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Are you one of a growing number of people considering buying a second home
in the sun, an idyllic home from home abroad or a lucrative investment property
overseas? If so youre not alone! Statistics show that globally were
all on the move with a recent survey by YouGov revealing that 55% of adult
Britons were seriously considering settling in another country
and the British Centre for Future Studies predicting that by 2020 one tenth
of the current British population will be living or working abroad!
Add to this the fact that there was a 250% increase between 2000 and 2004
in the number of Britons buying property abroad solely for investment purposes,
that over one and a quarter million Brits own second homes in Spain and France
already and that the Office for National Statistics in the UK recently revealed
that 200,000 Britons go overseas yearly with the intention of remaining for
at least twelve months, and you can see that the passion for buying that
dream home abroad is universal.
But whats fuelling this ever growing interest in the overseas property
Well, despite reports to the contrary the UK housing market is seemingly
ever on the up and those Britons whore acquiring massive levels of
equity through their residential property are considering selling up, buying
abroad and establishing a pension fund simply on the back of what they have
left over from their house sale. Others in Britain cant actually afford
to get on the first rung of the property ladder and some are looking abroad
to find more affordable housing. Then of course theres the state and
confusion surrounding the pensions market which is getting ever worse meaning
that a growing number of Britons are considering the option of buying a second
property abroad to let out for an income towards retirement. Others just
share a commonly held dream of owning a holiday home in the sun or escaping
the rat race to get a new life overseas.
Whatever reasons you may have for considering buying property abroad one
thing is for certain; before you go ahead and buy you should understand some
of the far reaching legal, financial and taxation implications of buying
abroad. This article examines ten top points worthy of your consideration.
1) The British national obsession with property prices, equity and re-mortgaging
is as foreign a concept in many other countries as mushy peas or vinegar
on your chips so dont just assume that your second home will rise in
value and dont assume that itll be easy to sell. Do your homework
to see whether the property market youre interested in can support
and sustain your particular hopes and ambitions for it. In countries such
as Northern Cyprus and Bulgaria the real estate market has been suppressed
for so long that property prices remain highly competitive and many can see
the room for substantial growth in the market. In other countries such as
Spain, France and Portugal where the property market has been soaring for
years can you expect the same levels of growth to continue? Know that every
countrys property market is different. If you decide to compare overseas
markets to the UK housing market some may not appear as buoyant, however
consider examining the longer term trends. Speak to established estate agencies
in your country of choice to find out whether the market is stable or stale.
If its stable then youre more likely to enjoy a steady, realistic
increase in your propertys value rather than the extreme peaks and
troughs that the UK market tends towards. If on the other hand the market
is stale you need to consider the economy of the country and whether its
due a positive correction any time soon.
2) Factor in regular travel costs needed for visiting your second home when
you establish your budget. Keep in mind any extra visits you might have to
make occasionally to organise repairs and renovation for example. This sounds
so obvious but sadly many people are caught out and find that they cannot
holiday in their new home as often as they like: or worse still - once they
move abroad they find they cant get home for visits to
the family etc. Budget wisely and dont get caught out!
3) If you intend to rent out your second home you must declare this income
to the tax man in your country of residence Im afraid! Furthermore
it may be necessary to declare it in the country in which the new house is
located depending on the double taxation agreements in place between the
two countries. Make sure you seek solid tax advice before making any concrete
4) If youre intending to let out your property make sure you know how
much its going to cost to have an agent manage both the day-to-day
running of your property together with organising the rental side of things
for you. Youll need a good agent to make sure your best interests are
always protected especially if youre not going to remain resident in
the country the property is located in. Factor these extra costs into your
budget or reduce them from your projected rental income to get a realistic
idea of the income potential of your property. Remember youll still
need to pay a management agent during any weeks and months the property remains
5) Consider the local tax implications of buying, owning and selling your
property as property and land tax in some countries can make UK stamp duty
and council tax pale into insignificance. In Northern Cyprus for example
tax rates are not currently excessive but they are subject to change, therefore
always get up-to-date tax and fee facts and figures from your estate agent
furthermore, make sure you check the figures with a local lawyer or
6) Make a will to cover local inheritance tax laws and make sure your overseas
property is also detailed in a will held in your country of residence. Specialist
legal advice should always be sought when you hold property in more than
one country as inheritance laws not only differ greatly depending on the
country, but certain local inheritance laws can completely contradict and
invalidate your main will.
7) Factor the legal bills that you will incur when buying, renting or selling
your property into your overall budget. You can be charged all sorts of extras
like notary fees, valuation fees, translation fees etc., and if you factor
them in you shouldnt get any nasty surprises.
8) Be aware of the legalities of any contract you enter into. Find a reputable
lawyer, get key documents translated, and know that ignorance is never a
valid excuse! Not understanding the language in which your key legal contracts
are written is a problem, dont ignore the problem! Dont blindly
sign on the dotted line; its your responsibility to get informed.
9) Buying through an offshore company to avoid certain taxes, expenses and
laws is sometimes an option open to an individual interested in purchasing
abroad. Whether this route is actually the best route is massively debateable!
Firstly it depends on the country in which youre buying. Secondly,
local agents may be incorrectly advising foreigners by basing their advice
on the local situation. This method of approach can be beneficial but it
could land you in a whole lot more taxation mess both abroad and at home!
There are specialist companies out there who can advise you based on your
individual situation and as its not a case of one method suiting all,
be careful and get informed. Find out the following, if you do buy through
an offshore company and wish to take the property out of that company in
the future how easy will that be to do, will you incur an expense, will there
be further tax liabilities if you decide to sell your company owned property,
and what happens if you try to take the profit from the sale, will you be
taxed? Also consider the taxation situation from the UK point of view and
the local situation in your country of choice.
10) What option would you like to take when it comes to financing your purchase?
Are you considering equity release or a second mortgage, cash or a mortgage
in the local currency? Know the pros and cons of each option. Cash may seem
like the easiest and best way to go but do you want to have all that money
tied up in a relatively slow to liquidise overseas asset? So what about a
mortgage in the local currency? You need to consider the stability of the
currency and fluctuating exchange rates. When moving money overseas either
in a lump sum or to meet regular monthly financial commitments there are
options available to you to reduce currency fluctuation risks consider
spot or forward transactions, speak to a financial adviser or foreign exchange
risk expert to find out the options available. If youre considering
equity release or a second mortgage this might be a cheap option at the moment
but remember youd risk losing one or both homes if you fell
behind on payments!
When it comes to the considerations you need to make when exploring the idea
of purchasing a second home abroad these ten top tips are not exhaustive
but should provide some food for thought. Going forward from here you should
remain informed; dont enter into an idea abroad that you wouldnt
entertain back home and seek professional legal, financial and
taxation advice at every step of the way.
Rhiannon Williamson is the publisher of
- the online resource that guides you to a low tax, maximum investment profit
Shelter Offshore features three main channels - offshore investment, property
investment abroad and overseas lifestyle.
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