Dodgy property deals taken on by expats are increasingly featuring in the headlines as disgruntled buyers launch legal challenges to protect their homes and gain compensation for scams and mis-selling scandals.
Expats in Cyprus who were caught up in a property speculation bubble which then burst leaving them with homes worth a fraction of the price they paid are at the forefront of many campaigns.
That’s if their homes were built in the first place – as many developments saw buyers handover mortgage cash for homes that were never finished.
Indeed, the situation there is so serious and involves so many upset buyers that the EU has launched a special investigation into what went wrong.
It’s a familiar story that is being repeated in many other countries, including Spain, so just how can an expat avoid falling into the same trap?
The first tip is let your brain not your heart do the thinking – if you would not complete the deal back home, do not get involved overseas. Here are five tips to a successful overseas property purchase:
Buy a property that is legal
This is probably the most obvious and simplest advice but also the one which is most commonly ignored. Always take independent advice, especially from an English-speaking lawyer who doesn’t work in the area.
Make sure the home has planning permission
Another piece of advice that sadly goes ignored until the sale goes wrong. Do not believe everything you are told by the person selling the property since they have a vested interest, and once they have your cash they are more than likely to disappear. Again, speak to a non-local lawyer who will check the paperwork and ensure that everything is correct.
Does home have the right permits?
This is a common problem which catches expats unawares and usually only comes to light when the property is completed and the sale finalised. Do not confuse planning permission with having the right licences and permits, as these vary from country to country and they will give permissions for important rights, like access to water and electricity.
Your property is not fit for purpose
A major problem when the property is complete is that the buyer discovers that it is poorly constructed or even built in a poor location. Expat buyers should endeavour to find a surveyor who will inspect the construction work in progress or on completion to give a valuation and a clean bill of health. This is inevitably money well spent should a problem arise.
Check your contract
This sounds obvious but few expat property buyers check the small print or translate the document into English. Get a lawyer to check the details, especially if you’ve been given two versions of the contract, in English and the home language, so they can pick up on any discrepancies.