The dos and don'ts of buying property abroad

Updated on 23 January 2019 | 4 Comments

Whether you're hoping to move for good or simply pick up a holiday home, check out our top tips to consider before buying a property abroad.

It’s no secret that we Brits like to moan about home. Whether it’s about the Government, the weather, or the high cost of living, there’s usually something to whinge about.

As a result, the thought of moving abroad has crossed most of our minds once or twice – or maybe more.

Perhaps you’ve considered buying a holiday home overseas so you can escape every now and then rather than moving for good.

Regardless of which you choose, here are some top tips for buying a property abroad.

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DO take your time

Buying property is something that should never be rushed, but particularly if you’re buying in an unfamiliar location.

Make sure you spend time in the area in which you want to buy, both during and after holiday season.

Do some research about local facilities and transport. Are there good links to the airport? Is the beach close by? Are there any good restaurants in the area?

It’s also a good idea to talk to some of the locals about the area so that you get a real feel for it.

That way, you’ll be able to decide whether this is really the area for you. And if you’re moving out there for good, talk to other expats to find out more about living in the area.

Once you start viewing properties, make sure you view them at different times of the day and don’t forget to check the outside of the property as well as inside!

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DON’T buy more than you can afford

Make sure you draw up a budget before you start looking for properties so that you know what you can realistically afford. Once you’ve done this, make sure you don’t go over your budget.

Don’t be tempted to buy more than one property with the idea of renting the properties out unless you can guarantee you’ll get tenants and this is an affordable option.

DO get an agreement in principle

Leading on from this, make sure you get an ‘agreement in principle’ for your mortgage before signing on the dotted line for your property.

If you’re moving abroad for good, it’s worth shopping around and finding a mortgage broker in the country you’re moving to because you’re likely to get a better deal.

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DON’T be too hasty with your deposit

If you see a property you really like, take a step back and give it some serious consideration before you hand over your deposit.

DO seek specialist advice

Always seek advice from independent solicitors and surveyors before you buy a property abroad. They should be able to tell you about the laws in the country you’re buying in and let you know everything you need to know about buying overseas.

When seeking legal advice, it’s also worth using a local and international, English-speaking legal firm. The Law Society has a list of lawyers who specialise in buying property abroad.

DON’T forget about tax

It’s a good idea to check the inheritance and capital gains tax laws in your chosen country because they will differ from those in the UK.

For example, in France, the inheritance laws mean your property will automatically be inherited by your children, bypassing your spouse!

So make sure you fully understand these laws and if necessary, make appropriate adjustments to your Will. 

DO keep your options open

If you’re moving abroad permanently, it can be a good idea to keep a property back home and initially rent out a place in your chosen location.

That way you can assess whether you will be truly comfortable moving overseas for good, or whether you would be better off simply having a holiday home out there.

DON’T underestimate the costs

Don’t forget about extra costs – legal fees, valuation fees, taxes, insurance - all of these can vary from country to country. So make sure you’ve looked into this well in advance so you can plan your budget.

And remember that if you’re planning to rent out your property, you will have to pay income tax.

Many banks in the UK will also charge commission if you have to transfer money abroad, as well as a transfer fee, so make sure you keep this in mind.

DO set up a foreign bank account

It’s a good idea to set up a bank account in the country you’re buying in before you make an offer on a property. It’s also worth setting up standing orders to pay for local bills and taxes.

DON’T forget about fluctuating exchange rates

Fluctuating exchange rates can significantly impact your property’s value.

After all, you may have found your perfect home in line with your budget of £150,000, but if Sterling weakens against that particular currency, you may quickly find the property is no longer affordable.

So it’s a good idea to try and secure your rate of exchange as soon as possible.

Don’t forget that exchange rates can also affect your mortgage.

DO learn the language

Whether you’re only using your property as a holiday home, or you’re planning to live there permanently, it’s well worth learning the local language beforehand.

That way you’ll settle in far more quickly and it may also help when you are negotiating with sellers and solicitors.

DON’T inherit a debt on the property

You should ensure the property you intend to buy has a ‘clear title’.

This means that the owner is actually in the position to sell. And make sure you don’t inherit a debt on the property – your solicitor should be able to check this for you.

Good luck!

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