All abroad

1st June 2007 at 01:00
Buying a holiday home makes more sense than renting, says Alison Brace

Blue skies, sunshine, summer breezes - wouldn't it be lovely if life was always like this. Well, why shouldn't it be? A place in the sun is not beyond the means of any of us who are shelling out the best part of pound;400 a week to stay in someone else's holiday home.

MRI Overseas Property, the international property experts, estimates that Britons who return time and again to their favourite holiday destination could save pound;65 billion if they bought a home there. So, maybe it's time to think about turning that dream into a reality.

First, work out what you can afford and stick to your budget. Don't forget the legal fees, surveys and furnishings. You can either look for a mortgage, or if you've got a home with lots of equity in it, then you can usually get an attractive interest rate on a remortgage. But if you do raise money from your main home, you may find it difficult to get extra finance for renovations in the future.

The Teachers Building Society, in common with other lenders, will only lend 80 per cent of the price, so you may need to raise the deposit from the equity in your own home unless you have substantial savings.

Once you've sorted out your mortgage, pinpoint the area where you want to buy. In Britain, keep an eye on www.rightmove.co.uk, the UK's largest property website used by 80 per cent of estate agents, to check prices and demand.

France and Spain are top of the overseas lists for second home owners, but if you're feeling adventurous, Knight Frank estate agents says Lithuania is set for a 20 per cent growth in house prices next year, followed by Latvia, Slovenia and Morocco. If you are buying abroad, think about whether you are making a lifestyle decision or an investment to make extra money, urges www.holidaylettings.co.uk.

For a relatively stress-free home from home, there's always timeshare. Some 1.3 million people are now timeshare owners across Europe, compared with 600,000 second home owners in the UK or abroad.

According to Sandy Grey, chairman of the Timeshare Consumers' Association, a voluntary advisory body, the best option for teachers is a fixed-week timeshare option - the same week or weeks guaranteed every year. It's a buyers' market at the moment, he says, and you could get one for as little as pound;2,000 or pound;3,000. Avoid buying in a resort, though, where prices could be up to pound;15,000, and whatever you do, contact the TCA before signing anything

AVOIDING PITFALLS

Invest in a good lawyer, fluent in English and the local language.

Always visit the property personally.

Get a full structural survey.

Investigate the country's inheritance laws.

Research local crime levels.

Check out the country's political situation.

Keep renovations to a minimum.

Check out owner chatroom forums.

Source: www.holidaylettings.co.uk.

Contacts

www.holidaylettings.co.uk or call 01865 201444.

www.timeshare.org.uk or call 01909 591100.

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