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Taking a shortcut - a simpler way to find and buy property abroad The prospect of their daughter leaving home to go to university coupled with hitting 40 were the deciding factors for professional couple Jan and Andy Pratt to re-evaluate their lives and take the decision to up sticks and make a life abroad. The couple had very successful careers in the UK; following a career in marketing working on world-famous brands such as Oxo, PG Tips and Fray Bentos Corned Beef, Andy was new business director for one of the largest advertising agencies in the north of England and Jan ran her own PR company. A management buyout gave Andy the chance to either stay involved long term or take the money and explore another lifestyle - he chose the latter. Andy: "I'd been in the industry for over 20 years; it was a wonderful but demanding career and it felt that the time had come to walk away." Andy sold his involvement in the business and Jan decided to wind up her consultancy. In a moment of wild abandonment Andy bought a Harley Davison motorbike but Jan had more ambitious plans. Jan: "The prospect of living overseas appealed for the relaxed lifestyle and of course the climate. Having holidayed on the island of Mallorca since 1994 we felt it was a good place to start. "We were young and daft enough to do it but old and wise enough to avoid the obvious pitfalls; if we didn't make the move then, we never would." However with nearly 800 estate agents on the island it wasn't as easy as they had imagined. Jan: "We had the luxury of time to find a home and spent months looking at dozens of properties, but it wasn't easy. As we couldn't find anyone to give us good and independent advice, we decided to rent a variety of potential homes - a Spanish finca - a farmhouse - an apartment within a golf complex and a villa to help clarify what would be ideal for us on a permanent basis." During this time they also toured around the island to get a feel of the best places to buy both for investment but also for amenities. Jan: "It's one thing holidaying somewhere and another deciding to invest a substantial amount of money and make a new life; there is so much more to take into consideration. Having done both we know the obstacles people face."Mallorca has become one of the brightest 'hot spots' in the Mediterranean for home buyers. Today the island is a magnet for the rich and famous - celebrity visitors and residents include Michael Douglas, Catherine Zeta Jones, Andrea Corr, Annie Lennox and Andrew Lloyd Webber; Bond-star Pierce Brosnan has bought a plot of land to build there.

The biggest and arguably most beautiful of the

Balearic islands, Mallorca has 311 days of sunshine a year and an average annual temperature of 15C, providing a wonderful blend of climate and culture. Jan: "We considered mainland Spain but loved the exclusiveness of Mallorca plus by virtue of it being an island, land will always be at a premium and there are planning restrictions to ensure it is not overdeveloped." With a budget of £220,000 Jan and Andy looked at over 40 properties before deciding on a villa in the pretty village of Calvia, on the south west of the island. A 15 minute drive from the capital city Palma and the airport, Calvia nestles in the foothills of the Tramuntuna Mountains with glorious views, nearby sandy beaches and wonderful bars and restaurants. The three bedroom villa had a glorious terrace overlooking a pool; the couple planted lavender and herbs nearby to be able to sit at sunset, catching the fragrances mixed with those from the nearby lemon groves, sipping chilled white wine whilst candles floated on the pool floating to provide an idyllic setting. The neighbours were very welcoming, giving Jan and Andy advice about the area and its traditions and delivering gifts including a big bag of fresh lemons that appeared one morning at their gate. The combination of Jan and Andy's difficulties in finding an ideal home plus Jan's knowledge of the property market - she had spent eighteen months with a hotel group's holiday ownership division and one of the island's largest estate agents - made the couple realise other British buyers would ideally need a shortcut to find their dream homes - so their bespoke home finding concept was born and Shortcuts was created. Andy: "From taking a detailed property brief we research the market, short listing only appropriate properties and present a portfolio from which clients can choose what they want to see; we collect them from the airport, make all the appointments, accompany them on viewings and provide guidance using our market and location knowledge to ensure it's the right place for them. "Basically Shortcuts is a simpler way to find and buy property abroad and because the £500 registration fee is fully refundable on purchase of a property, buyers therefore pay no more than had they done all the work themselves. As one client recently said: 'Why would anyone buy a property abroad without using Shortcuts?'" When Jan and Andy moved to Mallorca they decided to sell their home in Leeds working on the premise that if they left a UK base they wouldn't commit totally to their new lifestyle - something they later regretted. Andy: "Seeing how the UK property prices have risen in recent years made us think we should have rented it out. However our investments in Mallorca have been very successful - last year property here rose by 21% - so it wasn't a big regret and the advantage is that we put all our energy into making a life here, rather than sitting on the fence with a foot in each camp." Whilst life in Calvia was idyllic, their growing business and the need to be more accessible, made them decide to try city life. So Jan and Andy sold their property at Calvia and bought a duplex penthouse apartment on three floors of a grand palacio in the old part of Palma, ranked by Brussels as the fastest growing city in the EU.

Jan: "In effect we bought off plan as the developer hadn't yet started the complete reformation; we will have a three bedroom apartment with a rooftop terrace and terrific views of Palma bay and the Cathedral. "We are working alongside the developer to make sure the layout and finish is exactly to our needs and standards; we are renting in Palma to be close to the project and hope to move in by the end of this year." The purchase has proved a good investment - by completion the property will be worth more than 25% than what they paid. Mallorca is now highly sought-after with the entry level for property at £150,000 which will buy a two bedroom apartment; prices start from £350,000 for a three bedroom villa with a pool. The popular locations include the stunning village of Deia, home to the fabulous La Residencia Hotel and Andratx is a favourite for the British market. Palma is an area to watch; a sophisticated and cosmopolitan city, it offers the advantages of a superb marina, designer shopping - the streets are lined with shops from Caroline Herrera, Cartier, Prada and Loewe stunning architecture and sophisticated dining. Jan: "Portixol, home to the original tourist hotel from the 1960s, is also very up and coming. Just a 10 minute walk from central Palma and right on the coast, investment includes a big conference centre and new 5* hotel which will further fuel property prices." Following the success of their business in Mallorca, Jan and Andy have expanded their business; with a booming market -1.5 million Britons currently own homes overseas, a number which is forecast to increase by an extra 2.3 million by the year 2020 - Shortcuts now has offices in Costa Brava, Costa de La Luz, Ibiza and the Algarve with Minorca and other prime holiday areas being planned. Andy: "From deciding to change our lifestyle to take things easy, we are currently working almost every day; however our meetings are now by a pool or over an al fresco lunch rather than at a desk, so it's not too great a hardship!" Although busy, Jan and Andy make time to relax; they love the Santa Catalina area which has a multitude of restaurants to suit every taste; Palma boasts numerous superb eateries from rustic to minimalist, tapas to sushi, or simply fantastic fish right on the sea front. Whilst it can be a dream life that many only think about; to make it happen takes planning and research; Jan and Andy regularly check out properties for clients - from where the sun sets, what the privacy is like with next door neighbours and have even clambered over rocks to check that there were no hidden surprises and ensure it was a good investment. Jan: "We would urge people buying abroad to do their homework thoroughly and work with reputable English-speaking lawyers. Budget-wise allow 10% for transaction costs on quoted asking prices - legal fees, Notary fees and taxes - and think about all aspects of a property, see beyond the glamour of living abroad basking in the sunshine and think about facilities, location and if it's a 'buy to let', who your target market is and can you rent it sufficiently to cover the borrowing."

Jan and Andy regularly visit the UK to meet with clients but love their continental lifestyle: Jan: "We adore the quality of life here and although we are very busy, it's not the same pressure as in the UK, people make time for each other. "It's so laid back - Andy has forgotten how to tie a tie. There's no 'keeping up with the Jones' celebrities and locals eat side by side - we were having dinner in a marina restaurant last year and the King of Spain was a few tables away". "Plus of course it helps to have such a wonderful climate, beautiful beaches nearby and be part of a cosmopolitan culture." Andy recommends the lifestyle: "I cannot envisage giving up our home and our way of life; it is an idyllic existence." Shortcuts Property Search provides a free initial consultation; they can be contacted on 0034 651 984163 E-mail:

Andy and Jan Pratt founded Shortcuts Property Search to make finding and buying a property abroad simpler, easier and quicker as a result of their own experiences to buying in Spain. Shortcuts Property Search provides a free initial consultation; they can be contacted on 0034 651 984163 E-mail:

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A Simpler Way to Find and Buy Property Abroad - Shortcuts Property Search  

The prospect of their daughter leaving home to go to university coupled with hitting 40 were the deciding factors for professional couple Ja...