South East Recorder Issue 14 - Page 31

PROPERTY BUYING PROPERTY ABROAD Legal checks and process You’ve found the house or apartment of your dreams, now it’s time to check that there are no major problems, and to make it happen. In broad terms, the process of buying property is pretty similar in just about every country in the world, and follows the same pattern as that in the UK. There is almost invariably some form of title, a written record of who owns what, often with the history appended. There is a contract, or a series of contracts, which specify who is buying what from whom. Often this is in two stages: the first a preliminary contract stating the owner’s commitment to sell the property, and the buyer’s commitment to buy it, perhaps accompanied by some form of deposit; the second, a completion or closing contract, which finalises the deal. Paying for it Before you make any offer for a property, you should think about how you’re going to fund the purchase. If you don’t have sufficient cash to buy the property outright – and you’re not selling your property in the UK, then there are two main options. The first is that you borrow extra money against your UK home to pay for the overseas property. Many thousands of people have done this in recent years, spurred on by soaring UK property prices and low interest rates. The advantages of this route are that there is no need for the abroad property to be valued, and the increased mortgage can often be obtained with the least amount of fuss and expense. Also, you are not exposed to currency fluctuations if all your borrowings are in sterling, so your outgoings are fixed unless interest rates change. Advice In an ideal world, the process of buying a property abroad would be a methodical and systematic business, carried out with all the analysis, planning and skilful execution of a military operation. In the real world, it too often starts out as an impulse decision, driven by emotional rather than rational considerations, and muddled through in blissful ignorance. The ramifications can be serious. Talk to anyone who has bought a new property in Spain and subsequently discovered that it had no Habitation Licence, and now faces the prospect of being refused utilities, unable to sell, or even having the house demolished. Or the person who didn’t have a survey and now finds his roof is collapsing. At the very least, mistakes made during the purchase process can cause legal headaches, uncertainty and stress stretching into the future, the last thing that anybody buying a holiday or retirement home would choose. And if you’re buying for investment, getting it right can mean the difference between owning a lucrative nest-egg and a dud that will drain your finances for years to come. Buy a home abroad in haste and, as the saying goes, you will have the opportunity to repent at leisure. House hunting It’s often tempting when you’re enjoying yourself on holiday to browse in estate agents’ windows, especially as so many of them are geared towards English-speaking buyers these days. And it certainly makes sense to buy a property in a country and region that you know, as opposed to somewhere that is completely uncharted territory. It is certainly an excellent idea to spend time in the area you’re thinking of buying: exploring, finding the best locations, getting a feel for whether you really like it or whether the novelty will wear off. However, holidays may not be the best time to do this, because you are not necessarily in the most critical frame of mind, so it is better to organise a dedicated property-hunting visit. ROOM TO LET To conclude, the process of buying a property in another country is fraught with potential pitfalls, and there are plenty of sharks looking for naïve house hunters to exploit. Nevertheless, that’s not a reason to be put off. Owning your own little piece of abroad can be a life-transforming experience for many people. Perhaps the best advice to ensure that you navigate a safe course through the sometimes perilous waters of the property market is to talk to as many people as possible and ask for advice. One of the great advantages of the internet is that in many countries there are now websites hosting networks of people who have bought property in that country, with their own forums and bulletin boards. On these sites, you can invariably find someone who has experienced the same problem as you, who may be able to endorse or warn you off a particular developer, and who can highlight some of the issues you may not have thought of. And you may soon find you have plenty of advice and experiences to offer to others. NIGEL WHITE ARCHITECT Midi-Pyrénées. Our residential design studio offers a complete architectural service from conception through to planning permission and site management in quiet friendly house Broomfield area Off road parking All bills included Very. very large room Call Sara 07867 505927 T: 0033 (0) 6 14 01 48 32 w: