Overview: Dream home or a holiday nightmare?

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The Independent Online

August can be a wicked month. Traditionally it's the time of year that finds us far from home. Yet many of us spend our holidays scouring estate agents' windows - and some of us return home with bigger souvenirs than we'd intended.

Miranda Mallory of Spicer McColl's Broadstairs branch says that inquiries soar in summer months at the resort, but they don't necessarily result in sales. On the other hand, Mallory finds that local trade eases off: "They are probably far away in foreign climes looking into other estate agents' windows."

One family, the Bradleys, had such a blissful two-week holiday on the Cornish coast they decided to make the permanent move from London. "We hoped that we'd have a better quality of life and we traded in our small house for a lovely old cottage with masses of land."

At first the family were happy but as winter came they realised their mistake. "Life with two small children in an isolated village was nothing like our two-week holiday. It became more of an endurance exercise, and we quickly made the decision to come back to London."

While it's easy to fall in love on a sojourn in Cornwall, how much easier is it when you are abroad where better weather and property values are even more seductive? "Very easy," says Immy Suleman of Damac properties, who pinpoints the boom in tourism in Dubai as just one of the factors increasing sales there.

Even if you are not thinking of buying abroad, you may find yourself falling victim to hard-nosed sales people hell-bent on earning their commissions. Linda Travella of the Federation of Property Developers, Agents and Consultants Overseas warns visitors to Spain to be extra vigilant: "You may find they have the most wonderful, professional-looking websites but they may have no experience in the market. All sorts of people try to set up as agents but it doesn't mean that they are any good."

She advocates doing your research before leaving the UK. She runs Casa Travella, an agency specialising in Italian property, and often sees clients who expect to combine their August holiday with house hunting. She doesn't recommend it. "Most agents are on holiday so their offices will be closed. Also it's far too hot to view places. You'd be far better off waiting until October as it's always a good idea to see what a place is like out of season when the weather is poorer."

Should you find yourself considering buying while on holiday as you've heard that investment returns are better abroad, then be aware that not everyone advocates this. Stephen Ludlow of ludlowthompson.com warns that the market for this type of letting is seasonal and also points out that what he terms "discretionary spending" is one of the first casualties in an economic slowdown. "Foreign holiday resorts should be seen as the emerging markets of the residential property world. The old adage applies: you won't be able to emerge from them in an emergency."