Many people dream of buying a retirement property overseas. At the same time, buying property can be a risky proposition so here are some helpful tips to keep you out of trouble.
Talk With A Local Broker
It always pays to speak with a local real estate professional in the country where you will be buying property. Don’t use a friend or domestic real estate broker in your own country. First of all, they’re probably not licensed to sell real estate overseas. Secondly, they don’t know the market.
Like domestic markets, foreign markets make heavy use of online systems similar to the MLS (Multiple Listing Service). Websites, like http://www.hamptons.co.uk/toletoffice/east-sheen/1951/, list properties for sale, as well as units that can be rented/leased.
While you could go it alone, the benefit of working with a broker is that you get inside information about the marketplace, what’s “hot” right now, and what’s not. You also get a partner to help you navigate the local lending market, because you’ll likely need a loan to buy your new home.
Hire a Local Lawyer
Hiring a local lawyer is another good move. You are probably not very familiar with the laws in a foreign country and, even if you are, it usually pays to hire a lawyer to stand between you and the government.
Lawyers are also useful for translating legal documents (contracts) that you have to sign. When you buy real estate, you’ll be signing a lot of paperwork. And, this paperwork is legally binding, even though you’re living in another country.
A lawyer will minimize the risk of you walking into a bad deal or a contract that is inherently defective.
If you’re building a home, you will also want to know what’s included in the price, what costs extra, the due date and milestones for the construction, and what deposit is required and when. Finally, you will want to know what stage payments are required and when.
Have Documents Translated For You
When you do business in another country, one of the major risks you face is the language barrier. If you don’t read or understand the language, you basically have no idea what you’re signing. A lawyer can help you navigate the contract itself, but you’ll want to have someone translate everything you sign into English.
Never Sign A Contract That You Don’t Understand
This is something most people do and don’t think about. They assume the contract either favours them or has minimal impact on them. Some things to include in the contract are:
Finance terms – You don’t want to be on the hook for a property if you can’t obtain the financing. If you’re like most people, you don’t have a million dollars sitting in the bank. If you can’t afford the monthly payment or if the interest rate is higher than a certain percentage, you want the ability to call off the purchase.
In most cases, you will be required to make an earnest deposit, which shows you’re serious about buying the home. If you do back out because of a contract provision like not getting the loan, the contract usually allows the seller to keep that deposit as a concession on your part.
A seller assist – If you want the seller to pay some or all of your closing costs, this is not unheard of but you must ask for it in the offer. Your contract should disclose the amount of closing costs you want the seller to pay for, expressed as either a dollar amount or a percentage of the purchase price.
Closing cost specifics – This part of the contract should spell out whether the buyer or seller will pay for the common fees involved in the sale of the home. So, for example, who pays the escrow fees, title insurance fees, title search fee, notary fees, recording and transfer tax.
The inspection – you should always have a home inspection or survey done, especially when buying a home in a foreign country. Building codes are different in different parts of the world and you want to know what you’re getting yourself into.
Contingency of sale – If you can only buy the new home if you sell your current home, this needs to be in the contract too.
Arrange Financing In Advance
Never approach a buyer without at least a preapproval from a bank. Real estate agents and sellers expect you to have a soft offer from a lender or else there is no deal.
Make Sure The Developer Has Full Title To The Property or Land
You’d like to think that the property you’re buying is free and clear, but don’t assume it is. Your real estate agent can help you with this (which is why it’s important to work with one). Some properties have debts attached to them – you don’t want these.
For example, a property might have a tax lien on it for unpaid taxes. You don’t want that. Always check for a clear title and undisputed claim to the property.
Ellis Shaw is a real estate manager. He likes to share his experiences by posting on the web. His articles appear on many property and real estate websites.