Why you should choose an Agent, NOT a property, when planning a purchase abroad
The way we buy property here in the UK is somewhat different to how it is done in different countries in that we tend to chase a property, rather than choose an agent.
The company or agent the property is being sold by is often secondary and circumstantial – we may not even clock straight away who the selling agent is. Plus chances are you are buying in a familiar area (most of us move less than 20 miles away from our original home) and are native speakers making the process much easier with less need for ‘hand-holding’.
When you are buying abroad your agent will play a far more significant role than in the UK. Local knowledge is absolutely key, as is an indepth understanding of the purchase process in that country.
They could encompass tour guide, chauffeur, translator and general advisor – you may spend hours driving across the countryside with them, share meals. Even become life-long friends!
So, how do you find someone knowledgable and trustworthy?
We know that buying a property overseas is one of life’s landmark moments and some simple safeguards can be forgotten. There are few, if any guarantees when buying property – at home or overseas. So how do you choose an agent and ensure a safe and smooth purchase?
Word of mouth always counts for a lot, as do genuine testimonials from previous clients, or advice from online forums.
Bear in mind that agents are not always regulated or accredited in any way – this differs hugely from country to country. Membership of a trades body such as the AIPP is a critical benchmark, and means they are bound by a professional code of conduct and disciplinary process.
In some countries, anyone with a phone and internet access can promote themselves as an agent – and buyer beware – just because a company is exhibiting at a property show doesn’t mean they are automatically trustworthy or belong to a regulatory body. Do your due diligence and don’t be afraid to ask questions – it could save you much heartache in the long run.
In-depth knowledge is key
Accountability aside, consider the language barrier and also whether the agent has the capabilities to deal with an overseas buyer who has different expectations and involves extra work, needing all sorts of information about transport, schools, healthcare etc, as well as being unfamiliar with the buying process.
Feel free to test their knowledge by asking about all these things – they should be happy to spend time helping you and meeting face to face will help you make a judgement on their suitability. Do you feel comfortable with them?
UK-based or local?
You will also have the choice of working with a UK-based company selling abroad, or one locally based. There are advantages of each, but make sure that you are going to end up deaing with someine with great local knowledge, wehther it is through a UK associate, or not. Be clear about who they are, who they work for, and what you expect from them – along with how much they are going to cost.
Agent fees differ hugely between countries – and also in different cantons or regions within countries. Sometimes the agent is paid for by the vendor, or shared between vendor and purchaser (check out the detail by downloading our country buyers guides here). This fee can vary from 1% up to an eyewatering 13% so check this out from the get-go.
Another option is to use an independent property finder or agent acting purely for your interests (more typical in the US with a realtor). Although costing typically 1-3% of the final purchase plus a possible initial search fee, it could be money well spent – a property finder will make enquiries on your behalf and could unearth something yet to come to market.
Ombria Resort Viceroy Hotel and Residences, Algarve, Portugal
Independent legal advice
Finally, as knowledgeable and helpful as your agent proves to be, they will never replace the need for independent legal advice. Always use a qualified English-speaking lawyer NOT supplied by the agent or developer. He or she might cost extra but this essential spend could save you thousands further along the line, especially if there is some oversight that comes to light due to the language barrier.
The Alliance Top Tips to Find a Top Agent
Choose an agent who comes recommended. Ideally meet them face to face.
Be clear about their role – and their costs – from the word go
Do they know their stuff? Make the most of their local knowledge – they can be a mine of information
Are they licenced or members of any regulatory body such as the AIPP?
What help can you expect during the buying process? Will there be an after-sales service?
Voice of the expert
In this short film Peter Robinson, CEO of AIPP, interviews Nigel Salmon, MD Girasol Homes, about the long term role of the agent in an overseas property purchase and the value of working with an experienced professional.
Are you within easy reach of Birmingham for the week of 6th May until the 12th May?
The team at Girasol Homes are in Birmingham for the week of 6th May until 12th May and are located on the 1st floor of the impressive Grand Central Station complex. If you want to meet Nigel Salmon and Sharon Hulbert from Girasol Homes and Nin Rehal (the UK director of Cosan UK), this is your ideal opportunity to do as we help launch the Birmingham Offices. Girasol Homes will have a co-branded presence with Luxury Living and look forward to seeing you here and discussing overseas properties and your dream property in Spain.
Click to register here