It’s a common experience: you are on holiday, somewhere hot, you pass an estate agent and idly glance at the window and suddenly you are consumed by the idea of buying one of these beautiful and oh so reasonably priced properties. It is a temptation to be resisted, buying a house abroad can be a wonderful experience but only if you really think it through first. The world is a big place and your first decision needs to be, where? Just because the idea popped into your head while you were on holiday in a particular location, it does not mean that that is the best location in which to buy property. Consider the laws, culture and geographical location of your chosen country. Are you intending to live abroad, or do you envisage letting out the property? Even when you are sure about the country, which area do you go for? European countries such as France, Spain and Portugal all have big ex-pat communities in particular areas, do you want to be part of an ex-pat community or are you prepared to take on somewhere where the language and culture are more challenging, such as Croatia for example? Foreign property purchase is a lot more complicated than a purchase in your own country, here are a few key areas to consider.
See beyond the wow factor and consider the practicalities
How practical is this purchase? If you intend to rent it out, how long would the season be? Is it easily accessible from an airport? If you intend to live there, what local amenities are there? Does it require a lot of maintenance or restoration? What are the winters like? What are the neighbours like? There is so much more to find out than can be learned in an initial viewing. You must spend time in your intended location before you purchase.
Do not skimp on what might seem unnecessary per purchase expenditure
The estate agent’s job is to sell the house, you need to get independent verification of what you have been told. That could mean getting independent professional purchase assistance and hiring a legal representative and a translator, not the individuals recommended by the estate agent.
Understand the property laws
Ensure that there are not any outstanding debts or taxes attached to the property and that you have a clear understanding of the charges for which you will be liable. Be aware of the inheritance laws and any taxes pertaining to resale.
Do the utilities function all year?
In remote areas there may be problems with water and electricity supplies at certain times. If the property is not on mains drainage there may be costs associated with the septic tank. Do not assume that there is a good wi-fi or mobile phone service.
Get everything in writing
Do not allow politeness to get in the way of clarity. Spoken agreements are not good enough, you need everything in writing, and you need signed paper receipts for all monies paid. Attention to detail in the early stages of a purchase can prevent heartache at a later stage.