Last year around 320,000 people left the UK to live abroad, according to the Office of National Statistics, with Spain, the US, France and Australia among the expat hot spots. If you’re thinking of working or retiring overseas, there are a number of practical considerations to take into account before you go for an buying international property.
British citizens don’t need a visa to move to a country in the European Union but getting the right paperwork can be difficult if you’re going further afield, for instance to America or Australia. For those going for work, you often need to be sponsored by your workplace or have a skill which is needed. Outside the EU, those looking to retire abroad usually have to prove that they are wealthy enough to support themselves or be sponsored by a local resident and finding best deals on property overseas is a good place to get an idea of what you can afford.
While a warmer climate may be better for your health, the cost of health care can be significant, especially in North America. In the European Union, you will need to apply for a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) to receive emergency treatment at a reduced cost or sometimes for free. In Australia, Medicare is the publicly funded scheme which exists alongside a private health system.
Having health insurance is often a condition of being granted a visa. It also pays to be aware of the rules and regulations for individual countries – for example, tough new regulations in Spain mean that some expats taking early retirement there have been blocked from free medical treatment.
When buying a new home overseas, check the cost of tax and legal fees which can often add 6-10 per cent to the purchase price. There are also ongoing taxes which vary depending on the region.
The tax may differ for residents too. For example, taking Italian residency means you’ll pay 3 per cent purchase tax and lower ongoing property taxes, but second home owners pay 9 per cent when buying and higher ongoing taxes.
Not only will you need to change a lump sum into your new local currency, but you may need to transfer money regularly between the two countries, perhaps for education fees or a pension. Foreign currency brokers charge lower fees and offer better exchange rates than using your UK bank
Cost of living
Look into the living costs before deciding which country to settle in. Although property prices abroad are often cheaper than in the UK, day-to-day living may be the same or more expensive. Check out the cost of food, petrol, entertainment and energy. Remember that living in a tourist area will be pricier than less popular areas. And don’t assume the exchange rate will stay the same. The pound has risen strongly against the South African rand and the US dollar in the last year. You can protect yourself against currency fluctuations by fixing the rate you’ll receive with a forward contract for up to 24 months ahead.