Looking for the house of your dreams in a new country may not be as ‘dreamlike’ as you imagine. If you don’t speak the language, if you are unfamiliar with the layout of the land, and if you’re not up to speed with all the legal issues involved in signing a lease overseas, finding housing in a new country can be a challenge indeed.
To help work through some of the bumps and ensure that your overseas relocation is a smooth-sailing success, here is some top-notch advice from the experts on how to find housing in a foreign country and the types of issues one needs to consider.
To Buy or Not to Buy
To buy or not to buy – that is the question. However, according to the experts, the answer is rather clear-cut: When moving to a new or foreign country, all are in agreement that you should rent first and only then consider investing your money into an untested house, city, region, neighborhood, or street. Renting first gives you the opportunity to try the new place and the vicinity on for size and determine if it’s a good fit for you and your family.
Some of the issues to consider when moving into any new area are:
- Proximity to schools, grocery stores, shopping malls, cafes/restaurants
- Local public transportation
- Proximity to churches or synagogues
- English-speaking area
- Parks/outdoor play areas
- Noise level
- Cost of living
- Climate/weather patterns
If you are renting an apartment, be sure to consider the following:
- Property manager’s reputation (try to interview past/current tenants to inquire if the building manager is agreeable, responsible, responsive, and competent)
- Necessary documents necessary in order to sign a lease (i.e. bank statements, reference letters, pay stubs, letters of approval)
- Amount of deposit required (i.e. first and last month’s rent, amount withheld for repairs, will the security deposit be returned at the end)
- Does your landlord speak English?
- Is the apartment furnished/unfurnished? Is there enough room for your belongings/furniture? Can you keep all/some of your furniture in storage until you are ready to move into a bigger or more permanent place?
- Old or new building/apartment? (You may not want to be the first-time renter in a new, untested, or newly renovated property unless the building manager has a reputation of excellence)
- Building amenities offered (i.e. swimming pool, tennis courts, fitness room, children’s playroom, etc.)
- Check that the taps work, that there is hot water, that the doors shut properly, that the ceiling fans/air conditioning work, and if possible that the roof does not leak
How to Look for Housing Overseas
Although the Internet is undoubtedly today’s go-to source for information and resources, it is not your best option when it comes to finding housing in a new country. In fact, the experts warn against buying or renting anything sight-unseen, which often results in unpleasant surprises (even if the online pics look amazing!), a truckload of headaches, and a deal you wish you had never signed.
Ideally, you should make the long-distance trip in person to check out any new abode you are considering before you sign on the dotted line; at the very least, have a trusted friend or family member check out the house or apartment in question for you, as well as the neighborhood.
Advantages of Renting vs. Buying Overseas
Consider first the fact that as a foreigner you may not even have the option of legally buying real estate property in the new country. In addition, advantages of renting vs. buying overseas include:
- Mobility (you can move again if you need to/want to without the hassles of having to sell your property)
- Flexibility (you are not tied to a mortgage or permanent residency hence you are free to split your time in various global destinations throughout the year)
- No Home Ownership Costs (i.e. no property taxes, homeowner’s insurance, basic maintenance and upkeep costs, repair fees, or the need to pay back a loan if purchased via financing)
Overseas Property Legal Issues
Whether you decide to buy or rent property in a foreign country, it’s always a good idea to consult with a qualified and experienced real estate agent and/or attorney. Rental agreements in a new country may contain a host of unfamiliar and/or misleading particulars, so be sure to ask the experts for help. Moreover, a professional may be able to help you adjust the terms of your contract or lease, saving you money in the process.
Bon Voyage and Good Luck!