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Laura Hamilton: 'There are some fantastic overseas mortgage rates right now'

We talk to the A Place In The Sun presenter about buying overseas property and the pros and cons of remortgaging a UK property to finance a holiday home

If you've ever watched A Place In The Sun, you're bound to have fantasised about buying a holiday home of your own. But where would you invest and how would you finance the purchase? 

We caught up with Laura Hamilton, a presenter on the popular TV show, to get her thoughts on the best areas to buy in right now, how Brexit is affecting the overseas property market, and remortgaging versus taking out an overseas mortgage.

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Video: financing overseas property and buying to let

We've compiled a few highlights from our chat with Laura in this four-minute video. You can read the full interview below.

What's your advice to someone considering buying an overseas property?
Visit the place you're interested in throughout the year, because some towns that are busy in the summer completely shut down in winter. Look at the flight routes, too - you might not be able to fly there at all in the winter months. Research, research, research.

Any tips for people who want to buy abroad and let the property out?
Again, you need to think carefully about location. Properties near golf courses will attract the golfing crowd in the winter months as well as holidaymakers in summer; these properties are more attractive year-round. People also need to consider how the property will be managed on a weekly basis. Companies that manage the entire process will charge about 20% of the rental income.

Has Brexit affected Brits buying property overseas?
I was filming A Place In The Sun with a couple in France when the EU referendum took place. As soon as the result was announced, the exchange rate changed so much that they couldn't afford the property we were showing them anymore.

But now, house-hunters aren't bothered about Brexit - they're more up for it than ever! We'll still be able to buy properties in Spain and France when we're not in the EU, we just might not have access to the things that we were privileged to before, like healthcare.

Up-and-coming areas

What are the most popular countries for Brits to invest in?
Spain is the number one for holiday homes, followed by France and Portugal. But when it comes to moving abroad permanently, it's France.

Any tips on up-and-coming hotspots?
A new airport has just opened in Murcia called Corvera. That part of Spain is experiencing a large amount of investment at the moment, and you generally get more for your money in Murcia and Alicante than further down the coast. I'm also hearing from more people wanting to buy in Bulgaria and Turkey.

Financing a holiday home: overseas mortgages vs remortgaging

What are the pros and cons of remortgaging your UK home to release cash for an overseas property?
Sticking with one mortgage means you know where you are with your monthly payments, plus being a cash buyer puts you in a stronger position to be able to negotiate on the property price. The only downside is that you've put all your money into that property rather than paying for it on a monthly basis.

How about overseas mortgages?
There are some fantastic mortgage products out there with very low rates right now. However, there can be more loopholes and paperwork to get in place, so it might be a longer process.

How did you finance your own holiday home?
We remortgaged in the UK and bought with cash. I like having one mortgage in one place.

Laura's own place in the sun

Where is your family's holiday home?
We've got a three-bedroom apartment in San Pedro de Alcantara, just outside Puerto Banus in southern Spain. It's really coming into its own now that the children are at school and holidays are becoming more expensive. I do love it, but working on the show I see so many other areas I'd like to buy in.

I was once filming in Morzine (France) and loved the area so much that I actually put an offer in on a chalet without telling my husband. I ended up pulling out though as we couldn't really afford it!

Do you have any other properties?

I own a coffee shop and deli in the UK and am currently selling another property that I own. We've also got a plot of land and I want to get planning permission to design and build a new house. I've done 16 renovations so far, but never built from the ground up.

When did you buy your first property?
I was 19 and working at a shopping channel. I got a 95% mortgage with three months' payslips - they were giving out mortgages willy nilly back then. A month after I bought it the shopping channel went bust and I lost my job. I moved back in with my parents and did the flat up. I eventually sold it to my brother at a discounted price to help him get on the property ladder.

Behind the scenes on A Place In The Sun

What are the challenges of working on location?
People that come on the show are always surprised at how many times we have to stop because of noise. When we go into a house to film, it might be 40°C outside, but the first thing we have to do is switch the air conditioning off because of the sound it makes.

Then of course there's the weather. It might be called A Place In The Sun but sometimes there'll be a freak downpour and we still have to film because we're working to a schedule.

Have you had any nightmare episodes?

We had one situation recently where someone wanted to put an offer in on a house. In the time it took us to set up the shot ready for me to call the agent, someone else had put an offer in and they lost the house. It was upsetting but the programme reflects reality - it goes to show that the market is still moving.

Is it safe to buy property overseas?
I think property in general is a gamble, you never know what's going to happen. We're telling people on A Place In The Sun that now is the time to buy; there are still bargains to be had.

I've always based it on a seven-year cycle: property will go up and then dip, go up again, dip again. I don't think there's really a way of safeguarding but you do have to be careful: when it's a buyer's market, buy, when it's a seller's market, sell. Play the game.

Laura Hamilton presents A Place in The Sun on Channel 4, alongside running her local coffee shop and deli Lord Roberts on The Green. For more information visit laurahamiltonofficial.com.