Written by Richard Way,
Last Modified: 10th October 2019

Decisions, decisions! Where to buy abroad? It’s hard enough to choose a country, then you have to decide on town or country, how close to the beach, resort or in the local community… It’s enough to make you want to take a siesta!  

Once you’ve chosen an area of Spain, France, Italy, the USA or anywhere else, the next question is which sort of neighbourhood you’d like for your dream home. Here’s a guide to the typical localities you’re likely to come across.

Choosing where to buy abroad

The world is your oyster!

Beachfront and main strip

The staple of the holiday home market is all about being as close as possible to the main beach and promenade (or ‘strip’). Front-line (i.e. directly overlooking the seafront) is usually the most sought-after and expensive spot. You’ll pay a little less to be two or three lines or five-minute walk off the front. Apartments are typical in this type of location, due to demand and density of development.

Ideal for: Holiday homeowners, especially young couples and groups, who enjoy days on the beach, a good night out and hanging out in crowds during high season.

Pros: No need for a car here. You’re within walking distance of everything, including the beach, shops and nightlife. These properties are very lettable to holidaymakers.

Cons: In the more touristy resorts, it’s simply too busy, too noisy and too over-built for many people, especially those seeking a peaceful retirement!

Family/expat urbanisations

Most larger resorts have neighbourhoods or specific communities more suited to residential living or families who prefer to holiday in peaceful surroundings. These tend to be away from the busy seafront and resort centre, often a short drive from the beach, perhaps in an elevated position over-looking the resort. And don’t rule out communities in peripheral villages – these can be the ideal compromise between achieving a slower, more traditional lifestyle while still being close to the fun of a beach resort.
There’ll be a mix of low-rise apartment blocks, townhouses and detached villas, often with shared pools and communal areas. Usually there’ll be a few small commercial areas within walking distance, perhaps a couple of bars, a restaurant and small supermarket.

Ideal for: Resident expats, especially retirees, older second homeowners and families.

Pros: Quieter, less crowded environment, with less traffic. Not so high-rise or built up as the beachfront. Usually cheaper and better choice of property than the seafront.

Cons: Fewer amenities within walking distance and usually too far to walk to the beach, especially in the hot summer months. Can be quiet out of season.

Properties are usually cheaper per square metre than on a tourist development and the older houses are full of character.

Deep in the old town

Coastal resorts, certainly in Europe, usually began life as a fishing village, before growing into tourist destinations in the second half of the 20th Century. The original village and its harbour may well survive, albeit surrounded by the expansive newer developments geared towards foreign buyers. These old towns are picturesque, full of character and are where the local population tend to live. As such they are usually the administrative centre of the resort, home to the town hall, police, banks and other essential amenities, not to mention more traditional restaurants. Compared to the expat areas, the lifestyle is more authentic.

Ideal for: Cultural types who enjoy the buzz of a local community and are keen become a part of it!

Pros: Properties are usually cheaper per square metre than a modern place on a tourist development, and the older houses are full of character. Again, no car required as you should have every amenity on your doorstep. Having a local population means there is life there all year-round too and you’re likely to learn the local lingo quicker!

Cons: Properties are older, less practical and require more maintenance. Streets tend to be very narrow with restricted parking, so not ideal if you do want a car. Access to a pool is unlikely.

Out in the sticks

Is the dream to live the good life in the countryside, gazing peacefully across your rolling vineyard or olive groves, a million miles from the hustle and bustle of a crowded beachfront? Refurbed farmhouses or rustic villas are typical of this type of location, a key attraction being the land that comes with them and just how far your money goes inland. You might be a five-minute drive from even the most basic amenities located in your nearest village, never mind the coast.

Your money goes along way in rural areas, so rather than an apartment you could own at a detached villa or farmhouse.

Ideal for: Adventurous middle-aged nature-lovers who value tranquillity and pretty natural scenery over a lively social scene. Those who want a project, rather than a lock-up-and-leave holiday pad.

Pros: Your money goes along way in rural inland areas, so rather than a two-bed apartment or townhouse near the beach, you could be looking at a detached villa or farmhouse. Day-to-day living costs are typically cheaper than tourist hot spots too, notably eat and drinking out. You’ll never be disturbed by partying youths or screeching mopeds.

Cons: However romantic it seems at first, being in the countryside can get lonely, inconvenient and especially for younger ones, it can soon become boring. Needing a car to get anything or go anywhere can be impractical and get frustrating, especially for older people.



About The Author

Richard Way

Richard Way has been an influential and independent voice on all aspects of buying overseas property for over 15 years. He was editor of A Place In The Sun magazine, has edited books on buying in Spain, is a regular on the panel at Your Overseas Home, has appeared on the BBC and helped the Foreign and Commonwealth Office on expat matters. Richard is a property owner on the Costa Brava, Spain, and in Puglia.

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