Your estate agent is one of the three experts who are crucial to a successful overseas purchase. Their knowledge about the properties they sell, the local area and the general buying process is invaluable. Never be afraid to tap them up for information or ask them to shed light on any concerns you might have about a property or its vendor. Here are 10 questions buyers would do well asking their agent before paying a reservation deposit…

Does the property have clean title?

Your estate agent should be able to indicate whether a property has any encumbrances on it, such as mortgages or unpaid taxes, as well as any restrictions or third-party covenants. In property terms, being free of these charges means it has clean title (sometimes called ‘clear title’).

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By the same token, check that the property is owned outright by the vendor and doesn’t have more than one legal owner – it’s not unknown for older properties to be jointly owned by multiple family members, all of whom must approve its sale. And does the agent know of any While your independent lawyer will check these things as part of their due diligence, highlighting them early on could save you time.

Does it have all necessary building licences?

This is especially important in areas classed as rural or agricultural, where development is controlled and most properties for sale are older rustic ones, such as farmhouses or barns. Also get your agent to confirm the status of any evident extensions or alterations, as well as converted outbuildings and swimming pools – they will all need planning approval. Again, your lawyer will check these things.

Prepare a list of questions for your overseas estate agent

Why hasn’t it already sold!?

Find out how long the property has been on the market and whether it has been discounted at all. Get the agent’s opinion as to why it hasn’t sold yet. It might be that it is slightly over-priced, leaving room for you to make a cheeky offer. If a property has been on the market for an unusually long time or seems mysteriously cheap, ask your agent why and whether any previous offers might have fallen through. There will always be a reason, one that could sway your decision to purchase.

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What is included in the sale?

Ask the agent to clarify exactly what is included in the sale before you make an offer. It is not uncommon for vendors to request an additional payment for furniture, furnishings, appliances, garden furniture and swimming pool paraphernalia, on top of an agreed purchase price and often late in the purchase process. So be clear what the property comes with from the outset. After all, it’s better to get these things included in the purchase price than have to negotiate separately with the vendor later on.

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Do all appliances work?

Ascertain what or what isn’t in safe working order. This includes things such as air conditioning systems, heating systems, kitchen appliances (if being left), hot water boilers, electric showers, electric shutters, gates and garage doors, swimming pool pumps and filter systems. Having to replace or repair any of these things could land you with an unwelcome bill after completion.

What do you know about the neighbours?

Your agent should share any information they have about the local residents and neighbours and whether they know of any disputes or ongoing issues concerning them. This is especially important if a property has shared access and parking, or any communal areas/facilities, such as a pool. Try and avoid properties where there is clear evidence of neighbouring residents having no respect for each other or the local community. Casting your own eye around during a viewing and speaking to a few local people should give you an idea of how the land lies.

A haven of tranquillity during the day could be subject to unexpectedly high levels of noise during the evening,

What are traffic and noise levels like?

Somewhere that’s seems a haven of tranquillity during the day could be subject to unexpectedly high levels of noise during the evening, especially if it’s near a night-club or bars, a campsite that has evening entertainment or an area where youngsters like to congregate! Similarly, traffic levels can rise at certain points of the day. You may not realise that a property is on a rat-run if you visit at lunchtime or during the sleepiness of mid-afternoon, so ask you agent about these things. For complete reassurance, you would need to visit a property at different times of day and night yourself.

We have only scratched the surface of planning your viewing trip here. For more detail, read your free guide to planning your viewing trip.

How easy are rentals?

If letting your property to holidaymakers is a top priority for you, you need to check two things. Firstly, how lettable is the property and what sort of realistic occupancy levels and annual income could you expect. It could be that another community or complex will generate better rental income, in which case you’re looking in the wrong area. Secondly, what are the rules around rental licences and are there any restrictions on that particular property regarding rentals. In some communities and resorts, short-term lets are not allowed.

They’re professionals, so don’t hesitate to make an estate agent work for her living!

Is the area really right for you?

The typical wish-list for a lettable holiday home tends to be different to the wish-list for a permanent home or even second home used for half the year. Areas and communities within a town or resort are usually suited towards either holiday homeowners or residential living, although there will always be some that have a foot in both camps. Most resorts are seasonal, some more than others. This means communities popular with holiday homeowners will be quiet and largely empty out of season, making them less attractive to anyone looking for year-round life. You agent should guide you on the seasonality of any property you view.

Are there any planned developments nearby?

We’ve all heard nightmare stories of property-owners losing their dreamy sea views when a new apartment block suddenly springs up in front of them. And it’s not just about the views. Besides the inconvenience of being near a building site during the construction stage, a new development makes an area busier on all levels, which is something you may or may not want.

Any savvy agent in touch with the local market will know about any potential new developments, and how they might affect a property – so get the low-down from them. Again, your agent should flag up anything in the pipeline, but getting a heads-up is always useful.


About The Author

Richard Way

Richard Way has been an influential and independent voice on all aspects of buying overseas property for over 15 years. He was editor of A Place In The Sun magazine, has edited books on buying in Spain, is a regular on the panel at Your Overseas Home, has appeared on the BBC and helped the Foreign and Commonwealth Office on expat matters. Richard is a property owner on the Costa Brava, Spain, and in Puglia.

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