A Midland property specialist believes there are still opportunities to invest in overseas markets despite the plummeting pound bringing misery to thousands of people who invested in Spanish homes.
Britons who bought property in Spain in the last few years are experiencing the double-whammy effect of plummeting property prices combined with a severely debilitated pound.
Thousands of new-build holiday homes stand empty as an oversupply of houses has tipped the Spanish property market into a slump. But Steve Wright, managing director of Cherish Properties, an overseas property investment specialist based in Shirley, said while Spain remained a high risk, prospective investors could find opportunities in markets elsewhere where the fundamentals were sounder.
He said: “The drop in the pound will make a difference; however, it will recover.”
“The thing to remember about the property market is that it moves in cycles. No country is in the same cycle at the same time.”
He pointed to countries like France, Morocco and Cyprus as markets with good growth opportunities, while warning investors off Spain and Bulgaria.
But his words offered little comfort to those who already own property in Spain and who have been squeezed by the plunging value of the pound against the euro.
Jennifer Barraclough owns a flat on the Costa Brava which she rents out to friends, as well as visiting herself several times a year. She said she was feeling the pinch from the drop in sterling against the euro.
“Whereas before, I would take out £400 and that would get around 500 euros, now that will buy me around 400 euros from the travel agents,” she said.
“When we took on the flat nine years ago, it used to cost around £2,000 a year to run; now, it costs more like £4,000, partly because of the exchange rate but also because of the growth in costs.
“My friend is suffering because her pension comes from the United Kingdom .She’s about 100 euros down every a month and has had to go back to her little job.”
But Ms Barraclough said the drop in spending power has not meant she had had to make significant cutbacks when she visited Spain. “We know the cheap places to eat and how you can live cheaply,” she said.
Despite the bleak outlook in the Spanish property market Mr Wright was adamant there were still opportunities to be had in other parts of Europe. He said the key was to find markets where the fundamentals are still strong, pointing to Cyprus as a promising location, as it was unlikely to see the oversupply witnessed in the Spanish market.
“The difference in Cyprus is the control of the supply. It has a very small population and a very big tourism industry,” he explained.
“Cyprus has a population of 800,000 and tourism is something like 16 million people a year, plus they have found oil reserves off the coast.
“Over the last two to three years, Cyprus has seen 20-30 per cent growth and it is now predicted to grow by around ten per cent a year.”
“For us, somewhere like Spain is a high risk because of the euro and over-supply and the fact that the market is coming down in value.
“However, places like Kefalonia have increased in value of property by 17 per cent over the last two years.
Mr Wright also pointed to Morocco as a promising location to invest. “Morocco has no linkage at all to any bad debt - it’s basically credit-crunch free,” he explained.
Despite the strength of the euro against sterling, Mr Wright still believes that property in France represents good value.
“In France, there is still six to seven per cent growth a year on average. One of the good things is that, on completion of new-build properties, the French government refunds your VAT as part of a government initiative to attract foreign investment into the market.”
Mr Wright said the lack of availability of mortgage finance in the UK had not had any significant effect on his business as buyers generally take out mortgages in the country where they are purchasing.
“For example, in Kefalonia we work with a company that is still doing a 95 per cent loan-to-value mortgage - you can’t get that at all in 80 per cent of Europe.”
*Cherish will be holding a free seminar at Lloyds Indian Restaurant, 7 Station Road, Knowle on January 26 at 7.30pm. To reserve a place, contact Cherish Investments on 0121 270 5291 or 07968 117 390. For further information and a full list of investment opportunities, visit www.cherishproperties.com