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Why I Decided to Champion the Buyer of International Property

December 5th, 2018 by .

There’s an obvious issue with traditional estate agency – it favours the seller, not the buyer. Unique Living challenge this common practice, focusing on getting the homebuyer a great property at a reasonable price. Here’s more information.

The property market is skewed in favour of the seller, both at home and abroad. Estate agents are mandated by sellers, so it’s their job to encourage buyers to pay as much as possible. This means that people often end up paying more than they should, especially in markets that do not have a land registry like the UK.

I go about things in an entirely different way. But first, let’s examine the traditional model of selling a property – and why it’s failing the buyer.

What’s the Problem?

Estate agents across the world work on commission. That means they’re personally motivated to sell the property for a premium price. The result? Buyers often experience the following issues:

Enduring the spiel

We’re all familiar with sales patter. It’s designed to encourage you to buy and to rush into a decision without thinking it through. Classic examples include: ‘I’ve got five other people interested in this property’, or ‘someone else has put in an offer’. Most of the time, it’s simply not true.

Lack of transparency

The traditional estate agent wants to sell the property ASAP. So, they’ll often go to great lengths to conceal problems from you. The surveys will reveal many of the issues later on, but by then, you’ll already be committed and far more likely to continue with the purchase. In countries like France, agents encourage signature of the preliminary contract, Comprimis de Vente, prior to conducting a survey, and some agents will tell you that a survey is not the done thing in France. In this situation, protecting your purchase can be tricky.

A pushy process

No-one likes the hard sell. In the past, I’ve heard of companies who have literally flown buyers out to view properties, then frog-marched them to the nearest bank to secure the deposit. Hasty, pressurised sales don’t often end well. Luckily the market has improved in recent years and many of these charlatans are no longer in business, but the scars are still there to be seen.

Unique Living’s Approach

We act as a mediator between the seller and buyer – with equal attention and respect paid to both. Of course, the seller wants to get a good price for their property and we appreciate that. But we also recognise that the buyer badly needs someone ‘on their team’ who will help them to find the right luxury villa (one that suits their lifestyle) and who will lead them through the buying process with transparency and honesty.

Why the Change?

Ultimately, we’re interested in developing long-term relationships with our clients. Seven years after buying (when you might be ready to sell your luxury villa) we want you to get in touch again, because you trust us to do the job properly. We’ve found that adopting a client-centred approach not only results in great relationships, but also increased referrals. People appreciate how we operate, recommend us to their friends, and as a result, a lot of our clients hear about us via word-of-mouth.

Customer service can make or break a company, which is something we’re acutely aware of. It’s our aim to make sure that both our sellers and buyers are happy.

Unique Living Founder & Managing Director, Serge Cowan

Unique Living Founder & Managing Director, Serge Cowan

If you’ve purchased a property abroad in the past, how did you find it? We’d love to hear more about your experiences.

A Guide to Buying Luxury Property in the Winter

November 20th, 2018 by .

morzine

As winter approaches, the temperature starts to drop in the UK, and the prospect of buying a luxury villa in a warm country becomes more appealing. There are a lot of advantages to purchasing in the winter, and for seeking out locations that offer something all year round, not just in the summer months.

Spring and summer are both popular seasons for house-hunting abroad. Whether lured by the scenic coastline of the French Riviera or the Italian countryside, there’s something about viewing luxury properties at this time of year that inspires buyers to put in an offer.

However, we believe there are plenty of good reasons to purchase a property once the high season is over. Here’s more information.

You’ll See Things in a Different Light

In an ideal world, your holiday home should work for you and your family all year round. When viewing a property in the summer, you’ll see it when the sun is shining (showing that beach off to the max), and you’ll experience the surrounding area at its peak, with all the local attractions and amenities open.

Visiting in the colder months gives you an idea of whether the villa will be suitable in the winter (should you want to use it then). For example, places like San Tropez become very quiet after September; whereas locations like Chamonix, Samoens and Morzine in the French Alps offer year-round entertainment, with outdoor activities in the summer and skiing in the winter.

You Might Get a Better Deal

It’s a myth that house prices drop after the summer. However, it’s true to say that sellers are more open to offers once August is over, and by putting in an offer later in the year, you’re more likely to get the property at a lower price.

It’s mainly a matter of psychology. Before summer, the seller is usually full of confidence that their property will sell (and in many cases, it does). But if it’s been on the market for a while, that confidence might take a dip – making it a good time to put in a lower bid. This may get rejected, and you’ll probably have to spend a few more weeks in negotiations; but generally speaking, most buyers are happy with the final agreed price. You can always leave an offer ‘on the table’, you will be surprised by how many vendors come back after they have had time to digest.

You May Change Your Focus

Luxury villas are usually prized for the lifestyle that they offer in the summer; the beaches, the nature-walks, the scenic drives around the coast and so forth.

While it’s perfectly acceptable to set this as a top priority, we always urge our clients to take some time to consider other options too. It’s undeniable that the Costa Del Sol is the ideal summer base from May to late October, but what about out of season? Likewise, Ibiza is hugely popular when the sun’s out and the DJ’s are in town, but is undeniably quiet when the temperatures drop. Does this work for your long-term lifestyle? It’s worthwhile assessing, just to make sure.

For example, the Caribbean might be an option that works better for your family. It’s a longer way to travel, but offers sunshine throughout the year, not to mention incredible beaches. Annecy is another place that’s worthy of mention. It’s by a lake, so offers a glorious lifestyle in the summer, (with plenty of activities from walking to paragliding) and is also close enough to the Alps to be ideal for skiers in the winter.

That’s not to say that the Costa Del Sol won’t work for you in winter as you may well enjoy the peace and quiet; but it’s important to make sure before committing to buy.

There’s Less Competition

Fewer people search for beach resort properties in Europe after October. This makes the process more relaxed, which is useful when undertaking as serious a task as investing in a luxury villa. Although fewer properties come to market at this time (which is why we’d recommend keeping an eye on the latest homes for sale, via reputable companies like ours), you’re likely to have less competition and more time to consider your options.

Consider Rental Potential

If a location offers rental opportunities in the winter as well as the summer, this significantly increases the property’s profit-making potential. It also gives you more options; such as living in the house yourself during the summer, then renting it out in winter (or vice versa).

It’s worth thinking about, especially if you’d like your property abroad to generate a source of income for you.

Unique Living Founder & Managing Director, Serge Cowan

Unique Living Founder & Managing Director, Serge Cowan

Have you ever purchased a property abroad in the winter? How did you find the experience? If you’ve got any opinions or tips for other buyers, we’d love to hear about it. Find me @sergecowan

What Effect is Brexit Having on Luxury European Property Markets?

November 7th, 2018 by .

cap ferrat

In the wake of the EU Referendum results, some buyers were concerned about the impact of Brexit on their purchase in Europe. Over a year later, we’ve now seen the effect of the decision, which perhaps isn’t what people predicted.

In the lead up to the EU Referendum, many were worried about the impact Brexit would have on the property market, both at home and abroad. Over a year later, we’re now seeing exactly how it’s affecting homebuying and selling – and the good news is, it’s certainly not a ‘doom and gloom’ situation. In fact, many reputable international property companies (ourselves included) have noticed an increase in property sales – showing that enthusiasm for European luxury homes is higher than ever.

 

Record Sales

In the lead-up to the Referendum in June 2016, some buyers were nervous. The uncertainty of entering unchartered waters made some more hesitant to commit to a purchase, which was understandable.

However, after the Brexit decision, we noticed a distinct upturn in sales. We believe that, once a decision had been reached, buyers felt more confident about proceeding with their purchase; with many wanting to secure a ‘piece of Europe’ for the future, even with the UK out of the EU.

 

The ‘Live for the Moment’ Effect

There are some buyers who want to invest in Europe now, with the option of moving out of the UK in the future. At present, while the UK is still in the EU, it’s a good time to buy. While our prediction is that Brexit is unlikely to make the process any harder, now may be the ideal time to secure a luxury villa in France, Italy, Spain or Portugal; and then enjoy the benefits further down the line.

I have a client who, when Brexit was announced, said he was putting his purchase on hold until we knew what was going to happen between the UK and the Europe. A year later, this client called me out of the blue. “By the time Brexit has been sorted out,” he said, “I’ll be too old to appreciate my holiday home! I’m not going to let the government govern my own life or lifestyle, I’m not getting any younger and my family deserve this.” He went on to complete his purchase.

 

Harder to Buy After Brexit?

The media has been having a field day with its negative predictions; though most realise that this is mainly a tactic to sell more papers. As for the truth of the matter? You only have to look at house purchases made outside the EU at present. Homebuyers have no issue with purchasing in Barbados, for example, which is most definitely not in the EU. Likewise, they’ve been buying in Australia, the USA and other locations outside the EU for years and years; in short, a wealth of places that aren’t Europe.

As such, it’s unlikely to have that much impact in the grand scheme of things.

 

Adopting a Measured Approach

If you’re considering buying a luxury villa in an EU country, we’d recommend approaching it as you would any other house purchase. Put Brexit out of your mind and do what feels right for you and your family. As I have said before, none of us are getting younger and it’s important to enjoy life as much as possible. Why should your aspirations be impeded by a political situation which probably won’t have nearly as much impact as you suspect? If owning a luxury villa is a dream of yours, then go for it; it’s a decision you’re unlikely to regret.

As with any purchase, we’d also advise you to review your options; across the world, as well as in Europe. Ultimately, your purchase needs to reflect your lifestyle, your family’s needs, and your future requirements too. An EU country may well be the place for you, but alternatively, you might be drawn to somewhere further afield, such as the Caribbean. Keep an open mind, view as many properties as possible, and go with what works best for you.

Unique Living Founder & Managing Director, Serge Cowan

Unique Living Founder & Managing Director, Serge Cowan

Have you made a house purchase during the Brexit negotiations process? Are you concerned about the future or do you feel confident that the EU luxury property market will continue to be strong? We’d love to hear your thoughts and opinions.

The Three Most Important Things I’ve Learned in Sixteen Years in This Industry

October 23rd, 2018 by .

buy luxury property in venice

Over the years, I’ve worked with countless clients, helping them to find the ideal international property to invest in for lifestyle purposes; whether as a second home, holiday home, relocation or retirement. All that experience has certainly taught me a few things – here are three of the most important pieces of advice I’d give to anyone thinking of buying a home abroad.

Have an Open Mind

This is perhaps the best piece of advice I’d give any buyer, as it means you’ll be open to new possibilities that you hadn’t considered before. Go into the process as a blank canvas and try to get rid of any preconceived negativity, especially opinions generated by scaremongering newspapers. A positive mindset is a must if you want to find the right property for you and your family.

Just to illustrate how negative thoughts can kill the process; if you view a property with the intention of discovering what’s wrong with it, then inevitably, you’ll form a bad opinion, regardless of how fantastic it might actually be. Also, don’t let yourself be influenced too much by others. Listen to other people’s opinions but remember that it’s your thoughts that matter. You’re the one purchasing this house and no-one else. If you’re in the right mindset to fall in love with a villa, you’ll be in a good frame of mind to find solutions to any issues that arise, or be prepared to wait until they are resolved.

A good team (such as ours) will help you to embrace the experience in a positive manner, with a view to helping you get the most from it.

Get Your Team in Place

A house purchase doesn’t exist in a vacuum. You’ll be working with a large number of people to make it happen; family, advisors and agents, mortgage brokers, solicitors, notaries, financial workers and accountants, just to name a few. Unique Living has a full team for all our clients, which makes life considerably easier.

Treat them like your own personal foot soldiers, because that’s what they are. Although they’re all operating in different capacities, they’re focused on making sure that this sale goes through for you. Some people will be with you from the start of the process, others (like builders and architects for example) may join you later on. Regardless of when or how they assist you, view them as a valuable cog that’s keeping the house purchasing machine running.

If you choose to assemble a team by yourself, you’ll need to consider what’s involved in the property purchase; which can be quite a task. To give you an example, you won’t just need to work out finances, you’ll also need to factor in local taxes and fees, not to mention renovation works and so forth. Remember, if you’d rather avoid this hassle, we’ve got a comprehensive team of experts already in place to help you.

Work Out What You Can Afford

Lastly, and just as importantly, you’ll need to identify exactly how much you want to spend on this house purchase. You might also need to take advice on purchase structures, mortgages and other finance issues –and we can assist with this entire process.

If you’ve got your heart set on owning a property that costs a certain amount of money (but you can’t afford it), see it as a long-term goal. It may be more beneficial to wait a few years until you’re in a solid financial position, when you’ll be able to afford it comfortably.

Unique Living are essentially a one-stop shop, ready to guide you through the entire process – which not only simplifies the purchase but can also save you time and money. This is especially useful when you’re aiming to work within a budget.

Unique Living Founder & Managing Director, Serge Cowan

Unique Living Founder & Managing Director, Serge Cowan

What advice would you give to someone investing in their first property abroad? If you’re looking to invest in a villa overseas, get in touch with Unique Living to find out more.

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