What is Escape to the Sun?
We are a company established to help UK customers buy residential property overseas. Our intention is help you through the property buying process right from property search and selection to purchase completion and beyond. This is our sole focus and our area of expertise.
Who can use the service?
Anybody looking to buy overseas residential property can use the service, whether you are looking for a holiday home, second home, emigrating or if you are just looking from a purely investment perspective. We are here to help.
What are those ‘hidden nasties’ when buying overseas?
Sales practices have improved in recent years particularly in continental Europe. However, there will always be those that are looking to profit from unsuspecting or naïve buyers. Some of the more common pitfalls that buyers face are:
- Developer goes bust whilst the property is not finished, or even not started
- Buying properties that have poor marketability and likely to prove difficult to sell in the future
- Buying properties that are illegally built
- Buying a property with no planning permission
- Buying a property with restrictive covenants or permissions
- Poor construction; it only takes a small problem with the roof, foundations and substandard building materials to be faced with some very expensive bills.
- Ensuring no mortgage or debts are passed over on sale. In some countries, mortgages apply to the property and not the buyer.
- Ensuring that all the necessary licenses are in place. In some countries, a property requires permissions for habitation and for renting out.
- Differences between the contract shown in English and the contract in the local language. It is not unknown for some restrictive clauses to be missed on the English translation.
- Using your high street bank to handle the currency exchange. Specialist exchange houses are typically up to 5% more competitive than your average high street bank. On a house purchase, that can be a lot of money.
- Not protecting against adverse currency movements particularly between the deposit being paid and completion or where phased payments are required for off-plan developments
At Escape to the Sun, we will guide you through the process so that we can help you avoid these problems.
Why not just use an estate agent?
This is certainly a valid option and there are a lot of very capable and professional agents that will help you find the property you want and guide you through the purchase process.
However, our view is that agents represent the seller and do not always have the buyers’ best interests at heart. Also, estate agents can only promote a subset of the market and hence you are not always aware of the wider market opportunities.
Escape to the Sun acts purely in the interests of the buyer. We have no vested interests in selling property and as such, our advice is unbiased. We act purely on your behalf.
One of Escape to the Sun’s strengths are our negotiation skills. We will help you get the best price and conditions.
We will also trawl all of the market and this will include private, direct as well as agency sales. We’ll benchmark the valuation to ensure you are getting a good deal and we will also select properties in locations that we feel offer good long-term potential.
Buying an overseas property represents a major investment and we believe that our customers will receive the professional expertise and support that such an investment deserves. We strongly believe professional advice pays for itself.
In which countries do you operate?
In short, we can support the vast majority of overseas markets via access to a global network of agents. In practice, our efforts are focused on Spain, France, Portugal, Italy, Greece, Malta, Cyprus, Turkey along with a few more far-flung destinations such as the Caribbean, Bahamas, UAE, Malaysia, Thailand, Australia and New Zealand.
However, we do like a challenge so if you have somewhere more exotic in mind, we’d be happy to investigate. We would generally be comfortable as long as the destination has a stable economic and political outlook, foreign ownership of property is allowed and there is an established legal system in place with respect to property ownership and title. We’d also like to see that the target represents a good long-term investment opportunity from a property and currency perspective.
I want to buy a property, what do I do first?
Buying an overseas property can be an incredibly exciting prospect and it is very easy to get over-invested emotionally in your dream destination. However, buying such a property can represent a major financial investment and a large proportion of your wealth. As such, we need to tread carefully as a purchase made in haste may lead to your leisure time not being spent as happily as we would hope.
The first few things you need to consider are:
(i) What are your motivations for buying? There will be different considerations if you are thinking holiday-home, second-home, emigration, retirement destination or just for investment purposes. For example, with a holiday home you may be looking for good transport links, leisure facilities, access to restaurants and bars along with good prospects for rental income.
(ii) Location? You may already have your ideal destination in mind, perhaps after being introduced to that place on holiday, by friends or through work. If you aren’t clear on your destination, then you’ll need an idea of the type of location you have in mind. For example, are you looking for urban/rural? Seaside/countryside? What facilities would you like nearby? Restaurants/bars/nature reserves? Would you like to live near to an expat community or would you prefer to be totally independent? From this remit and your budget, we’ll be able to suggest some locations for you to review.
(iii) Type of property? Are you looking for a villa? Town house? Farm cottage? Apartment? How big? How many bedrooms? Garden? Swimming pool? New/old? A review of a good property magazine will give you some good ideas.
(iv) Budget? This is important to consider as often budgets can quickly run away and you end up in a stretched position and not being able to enjoy the property as you intended. You’ll also need to consider buying costs as these tend to be much more expensive than the UK. Costs typically are between 10% and 15% of the purchase price and can be considerably more for some markets.
In any search and selection process, there is likely a trade-off between location, budget and the quality of the build/finishing. You will need to think over which elements are fixed and which components you may be prepared to compromise.
Finally, are you buying with a partner or in a group? If so, is your thinking aligned? It is useful to debate the above points as it will help frame your thoughts over that dream property.
At Escape to the Sun, we’d be happy to talk over the above points and share some wider considerations. Please do not feel under any obligation, we’re always happy to talk.
Is Escape to the Sun regulated?
Buying overseas property is a non-regulated activity. However, we aim to maintain regulated standards in how we operate given our extensive experience operating in financially-regulated markets and our professional qualifications.
To this end, we are proud members of The Association of International Property Professionals (AIPP). The body exists for one reason and one reason alone: to improve standards of professionalism in the international property market.
When you see that a company is a Member of the AIPP it means that they have voluntarily agreed to follow and be bound by the industry Code of Conduct.
By using AIPP Members, you get reassurance that a Member must act professionally and recourse to the AIPP if problems occur.
The badge of membership is a reminder to you, the buyer, that a company must follow professional standards, and act with honesty, integrity and transparency.
As a Member of the AIPP, we have voluntarily committed ourselves to industry regulation. To verify our membership, to read the Code of Conduct, or to find out more about the AIPP, visit www.aipp.org.uk.
How safe is my money?
Firstly, Escape to the Sun does not hold your property investment monies at any stage of the process.
In terms of transferring money to buy an overseas property, the usual process will be to transfer the cash from your bank to your legal representative where the monies are generally held in an escrow account. On completion, your lawyer will transfer your money to the buyer’s legal representative who will then pass this onto the seller in return for the property deeds.
Deposits will be usually held in escrow accounts held by a legal official (usually a Notary) until you are ready to complete.
The same process applies if you use a currency exchange specialist, monies will be held in an escrow account before being passed to your nominated overseas bank account.
In terms of the end investment, we aim to ensure you have a property with good marketability, good long-term growth prospects backed by solid legal title. However, no property investment is risk free and if you have a mortgage on the property, your home will be at risk if you do not maintain your mortgage repayments.