Where to invest abroad

It had to happen – Bulgaria finally seems to be losing its appeal. It looks like the once much-heralded new investment opportunity will be posting drastic losses in its next annual property price report. Anybody sensible who invested in property in Bulgaria pulled out long ago, taking their profits with them, but the less informed may be left with their brand new buy-to-let holiday flats in Europe’s ‘latest ski destination’ spiralling down in value, and practically un-sellable. This is looking like a worrying trend in emerging markets during the current downturn, and it’s the wise buyer who stuck to tried and tested markets who will come out of it best in the end.

Unfortunately in a global downturn new markets are the ones which suffer. Of course, it’s been a different story in the past few years: when money is flowing freely and profits are soaring it’s fun to look a little further afield and everybody’s on the hunt for the next big thing. It’s an entertaining game, and it leads investors all over the world in search of the newest unspoiled ‘paradise’, but in reality these bubbles quickly burst as confidence in untested markets evaporates.

And currently in these untested markets we see developers who masterminded major projects with huge amounts of unsold stock on their hands and nobody willing to buy. Bulgaria is only the most obvious example close to home (with the complete halt of all residential construction in the Ukraine as the most extreme), but experts are also looking with interest to see how the UAE handles the slowdown. The pace of building in Dubai has the fastest in history, but whether it can continue, and indeed whether demand will support prices remains to be seen, although the state has pledged to support ongoing work there. Similarly Thailand and India are both working on incentives for investors to ensure development continues as planned. I’d imagine many developers with new projects heralded by countless travel and property pieces as the new place to go – Cape Verde for example – are tiring of waiting for the phone to ring.

On the other hand prices in areas where supply will never meet demand are some of the best places to invest capital in the current climate, according to most experts. Paris, although it may be experiencing slight falls (as is London), will always be buoyed by undersupply, as well as the unstoppable flow of rich east coast Americans paying the obligatory pre-college visit.

Similarly the Cote d’Azur and Monaco remain in high demand, as do Portugal, Italy, and the very top end in Spain – the Balearics, Marbella and Sotogrande.  The Caribbean is also holding up well: classic island retreats In Barbados, St Lucia and Grenada have managed to maintain their appeal, while exclusive developments are also attracting lots of interest from super-rich cash buyers.

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There are also investors and second-home buyers looking for bargains in the US, mostly taking advantage of the weak dollar while they still can, but the message at the moment seems to be stick to the tried and tested, and avoid new builds in new destinations: the bottom line is that in this sort of climate your house may never be built at all.