So you’re thinking of investing in some foreign real estate. There are plenty of reasons why this is a good idea! Diversifying your portfolio, obtaining tax benefits, taking advantage of a cheaper market, even opening the door towards residency or citizenship; buying real estate in a different country certainly has advantages.
Whether you’re a snowbird searching for a warm nest in the south to wait out the winter, or just someone looking for the next big investment or adventure, Continental has got you covered with our guide to buying foreign real estate.
Decide What You’re Looking For
Whether you’re looking for a seasonal escape, a cheaper place to live, a different lifestyle, or simply to make a foreign investment, there are plenty of reasons to buy property abroad. Indeed, you could be buying for one or more of these motivations, but before you start looking at any properties, be sure you have an idea why it is you’re looking to buy! Your motive will not only affect where it is you’ll look, but also the type of properties you’ll want to consider.
Where to Buy
This is a big question, and it will in no small part be influenced by your rationale for buying foreign real estate. There’s definitely some things to consider though when picking out countries, states or regions that could spell deal or no deal for you.
1. Local Laws
It can be easy to romanticize the lifestyle of a different place, culture, or climate. Before you get too set on any one country though, take a look at its laws regarding foreigners purchasing property. Rules can vary greatly, and even if the price of real estate is cheap; laws can significantly drive up the costs, or trap your money.
Malaysia, for example, while welcoming foreign buyers, has laws demanding that the money from any subsequent sale of their property must be kept in a Malaysian bank account.
2. Local Perks
While there are certainly a good deal of countries that place limitations on who and how people can buy property, many also provide incentives to foreign buyers. Just as you should consider what restrictions potential host countries will place in your way, you should also familiarize yourself with the perks you could get for acquiring real estate in certain countries.
For instance, many countries provide instant citizenship or permanent residency (and an accelerated road to citizenship) for foreigners who purchase property of a certain value. In some places, this residency goes for properties as low as 125,000 USD.
3. Property Costs
Thirdly, but certainly no less important than the other two considerations for where to buy, are the real estate prices themselves. If you’re buying a property more for the lifestyle than the return, you might be willing to spend more on a place than otherwise. But it’s always a good idea to factor in the value of an investment into your decision-making process.
In some cases, you can even get a property for next to nothing so long as you agree to make improvements. Some towns in Italy fall into this category, offering properties for as little as one euro in exchange for guarantees the buyer will renovate the property. Before jumping into such an agreement though, it’s a very good idea to do some research, even to hire a consultant, to get a rough idea of how much such renovations will cost. If the expense of renovating will be greater than buying a ready-to-go property, it may not be worth it.
Finally, comes the issue of security. Travel advisories are certainly something to bear in mind. But popular stereotypes can often get in the way of solid investments. Just as the US is largely considered a safe country, though neighbourhoods in certain cities would be considered unsafe, so too is this the case with many other countries. Such misconceptions can work to your advantage though, discouraging other investors and keeping the price of real estate down.
Before you buy, do your research. Take a look at how many other properties are for sale in the area, see if you can get in touch with any locals, and definitely consider touring the neighbourhood yourself! Each of these steps, but especially the last, will help you to get a feel for the place. Don’t feel safe? Buy elsewhere!
You’ve navigated the former steps, you’ve done your research, and you’ve found a few properties you’re seriously considering. But before you put any money down, be certain about it. If the property is more an investment than a prospective home-away-from-home, at least be sure (or as sure as you can be) about the returns.
If you are buying a home-away-from-home, however, you should be absolutely certain about it. Buying property domestically can be stressful enough; but as a foreigner purchasing real estate abroad, the steps are often even more complicated, with fewer guarantees. Visit the location where your property is located, take a tour (or several), and spend a few days nearby to get a feel for the neighbourhood. The trouble you take here will be well worth it in the long run.
Buying property is a big deal, and there’s a lot of things to consider to make sure you don’t end up with a money hole. So don’t do it alone. Get help! Consulting a local international buyer’s agent is a great idea – they’ll explain the market, help keep you organized, and can even get you a better deal. When it comes to purchasing property overseas, always get a local attorney. You want to have a good understanding of the law of the land and to someone to make sure you check all the right boxes when buying a place.
How you finance your foreign property is one of the most important aspects of buying abroad. Apart from considering the local laws and how that could affect the final price of the property, think about any ongoing costs that are likely to be incurred. Maintenance, utilities, taxes and renovations are all expenses that could add up quick!
Renting out your property, or listing it on Airbnb can be an excellent way to bring in some revenue on the side, but depending on your host country and community, you might be prohibited, or have to pay additional taxes for doing so. Know the local laws and regulations regarding such activities, and be sure to abide by them.
Finally, know that finding a local institution from which to secure a mortgage could be impossible, or at the least significantly more expensive. If you’ll need a mortgage try, if at all possible, to find a firm with Canadian ties. When it comes to buying property in the US at least, these firms will make it easier for you to do so – using your Canadian credit score and waiving the foreign national fee.
Investing in property overseas can be an exciting new step in your life. It might feel overwhelming with the number of things to think about. But when it comes down to it, the main points to remember are pretty simple: find a place that will make you happy, spend within your means, hire a local broker and lawyer, and find a firm with Canadian ties to finance it.
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