When most people buy a property abroad it is normally the first overseas property purchase investment that they have made. It is probably their first, and certainly their most expensive, interaction with the legal system in that foreign country. Despite this, purchasers often throw caution to the wind when buying property abroad and do things that they would never dream of doing back home. And they get themselves into trouble as a result.
So what should you be thinking about when buying a property abroad in order to avoid any issues?
The basics are still the same
The basics of buying a property abroad are essentially the same as buying a property in your home country. Searches should be carried out on the property to make sure that the seller owns the property, that the property is legally built and to identify if there are any charges on the property. A contract is then negotiated and agreed between the parties. An agreed percentage of the property purchase price is normally then paid as a deposit with the balance paid just prior to taking Title. A Title Deed is duly registered at the relevant land registry to reflect the change of ownership. At that basic level what you are trying to do is the same as back home but the actual process of each of these items can be very different. A considered approach therefore would be at every stage of your purchase ask yourself “would we do this back home?” If not, then ask yourself and your lawyer why.
Things are different abroad
Although at a high level things may be the same as back home, it is important to understand that the legal process, buying costs and even timescales can be very different in foreign jurisdictions. You should therefore try and understand how the process works in that country so that you don’t come across any nasty surprises during the buying process. Do not assume that things work exactly the same way as in your home country. An experienced Solicitor who specialises in the country that you are buying in will always be on hand to help, guide and protect you through the process.
Use an independent lawyer
You would always use an independent lawyer when buying a property back home and would never use the lawyer that is “recommended” to you by the seller or the agent. So why should things be any different abroad? You need a Solicitor who is acting in your interests and your interests alone, not also thinking about the seller or the estate agent. Your lawyers should be independent of any of the other parties in order to avoid any conflicts of interest. The two sides in a transaction have different objectives. No matter what you are told lawyers cannot act for both parties in a transaction and still look after the best interest of everybody. It may seem cost effective to use the services of a lawyer recommended by an agent or the seller, however it is always worth seeking your own independent lawyer to ensure your rights ae being protected.
Properties abroad are often cheaper than their equivalent in the UK, but the cost of buying (including legal fees, Notary fees, taxes etc) are often higher than in the UK. It is vital that you sit down and work out what your total budget is before you go and have a look at properties. You can then take that budget to work your way backwards in order to work out how much you can afford to spend on the actual property.
Find out how much it is going to cost you in legal fees, Notary fees, taxes and so on. If you need a mortgage then identify what percentage you can get in that country, how much they cost to set up and how much you can afford. Using all of this information you can then work out how much you can afford to spend on the property. Those people who set a budget and then think that is what they can spend on the property are generally those who get themselves into trouble when they inevitably trying to save money on lawyers, surveyors and the like.
Each country has its own legal system and buying process. In some countries the process and costs even changes from region to region. You can get further information about buying in various countries by clicking on the links to our Buying Guides for the country you are interested in. You can also contact us to discuss your specific circumstances and requirements.