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Overseas Solicitors and Lawyers

This section of our website features specific country related Solicitors, Notaries and Lawyers who deal with property purchase and conveyancing. Each country listed below will link you through to a specific solicitors page featuring contact details and website links where available to solicitors practising the above in that country or region.

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If you are a solicitor or Lawyer specialising in overseas then please forward us your website details and we will add them to the appropriate country listing below for the convenience of our browsers. email us your details.

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How to ensure your foreign property transaction goes smoothly

A cottage retreat deep in the French countryside; a sleek high rise penthouse in Hong Kong; a spacious new build complete with swimming pool in the Melbourne suburbs. The choice for those seeking a permanent base, holiday home or investment opportunity overseas has never been greater.

But with every mouth-watering destination comes a complex set of laws and processes governing property transactions. Grappling with the legal matrix needn’t detract from the thrill of securing the property of your dreams but any prudent buyer should consider the legal implications of purchasing property overseas. Here we examine some of the key issues.

Property law varies enormously between countries. Something as simple as “ownership” of a property may not mean the same thing as at home. Many jurisdictions do not allow foreigners to hold real estate while others, like the UAE, restrict foreign buyers to specific areas. In some locations it is common for foreigners to register a company and use this to purchase property. There may be significant legal and practical differences between this and owning the property in your own name.

Many popular destinations have building standards and regulations that are equal or superior to those in the UK. However, in certain countries you will need to check things you would take for granted when buying a property at home, like whether the property has a safe and reliable electricity and water supply. You may wish to have a registered surveyor examine the property. The Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors has around 100,000 members across the globe.

It’s also advisable to find out about the rules on planning permissions. Even if you don’t intend to do any extensions or major building works, minor modifications like knocking down a garden wall might require permission.

The purchase of foreign property brings with it a wide range of tax considerations in the UK and overseas countries. The UK has treaties in place with many countries to prevent British residents and property owners abroad having to pay the same tax in both countries, but not all taxes are covered by this. For example, inheritance tax isn’t included in the treaty between the UK and Spain. With good tax planning, purchasing a property overseas can be a great financial investment, and you should consult a qualified tax adviser.

Having decided to go ahead with the purchase, those not fortunate enough to have the spare cash to buy outright will need to look at financing options. There are two main possibilities: take out a mortgage in the country where you are buying the property; or remortgage your home in the UK and use the cash to finance the overseas purchase. Both options have relative legal and financial advantages and you should take independent financial advice to decide which best suits you.

Finally, get legal advice at all stages in the process from a specialist in the country where you are looking to buy. Some jurisdictions require property transactions to be conducted by a public notary. The notary is a neutral figure appointed to ensure that the transaction follows the legal process, not to advise the parties concerned. You should get an independent advisor to protect your interests.

These are just a few of the legal matters that you are likely to encounter when buying property abroad. The good news is that with common sense, proper research and, above all, appropriate professional advice, anyone can enter into a foreign property transaction with the same security they would have at home.

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