Selling a place in the sun: International property mediation as production of lifestyle mobility

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Buying property abroad is not a new phenomenon, but academic research into the complexities of international property mediation is underdeveloped. This paper adopts a wide perspective on lifestyle-driven mobilities, including the semi-permanent
  This article was downloaded by: [Ulrika Åkerlund]On: 26 May 2012, At: 09:37Publisher: RoutledgeInforma Ltd Registered in England and Wales Registered Number: 1072954 Registeredoffice: Mortimer House, 37-41 Mortimer Street, London W1T 3JH, UK Anatolia: An International Journal ofTourism and Hospitality Research Publication details, including instructions for authors andsubscription information: Selling a place in the sun: Internationalproperty mediation as production oflifestyle mobility Ulrika Åkerlund aa  Department of Geography and Economic History, UmeåUniversity, S-901 87, Umeå, SwedenAvailable online: 25 May 2012 To cite this article:  Ulrika Åkerlund (2012): Selling a place in the sun: International propertymediation as production of lifestyle mobility, Anatolia: An International Journal of Tourism andHospitality Research, DOI:10.1080/13032917.2012.687691 To link to this article: PLEASE SCROLL DOWN FOR ARTICLEFull terms and conditions of use: article may be used for research, teaching, and private study purposes. Anysubstantial or systematic reproduction, redistribution, reselling, loan, sub-licensing,systematic supply, or distribution in any form to anyone is expressly forbidden.The publisher does not give any warranty express or implied or make any representationthat the contents will be complete or accurate or up to date. The accuracy of anyinstructions, formulae, and drug doses should be independently verified with primarysources. The publisher shall not be liable for any loss, actions, claims, proceedings,demand, or costs or damages whatsoever or howsoever caused arising directly orindirectly in connection with or arising out of the use of this material.  Selling a place in the sun: International property mediation asproduction of lifestyle mobility Ulrika A˚kerlund*  Department of Geography and Economic History, Umea˚  University, S-901 87 Umea˚  , Sweden (  Received 4 January 2012; final version received 16 April 2012 )Buying property abroad is not a new phenomenon, but academic research into thecomplexities of international property mediation is underdeveloped. This paper adoptsa wide perspective on lifestyle-driven mobilities, including the semi-permanentrelocation of Swedes to warmer destinations in the Mediterranean and other regions,and explores the functions of international property mediation. On the basis of datagathered from interviews with property agents, the objectives are to describe theorganization of the international property sector, to understand the mediating roles of property agents, and position property mediation as production of lifestyle mobility.Property agents are understood to play a crucial role as intermediaries, influencing theclient’s decisions by combining instrumental, interactionary, communicative,and social functions of mediation. Because of their superior expertise on propertytransaction procedures and regulations, area characteristics and contact networks,agents may influence clients’ decisions; however this also depends on their skills ininterpreting client expectations and experiences, and the ability of the client to managethe process themselves. Keywords:  lifestyle mobility; multiple dwelling; property mediation; internationalmigration; intermediaries Introduction Since the late 1950s, personal leisure-based mobility has grown remarkably fast(Bramwell, 2004), and is facilitated by a number of factors. These include increasinginterconnectedness, flexible labour markets (O’Reilly, 2007), and the growing numbersof elderly with maintained good health and affluent personal economy (Warnes, 2004).Furthermore, with the proliferation of magazines and television shows promoting lifestylemigration (for example,  A Place in the Sun , UK Channel 4) and the growing supply of foreign properties on the market, the popularity of acquiring property abroad is growing.The phenomenon of temporary migration, motivated by leisure values, has been observedin many places in the world, and may be positioned as a form of lifestyle mobility since itinvolves searching for “a better way of life” (Benson & O’Reilly, 2009), and includeselements of self-fulfilment (Cohen, 2009). Property acquisition is a complex process and,as will be argued in this paper, agents within the sector act in various ways as mediatorsinfluencing clients’ decisions.The roles of agents in promoting and mediating property acquisition have to date onlybeen touched on briefly, with the exception of Hoggart and Buller (1994), who studied the ISSN 1303-2917 print/ISSN 2156-6909 online q 2012 Taylor & Francis *Email:  Anatolia – An International Journal of Tourism and Hospitality Research iFirst article, 2012, 1–17    D  o  w  n   l  o  a   d  e   d   b  y   [   U   l  r   i   k  aÅ   k  e  r   l  u  n   d   ]  a   t   0   9  :   3   7   2   6   M  a  y   2   0   1   2  roles of property “gatekeepers”. Research in this sub-field is lacking, and the organizationof the sector and the agents’ roles are still to be more thoroughly explored. Subsequently,thispaperfocusesonthefollowing:(1)theorganizationoftheinternationalpropertysector;(2) the mediator roles of the agents; and (3) property mediation as a producer of lifestylemobility. While not claiming to provide a full account of the global property market, thisstudy presents a snapshot of properties mediated on the Swedish market at selected pointsbetween 2006 and 2010. The study is explorative with a qualitative approach, aiming tocapture variations within the sector and understand its functions rather than quantify them.Data for the study have been drawn from a set of interviews with agents in the propertysector, observations on a major exhibition specialized in promoting internationalproperties, and collected information from property listings on major real estate websitesand promotional material. The analysis is further supported by a questionnaire survey withproperty agents.Findings in earlier studies show that a significant number of foreign property ownersuse their properties seasonally, and that ownership is motivated by warmer climate, arelaxed lifestyle and recreation. This type of mobility has been variously termed asamenity migration, retirement migration, multiple dwelling, second-home tourism, andresidential tourism (e.g. Breuer, 2005; Geoffroy & Sibley, 2007; King, Warnes, &Williams, 2000; Moss, 2006). However, the variation in the sector is great, making itnecessary to develop a more inclusive terminology. As Benson and O’Reilly (2009)perceive, the wish to be able to engage in a certain lifestyle is a major motivation, and thisphenomenon is termed as “lifestyle migration”. In the present framework, the preferredterminology is rather lifestyle mobility to better grasp the full continuum betweentemporary mobility and permanent migration. Lifestyle mobility may, naturally, occurwithin one country as well as across borders, yet here international mobility is of interest.Giventhe,inmanyaspects,complicatedprocessofpropertyacquisition,combinedwithhigh value and risk, it is probable that property agents play an important role in the process.Indeed, Mu¨ller (1999) found that among German second-home owners in south-eastSweden, about three-quarters had employed an agent. The importance of agents was alsonoted by Opacic (2009), who suggested that the increased numbers of agents involved intourism,aswellastheincreasednumbersofrealestateagencieschannellingpropertyoffersto foreign demand are main factors of the internationalization of the second-homephenomenon in Croatia during the past two decades. Considering the international sector,where nation-specific legal and property procedures as well as linguistic and culturaldifferencesfurthercomplicatetheprocess,theinvolvementofmediatorsisfurtherpromoted.However, as in production of tourism experiences, the clients acquiring properties are alsothemselves participating in the production of their lifestyle mobility experiences. The needforinvolvement of mediatorsmay varydependingon the capabilityandpersonality traitsof the clients. Division of tourists into a psychographic continuum as given by Plog (1974),ranging from the adventurous allocentrics to the anxious psychocentrics, has relevance inthis aspect.The article is structured as follows: first, theoretical points of departure and a literaturereview give a backdrop to the field of lifestyle mobility and the complexities of international property mediation. Research approach and methods are then discussedbefore turning to explore the international property sector as promoted in Sweden. Theorganization of the property sector and conditions for property mediation are explored, aswell as the mediating activities of agents. Finally, property mediation is placed within thetourism production system, where lifestyle mobility is understood as an extension of tourism mobility, and mediation as part of producing lifestyle mobility.2  U. A˚ kerlund     D  o  w  n   l  o  a   d  e   d   b  y   [   U   l  r   i   k  aÅ   k  e  r   l  u  n   d   ]  a   t   0   9  :   3   7   2   6   M  a  y   2   0   1   2  Literature review  Lifestyle-driven mobilities Structures in residential patterns have traditionally been explored within the fields of migration and population studies (e.g. Castles & Miller, 2003), however, the phenomenonof second homes and multiple dwelling has also raised the interest of tourism researchers.Regarding the international market, the contributions have thus far focused mainly ondistribution of second homes (e.g. Barke, 1991; Casado-Dı´az, Kaiser, & Warnes, 2004;Hogan & Steinnes, 1993; Williams, King, Warnes, & Patterson, 2000), impacts(e.g. Dı´az Orueta & Loure´s, 2006; Gosnell & Abrams, 2009), integration within the hostcommunity (e.g. Haug, Dann, & Mehmetoglu, 2007), and motivators for second-homeownership (e.g. Rodrı´guez, Fe´rnandez-Mayoralas, & Rojo, 1998). In 2002, Hall andWilliams bemoaned the lack of focus on linkages to tourism mobilities within the widerperspective of mobility, and especially within studies of the migration experience. Typesof mobility undertaken by people by choice, voluntarily and driven by lifestyle values suchas self-realization, relaxation and recreation, extraordinary experiences or health haveattracted the interest of researchers for some decades now. These mobilities includeshort-term mobility, such as day tripping, short stays or weekend stays; medium-rangemobility such as different variations of tourist trips; and long-term or permanent mobilitysuch as second-home tourism, multiple dwelling and other types of semi-, or permanentlifestyle migration. During the past decade, scholars have begun to connect thesemobilities and conceptualize linkages between them (e.g. Benson & O’Reilly, 2009;Hall & Mu¨ller, 2004; Hall & Williams, 2002; Paris, 2011), yet there have beensurprisingly little consensus about the definitions of such mobility.Recently, however, the need for a wider conceptualization of lifestyle-drivenmobilities has been acknowledged, and the concept of lifestyle mobility is emerging(e.g. Duncan, Cohen, & Thulemark, 2012). The concept offers a framework (Figure 1)where types of lifestyle mobilities are placed on a continuum of time classified by durationof mobility. Through this framework, intersections between tourism mobilities, multipledwelling, and lifestyle migration may be explored.Through this framework, it is possible to see similarities between these mobilities,for example drivers and motivations, and also more importantly the mode of production.Smith (1998), among others, questioned the classification of a tourist industry from ademand-sideperspectivewheredriversandcharacteristicsofclientsaredefinitionalfactors. TemporalPermanentTourismmobilitiesMultipledwellingLifestyle mobilityLifestylemigration Figure 1. The lifestyle mobility framework.  Anatolia – An International Journal of Tourism and Hospitality Research  3    D  o  w  n   l  o  a   d  e   d   b  y   [   U   l  r   i   k  aÅ   k  e  r   l  u  n   d   ]  a   t   0   9  :   3   7   2   6   M  a  y   2   0   1   2  Instead, he suggested a general production process for the generic tourism product; thetourism experience. This production process includes primary and intermediate inputs;consisting of physical resources, labour, and facilities, and intermediate and final outputs;consisting of services, hospitality, and the involvement of clients. The co-productionperformed by clients is considered a key feature of the tourism production process, andplaces the consumer asanintegralpartofthe productionofthe experience. As we shall see,thisproductionmodelcanalsobeappliedtothewiderperspectiveofproductionoflifestylemobilityexperiences,andpropertymediationcaneasilybeintegratedwithintheproductionprocess. Looking at the supply side, Buhalis (2001) noted that the primary functions of distributing tourism are information, combination, marketing, and travel arrangements.These functions are organized in a distribution system where different agents contributewithoneorarangeofelementstoproducethefinalproduct.Inpropertymediation,elementsof evaluating, inspecting and showing property, arranging legal requirements, andauthorizing transactions are added to the distribution system. The international property sector A rather large body of literature concerns property acquisition on an international scale.In the North Americas, researchers have explored the phenomenon of international andinter-state seasonal migrants, referred to as “snowbirds”; leaving Canada and the Northernstates during the winter for the warmer states in the American Sunbelt (O’Sullivan &Stevens, 1982; Smith & House, 2006). To a lesser extent, second-home owners in theCaribbean fromNorthernAmerica(Henshall,1977)andLatinAmerica(McWatters,2009)have been investigated. In Europe, Spain, including the Balearic and Canary Islands, is byfarthemostresearchedarea,quitenaturallysinceitisacountrythathasexperiencedagreatchange associated with mass tourism and, subsequently, international second-hometourism. Indeed, Bramwell (2004) estimated the numbers of foreign-occupied dwellings inSpanish coastal areas to be more than 1.5 million, out of which 30% were British nationalsand 25% German. A relatively large body of research is available in the Spanish language,primarily focusing not only on consequences of “residential tourism”, but also on thedynamics that have induced international lifestyle migration and the “new lifestyles” thathave emerged (e.g. Mazo´n, Huete, & Manteco´n, 2009). In the 1960s, when internationalproperty acquisition started to become popular, Swedes were certainly a part of thisphenomenon, even though their movements abroad are not as well monitored as, forexample, the Britons’ or the Germans’. Swedish demand has continued to grow during thepast decades, and there is a quite substantial Swedish expatriate community in somecountries, Spain being the most striking example with an estimated 40,000 Swedishresidents in the late 1990s (Gustafson, 2001). Even though academic interest has beenrelativelylow,popularinterestinforeignpropertyhasindeedboomed;thisisevidentinthenumbers of magazines, media reports, television shows, and handbooks on settlementabroadavailableinSweden,varyingfrominformativeandpracticalguidestoanecdotalandpersonal storytelling (e.g. Gustafsson, 2002; Olsson, 2010; Provan, 2006).Usually, property developments emerge along the coastal fringes, since a sea view andconvenient distance to facilities are highly desired, however, the individual tastes andpreferences of residents naturally vary (see, for example the typology of lifestyle migrantsby Benson and O’Reilly (2009)). In the international property sector, promotion andmediation is often inspired by values corresponding to these preferences. Dispersion of lifestyle dwellings also depends on approaches in local spatial planning and socio-economic structures in the destination. In Croatia, for example, it has been noted that the4  U. A˚ kerlund     D  o  w  n   l  o  a   d  e   d   b  y   [   U   l  r   i   k  aÅ   k  e  r   l  u  n   d   ]  a   t   0   9  :   3   7   2   6   M  a  y   2   0   1   2
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