Admit it. You’ve thought about it. That time you watched a movie that made you want to move to Tuscany and buy a villa. Or maybe it was while you were vacationing in the Caribbean and dreamed about what it would be like to move down and open up a surf shack.

Indeed the idea of buying property overseas is a very attractive proposition. It’s bold. It’s sexy. It’s intriguing. And, unless you have experience navigating international real estate markets, it can be downright scary.

The good news is…it doesn’t have to be.

Here are five general tips about buying international real estate that will prove it’s a perfectly viable option, even for average people like you and me.

1. Forget (almost) everything you know about real estate.

While the buying process in many countries isn’t completely different from the steps you go through in the U.S., it might as well be. Yeah, there are a few similarities, but it’s important not to make any assumptions based on your North American bias.

Instead, go into the process planning to learn from the experience. Rely on people who know a thing or two about the local market, and you won’t get blindsided when you run into obstacles.

2. Choose your property wisely.

Picking an actual piece of property to buy is one of the most exciting parts of the international real estate buying process. If you’re starting from scratch, narrow your search down to a specific country. Visit a few cities so you can zero in on exactly where you want to live or invest. Get a good feel for the city’s layout and the best neighborhoods, especially if you’re going to be searching for properties online once you return home.

Then start looking! Since most foreign countries don’t have anything that resembles a Multiple Listing Service (MLS), you will need to use other resources. A local real estate professional in the area can help find properties that might appeal to you. You may also find listings on local realty companies’ websites or on other sites that compile listings from multiple agents.

3. Understand the local real estate market.

Since most foreign countries lack the usual channels (e.g. Zillow, Trulia, etc.) we use to find market comps, it can be incredibly difficult to know what a home is actually worth. Prices can often be all over the board. Sellers may grossly overprice their listings. Deciding what amount to offer can be a real nightmare.

You could survey hundreds of property listings in the area to better understand what properties like yours are worth. Or, better yet, you can likely find someone else who’s already done that research. Because while reliable resources with information on foreign real estate markets are few and far between, they do exist. You just have to know where to look.

4. Put your own eyes (and boots) on the property before moving forward with a purchase.

Do not…I repeat…DO NOT buy any property that you–not just your realtor–have not seen. A picture may be worth a thousand words, but all it takes is one cleverly executed angle to disguise the fact that your potential dream home sits right next to the city dump or an abandoned construction project.

Sure, there have been people who purchased properties sight unseen and been very satisfied. But, in most cases, buying something you’ve never laid eyes on–especially in a foreign country–is entirely too risky.

5. Work with local professionals you can trust.

On that note, the best weapon in your arsenal when buying property overseas is the people on the ground in your desired area who know all the things you never wanted to have to learn about international real estate.

So arm yourself with a carefully vetted team of professionals you know you can trust: a lawyer, a realtor, a banker. These folks will be your saving grace when it comes to making offers, interpreting contracts, researching titles, and executing financial transactions.

If you pick the right team, the hardest part of your international real estate buying experience may be learning how to say “Where do I sign?” in the local lingo. Happy house hunting!

Featured photo credit: sharonang via pixabay.com

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