Ginetta Vedrickas: Buying property abroad is no longer just an indulgence of the wealthy few

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The Independent Online

There was once a time when buying a property abroad was an indulgence of a wealthy few. Now we can't turn on our televisions or open a newspaper without finding growing numbers of buyers of all incomes and backgrounds heading to more exotic climes than the UK. Countries such as Spain, France and Portugal have always been popular but with emerging markets now springing up all over the world Brits are finding that it doesn't take much capital to invest in property overseas.

The UK property market is a significant factor. Many owners have found themselves sitting on ever-growing piles of equity in recent years; others find themselves stuck on the property ladder, wondering why bother to go through the disruption of moving when they can only afford something similar to their current home. A growing band seem to be opting for permanent relocation, citing dissatisfaction with UK living, but others want a chance to find themselves a sunny holiday home, with the plus of it paying its way in rental income. Whatever the motivation, it is becoming increasingly hard to generalise about such a diverse market, which contains every category of buyer from the super rich to the first timer.

Precise figures on exactly how many Brits are buying abroad are also hard to unearth. Homes Overseas editor Mike Hayes started work at the magazine three years ago. "During that time I'd say that there has been around a 500 per cent increase in the numbers of Brits who are looking to buy abroad," he says. Sales of the magazine, despite a proliferation in publications devoted to the overseas property market, have rocketed and attendance at the many property exhibitions hosted by the magazine's publishers Blendon reflect the growing interest. Less than 10 years ago Blendon ran just two shows a year; there are now 30 major shows annually.

Can things continue at this pace? Hayes says he can recall Spanish agents telling him three years ago that the boom would not continue. "For years we've been hearing that the Costa del Sol has had its day," he says. "But there are plans to add a further 40 golf courses. Investment is still pouring in."

Hayes believes that interest in overseas property will continue for at least three to four years, not just because of aspirations for a second home abroad but partially thanks to the amount of investor activity in the market: "A few years ago you rarely heard the word 'investor' but today it is commonplace."

And it seems that the bubble is not about to burst.