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Expatriate Health Insurance News: Guide to purchasing property overseas

Buying a property in the UK can be difficult enough, but navigating the process in a foreign country and potentially unknown language can complicate the matter further.

Despite this it is often necessary for expatriates to make a purchase so that they are properly established in a country with a home of their own and some cases, business premises.

Failing to carry out the acquisition in the correct manner can lead to the sale falling through or in the worst case scenario legal wrangles later on.

Every country is different, but here is a guide to where to start and what to consider when buying a property abroad.

Looking for property

The first thing to bear in mind is that buying a property is a huge commitment and although paying rent can feel like wasted money, it can be a good short-term solution.

Do not think about buying a house before you have arrived in the country and given yourself some time to get to know the area.

This could mean visits prior to moving abroad, but also renting in a neighbourhood for a couple of months before buying a property will help you to double check that this is a good place to live.

Just as you would in the UK, make sure that you look at properties on sale from more than one agent to compare the prices and their fees.

Natural hazards

Weather abroad can be much more extreme than what we are used to in the UK, so it is important to check how a property will stand up in areas prone to hurricanes, earthquakes or flooding.

Find out whether the area you intend to move to is likely to be affected by such natural hazards and look into building techniques that are designed to counteract the impact they have.

Check that the property is in line with all the others in the area in terms of these safety features.

Making the choice

Do not allow local agents to pressure you into making an offer on the first property you see that you like, even if they say you need to move quickly.

Unless you have bought a house in the country before you will not know what your money can buy and may be shelling out more than necessary for this type of building.

Take your time to see a number of different houses up for sale in various locations and of contrasting styles.

This will help you to build a more comprehensive picture in your head of what is available at different prices. You will also be able to weigh up factors such as location and size and how they impact on cost.

Buying the property

While the general act of purchasing a property is the same all over the world – the owner and buyer swap contracts and a deposit -there are many parts of the process that can vary.

For a start, most people would not imagine buying a house in the UK without having a survey done, but this is often not as common abroad.

Despite not being required as it is in Britain, it is still a wise idea to have the structure checked over by a professional. They may not call them a surveyor in your new country, but even a builder should be able to offer their unbiased opinion for a fee.

Instead of the buyer and seller both having a solicitor to represent them, many foreign countries work under the French Napoleonic Code. This means that a notary works on behalf of the two parties simultaneously and carried out all the checks and contractual work.

Sometimes it is a good idea to employ a lawyer on top of the notary to ensure that your interests are being represented.

Their key roles include checking that the boundaries are clearly marked out and that there is no ownership dispute over the property.

The lawyer should also ensure that the house, especially if it is a new build, has the correct planning permission granted and can be used as a domestic dwelling.

In some countries outside of the European Union it is necessary to gain permission to buy a property if you are not a citizen. Check whether this applies to you or not.

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