Written by Richard Way,
Last Modified: 20th March 2019

If you want to be enjoying your property abroad by this summer it’s time to get busy. Life doesn’t get much more exciting than that first momentous step of booking a viewing trip, but making the trip really count is another matter entirely. Read our guide to getting the best from your time and money when viewing property abroad.

1. Go early

Have you booked your flights yet? Spring is the most popular time to travel abroad and do property viewings, Brexit or no Brexit! And there are real benefits to getting in early. You avoid the crowds – and higher prices – of high season, properties are usually unoccupied by holidaymakers so easier to access, and it’s not so damn hot! You’ll get your pick of the new properties too.

2. Choose your agent carefully

Take time to choose one estate agent you like and trust, who will select and show you suitable properties. At a push, you could meet with a second one, but this shouldn’t be necessary. In most resorts, the best agents not only have a large selection of properties on their own books but they will also be able to access other properties listed with other agents. At PropertyGuides.com, we work with a selection of reputable agents, so speak to us for assistance. Call us on 020 7898 0549 or email info@propertyguides.com.

It’s always best to be honest and listen to your estate agent. Before you fly out, send them web links for properties you’d like to view, outlining why they appeal to you. Highlight what you consider to be your key requirements for your new home. They’ll send feedback and probably suggest other similar properties to view. Don’t ignore their suggestions! Their knowledge is first-hand and more reliable than a web listing. To see some reliable website listings, check out our properties for Spain, Portugal, France and Italy.

Allow your agent to organise as much or little for your trip as you are comfortable with. For example, they may offer to pick you up from the airport and book you into a hotel. The key is not to feel pressured into doing anything you don’t want to – the best agents respect this.

viewing properties abroad

When you love it, you love it! But is your lawyer ready?

3. Sort your funds out

If you’re able to buy in cash, great! If you’ll be buying with an overseas mortgage, try and have it agreed in principle before viewing properties. And if you don’t have quite enough money – don’t despair. Firstly, if you’re a UK homeowner aged over 55 and you’re just buying a holiday home abroad, check out our Q&A on equity release. There are all sorts of equity release and lifetime mortgages available, and many only take a matter of weeks to come through.

If you’re selling a UK property or investment, using your new “pension freedoms”, or buying with family members, try to get a timescale and fixed plan for having those funds ready. It really improves your bargaining position as your agent and any potential vendor will take an offer more seriously if you have finance ready to go.

Ready to make that viewing trip? Download the free guide to help you!

4. Have your currency sorted

This is one definitely not to leave until last. Establish what your maximum budget is in pounds, and then speak to Smart Currency Exchange about what sort of rate you’re likely to get. It won’t be the “interbank rate”, but won’t be too far off it with a property specialist like Smart.

Then you have to factor in exchange rate fluctuations. It’s all too common, unfortunately, to make an offer making your calculations at one rate then when you come to pay the rate has moved. You can avoid that with a forward contract. So do speak to Smart Currency Exchange about using one. Although you would need to pay a small deposit, it won’t cost you any more than using a spot trade.

Opening an account only takes a few minutes and comes with no obligation to ever trade with Smart. It does, however, allow you to chat through the likely movements in the pound with a specialist. You’re likely to get far better service (and rates) than from your bank too.

We suggest doing so before your trip. You could even credit your account in readiness for making a fast transfer to reserve a property or pay a deposit.

Read all about how property buyers can protect themselves against currency risk with the free Property Buyer’s Guide to Currency.

5. Organise yourself

It can help to picture yourself in the location, rather than sitting comfortably in your own living room. Yes, it may be beautiful and warm, and the hotel may be comfortable, and the food and wine flowing. But will that help you make a sensible and rational decision? Possibly not. To help keep your opinions objective and your notes organised, download our viewing trip worksheets.

When you get there, it may be worth taking your own photos of the property and even doing a video walk-through – all very simple on a smartphone – recording your thoughts as you walk through the property.

6. Lawyer on speed dial!

With the right property it will often be love at first sight. And if you want to make an offer while on your trip, having a lawyer ready can make all the difference in getting the property before someone else. Finding the right lawyer in advance – bilingual and a property specialist – should also avoid the issue of an agent charming you into using their own. See the bottom of this article for a form to be put in contact with a recommended property lawyer.

Your lawyer will be on stand-by and ready to start the due diligence process the moment your offer is accepted on a property. It may be worthwhile granting your lawyer power-of-attorney (POA) over your property transaction. Just ensure it is limited to relevant property matters.

One way of seeing property and getting all your legal questions answered without the expense of a viewing trip abroad, is to pop along to a Your Overseas Home show. They’re all around the UK this year.  

Viewing properties abroad

You’ve done it!

7. Have your paperwork ready

Ideally, before boarding your return flight at the end of your viewing trip you’ll have found your new home and paid a reservation deposit for it. But there are certain hoops to jump through when buying abroad, depending on the country. In Spain, for example, you will want to get your tax identification number: NIE. Or perhaps you’ll need to open a bank account.

Ask the estate agent and lawyer what paperwork you will need to take with you, and then take it in triplicate!

Lastly, be bold

Okay, there’s an eighth habit: don’t let Brexit put you off. Just make sure you stay on top of developments to do with travel requirements, passports or visas. We don’t predict much changing regarding travel in Europe, but it would be a shame to miss your flight for the sake of something trivial. We’ll do our best to update you too, so keep your eye on our updates.

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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