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Euro favourites set to score with property investors

As the Euro 2004 football tournament kicked off last weekend with 16 nations competing for the title of best in Europe, research by the Property Investor Show shows that the favourites are also heading the list of destinations for British property investors.

Current champions France head the top of the football list as the favourites for the title, a position reaffirmed after their last-minute victory over England on Sunday. However in the European property stakes, they are pipped at the post by Spain &#45 the Brazil of the overseas investment market.

Despite bursting on to the property scene in the 1980s, Spain has managed to hold on to first place as the most popular location for British property investors based on expected house price changes, rental yields and lifestyle, unlike their national team who are frequently touted as underperforming.

A recent survey by the Property Investor Show revealed that a third of overseas owners have property in the country and this week&#39s Property Investor Show North features no less than 18 exhibitors specialising in various areas, from the ever-popular Costa del Sol to the newer regions such as Costa Calida. Nick Clark, from the Property Investor Show says: “The Spanish property market is still going strong with more British homebuyers discovering it each year. There are still a lot of undiscovered areas and profits to be made.”

Other traditional destinations at the top of the list include France, Italy, and the host of Euro 2004, Portugal. Each of these countries has a long-established second-homes market and although property is not as much of a bargain as it once was, rental returns remain strong and the regions have a lot to offer.

The Czech Republic are the dark horses of Euro 2004 and the nation is in a similar position on the European property scene. Latvia and the Czech Republic were among the newcomers to the EU in May this year, opening up their property to a whole new market of investors. The popularity of Prague as a city-break destination bodes well for rental potential and canny investors who bought in a few years ago and are already seeing strong returns.

A similar story is likely for the next bunch of EU newcomers in 2007, which includes Euro 2004 participants Croatia and Bulgaria. The redevelopment in Sofia, the capital of Bulgaria, has led to several large financial institutions moving in including Deutsche Bank and Price Waterhouse Coopers. This development has sparked a strong corporate lettings market in the city fuelling the building of many apartment blocks. Hot prospect or not? The odds are favourable for buy-to-let investors.

Robert Jenkins of Bulgarian Dream, says: “The properties are easier to maintain, well located and have good rental potential. Additionally, apartments that are part of managed schemes have the security, maintenance and even the rents looked after for you meaning that it can be a totally &#39hands-off&#39 investment. A typical two-bedroom apartment in the centre of Sofia would set you back approximately 90,000-95,000 Euros. Price increases are around 15% per year, up to 20% in some areas.”

Back home in England, there is a strong faith in the national team, only slightly dampened by the disappointing result against the French. A similar belief exists in relation to the housing market. Although many believe house prices in some parts of the south east may have hit a top point, the buy-to-let market is still strong across the country. In addition, many areas in the north of the country are still seeing huge price increases, fuelled by further regeneration.

Nick Clark says: “It is well known that the majority of buy-to-let landlords have traditionally invested in the south of England, but the tide looks set to turn with almost two thirds expecting future investment hotspots to be in the North. Over 90% plan to expand their portfolios this year, and the Northern buy-to-let market looks set to remain very buoyant.”

The Property Investor Show North (18 &#45 20 June 2004, Manchester G-Mex) will feature a number of seminar speakers and exhibitors providing expert advice on buying, financing and managing property both in the UK and overseas. For more details or to book tickets, please visit www.propertyinvestor.co.uk.

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