By Ben Winteroff
Buying a home in a foreign country is both a major investment and an exciting opportunity, but sometimes the scale of the project can feel a little daunting. The key to successfully investing in foreign land or housing is knowing how to budget. Part of this is understanding property tax – something you should seek personal independent advice on – and part of it is understanding where the hidden costs lie. Once you know the costs you’ll encounter and how to reduce them, your stress will be halved and the rest of the project should come together smoothly.
Know your budget
According to YourMoney.com, whether you’re looking at a house, apartment, condo or cottage, you’ll need to ensure you’re financially prepared. Knowing your exact budget means zeroing in on the exact amount that you can afford to spend in the intended foreign currency.
The value of USD is different in countries around the world. If you haven’t chosen your dream destination yet this can be a big influencer of where to look and may help you to decide where to buy. If possible, get a quote for a non-binding provisional mortgage to see exactly what your repayments would be, and check out our currency converter for the latest market rates of USD to AUD, GBP, EUR and many more. You’ll then know how far your money may stretch in that particular foreign currency.
Local laws and taxes
The laws of the land can have a significant effect on your budgeting. YourMoney.com also advises that regardless of your familiarity with the place in question or person you’re buying from, you should always seek independent advice. Some buyers may try to avoid seeking such advice to cut costs, but as this is one of the more important purchases in your life, it makes good sense to protect yourself.
Taxes will vary wildly from country to country, says YourMoney. Depending on where you to pitch your proverbial tent, you may be subject to different types of tax. If your desired property is part of a wider community, there may be rates for communal utilities like street lighting and garbage collection (although in the US this is sometimes known as a Homeowners Association Fee). For peace of mind, speak to a qualified specialist and ease your concerns before you commit.
Ensure you insure
The Association of International Property Professionals has created a guide to safely buying property overseas. It states that if you’re purchasing a holiday home that may be unoccupied for long periods you should get some quotes for building and contents insurance. Similarly, if your plan is to generate some residual income from renting it out, specialist commercial insurance may be necessary. Homes in exotic locations are a buyer’s dream, but if the area is prone to natural disasters like earthquakes, hurricanes, flooding or volcanic activity then expect the insurance cover to be high.
Lending and sending
Zillow.com’s Foreign Buyer’s Guide reveals just some of the requirements you’ll need to meet in order to take out a mortgage overseas. As a foreigner, expat, or a new citizen, meeting these requirements may be difficult. A potential solution is to find a bank at home that’s prepared to offer you a mortgage for an overseas property and transfer the funds to a foreign account. With OFX, there will be no OFX fee and we offer highly competitive rates on over 55 different currencies ¬– just something to think about!
Even if you’re able to finance your property elsewhere, you can still make massive savings in the ebb and flow of the currency market. Suppose the Australian dollar is flourishing against the foreign currency; a sudden dip in USD could mean the budget you set aside no longer covers the entire purchase. This would be particularly unfortunate if it overlapped with the signing of contracts. As the market is constantly moving, it might seem difficult to catch it at the right time, but with foreign currency specialist like OFX, you can better manage how much foreign currency you receive.
If the market rate is in your favor, but you aren’t in a position to transfer the full amount, you can lock in this exchange rate with a Forward Contract; meaning you pay the full amount at a later date or divide it into smaller payments over 12 months. This may protect you against market movements, specifically a depreciation in the value of the currency you’re holding.
If the market rate is not currently in your favor and you’re keen to see if it’ll improve you can set a Limit Order and we’ll watch the market for you. When it reaches your specified target rate we’ll alert you to complete the transfer. This way you don’t miss a great opportunity when you’re out with your friends or spending time with your family.
We Said Go Travel has partnered with OFX to offer preferential exchange rates and no transfer fees. Learn more about our services here
If you have any specific questions about OFX’s services, please contact Ben Winterroth.
OFX Overseas Property Prep List
- Ensure you have budgeted well beyond the asking price of the property.
- Ensure you’re not paying too much (or too little) by doing thorough research of the properties in the area. Don’t rely on one property website for all the valuations.
- In addition to a property lawyer, it’s a good idea to hire a surveyor, especially if you’re buying in a tropical climate or an environment you’re unfamiliar with.
- If you’re actually looking to relocate then factor in the transportation of all of your worldly possessions (cars, furniture, wardrobes), your family and yourself to your new dream home.
- Visit the local Taxation Office website for more information to see if paying tax overseas on your rental income and/or capital gains may make you eligible for a foreign income tax offset.
- Do you know the end-to-end tax year in the destination country? Don’t assume it’s the same as your local country as each country has its own and the currency market is likely to react to it.
- If you’ve got your sights set on a lucrative investment, be prepared for a possible downside. Ensure you can afford to take a loss on the property should this happen.
- Ensure you’re getting the most out of your foreign exchange service and not overpaying to send money abroad. At OFX, we offer fee-free transfers for We Said Go Travel readers
- Don’t forget, however, that third-party banks may deduct a fee from your transfer before paying your recipient. This fee may vary and OFX receives no portion of it.
*Findings sourced from investing.com and based on 1st January 2014 and 26th February 2016.
Photo Credit: By Merzperson at English Wikipedia via Wikimedia Commons