A Sterling Opportunity

22 April 2012 - The Sunday Times

Remember five years ago, when a pound bought you nearly 1.5 euros and holidaying in Europe seemed, now that we look back, cheap? Since then, it has been a long slog - in the dark days of early 2009, the two currencies came close to parity - with the eurozone almost bankrupting itself on the way. Little noticed by anyone outside the City, sterling has gradually been gaining ground over the past few months, and last week was just above the magical ¤1.20 level - a 7% improvement on this time last year.

Put another way, what might have cost you £1m three years ago would now be £830,000. "Anything at £1.20 or above is what buyers are happy with - and it's best not to be too greedy, as rates can quickly move against you and put your dream property out of reach," says Robin Haynes, managing director of Currency Index, a foreign exchange specialist.

Add in cuts in property prices, the result of continuing economic weakness in much of the eurozone, and this might just be the time to take the plunge.

British buyers appear to be returning, in part because of the stronger pound, says Linda Travella, director of the Italian property company Casa Travella. And you don't need to head to the traditionally cheaper southern regions to find bargains: Tuscany and the Lakes, the most popular spots for British buyers, may be more affordable than you realise.