Recently, the number of Brits living abroad topped five million for the first time - and such a huge number of expats means a booming foreign property market. Buying abroad can be an intimidatingly complex process however, especially if you are buying in a country where you don’t speak the language fluently. We’ve put together an overview of the sort of things you should be aware of and planning for in your hunt for the perfect foreign property.
You probably know in which country you want to buy (and if not, check out our guide to the most popular destinations for Britons buying abroad but you still need to narrow it down further: Inland or on the coast; distance to the nearest airport; rural or urban; amount of outdoor space; entertainment and local culture; proximity to the nearest hospital.
Take some time to explore the districts surrounding your area of interest, to make the most informed decision possible.
Choosing your agent is a decision almost as important as finally choosing your property. Make sure they are officially registered and licensed - and if you are buying in a country where you don’t speak the language, make sure they are fluent in English as well as the local lingo.
The National Association of Estate Agents (NAEA) merged with the Federation of Overseas Property Developers, Agents & Consultants (FOPDAC) in 2007, so make sure your estate agent is a member of the new trade body, NAEA International. They have created a code of practice specifically around people buying abroad.
If you are buying outside the EU, your agent should be a member of the International Association of Real Estate Agents (ICREA). Every country has its own set of rules when it comes to buying property so it's important that your estate agent is on top of them all. In Spain, for example (the second most popular country for Brits buying abroad), you can inherit the previous vendors debts - and you need to make a will in Spanish as part of the buying process.
Buying in another country is an expensive undertaking. Make sure that you avoid as many nasty financial surprises as possible. Research local property taxes and - even if the property is going to be an investment property or holiday home - consider opening a local bank account to make setting up regular payments cheaper.
You can minimise the costs of transferring money between your accounts by setting up an account with Transferwise - securely move your money while saving on the fees charged by UK high street banks. This could also potentially save you a huge amount of money when transferring the large sums associated with property purchase.
If you have chosen your estate agent wisely they will be able to offer solid advice as to local financial regulations, and property purchase costs. Meet with a lawyer to talk about making wills in both countries, to ensure the property is dealt with according to your wishes.
If you are planning on moving abroad permanently, take a look at our checklist to make sure you are on the right track with paperwork and logistics.
Speaking to your potential neighbours about the property can unearth issues in advance, and give you negotiating power. Find out if there is any history of winter flooding, or problems with gas or electricity outage, or any ownership disputes or construction planned on the surrounding land. A ten minute conversation can save you thousands of pounds in the future.
Before moving abroad, take a look at our handy time-sensitive checklist to remind yourself of everything you need to do to get organised.