Europe offers perfect homes away from home

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 25 August, 2004, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 25 August, 2004, 12:00am

AN APARTMENT on the Cote d'Azur, a chalet in the Swiss Alps or a villa on the Algarve - Europe is bristling with tempting holiday home options.

Even Britain's southern holiday resorts, once dismissed for their cool weather, are now renowned for their 'cool' trendiness, and new opportunities are appearing in eastern Europe, where markets are opening up.

Europe's most popular holiday home locations traditionally have been southern France, Spain and Portugal. They attract most Hong Kong investors and former British expatriates returning to Europe.

The enduring appeal of sun, sangria and year-round golf ensures Spain tops the list. The Costa del Sol is Spain's most vibrant second-home market.

Jonathan Salsbury, international manager at estate agents Hamptons International, said: 'You can't avoid the fact that the Costa del Sol is a continuously popular market. It is a more buoyant market this year - people will pay a premium for a property with modern facilities.'

Prices had risen 25 per cent to 30 per cent on the Costa del Sol over the past three years, he said. Some newcomers are moving inland from the Costa del Sol so they can mix more easily with the Spanish culture, because the coast has become dominated by north Europeans.

On the Costa del Sol, buyers can expect to pay Euro500,000 (HK$4.8 million) for a four-bedroom villa, but they will get more for their money if they go further inland.

The French Riviera was fashionable with those looking to escape the rat race, Mr Salsbury said. Locations close to Nice, because of its international airport, and Monaco were most popular, especially the area around Cap Ferrat, which lies in between.

Mr Salsbury said properties valued from Euro500,000 to Euro1 million were most popular, typically two- to three-bedroom apartments or small villas with swimming pools.

Prices had risen 12 per cent over the past 12 months, and would continue to rise, as property was in short supply there.

In Portugal, most people look to buy holiday homes in the Algarve. Prices there had risen

6 per cent over the past 12 months, Mr Salsbury said.

'Prices for well-maintained properties have doubled over the past five years,' he said.

Most buyers there look for smaller three-bedroom villas and town houses valued at Euro350,000 to Euro600,000.

The southern coast of England is also becoming fashionable.

Estate agent Knight Frank describes Cornwall as Britain's 'Cape Cod', with its growing population of surfers and artists adding to its trendiness. Cornish cottages cost about GBP145,000 (HK$2.06 million). Brighton and Bournemouth are also popular.

Well maintained, two-bedroom holiday flats cost about GBP160,000 or more in these coastal resorts.

Elsewhere, a four-bedroom Tuscan farmhouse in Italy costs about Euro450,000, and a two-bedroom Alpine apartment in Switzerland Euro400,000. In eastern Europe, a 1,000 square foot apartment in Prague might cost Euro200,000, and a ski chalet in Bulgaria a mere Euro50,000.