Moving abroad is a life-changing experience and can seem daunting in several ways. If you are looking to buy a property overseas, there are several factors to consider. Whether you’re buying a retirement villa, a family home in the sun or an apartment by the beach; a great deal of planning is required to make the transition as smooth as possible and we’ve collated some tips to help you get off to a great start.
Decide on a location
Whether you already have a location in mind, or you just simply like the idea of living abroad, it’s important that you decide exactly what you want to get from your new country of residence.
Where you choose to relocate will be heavily influenced by your personal circumstances. For instance you may be planning to move abroad to find work, in which case a major city will be more suitable due to the availability of employment opportunities. If you’re planning on retiring, you may want to think about long term issues like your health and conduct research around the medical facilities that your specified location has to offer.
People often discover the destination they’d like to move to whilst on holiday. However, in order to get a genuine feel of what it’s like to actually live in your chosen location, it’s best to plan a trip for the sole purpose of exploring the area and looking for properties. If possible, rent for a while so you can get a feel of what it’s like to live there as a local.
It’s also important to take into consideration whether you prefer the hustle of the town or the quiet peacefulness of being somewhere more remote? Also consider other factors such as; whether you want to be close to the beach, airport, medical facilities, shopping and nightlife.
It is essential to conduct in depth research about the real estate market in the country you are considering buying property before doing so. This also includes checking the currency exchange rate and stability in the country you wish to make a purchase.
Managing your property in the UK
Once you’ve settled down in your new country of residence, you may still have a property in the UK that needs maintenance. Many people that emigrate choose to keep their existing home and rent it out whilst they’re abroad. You might want to use a letting agency to help you find tenants and offer you property management services during your absence. If you choose not to use an agency, you could nominate a close friend or relative to inspect the property regularly and to be the main point of contact for your tenants.
You may also consider selling your property. Zoopla’s step-by-step guide to selling a home offers informative guidelines that you can follow when going through the process of selling your home.
Find an estate agent
Having a good estate agent is vital when buying property abroad as they can help you navigate the foreign market.
Your estate agent should be proactive, have a thorough knowledge of the local market and be prepared to spend extra time with you offering advice and assistance. You as the buyer may be asked to pay a fee to the agent who shows you a property and this is normally a percentage of the sale price; otherwise referred to as a ‘buyer’s premium’. As such ‘premiums’ can be a lot of money, you should always carefully look at any contract between yourself and an estate agent (and get it specifically approved by your lawyer before signing it).
Seek legal advice
Whilst purchasing property in a foreign country can be an amazing experience, it also involves dealing with local laws and regulations which you may not be familiar with. Breaking these laws could have some serious consequences: you could incur a fine, lose your property, or even end up in jail. You can avoid all of these risks and other minor headaches, by hiring a local lawyer to help you navigate the legalities of purchasing a property in their country.
It’s important that you find a lawyer who is fluent in English, a specialist in conveyancing; completely independent of the seller/developer and your estate agent and is fully insured to a public liability premium above the value of your purchase.
Furthermore, always insist that all advice from your lawyer is put in writing, and ask them to inspect any paperwork or contract before you sign it.
A Place in the Sun have collated a list of recommended property lawyers in some destinations popular with British expats: https://www.aplaceinthesun.com/advice/lawyers
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