The lure of the sunshine has proved too much for many Britons, with more than half a million of them investing in second homes abroad, according to a new survey from Mintel, the market analysts.

According to the research, 41%of overseas property investments are made in Spain. France is the next most popular destination, where 32% of properties are bought, followed by other European countries, America, and the rest of the world.

84,000 Spanish homes, most with swimming pools and easy access to golf courses, were acquired by the British buyers between 2001 and 2003, claims Mintel. 65% of the buyers said they were attracted by the climate, while 45% said they wanted to spend more time outdoors, and 40% sought a cheaper cost of living.

Jack Hamilton, Managing Director of Parador, the firm that commissioned the research, told The Times: ?Owning a property abroad is no longer for the well off. It is an achievable goal for many people. Between 1998 and 2003 personal disposable income has risen by just over 23%.

?With house prices in Britain going through the roof, we all have more money in our pockets to spend on luxuries and investment purposes.?