A home away from home – moving abroad

Woman and her child in the garden looking happy

News & Insights

MoneyPlus Features Team

3rd September 2015 at 2:00pm

Many of us are returning from our summer break still full of the joys of visiting distant shores. And, as a result some of us may be asking ourselves; what if we could live that life all the time or at least have some foreign foothold we could return to on a whim?

The foreign legion

As the economy continues to recover, Britons seem once again to be dreaming of owning a second home in the sun and, according to overseas mortgage specialists, UK buyers are flooding back to the foreign property market.

It’s a big step for anyone, whatever their stage in life. Even buying a house in the UK can be complex, so what must it be like when it’s another country or continent?

One of our colleagues Elaine Smith is doing exactly this and we thought it would be interesting and useful to hear her experiences.

So what prompted this wish to move abroad?

Our eldest lives in Florida, carving out a career as a golf professional. He’s had to live a nomadic life, sharing accommodation, even living in motels at times, and as a mum this didn’t sit comfortably with me. If he’d still been in the UK we’d have given him a hand to get on the property market so we thought why shouldn’t we do it in the States?

It seemed a good time to buy. Prices are still much lower than they were in the mid-noughties in many holiday hotspots such as the Spanish Costas and this is also the case in the USA in Florida. The market is starting to pick up so it seemed like a good time to catch a bargain that also has the potential to be a good investment.

Cheap and plentiful flights help too and mean that a holiday home is easily accessible. So we could help our son onto the property ladder and have somewhere nice to stay when we visit too.

How did you plan to finance the house purchase?

Paying off the mortgage was a big moment in our lives. We were lucky enough to pay off ours 25 years after we first took it out. That was us – mortgage free at last. But then along came along a valid reason to look at perhaps taking one out again.

Was buying a holiday home tricky?

Buying a holiday home, especially abroad, can be a daunting experience. We certainly weren’t familiar with the legal system and house-buying process and then there’s the ongoing management when you’re not there. The good news is that the internet is great for doing research but having local contacts can be invaluable.

Having our son over there meant he could speak to other residents in the area whilst we could continue with some online research. Social media is the new “word of mouth” and while, like word of mouth, it can be misleading or exaggerated, it still managed to provide some useful insights.

And you wouldn’t buy a home in the UK without getting a survey so we knew it was worth spending the money on extra checks just to make sure we are getting a bargain and won’t be left with an expensive flop.

What about property management?

Once we’ve bought the property, we’ll obviously need to take good care of our investment. Yes, we’ll make regular visits but it’s also good to know someone is looking after it for us when we’re not there. There will be times though when our son is out on the road and we’d want the peace of mind that the property is secure.

Again it’s sensible to do your research. We spoke to owners of other holiday homes in the area to find out who they use and what they think of them. We’ll also make sure and take photos of all the rooms and equipment and also the outside of the property, so we’ve got a visual inventory of the condition of the contents.

So what’s next?

Once the legal stuff is all sorted it’ll be time to book those flights and enjoy visiting our new home. Buying a holiday home later in life can bring lots of benefits. We plan to retire in a few years and we’ll look to pay off the mortgage with money from our pensions. Then we can look at taking extended breaks. Not sure how our son will feel about that though!

Don’t get burnt by moving abroad

Elaine’s story is the first of a short series we’ll be running on the practicalities of a move abroad. We’ll look at topics such as how you access your savings, any potential tax implications, and even the effects of choosing to work abroad. So watch this space.

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