10 things to consider when buying property overseas

Your Overseas Home has highlighted the questions you need to ask to avoid turning your overseas property dream into a nightmare.

Related topics:  Overseas,  Property
Property | Reporter
2nd April 2024
"Whatever you do, make sure you ensure the estate agent you choose works hard for their commission"
- Christopher Nye - Your Overseas Home

Buying a property abroad may appear daunting at first. Particularly as there are different buying processes compared to the UK, as well as unfamiliar legal systems, terminologies, and currencies to deal with. There are lots of potential areas for things to go wrong.

However, potential problems can be avoided as long as prospective expats are speaking with the right estate agent and asking the right questions.

Experts at Your Overseas Home have highlighted the top ten questions you should ask overseas estate agents before purchasing a property abroad.

Can you provide testimonials from previous international clients?

The needs of the international market can be different from the local one, including currency conversion. Testimonials can help you gauge their reputation and reliability based on past performance.

How do I know that I’m getting a fair price?

Agents will make more money from a sale at a higher price, so buyers should be sure that it’s a fair one by seeing similar properties that have sold nearby. Equally, the seller needs to be sure that the agent will be working hard to get the best price possible.

What is included in the property price?

We’ve all heard horror stories of unlocking your new front door to discover that all the light fittings and bulbs have gone! Equally, you might not be thrilled to have to remove the previous owner’s mattresses. Different countries have different norms when it comes to what's left in the property, so it’s important to check exactly what you are buying.

What is your commission structure?

The estate agent’s fee will normally be paid entirely by the seller, but not always. Don’t be afraid to ask other agents too. Also ask what else they will help you with, for example getting a tax number or working with an immigration lawyer if you will need a visa.

What will I need to sign at each stage?

Signing documents (maybe in a different language) is where things get real! Legal processes vary, so for instance in France, you may be asked to sign a bon de visite, which ensures you won’t go behind the agent’s back and deal with the vendor directly later. In some countries, you’ll need to sign a reservation agreement at an early stage. Know what you’ll need to sign and you can check it out with your lawyer before you get in too deep.

What will I need to pay at each stage?

Some deposits are refundable and some aren’t. It’s normal to pay as much as €10,000 to take a property off the market, but under what circumstances will you get it back if it all falls through? Some agents will also require ‘proof of funds’ before they will take you on, which is perfectly normal, just not what many British residents are used to.

What will the total costs of buying be?

You may pay more tax for a new build, for example, or pay to translate documents. You don’t want to buy at your maximum budget and then find you can’t afford to pay the notary or tax office! Tot up all fees, taxes and other costs.

Is it normal to offer below the asking price?

Markets change, sometimes favouring buyers and sometimes sellers. Agents will usually tell you that times have never been better, but dig a little deeper…

How long has the property been on the market?

If a property has been on the market for a while, it suggests there might be room for negotiation. On the other hand, it could suggest that the seller won’t budget, or there may be something wrong with the property itself!

Can I rent the property out?

If letting your property to holidaymakers is a priority, check two things. Firstly, how lettable is the property? Maybe another community or complex will generate better rental income.

Secondly, are there any restrictions on that particular property regarding rentals? In some communities and resorts, short-term lets and Airbnbs are not allowed.

Christopher Nye, senior editor at Your Overseas Home, says: “Estate agents in our favourite holiday home and overseas retirement hotspots often earn more commission than in the UK, but they also do much more work for you.

“It tends to be a more holistic service, which might involve helping you get your tax number so you can buy in that country, getting the utilities connected or even helping you with a visa application.

“After all, it can be daunting buying a property abroad and it’s in their best interest to make the process as smooth as possible.

“Whatever you do, make sure you ensure the estate agent you choose works hard for their commission.”

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