So you're winding down your career, thinking of retiring (or perhaps you've already retired?), the kids have flown the nest and you've found the perfect little holiday home to which to retreat from the overcast British summer, or the frigid winter. Perhaps you've purchased a nice little farmhouse in France, or a spacious villa in Spain. Whatever - and wherever - your holiday home, you'll no doubt be thinking about how to protect your investment from the ravages of saltwater, from damage received when you're not there to keep your eye on it, or from general wear and tear.

A holiday home retreat

Naturally, the most effective way of protecting your investment - bar hiring a 24/7 caretaker and security guard! - is to find a cheap holiday home insurance policy to cover it, just as you would have for your main property back home. But whilst you can easily find a competitive insurance policy back in your country, it's not quite so easy when it comes to covering your property abroad.

Your first option is to deal with a broker or other company in the country where your holiday home is situated; this is likely to be a fairly cheap option. But you may run into language problems if you are not fluent in the language of that country, and the last thing you want to be doing is signing a legal contract in a foreign language! You'll potentially have no idea what you're covered for and what you're not. Even if they provide an English summary of the policy's ins and outs, it's not the same as picking through the individual clauses in a contract.

An alternative option available to you is to take a specialist cheap holiday home insurance policy out with a company that resides in your country of origin. The benefits of this are clear: you'll receive the contract, as well as customer service and support, in plain English (that is, if you count legal documents such as insurance terms and conditions as "English" in the first place!). There is a downside, though - it's likely you'll pay a premium for these specialist policies over the local cover available.

So which of the two options do you go for? It depends entirely on your own personal situation. If you are a confident speaker of French, Spanish et al, you might want to go for the local cover and save yourself some money; but if you prefer the convenience and familiarity of dealing with an established English company who'll provide you a contract and support in plain English, you might want to look into the policies offered by specialists located back in your home country first.

Whichever you eventually choose to go for, make sure you use all the information sources available to you: the internet, newspapers/publications (including local expat magazines), and most importantly of all, ask around in your local expat community for suggestions for cheap holiday home insurance - as they will have been there and done that before you!