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Buying property abroad

From finding your dream property to securing a great rate on your currency transfer, here are the key things you need to know when buying abroad.

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Thinking of purchasing property overseas?

Buying a property abroad is an exciting endeavour, whether you’re looking for a new home or an overseas investment.

In many ways, buying overseas is the same as buying in the UK. However, there are some key differences that are important to understand.

Below we go through the things you need to consider when you’re planning to buy a property abroad, from navigating the rules and regulations to securing a great exchange rate on your currency transfer.

Popular places to buy property abroad.

Whether you want a sun-soaked villa on the Spanish coast or a quaint French cottage in the Loire Valley, our guides cover some of the most popular places to buy property abroad.

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Spain

Spain is one of the most popular destinations for British expats and holidaymakers alike, and it’s easy to understand why.

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France

France offers a huge variety of properties for purchase, from rustic stone farmhouses to terracotta-tiled villas and historic chateaus.

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The USA

From some of the world’s largest cities to small towns set in wild landscapes, the diversity of options caters to a range of tastes.

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Cyprus

A spectacular island steeped in history, from its coastline of sandy beaches and limestone cliffs to its inland mountains and dense forests of cedar.

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Australia

The most popular country for British expats, and a firm favourite among holidaymakers too, with the climate ranging from temperate to tropical.

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Portugal

Portugal has grown in popularity over the years thanks to its exquisite seafood, world-renowned beaches, and rich cultural heritage.

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Understanding the process of buying property abroad.

From planning your budget to sealing the deal, here are the steps you need to take when buying property abroad.

Budgeting

The first step is to find out what you can afford. Remember to factor in things like taxes and shipping costs, as well as translation and legal fees.

Get advice

It’s important to seek expert advice early on. Find financial and legal advisers with experience in overseas properties, and perhaps hire your own translator.

Financing

You'll want sort out your finances as early as possible. If you’re borrowing to buy a property, get an offer in principle from your mortgage provider.

Property search

Cast a wide net by using various local, national, and international estate agents. It’s also best to research and visit the area where you want to buy.

Negotiating

Ready to buy? Time to agree a price. Knowing the market can help in negotiations, and bear in mind there may be cultural differences around bargaining.

Completing

It’s now time to sign the contract and ensure the seller has been paid in full. Depending on the country, you may need to sign the contract in person.

Why buy a property abroad?

There are plenty of reasons you might want to buy a property abroad, from having your own private hideaway to diversifying your investment portfolio.

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Your own place overseas

Many people are drawn to the allure of having their own holiday home abroad. It can be better value than renting accommodation, particularly during peak season, with the added benefits of familiarity and fond memories.

Or perhaps you’re moving overseas and need somewhere new to live. This could be a temporary home from home while you’re working abroad, or the perfect place to settle down and enjoy your retirement.

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An investment opportunity

While a property can be a home, it can also bring in an income. When you’re not relaxing there yourself, you could rent your property as a holiday let. Or you may choose to buy a property in order to let it out full time.

Real estate is often an excellent investment on its own, with properties increasing in value at a relatively fast pace, so you may buy with the aim of selling it on for a profit. This can be particularly effective if you buy in a country where the local currency is relatively weak.

Navigating the rules and regulations.

Every country has its own rules and regulations around buying and owning property, so it’s important you know what these rules are and understand how they impact you.

Restrictions

Some countries have restrictions on foreign buyers, such as requiring residency or a foreign buyer’s permit. Make sure you check if any restrictions apply to you.

Local laws

Many countries have different laws around buying, letting out, and developing property. A good estate agent and independent lawyer can help you navigate local laws.

Taxes

Buying a property overseas can come with additional taxes, such as a tax on rental income or a property ownership tax. Find out what you’re liable for and include it in your budget.

How to fund an overseas property purchase.

There are different ways you could fund your overseas property purchase. Each has its own pros and cons, so it’s good to consider your options.

Buying with cash

If you have the money available, buying with cash may be simplest way to purchase a property overseas. You won’t have to arrange or repay a loan, and it may give you an advantage when negotiating the purchase.

It’s important that you budget carefully to ensure that you have enough cash to cover the purchase and any additional fees or costs. And because you’ll be transferring a large amount of money abroad, it’s vital that you get a strong exchange rate.

Releasing equity from a UK property

Many people may not have enough in existing savings to purchase a property outright. However, if you already own a home then you could release equity by remortgaging your existing property.

Remortgaging comes with costs: your new repayments will be higher and you may be charged an early repayment fee. However, you could potentially get a better interest rate on your new deal, and it may be easier to secure a new loan with your existing lender rather than getting an additional loan with a different lender.

A mortgage from a UK bank

Another option is to secure a mortgage from your local bank. First, you’ll need to find out which banks and building societies offer loans for international properties, and you’ll need to check that they cover the country where you want to buy.

Using a UK bank, rather than a bank overseas, can make things simpler. They’ll have access to your credit history and you can arrange the mortgage in your own language, so the process may be swifter, smoother and less expensive.

A mortgage from a foreign bank

Finally, you can apply for a mortgage from an overseas lender. They will have a better understanding of the local laws, regulations and market, and so may be able to provide more guidance. You could also potentially get a better interest rate, and you may have access to a wider range of mortgage products.

However, using an overseas lender could come with additional costs, such as translation fees, and it can also be difficult to secure an overseas mortgage as a foreigner. It's also worth noting that you’ll need to meet your payments in a foreign currency, so you may need to make regular overseas money transfers.

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Make sure an overseas mortgage is right for you.

The first step is to do some preliminary research to make sure an overseas mortgage is right for you. Not all countries offer mortgages to foreign buyers, so be sure to find out if the option is available.

You also need to find out how large a deposit you’ll need. While UK lenders often accept a 5% to 10% deposit for domestic borrowers, banks in other countries may require a deposit of up to 40%. Find out what the requirement is and make sure you can meet it.

Finally, look into interest rates. A key benefit of an overseas mortgage is that you may be able to get a lower interest rate, but this depends on the country. Make sure that borrowing from a bank abroad is a good financial decision.

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Applying for an overseas mortgage.

Once you’re sure a foreign mortgage is the right option for you, it’s time to apply.

You’ll want to see what products are on the market to get the best offer. You can do this on your own, but working with a mortgage broker experienced in your desired location can be invaluable.

It’s also a good idea to hire your own lawyer and translator. These will come at a cost, of course, but having experts on your side can save you time and safeguard you against fraud.

At the time of application, it’s best you have everything else ready to go. Make sure you have your deposit in cash and any required documentation to hand.

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Get the best exchange rate for your property purchase.

When buying property abroad, you’ll likely need to make multiple money transfers overseas.

If you’re buying with cash or you have a sizeable deposit, you’ll need to make a large money transfer. Getting a strong exchange rate and finding the right time to transfer can potentially save you thousands.

Once you own a property you may need to pay ongoing costs, such as a mortgage or utility bills. Having a regular transfer plan can simplify things, while fixing the exchange rate can protect you from currency volatility.

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Why use Currencies Direct when buying property abroad?

We’ve been helping people transfer money abroad for almost 30 years, offering excellent exchange rates and specialist support.

MoneyAge winner

Transfer provider of the year 2023

Established since 1996

Experts in currency

500,000 happy customers

£10bn transferred each year

40+ currencies

Transfers to 120+ countries

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Get more for your money.

By working with us, you could get a much better deal on your currency transfers – whether you’re sending a large lump sum or making regular payments.

This is because we offer highly competitive exchange rates and we don’t charge transfer fees, so you get more from your money.

As specialists in currency exchange, we also offer a wide range of services to help you navigate the markets and find the right time to transfer, which can make all the difference when you send money overseas.

Meanwhile, you can track transaction history, check live rates, and send money instantly through your online account or on our app.

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Personalised support.

Buying a property abroad is a big decision, but having an expert on your side can ease the stress.

As a Currencies Direct customer, you’ll have your own dedicated account manager. They’re on hand to help in any way they can, from providing market insights to supporting you through a transfer.

It’s their job to help get you a great deal on your currency transfer and make the process as smooth and simple as possible.

What’s more, we have dozens of offices dotted around the world. Many of our team overseas are able to offer a wealth of local knowledge, which can be invaluable when you’re buying a property abroad.

How it works

Sending money abroad should be simple. With us it is.

Create an account

Online, via our app or over the phone – it only takes a few minutes.

Agree your rate

We'll help you pick the right time to move your money so you secure a great rate.

Send us the money

Via bank transfer, debit card or your wallet balance.

We’ll do the rest

We'll get the currency where it needs to be swiftly and securely.

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Customer stories

Transferring rental income on properties in four countries.

“Currencies Direct offer excellent service for my complex currency transfer needs across four different countries every month.”

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How we keep your funds safe.

Your security is our priority. We have measures in place to keep your funds safe, and we’re here to help you protect yourself from fraud. There are important steps you must take to protect yourself from fraudsters, including checking that your payee is genuine and that their account details are correct.

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One account. A world of possibilities.

With 24/7 customer service on hand if you need help.

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Online account

All the features you’d expect – and more. Sign up in a few minutes and make a transfer today.

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Mobile app

Check live rates and make 24/7 transfers on the go using our mobile app.

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Multi-currency debit card

Spend seamlessly in over 200 countries with our multi-currency card.

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Frequently asked questions.

Buying a property abroad comes with lots of legal considerations, both in the UK and the country you’re buying in, such as conducting searches, signing the title deed, and navigating taxes.

Because laws change from country to country, it’s important that you look into the legal considerations specific to the location you’re buying in. It’s also a good idea to seek advice from an independent lawyer who has experience in that country.

Brexit has had an impact on buying property abroad, but in some countries more than others. In France or Spain, for instance, very little has changed. Whereas in Denmark, Brits now need a visa and a residence or business permit to buy property.

Depending on the country, you may see some differences in taxes or obtaining a foreign mortgage. However, the main difference is that UK citizens can now only spend 90 days in a 180 period within the Schengen Area. If you want to stay longer, or are permanently moving abroad, you’ll likely need to apply for a visa.

Yes, different counties have different restrictions and limitations on foreigners owning property.

In some countries, such as Switzerland and Austria, you may need to apply for a permit. Other countries place restrictions on where you can own a property, e.g. far from international borders, while others ban foreign ownership completely.

Take a look at our country-specific pages to see if any restrictions apply where you’re looking to buy.

Deposits for buying abroad tend to be higher than in the UK, and can range from 15% to 50% depending on the country.

It’s important you look at the specific country you’re considering buying in and make sure the deposit is within budget.

Yes, you can track all your transactions on your online account or in our app.

On the website, use the top menu to go to the ‘Activity’ page. You’ll be able to see any transfers you’ve recently started under the ‘Instruction’ tab.

If you’re using the app, go to 'Activity' from the bottom menu bar. This will show you your activity feed, including the status of each transfer.

As with in the UK, the buying process can vary significantly depending on the situation. Expect it to take anywhere between two and nine months, or perhaps even longer.

In terms of currency exchange, the transfer itself will generally take between one and two days to go through once you’ve sent us the payment, although this can also depend on the currency and the receiving bank.

If there are any issues with the currency transfer on our end, we’ll get in touch with you as soon as possible.

If you notice an issue, you can contact us on +44 (0) 20 7847 9400 or email [email protected] and we will investigate. Our operations team can put a trace on your money to track its progress and then work to resolve any issues.

If something goes wrong with the property transaction, then it’s best to get in touch with whoever’s involved in the sale. This may be your lawyer, notary, mortgage provider and/or the seller.

We’ll do our best to help if we can, so please do get in touch if you want guidance. For instance, we may be able to submit a ‘recall of funds’ to our banking partners if you send money to the wrong person.

While currency is our expertise, we like to offer help and support wherever we can.

Our website contains lots of useful pages on different reasons why you might want to buy a property, such as moving overseas or working abroad, as well as country-specific guides. We also offer a wealth of articles and blog posts providing useful tips and information about purchasing property overseas.

In addition, many of our team members in our overseas offices have local knowledge and years of experience. They may be able to answer questions about a particular area or point you in the right direction for more information.

Learn more about buying property overseas.

Want to know more about buying property abroad? Take a look at our latest articles for useful tips and trends.