1. Rent before you buy: Many people already living overseas will advise you to rent first and buy second because what you really want, and what you think you want, nearly always turns out to be different. Many Brits go in search of their dream hideaway villa, but those who start off in the “real” Spain soon find they miss many things (from marmalade to a news-paper or a good chat in their own language) and tend to sell up and move to a town or resort. Equally, the friendly resort you visited on holiday in May might not be quite so much fun in high summer.
2. Check out your agent and developer: To counter a number of cowboy outfits, developers have got together to form the Federation of Overseas Property Developers, Agents and Consultants, so visit their website: www.fopdac.com
3. Book more than one inspection trip: Many property abroad sales people have been trained in the very effective sales techniques of timeshare. While there is nothing wrong with this method of selling, it does mean that they are effective at closing the sale before you’ve had a chance to compare other developments or properties. Book at least two inspection trips, if not three to avoid being tempted to buy on impulse.
4. Measure travelling time to the nearest airport: If you intend to either let your property or fly out from the UK to holiday in it, you should look for a location that is no more than an hour’s drive from the local airport, or you will find your weekend retreat becomes a once-a-year trip.
5. Money follows money: Don’t buy the most expensive villa in a ‘cheap holiday destination’ because when it comes to playgrounds, the rich stick together. If you want to know how wealthy a resort is, look at the size of the boats in the marina or count the number of expensive cars outside local restaurants on a Friday night.
6. Visit the location out of season: Viewing your property location in November, December, January, February or March is the best way to see what it is really like. If there are no people about, you can be sure you will not have a winter rental market.
7. Ask about renovation grants: Many rural areas will offer grants of up to 50pc to restore and renovate old properties. Ask at your local council office.
8. Arrange finance before you sign: Don’t take it for granted that you can raise finance on the property. You may find you can only borrow 70pc of the value and also need to find another 10pc of the value to pay for buying costs. That means that you may find it easier to raise money at home by re- mortgaging your own property and buying the property abroad for cash. Either way, you need a written mortgage offer before you sign. It is a very good idea to arrange your finance in principle before you fly abroad.
9. Set up a local bank account: You will need to pay for the notary and other property purchase costs in the local currency via cash, cheque or credit card. For this you’ll need to set up a local ‘non-resident’ bank account. Typically, this means that you have normal current account facilities but won’t receive any interest on the money deposited. You may need to wait before you are issued with credit cards.
Source: The Journal – Newcastle-upon-Tyne 2006-03-04