5 Tips For Buying Property Abroad

5 Tips For Buying Property Abroad

Buying a property abroad can be an exciting, but daunting prospect. What sort of money should you spend? How will choose a reputable solicitor? What taxes do you need to take into consideration?

Recent months have seen a strong interest in the amount of people looking to buy property overseas. Especially in Europe, where the pound is much stronger against the euro than it was a year ago, there has been a steady rise of British buyers looking to invest in foreign property.

However it doesn’t always go to plan. We have all heard horror stories of how buying abroad can go horribly wrong. After all, it’s easy to get lost in the minefield of paperwork that is ‘buying abroad’.

Give yourself a better understanding of foreign property buying dos and don’ts and check out our top five tips if you’re thinking of taking the leap and purchasing a home abroad.


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Image courtesy of Juan Pablo Ortiz Arechiga

It sounds obvious, yet so many people get carried away with the romance of owning a property abroad and don’t put in enough research before they make the jump.

At the very least, you should visit and explore the country before you commit to making a purchase. If you’re planning on living in the property yourself, visit it in different seasons so you know what to expect during high season, as well as when the tourists go home. Remember, plenty of resorts pack up once the last tourists have packed their bags.

Speak to other Brits living in the destination and try to find an online community who will be able to give you frank advice about the area and what to expect.

Remember to also check out local transport links in the area and don’t rely on budget airlines to always fly to your destination.


Many of the horror stories you hear of eager Brits looking to purchase a home abroad surround the misunderstanding of native law and language barriers.

It’s crucial that you can work with people who you trust to overcome this. Use a reputable expat forum to find a recommended translator. Be wary of translators who contact you in the first instance, despite how helpful they might seem.

If you are dealing with a British estate agent, make sure they are able to practice in the UK and your chosen country. You should also ask if they have had experience of buying and selling abroad. If you are using a UK lawyer, make sure they are registered with The Law Society. This is the independent professional body for solicitors

Money matters

Keeping a sharp on your finances goes without saying, but this is even more important when it comes to dealing with businesses abroad, which will operate under different laws and regulatory bodies than the UK. It’s worth getting familiar with The Association of International Property Professionals (AIPP). This association is working hard to introduce regulation into a largely unregulated area and is a great place to start if you’re looking for unbiased advice.

Once you have chosen your ideal property, it’s advisable to set up a bank account as soon as you can, or you face having to incur charges to transfer money abroad.

Once your bank account is active, set up direct debit payments to manage your bills. Any missed bills will result in large fines, so keep ontop of your payment schedule and check your bank activity regularly.

Tax laws differ across the continent, so invest in a reputable tax advisor who can explain all the details. For example, if you’re in the United Kingdom and you advertise your foreign property to rent, you will be liable to pay tax in both countries.

Inheritance law

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Image courtesy of oatsy40

Inheritance laws differ in different countries. For example, in France, children automatically inherit the property, instead of a wife or husband. Think about drawing up a will in your chosen destination so you can have peace of mind that your property is inherited by the right people. In fact, in countries such as Spain, making a will is mandatory if you want to buy a property.

Further costs

Be aware that on top of the usual costs we are familiar with in the United Kingdom when it comes to buying property, there will also be further costs involved.

These could include:

  • Chartered and quantity surveyor fees
  • International bank transfer fees
  • Power of attorney fees
  • Translator/interpreter fees
  • Utility connection fees
  • Shipping and storage costs

With careful planning, some of these costs can be drastically minimised. When you are preparing to move, think carefully about your storage solutions. Choose a space big enough for your possessions, but not too big, or you will be paying for dead space.

Other ways of cutting costs include getting quotes from translators, or asking them to work for a fixed fee, rather than by the hour, so you don’t have any nasty surprises when you receive their bill.

Investing in a foreign property can be a great move. Just make sure you do your research and don’t be afraid to ask questions every step of the way.

Storage Unit Size Guide

It can be difficult to decide how large a storage unit to hire.  This can lead to wasting money by selecting a unit too large for your needs, or facing an unexpected and costly upgrade.


Ollies Removals can happily arrange storage for you to remove this risk, however we have compiled this helpful guide should you wish to make your own arrangements:


Home contents


Up to 20 medium boxes


10 sq ft room


20 – 25 boxes, or bike


16 sq ft room


30 – 35 boxes, plus a few items of furniture


25 – 35 sq ft room


1 bedroom flat


40 – 65 sq ft room


2 bedroom house/flat


65 – 100 sq ft room


3 bedroom house


100 – 150 sq ft room


4 bedroom house


150 – 200 sq ft room

‘Transit van’

30 – 40 sq ft room
‘Luton van’ 60 – 80 sq ft room
’7.5 tonne van’ 100 – 150 sq ft room


20 ft container


125 – 150 sq ft room


40 ft container


250 – 300 sq ft room

Business use


Samples (reps, etc)


25 – 35 sq ft room


Stock rooms


100 – 150 sq ft room


Stock room with working space


200 – 300 sq ft room

Archive storage


18 archive boxes




60 archive boxes


25 sq ft room


125 archive boxes


50 sq ft room


250 archive boxes


100 sq ft room


375 archive boxes


150 sq ft room


500 archive boxes


200 sq ft room


750 archive boxes


300 sq ft room

Packing Tips

Sensible packing can be one way to reduce the costs of moving.  Selecting what items go in what containers can sometimes be a jigsaw to say the least!  Thats why we bring you this packing guide – yet another way that Ollie’s Removals strive to make your next move as stress-free as possible!

Before you start

You don’t need to leave everything to the day before the move. Consider what you don’t need to take with you, what will need careful packing, and that you are covered for potential breakages.

  • Make a priority packing list
  • Take some time to sift through your belongings and have a clear-out. You can make up a box for charity and if you’ve time, hold a car boot sale or log onto an online auction, then put the proceeds of your sold goods towards some re-decorating or a new carpet.
  • Calculate how many boxes you will need and get these well in advance. Find boxes in a variety of sizes. Think about what else will be useful, such as strong tape, bubble wrap, and self-seal bags for keeping nuts and bolts together. Save old newspapers for lining boxes.
  • Don’t completely fill large boxes, as they will be too heavy to move.
  • Use sturdy packing boxes, particularly for heavier items, or your belongings may end up strewn all over the pavement. Boxes made from corrugated cardboard are stronger than regular ones.
  • Put all hazardous materials, such as paint, bleach and aerosols, into a separate box and keep them away from the rest of your stuff.

Think ahead


Unless you travel light, you won’t be able to unpack everything in the first day, so it’s worth deciding what you might need easy access to soon after you cross the threshold of your new home.

  • Pack an ‘essentials’ box for the first night in your new home and carry it with you. Instant access to coffee, tea, snacks, cups and a kettle may be welcome soon after you arrive. As will plates, utensils and a kitchen cloth.
  • Prepare an overnight bag for everyone in the family, and make sure that there is enough toilet paper and toiletries for everyone.
  • Other useful items that should be kept close to hand are a torch, a first-aid kit including pain relievers, pencil and paper, and re-closable plastic bags, along with a small tool kit.
  • If possible, finish any laundry well before you move to avoid packing damp clothes. Keep a separate box/bag for dirty washing.
  • Make sure the boxes containing items you need the least are loaded up first.

Sensible packing


Spend some time considering how you are going to pack your possessions. Books are easy but heavy, valuables need careful wrapping and will take time, and some furniture may need to be dismantled.

  • Start early. Packing always takes longer than anticipated, particularly when you start reminiscing over old photographs stored in the attic or you realise that you need to dismantle the wardrobe to get it downstairs.
  • Begin at the top of the house and move downwards. If you have an attic, it’s a good idea to sort it out first.
  • Always pack heavy items in small boxes. It will make transporting them easier. Also, keep the weight of all boxes to a minimum to avoid any back injuries.
  • Pack one room at a time, clearly labelling each box with details of its contents and the room to which it belongs. Clearly label boxes that contain breakables and also those that are load-bearing and can be stacked in the van.
  • Keep all boxes for each room together. This will save time unpacking.
  • It may sound obvious but pack heavier items on the bottom of the box and lighter items on top.
  • Wrap items individually and place in a box that’s been lined with several layers of newspaper and a sheet of bubble wrap. Any breakables should also be wrapped in bubble wrap. Use clean tissue or wrapping paper for the first layer to prevent newspaper print leaving marks. Pillows and blankets are also useful for wrapping valuables and protecting furniture prone to dents and scratches.
  • Pack important documents together, such as birth and marriage certificates, and keep them in a safe place.

Safe Lifting Techniques

Ok, we have not gone Health and Safety mad at Ollies Removals.  We do however know how important it is to comply with the current Health and Safety rules and regulations.

By far the most common removal injury we experience is when customers have unfortunately not lifted their boxes and furniture ‘correctly’ leading to back injuries.  We hate to see this, so please take a minute to read this guide on how to lift safely and watch the video below:

The sad truth is that most of the pain and lost time can been prevented if you are aware of how the back functions and how to lift safely to protect your back.

The back is a network of fragile ligaments, discs, and muscles which can easily be thrown out of order. The back’s complex design breaks down when it’s forced to perform activities it was not designed to do. Lifting with the back twisted or bent just begs for a pulled muscle or ruptured disc. One sure way to risk injuring the back is to lift heavy or bulky loads improperly or unassisted. Never be afraid to ask for help with loads that you know you cannot lift safely. Lift with good sense and a little extra help from a friends when necessary.

If you decide you are capable of lifting a light load, make sure you lift correctly.

  • Move in so that your feet are close to the base of the object to be lifted.
  • Face the object squarely. Bend your knees and squat over the item to be lifted. In this position, the back gets added lifting strength and power from the legs and arms.
  • Move up close to the item, because the backbone must act as a supporting column, and it takes the least strain close in.
  • Tilt the item on edge with its long axis straight up so that the centre of the weight is as high as possible above the ground.
  • Still squatting, the feet should be set with legs pointed right at the load, with the back straightened, the worker may then grasp the load with both arms and slowly stand up with it, pushing up with the leg muscles. If you can’t lift slowly, you can’t lift safely.

A good way to learn the right from the wrong way to lift is to practice lifting correctly a few times. You will notice that the correct way to lift is the easiest way to lift the load, with the least strain and awkwardness. To lift the wrong way will, over time, cause injury and pain. The back can be damaged quickly but can take a long time to heal.


The above evaluations and/or recommendations are for general guidance only and should not be relied upon for legal compliance purposes. They are based solely on the information provided to us and relate only to those conditions specifically discussed. We do not make any warranty, expressed or implied, that your workplace is safe or healthful or that it complies with all laws, regulations or standards.