How to avoid the pitfalls of emigration from the UK

Published:  19 Apr at 6 PM
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British expats often leave the homeland for locations worldwide without calculating the emotional cost of adjustment and the financial cost of settling in an unfamiliar country.

Falling in love with a country whilst on holiday is a major reason for many Brits’ decisions to up sticks and emigrate before they’ve any idea of the reality of living overseas. Considerations such as ease of travel back to the home country if necessary, local schooling for the kids, local shops and transport options and much more simply don’t figure in the decision. Unsurprisingly, many who tread this path find themselves back in the UK, sadder, wiser and considerably poorer.

Avoiding this fate takes extensive research online, offline and via magazine articles as well as international property shows. When an area has been decided on, one or several further visits will at least given an understanding of the locale. Searching for the dream house doesn’t just involve the local estate agent, as the first priority is to hook up with a trustworthy, independent, bilingual lawyer with no ties to the owner of the property. Laws regarding house purchase are different in every country, with Spain’s mega-developers pushing their own lawyers – not a good idea – and French lawyers acting for both parties in a house purchase. Independent, reliable advice is essential.

The final move may well be trouble-free, but if complications set in they’ll be pricey, and one-off house-purchase costs include agency fees, property transfer taxes and local taxes. If remortgaging a UK property to help pay for the new home overseas is part of the plan, the possibility of a local mortgage may be a better deal overall. For example, French mortgage rates are lower than those in the UK as well as being aimed at non-residents, and several EU member states allow mortgage interest to be set against any tax liability due on income from letting the property when the owner is not in residence.

Income requirements for such loans may, however, be excessive, especially for expat retirees. Contacting a local mortgage broker is the best idea, as is checking on the chosen property’s ongoing costs such as maintenance fees, air conditioning, local taxes and insurance including a private healthcare policy if necessary.
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