Top 5 holiday home hotspots

There's so much coverage given in the press on the subject of overseas holiday home destinations that it's difficult to know what to believe. Opinions differ and often the advice given provides conflicting information about which country is currently looking the most favourable. Naturally, every property buyer is hoping to find an ideal home in a great location at a good price. There's always the additional wish that it might also prove a lucrative investment, either through renting or selling as and when the market improves.

Having viewed a number of the latest relevant surveys and consulted some leading property experts, certain countries appear to remain firm perennial favourites:

1. Spain


Number one in both 2010 and 2011 according to annual surveys carried out by A Place in the Sun, Spain is maintaining its stronghold. A Rightmove survey backs this theory up by revealing that in February this year 21.72% of all its searches were for Spanish property.

Jon Ainge, director of International Property Success (IPS), said, "With the recent economic turmoil in Europe, we would be forgiven for thinking that searches for Spain property would be falling rather than increasing, yet this isn't the case. I think this proves that investors in overseas property prefer the well-trodden path rather than anything beyond their comfort zone, even though capital growth is likely to be much higher in some countries beyond Europe."

When the Costa del Sol property market was at its peak in the mid-2000s, golf-side was second only to beachfront and a two-bedroom apartment wouldn't leave much change from half a million Euros. Today's climate has forced the premium price to drop but the benefits remain the same.

Adam Cornwell, managing director of Feltrim International, comments, "As Spain struggles to cope with the collapse of its construction industry, many properties now lie in the hands of the banks. Whilst many are below par at best, there are some genuine top quality homes within their stock including golf-front. As the Government aims to clean up and restart the banking system, lenders are being asked to recognise bigger provisions on their property portfolios which encourages them to offload the stock by dropping prices and offering significant financial incentives to purchase. This means that not only has the clock turned back six or seven years in terms of pricing, but also in terms of lending with 110% mortgages reappearing on bank-owned developments."

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2. France


Rising to second place from last year's number three, France is locked in battle with Spain to hit the top spot. Now that some French banks are forecasting a fall in property prices of up to five per cent for 2012, this may be an excellent time to buy as some areas will see prices as low as those in 2005. More good news in the country's favour is that President Sarkozy has dropped his proposed property tax on second home-owners.

The FNAIM, which is the largest body representing estate agents in France, reports a real variation in prices over the last year. While some areas such as Brittany suffered a distinct fall in prices, others such as the Languedoc Roussillon and Champagne saw an increase.

French Property News editor Karen Tait said, "Clearly France continues to be popular with British people looking for a new home abroad. With exchange rates being kinder to the British pocket at the moment, and France offering a stable property market, many people are realising that now might be the ideal time to start a new life in France. The traditional, more relaxed way of life in many rural areas of France appears to be particularly appealing in these ever more busy and cash-stretched times. Those concerned about investing in France at such a time should be reassured by the fact that it continues to be among the world's top 10 strongest country brands, according to the 2011-12 FutureBrand Country Brand Index."

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3. Portugal


Up one from its 2011 ranking at number four, Portugal's prices may have dropped but not as significantly as those in many other countries. According to Buy Association, Portugal has weathered the troubles affecting the property market in Spain well. This source goes on to state that Portugal's strict laws have also avoided the planning irregularities that have plagued its neighbouring Spain, while new areas opening up along the Atlantic coast are providing the impetus for further growth.

The number of new building projects has declined since 1993 when revised planning regulations were brought in. Although this has caused property prices to rise by approximately 15-20 per cent per annum in recent years, it has helped ensure that new developments are more in tune with their natural surroundings.

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4. Italy


A new entry into the top five this year is Italy which only managed sixth position in 2011. It's interesting to note that, after the Americans, the biggest group of Italian property buyers hails from the UK according to Italy's leading property portal for non-Italian buyers reports that out of the 150 countries covered by the portal, requests from those living in the UK accounted for 13.26 per cent of all enquiries for Italian second homes.

Many sellers in Italy have reduced the asking price of their properties in recent months. Linda Travella, of Casa Travella, explained Italian vendors were slower to cut the amount they were asking for their homes than other Europeans. However, she noted they have recently realised that this is encouraging investors to look elsewhere for their next purchase and so have started to offer Italian properties for sale at "below market value". Ms Travella added that the current strength of sterling against the euro means buyers from the UK can also benefit from the exchange rate.

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5. Florida


Down from its second position last year but still in the top five, Florida is fighting back after being been shaken badly by the US real estate market correction. The state has seen more foreclosures than at any time in its history and house prices in the south are back to where they were back in 2004 according to the Case-Shiller Index.

The classic buy low sell high strategy is bound to be on most people's minds when they're asking about Florida. However property investors might also be wondering if the Florida property market has further to fall. This is unlikely as many experts are suggesting that the market has already reached its bottom and is seeing increased interest from overseas investors.

Loxley McKenzie, managing director of Colordarcy, said, "Even if for argument's sake the property market in Florida hasn't reached bottom, I strongly believe that there will be demand in the longer term. Supply will be unable to keep pace with demand forever, this is what makes property such an attractive investment option in the first place and it is no different in a depressed market like Florida, even now we can see the first signs of recovery in this market.

"What I look for in a market is rental demand and reasons to believe in long term growth and this is clearly evident in Florida. All those people who can't get mortgages still need somewhere to live. People are desperate to rent, while foreign investors are showing more than a passing interest in the abundance of good high quality property available at rock bottom prices."

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