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Brexit - what next for buyers in Europe?

Brexit - what next for buyers in Europe?

Whilst Boris Johnson still toils at the negotiating table to reach a deal (or not) in the prolonged Brexit endgame, there’s a last-minute rush for some Britons hoping to move to the Continent before the end of the year.

Coronavirus has played havoc with some of the best-laid plans of buyers to travel to locations in France, Spain and Portugal especially, and virtual viewing has really come into its own.

A year ago many property hunters wouldn’t have considered purchasing a home for themselves without physically inspecting it themselves, but FaceTime and WhatsApp (in the hands of an agent you can trust) has been a great way to workaround the travel restrictions - as a number of buyers have told me themselves. Virtual ‘tours’ have become a great time-saver for property hunters doing their research online, even when physical viewings resume.

Of course we are doing a lot of things a bit differently from a year ago and the pandemic has pushed a few people into re-thinking how they want to live and work going into 2021. Remote working has become far more prevalent and for some people will be a permanent choice.

Digital nomad visas have been launched across the world - offering remote workers the chance to live and work in a different country for a year without the complications of applying for permanent residency.

Looking ahead to 2021

Many of you are still hoping to buy a home abroad so the good news is that physical viewings are now permitted again in France and if you are planning a trip, do check our guide to planning a viewing trip.

Buying a holiday home in France, Spain, Portugal, Italy, Cyprus or any of your other favourite locations will not be more complicated from a conveyancing perspective than a year ago.

In fact with prices predicted to fall in some areas hit hard by the pandemic - some regions of Spain, for example - it might well be a buyers’ market for an affordable bolt hole in the sun. Have a look at our latest buying guide to Murcia for an idea of how far your money will go.

As things stand, you will not be able to spend more than 90 days at a time in your home, if it is in the European Union. Many of us are hoping that the most popular countries for holiday homes will make bilateral agreements with the UK for home owners to be able to stay for 180 days. This looks high likely in Portugal, but we will keep you updated.

By eating out and shopping in local communities, foreign part-time residents make considerable contributions to the economy of rural areas - and as such is the whole premise of incentives such as the Welcome Stamp visa in Barbados.

The restriction is not putting off some buyers planning ahead. “It’s going to be more complicated and we will have to be quite organised,” says Sasha from Southwark who has bought a home in the Dordogne during 2020. “I am calculating how many days we use across each visit during the year and booking flights accordingly. We will still get to enjoy our home there over the key times of the year we were hoping to.”

The future is golden?

For those hoping to move abroad permanently, there will be the option of golden visas in a number of countries in the European Union. These schemes aimed at attracting buyers from outside of the Union - so-called Third Countries - to offer a residency permit in return for investment in the country that can include real estate, or residential property.

They are generally the quickest and easiest way to get a residency visa, but the relatively high threshold of some of them will rule out buyers with lower budgets - although generally more than one property can make up the minimum amount. But do check if the relevant country allows loans (mortgages) as a means to purchase the property.

Golden visa residency permits generally last for one or two years, and can usually be exchanged for a longer residency permit for that country before the end of that year. Your spouse and children under 18 can apply for residency as well.

With Spain the minimum investment for a golden visa is €500,000. You only have to visit Spain once a year in order to maintain the permit, but of course for many buyers, that is the whole point of the visa. But bear in mind that if you stay in Spain for over six months, you automatically become a tax resident there and your worldwide assets and income will be taxed in Spain.

The permit can easily be renewed every two years, and you can apply for the right to work as an entrepreneur or employee once you’ve been granted the two-year permit.

There is no golden visa scheme for France, but in Portugal there is currently a very popular one with investment as low as €280,000 if you buy a property that needs renovation in a low-density (usually rural) area. The Algarve is designated a low-density area. If you buy a property in an urban regeneration area, the threshold is €350,000.

There are also golden visa schemes with property investment options in Greece (minimum spend: €250,000), Cyprus (€300,000) and Malta (€350,000); other countries like Italy and Austria offer golden visa schemes without the property-purchase element. Countries outside Europe that also offer schemes include Turkey, Montenegro and Antigua.

If golden visa schemes are not an option, then standard extended-stay or work visas will be the route to moving to a country within the EU. These generally require a higher level of financial sufficiency than is needed of residency applicants from within the EU, and will almost certainly be more costly and time-consuming to apply for. In France, for example, you will need to justify, or explain, your reason for seeking to live in France, says a relocation company.

Keep an eye out for new webinars and newsletters on all aspects of moving abroad after Brexit including residency, tax and healthcare on aplaceinthesun.com.

Liz Rowlinson

Author