Hottest foreign second home markets for 2007
Here's where Americans will be turning to this year for second homes abroad.
NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- Americans have never taken much to living abroad, at least not to the same degree the British have. Some 5.5 million Brits, about 10 percent of that nation's total population, now live as expatriates, with 200,000 more every year.
The massive Brit presence in the heart of Tuscany's wine region has given it the nickname Chianti-shire.
For Americans, though, most other countries were too far away to tempt us. Some Yanks did buy second homes in Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean, but the majority were content to shop within the nation's borders.
Today foreign lands are drawing more Americans than ever. According to State Department estimates, some 6.6 million Americans live abroad, a larger number than the Brits claim, but, at 2.2 percent, still a smaller percentage of the U.S.'s total 300 million population.
There are many reasons for the big build up. More Americans work for multi-national companies, which often take them for long stints overseas. And foreign vacation travel is booming as well. This means a lot more exposure to other countries and cultures.
The big destinations for Americans to buy second homes abroad are still the usual suspects. In addition to Mexico, Canada and the Caribbean, there is increased buying activity in Western Europe and some newer markets, such as Costa Rica.
According to one expert, when Americans shop for a second home they're looking for rest and relaxation.
"They look at places where they can kick back, take off their shoes and settle in for a long time," says Tom Kelly, who has written a series of books about the ins and outs of buying in foreign markets, including, "Cashing In on a Second Home In Mexico."
Their location choices have always been affected by costs as well. In the past, cheap living have driven and sustained strong expatriate movements. Members of the "Lost Generation" in Paris during the 1920s, for example, were able to survive there on a song.
As he related in "A Moveable Feast," Hemingway, along with his wife and baby, managed to get by on about $5 a day then, and still go out to cafes, take ski trips and go fishing in Spain. Things were cheap.
That may not be as true as in the past, but the cost factor is still a major determinant of where a lot of Americans choose to buy.
So where are the prime up-and-coming markets for second home buyers?
Kelly says the top six hottest markets for 2007 will be The Bay Islands of Honduras, Belize, the South Coast of Mexico, Croatia, Turkey, and Panama.
We'll throw in one more. For years, spurred by such books as "A Year in Provence," Americans have been flocking south from Paris looking for that old stone farmstead house they could have tons of fun renovating. The added demand represented by a flood of foreign money has put the region beyond the budget of many second home buyers.
If, however, south-bound visitors make a sharp right turn at Avignon, they'll cross the Rhone into Languedoc-Roussillon region. It may not be as fashionable as Provence but it shares a similar climate, ambience and beauty. It's also less spoiled; the towns have a timeless provincial character harder to find in its better known neighbor.
Best of all, because there is less demand, property is generally cheaper - as much as 30 percent on average - than Provence.
It's nice when the bottom line can accommodate your heart's desire.