In the mid 90’s Russians brought suitcases of cash to the Cote d’Azur and Monaco to buy property, but a decade later it’s the British – using conventional banking methods and with it a degree of respectability – who are investing in Europe’s top tax haven.
While the British have been players in the region for nearly two hundred years, with Nice just along the coast being a favourite resort of the genteel Victorian English – in recent years the British have held a presence in Monaco, but now they’re back in numbers not seen for over a century.
The new wave of British buyers is welcomed by Monaco real estate agents as their funds are more likely to be legitimately earned, while some of the 90’s Russian cash was often a little suspect.
‘Things have changed since the 90’s when the Russian mafia were the big players in town’, explains Roger Munns, Managing Director of Monaco property specialists Tribune Properties, ‘Then it was easy to put a few million cash down for a property and not have questions asked. In the last few years the banks have really tightened up due to government pressure because of the ‘war on terror’ and tracking money from illegitimate sources. Estate agents in Monaco know that the chances of a British buyer being able to show the source of their money as legitimate is very high’.
With quite ordinary one bedroom apartments at just under a million Euros, and a typical three bedroom apartment at over three million Euros, property prices have more than doubled in Monaco in the last ten years.
In the past Monaco property buyers have often been retired sixty-somethings, staying away from their home country to avoid the taxes that come with selling their business. But today’s Monaco buyer is just as likely to be in his mid thirties or forties as they are in their sixties, with the middle age British leading the way.
‘A few years ago around one in ten enquiries we were receiving were from the UK’, say Tribune, ‘but now it’s virtually four in ten – a significant shift in the nationality of Monte Carlo property buyers.
The buyers have often made their money from one of three sources. The traditional company owner with a bricks and mortar business who has sold up, but also younger entrepreneurs, some of whom have made money in e-commerce. A significant number of buyers from the UK have worked in the financial sector, invariably in the City of London. We see a lot of futures and commodity brokers who are on high million pound and more salaries with annual bonues to match.
Some British buyers continue to trade or run their businesses from Monaco. Nice Airport is a ten minute helicopter ride away, and the City of London can be just three hours away from their Monaco property with the right connections. With some clever accounting thrown in, today’s technology enables people to manage their UK business from Monaco in a tax free environment’.
Henri Boulanger of independent Monaco travel guide YourMonaco has also noticed more Brits on the streets of Monte Carlo.
‘The British have arrived in Monaco in numbers recently. The ones I have spoken to have recently sold their business or are on very high salaries with million pound and more annual bonuses. I would like to think they are coming here for the Monaco weather, but of course it is for the tax environment we offer – and of course the Monaco Grand Prix.’
In recent years the British economy has consistently been one of the strongest in Europe, and with a top rate of income tax cut a decade ago to forty per cent the wealthy have become wealthier – and want to stay that way.
‘Despite the top rate of tax coming down to forty per cent’, says Henri, ‘By the time other direct taxes such as National Insurance are taken into account around half of top earners salaries are – as many of the Monaco property buyers from Britain see it – being lost to the Inland Revenue. By moving to Monaco they effectively double their disposable income.
When you go to Monaco hotels and see a couple with estate agent details on the table and a map of Monte Carlo with various places highlighted, there’s an almost even chance that they will be British. A lot more than just a couple of years ago. They like Monaco, the security, the tax advantages and the closeness to London’.
Monte Carlo it seems likes the British too.
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