The coronavirus lockdown seems to have given people itchy feet, with a record number of Brits searching for overseas homes according to the property portal Rightmove. Perhaps it was all the free time that was suddenly available, or maybe people used the lockdown to reassess their lives, but the property buying site reports that it has never before seen the volume of interest in buying overseas properties from people in the UK.
The site reported over a million searches for overseas properties in June – a 28 percent jump compared to the same time in 2019. The record surge coincided with the UK government easing travel restrictions in the wake of Covid-19 and saw a massive increase in new registrations with the site.
Spain topped the list as the most popular location to buy a property, closely followed by France, which has seen a similar jump in interest. Not far behind were Portugal, Italy and Greece, clearly indicating that Brits are dreaming about escaping to sunnier climes.
Backing up these figures, the foreign property show A Place in The Sun conducted a survey of 5,000 prospective property hunters and found that more Brits than ever were planning on buying a property abroad, either as a holiday home or as a permanent residence. Their study also discovered that while 38 percent of respondents said their plans to buy property abroad were unaffected by Covid-19, 20 percent claimed they were “more motivated than ever” to relocate abroad.
Nevertheless, Covid-19 has thrown a spanner into the works for many buyers, with 22 percent saying they were delaying purchase by a year to let the dust settle from the pandemic. Only 3 percent of those surveyed said they had cancelled their plans to buy an overseas property.
The website for A Place in the Sun confirmed a similar surge in interest to Rightmove, with a 93 percent increase in visitors searching for dream villas and European apartments in May.
With Spain being such a popular destination for UK emigres, the Spanish government has lent the property sector a helping hand saying that the estimated 410,000 British second home owners in Spain do not need to self-quarantine on arrival. This also applies to people looking to buy property.
Foreign property advice website Property Guides recently surveyed 2,800 prospective UK buyers and found that some 60 percent of them were planning to buy in Spain before the end of summer 2021. The main reasons given for the move were to do with lifestyle changes, such as a healthier way of life and a relaxing place to retire, while others cited Brexit as a persistent worry.
Most buyers were interested in buying a detached villa somewhere near the sea, with the Costa Del Sol and the Costa Blanca being the most sought-after locations. Perhaps surprisingly, there was practically zero interest in buying a property in inland Spain, where prices tend to be much lower than on the costas.
It hasn’t just been Covid-19 adding a sense of urgency for Brits desperate to secure their dream escape to sunnier skies; Brexit continues to be a major worry. With the UK remaining in a transition period to leave the EU until the end of 2020, many people are keen to make the move abroad before then in order to obtain residency.
Nowhere is this more so than in France, where estate agents are reporting a surge in interest from Brits wanting to buy homes there. Provence, the Dordogne and Loire Valley regions remain a particular favourite for potential buyers. And as travel restrictions are lifted and the summer holiday season begins to kick into gear, it seems that a large number of would-be holidaymakers will be spending less time on French beaches and more time viewing properties in prime locations.
There remains some uncertainty about how Brexit will affect the rights of UK citizens wishing to buy property in France, with various factors still being subject to negotiations. But with the average property purchase in France taking between 3-4 months to complete, nervous Brits are taking no chances and are snapping up properties ahead of the December 31 deadline.
Indeed, France could overtake Spain as the most popular destination for second home owners according to some estate agents, as the country can be easily reached from the UK by train or ferry. With the shutdown of airlines due to the Covid-19 lockdown measures, this seems to be a reassuring factor for people looking to move to Europe.
Despite the record number of people in the UK wanting to move abroad, Covid-19 and Brexit have given rise to a new phenomenon: a wave of Brits wanting to move back to the UK. Estate agents in France and Spain are reporting a definite rise in the number of Brits wishing to sell up and move back home. The main reasons cited relate to financial insecurity and the worry that Sterling will weaken to the extent that their UK sourced income will not be enough to support them. Others cite bureaucratic reasons, such as not being able to prove their income, or simply that the Covid-19 lockdown reminded them they missed their families back in the UK. Some worried about future health provision, once the Brexit transition period ends.
Nevertheless, despite these returnees, the balance remains firmly weighted towards those wanting to escape the UK and start living a new life in Europe. If you are one of those planning to swap the often grey and cloudy British skies for the sunnier climes of Spain, France or even further afield, why not get in touch with us at Currency Solutions today and we’ll tell you how you can save money on making your dream a reality.
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