". Off-plan instalments are paid on pre-agreed times rather than on completed stages.
For completed properties, you pay a 5-10 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 according to you contract. On final payment, you can register your property.
Buying Costs in Egypt
Buyers pay registration fees of £1,000-plus with the Green Contract but only around £200 with the signature validation.
There is no purchase tax so buyers really need to consider legal fees of around £500, connection of utilities (around £100) and the first year of maintenance fees up front, if they are buying on a managed complex (often around £250).