Q. I’m very interested in buying a property abroad to use as a holiday home for myself and my family, can you give me some general advice on avoiding any of the usual ‘pitfalls’?
A. 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 then there are some very important issues you need to consider before making the move. Firstly make sure you 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 license. 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. Research all legal issues and costs involved. Your solicitor 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 purchase. 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. Once you have found a property to buy make sure your offer is made in writing and subject to contract, 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, this will avoid disputes later on. In this particular market with all the distressed stock around I would strongly recommend that you only consider property that has been completely built, so you have no worries about a developer not completing the project. On the other hand, you have to make sure the property is a genuine ‘distressed’ price, and not just a marketing ploy to shift it off the market – your independent lawyer can check on the transaction history of the property to make sure you are not paying over the odds. Caution is the word most likely to spring to mind when purchasing in an unfamiliar market but as long as you follow these basic guidelines I’m sure you will relish in a lifetime of pleasure.