Guide for expats finding and buying UK property
The process of buying a UK property and arranging a mortgage as an expat might sound complicated, but there’s plenty of help for expats buying UK property.
Finding a UK property to buy
It can be hard enough finding the right property in the UK when you’re actually living there. But buying UK properties from abroad is an even tougher proposition. Where do you look, how do you narrow down your search and how do you build up a shortlist?
Then, when you’ve found the ideal place, the next hurdle is sorting out an expat mortgage to buy it. In fact sorting out the UK finance for any kind of expat property deal is as important, if not more important, than finding the property itself. After all, it’s only when you have the finance agreement – if only in principle – that you can begin to negotiate in earnest.
Expat mortgages and everything to do with UK property buying for expats might sound complicated, but there’s plenty of help out there for you.
Expats expert Stuart Marshall from Liquid Expat Mortgages shares a few pointers on how to start searching for a property online and how to reduce the hassles of raising an expat mortgage on the property.
There are plenty of property websites to help you kick start your search, whether you’re an expat buying to let or looking for a residential property in the UK.
Though by no means a definitive list, here’s an overview of five of the main sites our clients have told us they have found particularly helpful in their search for UK property.
This is one of the newer property websites and has the look and feel of a social networking site. Its design means it’s less confusing to navigate around than many other sites.
There’s a ‘listing history tool’ which shows you, at a glance, how long a property’s been on the site and also shows whether the asking price has changed over this period.
There’s also a very useful value index that estimates the value of any single property in the UK, not just what is on the market. This makes the site a good starting point for any expat looking for UK property, as it lets you build up a picture of the prices you can expect in a certain area.
This is probably one of the most established property websites and claims to feature over 90% of all properties for sale in the UK. A unique element of the site is the way it lets you to search within a general area, instead of by postcode.
Another very useful feature is the access it gives to actual selling prices as held on the UK Land Registry Website. This is certainly helpful in assessing the difference between the asking and selling prices of properties in the UK.
This site provides a useful ‘information news pack’ for every property which includes general property news, as well as house price and affordability price trends which are updated monthly. There’s also a summary of council tax rates, local schools and comments about the social make-up of an area. Uniquely, it also shows the difference between property values and the mortgages held on them.
One of the key benefits of using this site is that it also links with Google Street View to give you a 360 view of a property’s exterior and surrounding area.
This is the site for expats looking for UK property who have a very clear view of their needs.
You can set very specific criteria for the property search – for example by asking for details of properties with a swimming pool or a granny flat. The only drawback is that the search concentrates on your ‘individual criteria’ so it can generate properties that are outside your preferred areas.
As the name suggests, the focus of this site is on higher end, more luxurious properties for sale in the UK,
The site is attractive to look at with a number of photos for each property. If you want to feel as though you are browsing through a luxurious glossy Homes & Gardens-style magazine for property, then this is the place for you.
Raising an expat UK mortgage
OK, so you’ve found some sites to start looking for UK properties. Now the next issue to address is raising an expat mortgage.
This isn’t as complicated as it sounds so don’t be put off, or misinformed, by what you may have heard from overseas banks, fellow expats who have had their fingers burnt or what you’ve read on the internet.
With the right advice and support, securing an expat mortgage is a simple straightforward process. But getting this support is vital and that’s where a well-connected experts can prove to be invaluable.
By using a broker registered with the FSA in the UK you’ll enjoy a number of advantages compared with trying to find a mortgage on your own. These include:
- The choice of a range of mortgage options from a number of lenders.
- The flexibility to choose precisely the right kind of expat mortgage to meet your needs.
- Knowledge and experience of dealing with expats whether they’re looking for residential or buy-to-let property.
- A presence in the UK so even if you’re overseas, your mortgage broker won’t be.
- The security of knowing that your broker is regulated by the FSA.
Despite all these facts, many believe that they will be better off talking to their own bank in the UK about an expat home loan. Experience over the last couple of years has shown that this is not necessarily the case. With banks everywhere tightening their lending criteria your years of loyal custom might count for little when it comes down to it, whereas a broker will know who’s lending and what kind of custom they’re trying to attract.
Another common misconception is that you should have your firm offer on a UK property accepted before you start to sort out the finance. Most brokers will tell you the importance of having finance agreed, if only in principle, before you start to make offers. There are three very good reasons for this:
- It proves to the seller that you are serious about buying.
- This leads to greater negotiating power.
- Thirdly, it speeds up the whole buying process.
These reasons, and the fact that getting an outline finance agreement costs nothing and involves no obligation, mean that you’ve nothing to lose by talking to a an expat mortgages broker at the earliest opportunity. It should save you a whole lot of time, hassle and even money in the long run.
Liquid Expat Mortgages / Expatica
Liquid Expat Mortgages strives to simplify the process of raising finance whilst providing the largest choice of available mortgage products and lenders that are totally familiar with expat lending requirements and circumstances. Its clients have used its services to access UK and Overseas mortgage lenders for amounts ranging from GBP 50k to over GBP 5m to purchase Buy to Let, Investment Property, Main UK and Overseas Residences. Liquid Expat Mortgages can provide access to over 40 different lenders who are willing to accept applications from British Expatriates and Foreign Nationals looking for UK and Overseas Mortgages. For more information, contact Stuart Marshall.