Chicken Little

We live in a world of Chicken Littles, whereby the reactions to the slightest events become magnified to outlandish and irrational proportions.

Mass shooting? Buy a gun.

On June 23, the UK voted to leave the European Union and the world has barely taken a breath from all the crazy it unleashed. Me? I take breaths. Reflexive panic is when mistakes happen.

Of course, there were different strategies needed for buying and selling real estate during the global recession. Regardless, panic served none well.

Sure there is opportunity outfoxing an ill-informed, reactionary mob, but within the topic of UK real estate, it’s doubtful any of us had a suitcase full of dollars ready to chuck at a property on June 24.

For the purposes of real estate, I’ll not comment on Brex-regret, hollow promises, and the current realities “Leave-ers” downplayed as inflated propaganda. Nor will I comment on “Leave” leaders now running for the door, including campaign ringmaster Nigel Farage.  They’ve chosen to “leave” their mess to others, being termed “rats off a sinking ship.”

As a second home buyer, there are only three indicators to be concerned with: property values, currency exchange rates, and mortgage interest rates. While currency and interest rates fluctuate by the second, property values are a slower, and in this case, more important target.


HomeAway Eiffel Tower

HomeAway’s Eiffel Tower apartment. All photos: HomeAway

If Paris is the city of love, then the Eiffel Tower is one of the most romantic landmarks in the world. Lots of people get engaged there, but what if you could do that, or renew your vows, in an Eiffel Tower apartment?

Vacation rental website HomeAway has partnered with architect Benoit Leleu to design a temporary and totally fabulous apartment inside the Eiffel Tower. They’re running a contest, called the HomeAway LoveAway sweepstakes, which ends tonight at midnight.

The winning couple will receive an all-expense paid trip to Paris, including four nights, June 30 through July 4, in a romantic HomeAway apartment in the heart of the city. On July 2, they’ll join other romantics at a party in HomeAway’s Eiffel Tower Apartment, which was built inside the tower as a temporary space for only one month. Kaitlyn Bristowe and fiancé Shawn Booth from ABC’s The Bachelorette are co-hosts with HomeAway and will celebrate their engagement at the LoveAway event.

This is the first time in history the tower has had an apartment built inside and it’s marvelous!


9,000 square foot whole floor at One Park Lane is yours for £62 million

9,000 square foot whole floor at One Park Lane is yours for £62 million

Previously, I wrote about a dip occurring in the London property market.  Now let’s explore how an American goes about buying property in the U.K.  The rules are the same for London, and your interests may lie in other (cheaper) parts of the kingdom.

Unlike property in Bermuda, foreigners are able to buy any property in the U.K. However, buyers seeking a mortgage from a local bank may be in for a shock as expats are sometimes asked for a 40 percent down payment.


Riad Pic 1

Morocco can be quite reasonably-priced for Western residents, and the city of Marrakech is as good a place as any to have a second home. I just returned from my first international mission for, scoping out the real estate scene in Marrakech. (OK, so I embellish. I’d already planned a vacation and did some investigating on the local real estate)

Marrakech is an interesting place, and Morocco is a bit of a mix with everyone who was anyone having invaded over the past 1,000 years. There were the native Berbers, then came the Phoenicians, Romans, Moors, Turks and most recently the Spanish and French who only left in the 1950s (the French left their language).

There is a certain faded Moorish charm peering out between the third-world chic of everyday Marrakech. I admit being fearful of Marrakech being like “tip-y” Egypt, where everyone, including airport security, wanted a tip (because my bag miraculously appeared on the other end of the X-Ray machine – true story). It’s not. Aside from the souk merchants and their hard sell haggling, it was pretty stress-free for a first-world resident visiting a third-world country.

But nor is it the Marrakech of the over-romanticized 1940s Casablanca film (Sam played it again in a different city for a start), nor the swinging 1960’s “Marrakech Express” of Yves Saint Laurent’s jet set hippy crowd.

Minaret of the Koutoubia Mosque, built 1190AD

Minaret of the Koutoubia Mosque, built 1190AD

No, the Marrakech of today is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It’s also seeing a building boom resulting from King Mohammed IV’s goal of doubling tourism by 2020. Building boom? Yes, Marrakech has more cranes than Dallas these days, albeit shorter ones (the city is not tall). I would hazard a guess that the old city is all two and three stories with no building taller than four stories (unless it’s a mosque minaret).

Much of the building consists of new hotels, golf courses and second homes for foreigners. Morocco, it seems, is turning into a North African Scottsdale or Boca Raton for aging Europeans. But it’s not all new…

If you’re looking for a second or third shelter, there are two types of homes available in Marrakech for differing buyers.


Photo: Beauchamp Estates

Photo: Beauchamp Estates

There are certain fantasies that seem to be nearly universal, running away to a tropical island, living in a penthouse in a major city, and yes, moving to Italy to a beautiful old estate and making wine.


Here’s your chance. This estate is just a couple of kilometers from the unbelievably charming Tuscan village of Panzano in the Chianti Hills which just happens to be located midway between Florence and Sienna on the via Chiantigiana.  The estate is primely situated within the finest vineyards of Chianti Classico and the historical estate of Le Masse di Greve. What could be more perfect than a stone farmhouse on 13 hectares (32 acres) with a hilltop position that allows you to survey the rolling hills of vineyards and properties that have existed in a mostly undisturbed state for centuries?


Tourism is up in Hawaii, which is a very good sign for Hawaiian real estate. The number one reason buyers purchase a vacation home in any location is because they love it. It goes like this: visit the location, love it, feel like you never want to leave. This is the point where buyers start perusing the real estate and actually, finally, pulling out the checkbook.

According to the Wall Street Journal, tourists’ spending on Hawaiian vacations over the first nine months of the 2012 rose 20% from a year earlier to $9.59 billion, or so says the Hawaii Tourism Authority. If this rate keeps up, spending could reach $13.89 billion for the year, topping the record of $12.63 billion in 2006.

Yes, I said 2006 — the good old days. Count this as more proof that luxury ain’t dead and the rich are spending, well, more than ever.

Now comes a beautiful resort and spa on Maui that offers home ownership in paradise for the first time in 25 years, Honua Kai. All condominium residences in this resort on the famed Ka’anapali Beach are full ownership. They are located on nearly forty acres of the world’s seriously most beautiful beachfront on Maui beach.

And you can see why buyers are getting out their checkbooks: the properties, in HAWAII mind you, are priced from the low $500,000’s to $3,813,900. They range from 580 to over 2,715 square feet. Some of the lanais alone (open, breezy patios) are 3,200 square feet.

My fingers are feeling itchy already: the resort features 628 full-ownership condominium homes situated in two buildings – Hokulani and Konea. A beachfront condo like this in Hawaii for $500,000? 

And get this: almost 72% have closed to date. Bought. Gone. From July 2011 to June 2012 Honua Kai saw a 68% increase in home sales, with 85 purchased homes. In July alone seven juicy sales worth over $6 million closed. That could be because Honua is offering a “Stay & Play” opportunity for resort guests who fall in love with the resort and decide to buy a vacation home. They get a vacation stay for free, which I am definitely going to check out for us, as in, all of us who crave vaca homes.

The homes are studios, one, two or three bedroom homes with open floor plans; some have dramatic ocean views, others take in the mountains. Sizes range from 580 to over 2,715 square feet.

I can live in 580 square feet in paradise, can’t you? Plus I would guess these homes have tenants beating the surf down to lease.

Here’s the deal: According to the Wall Street Journal, more visitors are going to Hawaii. Visitor arrivals in August were up 10% from a year earlier, which should make the final tally for 2012 about  7.89 million. That’s 6.3% higher than in 2011. Where are they coming from?  Japan, folks there looking to escape all the natural disasters they’ve suffered. Guess who is making up the fastest-growing group of visitors: Chinese.

But more Americans are coming, too. The WSJ quoted a flight attendant who said he decided to splurge and come to Hawaii again FINALLY after three recession-era vacas in Mexico. Is this guy just feeling flush or is he scared to death of Mexico. I vote for number two: you couldn’t get me back to Acapulco for a million bucks… well…  maybe for a million. But seriously, it’s Cabo or “Nogo” to anywhere in Mexico right now. Everyone wanting sun and beach goes to Costa Rica and now, once again, the real paradise, Hawaii.

Hang on folks, because I will be kicking the tires out there very soon.  I’ve been to Maui, Molokai and Lanai. I am returning. These homes appear to be stunningly finished out (look at that ogee-edged granite!), but do not worry for a minute, I will check. Here’s the million dollar plus view: West Maui mountains, Kaanapali North Beach, and Molokai and Lanai.

A million dollar plus view for $500,000? In Maui? Honua Kai, I am heading your way…



More private planes from Mexico flew into San Antonio in 2010 in the biggest jump since the city was authorized to clear immigration for international travelers, and this means cha ching for housing sales in the Alamo City. That’s why I am kissing this plane.

Preliminary data from the city’s Aviation Department shows that almost 4,000 Mexican-owned private aircraft cleared customs at San Antonio International Airport last year, a 52 percent jump from 2009 and almost double the number from 2008.

San Antonio officials say the booming private air traffic is largely due to an increase in cross-border business and a rise in the number of people who own second homes in the Alamo City, according to the San Antonio Express-News.

In 2008, San Antonio received permanent port of entry status from U.S. Customs and Border Protection, so private aircraft from Mexico can clear customs in San Antonio rather than having to stop at another checkpoint in, say, Houston or Dallas..

The increase is good business news for San Antonio, and Jose Luis Garcia, the aviation department’s marketing manager, says this goes beyond shopping.

“They have second homes here or are looking to buy homes here,” said Garcia. “It’s a tremendous opportunity. We need to keep working on developing it because other cities are doing it too.”

30 people who resembled the likes of these chaps were thrown out of a palatial home on The Bishops Avenue in Hampstead, one of Britain’s most expensive streets. They had been squatting in the former home of of a London TV director that is now on the market. British squatters apparently now use the internet for tips on how to make an empty, secured home squatter-friendly, thanks to a site called  Advisory Service For Squatters.

In the U.K. you can apparently take up residence in an empty property if the home is not secured. Not sure if you must cover the taxes, as well, but this might be one super economical way to find a second home.