Five top tips to consider before buying a property overseas

Simon Conn (pictured) is an overseas property expert

The current pandemic has generated a surge in enquiries for professionals looking to relocate abroad but continue working for the same employer. They have enjoyed the freedom of working from home, have demonstrated to their bosses that their location is irrelevant to the continuing success of the business, and are now scanning the horizon to mix work and pleasure by selling up and buying abroad.

However there has been an increase in the number of buyers not carrying out proper checks before signing on the dotted line.

As England prepares to leave the EU by the end of the year, professionals are quick to search for the most affordable destinations. Financial planning and taxes are just one aspect of this, but there are a number of European jurisdictions that individuals should consider.

Here are my five top tips on what you should consider if you’re planning to relocate overseas:

Tip 1: Seek legal advice

You should always seek legal advice from a lawyer who is independent from everyone else in the deal, including the seller, developer and the estate agent. Ideally, your lawyer should be fluent in English and the local language and should understand property law in the country you’re buying from. The advice should relate to non-residents.

Tip 2: Ask questions about where a property has been built

For example, if it has been built on an area that should have been set aside for green belt or agricultural land, then the chances are there is a risk. Make sure you take advice from an independent, English speaking lawyer – preferably not from the same area as the property.

In some cases, there can be problems with properties that have been constructed with the wrong permits, granted as a result of corruption, or with no permits at all. An independent lawyer should be able to save you the heartache of seeing your newly purchased dream home demolished.

Tip 3: Always obtain an independent valuation

Poor construction is a common problem. Always obtain an independent valuation, ideally from a professional surveyor in that country, even if it is a new property, as this will highlight any problems. Beware that new properties can sometimes be built in poor soil and with insufficient foundations, substandard building materials, or in dubious locations such as floodplains.

Tip 4: Before signing anything, get a professional translation of the contracts

One of the most important warnings when purchasing abroad is when it comes to contracts. It is common to only receive one contract in the local language, in which case, you must have a professional translation completed. If you are given two copies of a contract which include the original and a supposed translation, get the translation checked by a professional.

Tip 5: Get your finance approved in principle before signing a contract

Always get your finance approved in principle before signing a contract and if you are applying for a mortgage ensure any contract signed is “subject to finance”.

This will help you recover an initial deposit if you are turned down during the mortgage process due to financial analysis, valuation or legal issues.

Moving abroad is a life-changing experience and can seem daunting. Given the current situation, experts advocate some caution when making big decisions. Likewise, financing a property overseas can be complex, especially when it comes to obtaining the international mortgage.