Words: Catherine Moye
Like the blow-out business lunch and shelling out a fortune on a Ferrari Testarossa, acquiring a second home overseas felt a smidge indulgent during the economic downturn. Getting caught red-handed with the deeds to a delightful beachfront villa in a paradise location was tantamount to daylight robbery when so many were struggling to keep hold of their home.
Now those who have been assiduously keeping their heads down for the past five years are back on the look-out for toothsome properties. But rather than starting a feeding frenzy on the established second-home markets of France, Spain and Italy, the new entrants have more adventurous ideas in mind. ‘While some people are focused on the more tried-and-tested markets, others are striking out and looking at places they would never have considered before,’ says James Price, a partner at estate agent Knight Frank’s international department.
An example is Miami, which was barely on the second-home map eight years ago. Back then, the word ‘Florida’ was practically synonymous with a villa on a golf resort in Orlando. Today’s buyers seek the panoramic sea views from Miami’s glistening beachfront skyscrapers and its dizzying urban swagger rather than anodyne lawns and the predictability of the golf clubhouse scene. And who can blame them?
Faena House, a 47-residence oceanfront scheme designed by Foster + Partners, offers one- to five-bedroom fully finished residences with magnificent sea views through floor-to-ceiling window-walls with sliding doors. And because it is operated by Ritz-Carlton Residences, owners will also benefit from five-star concierge services (prices start at £1.4m through Knight Frank; knightfrank.com).Alternatively, there’s One Thousand Museum – a landmark new development of 83 ultra-luxury apartments by Iraqi-British architect Zaha Hadid OBE with breathtaking views over Biscayne Bay (prices for a four-bedroom apartment start at £3m through Savills International; savills.com).
According to Joanna Leverett of Savills, the shift in the market towards further-flung locations is mainly due to the army of international buyers now entering the second-homes market, many of whom live and work in London. ‘We have a lot of international cash buyers right now – mostly European, plus Russians and South Americans, whose criteria of what constitutes a great lifestyle and what they want from a second home is different to your British buyer of old,’ she explains.
Leverett cites the Indian Ocean island of Mauritius which, despite being a 12-hour flight from the UK, benefits from only a three-hour time difference as well as tax benefits for those who become residents. Panama is another exotic location popular with buyers. Following the expansion of its canal, it has turned into a cultural hub dubbed ‘the New York of Latin America’ and had a higher GDP growth rate than China in the first half of 2013.
In the Caribbean, the less developed islands of Grenada and St Lucia are now marketing themselves as being more elite than the island of Barbados, which is perceived to have become a bit tainted by the package-holiday crowd. On the beautiful, mountainous island of St Lucia are The Residences at Sugar Beach – a collection of 42 three- to six-bedroom properties on the water’s edge with views of rainforests, mountains and the sea (prices start at £1.5m through Sotheby’s International Realty; sothebysrealty.com).
With the Winter Olympics spirit sweeping the nation, year-round activity-based resorts in scenic settings are also very much on the agenda, and especially popular with 30- and 40-somethings looking to spend quality time with a young family. The spiralling cost of chalets and overcrowding in traditional Alpine resorts means more discerning buyers are looking further afield. In particular, they are casting their eyes on Canada. Forest Lakes Country Club in Nova Scotia plans to become Atlantic Canada’s premier year-round resort. Offering luxury accommodation in a 1,000-acre site featuring extensive forests and lakes, it is surrounded by mountains (prices start at £285,000 for an apartment through Savills).
Closer to home, the number of overseas property purchases in Turkey rose by 78 per cent in the first half of 2013, with Istanbul leading
the way. ‘Large homes lining the Bosphorus are where the big money is right now,’ says James Price. ‘So are resorts linked to leading hotels.’
One such is LaVanta, a luxury development of 190 apartments and villas currently under construction on a hillside overlooking Kalkan – one of the most beautiful coastal spots in southwest Turkey. (Three-bedroom villas start at £180,000 through Savills.) Another is The Residences at Mandarin Oriental, at Paradise Bay in Bodrum, where 98 villas and 116 residences with breathtaking panoramic views are currently being built (with prices from £900,000, also through Savills).
The current vogue for buying residential property set within a scheme run by a leading hotel operator is partly responsible for buyers looking at the more out-of-the ordinary locations, according to Joanna Leverett. ‘It means home owners can play it reasonably safe in regions that might otherwise be a little too challenging.’ Marrakech, with its exotic medina and the drama of the Atlas Mountains is one example. Another is Kenya, where more adventurous British buyers can enjoy sun, sea and safari at Medina Palms, at Watamu, a luxurious oceanfront development (prices start at £215,000 through Knight Frank).
The current zeitgeist in the overseas property market is a long way from the ‘stack ’em high, sell ’em cheap’ culture that characterised the pre-recessionary days. Gone, too, are high-end estate agents’ breathless exhortations that you can be ‘door to door in under two hours’. Today’s discerning high-rollers now demand luxury homes in areas that are a tad more inaccessible to the hoi-polloi.