Buying a Place Abroad – Processes of Recreational Property Acquisition

By Ulrika Åkerlund, Department of Geography and Economic History, Umeå University

Housing Studies (forthcoming)

DOI: 10.1080/02673037.2013.773584

This paper focus on international acquisition of recreational property, and focuses on the demand side as it examines the buyers’ behavior during the acquisition process. Property acquisition is understood as an integral part of the search for the ‘good life’, as it marks a claim to belonging in place as well as fulfilling prerequisites for enjoying access to benefits such as advantageous tax policies. The acquisition process is complex, and influenced by external structural frameworks as well as the individual aspirations and drivers of the buyer, why research has to be sensitive both towards structures and agency (Gallent and Tewdwr-Jones 2000; Benson 2012). Furthermore, property acquisition is a risky venture as it involves high-value assets and a degree of insecurity as property markets are volatile and structural frameworks are dynamic. It is impossible for buyers to form a perfect knowledge about available options and therefore, there is a need to allocate adequate resources, experience and knowledge in order to make rational choices. Property acquisition behavior has earlier been conceptualized in various models of consumer behavior (e.g. Kotler 1994); however, these models are not sophisticated enough to explain the multiple drivers and complexity of lifestyle- and leisure-led acquisitions, especially if they are international in scope. Therefore the objective of this paper is to conceptualize the property acquisition process in the context of international lifestyle mobility.

In this paper, the process of recreational property acquisition is explored, based on thematic analysis of in-depth interviews with Swedes in Malta, and the research questions are; a) What are the contextual frameworks faced by Swedish lifestyle movers in Malta? b) How are the movers influenced by mediators and contextual factors in the acquisition process? c) How can the process of international recreational property acquisition be conceptualized in this context?

Acquisition is found to be influenced by both internal drivers and motives, and external factors that are highly contextualized. This study explains the importance of the contextual frameworks and external influences on decision-making, and conceptualizes the process of international recreational property acquisition in an extended model comprising the stages of 1) needs recognition, 2) research and evaluation, and 3) decision-making and post-acquisition behavior. Within these stages are sub-stages that help the movers to interpret structures and arrange a strategy, such as product specification, contextual orientation, and relationship building with agents and social mediators. The findings illustrate the movers’ awareness of a strategy to make informed choices, and explain some of the ways they act in order to increase their contextual understanding of frameworks and space of choice.

The full article is available here.

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