Step One: Getting to know your country of choice
The first step is to decide on your preferred location and property type in your country of choice. Make sure the country and part of the country you decide on fit with your reasons for buying property overseas and set objectives.
Halo Financial shines the spotlight on some popular countries for overseas buyers. Each country has advantages: weather and lifestyle are important, but it depends if you’re buying a new home abroad for work; emigrating; seeking a holiday home; an investment property; or a quiet place to retire.
Diverse regions and properties; opportunities for work; and return on investment make the UK an attractive option.
The UK has long been a popular location in which to buy property, often for investment purposes. UK centres of business and finance such as London are a continued draw for those who are emigrating for work; and the housing and rental markets are both strong, post-financial crisis.
Intense demand for housing in London has pushed house prices up 86% since 2009, when the property market dropped as part of the financial crisis. Recent studies also show that cities outside the South East of England are confident in the ability to buy property and have not been affected by the UK’s vote to leave the EU.
One of the fastest growing economies in Europe, Ireland ranks highly for both living and working.
Ireland is a land of natural beauty, steeped in history. Its appeal has grown in the past five years or so, as the country picked itself up admirably following a very troubled time during the financial crisis. The pace of life is calm, with plenty of scope for employment and education opportunities.
There has been somewhat of a property boom in Ireland since 2015, and according to recent figures, the country now offers the best buy-to-let rental yields in Europe, 6.54%, topping the league tables above the Netherlands, Portugal (6.33%) and Turkey (6.32%).
Ireland does not make any restrictions on foreigners buying property in the country; indeed, Ireland caters well for international and overseas businesses, which have seen a remarkable rise in recent years.
Ireland is now one of the fastest growing EU economies, recently ranked as the sixth fastest worldwide, and is attracting global technology companies such as Microsoft, Facebook and Google.
With Brexit on the horizon and the Euro generally strong against the Pound, some major financial services firms are also looking to Dublin, in particular. Continued investment and financial growth mean that Ireland continues to appeal to homebuyers for investment purposes and for those wishing to emigrate to live and work there.
With its stunning beaches, sunshine and gentler pace of living, Spain has long been popular with expats, holiday home buyers and property investors alike.
Spain is a popular and easily accessible tourist destination for all nationalities, with its sunny Costas and islands holding enduring appeal for holidaymakers and homebuyers alike. The country still tops the lists of most popular countries for overseas buyers, with the enduring appeal of Spain’s diverse destinations regularly featuring in property hotspot surveys.
Having been hit hard by the financial crisis, construction is back on the up and property prices are going up, too, having hit low levels as a result of the crash.
House prices in Spain are increasing, yet properties remain affordable. Mortgages are currently at a very low rate in Spain; another attraction for would-be property buyers, and with volatile exchange rates, would be overseas buyers are hunting out the bargains.
Spain’s housing market and economy continue to recover, with considerable interest from overseas investors in the cities and popular coastal resorts.
Alicante, Barcelona and Valencia remain the most popular areas with international property buyers. Recent property sales figures for Spain show that Madrid, Catalonia, Asturias, Almeria, the Balearics and the Canary Islands were all popular with overseas investors. This overseas interest is contributing to Spain’s economic recovery.
Spain’s Golden Visas, which have proved popular for other countries, such as Portugal, are now gathering momentum, with increasing interest from investors from China, Sweden and Russia, spending a minimum of 500,000 Euros in property in the country throughout 2016.
A long-time favourite with expats and property investors, France has many beautiful areas to explore, a rich history and gastronomic culture to enjoy.
France has long been popular with expats from around the world, with much to offer both property investors and holiday homeowners. Known for the quality and favourable pace of life available to those who live there, as well as the impressive healthcare and welfare systems, France is the third-largest economy in Europe and offers a wide range of locations and properties for investment.
With its breadth of terrain and lifestyle, rich history and enviable culture, France holds enduring appeal as a destination for both holidaymakers and expats – as well as the odd commuter! The food and wine are world renowned and plentiful, there’s plenty to see and do (outdoors and indoors), beautiful countryside and coastline, mountains and ski resorts galore. Stylish shopping and fabulous markets are a key feature of French life, and part of the joy of day to day living.
If you’re moving to France for work, it’s worth noting that their much-coveted work life balance has recently come to the fore. In recent surveys, French workers came out as the least stressed, with 64% saying they felt no stress at work and had no problem with workloads, in contrast to UK employees, for example, at a not- so-happy 13%.
Workers in France enjoy 13 Bank Holidays and five weeks’ paid annual leave for every year worked. Rules in France restrict workers’ time in the office and set specific hours in which to answer emails for companies in certain industries – essentially reducing work emails outside office hours. There is also legislation in place so that if you work beyond the 35-hour working week, you get paid extra overtime or receive time off in lieu. Longer, more substantial lunch breaks may also appeal, particularly when you consider the fabulous French food on offer…
Unlike some of their European neighbours, Portugal stopped building during the financial crisis, and although their property market suffered, there has been a dramatic improvement post-recession, with property prices picking up in a number of popular areas over the past few years.
One of the key drivers of this boost to the Portuguese property market has been the introduction of Portugal’s Golden Visa scheme – which offers residency to non-EU- based property buyers investing in high-end properties. The Golden Visa offers a residency permit for a family, including dependent children, in return for property investment of £500,000. The Golden Visa is renewable every two years as long as the visa holder spends two weeks in the country every two years. This popular scheme has helped attract increased levels of investment from overseas buyers and estate agencies reported sizeable increases in sales since the scheme began in 2012.
Portugal is well known for its quality of life and low cost of living, for example, the cost of living in Portugal is over 31.95% lower than in the UK and rent in Portugal is almost 50% lower. This makes the country a popular destination for emigration and second homeowners in particular. Expats here enjoy a wide range of outdoor and indoor leisure pursuits at low costs, so it’s a great way to get out and about and enjoy the sun and sea air. There are also policies in place to restrict over development in popular coastal areas, making the environment even more appealing.
With modern resorts, interesting history and a fantastic climate, there is much to entice property buyers and, equally important for those looking at investment opportunities, tourists to Portugal.
The Algarve, in particular, retains its evergreen appeal for holidaymakers of all ages, so it remains a good source of investment for property buyers and families seeking a good quality holiday home.
Sunshine, history, food and drink, cosmopolitan culture – Italy has much to offer both expats and investors.
The Italian philosophy around homeownership generally focuses on property as a home, rather than an investment, with homeowners likely to remain in their properties for an average of 20 years before moving. As a result, property prices have stayed balanced and essentially affordable, and Italy didn’t suffer as much as some of its European neighbours during the financial and property crisis, partly as they weren’t exposed to over-development in the same way.
Having a property in Italy has plenty of appeal – stunning surroundings, wonderful historical sites, bustling cities offering fantastic food and drink, shopping heaven and if you are that way inclined, a buzzy nightlife.
Italians are sociable and there are plenty of opportunities to get active, meet new people and see new things.
While holiday homes are popular and often a good investment, everything is conducted in Italian, and if you plan to live and/or work in the country, you will definitely need to get a good grasp of the language. This all adds to the fun of moving here if you are keen to learn and stretch yourself.
There is not a wide range of different types of property available in Italy, as most apartments were built in the 1960s and 1970s, and can be small and somewhat dated, so you will need to be selective when it comes to what items you move over to Italy and how you furnish the property. In contrast, you will find that standards are high when it comes to the properties being in the correct working order, so you shouldn’t have to worry too much about maintenance and upkeep. However, be aware that amenities are limited and can be expensive, so you will have to ensure you factor this into your overall property costs.
Celebrated for quality of life, work-life balance, and a steady economy, Germany is becoming an ever more popular destination for property buyers.
Berlin leads Germany’s property market, which is seeing a boost in property investment, particularly since the Brexit vote in the UK. The German capital is home to a comparatively stable economy in uncertain times and ever-growing technology industry, attracting a considerable number of migrants from across the globe. Berlin made up 44 per cent of property enquiries in a survey by popular property website, TheMoveChannel, with overall enquiries jumping 53 per cent in just six months towards the end of 2016, seeing a 33 per cent increase in interest since the UK EU Referendum.
A recent PwC survey also ranks the capital city as top for investment and development potential, with the other popular German cities of Hamburg, Frankfurt, and Munich also featuring in the study, alongside other EU cities, such as Dublin. Commercial property activity has also risen in Berlin in recent years. Germany has risen to the top of a number of property investment league tables in recent years, with Berlin and Munich scoring highly as two of the top three most attractive cities for investors in commercial property, and Hamburg and Frankfurt featuring within the Top Ten.
The most popular areas with residential property buyers are Berlin, Bavaria, North-Rhine Westphalia, Hesse and Brandenburg.
Public transport systems are excellent in Germany and the working laws well known for looking after employees. Cities, including Berlin, Dusseldorf, Frankfurt and Munich also ranked highly in recent surveys of the best places to live and work.
A good pointer for buying residential property in Germany: whether you are buying a property as an investment, a holiday home, or to live there permanently, be aware that most apartments and houses in Germany are sold unfurnished – this may also not include white goods and kitchen appliances. Make sure you factor this into your overall budget at the outset, as the costs can all add up.
Greece suffered in the financial crisis and is currently experiencing a form of déjà vu as their financial and political challenges continue, however, the country’s popularity as a holiday destination remains; the Greek Islands, in particular, provide opportunities for property investment or a quieter pace of life.
None of the uncertainties of economic and political troubles in recent years has shattered the peaceful, welcoming image that you would usually associate with Greece. The Greek Islands provide rich pickings for holiday homeowners and property investors – especially those looking for a bargain, as home prices, exchange rates and property prices fall. The economic troubles in Greece have in fact meant that good quality property is available more cheaply in a country that boasts fantastic weather (pretty much all year round); breath-taking scenery; calm coastlines; rich, ancient history and culture; and a low cost of living.
The cost of living in Greece is low – one of the lowest within the European Union (EU) – rent is over 70% less than in the UK, for example, and the overall difference in the cost of living between these countries is around 20-30%. The standard of living, in contrast, is high. Bear in mind that costs go up in the cities, as you would expect anywhere across the globe. Almost everyone uses cash (Euros) in Greece – smaller, local businesses may be unwilling to accept credit or debit cards.
Greek people are renowned for their friendliness; you will receive a warm welcome if you are planning to live in Greece for any length of time. Pretty much everyone speaks Greek, and many speak English, as well as French. If you are moving to Greece for work, it’s worth making the effort to learn the language – Modern Greek is important in the working environment. There are relatively fewer large, international companies located in Greece in comparison to some other European countries, but you will find if you are employed in one of these that there will be plenty of colleagues who speak English.
The popularity of Cyprus as a holiday destination means it continues to be considered a good location for property investment and holiday home buyers.
Cyprus appears to be back on the radar for property buyers, with property enquiries the highest they have been for some years and property transactions rising month-on-month. Overseas purchases were up 20% in 2017, and Cyprus is now appearing ever higher up the lists of most popular destinations in which to buy a property.
Those looking for year-round sunshine and a holiday home in the sun, or moving to Cyprus for a sun-filled retirement have continued to show interest in and buy homes in Cyprus, although the country’s property market is a long way from the boom it experienced some years ago.
The most popular areas for property buyers are Limassol, Nicosia, Paphos and Larnaca. Cyprus has a lot going for it – good weather, a slow pace of life, a low crime rate, fantastic beaches and a low cost of living (20-50% lower than the UK, for example). Rentals and property prices are relatively cheap, there is a large ex-pat community, and English is spoken widely, along with a number of other languages, such as Russian.
If you’re planning to move to Cyprus long-term, there are a few key things to be aware of. You really need a car to get around, as public transport is not the best. Summers are very hot – so be prepared for the heat and look after yourself!
Despite political uncertainty, Turkey remains a favourite for holiday homeowners and property investors from a wide range of countries, offering a steady property market, stunning coastlines and rich history.
Turkey’s property market is booming, with a hike in property values in recent years. It is one of the most popular destinations for overseas buyers, either as a holiday home or an investment, regularly featuring in the league tables of the best countries to buy property in. The exchange rates have also been a considerable draw for overseas property buyers in Turkey, as the Turkish Lira fought against the US Dollar, in particular.
Turkey has a vast expanse of coastline and country to explore, as well as vibrant cities. Istanbul is a popular city with expats and tourists, as well as Ankara. The country also has a thriving ex-pat community and it is recognised for its low cost of living, particularly in comparison to other European destinations.
A new citizenship programme, similar to the Golden Visa schemes in Spain and Portugal, launched in January 2017, designed to attract more wealthy investors into Turkey. The Turkish government has launched a scheme where foreign investors in property worth at least $1 million for a minimum of three years could become Turkish citizens.
With popular, sunny hotspots such as Florida long appealing as a retiree destination, property investors, expats and holiday homeowners are now looking further afield. Texas scored very highly in a recent ex-pat satisfaction survey.
Certain US States are seeing buoyant property markets, for example, the ever-popular Florida, but also across the country, including Washington DC; Portland, Oregon; Westchester County and New York State, New York, Ohio; and Silicon Valley, California.
The US is in a state of limbo regarding immigration in some respects, as the world waits to see what policies will unfold following the recent 2020 US Election.
Controversial immigration policies may dampen appetite for those planning to emigrate, yet there is still considerable interest in the US as a destination for holiday properties, particularly in the sunnier climes of Florida and California. Many people from all over the world move to the USA to live and work.
While the USA’s global reputation may have been tarnished in recent years due to ongoing economic issues and some controversial foreign policies, this does not appear to be putting people off wanting to call the country home.
It’s estimated that over one million people from across the globe move to the US to live and work annually, so America tops the charts for the most popular destination for emigration.
According to the National Association of Realtors, sales of existing properties have soared in the US, at the fastest rate in ten years. Growing consumer confidence and promising jobs figures in the country have boosted the property market. The average price of a property in January was $228,900, a 7.1 per cent increase on the previous year.
Regularly ranked as a top country in which to live and work, Australia is home to many outdoor leisure pursuits, bustling financial centres, breathtaking beaches and stunning scenery.
Australia is well-known for its quality of life and is the ideal location for those seeking an outdoor lifestyle. Australia is unrivalled for its wide variety of terrains, regions, cities, and even climates.
Australian property values have been growing for some time and the economy as a whole has performed well since the financial crisis, where they, unlike many other countries, avoided a recession. Sales of new homes in Australia grew in 2016 and 2017 and lending to new home buyers was up. Victoria was the top of the list for building new houses, followed by New South Wales. Western Australia was next on the list, although both Western and Southern Australia are facing challenging economic and property market conditions. Queensland is also seeing an improvement and its market is showing signs of recovery.
New home building approvals picked up in Australia in recent years, with 2016 a record year for new homes being built. There has been an uplift in interest from Chinese property investors in Australia in recent years, with a year on year increase in enquiries of 87% between 2015 and 2016. This provides a boost to the local property markets in Australia and off-plan investments encourage construction of new builds. Property experts predict a boom in construction for the coming year.
Sydney and Melbourne are the most popular cities for property buyers, with properties selling fast and rising property prices making them stand out above other Australian cities. Properties here tend to reach their listing price with ease, sometimes selling for over that value, as there is significant demand for properties in these cities and limited supply.
The fast-moving property market in Australia makes it all the more important to find a trusted estate agent in Australia to guide you through the nuances of the local property market and advise you on how the buying process works. It’s also important to keep an eye on exchange rates, as the Australian Dollar is a commodity currency, tied to the performance of commodities and closely linked to economic performance in China, so can move very quickly. A currency specialist can help you stay on top of these currency market movements and guide you through what this means for your property purchase.
Like its close neighbour, Australia, New Zealand ranks highly for quality of life, health and wellbeing. The country also offers an outdoor-focused lifestyle and sensational scenery.
New Zealand scores highly with expats from other parts of the globe, ranking sixth for personal happiness. There has also been a noticeable growth in property prices in the country in recent years, with year-on-year price rises of 13.9% in 2015 and 2016.
New Zealand has become a popular area of investment from other countries, including the UK, Australia, China, Singapore and Switzerland. Property prices have soared in recent years in response to a boost in tourism and immigration, reaching record highs.
The most popular areas for property buyers and for immigration are Wellington and Auckland.
Whether you are investing into Auckland’s thriving, multi-cultural, commercial hub; exploring the fertile lands and shores of the Bay of Plenty; or taking advantage of the wonderful wineries and vineyards of Hawke’s Bay or Marlborough, New Zealand has much to offer.
It is becoming an increasingly popular choice for investment and emigration, thanks to a thriving economy and impressive choice of investment opportunities.
The New Zealand economy is in a good place right now, but the Euro-NZ Dollar exchange rate is volatile. As a commodity currency, its strength is affected by economic activity in China and the US, supply, demand and pricing of global commodities. The exchange rate between the NZ Dollar and its main currency pairings fluctuates significantly in response to economic, market and political events. It’s always a good idea to consult an experienced currency specialist to discuss your specific situation and how you may be affected.
Canada has stepped out from under the shadow of its neighbour in North America and has become an increasingly popular country for both property investment and emigration.
Canada has become more and more popular as a destination for property investment and emigration. Canada does not impose any restrictions on non-residents owning property in the country, although it is not until recent years that the country has become more popular as a location for property investment and emigration, having previously been overshadowed by its close neighbour, the USA.
Canada’s more recent popularity has come partly from the country’s approach during the financial crisis, where the economy remained in good shape as other countries went into meltdown. Recent tighter criteria for mortgage lending has not slowed the positive property market, although be aware that first-time buyers must meet stringent eligibility criteria in order to get a mortgage.
Property investment is focused on specific regions of Canada. Property prices – particularly in the larger cities – have been on the up for some time, and the country is considered a safe haven from an investment perspective. The country as a whole has experienced property price rises of almost 12 per cent in 2016. The most popular destinations remain Greater Vancouver and Toronto, with rising sales in the Fraser Valley, Victoria and Vancouver Island.
The number of people immigrating to the four Atlantic Provinces of Canada has also increased considerably in recent years, with a record number in 2016 – over three times as many as the previous year. This upward trend comes mostly from Canada’s provincial nominee programmes, and a new pilot scheme set up in 2016 to increase numbers of immigrants to Nova Scotia, Newfoundland, New Brunswick, Labrador, and Prince Edward Island (made famous by L M Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables and Avonlea stories).
Canada recently hosted a special citizenship ceremony at the Supreme Court of Canada to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Canadian Citizenship Act.
Find out more about the best countries in which to buy property and the most popular emigration destinations.