Buying a home abroad is a dream for many of us Brits, whether it be for retirement purposes, holiday home or investment property.

Our annual Top 10 Best Places to Buy Abroad report, based on traffic and searches on aplaceinthesun.com, shows that Spain, France and Portugal are your top countries to purchase overseas, with thousands of UK nationals pursuing their property dreams every year.

However, like buying a property here in the United Kingdom, buying abroad naturally has its risks as you’re complying with foreign property law and liaising with organisations that operate differently to those here.

This means that it should be approached with caution and with a firm understanding of how the buying processes work in the country that you’re looking to purchase in.

So here are some key pointers to get you started…

Step one – research, research, research

The first thing anyone should do if considering buying abroad is thorough research, which can be carried out in many ways.

First up, identify your realistic budget and the type of property that suits your requirements, for example, a townhouse, villa or an apartment.

By having this in place, this will narrow down your options and allow you to focus your attention on a smaller cluster of properties in greater detail.

Next up, you should then focus your attention on the area that you’re looking to purchase in. You may well have visited there for a holiday, but does it have everything you need for an extended stay or if you’re planning to move there for good?

Think hospitals, schools, transport links, supermarkets and even nightlife spots, for example.

There are plenty of online expat forums, overseas property magazines, exhibitions (like A Place in the Sun Live!) and web portals out there to give you a taste for locations and the types of properties available on the market.

If you’re seriously invested in the idea, then you can arrange a viewing trip with an estate agent (at a heavily discounted rate) to visit towns and properties.

But be aware that in return for this trip, they’ll expect you to commit to purchasing through them, but don’t feel pressured into anything as nothing has been agreed contractually.

Step two – find a lawyer

Another crucial tip is making sure you seek independent legal advice before and during the buying process, just as you would when buying in the UK.

The estate agent is there to sell the property, and the location and will be an expert in their area, and what owning a property there has to offer, but your lawyer acts for you and will ensure all the necessary searches and checks are carried out professionally.

It’s also advised to find a lawyer who speaks the local language too. There are plenty of documents that need signing, and any mistranslation can have serious financial consequences and can dampen the whole experience.

Once again carry out some research on lawyers, ask them plenty of questions and capitalise on their expertise, which in return will lead to a safe and timely transaction on your property.

Be sure to also seek advice from surveyors, tax, insurance and relocation specialists too.

Step three – cha-ching currency!

Buyers of overseas property intending to complete this year are being warned not to waste money by using a bank to move their funds.

The fluctuating exchange rates and unnecessary bank charges can have dramatic effects on the cost of buying abroad, with Brits losing thousands of pounds each year.

Thankfully, currency firms can fix and therefore guarantee an exchange rate now and for a future transfer up to two years ahead.

This can save you a great deal of your hard-earned cash when transferring your deposit or monthly payments into the local currency. There are several contracts out there for you to negotiate with currency firms, which differ depending on your financial situation.

Step four – go for it!

If you’ve got the finances in place and have had the idea of buying abroad in your heart for a while, then just do it.

Remember to be cautious in your approach and speak with the right professionals, but if you see a property you love and feel that now is the best time to move, then it’s a great thing to be able to.

By Victoria Smith – Marketing Executive