Comment: Bernice Davison

As UK house prices rise, young and old can look overseas
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The Independent Online

Once upon a time, it was something that many of us dreamed about: owning a home on a sun-kissed island where we could flee from the grey skies of Britain. The dream was usually dependent on us receiving a sudden windfall: a lottery win, an unexpected inheritance. For many people now, dreams of buying a holiday island home are becoming reality. As UK house prices soar, more and more people are using the equity from their homes here to fund the purchase of property abroad.

There are lots of different reasons for buying property overseas - it could be strictly for your own holiday use, with maybe an eye to retiring to balmier climes. You might be buying purely as an investment and need reassurance that rental income will cover your costs. Or you could, like many thousands of people in the past couple of years, be looking for a life-changing permanent move abroad.

Some people split their lives between their homes in different holiday spots; today's world of cheap, regular flights to many new locations, as well as the rapid growth and extension of global communication links has meant that business can go on from almost anywhere in the world.

"Improvements in transport and the significant reduction in the cost of travel has made hitherto inaccessible parts of the world easier to reach and consequently more desirable as locations to own property for personal enjoyment, investment, or both," says Patrick Dring, department head at Knight Frank International, which sells homes in more than 30 countries on five continents.

Who is buying property abroad, and why? Britain's grey pound is certainly a major player in this market: older buyers whose children have left home and who are planning an early retirement can cash in their property-boom homes and look forward to spending the rest of their winters in kinder climates.

But younger couples, probably with two good incomes, are buying too. These buyers are more likely to be looking for new investment possibilities which may offer more secure returns than their current pension provider, while at the same time providing them with their own personal bolt-hole from urban stress. Many younger owners - increasingly, single women - use management companies which will take care of all holiday rentals, security, maintenance and allow them to watch their investment grow without having to handle the hassle themselves.

If you choose carefully, take the right advice and buy wisely, your own island property could well allow you to have your cake and eat it - it should increase in value, provide a comfortable rental return and also be your own dream holiday home too.

Bernice Davison is Property Editor of The Independent