Written by Richard Way,
13th September 2017

Many of us would love to buy a home overseas but are worried about the legal processes and ensuring a safe purchase. Of course we should be concerned, but the simplest and safest solution is to get a lawyer as soon as you decide where to buy.

A court case finally ended this summer that was the one of the longest trials in Scottish legal history. It ended in a property fraudster being sentenced to 11 years in prison after defrauding people of £1.6million.

A law firm with no connections to your agent and chosen without time constraints should always be a preferred option.

If it takes 320 days to get justice in Scotland, you can imagine how long you could be struggling through the legal systems in some countries if anything goes wrong. So for anyone who fell in love with the resort or region where they holidayed this summer, it’s vital not to let the miserable prospect of another British winter panic them into buying in haste.

Before flying off to meet estate agents, make the effort to speak to an independent lawyer. Ideally you want one that specialises in overseas conveyancing and offers a bi-lingual service. Why risk putting off this simple step until you find your overseas property, when you’ll have enough to think about?

There are good reasons for appointing your lawyer long before you book any flights. Here are five:

1. Peace of mind

Getting a lawyer early will potentially save you money and time. Your lawyer may have invaluable information about property legislation, recent changes to the law or some other news about your chosen country or area, which could affect what and where you decide to buy. Better to go on a viewing trip armed with this information than waste valuable time discovering it for yourself once there.

2. Take off the pressure

When you do have an offer on a property accepted, you won’t feel the pressure of needing to find and appoint a local lawyer before returning to the UK. Buyers in this situation often choose the ‘easy’ route and opt for a lawyer recommended by their estate agent, which is not ideal. A law firm with no connections to your agent and chosen without time constraints should always be a preferred option.


A good lawyer will help you buy an overseas home safely


3. Get advice before signing

During a viewing trip, you may be asked to sign a reservation contract or some other alien-looking document. You should never sign anything until you understand it completely and are 100% satisfied with its contents. Having a lawyer on standby means you can send them a copy of any document to check for you. These days email, text messaging and WhatsApp make this easy and fast. Similarly, your lawyer should be available to answer any questions you might have during the viewing trip.

If you are ready to buy a home abroad in the next few months, Property Guides can put you in touch with a trusted lawyer. For high value purchases in particular, we would be delighted to introduce you to our brand new legal partner. Call us on 020 7898 0549 or email [email protected].

4. Be taken seriously

Good estate agents are more likely to treat you as a serious buyer and dedicate more time and effort into finding you the right property if they know you have already appointed a lawyer. It shows you’re in a position to move quickly with a purchase – which certainly improves your bargaining position – but also that you are taking suitable precautions and want everything done efficiently.

5. Save money

Your lawyer may highlight the benefits of an ownership structure that you may not have considered or be familiar with. Knowing this before your trip may influence what you choose to view and buy. For example, in some countries, owning a property in two names, i.e. a husband and wife, could reduce the buying costs but also have implications for inheritance tax. Similarly, most lawyers can offer tax advice, which typically includes estate planning, to non-resident or expat homeowners, which again could save you money in the long-term.

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