Helpful hints on negotiating a scam free foreign home purchase

Published:  8 May at 6 PM
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As the number of UK emigrants to friendlier climes increases, it’s important to ensure that the purchase of your dream home doesn’t turn into your worst nightmare.

As with purchasing property anywhere in the world, the devil’s in the detail, and the details regarding legal necessities, land titles, building contractors and land lease or purchase differ in every country. Visiting your chosen retirement haven as a potential resident rather than a tourist several times before a commitment is made is the first, essential step.

Different destinations have different downsides as regards property ownership. For example, those buying in Spain should ensure all land deeds and building permits are in order to avoid the threat of demolition. In Portugal, an upcoming government law about conservation may result in swathes of repossessions and demolition in popular coastal locations.

In recent years, a number of scams involving the purchase of off-plan homes in new developments have rocked the expat world, with millions lost to overseas resort developers’ various versions of the Ponzi scheme. The best advice as regards off-plan contracts is – walk away.

A comprehensive surveyor’s report is another must, taking into account subsidence, the risks of flooding and the provision of local utility services including internet access. A reputable local estate agent may well be your best friend, but finding one can be tricky, as even crooks have mates happy to recommend their services.

Language problems can rear their heads, particularly in legal matters, and several professional opinions are the best bet. Lawyers recommended by overseas developers or real estate agents are the worst idea due to obvious conflicts of interest.

Construction standards and styles vary country by country, usually dependent on the local climate, and what’s necessary in your home country may not be suitable for your new home. Reading the small print of any contract or document relating to your purchase or new-build in translation is another essential, as is querying anything you don’t fully understand.
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