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A house by the sea

Part of a series on where to invest in super-prime properties with a different theme each month, the series will add up to an essential guide to investing, from those in the know

The properties generally need to be expansive to allow for large families and staffing requirements, ideally with independent staffing accommodation.

It is surely the ultimate dream, and the greatest statement investment, after a superyacht or private jet: a waterfront villa in one of the world’s most exclusive spots. It may be a cliché but it is so for good reason – the Mediterranean is still the ultimate location for serious money. Popular with Hollywood stars, European royalty and the super-rich since the 1950s, there is still no place that can compete in the stakes for sheer style, elegance and panache.

But where to invest? Edward de Mallet Morgan, Associate, Super Prime Sales at Knight Frank, says the best investment advice is the same as it has always been – follow the money and stick to the tried and trusted. In the South of France, he points out, “Middle Eastern buyers are prevalent all along the Cote d’Azur from Cap Martin and Monaco to St Tropez, whether it is a significant waterfront property in Les Parcs de St Tropez, a big villa in the hills above Cannes, or a waterfront villa in Saint Jean Cap Ferrat.”

The properties generally need to be expansive to allow for large families and staffing requirements, ideally with independent staffing accommodation.

Spain has also been popular with owners form the Middle East, he goes on to say, particularly focussing on Marbella and Sotogrande, as they have some of the largest waterfront properties.

“The properties generally need to be expansive to allow for large families and staffing requirements, ideally with independent staffing accommodation,” says Morgan. “We have been involved with a property in the South of France where the family bought two houses that were connected underground.”

Are there any areas other than France and Sardinia that are attracting buzz among Middle Eastern buyers? Of course, says Morgan: “We are seeing interest in places like St Bart’s and Miami, and back in Europe, places like Ibiza. And, although not on the sea, but still waterfront, Middle Eastern clients have also owned property on Lake Geneva for many years.”

The old wisdom has it, then: Follow the money, and think location, location, location…

These are the hotspots, he says, where many of the main Middle Eastern families have owned for decades, and moreover bought at a time when they were the wealthiest buyers in the market. “As a result,” he adds, money became no object: “They were in a position to buy and now own some of the biggest and best located waterfront properties not just in France, but all around the Mediterranean.”

Looking in particular at buyers from the Middle East, as well as the Cote d’Azur and the South of France, where else is proving to be a big lure?

“Sardinia, and in particular the Aga Khan’s Costa Smeralda, is another place that has always been popular with buyers from the Middle East.”

Morgan explains that this popularity is only going to increase since Qatar Holding bought Smeralda Holding in 2012, meaning a strong Middle Eastern presence, with an attendant rise in sales. Owning waterfront property is often complemented by the lifestyle element of sailing, says Morgan, and you will often find wealthy Middle Eastern owners will have their superyachts close by to move around the Mediterranean, using the villas as a base.

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