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How would Brexit affect overseas property owners?

Published: Tuesday 21 June 2016

It’s been a fiercely contested campaign, which has at times has resembled something more akin to a children’s playground argument than it has a debate that will impact on the future of Brits who own property abroad.
However, as we move into the final straight, the final few days for politicians to get across their opinions on whether the UK should leave or remain in the EU, questions of quite what will happen to Brits who own a home in another EU member state in the result of a Brexit are yet to be answered.
In a campaign which has been, frustratingly, dominated by scaremongering tactics on both sides, immigration has been one of the major topics of discussion.
There has been talk, lots of it in fact, that a Brexit vote could lead to second homes owned by Brits in European countries being seized by governments. The reality, though, is that all those who own property legally in another EU country are protected by both the United Nation's Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the European Convention on Human Rights which means individual property rights must be respected. 
This isn’t to say, though, that governments of some EU countries won’t find other ways to harm British owners (depending, of course, on how angry they feel about a Brexit). Property taxes for British (or non-EU) owners could be increased and current deals that offer things like leaseback guarantees on investment properties could also be a thing of the past.

It’s also not a complete impossibility that British nationals could suddenly find themselves in need of a special visa allowing them to visit their property for more than a certain period of each year. Currently, the EU freedom of movement pact allows Brits to visit their property as often, and for as long, as they like. As non-EU residents, however, the amount of time they may be allowed to stay in the country could be limited. Therefore, months spent enjoying some winter sun in southern Spain could be coming to an end.

Likewise, those who are yet to buy a property in the EU, but dream of one day doing so, could even need a special investment visa just to be allowed to do so. While this may seem an unlikely step, it is one that some EU governments already place on other non-EU nationals who wish to buy a property in their country. Why would it be any different for British purchasers should the UK no longer decide to be in the UK.

The initial purchase of a property in somewhere like Spain of France could also suddenly become a lot more costly. Not only would a Brexit vote almost certainly lead to increased stamp duties for British buyers (at least in some EU countries, if not all), but a vote to leave would also have a major impact on the foreign exchange markets (especially in the months following the vote), while mortgage availability could become more limited. Investors would also likely find themselves suddenly receiving far, far fewer Euros for their Pounds, so anyone needing to make a purchase in the European currency will be adversely affected.

Of course, should the outcome of Thursday’s vote be for the UK to leave the EU, it will only be the first stage in what will be months and months of negotiations, during which all implications of what will happen to British second home owners in the EU (and indeed those who intend to buy a home in the Union in the future) will be discussed at length.

The truth is that no one knows exactly what will happen in the result of a Brexit vote. But the chances are that British second home ownership in other EU countries may not be as readily achievable as it once was.