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  • Writer's pictureInvestment Synergy Team

Where to buy a second home in Europe

Don't fall into the same old tourist traps - if you want charm, authenticity and value, follow the locals!


Ruth Bloomfield - The Sunday Times


As summer approaches, our minds naturally turn to sunny weekends in the country or school holidays by the sea. And across Europe frazzled city dwellers are also plotting their escape to second homes in locations that are often little known to travellers beyond their borders.

Parisians head west into Normandy, taking advantage of fast trains to reach sophisticated seaside resorts that they can buy into for a fraction of the price of those in the south, while Milanese buyers swerve the expensive resort villages on the southern tip of Lake Como for a more wholesome, outdoorsy experience slightly further north.

 

If you want to holiday like a native, these are the European second-home locations that local buyers love:


Spain - Valencia

 

Barcelona is uncomfortably hot and crowded in summer, but a little more than 200 miles down the coast is the antidote: Valencia.

With its Instagram-friendly golden sands, thriving foodie scene and elegant small-city vibes, Valencia is a hot ticket with second-home owners from Barcelona, according to the estate agent Knight Frank.

The two cities have much in common — such as stunning architecture and beaches — but Valencia is positively sleepy in comparison with its better-known east coast peer. It is also less of an expat hotspot than Alicante and the like — you’ll struggle to find a full English breakfast here but instead you can start the day with huevos rotos, a popular fried egg and potato dish.

 

Local weekenders are not the only outsiders keen to buy a slice of Valencia.

According to Karen Muiños of Lucas Fox estate agents, over the past two years approximately 60 per cent of her buyers have been a mix of international relocators and investors, seduced by prices almost 50 per cent lower than those in Madrid or Barcelona, as well as the weather and the lifestyle.

This demand is pushing prices up — about 14 per cent last year, Muiños says. She expects to see growth of approximately 10 per cent in property prices in 2024. If you want a two-bedroom apartment in Valencia’s swishest area, L’Eixample, with its museums and cultural institutions, you will need to budget up to €900,000. A lower-cost alternative is the up-and-coming neighbourhood of Extramurs, where a similar property would cost from about €400,000. However, if you want a villa with a pool you will have to look beyond the city centre.

Wherever you live, one of the big benefits of Valencia is that the city centre is walkable, and there is a comprehensive metro system to whisk you from the airport or to the beach. 


Javea - Costa Blanca

 

Madrileños looking for a holiday bolt hole shudder at the thought of rubbing shoulders with boozing package-tour Brits in Alicante or Benidorm.

 

They would far rather head for nearby Javea, with its gorgeous beaches and laid-back lifestyle. Javea is also easy to reach — either via Alicante’s airport or a four-and-a-half-hour drive from Madrid.

“People seem more relaxed in Javea,” Jim MacWhinnie, of Blue Square estate agents, says. “It is not so dressy as up the coast on the Costa del Sol, and it hasn’t been spoilt like Benidorm. Its not your all-inclusive vibe. And it has the most amazing coastline.”

Life in Javea is all about admiring sunsets over Cap de Sant Antoni, exploring its many secluded coves and enjoying a great choice of restaurants, which range from fine dining to rustic Valencian cuisine.

 

MacWhinnie’s buyers tend to be families who want a lock-up-and-leave property to which they can escape for weekends and summer breaks. Expect to pay about €200,000 for a two-bedroom flat, or from approximately €500,000 for a four-bedroom villa. If you want more bang for your buck you could look in nearby towns such as Pedreguer or Benitachell, both a few miles inland.

MacWhinnie estimates that prices in Javea have jumped by about 20 per cent over the past two years. Domestic buyers have been bolstered by an influx of Dutch and Belgians freed from their offices and keen for some sunshine and a lower cost of living than they can find at home.


Italy - Anacapri, Capri

 

With daily temperatures in Naples reaching an average of more than 30C in high summer it is little wonder that the city’s residents seek out the sea breezes to be found on Capri. The fastest ferry can get them there in just less than an hour.

The island, with its dramatic mountains and charming waterfront, has long attracted second-home buyers from the mainland (and beyond). Traditionally they wanted a place close to vibrant Capri town. Since the pandemic, however, Cristina Carrani, an estate agent at Engel & Völkers Capri-Amalfi, has noticed a shift: buyers have started to look for homes in Anacapri, the wilder and more rural western side of the island. 

Anacapri is also better value for money: a home in Capri town would cost between €11,000 and €13,000 a square metre; two miles away in Anacapri the starting price falls to €6,000 a square metre. And there are more properties to choose from — and thinner crowds. Capri town is overrun by day-trippers from the mainland, Carrani says, but they rarely make it up the hill. “Anacapri still has many local shops selling things like handmade leather sandals, traditional things,” she says. “Capri hosts many brands like Gucci and Prada that you can find anywhere.”

In the seven years she has worked on the island, Carrani says, prices in Anacapri have doubled, with buyers now having to pay from about €500,000 for a one-bedroom flat, or €750,000 for a two-bedroom property. But the island’s rental market is also strong and the investment can be offset by letting to holidaymakers who will pay about €250 to €350 a night for a flat in the high season between March and October.

Gera Lario, Lake Como

 

While most holidaymakers spend their time at the southern end of Lake Como — hanging out in its exquisite villages and hoping for a glimpse of George Clooney — Milanese buyers are willing to trek a little further north for better value for money and a quieter life away from the tourist crowds.

Sara Zanotta, of Lakeside Real Estate, says that the village of Gera Lario, about 48 miles north of the town of Como — the “capital” of the lake — is becoming increasingly popular with buyers from Milan who are keen to escape frenetic urban life.

 

Gera Lario is not quite as picture perfect as hotspots such as Bellagio or Tremezzo but it offers a more rustic, wholesome way of life with sailing, surfing and beach volleyball, plenty of local cycle paths and the Pian di Spagna nature reserve to explore.

A two-bedroom apartment in Gera Lario would cost about €250,000, Zanotta says, while a four-bedroom villa with a lake view would cost €400,000 to €450,000 — about 60 per cent cheaper than homes in hip villages on the southern side of the lake.

 

Public transport links are also good. A train from the centre of Milan takes about two hours to reach Colico, at the top of the lake, and there is a ferry service for trips across the water.


Portugal - Comporta

 

Less than an hour’s drive from the centre of Lisbon, Comporta is the perfect spot for frazzled alfacinhas — as Lisbon’s residents are known — to unwind.

This seaside paradise has miles of unspoilt beaches flanked by sand dunes. “The whole environment there is based on peace and tranquillity,” Charles Roberts, managing partner of Fine & Country Portugal, says.

“You can stand on the beach and not see a soul for miles, and the dolphins come past the Peninsula de Troia every afternoon.”

Local planning rules are strict. High rises are out of the question and even new houses must be built with traditional thatched roofs — which protects Comporta’s unspoilt vibe. And while the emphasis is on the great outdoors there are some great beach bars and an increasing number of swishy restaurants to enjoy.

 

No, its understated luxury doesn’t come cheap. A two-bedroom apartment by the beach would cost about €900,000 while a three-bedroom villa would set you back €1.5 million. Even a fixer-upper fisherman’s cottage would sell for approximately €450,000. Far better value is to be found inland. Twenty minutes from the beach, much cheaper authentic towns such as Alcacer do Sal, on the banks of the Sado River, are growing in popularity, Roberts says. You could pick up a three-bedroom flat with river views from €200,000.


France - Deauville

 

Elegant Deauville is Normandy’s answer to Cannes, with its annual film festival, luxury boutiques, brasseries and beaches.

The town and its neighbouring resorts of Trouville, Benerville and Blonville-sur-Mer are a hit with Parisian second-home owners thanks to sub-two-hour train services from the capital to Lisieux, less than 20 miles from the coast.

Trains from London take from five and a half hours.

Bénédicte Belvisi, managing partner of Barnes Deauville, says that about 85 per cent of his buyers are looking for a second home and the vast majority of them (75 per cent) live in the French capital. The rest are from across Europe, notably Belgium, Germany and Switzerland.

These buyers, he says, come to Deauville partly for its mild climate (average temperatures peak at 23C in July) and partly for its hectic social calendar of horse racing, golf, tennis and sailing competitions, casinos and cultural events.

 

Deauville has a large choice of restaurants, bars and places to enjoy a cocktail or simply relax,” he says. “Deauville’s famous boardwalk, Les Planches, and the large and sandy beaches with colourful umbrellas are iconic.”

 

Prices in Deauville are far from bargain basement. A grand, beamed country house close to town could cost you €6 million. But a budget of €400,000 would secure a two-bedroom apartment in the city centre or a modest two to three-bedroom house on the outskirts.

Belvisi says sale prices have flattened off since the pandemic fired the starting gun for a race to the coast in 2021, but remain stable. “Due to high demand, we believe that the market remains stable for the next two years,” he says.


Investment Synergy - It's intriguing that articles like this frequently cast the stereotypical British expat in a negative light, suggesting that Europeans prefer to steer clear of the overly popular areas they inhabit. The British have historically been pioneers in purchasing second homes abroad and discovering numerous untapped markets.




 

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