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Whether you’re thinking of making a big move or simply shopping for a vacation home, owning a property in another country sounds delightfully adventurous and promising. However, the road to getting there can be full of confusion and legal and financial setbacks. To make sure that your buying experience is as stress-free as possible, here are some tips on purchasing property internationally.
Hire a lawyer. The best way to get started on your search for a home abroad is to hire independent legal counsel in your destination country. This should be a lawyer or a legal firm that specializes in real estate law whom you have chosen independently (that is, without any association to whomever may be your real estate agent overseas). The importance of hiring someone who has explicit knowledge and experience with property law in his or her own country cannot be overstated, as these laws can differ greatly from the ones you may be familiar with in your own country. And though bilingual lawyers usually cost more, you will greatly benefit from receiving legal advice from someone who has the ability to translate to English.
Take time to research. Buying property in your home country would take a lengthy research process — you’d have to work with your bank to sort out how much property you can afford, scour the listings to see which areas offered the best value,
and then contact a mortgage company to create a plan for financing the property. Buying internationally only adds more steps to this process, so it is important to begin with a clear idea of how much time it will take to find a property abroad and to go through all the paperwork — and stick to that timeline.
Be prepared to create a will — in English, and in the language of your future destination. One of the major costs associated with owning property in many countries is the inheritance tax that you will be required to pay on that property. Sometimes, you can restrict the amount of tax that you will have to pay on that property by writing a will, but it must be in the dominant language of the country that you’ll purchase your property in — another good reason to have a bilingual property lawyer.
Be generous when creating your budget. Even if you get a good price for your property abroad, you should still be prepared to pay more than an additional 10 percent of that cost in legal fees. You’ll also need to make sure that you have purchased an appropriate amount of insurance for your property. Even still, you’ll need to sort out whether it is financially more expedient for you to finance your property in the UK or abroad. And finally, watch out for potential pitfalls when it comes to currency exchange rates.
Feeling overwhelmed already? If so, it may help to contact legal advice in the UK, such as Irwin Mitchell (http://www.irwinmitchell.com/), before getting started in your search for a home abroad. The more information you have, the more you’ll feel in control, so don’t hesitate to start gathering information as soon as possible.
1. Fco.gov.uk – Buying a property
2. Bbc.co.uk – Buying property abroad
3. Guardian.co.uk – Buying property abroad