Selling a Place in the Sun – International Property Mediation as Production of Lifestyle Mobility

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

Anatolia: An International Journal of Tourism and Hospitality Research 23(2): 251-267

DOI: 10.1080/13032917.2012.687691

The phenomenon of temporary migration motivated by leisure values, has been observed in many places in the world during the last couple of decades, and may be positioned as a form of lifestyle mobility since it involves searching for ‘a better way of life’ (Benson & O’Reilly, 2009a), and includes elements of self-fulfillment (Cohen, 2011). The phenomena has gained much recent interest, both academically but also in public discourse, as evidenced in the proliferation of television shows, lifestyle magazines, and news media coverage of lifestyle-led relocation abroad. This paper focuses on the semi-permanent relocation of Swedes to warmer destinations in the Mediterranean and other regions, and explores the functions of international property mediation. Property mediation is understood as an important aspect of the production side of long-term lifestyle mobilities, as the holding of a property is often a prerequisite for enjoying entitlements, and an integral part of the ‘quality of life’ aspiration of the move. Furthermore, a correlation has been found between the flows of lifestyle mobilities and the dispersion of recreational properties in many destinations (e.g. Opacic 2009; Paris 2010). While property mediation has been noted as an important aspect of the decision to relocate, few studies have explicitly focused on the property sector in relation to international lifestyle-led mobility (see, for example Hoggart & Buller 1994, 1995; Müller 1999).

This paper is based on data collected from an observational field study at a major property exhibition specialized on international property mediation, combined with a questionnaire survey and interviews with property agents. The objectives are to; a) describe the organization of the international property sector, b) understand the mediating roles of property agents, and c) position property mediation as production of lifestyle mobility.

Property agents are understood to play a crucial role as intermediaries in the process of relocation abroad, influencing the purchaser’s decisions by combining instrumental, interactionary, communicative and social functions of mediation. Because of their superior expertise on property transaction procedures and regulations, area characteristics and contact networks, agents may influence buyers’ decisions; however this also depends on their skills in interpreting client expectations and experiences, and the ability of the client to manage the process themselves. In the production process of lifestyle mobility, property mediation can be understood as an intermediate output (Smith 1998), including elements such as showing property, defining search spaces, matchmaking, authorizing contracts, accessing a network of ancillary service agents, and mediating lifestyle values. As the intermediate output functions as the interface between buyers and the structural frameworks at the destination, property mediation is positioned as an integral part of the production of lifestyle mobility.

The full article is available here.

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