Could Brexit signal the end of the road for second-home owners in Europe?

Living on a stunning Cyclades Island, in a sugar cube house with sweeping views of the Aegean Sea, was a dream come true for novelist David Young from Twickenham, when he settled on the Greek island of Syros several years ago. Like thousands of second-home owners in Greece – and elsewhere in Europe – however, David’s dream could turn into a nightmare on January 1, 2021 when Schengen rules, limiting the amount of time he can spend in his foreign bolthole, come into force.

“Like me, many Brits divide their lives between two countries, but after Brexit – unless they apply for full residency in the EU country where they’ve bought their property, pay taxes there, and lose their NHS provision back home – second-home owners will be limited to stays of a maximum of 90 days,” says David, who set up Facebook group 180 Days in Greece to help fellow Britons affected by the new regulations. 

With no flexibility for family illness, vital property maintenance or other emergencies, the 90/180 rule could also create major practical problems for second-home owners. In 2014, Stephen and Rosemary Moy from Kirstead near Norwich, spent £200,000 to have a house built on the island of Antiparos, where actor Tom Hanks has a second home.

“We have caring responsibilities for our elderly parents who are now in their nineties, so we can only be away for a certain amount of time each year. We usually travel out to Greece twice a year – via France, Switzerland and Italy – in our campervan but the journey takes us about eight days each way, which means that after Brexit we could only spend about eight weeks per year in our property,” they say.

Margaret Hibbit from Kidderminster, who bought and renovated a small stone house on the island of Crete in 1997, is also worried about the new visa rules. “Since my husband’s death I no longer live there full time, but I visit at least three times a year. Not being able to return for three months after spending 90 days in Crete causes great concern over maintaining my property, paying my bills and keeping it in good repair.” 

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