Five biggest pitfalls to avoid when buying a property abroad

Sunday, January 01, 2012

Five biggest pitfalls to avoid when buying a property abroad

Legal expert Peter Esders of Chebsey & Co offers an insight into dodging the most common problems experienced by UK buyers. Heed his advice and buying really can be fun...

1. Not using an independent lawyer

Strangely one of the most common questions I get asked is if it's always necessary to use a lawyer. Yes it is! Would you buy a property in the UK without a solicitor? I suspect not.
Why shouldn't the same logic apply when you are buying a property in a country where you don't understand the legal system, have probably never bought a property before and often don't speak the language?

Don't be fooled when you are told that you only need a Notary. The Notary is required in many countries but doesn't do everything. You still need an independent lawyer.
Why shouldn't you use the seller's lawyer to help you buy the property? For exactly the same reasons as when you are buying back home – because it is impossible to act in the best interest of two parties who want different things.

2. Not thinking about the future
The time to plan for the future is when you are buying the property, not afterwards. By planning ahead you can avoid problems such as co-owners falling out with each other, what to do when you sell, inheritance issues, tax issues and so on. By planning ahead you can not only avoid problems in the future but you can also save significant amounts of money.

3. Assuming things work the same way as they do back home
Even in countries where the legal system is similar to the UK the laws are different so don't assume otherwise. Don't assume that certain things will automatically happen. Don't assume that the costs of buying abroad are going to be the same as back home. Don't assume that tax systems and inheritance laws are the same.

4. Leaving their brains at the airport
For some reason people get carried away when they go abroad. Maybe it is the sun and the heat, the romance of it all, the wine drunk at lunchtime or something else but often people do things abroad that they would never dream of doing back in their home country. Keep calm, stay focused and remember that logic and common sense can take you quite far. If something seems too good to be true it probably is. If something seems strange think about what might be happening and if you can't work it out ask somebody independent about it. Surround yourself with experts to guide you through the process and protect you.

5. Believing everything that you are told and being too trustworthy
The seller wants to sell the property to you and get their hands on your money. The estate agent makes his money from selling the property. Thus both have a financial interest in persuading you to sell the property. So why take everything that they say at face value? You probably wouldn't do so here in the UK!

If something is important to you, get the facts checked. Carry out surveys and valuations with the help of an independent advisor. Check all those legal details. Don't believe it when you are told “everybody does it this way over here”. If in doubt - check.

Chebsey & Co. Solicitors: 01494 670440, www.chebsey.com

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A Place In The Sun