Overseas: Buying abroad? Go green

Before you buy a second home overseas, look at the eco-friendly options
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The Independent Online

Owning a second home can be a complex business, not just in terms of the financial commitment but whether it is socially and environmentally responsible to own overseas. However, with green issues high on the agenda, developers are more likely than ever to incorporate sustainability into their projects.

Pierre & Vacances, which sells property in France, for example, is making new properties energy efficient, reducing waste and using materials from certified sources. P&V's most eco-friendly development is currently being sold in the Moselle region of France and offers two- to four-bed wooden, cabin-style homes starting at £168,000. Marie Balmain, who runs P&V's sustainability programme, says the company works with environmental organisations to ensure properties don't damage the local environment.

This greening ethos is spreading slowly into all markets, including Eastern Europe. Seven Lakes, near the resort of Borovets in Bulgaria, is an attractive, carbon-neutral development. The stone-and-timber chalets have been created from local materials and are powered by water and wind. The two- and three-bed homes start at £124,300 through Obelisk International.

Gordon Miller, founder of sustainability portal What Green Home, says there is a small but growing awareness of environmental issues with home buyers. "Only five per cent of buyers will ask environmental questions," he says, "but I'm seeing increased interest."

Miller claims some countries, particularly those in northern Europe, have a history of being more eco-conscious than others. Investors in Property offers quaint chalets in St Martin, an eco-complex near Salzburg, Austria. They were built using local, untreated woods insulated with wool, while energy is provided using vegetable oil with back up from solar, wind and biomass systems. The three-bed properties are currently selling from £268,200.

Those seeking something more contemporary should look at Portugal's Silver Coast where the Peralta resort is currently being built near Lourinha. The villas are being built from reclaimed glass and stone with wood sourced from sustainable plantations. Geothermal heating and cooling systems reduce energy consumption, working alongside solar panels and wind turbines. Prices start from £694,400, through Quintessentially Estates, which is also selling Peralta's stunning sister resort Joia das Dunas, priced from £496,000.

The Domaine Royal Palm development, near Marrakech, is one of the few environmentally aware resorts in Morocco. Villas are made from natural materials and the site is fossil-fuel free, using solar energy and thermal heating and cooling systems. Erna Low is offering properties from £500,500.

It seems as if the second home market is finally moving in the right direction. Gordon Miller points out that legislation will soon force the industry to be greener. "In most Western countries, buyers of new homes won't have a choice about purchasing a green home because [they] will be the only option."

What Green Home: www.whatgreenhome.com; Quintessentially Estates: 0845 224 3658; www.quintessentiallyestates.com; Obelisk International: 0808 160 0670, www.obeliskinternational.com; Erna Low: 020 7590 1624, www.ernalowproperty.co.uk; Romanian Property Connection: 0790 401 0802, www.romanianhomes.com; Investors in Property: 020 8905 5511, www.investorsinproperty.com; Pierre & Vacances: 0800 001 5551, www.pierre-vacances.co.uk

Buyers' guide

*Ask developers about their eco-stance. Check if they use renewable energy, how insulated properties are and where materials and water come from.

*Find out what happens to waste and whether the resort recycles effectively.

*Check whether locals have been displaced by the development works or lost their beach access, water supplies or green areas.

*Be aware of 'greenwash' – or claims that properties are more eco-friendly than they actually are.