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Recortes de Prensa

Dream locations

The Telegraph, 12 | 04 | 2010 - ¿?

Seasoned traveller Zoe Dare Hall introduces our search for the number one destination for overseas buyers

I remember my first evening spent living abroad, sitting in a bar on Barcelona beach with new-found acquaintances, each of us with a cold beer and a slightly stunned sense of: “We’ve done it.”

We were all in our early thirties, having ditched decent jobs and partners to head to a city where we knew no one to teach English to dockers for £500 a month. And that sense of “I’ve done it” didn’t leave me for the two years I lived there.

The rent for my tiny studio flat near the beach cost more than my monthly wage, but I was renting out my flat back home to cover the shortfall – and I soon abandoned teaching to return to freelance journalism.

It is the only time in my life I’ve known what it feels like to work to live rather than live to work. And living in Barcelona never stopped feeling exciting: to walk down such an iconic stretch as the Ramblas on my way back from the shops.

Most of my spare time was spent outdoors, running along the beach, swimming, watching sunsets over the marina. Meeting people was easy – other expats, for instance, who set up all sorts of networking groups and social clubs.

Making local friends was harder, and the impossibility of getting a “proper” job in the system meant you were always on the periphery. Although being on the periphery in Barcelona still felt like one of the best places to be. I’d do it again in a heartbeat.

Many of us still dream of a move abroad, with four out of 10 over-55s wanting to emigrate, according to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, and a third of under-35s are also keen to escape, says a Halifax report.

Australia is one of the most popular choices, according to the Institute for Public Policy Research’s last statistics on the matter in 2006, and younger professionals are often drawn to the United States, with Florida home to 400,000 Brits. But most of us prefer Europe, with France and Spain accounting for 26 per cent of the British nationals who live abroad.

Moving abroad is mainly a lifestyle ambition, the vision of long, warm evenings spent on the terrace and weekends on the beach. But few of us have the luxury of being able to make the choice based on lifestyle alone.

As anyone abroad reliant on British savings, incomes or pensions will know, finance is the decider. “The pound has fallen against every currency, although it has regained 12 per cent in value against the euro compared with two years ago,” says Rupert Lee-Browne from currency trader Caxton FX.

With practicalities in mind, Knight Frank estate agency has come up with its top 10 destinations for those considering a move abroad – a selection that divides broadly into tax, lifestyle and retirement, based on considerations such as economic and political stability, climate, accessibility, tax regimes, health, education and the state of the property market.

For tax émigrés, Switzerland tops the list. “Many buyers are reconsidering their tax positions and are keeping a close eye on what is happening politically and economically throughout Europe, as tax implications for each country are changing all the time.

But Switzerland is the most popular choice among those wanting to leave the UK full-time,” says Paddy Dring, Knight Frank’s head of international research. “It’s stable, well-organised, easily accessible, with good international schools and world-renowned health facilities and you have your lifestyle, in the form of skiing, an hour away.”

For lifestyle, Tuscany and Majorca rate highly, with France – predominantly Paris, southern/south-west France and the Alps – the best all-round lifestyle destination, offering a wide range of property, good education and health options.

Southern Spain, southern Portugal and Cyprus remain the most in demand destinations among retirees, Dring says. “These destinations are less appealing to people in their forties seeking somewhere new to live, as there are fewer opportunities to set up service sector businesses. But we are seeing some people decide to retire early, particularly those in the financial sector, who want to take a breather for five years then return,” he comments.

“The exchange rate is certainly affecting British people moving to Europe,” Dring adds, “but they may have bought their property as a holiday home a few years ago, so they have made the big capital investment already. Many people are looking to do a stint abroad and come back. They are not doing it forever.”

Confusing what you want from a holiday home with what you need from a permanent home is the biggest mistake people make when buying abroad, says Barbara Wood from The Property Finders in Andalucia.

“The Spanish coasts see a great difference in climate during the winter and some can be dead while others are still buzzing out of season,” she says, suggesting Marbella, Nerja or Puerto de Santa Maria for coastal southern Spain, or inland, Antequera or Ronda, “where Brits have settled for years”.

In Majorca, head to the north or west of Palma, where the international schools are situated in areas such as Santa Ponsa, Portals or Calvia, says The Property Finders. In Italy, it recommends northern towns such as Piacenza, Mantua or Verona, “where you have big supermarkets, gyms, clubs of every variety – and beautiful old centres, or Bergamo, near the Italian lakes, skiing and Milan”.

Fay Davies, 39, a property sales director, divides her time between two of Knight Frank’s top 10 destinations: Majorca and Barbados. “I’m currently working in Barbados, but my home is in Deia, a mountain village where you can enjoy a sense of community if you make the effort, and you can just sit back and relax among centuries-old traditions,” she says.

Security and quality of life are the main reasons Micha Battsek moved to Chateau-d’Oex in Switzerland. “There is very low crime, clean air and a high standard of health care,” he says.

And the downsides? “A high cost of living – and social integration requires you to be multilingual, which I have no problem with but many English do,” says Battsek, 83, a retired company director who spends the other half of the year in Cannes.

“The feeling of safety and security isn’t the same as in Switzerland, but we live in a park with our own pool, 15 minutes from the coast and Cannes. If you speak French, you meet a friendly reception everywhere.”

10 of the best places to live abroad

1 SOUTH/SOUTH-WEST FRANCE

It has a diverse and established property market, good range of international schools, easily reached by train, car or plane. Rates highly for relaxed lifestyle.

2 GENEVA

Stable, tax efficient (though tax varies widely among cantons), easily reached by plane or rail and good quality of life, albeit costly. Despite limited supply of property for non-Swiss nationals, demand remains high.

3 ALPS

Demand for French or Swiss alpine homes has been high this year, transport and education systems are outstanding and flight access is excellent. In both countries, buying and selling costs are each about six to seven per cent.

4 MAJORCA

All-round appeal, with property attracting numerous nationalities. Property prices have fallen by 15-20 per cent, but interest in the south-west coast means there is little evidence of bargains. There are nine international schools on the island and one of busiest airports in the Med.

5 MONACO

Highly accessible from Britain by plane, train, car or boat. Very low tax environment. Property prices have recovered from the crunch and a normal level of transactions has returned.

6 TUSCANY

Property market less depressed than elsewhere in Italy, good international school in Florence, excellent state health care. Buying taxes are 10 per cent, but no CGT if property owned for five years.

7 SOUTHERN SPAIN

Great climate (this winter is a rain-lashed exception), excellent infrastructure and established British expat community. Endless choice of flights to newly expanding Malaga airport; there are 30 international schools in Andalucia. Marbella’s newly signed urban plan has cleared up years of planning corruption.

8 CYPRUS

Good year-round climate, popular with British buyers. Low end of market suffering, but much of the new property stock is moving upmarket, with larger units and higher price points. Buying costs about 8 per cent.

9 ALGARVE

Well served by low-cost flights, good international schools, three large hospitals. The majority of overseas buyers there are still British and stock levels remain high and varied. Older residences in prime locations are selling regardless of condition.

10 BARBADOS

Politically and economically secure. Great properties at prices not seen since 2006. No CGT, inheritance tax or gift tax. Distance and lack of work opportunities may limit appeal to those looking to move permanently.

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