The lifting of the final lockdown restrictions in the UK on Monday July 19 is expected to herald a rush to Europe and America to seek out that dream holiday home and snap it up.
But overseas property and finance expert Simon Conn is calling on property bargain-hunters to take a deep breath and think carefully before signing on the dotted line.
“For the last 16 months, travelling abroad on a house hunt has been challenging,” Simon explained. “And while some have dived in and bought a property without even visiting it, most of my clients have waited patiently for the easing of travel restrictions to pursue their dream and buy that house in the sun.”
He said that a number of his clients would be heading overseas next week to meet up with estate agents, tour their target area and start the ball rolling on one of the biggest decisions of their lives.
“Buying a property abroad is a major decision for most people,” Simon continued. “It is vital that a purchaser does a proper investigation. You must be governed by your head, not your heart.”
Simon, who has been in the overseas property and finance business for more than 35 years, urged house-hunters to avoid the common mistakes he has encountered all too often.
His top tips during the house-hunting stage are:
• NEVER sign up for a property that you have not visited. A home that looks great in the sales brochure could be sited next to a motorway, airfield or even a rubbish dump.
• Visit during the day AND night to get a proper feel for the area.
• Talk to people who already live in the area to get a better understanding of what it is really like.
• Ensure the property has been built legally. Authorities have been known to demolish homes built too near a shoreline or on unregistered rural land.
• Some unscrupulous agents see foreign buyers as cash-cows and inflate the prices. Shop around.
Once you have found the home of your dreams, do not become detached from reality.
• Instruct an independent surveyor, ideally one who is not locally based, to check the valuation and comparable properties in the area.
• Does that new extension or new swimming pool have proper planning permission or building licences? If not, this could affect your mortgage application and also affect your ability to sell in the future.
• Instruct an independent lawyer, ideally not the one recommended by the agent or seller, to hep you through the purchase process and look after your interests.
For new properties, the surveyor should check foundation depths, quality of building materials used, suitability of the location (not on a flood plain or too close to nearby cliffs!
For people considering relocating and working from their new home, check the tax situation. You don’t want to end up paying two sets of taxes.
If you are pressured into putting down a deposit, make sure you state within any sales contract “subject to mortgage finance” or similar wording This could also possibly allow you to recover your deposit if there is a problem with the mortgage application, valuation of the property or any legal issues. However, always check with your independent lawyer before committing to the purchase and they will advise the correct wording to insert relevant to the country where you are purchasing.
“Perhaps the most important piece of advice I can give is to make sure you know what you are signing. You may only receive a contract in the local language, or two contracts – one in the local language and one in English.
“The term ‘lost in translation’ is one we are all familiar with, but when it comes to contracts for an overseas property, you could be at risk of experiencing its full impact. In many cases, it has come to light that the translation is not a true version of the original. In other cases, people have not bothered to have the contract translated at all.”
Check with an independent lawyer, who can verify that the translation is a true version of the original. Otherwise, you could unwittingly be agreeing to extra conditions or charges not covered under the original contract.
Simon concluded: “Buying a property overseas can be one of the best decisions you ever make, but I would urge you to do your research and take the proper steps before taking the plunge. Do not live to regret it.”