If you’ve recently been seriously thinking of buying a holiday home, contemplating a relocation, or dreaming of a trip abroad after your holiday was cancelled – you’re not alone.
That’s because we’ve seen a big surge in interest from UK home-hunters searching for overseas property.
Research from our data analysts shows that searches for overseas property in May reached their highest point for the year, and were up 33% compared to May 2019.
This trend was a continuation of what we saw in April, where overseas searches increased by 50% compared to March.
The countries seeing the biggest uplift are Spain, France and Portugal. After an initial dip when the countries went into their respective lockdowns, there has now been a surge.
Searches in Spain were up 34% year-on-year during May and 33% in France. In Portugal, it was 26%.
People browsing Rightmove continue to dual-screen (home-hunting on a phone or tablet whilst watching TV), with searches for Ibiza up 174% compared to last May, thanks to the new Netflix show White Lines, set on the Spanish island.
As well as an increase in searches, we’ve also seen more new people entering the market. Last month, the number of new users looking for overseas property was 41% higher when compared with May last year.
What do the experts say?
Our resident property expert Miles Shipside, one of our founding directors and a BBC News regular, suggests that people are more motivated to commit to an overseas purchase now…
“Lockdown has allowed many people time to re-appraise their lives, which has prompted lots of home-hunters to get serious about buying elsewhere in Europe. In particular, 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.
“Social distancing would be far more straightforward if you’re lucky enough to be able to afford your own overseas pad. If other holiday-makers feel the same, then they may wish to rent your property, helping it bring in an income when you are not there.
“It’s still early days as we’re not out of lockdown yet and most airlines are still shut, but this is an indication that this has been a life-changing period for many who are re-appraising both how and where they want to live.”
What are overseas estate agents saying?
Dennis Chan, global head of international sales at Chestertons, said: “A surge in demand has indeed been observed across our portfolio of international properties, especially coastal homes. Clients who had been considering a second home prior to the pandemic have now intensified their enquiries with our offices in Southern Europe.”
Kieran Byrne, owner of HomeEspaña in Spain, said: “After a significant dip in activity and enquiries in March and early April, when lockdown measures were first introduced in Spain and the UK, we’ve witnessed a gradual resurgence of interest towards the end of April, and this gathered pace throughout May.
“Of course, we’ve spoken to clients who are putting their plans on hold, waiting to see what life will be like post-coronavirus, which is totally understandable. But we’ve also spoken to new customers who had never previously thought about buying a property in Spain.
“Being confined has made them reconsider their lives in cities and towns, as has the thought of returning to being crammed onto buses and trains – and they’ve concluded it would be preferable to be somewhere with more of an outdoor lifestyle, better weather, access to swimming pools and beaches.
“Then we have a separate set of customers, who were already searching for a second home on the Costa Blanca before the coronavirus outbreak, but who were previously taking their time and happy to continue their search over a couple of years. This crisis has accelerated their desire to own in Spain sooner rather than later, and they now want to finalise a purchase as soon as possible.
“Of course, we still don’t know how any of this translates into genuine interest or transactions, as we’re still not fully out of lockdown here in Spain, international flights haven’t resumed and we’re still in a period of uncertainty – but it does seem like there is a lot of new interest in people relocating or having a second home here.”
Chris White, owner of Ideal Homes in Portugal, added: “We’ve seen leads increase on a daily basis throughout the UK lockdown. In fact, in the last ten days alone we’ve sold four properties.
“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.
“There are bargains to be had and we’re definitely seeing high levels of demand. Even with the rental side of the business, we’re fully booked for August and quite a lot of next year, which doesn’t normally happen.
“People now want to buy a property, enjoy it for ten weeks of the year, and then rent it out for another 30 weeks and still make more money than if their cash was sat in the bank.
“The national bank in Portugal have got some really low interest rates on mortgages right now so that’s helping things.”