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Home is where the sun shines; MORE BRITS ARE SWAPPING THE WINTER GLOOM FOR A NEW LIFE, WRITES SASHA MANSWORTH.

Byline: SASHA MANSWORTH

A STAGGERING 12.6 million of us visit Spain for a fun-filled break in the sun each year.

Sangria and tapas now command an equal place in our diet as Irn-bru and fish suppers.

But some of us, not content with a mere fortnight on the Med, want to make the move a permanent one.

Brits relocating to Spain have contributed to the 10 per cent rise in house sales over the past six months.

And the sunshine state of Florida and Cyprus are also rising in popularity for buyers seeking an overseas pad.

Cyprus is now home, or second home, to more than 60,000 Brits.

The number is on the increase and with just about six months left until Cyprus becomes a fully-fledged member of the European Union, more Brits are gearing up for a move.

A better lifestyle and climate, plus a strong pound, make living abroad an attractive option.

But how do you go about turning a dream of living in Spain, Cyprus or Florida into a reality?

It's vital to get the right legal and financial advice before you board the plane.

Buying a property in Spain makes smart money sense, with favourable interest rates and booming housing market making it a sound investment.

But as with any property purchase in Scotland or overseas there are extra costs. Expect to add around 10 per cent in local taxes, VAT (seven per cent) and solicitor's charges .

BUYING off-plan is a sound financial move as even before you set foot through the door, the property will have increased in value.

UK-based developer Taylor Woodrow de Espana operates in Spain and Mallorca.

Six of its developments have sprung up at resorts on the Costa Blanca, Costa del Sol and along the southern coast of Mallorca.

Its staff are based both in the UK and Spain to help buyers negotiate tricky legal and financial transactions.

And a directory of English-speaking mortgage advisors and solicitors based in the UK or near the Spanish developments are also on hand.

European sales and marketing manager Barbara Hibbert said: ``Our new residents are always amazed at how reliable the weather is, eventhrough January and February, and we get so little rain that it's almost impossible to buy an umbrella.

``We're seeing a year-on-year increase in the number of Brits who are literally seeing the light.''

Other Costa-based agents, such as Ocean Estates International, Parador and Atlas International offer inspection tours lasting up to five days for about pounds 90 to prospective buyers.

Closer to home, Eden Villas (0800 781 0821) will be holding seminars in Edinburgh on Thursday to highlight the benefits of owning property in Spain.

Spanish banks usually chargecommission for receiving funds, but UK-based Halifax can transfer customers' funds free to its Spanish partner, Banco Halifax Hispania.

If Spain is too close to home and you fancy something further afield, Florida is becoming increasingly popular with Scots.

There's a lack of a language barrier, miles of beaches and lots to keep the kids occupied after all, Disney World is on the doorstep.

If you can't face a long flight every time you feel like a trip home, Cyprus is just over four hours away.

It guarantees a healthy dose of winter sun, with Brits traditionallyflocking to the western side of the island. The first buyers are moving into the pounds 50m Aphrodite Hills development. For ex-pats who love to tee off, the luxurious five-star resort has an 18-hole golf course which opened last year.

Next spring will see the opening of a spa, along with shops, restaurants and an Inter Continental Resort hotel.

SCOTS looking to relocate may be attracted by Cyprus' sunshine record, but it also offers a cheap cost of living about 30 per cent lower than here.

If you choose to be taxed as a resident, any pension or investment income brought into the country will be taxed at just five per cent.

Capital may be brought in tax-free and, in the event of death, there is no estate duty payable.

Some buyers seeking an even better deal are snapping up homes in Northern Cyprus, but before handing over your savings, make sure you get expert advice about the area.

Tony Gane, of Headlands property consultancy, is receiving record numbers of enquiries about the area.

He said: ``Buyers think they can get a better deal, but the infrastructure just isn't there and in some areas there is no water or electricity. Many parts have suffered through lack of investment over the years.''

``Building techniques have moved on in recent years, and in Cyprus things can take time to sort out, so I would always advise buyers to be on the cautious side.''

CAPTION(S):

SPAIN; HOT STUFF: Spain has long been a favourite destination for British residents who decide to relocate to the sun; CYPRUS; CASHING IN: With EU membership looming, the property market in Cyprus is booming; FLORIDA; GO WEST : America is very popular with British ex-pats, as there is no language barrier and properties are often cheaper than in the UK
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Nov 11, 2003
Words:848
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