About Me

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London, Greater London, United Kingdom
My name is Laura and I'm an Overseas Property Consultant with Sunsplash Homes. I have worked with the Company since early 2006 and look after my clients by making sure the properties they buy are absolutely what they are looking for. My clients range from an investor looking for the best possible return on his/her money. To the retiree looking for a place in the sun (or hills), to the young family looking for a holiday home. Whatever you are looking for I can help you! I spend a great deal of my time travelling across the world looking at property developments, reading about property developments, studying property developments. Simply put I am obsessed by all things property related! As a bit of background, I spent 10 years practicing as a Solicitor before I moved into International Property. This experience has proved invaluable when it comes to reviewing property developments across the world. I will try as often as I can to write regularly on here; little snippets of my day here and there. All in all I hope this can be of some use to anyone looking to buy property anywhere in the world.

Tuesday, 23 June 2009

One (wo)mans recession = another (wo)mans opportunity.

I suspect I am, like a vast majority of the general public, sick to the back teeth (if you still have them) of hearing the ‘R’ word; “recession”, urgh, I hate the word. For months now I’ve kept my peace, told myself to ignore the doomsayers, kept my head down, got on with my work and kept a positive mindset.

But it’s happened again some poor unsuspecting sod mentions the ‘R’ word, utters something about a “falling market” and I can’t contain myself any more, if for nothing more than my own sanity I feel the urge to put pen to paper (or at least fingertips to keys) and put out a different perspective.

As far as I can see there are two parts to all of this;

1. Who says it’s a ‘global’ recession? and
2. Why does a recession have to be only bad news?

So, why is it was a “global” recession? What does the word “global” mean? I’ll tell you (‘cos I actually took the time and looked it up); it means “worldwide” or to put it another way; “embracing of the totality”. It doesn’t mean Europe and the US… it doesn’t mean only the wealthy established parts… It means the entire world!

I’m fed up of the arrogance of the (largely) Western world who proclaim it to be a “global” recession when they haven’t the slightest clue of what might be happening in other parts of the world. The world is a damn big place and to say that every single part of it is suffering financially is absurd!

Do a bit of research is what I say! It’s not that hard, analyse the facts about a country. Clearly as I work in overseas property this note will be angled towards the property market but the principles can apply to a number of markets.

Now I appreciate lowly little me might not carry much weight so here’s some quotes from some fairly authoritative figures and establishments to help persuade the doubters;

• Parts of the Caribbean are described as a “solid market” where investors can see good growth and excellent returns – Times Online and “Prices have not come down yet,” says Georgina Richards, of Knight Frank's Caribbean office.

Barbados is the premier spot for buying into a sporting estate and is the only Caribbean country to appear on Knight Frank's Prime International Residential Index, in twelfth place. British buyers regard it as safe, thanks to its familiar legislation, which is replicated in Antigua and Grenada – Times Online

• The Philippines has a “robust” economy “secure” rentals and “good yields” – www.moneyweek.com

Vietnam has seen prices “soar in 2007 and 2008” and “Sales continue to rise in 2009 with developers offering good discounts and good rental yields” - Times Online

• The emerging markets generate more than half the worlds economic growth and this continues to rise – www.moneyweek.com

Australia reported a growth of 0.4% in the first quarter of 2009 – Reuters.

Asia is seeing “booming business” with 90% of employers reporting they feel “very confident”

Brazil (part of the BRIC’s) reports a steady growth; “Very few places have not been affected by the downturn,” says Oliver Watson, regional managing director of international recruitment consultant Michael Page. “But if you are looking for an overseas opportunity, look for a sound gross domestic product [GDP, a country’s input and output] and an economy linked to natural resources. Brazil won’t see stellar growth over the next year, but it should be steady. It has an immature and developing market and isn’t exposed to the kind of debts that developed Western countries have suffered from.” The Independent

Malaysia and China are worth a look with advocates of the area, such as regional fund managers, noting that countries on this side of the world tend to have well-capitalised banks that fund lending the old-fashioned way, via deposits. Government debt levels in China are low – Times Online

Thailand has a “booming” tourism industry which has had a tremendous knock on effect the property market – Times Online

These are only a handful of countries across the world reporting successes but if we turn to my second point; who says the recession is all bad news anyway? It’s widely accepted that more entrepreneurs are borne during such times and the so called “global slowdown” can, in my humble opinion, be seen as a time of opportunity which opens up new markets and new possibilities.

What’s more, on a daily basis I am confronted by good reputable developers across the world who now, more than ever, are willing to bend over backwards to help my clients buy properties across the world. It’s exciting times indeed and there are numerous incentives popping up which include;

• Reduced deposits
• Developer assisted finance
• Rent before you buy schemes
• Price guarantees
• Weekend trials
• Part exchanges
• Guaranteed rental income
• Payments towards taxes, deposits etc

Gone are the days of arrogant developers greedily demanding the full 100% of a purchase price before they are willing to dig an inch of soil. Developers now are becoming more (dare I say it) ‘humble’ (gasp) and more willing than ever to consider a clients individual circumstances. Believe it or not, his tricky time is good for the overseas proeprty market, it's weeding out those unscrupulous builders taking advantage of those hoping to make a quick buck.

All of this is excellent news for the investor willing to step their toe in the overseas property market. It may be a cliché but that doesn’t make it any less true; now is truly a buyers market.

I can assure you that the cash rich keep quietly investing and will undoubtedly reap the rewards but it doesn’t have to be that way, we can all make sensible, profitable investments right now, if we are just willing to shift our mindset, do the research and make the most of the benefits of a recession (reduced taxes for one!)

Those who invest now will benefit from low entry prices which can be sold high once the big, bad R is over. There seems to be a psychological fear factor permeating our society which I for one am tired of. Recession is a state of mind so let’s change the mentality and look to the opportunities.

I'm clearly of the ‘glass half full’ variety but call it what you will, it's true what they say; one mans loss is certainly another mans gain…

Which one do YOU want to be?

Good luck!

Wednesday, 10 June 2009

Some emerging hotspots in Asia & S. America?

In recent weeks I've seen a dramatic rise in my clients interest in some very exciting countries. A large number of enquiries are for Asia in countries such as; Cambodia, Thailand, Philippines, Malaysia and Vietnam.

Another highly desired location is one which has been brewing in popularity for a while, the sun drenched South American land of the beautiful bronzed; Brazil.

Aside from recommending property deals, a large part of my job involves listening to my clients requests and putting together research on their preferred investment Country. That way a balanced and informed decision can be made. Because of this I am in the process of putting together some 'fast fact' guidelines for investing in each of these countries, if you'd like a copy please do email me.

In the meantime here's a little taster indicating why Brazil is shaping up to be more than simply a hot spot from which to view thongs and the Corcovado, one thing's for sure, it's a serious contender in the realms of overseas property investing.

Some fast facts on Brazil;

  • Tourism is one of their fastest growing industries
  • Tourism growth rose 20% in 2008
  • 90% of tourists are currently Brazilian
  • Brazil is the largest and most populated country in South America
  • Brazil is the 5th largest country in the world
  • They are politically stable
  • They are destined to have an enduring phase of economic growth and stability
  • Recent discoveries of oil and gas reinforces economic stability
  • 9th largest economy in the world
  • Have an emerging property market on the verge of a boom
  • International flights to Brazil have increased 13% p/a for the past 3 years
  • Well known as a popular destination amongst the Portuguese, Spanish, Italian & South Americans
  • A rapid tourist growth = huge demand for property
  • Brazil along with China, Russia and India form the BRIC's and will be one of the 5 largest economies in the world by 2050 (as estimated by Goldman Sachs)
  • Brazil is one of the world's largest exporters
  • They are one of the most tolerant countries towards other nationalities
  • Foreigners have the same rights of property purchase as nationals
  • Is the 11th most popular place in the world for UK and Irish investors

On a final note we currently have the following hot deals in Brazil;

  • Land plots in Ceara from £7,000 (payable in 3 instalments if required).
  • Land plots in Bahia region on a 5 * hotel for £30,000.
  • Hotel apartments in Bahia region with rental guarantees & finance from £50,000.
  • 2 bed apartments in Maracajau from £56,000.

If you are interested please don't hesitate to contact me for further details.

Friday, 5 June 2009

Life post house move ...

I've been a bit remiss about my blogging these past few weeks, due mostly to the house move to pastures green. The move went well although there was a moment of 'Mexican standoff' half way up the hallway stairs where (whilst precariously balancing a large sofa bed) I shouted "it WILL go up" and my other half replied "it WON'T". Needless to say it did, I was right, enough said!

So the home life is semi sorted (albeit with rubbish Internet connection, currently am relying on my dongle thingy - cant wait for the wifi to be connected next week) it was back to work with a vengeance. That's the rub with being self employed, when the work stops so does the income so all periods of absence from work have to carefully managed.

I had a pretty good week this week, my colleagues and I met a great developer building lovely developments on a golfing resort in Portugal. Provided the buyers can show the equivalent of 20% equity in some form of security such as cash, shares or equity on home then they can obtain near total finance with a modest outlay of only 3500 euros. Prices start at 135,000 euros. Looks good so far and is something I shall be looking into some more over the coming weeks. I've always liked Portugal.

Funnily enough the new home is opposite a golf course so I might have to take up the sport as a form of market research!

We have also been approached to market a stunning 5* apart-hotel complex in the South of France, three words can only describe this; stunning, stunning, stunning and definitely something a little bit different.

The rest of the week was filled with admin (snore), meeting clients (smile) and more admin (more snore). Oh, one thing I have discovered this week is a rather exciting skin care range called NuSkin, my friend Terry gave me an example of how it works. I am not the most technically minded but I think it works with electrical currents which run into the skin and make it feel 'alive'. I was told it boosts circulation and metabolism. Sounds good to me, yes my skin certainly did look a bit less wrinkled after the trial run although unfortunately I am now sporting a rather unsightly pimple on the cheek, the side effects of toxins being released I am told.

One things for sure, being in my new home has done me wonders. I feel more settled than have done in years, I go for little jogs round the green in the morning and am thoroughly enjoying the peace and tranquility. Home is certainly where the heart is. I can't help but think how lucky I am that homes across the world are also my livelihood!

Wednesday, 13 May 2009

Brazil – an amazing investment opportunity

I went on a training seminar yesterday with one of our top overseas property developers. They have recently sourced 1700 acres of land in the Bahia region of Brazil and are planning a top spec development. These are developers with whom we have worked for a few years. They build lovely developments which offer the investors superb return on their investment.

I am super excited about this new development so wanted to write a short blog on it asap.

It's a superb opportunity with prices starting from only £50,000.

The unique & exciting aspect of this development is that the properties can be bought with only a 30% deposit and unlike other developments in Brazil mortgages are provided for the remainder on completion. This means the properties can be bought with only £15,000.

Contact me by email on laura@sunsplashhomes.com today to arrange a no obligation meeting to discuss further.

Some FEATURES of the development are as follows;

 Stunning 5 star hotel complex of 1,700 acres.

 Hotel suites, residential areas & plots of land are all available.

 2km of beach front location – pure white unspoiled beaches.

 World class golf course, Equestrian centre, Tennis academy, Football academy

 Restaurants, cafe bars and swimming pools

Some FUNCTIONS of the development are as follows;

 50% below current market value

 10% rental guarantee for first 2 years

 Thereafter a 50/50 split on rental income

 Fully managed by top hotel chain

 100% developer assisted finance available

Some of the BENEFITS of this development are as follows;

 Good Capital growth potential from strong stable emerging market

 Superb rental return potential

(estimated at circa £15,000 per annum for a studio apartment post 2yr rental guarantee)

 Personal use for holidays of 30 days per annum

Sunday, 10 May 2009

Logic or instinct?

I've lived in London for almost 5 years now and in all that time I've lived centrally, in various flats all only a few minutes' walk to the nearest tube. My life has moved on in the past few years and as a result my need to live beside a tube station has lessened and my yearning for more green space has become more of a 'need' than a 'want'.

First came self employment (best thing I've done in YEARS). With that came the home office and loss of overbearing boss telling me to waste 2-3 hours a day travelling on torture trains packed with grumpy commuters equally annoyed at the huge waste of time that is commuting into central London. Then came the passing of the driving test (after 3 attempts!) and ensuing purchase of car (yey – this is where I become reminiscent of Mel Gibson in Braveheart and scream "FREEEEEDOMMMM" at the top of my lungs!) Then, last but not least, came the second cat, along with his mountains of fur!

After all three of these changes my need to have outdoor space was a burning yearning which came from deep within my soul.

As I wrote last week, I've been looking at some lovely little cottages in and around Barnet in North London. To me Barnet seems to have it all, it's within 30 minutes to central London (on those rare occasions the Northern line operates smoothly). It's a lovely little town with all the usual stuff such as shops, restaurants, nail bars (necessity for me as a nail biter), coffee shops, bars, etc, etc. However, for me the most important part is this; PARKS AND WALKS! Wow, who would have thought I'd been happily declaring that as my priority. Not me, must have something to do with the fact that I am nearing 40 (shhhhh!)

And so, I am happy to report that I've found my new home, it's in a very pretty area of Barnet called Hadley Green. Hadley Green is lovely, like a picture postcard really. My new house is directly opposite a golf course (might have to learn now), a big parks and even a duck pond! It has everything I need and is only minutes walk from some very nice shops and restaurants. More importantly the habitants of this street haven't had 3 murders in the past few months (unlike my current house) a nice bonus I think!

One thing which came as a surprise when I was house hunting was how, in the end, my choice came down to pure instinctive gut feeling rather than logic. I looked at about 10 different houses and cottages before I found the chosen one. They were all nice enough, had various pros and cons but I just couldn't decide. I took my boyfriend Marcus along to see some (he thought they were all "OK" – fairly non committal there). I took my sister along to see one, which at that stage had been the favourite. The instant she walked in she curled up her nose and said is "smelled funny" then proceeded to pick fault with almost every part of the place. Hmmm, okay maybe not.

Confused I decided to draw up a little 'points system' for the top 5. I graded each out of 5 on various factors such as location, number bedrooms, number receptions, size of the garden etc, etc. I felt very pleased with myself and happily wasted an entire afternoon tallying up the points. Still something didn't feel right though. Then out of the blue an agent at Andrews Lettings said he had the perfect house for me. He took me to the Hadley Green house, I walked in and hey presto.... points list out the window. It really didn't matter how far this house was from the shops, the tube or the boyfriend's house because (big shock) this house just FELT right.

I know to some this might seem natural but for me it was actually a bit of a shock. I've always prided myself on being logical. I weigh things up, I analyse, I calculate the best option and think, think, think – possibly till I drive myself mad. Maybe that's the realisation I needed to come to, sometimes you've just got to trust your instinct and let go of the so called 'logic'.

Now, has anyone got any boxes I could use?

Happy house hunting everybody! x

Tuesday, 28 April 2009

Here comes the Sun!

I suspect most of us feel our hearts lift with the lighter nights and warmer weather and I’m no exception, I love the seasons and while I love to play in the snow I am always very happy to see the sun peeking out from behind our clouds and the flowers bloom.

Last week was really good fun for me and I met some inspirational business associates. At Sunsplash we don’t believe in competitors but collaborators and so with that in mind I have been busy meeting with and signing up some excellent collaborators.

First, I met Lisa, a woman of amazing energy and focus. Lisa is the founder and Managing Director of Boodles Ltd, am award winning book-keeper service also offering training and software. Lisa was full of ideas and business opportunities and it was a privilege to spend time with her before she headed off to a photoshoot for yet another award she and her business had won!

After this meeting I met Kiran Singh Kiran is an interior designer, event planner and TV producer. She is one of those creative types who is quite literally brimming over with ideas. We had already decided that Kiran shall start to play a pivotal role within Sunsplash Media and TV but the purpose of our meeting was to plan ways in which she and I could work together. I left the meeting with a long ‘To Do’ list which included preparing advertising material for TV and radio, planning an event on 9th July and to start to write a monthly column for her online magazine ‘Vivacious’. I’ll keep you all posted on how these things ventures progress but it’s certainly an exciting time and I suspect Kiran and her huge energy and enthusiasm will keep me very busy over the coming months.

Next on the list was to review some properties which had recently become available in the Algarve and the Silver Coast of Portugal. I was very excited to hear that a list of stock was being made available to me via a new contact, most of which was being sold below market value. I wanted to check it out and make sure it was all that it seemed so arranged a meeting with the Company who had sourced the stock. I’m a great fan of Portugal and would love to live there one day. In fact we were out there in February and are planning a trip in July. For me it has an abundance of pros’ which include;
  1. close enough to the UK to commute back and forth,
  2. has great all year round weather,
  3. has a strong sense of its own culture and identity,
  4. is safe,
  5. is economical (you get a lot of property for your euro)
  6. has sound secure rentability
  7. is a ‘half way house’ between Europe and Brazil.

I could go on but in essence there think there are some great deals to be had and thanks to this meeting I now have a bank of great deals; villas starting from €200,000. Please contact me for further details on these Portugese bargains.

The week drew to a close with a Sunsplash Dinner party for colleagues, clients and friends. Every quarter we get together for a social where we enjoy some good food and wine. The weekend passed by in a whirl with me helping Marcus in his garden, it’s funny cos gardening always reminds me of the days as a kid when my Mum used to make me and my sisters sit for hours on end picking out weeds or collecting berries from the trees in the garden. As a child I hated it and thought it was the most boring thing ever to do in my spare time (imagine sulky child face complaining loudly!) Now I’m getting older (ahem) I realise I quite like gardening and living in my urban flat in central London I really miss the green space.

With that in mind I took some time out yesterday to view some lovely little garden cottages in High Barnet, still close enough to get into London in 30 minutes but more room for me and my cats to make a mess in and I even get my own bit of garden at the rear! Bliss!

I called a letting agent to let my own place out in North London and much to my amazement all day today prospective tenants were quite literally queuing up to view it. Before my flat had even been advertised for let the agent had found a tenant and it seems I am moving to greener parts in a few weeks. Much thanks have to go to Angels Worldwide, my letting agent for looking after me so well.

Now I REALLY can’t wait till the sun comes – let’s just hope it decides to stay this time!

Best wishes and great week to all, I’m off to find some packing boxes!


Sunday, 19 April 2009

Home is where the cats are!!!

I'm pleased to say this week has been very busy and productive. It was filled with all the usual stuff; meeting clients, signing contracts, helping my clients buy properties overseas, attending training course on developments (in particular some very exciting ones in Brazil & St Lucia, if you'd like some details on those please click here to contact me).

However, one thing I did this week which turned out really well was my "Buy a House – House Party". Bit of an unusual concept. Basically we'd become a bit tired of all the same old same old property seminars. There are so many property companies out there hiring hotel rooms, serving tepid tea and soggy biscuits that we thought we'd try something a little different. My view is that connections should come first, business after. By connections I mean 'real' connections, the type where you genuinely get to know a person and build trust and confidence in them and what they do.

So what we did was copy the age old format from the 'Tupperware Parties' (if you can remember those!?) The format is simple; invite some clients to my home, provide some nice food and drinks, have a SHORT presentation by one of our developers (plus a very knowledgeable pension advisor) and sit back and see what happens. Well what happened was a very enjoyable evening where we successfully managed to mix both business and pleasure. I had a great time and after some great feedback from those who came along will definitely be hosting these nights regularly.

Talking of parties, Sunsplash Homes are hosting a dinner for friends and clients in London on 24th April – if you would like to join us please click here to book your place.

Anyway, after a busy working week I was looking forward to a relaxing weekend and collecting my new cat; Eddie. Eddie was a stray cat I found a few weeks back. When I found him he was bashed and bruised after too many fights so after a few weeks of recuperation with the cat's protection league he was ready to be homed. When no owners came forward I couldn't help but want to take the little guy home to live with me. He is currently curled up asleep in my office – looking as if he's lived here for years!

This week the old adage "home is where the heart is" has certainly proved true, for both clients and cats!!! Until the next time have a great week!