The enforced Covid-19 lockdown has generated a surge in enquiries for professionals looking to relocate abroad but continue working for the same employer. They have enjoyed the freedom of working from home, have demonstrated to their bosses that their location is irrelevant to the continuing success of the business, and are now scanning the horizon to mix work and pleasure by selling up and buying abroad.
“I have been getting enquiries each day from people looking for a mortgage to buy their dream home in sunnier climes” says Simon Conn, Overseas Mortgage Broker. “There is an increasing number of people planning to continue working for their existing UK employer, but basing themselves in their dream destination.”
In a recent survey, 66% of Brits living abroad in the EU are of working age (16-64 years old) and there are currently over five million Britons living overseas. These numbers have risen since the EU referendum in 2016 which has galvanised people into action. Simon believes this is because “property costs are often much lower, the standard of living is good, and the stress levels of the daily commute are banished forever.”
While countries like Spain, France and Germany are the top pics for British expats, there are Brits living all over the world.
Has lockdown accelerated plans to move abroad?
Peter Robinson, CEO of The Association of International Property Professionals (AIPP), said: “It is an undeniable fact that many of us have used periods of lockdown and enforced absences from office life to totally rethink how we live and how we want to live in the future.
“It is not hard to imagine working remotely from somewhere highly desirable in the Mediterranean area and just Zooming when needs-be.”
The government guidance for England was that if you can work from home, you should. As of August 1st, it is now up to companies to decide who needs to physically be in the workplace, but many are still choosing to work from home.
Similarly, Meyrick Green, Account Manager for Strategic Partnerships for Moneycorp, said his company altered its at-home working structure before lockdown. “Our company adapted to working from home very quickly, in fact we were set-up with a home office before lockdown commenced,” he explained.
“Over the last few months colleagues of mine have been able to work from home whenever they are in the country. With borders beginning to reopen and travel resuming, some have been able to escape to warmer shores and have been allowed to continue working there, whilst getting out of the country.”
With the recent pandemic, people have begun to reassess their lives and have fast-forwarded plans to move abroad.
What do the agents say?
Alistair Lockhart, Director at FrenchEntrée Property, explains a surge in searches from a slightly younger demographic looking for properties close to international airports with direct flights back to the UK.
“We don’t ask the age of our prospective buyers – as unless they are applying for a mortgage it isn’t relevant,” Alistair said. “However, it certainly feels like a lot of the enquiries are coming from a slightly younger demographic than the usual band of 30-40-year-old buyers with families.”
“The appeal of being able to potentially work remotely from a country they have been dreaming about, whilst maintaining their UK salaries, must be hugely appealing,” he added.
Purchasing a property overseas can be daunting, especially when exchange rates are always changing. Moneycorp’s Meyrick explained: “The value of the pound against other currencies has decreased in recent years, and because of this we are seeing more enquiries from clients asking how they can make the most out of the exchange rate.”
“When it comes to buying an overseas property, I would always advocate speaking to as many specialists as possible. Currency exchange is just one of many specialist services that you can take advantage of.”
Additionally, France is an ever-popular destination for expats as it offers easy travel routes from the UK. French Entrée’s Alistair shared: “Our network of estate agents covers most of the popular areas of France, but I would definitely note a marked increase in property searches in Normandy and Brittany from UK buyers – more than normal. This could be due to the relative ease of getting back to the UK for commuting/family purposes.”