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21 April 2014
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Villa in the sun

Buying a property abroad

Buying property abroad is more popular than ever, with increasing numbers of people following their dream in purchasing a holiday home, a buy-to-let, or moving lock, stock and barrel to the sun. If you're planning such a move, read our guide before you buy.

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Location checklist

Before you start looking for a property, it's worth asking yourself a few basic questions, which should save you time and money in the long run:

  • Do you prefer the town or country?
  • Do you want to be inland or on the coast?
  • Do you want to be isolated or in the thick of it? (Most people prefer to be within about an hour's travel time of a town.)
  • How much outside space do you want?
  • How close do you want to be to your neighbours?
  • How close do you want to be to shops, bars and restaurants?
  • Where's the nearest public transport, how often does it run, what time does it end?
  • How far is the beach?
  • How close are you to the nearest airport?
  • How far is it to sports facilities, golf, tennis, swimming, and so on?
  • How good are the local health and social services?
  • Arts and entertainment - what's available in the area?
  • Neighbours - what are they like and how often do you want to see them?

Professional advice

Use qualified professionals to protect your interests and make the purchase of your new home a stress-free experience. Estate agents are a good source of advice. Only negotiate with ones that are officially registered and hold a licence. Ensure you have a good lawyer with an excellent command of English and the native tongue, to deal with the endless stream of rules and regulations. For instance, did you know that if you're buying in Spain you'll need to make out a will in Spanish before buying, or that you can inherit debts from a previous vendor?

Costs

Research all legal issues and costs involved. Your solicitor/lawyer will advise and assist you. Before you have decided on a property it's important to be fully aware of the legal process and costs involved in your puchase. Obtain professional advice and check your finances, taking account of these additional costs.

Be well prepared with your finances; taxes can be high when buying. Set up a direct debit from a native bank account to pay for bills. Be careful not to miss payments and read those red letters; foreign banks are not lenient with those who don't pay up in time. If you're considering renting out the property when it's empty, bear in mind that advertising in the UK for a property abroad could result in tax demands from both the English and foreign authorities.

Making an offer

Make your offer in writing if possible (of course, subject to contract), and include not only the price, but also the amount of deposit, when you're prepared to pay it, when you're prepared to complete, what you understand to be included in the price (for example furniture and fittings if applicable) and, an often neglected point, that all machinery equipment and installations are in normal working order.

For more information about buying abroad, the National Association of Estate Agents (NAEA) has a number of leaflets available.

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