Archive for the ‘Property Investment’ Category

Things to think about when you’re buying or selling a property overseas

Although not too many people are doing it at the moment, this is probably one of the best times to consider buying an overseas property as prices are generally rather more depressed than they normally would be. Having said that there are lots more people selling or at least trying to these days which in itself brings up similar issues.

For a start there’s the different legal system to consider. Even if you’re European and buying or selling in another European country you can still find that, although illegal, the local authorities will retain some of the proceeds of a sale in case it turns out that you owe them any taxes. It’s worth pointing out to the legal person dealing with your sale that they are legally required to treat you as though you were a national of the country and that applied even if you fully intend to take the proceeds abroad afterwards so long as it’s to another European country.

Obviously with a property investment you can be talking in terms of quite substantial amounts of money and if you’re going to be changing currencies then it’s worthwhile looking into your options to reduce the costs of exchanging the money to the other currency and also of reducing the risk to you of there being a substantial move in the exchange rate. For example, this year the pound/euro rate has moved from around 1.10 to around 1.20. Ten cents doesn’t sound like much but if you’re looking at a typical property of around the EUR 300,000 mark that’s EUR 30,000 of a difference which is enough to cover legal fees with change or think of it as the swimming pool that you quite fancied.

How do you reduce these charges and risk? If you go to your bank as most people do you are likely to be hit with the maximum charge possible although the charge can be even higher if you just use the local legal people to send you the proceeds as they’ll add charges on top of that. The best way is to go to one of the specialist money brokers who can shave 5% or more off the charges that the banks apply and can also arrange to fix the rate you’ll get months in advance which eliminates the uncertainty in the amount that you will ultimately receive. Aside from the charges from the rate fix, there are no downsides as if the exchange rate moves in your favour you can let the fix lapse and exchange the money at the current rate.

On non-financial matters don’t neglect the time delays inherent in overseas moves generally. Not only does the money take longer to arrive (unless you just take it as a suitcase full of cash which is quite legal though may raise a few eyebrows), but it’s obviously going to take longer for the removal truck to move your stuff from A to B. There aren’t any formalities required in moving your own stuff around Europe although expect checks for illegal immigrants at the ports and be sure that the lorry doors are secured with a padlock (most aren’t) to avoid a few questions along the lines of the “have you packed the case yourself” familiar to air travellers.

It’s best to plan the move more carefully than you would for a normal domestic move as you’ll appreciate from the above that there are a lot more places that complications can arise.

Copyright © 2004-2014 by Foreign Perspectives. All rights reserved.

International property sales: don’t forget the exchange rate!

If you’re selling property outside your home country it’s easy to fall into the trap of pricing it in the local currency and then forgetting about it.

That usually works fine if property sales in the foreign country move at a fairly brisk pace but often they move at a much more sedate pace than you are accustomed to. Whilst exchange rates between the major currencies rarely move quickly they do move and over a period of many months the price translated back into your home currency can change quite substantially.

For example, take a property that you wanted to sell for £60,000 at the start of 2007 and you therefore priced it at EUR 90,000 (£60,641). By the start of 2008 you could sell that property for EUR 85,000 and pick up £62,553. You might think that a year is a long time to have a property on sale but in many European markets property sales proceed at a very sedate pace and it’s not unusual to have a house for sale for quite an extended period before you find a buyer.

If you are counting in your home currency it can often pay to check whether or not you can lower the local price but still collect the same amount of money as obviously it can speed up the sale of the property.

Copyright © 2004-2014 by Foreign Perspectives. All rights reserved.

Thinking of buying a gite in France?

When people think of moving to France their first thought as to how to generate an income is to buy a gite complex and rent it out to people from back home.

It sounds like an idyllic lifestyle, doesn’t it? You work one day a week and the rest of the week you can be sunbathing by the pool.

The snag is that you need to wash all the sheets and towels and carry out maintenance work during the week. OK, so two days work and five at the pool? In theory, you might get away with that though, of course, the guests will be using the pool too and, usually, expect you to do things for them like organise tours or the area, tell them all the best places to go and so on.

What’s frequently forgotten about in all this is the financials that go along with this lifestyle. From a typical six or seven person gite you can probably get around 700€ a week in the peak season. That size of gite equates to a small three bedroom house in size and, of course, amount of work to look after. In reality most people aim for a gite complex of around four or five gites. On the whole, you’ll eventually reach an occupancy of around ten weeks per year for the gites which translates into around 35,000€ a year of an income.

However, there’s the matter of expenses to consider. Bearing in mind that you only have four or five hours to reset the gite between guests you’ll end up hiring a cleaner to help you which eats into the income somewhat and you may need someone to look after the pool. There’s also the business of maintenance: unlike a normal house rental you’re getting a new set of tennants virtually every week and that tends to be quite hard on the furnishings so you’ll need to renew at least some items pretty much every year.

Oh, and don’t forget the taxes!

I’ll look at the normal alternative to this next time ie buying a B&B.

Copyright © 2004-2014 by Foreign Perspectives. All rights reserved.

Interest rate or exchange rate: which is more important when you’re investing?

If you’re considering investing outside your own country whether it be in shares or in property you need to consider the interest rate in that country relative to your own and the echange rate with your own currency.

The two tend to be linked and can rarely be considered totally in isolation. If you consider relatively stable currencies then a higher interest rate will tend to make a currency more valuable and conversely a lower interest rate will tend to make it less so. I say “tend to” because it’s far from a direct link as exchange rates are notoriously fickle: if markets take a view that a currency is overvalued then it’ll go down regardless of how high the interest rates are raised in that country.

However, unless you’re into short term trading it’s largely trends in exchange and interest rates that are important rather than the value that either may have at a given time. In fact, the neither the interest rate nor the exchange rate at a given point really matters a great deal but what you do need to do is to keep an eye on the exchange rate which is, usually, the most important variable when you’re investing outside your own country.

This also affects how you should keep score. Say you’re in the UK and you’re investing in America. In that case you need to measure the performance of your portfolio in dollars, not pounds. To rate the performance in pounds is just going to create a false performance statistic as it’ll be affected by the ups and downs of sterling vs the dollar and those can be quite substantial: in the last 20 years the pound has ranged from around $1 to the pound to over $2 to the pound. Obviously you’ll still measure your bottom line performance in sterling in this case but the performance of the portfolio itself is best charted in dollars.

Copyright © 2004-2014 by Foreign Perspectives. All rights reserved.

How much is a property really worth?

We’ve been looking around the prices of places locally and there’s quite a divergence between what some places are actually worth and what they might sell for at the moment.

For example, there’s a major hotel/restaurant complex near us that’s listed for almost EUR 2.5 million. It’s easily worth that as it’s a recently modernised building with over 30 rooms, large swimming pool, gardens, sports facilities, has a second building under construction to add another 30 rooms and planning permission for a third building for the complex plus extensive grounds.

Unfortunately, that complex is totally out of character with the region. There’s nothing comparable to it locally and for good reason: there just isn’t the market for it here.

So, whilst it might well be worth 2.5 million (and probably more), chances are that it’ll sell for around 1.5 million or so. That’s if it sells at all, of course, as it’s nothing like what people would expect in this area which means that nobody is looking to buy such a facility here.

Copyright © 2004-2014 by Foreign Perspectives. All rights reserved.