Photo: Marcos Ferro/Getty Images
Photo: Marcos Ferro/Getty Images

An expert on international living shares her must-know tips for purchasing a dream home in another country.

By Jennifer Stevens/International Living

Living in another country, whether it’s full-time or just for a few weeks a year, comes with its fair share of perks and privileges—and risks. Making the decision to purchase a second home (or a full-time home in an exotic destination) is no small feat, and the last thing anyone making that move wants is unexpected hurdles popping up during the purchase process. To that end, ex-pat expert Jennifer Stevens, Executive Editor of International Living, shares her top tips for taking the international property plunge.

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Read on for the five things you need to know once you’ve found your dream escape and are ready to sign on the dotted line.

1. Be sure your purchase/sale contract is watertight before you sign it.

There’s much more wiggle room in U.S. law, while civil law overseas is more black-and-white. There’s little wiggle room for recourse after the fact, should something not be as expected. 

2. Be clear about inheritance.

Inheritance laws often work differently outside the U.S., too. If you’re buying a property jointly with your spouse or partner, don’t assume he or she will inherit it should something happen to you. Tell your attorney that’s what you want to happen—be explicit.

3. Hire a good local, bilingual attorney, ideally one who specializes in real estate.

Make sure he or she is working only for you—in many places, an attorney can legally represent both sides of a transaction.

4. Buy title insurance.

This is something we do automatically at home, but it isn’t a matter of course in other places. Insist you have this in place—it’s worth the extra expense.

5. Check the sale contract.

You may get one in English, but the contract in the language of the country where you’re buying is legally binding. Get that contract translated and ask for clarifications if needed.

Jennifer Stevens is the Executive Editor at International Living magazine.

Photo: Marcos Ferro/Getty Images