Overview: A word of advice from Mrs Chainsaw

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The Independent Online

Not so long ago, the husband of a friend took a chainsaw on holiday.

Not so long ago, the husband of a friend took a chainsaw on holiday. His family left him to negotiate its passage with the airline and chose to drive to France instead, making good use of the extra room in the car by packing it with essentials like curtain poles and plate racks.

At this time of year, owners of properties abroad have a chance to get their feet under the table and enjoy the fruits of their investment. At least that is the theory. In practice, it could mean relaxing with a glass of wine after a day spent in the builder's merchant or constructing an arbour for the vine. It is not so much that it can't be fun in its own way, but rather that it is an acquired taste. Anyone who fears that a home from home might become too much of a good thing should ask themselves whether they are entirely suited to owning a property in foreign fields.

The doubters have probably made the sensible decision to purchase a lock-up-and-walk-away type of place, where everything is taken care of at all times, but given our fascination with following the progress of any couple willing to expose their struggles with builders, local dignitaries and such like to public gaze, there are plenty who long to take on a challenge.

Either way, it is not sensible to regard buying abroad as a good financial investment over the short term, in the opinion of Ronnie Green, managing director of John D Wood & Co, Lettings. Think in terms of 20 years and you can't go wrong, is his advice.

"Take southern Spain. Anyone who bought 15 years ago will have spent the first 10 without seeing any capital appreciation at all, whereas in the last five years prices have tripled. But who can say whether you will get the timing right? There is no little man ringing a bell when it gets to the bottom. Second homes are very much a vanity thing."

Buyers should also beware of the boredom factor, he points out. Teenage children start to rebel and the family longs to spend a holiday somewhere else but then feels guilty about spending the money.

And letting a holiday home does require expert advice. People paying good money have high expectations - as the civil courts can demonstrate - and won't take kindly to uncomfortable beds, rickety furniture bought at the local market and feeble showers.

None of these caveats can dispel the pleasure of all those people who enjoy nothing better than returning to a familiar property and place, and given flexible work patterns, more often and for longer than in the past. But be prepared for the day when you find yourself taking out a suitcase filled with bathroom tiles, warns Mr Chainsaw's wife. Also take every measurement of your property and put it on the computer when you return. Never doubt that you will go on a UK purchasing spree at least once a year, and believe me, says Mrs C, by the time of the January sales no one ever remembers the size of the mosquito net.