International property, aided by more efficient jet travel and globalization, has become a growing investment opportunity for individual investors.
Buying property overseas can be a daunting and risky process, and it’s important to follow some general guidelines, which are applicable to the country in which the property you wish to acquire is located.
- Don’t sign any contract that is not written in English or a language that you are not proficient in. Ensure that all documents have been professionally translated into a language you are comfortable with.
- Seek the advice of local lawyers, architects, surveyors and realtors, all of whom should be knowledgeable of the country’s laws and restrictions, more specifically, ensure that these professionals have an excellent knowledge of laws and restrictions in city in which the property is located.
- Look locally or online for expatriates living in the country or city in which your prospective property is located, who can provide you with a different perspective on what to expect.
- Bear in mind that in some countries it is not possible for a foreigner to own property outright, though they may be able to acquire property on a leasehold basis. Under a leasehold agreement, at the expiration of the lease, the land reverts to the owner, so a buyer should seek assurance, in writing, that at the conclusion of the lease period, they, or their heirs, will agree to renew it, especially if significant renovations and improvements have been made on the leasehold property.
- Understand that in some countries financial institutions do not offer financing options such as mortgages, and an investor may have no choice but to pay cash in full for the property. Some countries have restrictions as to how much money you can transfer in and out of the country.
- Be sure you have clear title to the property; in some countries, there are often land disputes that go back decades and beyond, which may make it impossible to hold clear title. The process for checking title is often very time consuming and laborious, as well as exceedingly bureaucratic.
- In some countries, especially those in South America or Africa, a buyer will have to offer a gratuity to officials to get things in motion.
- Understand that the process of buying property in another country is paced differently than in the United States, and may take considerably longer than expected.