Inspection trips can be a great way of finding your ideal property abroad, but are they something that will suit your home hunt?
Ten years ago, at the height of the property boom, such viewing trips were big business. Agents or developers advertising packages as low as £49 would fly you out to the Spanish Costas - or the resort areas of Turkey, Egypt or Cape Verde - and whizz you around a dozen new developments within the space of a day or two, hoping you might have put down a deposit on a property by the time you boarded your return flight home.
Some property hunters felt these trips worked well for them and ended up finding a home they were very happy with. Other buyers just found them overly pressurized or felt bamboozled by seeing ten homes on the trot without having a chance to get a feel for the area, or fully take on board what they were seeing. Like everything in life, one size (or style) doesn’t fit all.
But in 2017 it is a very different landscape and property hunters tend to be a both a little more cautious about taking on these trips, but also generally a lot better informed before they contemplate jumping on a plane. In a decade we have become a lot more web savvy, and most people now have online access via their iPad or smart phone so they can research property portals more easily.
So how have trips changed and how can you make them work for you?
It depends on what type of person you are, what sort of property you seek and at what point in your search you have reached.
Is a viewing trip for you?
First off, if you are well travelled or buying in an area where you have holidayed a few times, do you feel confident about arranging appointments with local agents and viewing properties as part of one of your vacations?
Assuming local agents can both converse in English (or you in their language) and that they understand the needs of overseas buyers, then you probably won’t need a viewing trip. Of course you can also meet UK agents, or British people working for overseas agents, without being on a trip organised by someone else.
It’s a question of how much control you want. If you pay your way and arrange to see developments or agents independently you will not feel beholden to any one person or company and you should receive a broad view of what’s available in the market.
If, however, you feel you need an element of handholding then a trip organised by a reputable agent or developer can be really helpful. It can also be a great way of seeing a lot of properties quickly (if that is your aim), and also an efficient one-stop shop. The key to having a useful one is making sure you know what to expect.
Inspection trips tend to be best arranged when you have identified a specific area, have worked out your target price range, and need to see what’s out there. So, for example, you might be seeking two-bed apartments on a development within an hour of Alicante airport, with a budget of £75,000.
The key is managing your expectations and making sure they tally with the organiser’s. You really shouldn’t consider going unless you are reasonably serious about buying in the area.
In current market conditions, the issue of time wasting or freeloading doesn’t really come into play, and equally agents have realised that viewing trips need to move with the times. They will also generally vet you first to check you are ready for a trip, that you are genuinely interested in buying, and some might require that you have finance in place before you go. Viewing trips now tend to be predominantly offered if people are looking for new-build homes (rather than resale properties).
Research the trip
But before you sign up, do your due diligence on the developer or agent - what are they selling, have you talked to them on the phone first and got a feel for who they are? Meeting people face to face at property exhibitions such as A Place in the Sun Live! can be a great way to set the wheels in motion - if you feel comfortable with their approach. Many happy purchasers started their property hunt in exactly this fashion.
So what do you need to ask them? Apart from what exactly you will be seeing, what will be paid for? Flights are often part-covered or accommodation offered at a discount, and airport transfers included. The odd meal or drinks might often be thrown in. But what does the agent expect in return and are you happy that the proposed schedule meets your needs?
A sensible itinerary on an inspection trip will make the most of your time in the area with an “expert” – but not try to pack too much in as this may leave you confused.
Will you require some spare time to look around yourself? Would it be useful taking along a trusted friend for a second opinion?
Some agents have been exploring the concept that slightly longer trips – or “tours” might be more useful, with a greater amount of free time for buyers so they can get to explore at their ease a little between batches of property viewings.
Such trips might also be structured with some introductory location recce’s, then property viewings, followed by a few sessions about the buying process, taxes, finance options or any other aspects of “the next step” – spread over three or four days.
Once you’ve signed up, prepare questions before the trip, and once you’re there, keep a clear head during viewings, and don’t be afraid to speak up if you aren’t finding it useful or relevant. Maybe, like many of the property hunters on A Place in the Sun TV programme, you decide after seeing two homes that you want to change tack slightly.
The agent should try and accommodate this - as one agent points out, viewings trips are a great opportunity for them to get to know you, the buyer, as much as the other way round. Neither side benefits if you get on the flight home feeling you’ve had a wasted two days.
Things to think about when you are looking at properties:
1) Ask the agent to provide you property particulars before you go so you can think about what issues to examine whilst you are there. Are there any important details missing? It’s often what is not mentioned that can be relevant to how suitable the property is than what is. Make notes on them and take them with you on the trip.
2) Whether you are looking at a wide area or just properties within one town, get hold of a map and orientate yourself as you go and visit different homes. Many local tourist offices provide maps free, but your agent should provide one if you ask in advance.
2) Take pictures as you see each property - and the views from them. It’s impossible for most people to recollect details a week later of half a dozen homes.
3) As you see each property think about its location - how near are the neighbours, how noisy is it, but also what is its orientation - does the balcony get the morning and/or evening sun, and which would you prefer most?
4) If the property is in a development, what are the common areas like? Are they well maintained? Feel free to take time to wander around and get a feel for the place. Ask about monthly community fees (or service charges) - generally the more sophisticated the shared amenities or landscaping, the higher they will be. Golf courses, multiple swimming pools and onsite amenities generally push up the price.
5) Look at the quality of the build. How is the property wearing - if it’s a resale. Are there any snagging issues if it’s a new-build?
6) Visualise yourself in the property and how you would use it. How would it work if guests were staying - including children or elderly relatives (if applicable), also if it’s a long-term purchase, will it still suit you in 10 years?
7) Will you want to adapt or renovate the property? If so, how easy and how expensive might this be? The agent should help you answer these questions, although you may seek to get a second opinion too (just as you might at home).
8) If you are buying off-plan or on a part-constructed development, consider the positioning of the plot/property - the best ones will usually get snapped up first but not everyone’s priorities are the same. A corner villa plot or end-of-block apartment will often be most popular for the greater privacy - and this affects your ability to re-sell the property too.
9) Do you need to see any of the properties again? Most people admit to seeing a different or additional set of things the second, or third time round.
10) Don’t feel afraid to ask about things not directly related to the property - where are the local schools, hospitals, public transport etc.
Most trips won’t end in a sale immediately - and some agents deliberately build in a “cooling off” period - but that doesn’t mean they haven’t been a success. Don’t be browbeaten to any instant decisions, but take time to reflect on what you’ve seen when you get back home.
Tips for successful trips
- Do your research and agree the terms of the trip in advance
- Discuss in advance the schedule and what properties you will see
- Pay your way for more freedom
- Take a map, make notes and take pictures as you go
- Make the most of the one-to-one time with agents to ask about anything you need to know
- Keep a cool head – don’t feel pressurised to buy on the spot