Cas­tles in the air

To buy or not to buy when you’re on hol­i­day? Anna Tyzack hears both sides of the story

The Daily Telegraph - Property - - FLIGHTSOFF­ANCY -

Hands up if you’re a prop­erty fan­ta­sist who can’t re­sist a spot of light­hearted house-hunt­ing while on hol­i­day in Tus­cany or the Costa del Sol. “You’ve es­caped from your daily life and there’s a fan­tasy about never go­ing back,” says Jamie Jago, from Sav­ills, who found her­self por­ing over prop­erty brochures while on hol­i­day in Corn­wall last week. “You stand out­side an agent’s win­dow, see a pretty house and men­tally you’re plan­ning a new life.”

Fan­tasy buy­ers don’t set out to be time wasters. Over a two-week hol­i­day, they con­vince them­selves that if the right house comes along, they will buy it. Most peo­ple will wake from the dream on their re­turn home but a few sign on the dot­ted line be­fore they get on the plane.

“If you don’t do it while you’re there, you’re never go­ing to do it,” says prop­erty mag­nate Peter de Savary, who has bought 80 per cent of his homes when on hol­i­day.

Es­tate agents can spot fan­ta­sist buy­ers a mile off. “Most peo­ple who look at houses in Au­gust never buy,” says Mi­randa In­gram, a jour­nal­ist and es­tate agent in France. “They see some­thing and think ‘God, I could af­ford that’. They’re not re­ally se­ri­ous. Of­ten, when the sun comes out, they lose in­ter­est.”

But it is more than an agent’s ca­reer is worth to shun a fan­tasy buyer. “If you sus­pect some­one is a time waster and they turn out to be a gen­uine buyer, it can cause great of­fence and ul­ti­mately lose a sale,” says James McNab, of Sav­ills in Ed­in­burgh. “We have to han­dle tourists who are po­ten­tial pur­chasers very del­i­cately.”

In­deed, it is an es­tate agent’s duty to trans­form the fan­ta­sist into the gen­uine ar­ti­cle. Mar­i­anna Domeisen, of Fine & Coun­try in May­fair, preys on for­eign­ers in Lon­don. “We pick them up from their ho­tels with a driver and usu­ally end up giv­ing a run­ning com­men­tary of the area. If they re­ally are in the buy­ing mood, we are usu­ally able to find them some­thing suit­able.”

De Savary bought Sk­ibo Cas­tle, in Scot­land, while on hol­i­day with his wife, and trans­formed it into a lux­ury club, where Madonna mar­ried Guy Ritchie: “We went there to buy a paint­ing,” he says, “but we ended up buy­ing the cas­tle two hours later. When I got back home I said ‘what have I done?’ but it turned out to be a good in­vest­ment.”

Like­wise, re­cent hol­i­days in Gre­nada have prompted him to buy sev­eral prop­er­ties he “wouldn’t or­di­nar­ily have bought”. He is now sell­ing lux­ury beach­front homes at Mount Cin­na­mon (from £361,000 through Knight Frank: 020 7629 8171) as well as two private houses. Fan­ta­sist buy­ers, he says, are usu­ally en­tre­pre­neur­ial. “They al­ways have their eyes open for what­ever it might be — a won­der­ful house or some derelict land. They’re al­ways look­ing for an op­por­tu­nity.”

In­dus­try pro­fes­sion­als, how­ever, warn against buy­ing a sec­ond home while on hol­i­day. David Berke­ley, of Stacks Prop­erty Search, says: “It’s easy to spot the pos­i­tives but the neg­a­tives can be well masked, es­pe­cially when the sun is shin­ing. For most, it would make more sense to stay reg­u­larly in a ho­tel, or rent a prop­erty. Un­less you’re plan­ning to spend a huge amount of



3 time there, the fig­ures just don’t stack up.”

While agree­ing that this is “ex­cel­lent, sound ad­vice”, de Savary, who has made mil­lions through spur-of-the-mo­ment prop­erty pur­chases, be­lieves cer­tain trans­ac­tions can only be done in the “magic of the sit­u­a­tion”.

“Many peo­ple, in­clud­ing my­self, al­low emo­tion to over­rule the brain. It’s a roll of a dice but if the house is in a lovely area, the chances of los­ing money are low and you will cer­tainly have the plea­sure and en­joy­ment of it.”


De Savary is just back from a hol­i­day in Wy­oming and — guess what — he’s buy­ing a ranch. “I went to the Rock­ies and rafted down the rapids and went to a rodeo. In the next 36 months, I think prices there will go up 50 per cent. Mean­while I’ll have a lot of fun.”

A true prop­erty fan­ta­sist, he says, will dream of their hol­i­day home through­out the year. “They’re lovely to think about on the way to the of­fice. And I go to sleep think­ing about the hum­ming­birds at my home in Gre­nada — it’s so much bet­ter than a sleep­ing pill.”

Get real, get real es­tate: prop­erty mag­nate Peter de Savary added Sk­ibo Cas­tle to his col­lec­tion dur­ing a fleet­ing visit to Scot­land. Above right: one of the Gre­nada homes he is sell­ing

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