Yet another housing boom

Observations on Poland

If you visit the Polish city of Gdansk, there is nothing much to see after you've been to the shipyard wall - at least according to Michael O'Leary, the chief executive of Ryanair. But that hasn't stopped 700,000 tourists visiting the city ever year, taking advantage of cheap return flights on Air Polonia. Nor has it stopped westerners snapping up property in Poland. Darek Karbowniczak of Ober-Haus, a real-estate company in Warsaw, says British and Irish investors are looking for modern flats near Poland's cul-tural cities. Recently, he organised the sale of a three-bedroomed holiday flat at Sopot, a resort close to Gdansk. Yes, there is culture in Gdansk. You can go to St Mary's Church, one of the biggest gothic structures in Europe with room for 25,000 people - and in Cracow, you will find a medieval area that has been designated a Unesco World Heritage Site. Throughout Poland, you will find all kinds of fairy-tale properties, including a 20-bed mansion for £85,000 and a three-bed house by a lake with forest views for £62,000.

German property buyers have got there first. In Upper and Lower Silesia, Germans can live cheaply in Poland and commute by car to work in Berlin. "Germans are the main investors, followed by the British and French," Marek Stelmaszak, president of the Polish Real Estate Federation, told me. "An increasing number of international clients are buying homes to live in or rent out in the old infrastructure. Places such as the Old Town in Warsaw are very popular."

All this makes the chances of the average Polish family being able to buy a home even more remote. The average cost of £15,000 to £30,000 sounds cheap to the British, but the average annual salary in Poland is £4,213. In the cities, wages for most young people don't even cover the cost of renting a flat, which helps explain why many still live with their parents.