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A lot of our clients who have some form of offshore interests feel the temptation to purchase property overseas. We find our North American clients tend to look at the Caribbean or Central America and places like Costa Rica or Panama and EU residents often consider buying overseas in nearby France, Spain, Cyprus, Italy or Portugal. Our colleagues at the ORCA office in Spain are finding lots of interest currently because property is so underpriced due to the market crash and its much the same in France and Cyprus.

Whatever your reasons for buying abroad the following top 10 tips can help assure that you have a smooth ride and avoid the pitfalls.

Tip #1: Decide if you are buying a holiday home or are relocating permanently
This is the most crucial move because of the potential tax benefits - or lack of - but this is highly dependent on your objectives, business activities, work or retirement status etc and it is in this area we specialize is assessing the plus and minus points of the various option. The key is to remember that in many cases relocating for 5 or 6 months a year to the right location or even 12 months can lead to massively reduced or even zero tax liabilities.

Tip #2: Check the market very carefully
Be very careful to check local market conditions to ensure that the market is not over priced or in decline. For example at the time of writing (mid 2014) Spain has been depressed for a long time A report prepared by one of the major real estate portals in Spain (idealista.com) noted that of a sample of 0.5 million bids since 2010, the prices offered were 24 percent lower than the bids (as of August 2013). "As anecdotal as this might sound, the key message behind the statistic is that Spanish households are indeed waiting for a correction in prices and this year could see further falls. The US on the other hand is on the up with Florida sales increasing.

Tip #3: Get your own lawyer
It is ideal to use a good estate agent (realtor) but do not use his lawyer always find the lawyer yourself so there is no risk he is in the realtors pocket. This is less of a risk in some countries than others because countries such as the US, UK, Canada, New Zealand and most northern European countries are well regulated but it can be a little more awkward in Central America, Spain, Greece and other locations around the Mediterranean.

Other issues to check hinge on illegal builds but there are things to watch for. For example in Spain no electricity with an urban property might mean its an illegal build.

Tip #4: Check the requirements and fees before buying
It is crucial to understand the various costs involved and whether you need a tax number or other items that can take time to arrange.

Tip #5: Get a the contract translated
Make sure if you are unfamiliar with the language that you understand what you are signing and take a translator with you if in doubt.

Tip #6: Check that the building is legal
Make sure that if the contract says the house is 360 square meters but it seems much smaller that you check the contract for signs of illegal construction. A client recently bought a house in Spain and found that it was registered at the Ayunamiento (Town Hall) as 120m single story home in an area zoned specifically for single story villas but the villa was now 195m with the top story unregistered. Our lawyer is still trying to help him regularize the property.

Tip #7: Make sure there are no debts or charges registered to the property
Not a problem in most countries but can be a headache in some so play safe

Tip #8: Get a survey
Always get a survey to be sure the property is sound and everything works. An example of the unexpected is a client recently bought a house in Cyprus with beautiful marble bathrooms, huge tubs and an outdoor jacuzzi. When he emailed the photos I was very impressed but he then discovered there was minimal water pressure and filling the bath took over an hour and the Jacuzzi was even worse not to mention the swimming pool which required a tanker! Total nightmare and hard to deal with other than installing a huge tank to store water.

Tip #9: Check Phone, Internet and Cellular services
Always check these phone and internet services because if you move to a place and are effectively cut off from friends and business associates it might be a disaster. One other tip is try to ensure the cellphone coverage is good too because if the internet goes down mobile broadband can fill the gap. A typical example of the problem is my house below near Gibraltar which has mobile internet from just one provider due to the hill behind blocking the signals. Fortunately the regular internet is fine.

Tip #10: Finally if you buy a home with a view beware!
Always check that your view can't be blocked by construction. This should be easy to check with searches but don't trust the seller or agent check for yourself.

As far as the purchase of the property we offer full consultation services regarding the best way to buy such as using a local or offshore company and any negative implications of real estate purchase in the area where you plan to buy.

UK / Ireland020 7175 0041
(International +44 20 7175 0041)
US / Canada1 954 866 5986
(INTERNATIONAL +1 954 866 5986)
Australia and New Zealand+61 2 9191 7472
(INTERNATIONAL +61 2 9191 7472)
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