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View Full Version : Owning a holiday property abroad: dream or nightmare?


garp
11th Aug 2010, 10:09
Who hasn't contemplated the idea of buying a cottage or appartment abroad at some stage in his life? Not later than yesterday I found myself staring at a number of pictures on display at a Provence real estate broker.
I started dreaming away till mama Garp tapped on my shoulder and inquired how many times we would be able to spend our holidays in such a lovely Mas? Not all that many, I replied. In between school holidays, two full time jobs and the need to see other parts of the world there would be very little time left. Time which would probably be spent at repairing tile joints or painting shutters.
I guess I'll stick to renting for now. :hmm:

birrddog
11th Aug 2010, 13:30
You need to take a few things into consideration, and ultimately create your own pain/use threshold - for me it's > three months use to put up with the pain.

Also, it is different if you intend to rent it out or not, and how far away you live from the house, and how much time of yours it will take to maintain.

Sometimes it's worth paying someone to take care of all the headaches.

These days I don't have any property >2.5hrs drive from my main base, and both have part time caretakers on call.

It's nice to have your own house, with your own things, but if you end up spending your holidays or all your free time taking care of it or issues that any property has, then the pain is more than the use.

Of course the other factor is how much capital it ties up, up front and every year, and what that would get in comparable vacations - if it is in a location too far away for regular week-end travel.

Captain Stable
11th Aug 2010, 14:25
Next week I shall, with the family, be departing these shores for a Greek island, where we own a couple of properties. The holiday will be paid for by a couple of rentals, one for three weeks, one for a long weekend.

Buying the place wasn't too difficult, but I had a brilliant Greek lawyer, who came by ersonal recommendation. Without him, it would have been a nightmare. Don't ever think of buying anything abroad without a local, well-clued-up lawyer who also speaks good English. Our bloke had studied postgrad at Cardiff, so knew quite a bit about what WE expected and how it would differ from what went on in Greece.

We paid cash for the place - the mortgage is on our house here in the UK, which helped make things nice & smooth.

We needed to become Greek taxpayers, so we have our ΑΦΜ details and a local accountant.

After buying the place I needed to spend a month doing the place up as it was very neglected - ripped the kitchen, bathroom and bedroom out, moving walls, refitting, total rewiring. Greek builders generally are a waste of time - Albanians did the job, and very well and cheaply, with the exception of the carpenter, who was a total μαλάκας (one of those words of builders' Greek which I learned - go look it up, like I had to!)

So far we haven't regretted it for one moment. :ok:

Keef
11th Aug 2010, 14:36
If Wales counts as abroad...

We bought a dilapidated house half way up a mountainside, in a little hamlet. It had been neglected for about 200 years but was built of granite and would have withstood most things the military could throw at it. It had views to die for, and was about half an hour from where our daughter was living at the time.

We spent as much again bringing it up to 21st century spec and state of repair, and spent a couple of months a year there. The first three days of any visit were spent repairing, painting, cleaning and the rest, but we loved it. Then daughter moved back to England, and we found we didn't use it enough. We didn't want to let it out and have all the palaver of cleaners and caretakers (and tax), so we sold it (at a nice profit).

Such places are idyllic once they're in good repair, and if you have someone local to look after it for you. If you want to use it as a revenue earner, and can get local "staff", then it can work.

Friends of ours bought a place in Spain, against my protests. They met all the conmen that appear to frequent that land, and spent an awful lot of money "sorting" stuff that shouldn't have needed sorting. A good, honest, competent local lawyer would have made all the difference.

Another friend of ours bought a place in Austria, with all the right advice, and reckons it was the best purchase she ever made.

Go into the process with eyes open, and all can be well.

Capetonian
11th Aug 2010, 14:38
Been there, done that in a couple of countries.

It's great to have your own property to go to, a second home, and the more use you get out of it the more satisfying it is. If you can rent/lend it to friends and family, that makes it more viable.

The downside is that you may not be able to get much more than a few weeks use a year out of it, and when it's unoccupied it's at risk of burglary, vandalism, and the elements. Your circumstances may change and it may become less accessible (for example many people bought second home in places 'served' (for want of a better word) by Ryanair who then dropped the route or cranked up the fares.

If you can rent it out you need an honest reliable estate agent. Errm, did I really say that .... honest ... reliable .... estate agent! There's no such thing.

RatherBeFlying
11th Aug 2010, 15:06
Albanians did the job, and very well and cheaply, with the exception of the carpenterMy contractor subbed out the job to an Albanian firm. Framing, drywall, duct work and finish carpentery done beautifully; tile/marble work had lots of niggles, but they fixed up most defects cheerfully and produced acceptable result.
YMMV

redsnail
11th Aug 2010, 15:10
μαλάκας :ok:
When we had a holiday in Athens last year, our taxi driver used that word. Checkers started laughing, he is familiar with the word being from Melbourne (2nd largest Greek populated city) :D

larssnowpharter
11th Aug 2010, 15:15
We have a holiday place in Brighton.

Bloody nightmare!

No Albanians, council tax, noisy neighbours, expensive restaurants, bus fares astronomical, parking tickets from the local nazis etc etc.

OFSO
11th Aug 2010, 15:28
Speaking as one who has owned holiday properties and now lives full time in paradise, I'd say the ONLY way to enjoy an overseas holiday home is to pay for an individual or firm to manage it while you are not there.

Advantages:
- small problems get repaired and don't become big problems: leaks, storm damage, snow damage.
- you don't come down to find the electricity meter has been removed because the bank "forgot" to pay the bills.
- You don't come down to find all your lovely big trees have been cut down because the German neighbours who bought the property behind yours thought they spoilt their view.
- You don't come down to find any sort of 'bichu' - from mice and rats to owls to edible dormice to foxes - have taken up residence in your attic, cellar etc.
- You don't come down to find the pool full of two colonies of frogs, one of which chant "Frank-FURT and the other "Ham-BURG" all night.
- You don't come down to find the property taxes weren't paid, the house was seized, and sold at auction for 1/100th of it's normal price to a crony of the judge.
- You don't come down to find two Dutch squatters are in your house and have turned it into a brothel.*


ALL OF THE ABOVE HAVE HAPPENED IN OUR URBANISATION IN THE PAST TEN YEARS, EXCEPT THE LAST * WHICH HAPPENED IN A VILLAGE ALONG THE ROAD.

Do not ask a friend to look after your house: I keep an eye on two and it's a pain in the arse which takes up my time and costs me money, still, for friends....

Correctly managed a holiday home can be fun. But.....

* It took the mayor of Pau 12 months to evict the Dutch guys and their "girls". They were doing a roaring trade there, and frankly I'd have been inclined to let them stay for a share of the proceeds.

Captain Stable
11th Aug 2010, 15:31
Reddo, I began to appreciate some time ago what an educated, intelligent chap Checkers is. And he knows some useful swear words, too! :cool:

Pugilistic Animus
11th Aug 2010, 15:51
μαλάκας

Malak:oh:

:}:}:}

Evanelpus
11th Aug 2010, 17:04
We have a holiday place in Brighton.

Bloody nightmare!

No Albanians

Seriously, I'm surprised, I thought they were everywhere. Even we have them in sleepy Bedfordshire.

west lakes
11th Aug 2010, 19:27
Though this could alter things!

BBC News - Holiday homes targeted by new government tax proposals (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-10913365)

green granite
11th Aug 2010, 19:47
Indeed it might Westie, some of the locals might even be able to afford to buy them to live in when everyone unloads them all at once. :ok:

cavortingcheetah
11th Aug 2010, 20:04
Never owned a holiday home and never, by good fortune, wanted one.
Some years ago when children were younger I compiled a small selection of really nice villas and houses worldwide that were available for rental. I used The Spectator and in one or two cases The Log (BALPA) and tried to keep the costs in the perspective of a three star hotel. I tried to find places that could afford amusement during school holidays and that had some part time staff. We had several excellent trips until we arrived at one place which was paradise. We have been lucky enough to get back to this one house something like ten times over the years. We lunch with the owner when we're in London and I leave a suitcase there in the store, which is air conditioned, on the off chance that we might get back there again. Until the owner retired and went to live there himself, thereby complicating visits, it was the best holiday home I think anyone could have had.

sitigeltfel
11th Aug 2010, 20:37
Our full time home is a Mas, and unless you have someone you can trust to look after it, and afford the expense of running it, I would suggest you look for something more modest and manageable. Many of these buildings are centuries old and superficially look fine, but under the skin can be a nightmare.

I have close links to the building trade and was able to avoid many of the pitfalls associated with these properties. I also specialise in property renovation and was able to consult tradesmen who had decades of working on them.

One other minefield are the Immobiliers, who at the moment are fighting for clients and their already slack morals have diminished further. It is a buyers market just now and you can probably knock 15% of any prices you have looked at.

I am based in the Vaucluse and if you want any info on who to speak to, or advice on the people and locations to avoid, give me a PM.

Home sweet home..

http://i231.photobucket.com/albums/ee201/sitigeltfel/CIMG1751.jpg

birrddog
11th Aug 2010, 20:54
sitigeltfel, when are you hosting the next pprune bash? I claim dibs on a suite :ok:

Captain Stable
12th Aug 2010, 14:16
Westie, those proposals would worry me if any of the money involved in our place ever came into this country.

As I posted earlier in the thread, our mortgage is on our house here in the UK, and the property in Greece is owned outright. Income from lettings remains in Greece (we have a Greek bank account) and is (theoretically) taxed in Greece, except that it is nicely managed so that it doesn't demonstrate any profit above what we're allowed to make. If and when we sell it, we'll look at the tax situation then and decide what to do with any profit, but until then, no UK government can touch our money abroad.

deltahotel
12th Aug 2010, 17:01
Sold our ski flat in Italy after 7 years good use. Used it a lot, rented a little to friends n family (just about covered the running costs). Brought the money back to the UK in jan - Italian nightmare banking bureaucracy and then UK money laundering nonsense.

Capital Gains Tax liability in this country.

Worth buying - good hols. Worth selling - pretty much skied out the area and made a profit (largely on the € exchange rate).

Without the help of an English speaking Italian would have been almost impossible to buy or sell.

cavortingcheetah
12th Aug 2010, 17:52
I would have thought that in theory if you are both resident and domiciled in the UK, you have to declare world wide income on your UK tax return? You would then receive credit as applicablel on your UK income tax assessment for any offshore tax paid depending upon the terms of any tax treaty the UK and the country of arising income? If HMRC then further permit offset against rental income of a foreign property it is this offset that might be affected by the impending legislation?

OFSO
12th Aug 2010, 18:36
One word (well two) to the posters above:

A Trust.

OK, if that's not clear enough, three words:

An Offshore Trust.

garp
13th Aug 2010, 16:41
@Sigiteltfelt

We are staying in a villa park near a golf in the so-called Provence Verte, near Ste Maximin. Three bedroom villa with garage and 9X4 pool. Should cost around 400K euro. What I am now wondering is how these typical houses will age, just about everything is cheap from window frames to tiles. It all looks fine from a distance and we have nothing to complain but the overal quality is simply poor. I would hate to sind half a million into a project like this and than find out that it's pretty much junk which will age very poorly IMO.
I'd like to hear your take on this subject, surely the building quality is not everywhere like this in the S of France.

Lon More
13th Aug 2010, 16:50
I've got a second home in Hawkinge. The idea was to use it after retirement as a base whilst looking for a permanent home. Now on the market it's being used less and less. Was originally about 1 week in four, now down to a couple of days every two months. For what it costs me i could stay in a five star hotel and not have the gardens to look after. It's now on the market for 205.000 quid. Had an offer this week of 160000 :=. At the top of the market the going price for identical property was 280000.:cool:

OFSO
13th Aug 2010, 20:32
surely the building quality is not everywhere like this in the S of France.

Oh dear oh dear. Yes it is. We cross the border into France every two weeks, have gone to look at new projects under construction, come away shaking our heads. Wood is still used to build houses in France ! compared to Spain where it's stone, brick, and a poured reinforced concrete floor and ceiling, double glazed windows, and rolladen all round (German metal roller shutters on all windows.) The standard of electrical wiring in Spain is German, that's German plugs and sockets and switches. I suspect the high standard of local building in Spain is simply due to all the wealthy Germans who came down here in the past 20 years and demanded the very best.

But there is on mystery: the French DIY shops such as LeRoy Merlin and Castorama are superior to anything we have in Spain. We invariably go to France to buy DIY stuff and bring it back across the border to Spain. So why are their building standards so poor ?

ChristiaanJ
13th Aug 2010, 22:30
garp,
If you want the full tale, I suggest you PM me.

Brief reply (or at least I'll try).
Been there, done that.

At the time we lived in Paris, we bought a 'village house' in a tiny, nearly abandoned, hamlet in the Haut Languedoc (Southern France, Hérault, Cévennes).
Had been occupied recently, in good nick, and with the furniture, so almost no expense apart from the price of the property.
Kept it about ten years, then sold it because the children were getting too old and wanted holidays elsewhere.... still, we all have some irreplaceable memories from the times we did spend there, so no regrets that way!

On average, we didn't really get more than six weeks per year out of it (900 km two-day drive each way).

Lend/rented it a few times to friends/family/close acquaintances without problems.
But a rental to an acquaintance of a friend was a disaster... complaints about just about everything... too isolated, too primitive, 'scary animals' everywhere (bats, lizards, snakes, dormice, other small cute harmless rodents I can't remember the name off, etc.), the list was endless.

I've read the rest of this thread... nearly every case is special, so you'll have to make up your own mind, judging by your own situation. Just thought I'd add my story.

CJ

OFSO
14th Aug 2010, 07:16
Yes, renting your beloved house to strangers or to friends (the latter are frequently the worst) brings a diferent set of problems.

Cigerette burns on furniture, doors off hinges (left open when the Tramontana blows), ants everywhere (scraps of food left out), huge phone bills, swimming pool used as deposit for, well, just about every form of liquid you can think of (chemicals for pool reset frequently cost more than the rental income), huge power bills (why is it people on holiday forget light switches go off as well as on) and my especial favourite: my instructions said "leave fridge clean, door open, power plug removed from socket". The renters left the fridge clean, the door open, and the power on. The iceberg coming out of the fridge door when I got down there two weeks later stretched half way across the kitchen. Amazing. Of course equally interesting was what hapened with fridge not clean, door closed, power off. Opened fridge door and what was growing inside looked like a horror movie....

Yes we had good renters ("I thought you'd like the living room wallpapering" and I did !) The off-the-street French couple, smoking (uh-uh) little dog (uh-uh) who spent the last three days of their holiday scrubbing everything including the carpets, left the place like new - but they were rare. Never again. NEVER !

sitigeltfel
14th Aug 2010, 07:21
surely the building quality is not everywhere like this in the S of France.OFSOs comments are a bit of a generalisation. Standards vary everywhere, and France is no exception.

New builds are usually constructed with cavity brick outer walls and a thermite inner wall. Another option is metal framed studding for the interiors with insulated plasterboard. A "vide sanitaire" cavity with forced ventilation is also normal to aid circulation and prevent humidity problems. I have not seen timber used except for poutres and plafond Provencale ceilings in traditional houses due to the termite risk.

Capetonian
14th Aug 2010, 09:07
Build quality in the South of France is generally poor. This is partly because the houses are built in order to perpetuate the illusion that the area has 12 months of summer, or they are only built for the summer as second home, or worse, as rental properties, in which case the build quality is poor and the fixtures and fittings cheap and shoddy.

Metro man
14th Aug 2010, 09:31
My opinion - Not worth the bother. Keep your money in the bank and spend the interest and the savings from not doing maintenance on renting something when you go away. That way you are not tied down to one place if circumstances change.

If Ryanair/Easyjet stop flying to the local airport leaving only an expensive full service airline you can go else where. Perhaps your tastes change and you would prefer beaches over mountains, or vice versa.

The exceptions would be if I worked in a crowded city and wanted to spend every weekend away in a place I knew and liked, and which was only a couple of hours drive.

Or something which I could put under management and get income from when I wasn't using it, possibly in a location I'd like to retire to. Condotels are popular in some countries, small apartments with shared pool/gym/tennis court. Tell the managers when you want to use the place and have them rent it out and organize maintenance when you're away. If the numbers add up as an investment and you can use it as well, why not ?

Note, not time share. Buying the right to a couple of weeks use of a property which you don't get to own makes no sense. Better of in a hotel and you don't have to deal with the time share sales men.:yuk:

sitigeltfel
14th Aug 2010, 09:58
One thing I forgot to mention in my post was the "assurance decennale" insurance system in France.

A contractor working for a developer should have this and the developer should have what is called "assurances dommage-ouvrage".

Small works are guaranteed for one year while major projects are valid for ten years. If you are buying property that has been renovated, make sure the Notaire has checked that these assurances are in place. Also if you instruct a tradesman to carry out work, get him to prove his work is covered.

The vendor is also responsible for certain checks to be made to ensure there is no asbestos, lead (paint & plumbing), electrical safety, termites (certain regions only), pool security etc.

In theory most problems are covered, but if anything goes wrong it can be a long haul through the courts.

OFSO
14th Aug 2010, 11:27
This is partly because the houses are built in order to perpetuate the illusion that the area has 12 months of summer



http://i656.photobucket.com/albums/uu287/ROBIN_100/CurrentPhotos232.jpg

Well said, Capetonian

This was our front yard in sunny Spain on March 8th this year, before the snow ploughs came by. No electrical power, minus 5ºc out, woodstove burning away indoors...... 55cms of extremely wet snow fell in 6 hours.

Only in March you think ? Last night's meteo for the Pyranees gave the snow line at 2500 metres......

ChristiaanJ
14th Aug 2010, 11:43
Only in March you think ? Last night's meteo for the Pyranees gave the snow line at 2500 metres......That's slightly misleading, OFSO.... :) it's quite usual for August.
With roughly 1°C per 100 m altitude, 0°C at 2500 m corresponds to approx. 25°C at sea level.

CJ

PS
That load of snow IS impressive... we live about 250 km further NE along the coast from where you are, and we were spared the worst, although we still had about 4 inches at one point.

GROUNDHOG
14th Aug 2010, 22:04
I can see the attraction of having an investment property abroad but have never quite understood the desire to have a holiday home which you go back to time and time again. Would you go back to the same Hotel again and again, what's wrong with investigating the rest of the World.

My holiday home is parked outside in the drive,( motorhome not a caravan) it has been all over Europe and the UK and every day I can wake up with a different view. I use it to go out to the beach for the day, visit friends overnight and when on holiday it starts the moment I turn the key. If I get lost I just change where I am going!

Then again I guess I am lucky living in an idyllic part of the UK where you don't really need a holiday!

Standing by for incoming........

ChristiaanJ
14th Aug 2010, 23:11
I can see the attraction of having an investment property abroad but have never quite understood the desire to have a holiday home which you go back to time and time again. Would you go back to the same Hotel again and again, what's wrong with investigating the rest of the World.

My holiday home is parked outside in the drive,( motorhome not a caravan) it has been all over Europe and the UK and every day I can wake up with a different view. I use it to go out to the beach for the day, visit friends overnight and when on holiday it starts the moment I turn the key. If I get lost I just change where I am going!

Then again I guess I am lucky living in an idyllic part of the UK where you don't really need a holiday!

Standing by for incoming........
Why the incoming? We all have our own views and preferences.
My brother has been towing a caravan all over Europe and enjoyed it.
We simply never liked the idea of a caravan or motorhome.
We've had our little house in the Languedoc as I described, and enjoyed it.
We also had our favourite little hotel near Ravenna that we've been back to at least five or six times, and enjoyed it.

But, Groundhog, yours is a good answer to garp.

He should ask himself if he really wants to put down some roots somewhere different (and maybe very different).
We did... and the end result in my case is that I now have retired to the same area (even if not the same house..), and enjoy it.

garp, I'd almost say.... if you're still asking yourself the question "dream or nightmare?"... don't do it. Roam around some more, and when you find a spot that truly says "home" to you, then think again.

CJ

racedo
15th Aug 2010, 00:02
Have a friend who bought in Bulgaria 4 years ago just as I was getting to know him, had I known him better he wouldn't have done it.

He used equity in his house and now trying to sell with probably losing £40K, I've told him sell now as he has £4k a year in fees so better cut losses now rather than wait 3-4 years and get the same money while paying the fees.

Want to buy in France but better half says no but maybe we live there eventually.

Important thing I have always said to people wanting a Holiday Home / Renter is make a decision its either one or the other as the danger will be you focus on both and do neither well.

Vld1977
18th Aug 2010, 02:01
When will northern europeans learn that Spain is not a tropical country?
We have very high terrain in most of Spain, high mountain systems everywhere, and it's freezing cold in winter!! Spain is not all like the Canary Islands, which are 2000 miles south, in Africa!

I'm living in southern England and believe me, if there is anything I miss from Spain is the RAIN!! There is proper, vertically-falling, soaking, 5-6 days long RAIN in there. In England, it just feels as if the air was wet.

On the other hand, the problem of having a property in Spain is if you want to sell it, as I am painfully realising now.

Anyone for a 2 bed flat in a coastal town near BCN? Let me now! :}

sitigeltfel
18th Aug 2010, 07:06
I am puzzled by the stampede, of otherwise sane people, to buy properties in the Balkans. OK, you can get a lot for your money there, but given the areas political history there must be safer investments.

Maybe sanity goes out the window when a tempting deal comes along.

OFSO
18th Aug 2010, 11:11
On the other hand, the problem of having a property in Spain is if you want to sell it, as I am painfully realising now.

Mostly true, Vld1977, but not always. Property in the centre of Girona has risen in price this year, not the old reputed 15% a year, not even in double figures any more, but I think between 3% and 5% over the last 12 months. I wish I'd bought a small apartment facing onto the river in the town centre ten years ago !

Quick Edit: for those who don't know and 'automatically' go to Barcelona - don't. The medieval city centre of Girona is far more attractive: things to see, places to go, and the restaurants are excellent. Far less crime, also.

green granite
18th Aug 2010, 11:50
I am puzzled by the stampede, of otherwise sane people, to buy properties in the Balkans. OK, you can get a lot for your money there, but given the areas political history there must be safer investments.

It's called greed, buy it cheap, rent it out for a few years and then sell it for a huge profit when everyone wants a house there.

dead_pan
18th Aug 2010, 20:11
What did happen to all those people who bought in Bulgaria a few years back? That was one huge racket - almost of a par with Dubious-buy.

garp
23rd Aug 2010, 21:31
Thanks for all the replies. Very interesting opinions and a nicely mixed bag of thoughts.