Do you dream of making a life-changing decision and buying property abroad?
Whether you have your eye on retiring to a French farmhouse or buying a holiday home in the heart of Florida, making the dream of owning property in a foreign country a reality isn't a decision you should rush. Take time to do your homework and be financially savvy when you come to make a purchase and you'll bring your dream well within reach.
The answer to that question will determine where you buy, the kind of property you purchase and the budget for your move. If you've always dreamed of relocating your family to France, Spain or anywhere else in the world, then you'll need an area with schools, medical facilities and good transport links. A holiday home or rental property is likely to have to meet different criteria; a holiday house in Florida should be within reach of the main theme parks and other attractions, for example.
There's no substitute for local knowledge, so if you decide to buy a lifetime home abroad try asking questions in expat forums. You'll get the low down on the best areas to buy in your preferred region along with hints and tips about settling in. If you have friends and family who already own property abroad then don't be afraid to pick their brains so you can make the most informed decision possible.
Before you even consider getting on a plane for house viewings, it's essential that you do as much in-depth research as possible on the country and region you're interested in relocating to. House prices are cyclical so it makes sense to buy near the bottom of that cycle but be realistic about other costs that may be involved in the purchase, including legal fees and a budget for renovation.
If you want your property to be an excellent investment as well as the fulfilment of a life-long dream then look carefully into any legal barriers you may face as a foreign buyer, as well as any tax obligations you may incur. Weigh up the pros and cons of buying directly from the owners or through an estate agent who can offer advice and help you avoid any pitfalls - most European countries have English-speaking estate agents who can hold your hand throughout the entire property buying process and should be able to arrange solicitors and other experts you may need.
If you don't intend to live in your property immediately, then considering its rental value is a must. You'll still have costs and charges to pay even when your property is empty, so choose somewhere with a dual season appeal like a mountain chalet in a ski resort and the investment potential gets a real boost.
The distance to the nearest airport, planned investment in the local area, and a high standard of local amenities can all drive up the rental income you can expect to earn, especially in high season. Bear in mind that whenever and wherever you buy property, location, location, location is key. Get it right and your overseas property should deliver a tidy profit if you decide to sell in the future.
Finance is almost always the most complex part of buying abroad. Whether financing your purchase is dependent on getting a mortgage and making monthly payments, or you're in the fortunate position of being able to pay in full upfront, you'll want to secure the best possible exchange rate to make your property purchase as cost-effective as possible.
However you pay for your property, you'll be required to put down a deposit so it's a good idea to have your financial arrangements for foreign payments lined up before you put in an offer. High street banks are an expensive way to finance a foreign property purchase as their exchange rates are poor and their charges high. Using a specialist online transfer service is the investor's way to secure the best possible rates for fast, low-cost transfers.
Exchange rates can be incredibly volatile and the difference of a few cents can mean you have thousands more or less to play with. At The Currency Account we always offer access to the best exchange rates whether for an immediate payment requirement or you can even lock in a favourable exchange rate today for your future foreign payments giving you peace of mind knowing exactly what your impending costs will be.
Never buy when you're on holiday, but always try and view property out of season so you get a clear idea of what life is really like in your new neighbourhood. If you're planning to emigrate then research all your healthcare, pension and tax obligations as soon as possible and consider taking a 6-month rental in the area you're thinking of putting down roots in to make sure it's right for you.
If you've weighed up all the pros and cons and you still love your choice of property, then go for it! If you've asked the right questions and have all your financial arrangements in place, buying a property abroad could just be the best decision you'll ever make.