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This is our European Property Section, 'For all your European Property needs'…

The free Real Estate Search site to aid you in buying property in member countries of the European Union. Real Estate European Union provides property buying guides by country to the processes involved in buying Real Estate within the E.U and we have links to put you in touch with the right people and organisations to complete your purchase - for instance Real Estate Agents, Lawyers, Mortgage providers and Insurers.

With interest rates in the Europe at their lowest for as long as one can remember and property prices having risen by up to 25% in the last year alone, the second home concept is becoming increasingly popular. Many are unlocking some of the equity in their homes or using their hard-earned cash and buying their dream home in the sun. Spain, France, Italy, Cyprus, Greece, the Canaries, the Balearic's, Portugal etc etc etc all are popular destinations for retirement, a second home or even a new country to live in!

Although the weather may be better, house buying is no quicker and the procedures are usually more expensive. Add to that a foreign language, different legal and tax systems and it is a wonder that any of us seriously consider buying overseas. It is one thing ordering your aperitif at the local bar, it is quite another ploughing through a foreign document.

Unlike in our dreams; buying abroad needs careful preparation and homework if the pitfalls are to be avoided. When does this preparation start? As soon as you have decided to buy. Where can you obtain the information? The Internet, local libraries, personal contacts, newspapers and magazines, to name just a few. If you have access to a computer, the Internet is probably the best port of call with lawyers, estate agents, property rental companies, builders, decorators and architects, all advertising their services. Contact them and obtain as much information as possible.

Having decided to buy, the first major decision is where. What was lovely on holiday in July may not be the same when you are mending the leaking roof in February. Then having found the area find the house. Will it be a new purpose built apartment or a ruined barn with wonderful views? There are professional firms that will help you find the home of your dreams and you may want to let them do the donkey work we are just such company and at Overseas Property Online we pride ourselves in our past successes. Don't just expect us to provide you with particulars of properties here we provide access to a whole host of needed information on the local areas, nearby leisure facilities, schools, markets, roads and anything else that attracts you to the area.

If it is the barn you have chosen who will do the conversion? Again, agents can assist, but local knowledge can be a great help. Before you can convert you must buy, and although the basic cost may be low, the procedures are often complicated and pricey. Remember that the further south in Europe you go the more the mañana principle applies and that is not just to lawyers!

As enthusiastic as you may be, once you have found a property to meet your needs, within your price range and almost certainly cheaper than a similar property in your home country, do not act hastily! Often buyers get carried away and leave everything in the hands of the agents, this is where we come in extremely handy because all our overseas agent and developer contacts are vetted and assessed to ensure that they act with the best interests of our clients at all times.

Before you sign any documents or pay any money, as in some countries payment of a deposit commits you to the purchase, ask for full details of all the costs involved in the purchase. It is not uncommon for legal and land registry charges and transfer taxes to add up to 15% of the cost of the property, so you will need to factor this into the purchase price. If you have not done so already, seek independent legal advice and do not agree to jointly instruct a lawyer with the seller to save on costs. This is especially important when buying on the Continent as when it comes to declaring the value of the property on the purchase deed it will be in the interests of the seller to under declare the value of the property so as to reduce his tax liability. How could a lawyer in that situation act in both your interests?

There are usually many local lawyers who speak good English or have English workers in their offices. The advantage of an English speaking lawyer is that it will reduce translators’ costs. The Internet is usually a good place to find a suitable lawyer. Then try and arrange a meeting with the lawyer or at the very least discuss your proposals, the property and mechanics of the purchase with the lawyer before you commit to the property. If you are buying the property for its views, additional enquiries should be made by your lawyer as planning legislation can in some countries be quite haphazard!

If you are busy and unlikely to be around for the purchase process it may be necessary to grant a Power of Attorney to the lawyer. This is a deed that can be prepared authorising the lawyer to sign legal documents and act on your behalf.

Once you have bought - what then? Unless you plan to live in your new home full time you will have to find someone to look after it or rent it for you in your absence. If you intend to fund the purchase with rental income it is essential that you find a rental company you can trust and someone the neighbour can call when there’s the sound of running water at 2 am on a winter’s morning. Further local tax advice should be obtained on the income derived from the property.

Then what happens if you decide to sell up and move elsewhere? Well, properties abroad, generally speaking, can take longer to sell than in the UK and as the property was a second home there may be capital gains tax considerations to bear in mind and local tax advice should again be obtained. The reverse of this is that when searching for that property find out how long it has been on the market for and strike a hard bargain!

IF YOU ARE CONSIDERING BUYING A PROPERTY ABROAD HERE’S A CHECKLIST OF SOME ITEMS THAT YOU SHOULD CONSIDER:

  • Use our research pages of the local property markets, areas and countries
  • Consider funding for purchase and obtain mortgage quotes, click here to visit EuropeanMortgages.com
  • Consider the purpose of the purchase, retirement, holidays or rental
  • Obtain independent legal advice before you commit to the purchase. If buying to rent initially discuss tax implications with lawyer
  • Locate property, agree price and all related costs
  • Make local wills

Over the last few years, and with improved transport and flights many of us are turning the second home concept into reality. Despite our reputation we are becoming more proficient in other languages and English is becoming more widespread (though not that you would notice in country villages!).

More of us are turning our dreams of owning abroad into reality and this is likely to increase as we become more involved - as we surely will - with the European Community. Although the idea may be raised after a good dinner on holiday, the dream will only become reality with patience, tact and professional advice.

One final recommendation: Once you have purchased the property of your dreams, local wills should always be prepared as in the event of death of one of the owners, title in some countries does not automatically pass to the survivor as in the UK.

If you don’t want or can’t afford to buy a second or holiday home consider timeshare. Despite its reputation, the concept is brilliant and the product is usually good. It is the way it is often sold that causes the problems. But remember, always do your homework, use our online research pages.

OverseasPropertyOnline.com provides extensive Overseas links of related product and service providers which include one of the most comprehensive Europe and International Property Search databases of thousands of live properties for sale and rent supplied by more than 200 international Estate Agent partners.

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