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Why You Shouldn’t be Obsessed with Big Plots of Land

April 24th, 2018 by .

A luxury villa with large acreage always sounds impressive in the property specifications. However, in reality, big plots of land aren’t always what they’re cracked up to be. There are plenty of generous plots out there, but you’ll end up paying more, and you might not reap the benefits you were hoping for.

My advice? View properties with lots of land, and properties without so much. Brush up on the facts. Then, you’ll be in a position to make an informed decision. Here’s more information.  

What Are Your Reasons for Wanting Lots of Land?

When discussing options with clients, I always ask them to reflect on the ‘why’. In this case, why is it so important to have such a vast plot? Here are a few common reasons – with my response.

I want to build on it in the future

In theory, it’s a great idea. However, in practice, in can be tricky, especially if you’re unfamiliar with local laws. There’s a myriad of issues regarding planning laws, bureaucracy and so forth, and trying to build additional buildings can be a headache. Most countries have specific rules regarding what you can build on the land too; for example, in Ibiza at the moment, you can adjust the property as long as it’s within the original footprint, but it’s a whole different story if you want to extend. That’s not to say that getting permission to build is impossible; but I’d urge buyers to consider the implications before committing; and to seek expert assistance (we’re on hand to offer guidance, utilising our knowledge of local laws).

I want the extra privacy

A major advantage of having land is that you’re seldom overlooked, and that may well be important to you. However, remember that there are other ways to enjoy privacy on your property. A secluded location serves just as well, or even a well-placed wall! Also, if you invest in a more exclusive location, properties are usually designed so they are not overlooked. Rest assured, developers take privacy into consideration.

I’m looking for a place to walk my dog

It’s a nice luxury to be able to walk your dog in the comfort of your own property. But in doing so, you’d be missing out on many pleasant local woodlands or trails. For example, in the South of France, most people have a dog; and as such, it caters well to dog-walkers. There’s so much to see and do over there with your canine companion; the last thing you want to do is while away the hours pacing the same stretch of land outside your front door. The same applies for numerous other locations across the world.

Other Things to Consider

Maintenance can be stressful. This is your holiday home, and you don’t need the extra work when you’re trying to relax. You want to be able to walk into the property, ready to enjoy a blissful break, without having to worry about mowing acres of lawn, or pruning back lots of undergrowth.

You’ll need money to hire additional help. If you’re an avid gardener, this might not apply. But for most of us mere mortals, the thought of spending hours looking after the land soon loses its appeal. Inevitably, you’ll end up hiring a gardening company to take on the work for you, which pushes maintenance costs up. Likewise, if you’re planning on locking up the holiday home for an extended period of time, you might need to hire someone to live there full-time for you, just to keep an eye on things. It’s fine if you can afford it; just make sure that you can.

 What’s it Worth to You?

Big plots of land usually push costs up too. For example, in St Tropez, if you’re looking for a large acreage, you could be looking to pay millions. You may decide that you’d rather spend your cash on other things instead; such as a sea view, more living space or proximity to the beach.

If you’re dead set on getting a large plot, we can assist with helping you to find the right location. To illustrate the point; if you’re looking for land you can build on, we can advise on which properties have the option to build on the additional land – but again this is likely to be reflected in the price – especially if the property already has planning approved. Also, if you can prove that your building is advantageous to the local community (for example, guest accommodation or a cookery school), then you’re more likely to have your planning permission approved.

Not sure what luxury villa is best for you? We’re on hand to meet face to face and talk you through your options, and offer advice as to what’s best for your family and your lifestyle.

Unique Living Founder & Managing Director, Serge Cowan

Unique Living Founder & Managing Director, Serge Cowan

Do you think plenty of land is a top priority, or would you rather spend your money elsewhere? Share your thoughts with us!

What they don’t tell you about living in a domain

April 6th, 2018 by .

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A gated domain offers security, plus a range of appealing facilities to boost the holiday atmosphere. However, while there are some great benefits to buying a luxury villa in a domain, it’s important to get to grips with the reality of these urbanisations, so you can make an informed buying decision.

My take on the matter? Domains are a great option for many buyers, but there are a few factors that may not appeal to you personally. Here’s more information.

What Exactly is a Domain?

A domain is a purpose-built development; sometimes also referred to as a complex, urbanisation or private community. No two are alike, but generally speaking, you can expect a range of amenities within your domain; such as a club-house (with perhaps a café, a games area; that sort of thing), restaurants, a golf course, spa, communal pool or a gym. However, these don’t come for free. In return, you’ll be paying a service charge to cover expenses, and these costs are dependent on how prestigious the domain is. Think of it as a way to have everything you need on your doorstep, without having to venture beyond the gates.

What Are the Perks?

As well as having access to all the amenities, villa / apartment maintenance is usually on offer too, though this comes at an additional cost. That can be a real godsend if you’re not in the property much, as someone will pop in for you and check everything is in order. Sometimes cleaning is included, though it’s important to check before you buy. Other services are usually on offer too; such as car cleaning, gardening, pool cleaning and so on; and all communal areas are maintained as standard.

Security is another big draw, particularly for those with children, who appreciate the peace of mind that a domain can offer. In addition to being within a gated community, home-owners can benefit from other forms of security too – such as surveillance cameras and on-site security guards. This is ideal if you’re intending to lock up and leave the property for an extended period of time.

Are They More Expensive?

The luxury villas aren’t necessarily costlier than their counterparts outside the domain, though this depends on how exclusive they are. For example, if you wanted to buy a holiday home in La Zagaleta in Spain, you’d probably want to use its top of the range golf course, and membership comes with a hefty price-tag. Golf membership and service charges can drive the annual costs up dramatically depending on how prestigious the course is – but then if you’re looking for exclusivity, this is likely to be a worthwhile investment.

The service charges can really ramp costs up too, and as a rule, the more impressive the location / amenities, the more you’ll be paying. It’s a wise idea to keep tabs on charges, as these can be subject to change. The easiest way to do this is to stay in contact with the community and attend the AGMs.

What About Privacy?

Gated domains are often ideal if you’re looking for social interaction, as you’re a part of a community. This is particularly appealing to families with children; for obvious reasons. However, some luxury domains are designed with greater privacy in mind, and it’s just a matter of finding the right one for your lifestyle.

Any Other Options?

If you like the idea of having access to amenities, but don’t want to be a part of a gated community, you can always buy a luxury villa close-by. For example, if you want to use a resort’s golf course, you could invest in a property that’s just a short stroll away, then use the money you’ll save to buy a golf cart to drive to the course! You may laugh, but we’ve known buyers who have done exactly that. It’s a smart move, as prices are significantly less for properties outside, yet you’ll probably get a similar style of property, not to mention more spacious dimensions.

We’d always recommend visiting a domain before you commit to buy, as this gives you a solid idea as to whether it’s right for you. If possible, spend some time there. Test out the facilities, talk to other community members, and get a feel for the place. After you’ve visited, come back and discuss with us, and we’ll take on your feedback and come up with the best options, based on your preferences. We also recommend viewing other properties outside the domain too, so you can make a fair comparison.

Unique Living Founder & Managing Director, Serge Cowan

Unique Living Founder & Managing Director, Serge Cowan

Are you a fan of the domain lifestyle, or does it not appeal to you? Share your thoughts with us.

Do You Really Need a Sea View?

March 5th, 2018 by .

There’s an assumption that all good luxury villas must come with a sea view. But I’d beg to differ, especially if you’re working to a budget.

You can, of course, get the ocean vistas you’re dreaming of (at the right price), if you’re prepared to make compromises. The question is – do you necessarily want to?

What’s it Worth to You?

Before you start scouring the market for sea-view properties, think about your motivation. What’s driving you to desire scenic ocean surroundings, and is it as important as you think?

For example, let’s say you’re looking for a villa for your retirement. You might fantasise about breakfast on the veranda, overlooking the sea. But ask yourself the following – would you still appreciate it a few months’ down the line, or would it start to lose its value to you?

You might never grow tired of those great views, and that’s fine. However, you need to work out if it’s as big a priority as you think.

The Reality of a Sea View

If you’ve got a limitless budget, you can have your pick of the villas. However, in my experience, this is rare. Normally, you’ll be searching for properties with a budget in mind, and investing in a sea view will seriously eat into that sum total.

To give you some idea, a sea view can add as much as 30% to the cost of a villa. For most people, this means you’ll have to make compromises elsewhere. For example, if you’re working with a £2million budget in St Tropez, I’ll be able to find you a place with a view, but you’ll have to compromise on other things – maybe by losing a bedroom, reducing the square meterage of the living space, being overlooked by neighbours, or settling for a smaller plot.

Are they compromises you’re willing to make, for the sake of a view of the sea?

Where’s the Beach?

The other issue with sea view properties is that they’re usually in an elevated position, and that means they’ll be some way from the beach. Marbella is a classic example. The land is relatively flat, so if you want your view here, you’ll need to look in Benahavis, which is a distance away from the sea. It’s not ideal if you’re planning an ocean dip every morning. Looking for fabulous views and a short stroll to the beach? If so, be prepared to pay anything from €5-10 million and more. In addition, prime locations also carry a premium.

Fresh Perspective

Skip the sea view, and suddenly, a wider range of luxury villas becomes available to you. Forgoing a view doesn’t mean losing access to the beach; in fact, it’s perfectly possible to end up very close. Plenty of luxury villas are within walking distance of the coast, and because they’re further inland, they’re much cheaper. That means you’ll be getting far more property for your money.

If you’re in it for a long-term investment, then buying a property in an upcoming location is a shrewd move, especially if it’s experiencing the ‘ripple’ effect of being close to more desirable areas. It’s a sure-fire way to generate a profit when you’re ready to sell.

Weigh Up Your Priorities

Work out what’s most important to you. If being able to enjoy views of the ocean is the ultimate goal, then that’s fine, but you’ll need to be prepared to make compromises or raise your budget.

Think practically, and ascertain what sort of property will really work for you and your family. It’s a wise idea to explore options. Even if you’re 100% sold on a sea view, you might find that a larger villa further inland is just what you were looking for. My advice? View a variety of properties in different scenarios; some with the coveted sea views, others with great proximity to the beach but no view, and so on. You can then make a decision based on the differentials in price, and also the size of the villa and plot. We can help you collate those properties and organise an itinerary around your schedule.

It’s your decision at the end of the day – though I am on hand to offer guidance, plus give you a good idea of what you’ll get for your money. Remember, this is a lifestyle choice, and there’s no need to rush your search. It’s far better to take your time and get it right. This is a property that will be in the family for many years into the future, so it’s about finding the right property for this time in your life. The property will gain value over 10-15 years, that we can guarantee, but if you are looking to flip something over a year or two then that should be treated in a very different way. More about this in my next post.

Unique Living Founder & Managing Director, Serge Cowan

Unique Living Founder, Serge Cowan

What’s your top priority when looking for a luxury villa? Is a sea-view a ‘must have’ feature, or do you think they’re overrated? Let us know what you think.

A luxury property buyer’s guide to Portugal

March 2nd, 2018 by .

Five Bedroom Villa | Praia da Luz, Western Algarve, Portugal

Unique Living’s guide to purchasing a luxury property in Portugal

We have provided a brief overview of the procedures when buying a property in Portugal. We always recommend you get independent legal advice, but we do hope you find this snapshot informative.

1. Securing a property
Once you have chosen a suitable property, Unique Living and our local team will assist with the negotiations to obtain the best price.

2. Reservation
You reserve your property with a deposit – usually 5,000€.

3. Appoint a local Solicitor
Who will work on your behalf to check the legal status of the property, and represent you for the purchase. To do this, the lawyer will need a power of attorney to be able to act on your behalf.

The solicitor will analyze the following documents, which are required for all property transactions in Portugal: official tax documents – ensuring there are no outstanding taxes due on the property habitation license – ensuring the property meets all legal requirements for habitation land registry document – ensuring the owner has the rightful power to sell, and that there are no charges registered against the property

4. Fiscal representation
Your solicitor requests a fiscal number on your behalf from the Tax Office.

5. Promissory contract (Contrato de Promessa de Compra e Venda)
This is a binding agreement between the purchaser and the vendor, which will be drawn up by your solicitor. The document will outlining the negotiated terms of sale, including price, payment schedules, completion date and any special terms agreed by both parties. The agreed deposit amount is paid to the vendor with the signing of this contract.

6. Deed & Registration – (Escritura Pública de Compra e Venda)
Your solicitor will also arrange for the final deeds to be signed at the notary’s office. The balance of the purchase price is paid and the notary enters the transaction in the official records.

All keys and property documents are handed over from the vendor at this time – and the property is officially yours. Your solicitor will then present a copy of the deeds to the tax office and land registry department, to register you as the new owner. The period of time between the promissory contract and the signature of the final deeds can vary, but in general it is between 30 and 60 days.

7. Fees
Purchase costs will run approximately 8-8.5% of the purchase price, and include: Notary, stamp duty & land registry fees are the responsibility of the buyer and will cost around 2% of the purchase price. Property Transfer Tax – called IMT (Imposto Municipal sobre Transmissões Onerosas de Imóveis) must be paid prior to the deed and will run up to a maximum of 6.5% of the purchase price.

Note: Portugal is one of the most inheritance tax friendly environments in Europe. Along with reductions in Capital Gains Tax and Corporation Tax, the abolition of Inheritance and Donation Tax ensures that immediate family members will not be liable to pay any death duties on inheritance of a property owned in Portugal.

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