A slightly dim woman here

Slam! That’s the sound of doors banging shut on my fantasies. I’d long dreamt of spending what I refer to euphemistically as “the next phase of my life” in a sun-splashed Mediterranean villa, feasting on a diet of olive oil, pasta and Campari, sending postcards to envious oldies stuck here. In this Somerset-Maugham-meets-The-Best-Exotic-Marigold-Hotel scenario, I would be tanned and lithe from swimming and tennis; and blissfully laid-back, my only concern the Vespas roaring beneath my balcony.

I nursed this dream so lovingly that the only question in my mind was whether I would plump for the Costa or Cortona. No more. First Spain, now Cyprus, have sunk into desperate straits; Italy looks as if it could go the way of its neighbours. The derailing of the southern economies has cheated tens of thousands of Britons of their investments, and millions of our dreams.

Crashing economies and falling property prices make your expat dream cheaper you fool.

You can get a two bed pied a terre a little inland from the Algarve (say, 12 km in) for maybe €60 k these days. That\’s a house BTW, not an apartment. €150k and up will buy you a three bed house w/garden.

48 comments on “A slightly dim woman here

  1. Unless she sold her house in the UK a couple of months ago, transferred E500k to a Bank of Cyprus current account and is currently staying in a small hotel whilst property searching in Cyprus then I can’t for the life of me think what on earth she is complaining about.

    The one think that Cyprus is going to be falling over itself to attract over the next few years is free-spending British retirees.

  2. Seeing as the dream life in the sun is heavily service sector dependant, the price of everything has just gone down massively.

    As a bonus, there will be less Russians as well.

  3. (Now it doesn’t like Euro symbols1 Sheesh!)

    Do I hear Tim’s sunk costs talking in that response? Anyone who’d spend 150k Eu on a 3bed on the Algarve’s barking. Let alone 65k on a two up two down village hovel.
    Get real. Portuguese can’t afford ‘em. Economy can’t support the prices. How many are actually changing hands or is it all dreams in estate agent’s windows? I wouldn’t rely on foreign buyers to support prices. Whole ballgame’s changed. Nothing to say, down the line, a future Portuguese government mightn’t ex-appropriate or slap heavy foreign ownership taxes on. Not sense doesn’t mean not done. This is governments we’re talking about.
    Upside’s going to be limited for a decade or more. Downside could be anything. Bad gamble.

  4. I don’t think the Telegraph haas been mocked enough for its Cyprus coverage. As Tim points out, there could be good opportunities there and elsewhere. But a few years ago, the DT was promoting Cyprus as a tax haven for retirees, and even they could avoid IHT by, inter alia, closing UK accounts:

    “Yet another enticing aspect of its tax regime is that Cyprus has no inheritance tax… To benefit from this, expatriates will have to prove they have completely severed all links with the UK to HM Revenue & Customs… It can take more than five years and involves closing down all accounts and selling all UK property…”

    For a couple of fun links, go here:

    http://flipchartfairytales.wordpress.com/2013/03/19/cyprus-depositors-have-got-off-lightly/

  5. @Luke “As Tim points out, there could be good opportunities there and elsewhere”

    I tend to the Bloke In Spain view. I think the downside is limitless, to the extent of ownership, and is quite likely to include eye-catching initiatives such as seizure of property to assuage local opinion, or swingeing taxes.

    At a lower level, I doubt robberies and burglaries of Shinsei’s free-spending British retirees will be investigated too hard by local cops who haven’t been paid for a month. They will probably be the ones doing the robbing.

    Despite the lunacy of it, people with cash are not going to go down well in the truly wrecked, semi-anarchistic shitholes that some European countries are going to become.

    I predict T Worstall Esq will come back to Bath before too many Brits head for the Algarve.

    Two things we have learned from this ongoing crisis:

    1) Politicians can be counted upon to do the wrong thing, especially if it helps save their hide (even if it’s a *very* short term save).

    2) Rabble-rousing leftists find fertile soil in a stupid, economically illiterate and essentially idle population.

  6. I would not be that tempted to invest my life savings (if I had any) in a country that had not been a stable country for that long. E.g. all those in Spain who thought they were buying nice plots on good developments who found they were built on landfill sites without permits. Or places without such a stable constitution where retrospection or tax attacks on “wealth” are common, e.g. France.

  7. Interested, I don’t really disagree with you or BIS on it being risky, and I’m not sure Tim does either. It’s just that it is better to buy something now, at, say

  8. “seizure of property”

    And what possible good would this do ?

    It would cause a complete collapse in property values as no foreigner would ever be stupid enough to buy a house there again. So the Cyrpus government ends up with a massive property portfolio of largely worthless two bed flats and small villas. To what end ?

    You might get some holiday rental income. But surely better to have 50,000 Brits (and however many Germans, Dutch etc) living in Cyprus permanently spending at shops, restaurants and golf clubs.

  9. @Shinsei1967
    You’re confusing the “government” of a country, a self serving entity currently notionally running it, with the people who have the misfortune to be living there.

    “It would cause a complete collapse in property values as no foreigner would ever be stupid enough to buy a house there again. So the Cyrpus government ends up with a massive property portfolio of largely worthless two bed flats and small villas. To what end ? ”

    To a Cypriot, that might be a feature not a bug. Families now cramped in two room apartments, if they’re lucky, get a decent place to live. Free (as far as they’re concerned.) Who cares about the foreigners taking the hit? What’s not to like?

  10. Bloke in Spain

    I admit I’m no expert on Cyprus but I wasn’t aware that there was a particular shortage of housing in Cyprus. Much like Spain I imagine there’s rather too much.

    And the Cypriot population is likely to fall as many of the young and mobile move to other countries to work.

  11. Shinsei, we could compile a list of very stupid and counter-productive things that politicians have done in order to satisfy the mob, but we will be here for a very long time.

    As a comparable, I’ve heard lots of British people, including politicians, say that they would love it if lots of wealthy people left the country because they are ‘leeches’ or whatever is the term du jour.

  12. Shinsei,

    When I was there last year there was no end of property available. But I can’t vouch for its quality or even price. Our friends did say it was an expensive market though.

    On qualioty, when we moved in to our flat in Platres the pipes froze on the first night – this was a flat built above the snow line to sea level specs with the pipes on the outside of the building. We also had horrendous problems with damp. I’m not convinced building regs have changed that much.

  13. The one think that Cyprus is going to be falling over itself to attract over the next few years is free-spending British retirees.

    And oilmen. :)

  14. As a bonus, there will be less Russians as well.

    There are never fewer Russians than before, in any holiday resort, anywhere. They keep coming, by the thousand.

  15. That’s the sound of doors banging shut on my fantasies.

    Most people’s fantasies are unrealistic anyway. When I sent the wife off to find us a place in Thailand, I had visions of a beachfront apartment with a balcony from which you could chuck stuff into the surf. She came back with the disturbing news that anywhere that close to the sea is rammed full of tourists partying until 3am; anywhere with a sea view is located 1km up a 45 degree hill which taxis will refuse to drive up; and although what I was after was available but would cost much the same as a flat in London and be equally overpriced. So we settled for a very nice apartment 1-2km back from the sea with a view of a jungled hill instead.

    Last weekend I poked my nose into an estate agents in La Tania in the French 3 Valleys alpine resort, and was not surprised to discover the “dream” chalets/apartments cost eye-watering sums of money and that to get somewhere reasonably priced would mean a nice place in a nice town with access to the slopes…but would fall far short of even wealthy people’s fantasies.

    I long ago learned to settle for “nice” instead of “fantastic” when it comes to…well, pretty much anything.

  16. I grew up in Australia five minutes walk away from as beautiful a beach as you can imagine, and there was a lovely sea view from the front balcony.

    Like most beachside towns in Australia in those days (1970s) it was working class and a little bit downmarket. (The posh places in Sydney were on the harbour rather than the beaches. Things have changed though now, and the beachside suburbs are full of rich people too). All this (together with the fairly common issue that having something as a child means that you won’t value it highly in later life) managed to cure me of any desire to live anywhere near a beach (or even to ever visit one) for the rest of my life, I think. I much prefer living in towns and cities.

    This is good, I think.

  17. Mr Newman,

    “I long ago learned to settle for “nice” instead of “fantastic” when it comes to…well, pretty much anything.”

    But you have always seemed such an optimistic unembittered type, not to mention a wealthy oilman. What hope for the rest of us?

    PS On Russians in holiday resorts – are there more of them (Russians) actually in the resorts, or do they (Russians) just own them?

  18. Sorry for OT

    Tim (Newman), re La Tania, have a look at Big White in Canada.

    You can currently pick up a 1600sq ft, 2 bed three bath ski in ski out townhome for 140k.
    Big White has something like 20ft of powder every year, the on piste is not that demanding or extensive (though there’s a lot of scope for development) but there’s some great off piste.

  19. Tim –

    “Slightly dim”? You must be joking. That woman is dim enough to be a man. A man named Ritchie. And as I wouldn’t be at all surprised if he was found running around Hyde Park in dress some day, it might be worth the while to check the true identity of this “woman”.

  20. ‘Describing Odone as “slightly dim” is akin to describing the Pope as “slightly Catholic”.’

    He’s a Jesuit, so …

  21. Michael, the Aussies I know – even the ones on the (formerly) remote seaside towns in QLD – tell me the price of beachfront properties is already eye-wateringly expensive and increasing month by month. I doubt many working class occupy beachfront property there now.

  22. But you have always seemed such an optimistic unembittered type, not to mention a wealthy oilman.

    Why, thanks!

    What hope for the rest of us?

    Of buying a dream place abroad? Not much, I’m afraid. I realised this a long time ago, but there are almost no “cheap” places left on earth any more. The days of being able to pick up a great holiday home at rock bottom prices have gone, and anywhere which appears to be a bargain is probably in a very unstable or unsafe place, or in a shoddy development. Maybe there are still some uncovered gems out there, but I’ve not stumbled across them and a overseas property is a hot topic amongst the expatriate oilfield.

    PS On Russians in holiday resorts – are there more of them (Russians) actually in the resorts, or do they (Russians) just own them?

    Almost all tourists. Russia still operates the old travel agency model offering all-inclusive package tours. This is how Russians like it, they don’t want to be shopping around for hours on the internet choosing airlines, hotels, transfers, excursions, etc. They want to walk into a shop and choose an entire holiday. The big Russian travel operators are enormous, dealing with thousands of tourists each week and hence have vast purchasing power. So one or two of them will “seize” upon a resort – say Patong in Phuket – and buy up hundreds upon hundreds of rooms in a deal with various local hotels, and set about selling them to Russians looking for a week or two in the sun. And this is how holiday resorts get swamped with Russians.

  23. I’ve long held to the theory that Odone is an character invented by male chauvinists to discredit women. It’s otherwise baffling as to why she gets paid for writing her airheaded drivel.

  24. Tim (Newman), re La Tania, have a look at Big White in Canada.

    Too remote, I’m afraid. I need to look in Europe because it is vaguely central to where I am likely to be based over the next 25 years. I have friends living in Calgary who are mad keen skiers, but they do lament that the place is just so damned far away from the rest of the world…

    Thanks anyway!

  25. Tim (Newman): Oh, absolutely. The only working class people there now are the ones who have owned their property for a long time.

    Of course, harbourfront property in Sydney is even more eyewateringly expensive than that.

  26. @Ian B
    Suggest you look at Odone’s career path on Wiki & work it out for yourself. One of our hereditary intelligentsia’s a fair approximation.

  27. Tim’s blog is fucked because the content encoding in HTTP and HTML are different. It’s serving UTF-8 but the server supplies this in the response: Content-Type: text/html; charset=iso-8859-1 (sometimes it’s Windows-1252). The HTML itself has a meta tag pledging UTF-8. The HTTP header overrides the meta tag. So when a form is submitted, it’s encoded wrong and the back-end, which is expecting UTF-8, falls over trying to parse it. Needs a web goblin to set the right Content-Type header.

  28. The blog comments problem appears to be a mismatch between what the server purports it to be (usually ISO-8859-1 or Windows-1252) and what it actually is (UTF-8).

  29. Hmm, first comment didn’t show up, then both did. It’s time for an old priest and a young priest.

  30. isn’t Christina Odone American?

    Has she been harbouring dreams of escaping the UK ever since she got here, or maybe even longer?!

  31. Shinsei1967 – “And what possible good would this do ? It would cause a complete collapse in property values as no foreigner would ever be stupid enough to buy a house there again. So the Cyrpus government ends up with a massive property portfolio of largely worthless two bed flats and small villas. To what end ?”

    Who knows? But governments are very short term. They do not care about what happens in ten years time if it saves them from hanging from a lamppost in ten hours time. It is amazing how often governments think that this sort of expropriation is a solution. Every Communist government has done it. No end of post-colonial countries have done it. Turkey did it with its own minorities.

    I am sure the Europeans will get around to it in the end. After all, the southern Europeans are not Germans. Not Swiss. Not even Swedes. They do not share that Protestant Northern European culture. Thus they will not behave as Protestant Northern Europeans even though said Northern Europeans have been training them to be more like the Swiss for 30 year or so. Culture is not destiny but it is very hard to escape.

  32. In reply to SMFS, and with the awareness that the following comment may be perceived as inflammatory-

    You blame the plight of the European hinterland on their not being “Protestant Northern Europeans”. This may be valid. There may be other explanations.

    However, if you are going to bring ethnic and religious culture into this, you need to look at the banking system culture. The problem you then find is the argument that it is neither Protestant nor Catholic nor Southern nor Northern European, but that it is dominated by Jews (Rothschilds, Goldmans, etc). Which you may recall was the justification for some Protestant Northern Europeans deciding to exterminate the Jews, to free Protestant Northern Europeans from “interest slavery” (and Jewish Bolshevism, the other side of the same coin. Apparently).

    In which case, one would be left with a curious argument that the only culture capable of surviving a financial system culturally derived from the Near East (the Jewish diaspora) is Northern European Protestants.

    That’s the problem with deriving all this from cultural and religious identity. My own theory (admittedly, derived from arguments made by mostly Jewish economists) is that the State/central banking system generates a bubble around the points where money enters the system (the central banks), impoverishing the hinterland, which thus requires either large money transfers by government to sustain that hinterland (“Soviet boroughs”) or those regions face economic ruin. In the UK, a single polity, the government can do that. But the Eurozone cannot do that. Hence, Germany (within the bubble, close to the money cannons, with optimal interest rates) prospers like England’s South East. Faraway countries in Southern Europe suffer, like the English regions and Scottishland.

    The above hypothesis is only my suggestion, but if it is correct, it at least suggests that we can fix the problem, rather than everyone not Protestant being doomed. Let alone the whole thing about having to blame it all on the Jews again.

    (Since I have my Nazi hat on, I’d be remiss not to mention that Ben Bernanke was only allowed to attend Harvard after his family was assured that “there are Jews there” and it would not risk diluting his cultural identity. Ben Bernanke runs the most powerful central bank in the world. He is neither Northern European nor Protestant).

  33. Regardless of the Deutsche centricity of the above argument (which is a fair point), regardless of ethnic origin, you can’t make Cypriot’s into Germans by waving a magic Euro wand.

    “I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe. Interest rates on fire off the shoulder of Cyprus. I watched optimism glitter in the dark near the European Central Bank. All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain. Time to default.”

  34. I don’t think she’s being that daft really. I agree that property prices are going to collapse in Cyprus (if they haven’t already), but buying real estate in a jurisdiction that has become an economic basket case is rarely a recipe for success.

  35. “but buying real estate in a jurisdiction that has become an economic basket case is rarely a recipe for success.”
    Buying real estate in an economic basket case was what the early buyers in Spain & a lot of other economically backwards countries did. Then benefit as the economy matures. It’s buying in places that are in the process of becoming basket cases that’s unwise. And I’m minded thats a description could cover most of Europe if things carry on the way they’re going.

  36. I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe. Interest rates on fire off the shoulder of Cyprus. I watched optimism glitter in the dark near the European Central Bank. All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain. Time to default.

    I love this. It delights my inner nerd beyond imagining.

  37. It delights my inner nerd beyond imagining.

    I spent an unproductive few minutes trying to imagine a character from the Troika as sympathetic as Roy. I failed miserably.

    And, of course, if Anastasiades had been hanging from a roof, would Merkel have grabbed him or laughed hysterically as he grabbed, slowly slipped and then fell?

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