Brits beat the Winter blues and buy abroad

With over 1.2 million properties in France and Spain now

owned by Brits, research by the Virgin One account shows that

30 per cent of us would like to find a dream home abroad next year, compared with 26 per cent planning to exchange contracts on a property in the UK.

And as house prices continue to soar at rates not seen since the

peak of the '80s housing boom, buying overseas has never been so attractive.

Nearly 90 per cent of Virgin One account holders

are ahead of their mortgage repayment plan and more than ever

before are using the extra cash to buy a 'home from home' in the sun.

Guaranteeing year round sunshine, the most popular property hot spots on the continent, say experts, are still Spain and Portugal with the South of France and Sardinia fast becoming an alternative for those seeking a holiday or retirement home abroad.

One account research shows that people in the North-West are keener than the rest of the nation to buy abroad with 42 per cent planning to buy an overseas property in the New Year. People living in East Anglia and the South-West came a close second with 36 per cent, in each region, looking to purchase a second home in the sun within the next 12 months.

The Virgin One account's James Duffell said: "More and more people are looking to buy property abroad rather than the UK, as not only do they get better value for money but it acts as a sound investment for the future.

Buying overseas may seem a daunting prospect as buyers not only have to negotiate the language barrier but also have to find the financial resources to put down a deposit.

"The flexibility of the One account makes it very attractive to our customers as they have the freedom to put extra cash into their account as and when they have it, enabling them to pay off their mortgage early. Almost 90 per cent of our customers find they are ahead in their mortgage repayment plans and this

means they have the extra cash to put towards a second home abroad."

The Virgin One account has compiled the top ten tips for buying abroad:

1. Buy with your head and not your heart - a property with rustic charm and in need of 'some' renovation could become a bottomless money pit

2. Speak to other Brits who have bought in the area - they will know the pitfalls

3. Work out the journey plan to your dream home - weekend breaks may not be feasible

4. Make friends with the locals before you buy and get to know the area - you need to feel welcome and like the surroundings

5. Make sure your home has access to amenities - it's no good being miles from the nearest shop or beach if you have young children

6. Include legal fees, travel costs and repairs into your budget - you don't want to be hit with unexpected bills

7. Find a good, local lawyer who speaks English to represent you - foreign conveyancing contracts are just as complicated as ours

8. Remember your second home will be vacant for long periods - ask friendly neighbours to keep an eye out and make sure security is adequate

9. Visit your chosen location at different times of the year - a remote hamlet in a shady valley may be idyllic in the summer but cold and blustery in the winter

10. Learn the language - even if you only grasp a few words, locals will like the fact that you have made the effort