There's a lot more to buying a second home in the sun than viewing a few likely properties and taking the plunge. Successful purchases require a great deal of research, several visits and a certain amount of soul searching. Here are five tips to help you get it right.
1. Start your search early
If you are looking for a home in the Mediterranean, for example, it is a good idea to start your search early in the year, and if possible make your first viewing trip during the winter. Many properties used as second homes will be empty then, therefore access is almost guaranteed. In spring and summer, suitable properties are more likely to be occupied by owners or rented out, making viewing arrangements more difficult. Also, if you like the property in winter, you are bound to love it in the spring or summer when gardens are in full bloom and swimming pools in action.
2. Research the area
It sounds obvious but maps on website listings are not always 100 per cent accurate and could well show you to the nearest village or town rather than the property itself. This is for safety reasons as houses used as second homes are often empty for long periods of the year. However, after you register your details, the agent can give you the coordinates for a satellite view of the property and surrounding area. Study it closely.
Also be aware of idiosyncrasies of certain areas: in many parts of Tuscany, for example, it's difficult to find a country house within walking distance of a village, meaning you will have to drive to the nearest shops, bars and restaurants.
Once you have found your dream home, it is easy to get carried away refurbishing or renovating - to ‘overspec’ and overspend. Consider what use you will make of the property. Does it really need complete rewiring in order to install a smart home system if you are only going to use it for summer holidays? Equally, the investment you make on creating a super-sophisticated rural retreat may be difficult to recover if or when you come to sell the property.
4. Travel and time difference
A beach home in an exotic location might sound wonderful, but if your job or personal circumstances mean that you have to be contactable at all times, or able to return at short notice, your choice will be restricted somewhat.
For this reason Portugal works well, as its 9-5 is aligned with the UK's. Good access, with a choice of two airports is always desirable, even if one is at a greater distance: Sotogrande and Marbella, for example, are both excellent choices because you can fly in/out of both Malaga and Gibraltar.
5. Rental potential
You may only want a property for your personal use now, but needs change. Work may take you to another continent for a few years, making the house difficult to access, or the children might fly the nest meaning more empty rooms. If you decide to rent your house out, is there a suitable room for storing your belongings or can one be created? If you are in the market for a lovely, large country house, think if it can be ‘compartmentalised’ allowing you to rent out only a part of it. Are there outbuildings which could be turned into holiday cottages one day?