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Is Buying a Luxury Property in Europe Actually a Good Investment Right Now?

October 9th, 2018 by .

When buying a property abroad, location should be a top priority. When it comes to investing in Europe, there are two schools of thought – here’s more information.

Are You an Investor or a Lifestyler?

Firstly, the big question – what do you plan to do with the property? If you’re looking to buy then sell on for profit within a short space of time, then your focus is obviously on investment potential. If you’re thinking about spending many happy years there with your family and friends, you’re purchasing for lifestyle reasons.

It’s important to establish what sort of buyer you are from the start, as this will have impact on where you invest.

Investment Buyers

If you’re looking to find a bargain property in Europe, develop it to a high standard, then flip it quickly; you’ll probably need a specialist investment agent. We focus on helping buyers relocate or find holiday / second homes or retirement homes that they can enjoy for years to come (though we’ll also focus on finding properties that are likely to hold their value or increase).

However, that’s not to say that you shouldn’t focus on profit-making potential; that’s an important aspect of any house purchase. Ultimately, you’re investing in bricks and mortar, and regardless of where you buy, it’s likely to serve you better than saving money in a bank which doesn’t offer much interest.

The potential to make money from property is still huge; regardless of whether you’re looking in Europe or beyond. Natural inflation means that prices are going up everywhere, and this is especially true in upcoming areas on the continent. The market may dip from time to time, but overall, the upward trend is undeniable, providing you’re looking to keep the villa in the family for ten years or more.

Focus on the Lifestyle

Our advice? If you’re planning to buy a property in Europe for your family to stay in, don’t worry too much about the investment side of things; focus on what the house can offer you now (and in the future). If it’s going to provide you with a wonderful lifestyle in a great area, then that’s the most important thing.

What About Losing Money?

In the years that we’ve been working with clients, we’ve never had anyone come back to us and say that they’ve lost money. This is unlikely to change – quite simply, property has proven time and time again that it holds its value well, regardless of external factors. This is good news for people who are concerned, for example, about the effects of Brexit.

Brexit shouldn’t result in wariness about buying in Europe. Many of our clients have invested in properties further afield (e.g. Barbados) with no problems whatsoever, and it’s likely to be the same in Europe, regardless of any impact Brexit may have on the buying process. Don’t let the media scaremongering influence you, speak to one of our agents to get the real picture.

Is Now the Time to Buy in Europe?

Ultimately, if you feel ready to buy now – then why not? None of us are getting any younger and if you’ve got a goal to have a luxurious holiday home, then we’d recommend that you go for it. Europe’s a great place to invest in, with several popular and upcoming locations that offer an idyllic lifestyle, not to mention the potential to make a profit when you resell the property in the future.

Unique Living Founder & Managing Director, Serge Cowan

Unique Living Founder & Managing Director, Serge Cowan

Have you recently invested in property in Europe? What are your thoughts? If you’re curious about any aspect of investing in luxury villas in Europe, Unique Living are experts in the field, with years of experience matching clients with properties. Get in touch to find out more.  



Advice for the International Property Buyer: How to Know You’re Making the Right Choice

October 2nd, 2018 by .

luxury property provence gardens

Buying a property abroad is a huge decision, and understandably, you want to make sure you get it right. Here’s our advice about how to feel confident about your choice and know that you’ve made a great purchase for the future.

Make Sure it Feels Right

We all talk about our ‘gut response’ – and quite frankly, it’s a powerful tool when buying a property. In our opinion, it’s vital to spend time in the country that you’re planning to invest in. Walk around the local neighbourhood, sample the restaurants, bars and amenities and get an instinctive feel for the place.

It’s important to visit right now, rather than relying on a trip you made several years ago. Places change; sometimes for the better, sometimes not. Don’t rely on press or online articles; they’re other people’s opinions and they don’t reflect your personal lifestyle. For example, if you’re thinking of writing off Spain because you’ve heard it’s changed a lot, be aware that the changes might actually suit you. There might be more greenery for example, or more drives into the countryside or more of a nightclub scene.

Always check it out in person and listen to your intuitive response.

Does it Match Your Future Lifestyle?

It’s great if the property ticks all the boxes for your current way of living. However, it needs to work for you in the future too. For example, if you’re planning on having kids, is the property (and area) suitable for young people? If you think you might want to rent it out a few years down the line, will it appeal to holidaymakers?

Of course, no-one can predict with certainty what the future might hold. But it’s a wise idea to consider what your most likely requirements might be in three, five or even ten years’ time.

Don’t be Railroaded

Buying a property abroad can be a pressurised experience. You might encounter an agent who’s very keen for you to sign the contract, so they can make their commission. Likewise, your family might be putting pressure on, in a bid to get their holiday home as soon as possible.

This isn’t a decision to rush into. Take your time with it, view as many properties as possible, and ask all the right questions. Don’t let yourself be hurried into anything – it won’t benefit you in the long run. Negotiations can take a while anyway, so there’s plenty of time to review your decision.

Work with the Right Agent

A good agent is focused on listening to your requirements, then finding a range of properties that might fit the bill perfectly. They’ll also offer alternatives – encouraging you to think outside the box and explore other avenues. For example, we’d encourage you to look at all suitable properties on the market, not just those on our portfolio. This is all part of the process of working out what your real priorities are, and what areas you’re happy to compromise on.

Bring the Whole Family to the Viewing

First, we’d recommend viewing alone, with one of our local representatives to show you around and go over the details. It’s a good chance to absorb important information and get an initial, uninterrupted feel for the property. Then, we’d recommend revisiting with the rest of the family in tow. This not only gives you all the opportunity to see if the house works for you; it also gives us a good taste of how you’ll be using the home. Most luxury villas can only be viewed outside of peak season – however, this is a great way to get an idea of what the area’s like outside peak season.

Don’t Aim to ‘Keep Up with the Joneses’

Social media presents us with a myriad of images of people enjoying their idyllic international properties and lifestyle. Remember, it’s nothing more than PR and spin. Your purchasing decision should be about your own life, experiences and objectives – and what you want from it should be paramount.

Our job is to help you find the property that’s going to work best for you and your family; not just at this moment in time, but for the long-term future too. That’s the most important thing of all – anticipating where you’ll be further down the line and investing in a property that reflects that. We’ll also focus on ensuring you have access to 100% of the market, not just the properties currently advertised publicly. But don’t just take our word for it – read what our happy clients have said about our service.

Unique Living Founder & Managing Director, Serge Cowan

Unique Living Founder & Managing Director, Serge Cowan

What do you think helps you make the right choice when investing in property abroad? Let us know your thoughts and opinions.

Reminder: Always Ask About Asbestos

June 7th, 2018 by .

luxury property provence gardens path

Picture the scene. You’ve found the ideal luxury villa in St Paul de Vence in the French Riveira, only to find out, after you receive your notary’s diagnostic report, that its structure includes asbestos. Is that a deal-breaker or not? Here’s some information about why it’s important to get the low-down about asbestos, and why it might not be as serious a problem as you think.

Asbestos – Do You Need to Know?

In some countries, the attitude to asbestos is fairly relaxed. In fact, the general opinion is that if it’s left untouched, it shouldn’t be regarded as an issue.

Whilst it’s true that asbestos is only dangerous if disturbed, it’s also true to say that it’s better to know about an issue than to live in ignorance. That’s why it’s important to find out, right from the start, if the property you’re considering buying contains any asbestos.

How Do You Find Out?

Property sale procedures differ from country to country. However, regardless of where you purchase, we’d always recommend getting a full structural survey. Asbestos will come up in your notary’s diagnostic report, but it won’t offer the detail of a structural survey, which will help you to make a fully informed buying decision .

What to Do if You Find Asbestos

Let’s say that the survey or diagnostic check  reveals some asbestos in the roof. Does that mean that you should walk away from the sale post-haste? Well, not necessarily…

We’d recommend going back to the seller and requesting that they cover costs to get it removed. If the seller agrees, then the problem is resolved before you even move into the property. However, let’s say for the sake of argument that the seller refuses. The next step is to take a view on whether you want to remove the asbestos yourself, leave it in place, or find another property instead .

Is it a Deal-Breaker?

Remember, asbestos won’t affect your standard of living unless it’s disturbed. There are many other problems that are far harder to address (such as severe subsidence or being in a fire zone); and in the grand scheme of things, an asbestos issue is relatively easy to sort out. For example, if it’s just the outhouse that has asbestos, it shouldn’t cost more than £10K to put right.

If it’s somewhere unobtrusive, you may decide that you can live with it; though of course, it’s recommended that you keep an eye on it and are always aware that it’s there. If you’d like it removed entirely, it’s not usually a difficult process. However, it’s vital to hire a specialist firm to do the job; the local builders are unlikely to have the expertise required to remove it safely .

What About Selling the Property On?

Asbestos doesn’t carry the same stigma in other countries (such as France) as it does in the UK. Therefore, if you decide to live with it, it’s unlikely to put a dampener on its resale appeal in the future. In fact, many French homebuyers wouldn’t even consider asbestos as a bargaining tool to get the price of the property down!

Legal Advice

Whether you’re working with a notary, a local lawyer or a UK-based  international lawyer, they’re likely to adopt a stance about asbestos. While it’s a wise idea to listen to their opinions, we’d also recommend against any ‘knee-jerk reactions’. Asbestos is undoubtedly an inconvenience, but it can be resolved with relative ease.

Bear in mind that opinions on asbestos differ from country to country. It’s not such an issue in France, so if your lawyer goes in all guns blazing, this could aggravate the situation. For the sake of all involved, it’s best to handle the situation calmly and with respect to cultural differences.

Unique Living Founder & Managing Director, Serge Cowan

Unique Living Founder & Managing Director, Serge Cowan

Have you had any experience with asbestos in your property abroad? If so, what steps did you take to address the problem, if any? We’d love to hear your thoughts.


What You Need to Know About Rights of Way on International Property

May 24th, 2018 by .

Five Bedroom Villa | Mougins, French Riviera, France

A right of way issue can seem serious when purchasing a villa abroad, but it doesn’t have to be the deal-breaker you might think. In many cases, it’s more a question of considering your lifestyle and addressing your priorities. Here are some insights from an expert.

What are rights of way?

If you have a right of way through the grounds of a property, this means a member of the public or just a neighbour is legally permitted to pass along a designated route within it. Examples may include a public footpath at the bottom of your garden, say, if you have a large plot of land that backs onto a golf course. As you might imagine, rights of way can cause problems for the owner of the property.

Right of way issues occasionally arise in the UK property market, and the same is true when buying abroad – particularly in areas like the French Riviera. In some cases, it’s permissible for members of the public or neighbours to walk across your plot. The big question is: to what extent will this be a problem for you?

They can create obstacles to the purchase

Depending on the progress of the sale, rights of way can cause headaches. Sometimes, the seller doesn’t consider the right of way to have a huge impact on the property, so they don’t disclose it until some way into the process (or it might come up in the notary’s report). Unfortunately, a buyer will usually consider it essential that they are informed of any rights of way as soon as possible. As you might imagine, this opposition of attitudes can sometimes result in a breakdown in negotiations.

It’s important to establish the facts right from the start of the sale. That’s why we go out of our way to identify any rights of way within the plot that you’re buying, for instance. That way everyone knows where they stand right from the start, and any misunderstandings are avoided.

Are you definite it will bother you?

The natural reaction is to be discouraged by the thought of the public having legal access to your property. But have you taken the time to consider the practical implications of the right of way? For instance, have you asked whether there might be a good workaround? If it’s a public right of way and it’s used regularly, it may be possible to hide the footpath by planting a hedge or erecting a fence. In a case like this, the right of way is not going to impact your living standards in any way when you’re at your property – other than any maintenance required on the hedge, of course.

The property might be your perfect choice in every possible aspect except the right of way, so the question to ask yourself is, to what extent will it have a genuine impact on your lifestyle? If it’s just a case of your neighbour having access to put out their bins once a week, is this likely to have much of an impact on you? Try to imagine the long-term implications, and assess realistically whether it force you to change the way you would live on the property. For instance, does the right of way cross near to your swimming pool or terrace? You might, understandably, consider something like that too intrusive – it might make you and your family feel uncomfortable – but you may not be prepared to walk away from the purchase just because a view will be slightly spoiled.

Some Words of Advice

I’d always recommend visiting the property and seeing it in person. That’s the only way to establish whether the right of way will have a real impact on your lifestyle.

After seeking the advice of a buyer-orientated agent such as myself, you’ll be in a position to decide whether it’s a deal-breaker or not. Take your time and think it through carefully – it would be a shame to lose your ideal property for the sake of a public footpath that wouldn’t have bothered you in real terms. View other properties so you can make a fair comparison, and consider the bigger picture – namely what long-term impact the right of way will have, and whether this is a viable option for your family.

Unique Living Founder & Managing Director, Serge Cowan

Unique Living Founder & Managing Director, Serge Cowan

What’s your opinion? Do you think rights of way aren’t a big deal, or would it put you off? Let us know your thoughts.


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