Tips for Buying Off-Plan Property Abroad
By Susan Pedalino
Anyone with an interest in anything off plan should now be familiar with Spain and the off plan scene. We"ve all got the hang of it and we pretty much know what to expect and what not to expect. It isn't far, you can fly back and forth, and most people have a least a friend or relative out there that can keep you in touch with your investment. Even if you don't have a "connection in Spain, it is likely that you know someone else who is also buying off plan to swap notes with.
So, now you've got some off plan buying experience under your belt you might want to take your interest further afield. However, further afield can mean unknown territory and with many investors buying off plan in countries that they have never even visited, you should expect some unexpected.
So what should you be aware of when buying off plan in Bulgaria, Turkey and even Latvia? Unfortunately, we cannot cover ever possible eventuality for every country that sells off plan. But, just like buying in Spain, we mustn't get carried away and forget to apply common sense to every decision. Buying off plan is never risk-free and buyers often face a disappointment of some sort.
The following tips should be applied when buying in any country:
Use an agent recommended by a friend or an independent company or organisation that you have dealt with and trust. Look out for an accredited agent such as members of The National Association of Estate Agents (www.naea.co.uk).
If you are buying directly from the developer, ask for a considerable discount, because they are saving on big commission fees which they would otherwise pay an agent.
Do some research on the developer's reputation, the internet is your best resource for this.
Do judge the project on the promoters, if they don't inspire confidence, then find someone else, even if it does seem a good price. There's a lot of choice, be picky.
Make sure that the builder has a license to build on the land.
Make sure that the project has a bank guarantee, in case it falls through, in order to get your money invested back. Get a recommended lawyer, preferably not by an agent, to check the contract.
Remember that when you hand over a considerable deposit at least two years in advance of completion, the builders are earning interest on your money whilst you will be spending the next couple of years in quite a powerless position, hoping that there won't be delays.
Take a good look around the plot and imagine all possible building scenarios. Let your imagination run wild, as we have come across many buyers who find that their view of Spanish, rustic countryside is replaced by cranes and foundations even before they"ve moved in. Do not take a view for granted unless you are front line beach. Protected land can very quickly become unprotected as developers have ways and means of getting the land that they want.
Try to find out what building work is scheduled in the surrounding area. It could be that the developer has further phases planned which would affect the rentability of your property.
Do not buy because of golf courses, leisure complexes and luxury "Banus style ports as they often don't materialise.
Really think hard and don't be blinded by the sun. Try to be practical about proximity to shops, noise levels, airports, schools, hospitals, and the beach and for some, jobs. Will you need to buy at least one car for the family to live in the area? If you are going to rent it out, what does your target market need?
Visit as many developments as you can to find out what you don't want before you commit.
If you plan to live in the property, be prepared to rent for a period as it may not be finished on time.
Do not count on a rental income until at least a couple of months after collecting the keys as there will be outstanding snagging problems.
Quiz the promoters to find out general information about the other buyers e.g. nationality, age etc as they are going to be your neighbours. Try to predict the tone of the future community and ask yourself if that is what you want. Look at what is located nearby to predict who might buy or rent there for access to work.
Security - what will the provision be for the protection of owners. Some types of property are safer than others e.g. a third floor apartment is less likely to be burgled than a ground floor one.
Analyse the plans of the development and of several properties. Ask for plans with a scale and accurate room dimensions. Really think about what you need and what suits your lifestyle e.g. more indoor or outdoor space etc. Find out what is included e.g. kitchen fittings, air conditioning etc.
Talk to relatives, friends and friends of friends, there is always someone who has bought in the country you are thinking of buying in.
Internet research, although you may be overwhelmed by the amount of real estate agents that appear.
Don't rely on estate agent's information as they may have ulterior motives such as high commissions for particular developments which they will push you towards.
Visit the country and choose a specific area that appeals to you.
Read The Times Sunday Homes Section.
Read real life case studies in magazines aimed at buyers of overseas property.
Find relevant internet forums to share information.
Check out www.eyeonworldwide.com message boards to find out what buyers are saying about the development that you are thinking of buying on.
About The Author
Susan Pedalino has a Masters degree in Intercultural Communication and teaches English as a foreign language. Having moved abroad to set up a business and purchase property she has gained invaluable experience in the overseas off plan property market.
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