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Friday, 20 July, 2001, 08:48 GMT 09:48 UK
Low-cost airlines open up Europe
European beach
Expat communities are growing in new parts of Europe
By BBC News Online's consumer affairs reporter Sarah Toyne

The Prime Minster Tony Blair plans to travel on Easyjet, the low-cost airline, with his family on the last leg of their holiday this summer.

He will use the no-frills airline to travel to Nice in the south of France, following a couple of weeks in Mexico and four days in the West country.

But low-cost airlines are not only opening up Europe for the Blairs.

A growing number of cheap airlines, such as Buzz and Go, are flying to more obscure corners that are off the beaten track from traditional holiday destinations such as Tuscany and Marbella.

Buzz, for example, flies to Montpellier and Toulouse in southwest France and La Rochelle in the northwest.

Go flies to Alicante and Bilbao in Spain, whereas Buzz also flies to Jerez, Murcia and Gerona.

The flights can be cheap. For example, it only costs 40 one way to Bordeaux, or 70 to travel to Montpellier including taxes with Buzz.

More than a holiday

Hannah Chance of Abbey National, which has a European mortgage operation, says: "As a mortgage lender in Europe, we have seen that cheap flights and low-cost airlines are dictating where people are now buying."

So as areas like the south of France have become more accessible, places such as Brittany and Normandy have become less popular.

She says: "Why struggle over to Brittany on a ferry when you get to Nice on a plane, and more quickly?"

Property prices tend to be much cheaper in many of these areas than traditional tourist destination or expatriate enclaves, such as Tuscany and Marbella.

For example, you will probably get more for your money in places like Le Marche in Italy than in Tuscany.

A comparable four bedroom home in Tuscany could set you back about 200,000, which is 50,000 more expensive than in the Le Marche region.

In France, Buzz now flies to Bordeaux which is close to the Dordogne. A two bedroom flat is likely to be about 25,000 cheaper than in Nice.

Buying a home

There are countless horror stories about buying property abroad, but if you follow a few steps, you can avoid being caught out.

The first step is to identify a region where you wish to purchase your home. Make sure the region is accessible by plane or ferry and calculate how long it will take you to get there.

Remember that even though low-cost airlines may fly to places that are off the beaten track, some operate only in summer.

You may then find it takes you so long to get there in winter, that your bolt-hole will become a hassle and all the effort will have been wasted.

You should also remember that you may have to book well in advance if you want to secure the cheap seats that are quoted in advertisements.

Easyjet, for example, has a scale of prices for seats on its flights. You must book early to ensure you are not paying over the odds for your trip.

Several visits

Experts advise prospective buyers to visit the region several times before they decide to buy and to consult a variety of estate agents.

Italian town
Property in Italy tends to be much cheaper than in the UK
It is important to seek local advice about property prices in the region, to avoid being ripped off.

You should also find out if property prices have risen dramatically over recent years. If so, it may not be worth buying as your dream property may not hold its value.

Property prices have risen in many areas of Europe in recent months because of the introduction of the Euro.

People are putting their cash into property because they see it as a safer investment haven in the present climate.

Arranging finance

Arranging a mortgage for your foreign home is now easier - especially for people who are not fluent in the local language.

Several UK banks, such as Barclays, Abbey National, Norwich & Peterborough and Woolwich have European operations.

They also have contacts with local bilingual lawyers. Alternatively, the Law Society holds lists of lawyers specialising in European property.

Although property is generally much cheaper than in Britain, conveyancing is more expensive.

If you are buying in France, you should add between 10% and 15% on top of the property's price. In Italy and Spain, buyers should add 10% for additional taxes and charges.

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See also:

29 May 01 | Business
Cheap flights for travelling light
15 Nov 00 | Business
Low-cost airlines reach new heights
18 Jun 01 | Business
BA launches cut-price flights
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