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10 Top Considerations For Those Buying Property Abroad


Are you one of a growing number of people considering buying a second home in the sun, an idyllic home from home abroad or a lucrative investment property overseas? If so you're not alone! Statistics show that globally we're all on the move with a recent survey by YouGov revealing that 55% of adult Britons were "seriously considering settling in another country" and the British Centre for Future Studies predicting that by 2020 one tenth of the current British population will be living or working abroad!

Add to this the fact that there was a 250% increase between 2000 and 2004 in the number of Britons buying property abroad solely for investment purposes, that over one and a quarter million Brits own second homes in Spain and France already and that the Office for National Statistics in the UK recently revealed that 200,000 Britons go overseas yearly with the intention of remaining for at least twelve months, and you can see that the passion for buying that dream home abroad is universal.

But what's fuelling this ever growing interest in the overseas property market?

Well, despite reports to the contrary the UK housing market is seemingly ever on the up and those Britons who're acquiring massive levels of equity through their residential property are considering selling up, buying abroad and establishing a pension fund simply on the back of what they have left over from their house sale. Others in Britain can't actually afford to get on the first rung of the property ladder and some are looking abroad to find more affordable housing. Then of course there's the state and confusion surrounding the pensions market which is getting ever worse meaning that a growing number of Britons are considering the option of buying a second property abroad to let out for an income towards retirement. Others just share a commonly held dream of owning a holiday home in the sun or escaping the rat race to get a new life overseas.

Whatever reasons you may have for considering buying property abroad one thing is for certain; before you go ahead and buy you should understand some of the far reaching legal, financial and taxation implications of buying abroad. This article examines ten top points worthy of your consideration.

1) The British national obsession with property prices, equity and re-mortgaging is as foreign a concept in many other countries as mushy peas or vinegar on your chips so don't just assume that your second home will rise in value and don't assume that it'll be easy to sell. Do your homework to see whether the property market you're interested in can support and sustain your particular hopes and ambitions for it. In countries such as Northern Cyprus and Bulgaria the real estate market has been suppressed for so long that property prices remain highly competitive and many can see the room for substantial growth in the market. In other countries such as Spain, France and Portugal where the property market has been soaring for years can you expect the same levels of growth to continue? Know that every country's property market is different. If you decide to compare overseas markets to the UK housing market some may not appear as buoyant, however consider examining the longer term trends. Speak to established estate agencies in your country of choice to find out whether the market is stable or stale. If it's stable then you're more likely to enjoy a steady, realistic increase in your property's value rather than the extreme peaks and troughs that the UK market tends towards. If on the other hand the market is stale you need to consider the economy of the country and whether it's due a positive correction any time soon.

2) Factor in regular travel costs needed for visiting your second home when you establish your budget. Keep in mind any extra visits you might have to make occasionally to organise repairs and renovation for example. This sounds so obvious but sadly many people are caught out and find that they cannot holiday in their new home as often as they like: or worse still - once they move abroad they find they can't get 'home' for visits to the family etc. Budget wisely and don't get caught out!

3) If you intend to rent out your second home you must declare this income to the tax man in your country of residence I'm afraid! Furthermore it may be necessary to declare it in the country in which the new house is located depending on the double taxation agreements in place between the two countries. Make sure you seek solid tax advice before making any concrete buying decisions.

4) If you're intending to let out your property make sure you know how much it's going to cost to have an agent manage both the day-to-day running of your property together with organising the rental side of things for you. You'll need a good agent to make sure your best interests are always protected especially if you're not going to remain resident in the country the property is located in. Factor these extra costs into your budget or reduce them from your projected rental income to get a realistic idea of the income potential of your property. Remember you'll still need to pay a management agent during any weeks and months the property remains unoccupied.

5) Consider the local tax implications of buying, owning and selling your property as property and land tax in some countries can make UK stamp duty and council tax pale into insignificance. In Northern Cyprus for example tax rates are not currently excessive but they are subject to change, therefore always get up-to-date tax and fee facts and figures from your estate agent - furthermore, make sure you check the figures with a local lawyer or accountant.

6) Make a will to cover local inheritance tax laws and make sure your overseas property is also detailed in a will held in your country of residence. Specialist legal advice should always be sought when you hold property in more than one country as inheritance laws not only differ greatly depending on the country, but certain local inheritance laws can completely contradict and invalidate your main will.

7) Factor the legal bills that you will incur when buying, renting or selling your property into your overall budget. You can be charged all sorts of extras like notary fees, valuation fees, translation fees etc., and if you factor them in you shouldn't get any nasty surprises.

8) Be aware of the legalities of any contract you enter into. Find a reputable lawyer, get key documents translated, and know that ignorance is never a valid excuse! Not understanding the language in which your key legal contracts are written is a problem, don't ignore the problem! Don't blindly sign on the dotted line; it's your responsibility to get informed.

9) Buying through an offshore company to avoid certain taxes, expenses and laws is sometimes an option open to an individual interested in purchasing abroad. Whether this route is actually the best route is massively debateable! Firstly it depends on the country in which you're buying. Secondly, local agents may be incorrectly advising foreigners by basing their advice on the local situation. This method of approach can be beneficial but it could land you in a whole lot more taxation mess both abroad and at home! There are specialist companies out there who can advise you based on your individual situation and as it's not a case of one method suiting all, be careful and get informed. Find out the following, if you do buy through an offshore company and wish to take the property out of that company in the future how easy will that be to do, will you incur an expense, will there be further tax liabilities if you decide to sell your company owned property, and what happens if you try to take the profit from the sale, will you be taxed? Also consider the taxation situation from the UK point of view and the local situation in your country of choice.

10) What option would you like to take when it comes to financing your purchase? Are you considering equity release or a second mortgage, cash or a mortgage in the local currency? Know the pros and cons of each option. Cash may seem like the easiest and best way to go but do you want to have all that money tied up in a relatively slow to liquidise overseas asset? So what about a mortgage in the local currency? You need to consider the stability of the currency and fluctuating exchange rates. When moving money overseas either in a lump sum or to meet regular monthly financial commitments there are options available to you to reduce currency fluctuation risks - consider spot or forward transactions, speak to a financial adviser or foreign exchange risk expert to find out the options available. If you're considering equity release or a second mortgage this might be a cheap option at the moment - but remember you'd risk losing one or both homes if you fell behind on payments!

When it comes to the considerations you need to make when exploring the idea of purchasing a second home abroad these ten top tips are not exhaustive but should provide some food for thought. Going forward from here you should remain informed; don't enter into an idea abroad that you wouldn't entertain 'back home' and seek professional legal, financial and taxation advice at every step of the way.

Rhiannon Williamson is the publisher of http://www.shelteroffshore.com/ - the online resource that guides you to a low tax, maximum investment profit lifestyle abroad.

Shelter Offshore features three main channels - offshore investment, property investment abroad and overseas lifestyle.

Rhiannon Williamson is also the author of 'The Offshore Advantage' http://www.shelteroffshore.com/index.php/shelter/offshore_advantage/ which teaches readers how to build secure wealth using their secret offshore advantage.


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