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Britons eye up villas in Spain and Greece as restrictions ease

With travel restrictions easing, the number of Britons browsing online for a more permanent place in the sun is on the rise, new findings suggest.

In rank order, Spain, France, Portugal, Italy and Greece are the top five most sought after locations for Britons looking online to snap up a home abroad, property site Rightmove said.

In a single day on 28 June, 1million searches were carried out by people via Rightmove for properties abroad, marking the first time the website has ever reached this daily milestone. 

While there may have been a marked upturn in online searches for homes overseas, buying a property abroad can be costly and complicated and is not a move to be undertaken lightly.

It also remains to be seen how much of this virtual wanderlusting will turn into cold hard cash for estate agents and sellers.

But, Rightmove insists that, in many cases, online browsing was followed by prospective buyers making enquiries to estate agents about a home by phone or email. 

It said enquiries to estate agents overseas rose to their highest level since the start of last year in June.

In June, the number of new users on ‘Rightmove Overseas’ was 41 per cent higher than at the same point a year ago, the company claims. 

Top five most in-demand places abroad to by a home

1. Spain

2. France

3. Portugal

4. Italy

5. Greece

The top five are based on search data from Rightmove online last month. 

Rachel Beaton, an overseas property expert at Rightmove, said: ‘We’ve seen a gradual resurgence of interest from home-hunters looking for properties abroad since April, but after the government confirmed there will be easing of travel restrictions to certain countries we saw demand for overseas homes rise even further to record-breaking levels.

‘We know that activity on Rightmove Overseas is always an inverse response to the British weather – so traffic dips when we have good weather, and then bounces back when the rain comes – and this was exactly what happened in the final weekend of June. 

‘This, coupled with the news about fewer restrictions on overseas travel, saw UK home-hunters flock to our site to look at places they could relocate to or buy a holiday home.’

Searches for property in Spain were up by a quarter compared to June last year, while agents dealing with homes in France recorded a 32 per cent year-on-year rise. 

In Portugal, the uplift was 24 per cent, and in Italy it was 17 per cent higher. 

Gavin Vercoe, chief operating officer at Chestertons International, said: ‘We definitely observed a surge in enquiries received over the weekend of 27th and 28th June. 

The Votana Beach House in Corfu could be yours via Chestertons International if you have very deep pockets – it has a £5.4m price tag

The Votana Beach House in Corfu has six bedrooms and ample living space

The Votana Beach House in Corfu has six bedrooms and ample living space

The Votana Beach House also has a divine swimming pool and a private jetty to the beach

The Votana Beach House also has a divine swimming pool and a private jetty to the beach

‘In fact, there was a 340% increase in enquiries for European properties across the Chestertons network, compared to European enquiries received over the weekend two weeks prior, on 13th and 14th June.’

Poll

Where would you like to buy a home overseas?

  • France 0 votes
  • Greece 0 votes
  • Italy 0 votes
  • Portugal 0 votes
  • Spain 0 votes
  • None of the above – prefer to stay in the UK 0 votes

Indicating that there may be a fair amount of wishful thinking going on, speaking to This is Money, estate agents at Chestertons International said one of the top three most popular overseas homes on its books for online browsers over the last few weeks was the six-bedroom £5.4million Votana Beach House in Corfu, with direct access to a private jetty and pebble beach.

Other estate agents also reported a spike in online browsing and enquiries for overseas homes in the last month or so.

Kate Everett-Allen, a partner at Knight Frank, said: ‘Since 11th May, when the French property market reopened for business, our 30+ strong office network in France have reported their busiest weeks for more than a decade. Our British clients are now making plans to view their shortlist of properties following the announcement on relaxing of travel restrictions.’

Esate agents at Savills told This is Money that its most viewed home online in Spain over the last month was a remote five-bedroom £572,475 home in Andalucia, complete with sweeping views of the surrounding countryside, 10 hectares of land, a large swimming pool and an olive tree lined driveway. 

Meanwhile, Knight Frank revealed that its most viewed property online in France last month was actor Sean Connery’s magnificent five bedroom villa in Cap de Nice, Côte d’Azur, with a guide price of over £27million.

Sean Connery's former home is up for sale via Knight Frank for a guide price of over £27million

Sean Connery’s former home is up for sale via Knight Frank for a guide price of over £27million

Connery's former five bedroom villa in Cap de Nice, Côte d'Azur has a stunning outlook

Connery’s former five bedroom villa in Cap de Nice, Côte d’Azur has a stunning outlook

Savills told This is Money its most viewed property online in the last few weeks was this £572,475 home in Andalucia

Savills told This is Money its most viewed property online in the last few weeks was this £572,475 home in Andalucia

Five things to watch out for when buying a home abroad

Dreaming of a home in the sun is one thing, but taking the plunge, parting with huge amounts of cash and actually buying one is quite another.

As with any property purchase, buying a home overseas is not something to be taken lightly and it can prove more costly, time consuming and complex than you might image.

Local laws, fluctuating exchange rates and thorny tax matters can all play their part in making an overseas property purchase a headache.

Here, the Money Advice Service and This is Money outlines five of the main issues to be wary of when buying property abroad: 

1. Tax – Make sure you account for all the tax you’ll be liable to pay, both in the UK and in the country where you have the property.

2. Check paperwork carefully – make sure that you have all the necessary permissions, licences and planning consents before you sign any form of contract or agreement.

3. Exchange rate shifts – even a small change to the exchange rate could drastically affect the value of your purchase. This could make a property – or your mortgage repayments unaffordable overnight.

4. Beware developers and the hard sell – don’t succumb to heavy pressure to sign up with a deposit before you’ve had a chance to think carefully and get independent advice.

5. Get proper advice – Buying a home overseas can end up being a costly nightmare if you are not careful. 

Make sure you get proper financial and legal advice to help you make the best and most prudent decisions. Experts with local knowledge will also be able to help guide you through any unexpected or unusual local laws or regulations.

An overseas property purchase is not regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority so you will not be protected by the Financial Ombudsman Service or Financial Services Compensation Scheme if things go wrong. 

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