The best European countries to buy a vacation home: Spain, Italy, France

The Spanish town of Marbella, on the country’s south coast, is popular among overseas buyers.

Artur Debat | Moment | Getty Images

There are three European countries that are “perennial favorites” for people to buy a vacation home, according to Kate Everett-Allen, a partner at real estate firm Knight Frank.

France, Italy and Spain all have political stability, good governance and easy access to the mortgage market, factors that have helped these countries become popular with overseas buyers, she said.

It’s also easy for buyers to understand the real estate market via land registries that show how much properties have sold for, plus they deliver on “soft” factors such as attractive countryside, good food and appealing cities, Everett-Allen told CNBC via video call.

What to look for

Before you start your search, think about what you want from the property, Everett-Allen said. Are you planning to own your home for five to 10 years for family vacations and extended stays? Considering the rental income you want or need is also important.

The ability to rent out a home is critical. “With the higher mortgage cost environment, we’re seeing a lot more people want to rent the property … in a hassle-free way,” Everett-Allen said. “Digital nomad” visas were introduced in some countries post-pandemic, and these are attractive because often travelers renting homes want to stay for two or three months.

Also make sure you can get there when you want to. “Certain markets you can’t actually fly to in the winter months, so … are you going to be able to access it easily from your home location?” Everett-Allen said. There is also the “lock up and leave” factor for when you’re not staying in the home, so consider what local contacts you have who can help with maintenance or security when it’s empty.

People are spending more time than previously in their vacation homes, Everett-Allen said. “Before, [people] wanted to be able to drive from the airport to their home within an hour. Now we’re finding that they’re willing to travel that little bit further because they’re going to be spending a week at a time rather than a weekend in their home,” she told CNBC.

Rules around rentals using sites like Airbnb are worth checking. The Italian city of Florence, for example, banned new short-term lets via such platforms in October, while in Paris there is a 120-day limit on renting out properties.

For Brits specifically, Brexit means they can only spend 90 days out of 180 in Schengen-area countries (which includes France, Italy and Spain), otherwise a visa is likely to be required.


France is the world’s most-visited country, per the U.N.’s World Tourism Organization, and Provence and the Alps with their striking landscapes and plenty of space are both popular places to invest for northern European buyers, Everett-Allen said.

Post-pandemic, the Alps region has been popular for its outdoors lifestyle. “It just [ticks] all the boxes in terms of views, nature, space, opportunity to…

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