Overseas property searches:France, Spain and Portugal locations are most popular with UK home hunters

Online searches for idyllic holiday homes abroad have surged just as these European hotspots begin to navigate their way out of lockdown.

Nine weeks of lockdown, disappointment over cancelled holidays and a string of new Netflix releases filmed in dreamy overseas locations have triggered a dramatic surge in overseas home searches, according to property portal Rightmove.

Online searches by UK residents for properties for sale abroad hit their highest point so far this year in May – 33 per cent up on the same month last year, it reports.

France, Spain and Portugal have seen the greatest annual increases in popularity among Britons, the new Rightmove data shows, just as these European holiday favourites begin to navigate their way out of lockdown.

UK searches for homes in Spain were up 34 per cent last month compared to May 2019, while searches increased 33 per cent in France and 26 per cent in Portugal.


New series White Lines is set in Ibiza, which saw a 174 per cent increase in searches on Rightmove Overseas in May (Netflix)

The most popular Spanish resort with UK home seekers is the Costa del Sol, although Ibiza in the Balearics saw a 174 per cent increase in searches last month.

 It’s thought the new Netflix series White Lines, released on May 15 and set on the Spanish island, is a contributing factor, as would-be holidaymakers as well as property hunters indulge in some lockdown escapism.

“Lockdown has allowed many people time to reappraise their lives, which has prompted lots of home hunters to get serious about buying elsewhere in Europe,” says Rightmove’s property expert Miles Shipside.

“Countries such as Spain, France and Portugal have cultures that are familiar to us — and their warmer climates and reasonably priced rural stock will appeal to those who have been recently denied foreign travel,” he adds.

Increased online searches for these popular holiday destinations will come from a mix of serious home buyers and property tourists.

Yet Mark Harvey, head of international residential at Knight Frank, says recent enquiries have come from “engaged” and “focused” buyers on the whole – partly due to stringent social distancing procedures in place for viewings which would discourage the less committed.

Daydreaming about the Dordogne

“There has been a really impressive and very tangible leap in enquiries for homes in France, even compared to 12 months ago,” says Harvey, “We’ve seen a 40 per cent increase in enquiry levels and are anticipating a four- to fivefold increase in viewings.”

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Ut elit tellus, luctus nec ullamcorper mattis, pulvinar dapibus leo.The most popular destinations for home searches in France according to Rightmove are Dordogne, in the south-west, and Brittany on the north-west coast.

Seaside and space in the Algarve

Popular: the Algarve, the Silver Coast and Lisbon saw the most online home searches among Portugal destinations (Alamy Stock Photo)

Popular areas in Portugal include the Algarve, on the south coast, and the capital city of Lisbon on the west coast.

The changing property search criteria noted in the UK during lockdown, such as homes in greener areas and with more land, is being mirrored in Europe, according to Harvey.

“People are searching for elbow room and fresh air, possibly anticipating a new lockdown or a new Covid-19 environment,” he adds. “Portugal is an incredibly popular place, offering good value. And the Algarve always attracts interest.”

Chris White, owner of Ideal Homes in Portugal, says: “We’re getting lots of interest in private villas and apartments with big terraces. I think people were nervous before about buying abroad, but now they are far more determined.

“Buyers are saying to us, as soon as they can fly again they want to come out, meet the lawyers and get things done.

“The national bank in Portugal has got some really low interest rates on mortgages right now, so that’s helping things,” adds White.

Do your research when buying abroad

UK searches for homes in Spain were up 34 per cent last month. Pictured: Malagueta Beach, Malaga

Knight Frank’s Mark Harvey advises those thinking of buying a home abroad this year to be incredibly vigilant and cautions them to be conservative in their calculations, particularly if rental income is going to be necessary to meet mortgage payments.

“You have to be super-realistic and consider two scenarios,” he says. “One is that things will be relatively okay – and the second is that there will be another lockdown and travel impacted even further.

“In such an uncertain environment, there may be a school of thought that we’re going to be entering into an era of high taxes – which could have high ramifications for second home owners.

“Go into it with your eyes wide open, there’s no point in rushing,” he adds.

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