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5 Simple Steps To Owning Your Own Overseas Paradise

5 Simple Steps To Owning Your Own Overseas Paradise

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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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Last Updated on March 4, 2019

How to Use Credit Cards While Staying Out of Debt

How to Use Credit Cards While Staying Out of Debt

Many people will suggest that the best thing to do with your credit cards during these tough economic times is to cut them up with a pair of scissors. Indeed, if you are already in huge debt, you probably should stop using them and begin a payback strategy immediately. However, if you are not currently in trouble with your credit cards, there are wise ways to use them.

I happen to really love my credit cards so I will share with you my approach to how I use mine without getting into deep financial trouble.

Ever since about 1983 when I got my first Visa card, I continue to charge as many of my purchases as possible on credit. Everything from gas, groceries and monthly payments for services like my cable and home security monitoring are charged on credit. Despite my heavy usage, I have maintained the joy of never paying any interest fees at all on any of my credit cards.

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Here are some tips on how best to use your credit cards without falling into the trap of paying those nasty double-digit interest fees.

Do Not Treat Credit Cards as Your Funding Sources

Too many people treat their credit cards as funding sources for major purchases. Do not do this if you want to stay out of trouble. I use my credit cards as convenient financial instruments so I do not have to carry around much cash. In fact, I hate carrying cash, especially coins. When you buy things on credit, the purchases are clean and you will not get annoying coins back as change.

I do not rely on my Visa, MasterCard or American Express to fund any of my purchases, large or small. This brings me to my golden rule when it comes to whether I will pull out any of my credit cards either at a retail or online store.

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I never purchase anything with my credit cards if I do not have the actual cash on hand in my bank account.

If I really cannot pay for the item or service with cash that I already have at the bank, then I simply will not make the purchase. Remember, my credit cards are not used as funding sources. They are just convenient alternatives to actual cash in my pocket.

Make Sure to Always Pay Off Balances in Full Each Month

The next very important part of my overall strategy is to make absolutely sure that I pay the balances in full each and every month no matter how large they are. This should never be a problem if the cash has been budgeted for my purchases and secured in the bank. I have always paid my full balances each month ever since my very first credit card and this is why I never pay interest charges.

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Using Credit Cards with Rewards

Most of my credit cards are of the “no annual fees” type, including one MasterCard on a separate account I keep at home as a spare in case I lose my wallet or incur any fraudulent charges. However, I do use a main Visa card which does have an annual fee because all purchases on that card reward me with airline frequent flyer points. For me, the annual fee is worth it since I do travel and I get enough points to redeem many free flights.

You have to decide for yourself if you will charge enough purchases on credit each year without paying interest charges to warrant a credit card that rewards you with airline points (or other rewards). In my case, the answer is “yes” but that might not be the case for you.

I occasionally use a MasterCard or American Express card on small purchases just to keep those accounts active. Also, I have been to the odd retailer that accepted only a certain type of credit card, so I find that having one from each major company is quite handy. Aside from my main Visa card which earns the airline points, the rest of my cards are of the “no annual fees” variety.

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So this is how I use my credit cards without getting into any financial trouble with them. This strategy is recommended only if you are not in debt, of course. In fact, it is worth keeping in mind once you’re out of debt so that you can keep your credit cards active and treat them responsibly.

What are your credit card usage strategies? Let me know in the comments — I’d love to hear what methods you use.

Featured photo credit: Artem Bali via unsplash.com

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