January is historically one of the busiest months of the year for British people buying property overseas. With the bustle of Christmas behind, time off work for the lucky ones amongst us and sellers eager to start the new year with a sale. So, if you’re planning on buying your dream home in 2020, what do you need to start planning now?

Settle your budget

Before doing anything else, make sure to settle your budget. These are volatile times if you’re buying from, say, pounds into euros. After the last UK general election, the pound moved by 11%, and there’s nothing to say that it won’t do that again. However, you can easily protect your money against this risk. By using a forward contract, you can lock in the day’s exchange rate for up to twelve months, no matter what happens with the markets. Find out more in the free Property Buyer’s Guide to Currency.

Find the right estate agent

Start enquiring with estate agents once you’ve found properties you like the look of on Green-Acres. Assess the quality of the agents, as well as the portfolio. You’ll want an agent who’s responsive, and understands the needs of international buyers. See how quickly and comprehensively they answer your enquiry/ies as a bit of a litmus test of their quality, and do try and take the chance to either speak to them on the phone or meet them face-to-face at a roadshow if you can, before your viewing trip.

Speak to your lawyer

Any cross-border purchase will benefit from having a lawyer to structure it, even if you are buying in a system where a notary authenticates the documents. They’ll be able to advise you on everything from types of purchase – what is buying in ‘tontine’ or ‘viager’ in France, for instance? – but will also know how to structure it for tax and, crucially, inheritance. In many European countries, there are fixed portions that have to go to certain people, unlike in the UK. However, even after Brexit, UK nationals can still apply Brussels IV, whereby a lawyer may be able to have your inheritance determined under British law, instead. This is the sort of expertise that can pay dividends further down the line!

Head out on your viewing trip

Time is of the essence here – both having enough time to properly view your properties and not wasting time when offering. Try to see no more than around seven properties a day, especially if they’re of similar styles, like you’ll often find in Mediterranean developments. That way, you won’t find them blending into one at the end of the few days when you try to remember what you’ve seen!

At the other end of the scale, you need to be able to offer immediately. Remember that, while the great thing about most mainland European countries’ buying systems is that you can’t be gazumped once your offer is accepted in principle (because the seller has to sign to take it off the market and give you a ~10-day cooling-off period), you also can’t gazump someone else! In other words, if you go on your viewing trip, find the perfect house and then leave to go and sort out finances, you may well find someone else offers – and you can’t counter-offer.

The pound could suddenly drop at any time, again, with so much uncertainty around Brexit – but you can protect your money against this risk. Find out how in the Property Buyer’s Guide to Currency

If you find the home of your dreams but it’s beyond your budget, effective negotiation could make the vital difference. Download the How to Negotiate Abroad Guide.

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