After months of searching, you have finally found it – your dream home in the sun. But before you get too excited about moving in, there’s the hard work of sorting out the mortgage and filling in all the paperwork.
Cut corners and it could leave you hundreds of thousands of pounds out of pocket. This is the situation that thousands of Britons have found themselves in after buying homes in Spain without properly checking their contracts.
Here are overseas property expert Simon Conn’s six pitfalls to avoid when buying a home abroad.
1. A HOME THAT’S BEEN BUILT LEGALLY
Planning laws in many countries are not as robust as in the UK, so you need to ask proper questions about where the property you want to buy has been built.
Is it in an area that should have been set aside for green belt or agricultural land? If so, then there is a risk your dream home is unlawful. Make sure you take advice from an independent, English-speaking lawyer, who is preferably not from the same area as the property.
2. CORRUPTION IN THE PLANNING PROCESS
In many countries planning can be a minefield and you’ll need a permit to prove that the property you’re buying is legitimate. Permits may have been granted as a result of corruption or there may not be a permit at all.
An independent lawyer can hopefully save you the heartache of seeing your newly purchased property demolished.
Your lawyer should check the paperwork to confirm that all parts of the property have been built under the correct legislation. Local rules differ from regional laws, so checks should extend further than the area where the property is being, or has been, built.
3. HOMES WITHOUT ELECTRICITY
If you think bureaucracy in the UK is bad, wait until you see what it’s like in other countries.
So even if you’ve got planning permission, and the property is built in a good area, have you actually got the right licences?
Not having the correct licences (such as ‘habitation’ in Spain) could have an impact on what utilities you can obtain. There have been lots of cases where new villas have been barred from connected to gas, water and electricity by the local council.
Watch out if you are buying a property in an apartment block or within a large development, as sometimes the developers will not register your property for the correct licences until all the properties have been registered in each purchaser’s name.
Be sure to establish exactly when licences will be issued, as this can take months.
4. DODGY BUILDING MATERIALS
Poor construction is a common problem. When you buy, always obtain an independent valuation, ideally from a professional surveyor in that country.
It doesn’t matter if the property is new or old, this will highlight any problems. New properties can sometimes be built on poor soil and with insufficient foundations, substandard building materials, or in dubious locations such as flood plains.
If you are buying a new property, be sure to check the developer’s building record and look into re-sales on the existing development to see how they have weathered. Be wary of the hard sell. Anything that seems too good to be true probably is.