For many of us, buying a home is a dream we strive to reach. It’s the realization of finally settling-in and establishing a secure base for our family.

When you’re planning on moving abroad, the process becomes more complicated. Purchasing real estate abroad is too significant an investment to leave up to chance – rather, the entire process requires research, planning and expert advice and assistance.

To help you in buying your first home abroad, here’s a round-up of tips from our own experience as expats.*

1) Do your homework – investigate the market

Before making any purchases or decisions, it’s best to ensure you have a good understanding of the local real estate market. Sure, we see a trend of global properties increasing in value over time, but real estate markets differ by location, economic situations as well as the stage of real estate cycle the region is in.

Take for instance the experience of Neil Mellis, who bought a stunning villa in Cyprus. The reality was far from ideal when the Cyprus property market crashed in 2008 and their mortgage repayments increased dramatically. Now, they are barely getting by.

In other words, any purchase of a home abroad requires an intense amount of consult a professional. You need an understanding of the layout of the city/region, the market, and crime levels, just to name a few factors.

Make sure your purchase is based on an educated rather than an impulsive decision – no matter how amazing that beach house by the sea looks!

2) Don’t take any chances – understand all legal aspects

As part of your research, you also need to understand local laws on buying property. The best option is to use an independent lawyer that can act on your behalf as well as keep you informed and educated throughout the process. Remember – the seller’s lawyer’s priority will always be their client.

You also need to know if there are any limitations on home purchases based on your immigrant/non-citizen status or anything else that could potentially create unnecessary trouble.

Finally, check all sorts of regulations to ensure the property is a legal development, that the seller has proper titles to the property, and that you have access to all essentials like plumbing infrastructure and electricity.

A beautiful home in Greece? It’s possible!

3) Set-up payment in local currency

As it is, when you’re buying a home abroad there are local taxes and fees that increase the costs significantly. You don’t want to add an absurd currency conversion fee to that sum.

Unfortunately, both foreign and domestic banks charge large currency conversion fees (at times up to 4%) and when we’re talking about expensive purchases like a home, this has a significant impact on the final sum.

There are alternative ways to transfer and convert money to your destination country, so make sure to evaluate other overseas payments options. Always check that the financial service is authorized to work and has a positive track record.

4) Make sure you understand all documents

With hundreds of official languages  across the world, there is a chance that legal documents and information provided by your destination country might not be in English.

Since Google Translate has its limitations, it’s advised that you consult a professional during the process of buying your home abroad.

All documents you are signing should be translated and explained by your lawyer or broker that is assisting you through the process.

If you are unsure of what your documents state, do not sign them.

Perhaps a charming cottage in Sweden?

5) Ideally, make the trip there before committing

There are con artists everywhere and they are always looking for their next easy target. You don’t want to arrive to your new country only to find out that construction for your home isn’t beginning for another few years, or that the property itself doesn’t even exist.

Photos and assurances are never enough. If you can head to the country to look at the property, it provides extra assurance that the property exists and that everything is being handled appropriately.

Other horror stories include people who bought a contaminated house or had to deal with non-stop overnight noise pollution from a nearby airport.

The moral of these stories: check everything!

Have you bought a home? Tell us your tips or stories below!


*Please note: I am not a professional or a broker. I’m only sharing the information that I found through my own personal research and experience as an expat. Before you take any action regarding home purchases, speak to a professional.

Thanks to Freepik for the unedited version of the featured image.