by Attorney William Bronchick
With the economy getting into a stronger position many more Americans are considering putting some of their hard-earned cash into buying a vacation home overseas. If you dream of owning a sunny villa in Italy, a cottage in Scotland or maybe a beachside apartment in the Caribbean, here are five essential tips to consider when looking for real estate overseas.
1. Research Your Location
You may already have a favorite destination in mind and be visualizing your life lazing by a swimming pool overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. On the other hand, you may be interested in shopping around to find the best countries in which to buy a vacation home and make an investment into property.
It is wise to do a fair amount of research into any new destination and cover everything from foreign ownership of real estate rules, property taxes, the political and economic stability of a destination as well as the investment potential a given country offers. With this information in hand, it will be easier to make the right decision about which location suits your lifestyle objectives, budget, and long-term investment plans.
2. Employ Assistance
Finding a real estate professional able to assist with your search for the perfect vacation home could save you time, effort and even money in the long run ñ although most realtors take commission from any sales they make of course! But a local agent will understand the dynamics of their property market and be able to quickly and efficiently track down real estate bargains that match your vision for your vacation home overseas.
Be aware that in some countries real estate agents neither have to be licensed nor qualified however and so take a recommendation if at all possible and tread carefully.
3. Manage your Money
If you need to raise a mortgage to pay for your vacation home you may need to re-mortgage your home or raise finance in your home country to fund the purchase because in many countries it is difficult for non-residents to get a mortgage and in some of the emerging property markets around the world there is no possibility to get a mortgage.
When transferring money overseas beware of fluctuating exchange rates that can devalue your lump sum significantly and make the difference between you affording your dream home and affording a poor second best. There are professional companies available who can help those buying property abroad to deal with fluctuating currencies into your options.
4. Title Deeds and Legalities
Legal systems vary from country to country as does the land registry system, and in some countries, title deed transfers are not registered at all which can make it difficult to prove who owns the property. Make yourself aware of the legal rights that you will have as a property owner in a given country and find out about any assurances you can get that you own title to the vacation home that you have bought.
Never buy real estate overseas without the aid of a good lawyer, check their credentials and ensure that any contracts or agreements you sign are translated into your mother tongue and that you check the wording carefully before you sign!
5. Protect Your Assets
Once you make the transition from house seeker to vacation home owner you will want to keep your real estate assets well looked after. If you are only going to be vacationing in your home overseas occasionally consider having a management company look after your home when you are away.
Ensure a property that is to be left for periods of time is well secured because even in countries where there is very low crime a beautiful home left standing empty can become a temptation.
Get insurance to cover the value of your home and contents and make sure someone regularly checks that your property is in good order, that the weeds are not growing over your veranda and that your swimming pool is clean and ready for when you next take a holiday in the sun.
It is also vitally important to protect the assets that you have! You’ve worked hard for them, so don’t let someone go after you with a frivilous lawsuit!