Forget the rat race – buying abroad offers bargain properties and the living is easy, says Christopher Middleton
There are parts of the world where riding out the economic storm in retirement is going to be a lot more enjoyable than in Britain.
Savills estate agents’ latest Global Residential Review reveals that an increasing number of those in their more prosperous fifties and sixties are looking for a foreign retirement bolt-hole where the living is easier than in Britain.
“Most buyers want to use their overseas property themselves, as a holiday home, for inheritance reasons, or retirement purposes,” concludes the report.
In which case, what are British buyers looking for? “There are four main ‘drivers’ says Charles Weston Baker, Savills’s head of international property. “Lower cost of living, less tax, better climate with lower heating bills, and bargain discounts that have become available because of the recession.”
Florida, really. On average the climate’s a lot warmer than Britain’s, so you’re guaranteed sunshine. Property prices have fallen by 30-70 per cent over the past four years.
You can pick up a one-bedroom condominium apartment for £25-£40,000. A more spacious, and more rentable alternative, would be a two-bedroom, two-bathroom apartment for £55-£60,000 at Tuscana (www.torcana.com). This is a new resort just ten minutes from the Disney World Theme Park, in Orlando, and 45 minutes from the Legoland Park at Winter Haven, due to open in October.
Britons are the biggest expat community in Barbados. Celebrity owners include Sirs Cliff Richard and Andrew Lloyd Webber, as well as Cilla Black and Simon Cowell.
Estate agents Cluttons (www.cluttons.com) report a 70 per cent increase in sales in 2010, compared to 2009. This is due partly to prices being 15 per cent lower than in 2008. The biggest discounts are on condominium developments. Mansions aren’t as good a deal, especially on the Platinum (west) coast.
It’s not just the sunshine that makes the Greek part of Cyprus a haven for Britons. Spend more than 183 days on the island, in one financial year, and you become a tax resident, liable for as little as five per cent income tax.
Corporate rates of tax are just 10 per cent. There are newbuilds at Limassol Marina (from £399,000, www.limassolmarina.com), the Leptos Apollo Beach Villas, near Paphos (from £476,000;www.leptosestates.com), and the Sea Gallery Villas, at Amathus (from £1.17 million; www.cybarco.com).
Brits tend to opt for coastal properties (39 per cent), rural (37 per cent) and mountainous (19 per cent), which means the likes of Aquitaine, the Dordogne and the Languedoc remain popular. But the prospect of spending a year (or longer) in Provence, à la Peter Mayle, is as attractive as ever.
Overall, prices in France are eight per cent down on their 2007 peak. If you have a big chunk of money and are looking for a quick return, however, the historic centre of Paris is the place to buy.
Apartment prices rose by 20 per cent in 2010, according to the British specialists Home Hunts (www.home-hunts.com).
You won’t find stacks of cheap, soulless, little modern apartments in Tuscany and Umbria. But you will find lots of rural residences with character.
Prices are between 5-20 per cent lower than September 2008, so for £150,000 you can buy a pretty, stone-built town house in the village of Collodi Castello.
And £208,000 will buy you a three-bedroom hillside home with barn and garden, near Lucca (www.alfaimmobiliare.com).
Knight Frank (www.knightfrank.com) is currently offering a five-bedroom house with pool in Umbria (Casa Sul Lago) for £1.1 million. There is also a seven-bedroom mansion with a pool near Siena for £3.7 million, available through Knight Frank. Purchase tax goes up from 10 per cent to 18 per cent if a property’s land is cultivable.
Picture postcard beaches, and an expat-friendly Integrated Resort Scheme, whereby you, your spouse and offspring enjoy not only residency status, but freedom from inheritance and capital gains tax. This is provided you buy a top-end property such as at the (288-villa) Valriche development next to two golf courses (with another planned). Prices start from £500,000 for a two-bedroom villa (www.cluttons.com).
Cape Town is where most Brits gravitate, with its equable climate and fine beaches. Prices can be 50 per cent less than the most expensive parts of Europe, too.
You can buy a three-bedroom house, in a gated community, overlooking Hout Bay, for £500,000, and rent it out for around £2,000 per month (www.cluttons.co.za).
According to David Webb, director of Chestertons South Africa (www.chesterton.co.za), the two most UK-friendly areas are Clifton and Camps Bay, where 30 per cent of the population is British.
Murcia, in south-east Spain, was the original star of Spanish golfing properties. It now has more links-side homes for sale, at below-par prices. A two-bedroom home costs £45,000 at the Camposol Golf Development, at Mazarron. This is a 10-minute drive from the new Paramount Pictures Theme Park, due to open in 2015. (Mercers Estate Agents; www.spanishproperty.co.uk).
Property sales in Majorca are also up (by 14.5 per cent in 2010), as is the number of Monarch Airlines flights from Britain. You can buy an (as yet unbuilt) two-bedroom beachside villa at Cala Anguilla for £180,900 (www.taylorwimpeyspain.com).
“Switzerland was generally unaffected by the recession and the property market remained buoyant,” reports Hannah Coppersmith, managing director of Pure International (www.pureintl.com). The company organises free seminars to help with the laws on purchase in the cantons.
You need to be rich to get in, but once there, you’ll get richer. “In Switzerland, taxes are decided by an individual’s expenditure and standard of living, rather than income and assets,” as estate agents de Rham Sotheby’s International Realty put it (www.sothebysrealty.com).
During 2010, property sales to foreigners rose by 40 per cent on the year before, totalling £2.5 billion.
Not quite as good as the 3 billion of the boom years (2006-08), but enough to persuade accountants Price Waterhouse Coopers to name Istanbul the best European city for investing in property during 2011.
Buy a place in this fascinating metropolis and you also have a ready supply of would-be tenants for when you’re not there. Istanbul has an estimated housing shortage of 250,000 units per year.