The hidden house price growth trap awaiting Brexit expat returnees

Around 785,000 Britons currently live in the EU, according to the Office for National Statistics. Of this total, just over a quarter are pensioners, drawn by sunnier weather, a lower cost of living and cheaper property prices. But has the spectre of Brexit ended this dream for many?

Concerns over dwindling funds in the face of a falling pound, the potential curbing of free healthcare, plus a desire to return to guaranteed NHS services were cited as factors for retirees returning to the UK in a study by the Migration Policy Institute.

Add to this the complications of registering for residency and services, and uncertainty over income – the Government has only promised to maintain a lucrative pensions lock for Britons in ­Europe for three years – and it makes sense for many to return to the UK.

But that’s not such an easy proposition for many Britons, particularly if they don’t own property in the UK. While many property markets in Britain have soared in the previous decades, the slow rate of house price growth across much of Europe means that returnees may lack the equity to get back on the ladder.

After 14 years of living the dream in their house in Brittany, northern France, Lilian and Roy Coughlin decided to return to the UK. But it wasn’t an easy move to make. “The French property market hadn’t done us any favours financially,” explains Lilian. “We thought downsizing would free up more cash for us to enjoy in our retirement, however in reality the pot was surprisingly small.”

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