by Simon Hilton, senior foreign exchange consultant at World First and official Expat Focus foreign exchange partner
Hot on the heels of Britain’s coldest May since 1996, we’ve just had the driest June in decades, and the driest July since records began. And as we enjoy the record breaking temperatures and fantastic sunshine, it makes you wonder why any of us ever harbour dreams of moving away from the UK.
I bet you won’t be wondering why in a few months time, when the cold and wet conditions are back with us, and the British weather reverts to type!Around 150,000 people leave the UK every year, with over a million now living in Australia, nearly a million in the USA, over half a million in Canada and a quarter of a million in New Zealand. Together with Australia, Spain is the most popular destination with expats, with well over a million Brits having been seduced by a country known for great weather, a diverse culture and a mix of party destinations and retirement spots.
The living costs are considerably less in Spain than in the UK, and a cup of coffee and pint of beer will set you back around £1.40 and £1.80 respectively. £1.80 for a pint of beer? I’m on the next flight…
Foreign buyers looking to buy in Spain are choosing popular locations like Alicante, Malaga and Mallorca, and they’re looking for a bargain. According to Kyero, the Spanish property website, almost half are looking in the €50,000 to €150,000 price bracket. Since the recession, buyers’ needs have changed, and they’ve shown that they’re not willing to pay over the odds.
If it’s bargains they’re after, Spain’s a pretty good choice. Because, after extraordinary levels of overbuilding were exposed by the credit crunch, there are a lot of houses to get rid of, and prices have been cut accordingly. And when I say a lot of houses, I mean a LOT of houses. There are around a million unsold new homes, built when demand was high and when the construction industry was the basis for Spain’s economic boom. At the crash, Spain was left with all these empty houses and a terrible reputation, as tens of thousands of British buyers seriously regretted their Spanish investments amid property scams, confused planning laws and dubious lawyers. Others were put off Spain completely.
Speaking to The Telegraph, Federico Trillo, Spain’s ambassador to London, recognised the tough time buyers and potential investors have had in the past. He said, “Britons buying overseas properties in Spain is vital for us”, and discussed reforms that would “ensure the legislation protects potential investors and those that already have homes in Spain.” Such reforms are designed to win back investors’ trust, and include regularising tens of thousands of properties that had been declared illegal in the past, and easing the registry search on properties so that potential buyers can check the legalities of a property more easily before they buy.
So with bargains abound, and Spain trying to repair its image to potential investors, people dreaming of a new life overseas may be tempted to take the plunge. Prices have halved in some areas, and could go down further still. And the factors people cite when considering a move to Spain; the climate, the way of life, well, those things never went away.
Simon Hilton is a senior foreign exchange consultant at World First specialising in assisting private clients and companies with their foreign exchange transactions. Simon is authorised by the FSA to offer foreign currency options.
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