More than two million people own a second home in Britain, according to new official figures. And ownership overseas is fast approaching the two million mark. The figures show five per cent of the adult population have a family home and at least one other property.
The study also showed that hundreds of thousands of Britons own property overseas – in fact two per cent of adults, 850,000, own land or property abroad. The most common locations are Spain, France and Florida.
The figures, compiled by the Office for National Statistics, reveal the huge amount of British wealth tied up in housing. But analysts warn they also show the risks homeowners face if there were to be a property crash.
The second homes are typically a country house for those who live in a city, or a town house for those living in the countryside, plus a rising number who own buy-to-let properties.
People living in the southeast are most likely to own a second home and are most likely to be professionals in their 40s, such as lawyers and doctors. Others are fortunate to have inherited a home from their parents or other relatives.
Most popular places to buy include Norfolk, Devon and Cornwall, which all attract families during the school holidays.
Despite the present turbulence in financial markets, insiders are confidently predicting that the trend will continue with the number of Britons owning a property overseas increasing to two million by 2025.
The survey says there are two typical types of second homeowners, pensioners who want to spend the winter overseas and wealthy Britons over the age of 45.
The reason for the massive increase in overseas property ownership has been the soaring prices of property in the UK which, in many cases, have been used to finance the purchase.
Since 1996, the price of the average British home has jumped from about £60,000 to £180,000. What has also helped fuel the interest in owning overseas is the phenomenal increase in cheap, no-frills airlines, making it affordable to visit France or Spain more often than the annual two-week summer break.
But the figures also highlight homeowners’ exposure to risk if property prices plunge. Most analysts in the UK expect prices to stagnate this year but some predict a five per cent fall in house prices this year, followed by an eight per cent drop in 2016.