How to Avoid Pitfalls When Buying an Overseas Property


Buying a property abroad presents additional challenges compared to buying at home. Amid the confusion, many buyers disregard the basic principles they would generally apply to the situation, resulting in a compromised purchase they could have avoided. Do your research thoroughly, learn about the local and national markets, seek qualified advice, speak with others who have already purchased in the same area, test what you have been told, and, most importantly, don’t be rushed into a decision.

The purchase of a property abroad is frequently not intended to be a permanent residence, at least in the short term. It will be used as a vacation home, a rental prospect, or an investment; thus, the criteria for selecting a specific property will differ.

One of the most common pitfalls is not knowing what you want, so try to define your needs and requirements as precisely as possible regarding the property type and location. Without this, your search will be too broad, and you will waste a lot of time looking at unsuitable properties at home and, more importantly, during a search visit. Begin with the basics, such as whether the property is an apartment or a villa, how many bedrooms it has, whether a pool is required, and the size of the plot or garden. Examine all aspects and determine which are unmovable and which will be compromised. You must also agree with your purchasing partner(s) to avoid future problems.

Then ask yourself some more difficult questions to determine what else is truly important to you, such as the style of property, the standard of interiors, i.e., how modern is the bathroom and kitchen, and whether you are willing to do some renovation work yourself or if it must be a new property. To determine your position, put your ideas to the test.

Then, in addition to the specific town or area, consider how far you want to be from a beach or the nearest town or village; will you always be happy to use a car?

One final consideration in determining what you want is how you will use the property – will you rent it out to the public, or will you only allow family and friends to use it? How frequently do you intend to visit, and do you need to consider who will look after it while you are away? These elements will also have an impact on your requirements.

Once you have these answers, you will have something factual to base your search on and a focus allowing you to include or exclude potential properties as your search progresses.

You must understand how the purchase and sales process works in the local market; there will inevitably be differences from your home market, and you must be aware of these from the beginning. Purchase and sale prices can vary greatly. Also, ensure you understand the market structure and don’t assume it’s the same as in your home country; only then can you be sure that you have visibility of everything for sale. In Portugal, for example, there is a solid private sales market that operates through local press and private signs, primarily due to the high commissions charged by selling agents, and there are many more estate agents than in the UK, with most properties for sale with multiple agents.

As a result of this’shared approach,’ written details are very brief, nothing like the carefully produced glossy brochure you might be used to at home. Furthermore, the agent you speak with will frequently search other agents for properties they believe might be suitable but have no personal knowledge of. You must fully brief the agent, comprehend the information they send you, understand how they are compensated, and ask numerous questions.

Numerous property and estate agent websites are available, making it simple to find any potentially viable properties that appear to meet your criteria. Without being able to inspect the properties physically, the challenge is ensuring that those you add to your shortlist for viewing visits are what they appear to be and that you are not wasting valuable time visiting unsuitable prospects.

One of the primary reasons why buyers end up with a subpar purchase is a lack of time. Many people schedule viewing trips with insufficient time to see enough properties to get a sense of what is available and to ensure they find something that meets their criteria. At home, they would never fall into this trap. Develop a good relationship with the sales agents and get them to do as much of the work for you as possible – a vital part of this is checking the facts and adding to the information provided in the written property details. Before agreeing to view, ask the agent specific questions based on your search criteria to ensure the property meets your needs.

Searching for a home in an unfamiliar market takes time and is challenging for many people. If you don’t have the time to search for the property, consider hiring a search agent; many works in foreign markets, but most are not entirely independent. They collaborate with several estate agents and developers. They are compensated by sharing commissions with these agents, which means you will only be shown properties from their portfolios rather than any other properties on the market that may better suit your needs. You, as the buyer, will have to pay for the services of a genuinely independent search agent; this is the only way to ensure they are working solely in your best interests. However, their costs may be offset by their ability to negotiate a healthy discount locally on your behalf.

Searching for the property of your dreams in another country is not an impossible task, and many people succeed. Still, you can avoid many pitfalls by doing thorough research, getting to know the area, building relationships with agents, and giving yourself enough time.

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