So here we are, in 2013. As with people’s beliefs regarding the fortunes surrounding the number 13, this year is likely to be lucky for some and unlucky for others when it comes to property buyers and sellers around the globe.
Some markets already have indicators of property price rises, while most areas are expected to remain relatively flat throughout the year, in the absence of any meaningful economic growth. The key to finding a property bargain will be to choose a country – and region – carefully.
In the USA, for instance, the past few months have seen some welcome news on the economic front, with the jobless rate falling and house prices beginning to trend upwards in many parts of the country – some for the first time in around five years. Rising prices in the USA could mean bargains will become increasingly difficult to find.
Likewise, Turkey is seeing prices rise on the back of soaring interest from foreigners in its property market, although newly relaxed rules and steadily increasing tourist numbers mean there is still plenty of opportunity to piggyback on rising capital growth and a steady uplift in prices for holiday lets.
Conversely Cyprus, for example, last month became the latest country to begin implementing tough austerity measures as it received a bailout, and Portugal has implemented harsh new tax rises, which are likely to cause further cooling in their respective property markets.
POPULAR EUROPEAN COUNTRIES
For British buyers looking abroad, such news generally has the opposite desirable effect – particularly for retirees or those not reliant on the local job market and banking sector to purchase their property. Austerity hit countries such as Cyprus and Portugal as well as Spain, Italy, France and Greece may become even more attractive for expats this year as the number of forced sales rises and prices stagnate or even drop further.
And it’s not just Brits who are active on the house hunting trail trying to pick up a bargain. Belgians and Scandinavians are increasingly becoming a force to be reckoned with when it comes to Italian property; Russians and Middle Easterners are flocking to invest their money in Turkey, and there is a noticeable upsurge in the number of Australians shopping for lifestyle and investment properties in France. Then there are wealthy Chinese looking at property virtually anywhere offering attractive residency options for foreign investors.
Indeed, some of the Overseas Guides Company’s partner agents, such as those in the Costa Blanca in Spain, were busier in 2012 than they have been in a decade. Others, such as in the Greek Islands and the Algarve in Portugal, saw the number of foreign buyers walking through their doors steadily increase as the year progressed – trends which are only expected to continue throughout 2013.
VALUE FOR MONEY IS A KEY ATTRACTION
The key attraction for all these international buyers is value for money. At a time when, for most of them, their prospects back home are looking comparatively rosy, the ongoing debt crisis in Southern Europe is allowing them a foot in the door of property markets they would previously have been locked out of. And with ongoing austerity measures meaning that there is little in 2013 to change the trajectory of property prices in these markets, many are keen to not let the opportunity pass by.
What may be changing this year, however, is the appeal of property in Canada and Australia. While emigration rates to these popular countries have remained healthy, their superior economic performance in recent years has led their currencies to strengthen significantly, which has made it more expensive to purchase property there.
However, 2012 saw declines in property prices in both of these national markets, as their economies cooled amid slowing global growth and diminishing demand for their natural resources. The Canadian and Australian dollars, while remaining steep by historical standards, have also come off their record highs in recent months. Both of these factors mean there could be a window of opportunity for British buyers to take advantage of these cooling markets and negotiate harder than would have been possible even just 12-18 months ago.
Far from being a dampener on property markets, the ongoing economic downturn has created some once-in-a-lifetime opportunities to secure a dream second home or desirable lifestyle property in a foreign country, and many savvy buyers are recognising the long-term potential of snapping one up now. As with any property purchase, it simply comes down to doing your research to identify the legitimate hot spots in order to get the best value for your money.
Richard Way, Editor, Overseas Guides Company (OGC)
+44 207 898 0549