Are Second Homes Losing Their Luxury Appeal?

Posted: 24th November 2016 09:22

Whether it’s a chalet in France, apartment on the Algarve or seaside retreat in Cornwall, it’s difficult to imagine a more luxurious option for a holiday than your very own second home. Buying a property in a desirable location and escaping there whenever you choose offers convenience, the chance to determine every detail of your vacations and complete privacy - all of which has undeniable appeal. This being said, the picture isn’t entirely rosy. With bad press, environmental concerns and the stress of home ownership, has some of the sheen been taken away from buying property to use as a holiday home?
Owning a second home creates plenty of advantages. Firstly, you have complete control over when, where and how your holidays will take place. It can also become a source of income, allowing you to rent out the property when it’s unoccupied. Given these plus sides, it’s not unusual for the very wealthy to own multiple homes (perhaps a party pad in the city, beach-side villa and countryside period property) that they can enjoy on a whim - but it could be that trends are changing.
Indications of this come with the news that even super-high-net-worth-individuals are eschewing home ownership and choosing instead to rent their luxury propertiesrather than buy. Furthermore, the emergence of property investment clubswhere people have access to luxury properties without directly owning them hints at changing tastes. So why are they making these decisions? Financial considerations such as the increase in stamp duty definitely plays a part, as do potential headaches of owning multiple properties, like unexpected costs or worries about maintenance. However, other factors are more subtle.
One such factor may be connected to the British seaside town of St Ives recently voting in favour of introducing restrictions on building houses that aren’t reserved for full-time residents, prompted by 25% of the local housing stock becoming holiday properties. With this came an increased awareness of the impact of second homes, in particular how they price locals out of their own home town. However, this isn’t the only issue. In places where second homes dominate, local businesses can suffer in the months where the property is empty, creating a ghost town effect where businesses close and no one actually lives in a holiday hot-spot full time.
There’s also environmental concerns. Surveys from booking.comsuggest that people are becoming ever more interested in sustainable travel, and these concerns could make people uncomfortable about buying a house that, although would be lovely, will be wastefully empty for much of the year. The most stark example of this is the Billionaires’ Row in London, where £350m worth of luxury property is left empty and steadily declining. Overdevelopment is another consequence when an area becomes a popular option for holiday homes, with areas in Portugal and Spain losing some of their original charm as developers seek profits from people’s desire for a place in the sun.
Of course, a second home will always be the best option for some. There’s also no denying that, while there may be some downsides, the effect of holiday homes is far from entirely negative - people buying second homes often rejuvenate declining towns, and it must be said that it’s the locals that sell to these individuals in the first place. Yet with changes in attitudes and aspirations, and increasing concern over the cultural and environmental impact of owning two (or even many) homes, they may lose their status as one of the most luxurious and desirable options for travel.