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Below is reproduced from an article by Richard Dyson entitled “Sold, but what’s the euro bill?” which was published by the Mail on Sunday on 1 June 2004
Gail and Tony Mitchell love the French Alps so much – they go skiing in winter and walking in summer – that they longed to buy a second home there. They found just the property last year.
The three-bedroom chalet being built in the resort of Samoens has stunning views over the valley and is within an hour’s drive of Geneva airport.
Gail and Tony, from Aynho, Oxfordshire, raised enough money, mainly by remortgaging. But then came the currency problem.
Exchanging currency is expensive, especially when the sums – such as for property purchase – are large. For example, the difference between the best and worst deals when converting £100,000 into euros can be about £700.
Tony, 50, a printing firm manager, and Gail, a healthcare consultant, wanted to buy e320,000 (about £214,000) in a series of tranches to pay for the chalet.
Gail, 48, says: ‘I tried Barclays, where I have both a euro and sterling account, but I was surprised at the rates, so I searched the internet.’
She found a better offer through a foreign exchange dealer suggested by Wise Money in London, but says she was wary. ‘I was concerned about transferring the money to them,’ she says, ‘but they gave me a reference with their bank. I phoned the bank and was satisfied.’
The transactions have proceeded smoothly. Gail used the dealer to buy currency ahead at a fixed rate. For example, in January she knew what rate she would pay for later instalments.
Simon Dye of Wise Money says: ‘Fixing ahead helps people budget. It’s the only way of knowing precisely what the property will cost in sterling.’
Try our calculators to work out how far your currency will stretch
As the trend of foreign home ownership has grown, so has the number of companies offering specialist money exchange services. They advertise on the net, at trade fairs and in magazines-They are licensed by Customs & Excise, but are not regulated by the Financial Services Authority.
Many are small concerns, or recent start-ups. Most will be happy to say how long they have been in business or to provide a referee at a bank. But customers should never rely on any reference that uses a mobile phone number.
High Street banks usually offer the worst rates – though they might come up with more competitive offers to customers who shop around and produce better quotes from rivals.
But it isn’t just about cost, according to Tim Sullivan, managing director of Currencies4less.
‘There is an element of the unknown for people moving sizeable sums,’ he says, ‘but a specialist can reassure customers by explaining each step of the process.’
The Mail On Sunday then compared 10 currency wholesalers to find out what £100,000 brings in euros:
Wise Money e149,550
World Wide Currencies e149,370
Caxton fx £149,150
Lloyds TSB e148,780
Royal Bank Scot e148,500