While the global real estate market may have enjoyed months of uninterrupted growth, large-scale investors have recently begun to sell luxury properties amid fears that surging prices are creating a bubble. Although this may represent the higher end of the property market, it is a worrying development at a time when the global economy is finally beginning to emerge from the shadow of long-term decline.
This is just one aspect of the real estate market, however, which continues to evolve and create new challenges for investors and vendors alike. Just recently, British real estate firm Property Rescue collaborated with the national ombudsman to launch a new National Association of Property Buyers (NAPB), which will operate in the controversial “Quick House Sale” sector and provide self-regulation that protects both investors and home-owners alike.
The Key Considerations When Investing in Overseas Property
Whether buying a home domestically or overseas, there are clearly a high volume of challenges that need to be overcome if you are to safeguard your investment. These issues are amplified when buying property abroad, especially if you are expanding your portfolio into new and relatively uncharted territories. With this in mind, consider the following factors before finalizing your international real estate investment.
1. What is your reason for buying overseas property?
This is arguably your single most important consideration when buying a property overseas, as it will have a direct influence on everything from your budget to the type of insurance that you invest in. If you are buying a property for the purpose of investment, for example, you will need to execute all financial decisions in line with your estimated return. If you are purchasing a home with a view for relocating, however, you will need to focus on standard considerations such as the surrounding area, local amenities, and school catchment regions.
2. The need for finance and funding.
With a clear understanding of your motivation, selecting viable properties to suit your needs is a relatively straightforward process. Securing finance is a far more challenging exercise, however, especially when you consider the fact that it will be subject to international laws and usually discussed in local currency terms. As a starting point, be sure to obtain an “Agreement in Principle” before confirming the purchase as this will safeguard you in the event that you are not extended a loan and enable you to reclaim your initial deposit.
3. Consider your tax liability as an investor.
Everyone’s tax circumstances are different, and this is especially true in the diverse and changeable real estate market. Each nation will have its own unique body of tax laws and legislation, which may require you to repay costs such as stamp duty, title transfer tax or even inheritance tax at the point of purchase. Beyond this, some countries also require home-owners to pay land tax as a condition of their mortgage, and this is usually an annual cost that can eat into your capital. These potential costs must also be factored into your budget, as otherwise you may face significant legal penalties.
4. Understand the value of local money and exchange rates.
On a similar note, it is also worth understanding the value of local currency and any associated exchange rates. If you intend to bring money from your own country overseas at different junctures, you may also need to obtain a Certificate of Importation and open a local bank account. This makes it far easier to repay affiliated tax debts and legal fees on time, as you can quickly establish a series of standing orders to suit your requirements. If you are going to execute a smooth and trouble-free transaction, this should be considered a crucial part of your preparation.
5. Obtain an independent valuation.
If you were purchasing a home in the UK, you would not think twice about requesting a structural survey and an independent valuation. Many investors fail to do this when purchasing an international property, however, due to the cost and logistical challenges of organizing these tasks from a remote location. Obtaining an independent valuation and guaranteeing the integrity of the property is a fundamental part of any real estate transaction, however, and it is important to remember that any costs are a small price to pay to protect a larger investment.
6. Overcome the language barrier.
Even if you do not intend to relocate permanently, you will still need to engage directly with international vendors and agents when purchasing property overseas. This may pose an issue with regard to any language barriers, which can easily create miscommunication and either delay completion of a deal or have a negative impact on cost. While you can overcome this by taking time to learn the relevant language, it is often far more tome-effective to employ the services of a legal professional with a knowledge of conveyancing.
7. The need to confirm title and ownership.
Given the remote nature of international real estate investment, it can be difficult to develop trust with vendors and agents. This means that you must be extremely cautious when discussing issues such as title and ownership, especially as any debt that exists on a property may be passed onto you once the transaction has been completed. If a developer has previously borrowed money to complete the work and not repaid this, for example, you may be liable for the repayment and any affiliated charges as the new owner.
8. Research the location and local amenities.
Even if you are comfortable with the financial and tax aspects of purchasing a property abroad, you must still conduct research into the location, its transport links, and local amenities. This is especially true if you intend to live there, although investors must also have knowledge of the region if they are to successfully let their property and generate a consistent return. When buying a holiday home for rental purposes, you must also be sure to research off-peak travel times as you may well experience a fall in demand and income during this period.
9. How will your safeguard your property when you are absent?
If you are buying a holiday home or investing in real estate in order to make a profit, then there is no need to relocate permanently. This means that your property may well be empty for a significant portion of the calendar year, so you must be proactive and prepared to organize security year-round. One of the best ways to achieve this is to employ a local property management firm, who will make regular visits to check on the residence and organize any necessary cleaning or maintenance tasks. Although this will require additional investment, it can help to save you money and safeguard your assets.
10. Do you have an exit strategy?
Whether you intend to relocate internationally or develop a global real estate investment portfolio, it is important to remember that even the best laid plans occasionally go awry. You will therefore need a suitable contingency plan and exit strategy, as this will minimize any inconvenience caused and the potential for financial loss. For those hoping to relocate, it is therefore important to retain strong ties in your country of origin and ideally retain an existing property for a predetermined period of time. Investors will also need to keep a keen eye on the global real estate market and prevailing economic trends, as these factors may dictate the need to sell or change strategy.