House Hunter: 'I want somewhere to moor a boat'

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THE PROBLEM

THE PROBLEM

Cora Banks writes: "I am seeking a beach front property somewhere in the sun. I would like to be in the Mediterranean, but don't really like Southern Spain, the Algarve or the South of France, which all seem to be becoming increasingly overcrowded, touristy and expensive. I'd like to find somewhere in Europe which is not too overdeveloped, has natural beauty, rustic charm and where the cost of living is not excessive. I'm not interested in Croatia or Bulgaria - I would prefer to be somewhere within the EU for freedom of travel, and am also nervous about buying in places that are not yet established with the British market.

"I'd like a home which is built in a style traditional to the country and area rather than something modern or newly built. Some land would be good and ideally somewhere to moor a boat as sailing is one of my biggest passions. I plan to spend up to six months of the year in the property and would like some space for guest rooms or even a guest cottage. I have looked at the Greek islands and really love some of the quieter ones but feel that I really need to be based somewhere with a good infrastructure. I need a proper large town nearby with good restaurants; I'm a bit of a foodie, and plan on spending a lot of time there. I also don't want to be anywhere which closes up in the winter.

"Ideally, the property will be a sound investment, particularly if I make significant improvements to an unmodernised house, which I am prepared to do. I am rather nervous about buying somewhere abroad."

THE ADVICE

Alison MacPherson replies: "Corfu strikes me as an ideal solution for Cora. It is spectacularly beautiful and offers combined qualities rarely found in the Mediterranean. Corfu is easily accessible from the UK with direct flights from May to October and has a long history of British people investing in property. Out of season, one accesses the island via Athens which is a 30 minute flight away.

"The island has a dramatic coastline, mountainous countryside, and fantastic beaches. The people are warm, family-orientated and welcoming and the food is great, ranging from simple tavernas and more recently to gourmet restaurants in Corfu Town. Greek food, as opposed to the interpretation for the British, is excellent.

"There are wonderful views from the east towards Albania and some of the best sailing in the Mediterranean to mainland Greece, Croatia and many of the islands in the Peloponnese. The Ionian Sea to the west of Greece offers beautiful, translucent-blue waters, with good afternoon breezes excellent for sailing - the island boasts a particularly good marina at Gouvia. From tortoises to dolphins, and birdlife, orchids, wonderful wild flowers and olive groves, Corfu's sea and landscape make it one of the most natural beauty spots in the Mediterranean.

"Venetian Corfu Town has everything the modern traveller needs. The island is well equipped for year-round living with internet links, good telecommunication systems, medical services and banking facilities.

"The north-east of the island is by far the most desirable area and is home to many British families, largely unspoilt beauty and charm of the island and its culture. Buying property in Greece is reasonably straightforward since most agents and lawyers on the island have a long history of trading with UK buyers.

"Property one overlooks Agni Bay, one of the prettiest bays on Corfu, and the coast of Albania. Beachfront properties can be expensive given that they are virtually impossible to find and are snapped up quickly. This particular house hasn't been on the market since 1971, making this a once in a lifetime opportunity to buy one of the most ideally situated houses on the island. Property two is two villas and property three is a more affordable option."

Alison Macpherson: Aylesford Property Consultants' international department: 020-7351 2383, www.aylesford.com.

THE SOLUTION

Property one: Villa overlooking Agni Bay, Corfu.

Price: £1.7m.

Agent's details: This four-bedroom villa has been traditionally restored in stone and sits on its own headland leading down to the sea. The house has a large galleried sitting/dining room with a fireplace and stone floored passage leading to the kitchen. On one side of the headland there are steps down to the beach and on the other side a slipway leads down to a private jetty.

Property two: Two villas in Benitses, Corfu.

Price: £560,000.

Agent's details: An estate directly on the beach consisting of two detached villas on the east coast 13km south of Corfu Town. The first villa has a large reception room with a fireplace, three bedrooms and two bathrooms. The second villa has four bedrooms anda large reception with fireplace on the upper floor. Both villas have covered verandas with sea views to the mainland.

Property three: House in Megoulas, Corfu.

Price: £66,000.

Agent's details: This house overlooks lovely countryside with views to the sea. The property is in need of total refurbishment but there are two bedrooms, a kitchen and a reception room and the lower floor is a basement. The property has a large well, and an outbuilding could be transformed into a studio or a guest house. It is semi-detached to an uninhabited house.

THE VERDICT

"Strangely I've never considered looking on Corfu. I haven't actually been there, and I suppose that I've always associated it with mass tourism. But from reading Alison's advice and after taking a look on the internet I now see that this is definitely not the case.

"The interior of the island, in particular, looks stunning as does some of the coastline and especially the north.

"I really like the idea of being able to get to a large town fairly easily and Corfu Town is a thriving year-round place rather than a tourist resort.

"As for the properties, number one looks amazing and seems to have everything I want in an overseas home.

"The idea of having a private jetty is definitely one that appeals to me, but the number three property also looks like it could be beautiful and is amazing value."

If you would like House Hunter's help, write to: House Hunter, The Independent, 191 Marsh Wall, London E14 9RS, or e-mail: househunter@independent.co.uk

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