A place in the sun

Before purchasing a dream house abroad, swot up on all the things you need to know with these top tips

If YOU want a place to retreat to in a sunny destination that offers spectacular views, white beaches and an outdoor lifestyle, a second home abroad may be something you’re considering. But while it’s a nice idea, both for the lifestyle it can afford and as an additional income source if you plan on renting it out, there are a number of important things to consider before taking the plunge.

We asked Paul Belcher of Ultimo – a London-based buying agency working with international clients looking for homes in Italy – what his top five tips are when buying a second home abroad.

You need to be clear about exactly what you are looking for. Be realistic about how often you will use it, the number of bedrooms you need. Before you go speaking to estate agents, you need a firm idea of whether you want a traditional property or a modern one. An expert in the local property market should be able to tell you whether your dream property requirements are viable and how you might need to adapt them. There is also that small matter of your budget to consider, too.

Buying overseas is not equivalent to popping out in your neighbourhood for a quick viewing on a Saturday morning. Those with limited time need to spend it wisely, engage in a little planning, and find the right expert in their chosen market to avoid wasted weekends looking at the wrong sort of properties. Honesty and transparency are so important – pretty photos are often misleading. Be aware of local estate agents who are desperate to sell anything and have a limited understanding of foreigners, as they will happily waste your time. You can often save time using an international buying agent or a local estate agent that is part of an international network.

There is no substitute for choosing the right location. Long weekends away in your idyll will be key to enjoying your home away from home, so be sure there is an airport reasonably nearby with a suitable flight schedule, and the desired local facilities and services once you arrive. Remember to have someone check carefully that the view you bought cannot be obscured by plans for new building in front of your home. If you are going to be an infrequent resident, being located among similar properties has its advantages in terms of the availability of shared services, and people to keep an eye on your home when you’re away. Checking local crime rates is important; if empty homes tend to attract the attention of local thieves, take care to buy a very secure property or look elsewhere. Your dream does not include sitting at home worrying about your holiday property.

The process of buying a home abroad is different from the approach we have in the UK. Different doesn’t have to mean dangerous, but take time to seek expert advice to ensure you understand the process and possible risks. This will be far easier if you can find an adviser who understands the UK housing market as well as the one you are entering into, as they will know how you think and be able to explain the differences.

If you don’t speak the local language you’re likely to need help figuring out how to get things done locally. A good estate agent or buying agent will be able to assist with details on switching the electricity account and provide contacts for a gardener, cleaner, laundry service, builder or someone to manage rentals.