Buying property  in Spain, France, Portugal, Italy and Greece is back in demand, with property site Rightmove reporting 1million searches in one day.

As travel restrictions ease, interest in buying property overseas has reignited with the number of Brits searching for a place in the sun rising. The top five property locations for Brits are Spain, France, Portugal, Italy and Greece, according to search data from Rightmove last month.  

Rightmove sees a surge in interest in European destinations

Rightmove’s Miles Shipside said: “Lockdown has allowed many people time to re-appraise their lives, which has prompted lots of home-hunters to get serious about buying elsewhere in Europe. In particular, countries such as Spain, France, and Portugal have cultures that are familiar to us, and their warmer climates and reasonably priced rural stock will appeal to those who have been recently denied foreign travel.”

He added: “Social distancing would be far more straightforward if you’re lucky enough to be able to afford your own overseas pad. If other holiday-makers feel the same, then they may wish to rent your property, helping it bring in an income when you are not there. It’s still early days as we’re not out of lockdown yet and most airlines are still shut, but this is an indication that this has been a life-changing period for many who are re-appraising both how and where they want to live.”

According to Rightmove, enquiries to estate agents overseas reached the highest level since last June, with the number of new users on “Rightmove Overseas” being 41 per cent higher than the same month last year. Rachel Beaton, an overseas property expert at Rightmove, said that with the easing of the travel restrictions the demand for overseas homes rose to “record-breaking levels.”

Particularly, searches for property in Spain increased by a quarter compared to last June, with many estate agents reporting a surge in online browsing and enquiries for overseas homes in the month of June.

Estate agents at Savills told financial website This is Money that “its most viewed home online in Spain over the last month was a remote five-bedroom £572,475 home in Andalucía, complete with sweeping views of the surrounding countryside, 10 hectares of land, a large swimming pool and an olive tree lined driveway.”

Spanish digital platform allows Brits to apply for a mortgage online

With interest in Spanish property rising, Spanish retail bank, CaixaBank, is providing its online platform HolaBank for Western European citizens considering buying a property to apply for a mortgage. The new digital platform comes after the release of digital mortgage application MortgageNow, another service which allows potential international buyers of Spanish property to apply for a mortgage from their country. Clients eligible to use the MortgageNow are European residents with an interest in purchasing a property in Spain.

 

In 2019, the Spanish Land Registry reported more than 62,000 property purchase agreements, particularly focussing on the Mediterranean coast, a number that represents 12.5% of the national total.

If you are considering buying your dream home, you should contact a foreign exchange specialist to assist you with transferring your money abroad, explain currency exchange, and hedge your funds from unpredictable currency movements. Get in touch with Universal Partners FX so you can have peace of mind when sending a large amount of money overseas. If you want to schedule ahead and safeguard your funds, talk to one of their foreign exchange experts today.

Brits buying property abroad and looking to experience that unique Mediterranean atmosphere, sun-kissed beaches, and European heritage have often turned their gaze towards the majestic Portugal. A great alternative to Europe’s overpopulated cities, Portugal has been the choice for many expats looking for their second home abroad.

However, with recent reports suggesting that Portugal will not be on the initial list of air bridges from UK, there has been a clamour from many tour operators and holiday makers alike to ensure that this is not the case come tomorrow when the list is announced. These demands may fall on deaf ears, but it highlights how Portugal is a real favourite amongst Brits as a holiday destination. This is for many reasons, first and foremost, Portugal is England's oldest ally since 1147 when English crusaders helped King Alfonso I capture Lisbon from the Muslims.

Famous for its national drink, port, beaches and dramatic scenery, Portugal is also an affordable destination, and the second best in value after Bulgaria. Younger generations have heard of the Livraria Porto bookstore in the Portuguese municipality of Porto, which has inspired the Hogwarts Library in JK Rowling’s Harry Potter books, while older ones are enthralled by its rich history, being one of the oldest states in Europe.

Portugal combines contemporary lifestyle with antiquated charm, and despite the recent financial crisis, the country has managed to recover, offering expats attractive tax and residency incentives and low mortgage rates.

Buying property in some of Portugal’s most popular locations

Whether you’re looking for a holiday home, your dream property to retire to or an investment, Portugal offers a variety of properties at different locations and prices. From Algarve’s beaches and golf courses, to Lisbon’s hip neighbourhoods and Porto’s famous wineries, Brits have many choices depending on the kind of lifestyle they want to experience and their budget.

Algarve’s property developments in such resort towns as Vilamoura and Quinta do Lago are sought after and expensive. A two-bedroom apartment can be up to €360,000 while a three-bedroom villa can worth around a million. Prices might be the same in Western Algarve, but, there, life is quieter as in the fishing town of Lagos where property prices range from €200,000 to €5 million. In the booming area of Eastern Algarve, properties can be cheaper, and you can find some attractive opportunities in the town of Tavira where country villas can be around €450,000.

Lisbon’s Blue coast, Costa Azul, is one of the most peaceful areas with such fishing villages as Sesimbra and Sines, most famous for its cuisine and seafood restaurants. Here, you can find five-bedroom villas ranging from €1-3 million or a three-bedroom house for €200,000.

Townhouses and apartments in developments can be a cheaper alternative, with the latter offering communal facilities such as pools and gardens with shared maintenance costs.

Financing your dream home in Portugal

If you are not transferring funds or re-mortgaging your UK home, you will need to consider your borrowing options, such as taking a Portuguese mortgage against a property. The larger amount of cash you deposit the easier it will be to secure a loan at a reasonable interest rate. You will need to also have in mind currency fluctuation as you will be better borrowing in the same currency you will be repaying the loan.

Currency Exchange

This is why, it is important to consult a specialist foreign exchange company such as Universal Partners FX right from the start. UPFX can help you manage currency fluctuations by fixing the rate, as the final price of your home could vary significantly from the time you made your offer.

When moving large amounts of cash, it is best to get in touch with UPFX’s currency specialists where they can offer you competitive exchange rates and the best value for your money. Find out what your money is worth by giving them a call or requesting a free quote.

Buying property overseas can be a stressful experience especially after the spread of the coronavirus and European countries’ lockdowns. However, you might not need to postpone your dream of buying a house abroad, as agents, notaries and lawyers have found new ways to respond to the situation.

Viewing a property

While you cannot be present materially to view your dream home, as countries such as Spain and France are on a state of emergency, many agencies continue to serve their clients through virtual tours and other online materials as an article in the Financial Times has pointed out. French agency Leggett Immobilier  state on their website that are open for business but can’t offer property visits. What they do offer, though, for the moment, is “a mix of videos, virtual tours, floor plans and additional photos.” They say that their agents are available to speak with clients through the telephone or video conference, and vendors willing “to do facetime or skype visits with you online.”

Proof of ID

While many viewings might have been postponed due to travel bans, agents and notaries are completing most paperwork online with the use of digital signatures, scanning and emailing documents or customers giving power of attorney (POA) to their lawyers. As the French agency says, their clients can give a “power of attorney” so they “don’t need to be physically present at either exchange or completion” when they purchase a property. While individual notaries might “have different interpretations of what is currently acceptable,” they note that clients’ agents will be able to clarify the current status of any purchase they have made.

According to Leggett, purchases continue with notaries accepting proof of ID by e-sign software such as web portals DocuSign and Yousign, without needing certification by a notary in the UK. The use of video conference and video links can also be used so that the notary can see the clients in real time signing the documents.

It is believed that the use of electronic signature in signing contracts remotely will continue and become more widespread over the coming weeks, especially when clients have already viewed the property and have already agreed on a price prior to the lockdown.

Flexible Dates

If you have already found your home and are in the middle of completing the purchase, then using a flexible completion date can ensure that the sale still progresses smoothly for both parties. Solicitor at My Lawyer in Spain Alex Radford says that they are suggesting a future completion date of at least two months which should be included when signing the documents. “There needs to be a clause inserted that states ‘completion will be by ‘x’ date or earlier by agreement or later if the parties or their legal representatives cannot attend completion due to Covid-19 crisis,’” he says. Radford clarifies that only documents of an urgent nature are signed, while other legal work is postponed, according to the notary’s criteria.

Agreeing on a flexible date is important, as this will guarantee securing your funds and progressing with the purchase. The FT article notes that having a “‘safety-net’ clause that allows buyers to pull out if they cannot secure a mortgage,” or extending target days will protect buyers as well as sellers who fear that their property might be devalued after the coronavirus.

If you are in the process of buying your dream home, there is no reason to panic. Jacqui Reddin, Head of Sales Development at Beaux Villages, says that staying in touch with your agent and remaining informed is the best way to move forward. She clarifies that they “are still actively dealing with ongoing sales and even have new ones since lockdown. The buying process is bound to take a bit longer, but if we all stay connected things will start to flow more smoothly.”

In regards to financial concerns over transferring your money abroad or currency exchange, keeping in touch with your currency specialist such as Universal Partners FX can give you peace of mind and help you navigate the unexpected volatility of currency markets. If you want to schedule ahead and safeguard your funds, talk to one of their foreign exchange experts today.

With the pound falling against the Swiss franc in the five years to the end of October, and after a period of decline, the Swiss housing market has seen a rise in prices. Particularly, major cities such as Geneva are now more expensive than other European cities. With some of the priciest homes located along Lake Geneva’s south bank in Cologny and Collonge-Bellerive overseeing the lake and magnificent gardens, it is not hard to see why such properties could fetch high amounts.

For many expats, renting a property is more affordable, and 60 percent of residents rent their properties. However, if you can afford to buy a property in Switzerland, certain rules and regulations might change due to Brexit. While there won’t be any changes if you have already bought your home before Brexit, after Brexit, you will be considered a “person abroad” and you will be subject to the restrictions of Lex Koller.

Here, we will have a quick look at the Swiss property market and then the rules regarding buying property.

The Swiss market

Before 2017, house prices increased by 80.5 percent, forcing the Swiss National Bank to adopt stricter lending criteria and abandon its cap against the euro in order to limit investor demand. In 2017, purchase prices fell by 0.75 percent, while in the second half of 2017, according to Swiss National Bank data, the average asking price per square metre was CHF 11,800 (€10,100) in Zurich, CHF 11,530 (€9,865) in Geneva, and CHF 9,260 (€7,920) in Lausanne.

According to the Financial Times, prices have now risen again due to falling mortgage rates and a shortage of supply, while “imminent corporate tax reforms” are particularly increasing Geneva’s appeal. Alex Koch de Gooreynd, who specialises in the Swiss, Austrian and Portuguese market at Knight Frank, explains that demand from overseas buyers was reduced due to the strong franc, the fall in the pound and euro. An average €23,400 per sq m prime property is, for example, higher than its equivalent of €19,400 in Paris and €13,500 in Frankfurt.

In Collonge-Bellerive, a four-bedroom villa can go for CHF 4.3m (£3.38m) and in Anières a four-bedroom house can go for CHF 3.29m (£2.58m). In Chêne-Bougeries a two-bedroom duplex is CHF 1.595m (£1,25m). With 169 sales this year for properties over €3.6m (£3m), it is obvious that only millionaires can afford a three-bedroom apartment or a four and five-bedroom house.

But, if you cannot afford to buy, renting is a an alternative, with a two-bedroom apartment near Lake Geneva priced at CHF 2,200 (€1,997) per month.  

Purchasing property

Brits’ residence rights have been secured by the Agreement on Acquired Citizens’ Rights (AACR) signed by Switzerland and the UK on 25 February 2019 (new FMOPA). Among other things, the agreement also covers the purchase of real estate by UK citizens in Switzerland and vice versa. The new FMOPA agreement will come into force after the end of the transition period agreed between the EU and the UK. If the UK leaves the EU without a deal, the AACR shall apply immediately after the UK leaves the EU.

Lex Koller

Lex Koller is the law which limits ownership by foreigners and distinguishes between Swiss residents and non-Swiss residents. The law allocates 1500 permits for non-Swiss residents annually to buy holiday homes not exceeding 200m2 in tourist locations and mountain resorts. However, even those non-EU/EFTA citizens who have a Swiss residency permit are covered by Lex Koller’s restrictions as it applies to their main residence.

According to Lex Koller, “persons abroad” are classified all citizens from the EU and the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) who have no legal or actual Swiss residence and citizens of other states with no permanent Swiss residence permit. They are subject to restrictions and, in some cases, may need to acquire Swiss residential property.

Currently, since the UK is still part of the EU, UK citizens are not classified as persons abroad if they have a legal or actual Swiss residence. After Brexit, UK citizens with a legal or actual Swiss residence will need to acquire a permanent Swiss residence permit. However, some of these may not apply with the new FMOPA, as UK citizens will be able to safeguard the rights acquired under the FMOPA.

So, if they already purchased property, this will be respected after Brexit. If at the time of Brexit, UK citizens have already a legal or actual Swiss residence in order to buy Swiss residential property, they won’t require a permanent resident permit.

UK citizens will be able to retain their status as cross-border commuters in Switzerland after Brexit if they purchase Swiss residential property, as a secondary home.

However, after Brexit all those who have no prior Swiss residential property, or legal or actual Swiss residence, and do not qualify as cross-border commuters will be subject to the restrictions of Lex Koller.

Not only does Switzerland have strict rules about purchasing property, but also the process of purchasing a home can be lengthy, lasting more than three months. When you finally decide on your property, keep in mind that you will also need to pay 5% of the purchase price for the notary’s fees (0.2-1 percent) and charges, including a 3 percent property transfer tax and around 1-1.5 percent for registering the deed with the land registry office.

This is why it will be good to plan ahead and get in touch with an expert foreign exchange firm such as Universal Partners FX. UPFX’s specialist currency brokers will make sure that your money is safe by providing you with a range of hedging strategies against the volatility of the currency market.

Overseas Property Investment

For some, overseas property investment provides some hard-to-turn-down benefits such as greater claims to capital growth and increased rental yields than buy-to-let property in the UK. Making it a very lucrative opportunity, as well as providing investors with the added advantage of having their very own holiday home that they can visit. If the right decisions are made at the right times, overseas property investment can offer huge financial rewards.

But, before you can pursue your goals of owning a property abroad, there are several things that you will need to bear in mind, such as taxes surrounding property ownership, foreign laws, rent charges and more. So, let’s take a look a some of these things in more detail.

Location, location, location

For newcomers to the property investment game, the location of where their investment will be made is often the first thing to think about. To make your investment a successful one, you’re going to have to think long-term. Many experts will reiterate the fact that certain locations have the reputation of being property hotspots, where if timed properly, you will be able to snatch a bargain when prices have fallen. However, it is advised to invest your money in more established markets that offer longer-term benefits and sustained returns.

General overseas property investment considerations

When looking for the perfect property to invest in, there are a number of things that you will definitely need to think about. These include if your property will be used as a holiday home. If it will be rented out. If the cost of living will change over time and if certain foreign ownership laws will be involved.

If you’re choosing to rent your property out as a holiday home, you’ll need to ensure the property is easily accessible with good local amenities and is located in a popular area with local tourists. Be sure to take holiday seasons into account as many tourist destinations shut down and become quieter during ‘out of season’ months.

Be sure to look into properties of a similar nature in the surrounding area to get an idea and taste of what the general rate in the market is. Despite global property price trends occurring, it is important to know how property markets in specific locations are performing and they themselves can go through peaks and troughs. Take time to learn how many weeks per year similar properties are occupied, to give you an idea of what to expect if and when you decide to proceed with your overseas property investment.

Mortgages

It can be difficult to find the right financing option when buying an overseas property, especially since some countries might not offer financing options at all. In some parts of the world, banks cannot accept a foreign asset as a security loan, so you may not be able to get a standard mortgage from your domestic bank the way you would for a local property purchase. Other international regulations may prohibit banks from even initiating the process with a client regarding a mortgage if the client is based in another country. So, what’s the best way to get a mortgage for your overseas property investment?

Whilst traditional bank financing might not be an option for overseas assets like it is for domestic property purchases, developer financing may be available when there aren’t any other options. Other payment methods may be available such as using retirement funds or pulling equity from your primary residence in your home country. You may also qualify for personal or business loans that you can use to pay for your overseas property down payment. A number of UK banks offer mortgages for international borrowers if you are able to maintain a minimum bank balance at a designated threshold.

Taxes

The amount of tax that you will be required to pay on your overseas property investment needs to be factored into your decision-making process. Some countries impose property taxes, others do not. Some countries may also levy taxes if you leave your property vacant for a certain amount of time in the year. If planning to rent, you may be required to declare that rental income to your home country and the country where your property is located. Unless there are double taxation agreements in place, you could find some issues with tax in two separate countries. When preparing to sell your property, you’ll need to be aware of both domestic and foreign taxes on capital gains. Foreign taxes are complicated and consequences can be steep for failing to declare assets that wouldn’t otherwise be taxed.

Maintenance

When buying an overseas property to make a profit, there is no need to relocate permanently. Meaning your property may well be empty for a significant amount of time. As a result, you will need to think about maintenance and security. One of the best ways to do this is to employ a local property management firm that can make regular visits to check on the premises and conduct the relevant duties to keep the property in a good condition. Despite this requiring some additional investment, it can help to save huge amounts of money and safeguard your assets.

Overseas property investment resources

A vital part of investing successfully and safely in overseas property is finding and taking appropriate advice from the right people. An overseas property management firm is a great start but ultimately is just one cog in the machine. To ensure you get the most out of your investment, you’ll need to tap into a variety of different areas, gathering the expertise from various professionals. Such as:

  • Financial planning & tax advisor
  • Independent legal advisor
  • International accountant
  • Currency transfer specialist

By securing the services of these different resources, you will be able to identify and prevent potential money-losing situations during your overseas property investment journey, especially when it comes to sending money overseas. Universal Partners FX can help you get more for your money when the time comes for you to transfer funds abroad with our bank-beating exchange rates, zero transactions fees and 24/7 expert support.  

Our simple-to-use online platform allows you to send your funds swiftly to a chosen recipient in a secure manner. Whether it’s a one-off or a regular payment, we can you to save money by avoiding high street bank transaction fees and poor exchange rates. Simply sign up for a personal or business account with us today to get started on your overseas property investment. Click below to learn more about how our foreign exchange services can help when buying a property overseas.Buying a Property Overseas >

 

Buying property in Canada is very attractive to expats, considering the affordability of Canadian housing prices, the good healthcare system as well as the country’s natural beauty and safety.

Who can buy property?

Everyone can buy property in Canada, and foreigners or non-residents who stay less than six months a year in Canada can do so without the need to apply for residency. However, if you buy property and plan to stay longer, then you have to immigrate and apply for permanent residency. If you don’t plan on living in the country, then you can rent your property and pay a 25 per cent withholding tax on your rental income which will be deducted from the monthly rent.

Fees and Taxes

In general, though, everyone, whether a Canadian or foreigner, must pay the same fees and taxes when buying real estate. However, different rules might apply when it comes selling your property or buying property in certain jurisdictions where higher property or land transfer taxes exists. Taking a mortgage will also need to be at a Canadian bank and will require you to pay a 35 percent of the purchase price as a down payment compared to the five or 10 per cent paid by Canadian residents.

Housing market

The housing market in Canada is ideal for buying property as prices have dropped, making even larger and more expensive cities such as Vancouver and Toronto appealing. From the East Coast, to Central Canada and the West Coast, expats have many choices, including affordable cities such as Calgary, Montreal, Winnipeg, Saskatoon, and Ottawa.

From detached homes, attached townhouses or apartments, there is a wide range of choices so it is wise to start searching online to get an idea of what you prefer and what properties are available.

 According to the Chief Economist of the Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA), Gregory Klump, “It’s a full-blown buyer’s market or on the cusp of one in a number of housing markets across the Prairies and in Newfoundland. Homebuyers there have the upper hand in purchase negotiations and the mortgage stress-test has contributed to that by reducing the number of competing buyers who can qualify for mortgage financing while market conditions are in their favour.” Following statistics released this month by CREA, home price trends have stabilised in Calgary and Saskatoon, but home prices in Edmonton and Regina dropped. On the other hand, in Greater Vancouver (GVA) and the Fraser Valley, prices have started to slowly recover. Price growth also continues to recover in the Greater Golden Horseshoe.

In a Huffington Post article, originally published in Livabl, it is argued that in the new year home sales in Canada are expected to rise, which is good news for those buying property in the next few years.  After rising in 2016, and falling in 2017, 2018 and 2019, Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) is now forecasting that the market will see a surge. With the release of its 2020 outlook for the national market, CMHC expects sales to continue in Ontario and British Columbia’s major markets due to “disposable income increases for the two provinces that exceed the national average and strong demographic-driven demand for housing.”

Despite the housing market’s decline the last two years, CMHC believes that home prices will soon rise, especially in Ontario and Quebec which are expected to drive growth in 2020, and British Columbia in 2021.

Buying property in Canada: your finances

If you are getting a loan as a non-resident, then you will need to provide a down payment of 35 percent and get a loan at 65 percent of the purchase price. Any mortgage would have to be raised by a Canadian broker or bank, as foreign banks cannot register mortgages in Canada. As is the case generally, you will need the services of a Canadian lawyer or notary so all documents regarding the mortgage and land registration are prepared and submitted. As you are borrowing funds, you will need to organise your finances and consider the overall costs, which includes the purchase price, property transfer tax (one percent of the first 100,000 CAD, and two percent on the balance), bank appraisal fees, inspection fees, insurance costs and closing legal fees.

If you are considering buying property in Canada, you will also need to discuss how to transfer your funds with a currency specialist such as Universal Partners FX. UPFX will offer invaluable help when transferring large amounts of money internationally, especially in a volatile market which can affect the value of your transfers. UPFX’s foreign exchange specialists can navigate the complexities of currency markets and ensure that your funds are transferred without any hidden costs and in then most cost-effective manner. Give them a call today to find out how much they can save you on your international payments.

Moving to the USA

Arguably one of the most popular countries in the world, the USA has long been a destination of choice for many globetrotters and travellers worldwide. Unsurprisingly, this fact also extends to Brits looking to relocate outside of UK shores.

Heralded as “The Land of Opportunity”, the USA poses many exciting possibilities for those looking to emigrate to the US. However, moving to the US is no small feat and requires a great deal of planning, preparation and paperwork.

Whatever your reasons for moving to the USA, if you’re serious about upping sticks and heading Stateside, there are a number of things you’ll need to get in order before you do.

US Visas

In the post-9/11 landscape, national security in the US is understandably a very delicate and serious subject. Naturally, the United States Government is very cautious about who they allow to come into the country and, as such, moving to America requires a lot of due diligence.

The very first thing you need to consider when moving to America is getting a visa. Visas allow you the legal right to live, work and stay in a foreign country and the “Good Ol’ US of A” is no exception.

That being said, there is no “one size fits all” solution to travelling to the US and visas can be muddy waters to navigate, particularly when you stumble across tourist-related entry like the Visa Waiver Program and ESTA or student-related academic admin like the F-1 or M-1 visas.

With several different variations of the US visa to choose from, it’s important to know exactly which one applies to you before you begin your application. As a general rule, there are two primary forms of visa that are applicable to those looking to move to the USA.

- Nonimmigrant Visas

If you wish to move to the USA to work temporarily, the nonimmigrant visa is probably the one for you. That being said, according to the US Department of State, there are over 20 nonimmigrant visa types for those travelling to the US temporarily.

The US Government doesn’t issue work visas for casual employment, so a nonimmigrant visa application will often need to be accompanied by correspondence between your prospective employer and

For additional information on which nonimmigrant visa may be applicable to you, check out the following information from the UK US Embassy.

Immigrant Visas

Commonly referred to as a “green card”, immigrant visas are typically applicable to those looking for permanent residence in the United States.

While the entry criteria can vary, common routes of qualification include an offer of permanent employment from a US company or sponsorship from an existing family already stateside.

However, while possession of a green card does grant permanent residency in the United States, it doesn’t allow you to stay in the US indefinitely. Even if you are authorised with a green card, you will still be required to renew it every ten years in order to maintain your status.

That being said, once you have lived in the US for at least five years, you may be eligible to apply for US citizenship; however, this naturally comes with a long list of terms and conditions attached.

Diversity Immigrant Visa Program

In addition to the above, there is a third, less common option that is applicable to a small minority of those in the UK looking to apply for a US visa – namely the Diversity Visa (DV).

The Diversity Immigrant Visa Program is open to those from countries where there are historically low rates of US immigration and involves a random selection process.

The program itself is limited to just 50,000 annual entries, distributed among 38 countries in six geographic regions. No country can receive more than 7% of the DV allocation in any one year.

While UK citizens are generally excluded, those from Northern Ireland are not. Additionally, there are also possible exceptions if your spouse is a foreign national.

While the above information is a handy overview to follow for your, be sure to check with the official US Embassy & Consulates for the most up to date details at the time of your trip. Meanwhile, for more information on the types of immigrant/nonimmigrant visas available, visit the Travel.State.Gov for the full rundown.

Moving to America Checklist

Sadly, the application process for moving to the US can be a notoriously lengthy and frustrating process, meaning plenty of waiting around and prolonged periods of transitional purgatory.

Even after you have overcome that sizeable hurdle, don’t begin baking that apple pie and belting out the “Star-Spangled Banner” just yet – there is still plenty of work to do before you touch down on American soil and wave “Old Glory” with pride.

Accommodation

Before you can begin living the American dream, you’re going to need somewhere to live full-stop.

While this can be done online, relying on web images and second-hand accounts isn’t always the best course of action – especially when it comes to permanent accommodation.

As a stopgap, you may want to arrange temporary accommodation to live in when you arrive. That way, you can check out potential permanent residence in person before you commit to a property.

Social Security

Another thing you will need to address once you arrive in the USA is an application for a social security number.

An SSN is a nine-digit number issued to you by the US Government that’s used to keep track of employment details, such as earnings and years worked.

If you have a US work visa, this process can’t be done in advance; however, it can be arranged easily in person at your local Social Security Admin office once you arrive.

Health Insurance

Unlike in the UK, healthcare in the USA is privatised. As such, health insurance is required to cover the costs of any treatment you may require during your stay.

It’s not unusual for employers to contribute towards US health insurance costs, so be sure to check with your employer if they have you covered before you take out any unnecessary additions.

Moving Possessions

If you are planning on taking many of your homely possessions with you, arranging transport for these items before you leave will be a necessary part of the process.

Naturally, this process will depend largely on what you plan on taking with you and your living arrangements once you arrive. Having a three-piece suite shipped over in a cargo freight to a hotel probably isn’t a good idea.

That being said, there are plenty of services online that can ship over boxes and suitcases full of smaller items. Better still, a lot of cargo companies will also handle customs clearance for you, which can make the process considerably easier.

- Driving

Driving in the US is a lot more than just getting used to using the other side of the road. In fact, for UK ex-pats, it’s going to unsurprisingly involve even more paperwork.

While short-term visitors may be able to get away with their UK driving license accompanied by an International Driving Permit for rentals, UK citizens taking up permanent residence in the US will be required to get a driver’s license for the state they will reside in.

For additional information, check out the relevant state page on the Department of Motor Vehicles website for further details.

- Tying Up Loose Ends

While upping sticks and disappearing into the night may seem like a memorable way to make an exit, leaving without notifying the appropriate people can be a costly error.

To avoid accruing unnecessary bills for services you haven’t used long after you leave, be sure to sever ties with the relevant channels. Pay up your bills, inform any service providers and close any accounts you no longer need.

Money in the US

Like any big relocation, one of the main factors you will need to take into account when planning your move to America is how you plan on handling your money before and after.

Setting up a bank account in the US before you arrive can be a mammoth task to add to an already mammoth list. As such, it’s probably an avoidable chore you could do without and one best left for when you arrive.

In the interim, you will probably need to send money to the US before you leave, whether you’re paying for services, accommodation or simply transferring funds to a loved one on the other side.

Luckily, this is one part of the process that is refreshingly simple. With the help of Universal Partners FX, you can send money to the USA quickly, easily and hassle-free.

Our easy-to-use system allows you to achieve a safe, secure transaction in a swift and cost-effective manner. No hidden transaction fees, no strings attached.

To transfer money to the US, all you have to do is follow our simple three-step process:

  1. Register for free
  2. Secure your exchange rate
  3. We make your payment

At Universal Partners FX, we know that moving to the US is no easy feat and we’re more than happy to do the hard work for you when it comes to transferring money to the US.

Backed by a 5-star Feefo rating, you can rest assured that, with us, your money is in safe hands, leaving you to concentrate on making your American dream a reality.

 

For more information on moving to the US or to find out more about sending money to America, why not drop us a line today? Call 020 7190 9559 now to talk with one of our expert advisors or get in touch online by using the button below.

Get in Touch >

Despite Brexit, it is not difficult to see how appealing it will be to buy property in Monaco, especially when you are a millionaire. For example, pro-Brexit Ineos boss Sir Jim Ratcliffe decided last year to move to Monaco to avoid UK taxes on his £21bn fortune. With almost 35 in every 100 residents of Monaco being millionaires, British expats can feel part of the elite.

A staunch Brexiter, Ratcliffe offered support for the Leave campaign, but has repeatedly criticised investing in the UK when taxes were high but embraced his British roots when his business benefited from corporation tax cuts.

Ratcliffe sees himself as “a lover of Britain” but when it comes to business, “choice must be about head as well as heart.”

If you feel the same, and are choosing to buy property in Monaco consciously, then you can join some of the wealthiest people. UHNWIs (Ultra-High Net Worth Individuals) flock to Monaco for low taxes, but also for the quality of life.

In 2016, the Telegraph reported that Monaco had started a €2 billion (£1.8 billion) operation to reclaim land from the sea in order to build more luxury housing for the world's wealthiest residents. According to research by the estate agent Knight Frank, about 2,700 more millionaires are expected to move in Monaco by 2026, increasing the number of millionaires to 16,100 out of a total population of 38,400.

Monaco’s housing market

With its soft climate and location on Cote d’Azur, its glamorous lifestyle, and the annual Formula 1 Grand Prix, Monaco offers luxury with a high price tag; it is simply, one of the most expensive real estate markets in the world. So, if you are searching for affordable accommodation, to either rent or buy, Monaco is not for you.

However, anyone can buy property, as long as they can afford to spend €36,000 per square meter for an apartment. If you are looking for newly built houses, then we are talking about between 4 to 10 million and prices can increase depending on the kind of property and its location.

If you do buy real estate, you can browse listing sites and get in touch with agents. When it comes to the actual transaction, you will need to pay a notary to execute and authenticate it. If you go with a real estate agent, you will need to pay fees of around 3% (plus VAT) of the purchase price. You will also need to pay registration fees at 4.5% of the property’s market value.

The market is healthy, and the trend of building apartments is on the rise. According to Knight Frank, 50 new apartments were sold in 2017 at prices below €5m, with properties above €5m accounting for 23% of sales. In 2017, properties were around at €53,000 per sq m., while more premium properties can exceed €100,000 per sq m.

Buying property

Before signing any agreements, you should get a notary’s opinion no matter if you’re buying or selling.

Once you decided on the property, you can express your interest with an offer letter, outlining the details of the property, price and the time of transaction. The notary would prepare the purchase contract and the sale would be completed at the notary’s office with the payment, including the notary’s fees, transfer taxes and other related costs. If you are an individual, you will need to pay 6% in property registration tax, title registration and notary fees. Otherwise, if the property is purchased by foreign companies, they will pay 9%. The notary will transfer the funds and register the new owner at the registry of deeds. Owners of newly built properties or those who will build their own properties, must pay 20% VAT.

Universal Partners FX

If you are moving ahead with buying property in Monaco, you will need to discuss your currency transfers with a foreign exchange specialist such as Universal Partners FX. With years of experience in transferring funds internationally and a great team of currency brokers making sure that your funds are transferred safely and efficiently in your overseas account, UPFX are the ideal partners for your currency needs. Get in touch with them today, to find out how they can help you get access to the best exchange rates in the market.

For many British expats, buying property in Portugal remains a top priority despite the uncertainties of Brexit. From Lisbon to Porto, Chaves and Lagos, Portugal’s most popular locations continue to seduce British expats who emigrate in the country to enjoy the warm summers and uncrowded cities offering quality of life and delicious cuisine. Just think of Portugal’s iconic Fado music, Port wine, Algarve’s beaches and the delicious pastel de nata; Portugal’s charms can easily convince anyone to move there.

Whether you are looking for a villa or a beachside property, it’s important to be aware of the legal processes, costs, taxes and other fees involved in buying property in Portugal. Here’s some helpful tips to get you started.

The property market, residence and Brexit

The property market is now growing steadily and buying a property in a good location will count as a good investment.

In the last decade, around three-quarters of people own their own home in Portugal. As there are no restrictions on owning foreign property, EU citizens can buy their property easily. Around 50,000 Brits have been living in Portugal.

Especially if they can afford it, they can apply for a golden visa, which will allow them to live there for five years if they invest in a property worth a minimum of EUR 500,000000 (or EUR 350,000 for redevelopment in an urban renovation zone). After the period of five years, they will be able to apply for permanent residency. If you’re applying for a golden visa, you’ll need to reside in Portugal for at least seven days in the first year and 14 or more days in the following years.

In general, if you have been living in Portugal for five years you can apply for a permanent residence status, and after six years, for Portuguese citizenship as Portugal allows dual citizenship.

With Brexit, British citizens might lose some of the freedoms they enjoyed under the EU. While buying a holiday home and not moving in Portugal permanently won’t change after Brexit, there might be more bureaucratic processes, including applying for the visa waiver ETIAS scheme (European Travel Information and Authorization System). This is a completely new electronic system expected to be in place by 2021, which will keep track of visitors from countries who do not need a visa to enter the Schengen Zone. This means that you'll be limited to 90 days in any 180-day period within the Schengen area.

According to the Portuguese Prime Minister, Antonio Costa, the rights of British citizens who live or invest in Portugal will be protected. With the two countries’ close relationship and Portuguese economy depending on tourism and construction, British citizens’ rights might not be under threat.

Fiscal Number

To buy a property in Portugal, you’ll need to apply for a Personal Fiscal Number (Número de Identificação Fiscal (NIF), or Número de Contribuinte), a tax identification number issued to anyone conducting official business in Portugal. Whether investing in property, living or being involved in any form of business in Portugal, you will need to have a Portuguese fiscal number. For example, if you are buying a property with your partner and your names are both on the title deeds, then you will both need to have a Portuguese tax identification number. 

How much do properties cost in Portugal?

Location will naturally affect the property price, with Lisbon and the Algarve’s coastal areas being the most popular and expensive areas.  A villa in Lisbon and Algarve will cost you around €400,000 and €300,000 respectively, while a small apartment will be around €130,000 in either of these two locations. You have to consider that your expenses will increase depending on the property’s price. The more expensive your home, the more you will have to pay in property taxes, based on a property’s fiscal value. If you are looking for a bargain, heading towards the central region of Portugal, will offer you the advantage of lovely big homes at lower prices.  Compared to the Algarve, the Silver Coast is also a beautiful and cheaper alternative.

Universal Partners FX

If you have found your dream home in Portugal and you want to transfer your deposit from abroad, then you need expert help from a currency specialist firm such as Universal Partners FX. UPFX can help you make all your international money transfers safely and fast. Get in touch with their dedicated currency dealers to get access to bank-beating exchange rates and find out how much they can save you on your international currency transfers.

With the Brexit deadline looming, many Brits are relocating or buying their property abroad, making such European countries as Spain, Germany and France their home. In Germany, the standard is usually renting, but when Germans are making their dream of owning “my own four walls” (die eigenen vier Wände) a reality, then they expect to buy a property to live in for life. This is not unlike many of the Brits deciding to buy a property in Germany. German property has generally been a stable, reliable investment for local and overseas investors.

Brexit and the German property market

It’s not just Brits wanting to escape to Germany, but also international investors who are considering investing due to Brexit and the ensuing financial uncertainties. Buying property in Germany may be a great option, especially when the German economy is healthy and the property market is strong, with prices rising steadily. While Brexit might have deflated London’s real estate bubble, very low interest rates are pushing prices in Germany’s Munich and Frankfurt property markets. With prices rising steadily for years, there is greater risk of them falling unexpectedly.

Low interest rates

In Germany, low interest rates have helped increase real estate valuations. The European Central Bank’s loose monetary policy and low interest rates have benefitted owners of financial assets who have borrowed at very low costs to buy property or stocks in search for better returns.

According to a new report by analysts at Swiss bank UBS, Munich is at the greatest risk of a real estate bubble, while Frankfurt has seen prices rise by double-digit percentages. Frankfurt used to be "very cheap compared to London and other cities,” told CNN Business, one of the report's authors, Matthias Holzhey. While building activity in Frankfurt rose significantly in 2017, the rise in population led to an 80% increase in real price growth over the past decade, the report showed.

Germany as “safe haven”

Germany is a great European alternative to London’s traditional appeal, with Frankfurt and Berlin being particularly high in demand. Germany has a reputation as a “safe haven” making it attractive to buyers, with an increasing number of international investors from Asia, the Middle East and the United States.

In general, across Germany, rents and property prices are robust, but whether this is sustainable in the long run, remains to be seen. According to data released in 2018 by the Bundesbank properties in towns and cities could be overpriced by as much as 15-30%. As it was reported by the Bundesbank’s experts, there have been continuing price exaggerations in urban areas: “While price dynamics, from a macroeconomic perspective, were largely consistent with developments in the supply and demand-side variables, housing prices in towns and cities were still well above the level that appears justified by the longer-term economic and demographic determinants.” The economists estimated “upward price deviations for towns and cities at between 15% and 30%.”

However, buying a property in some places in Germany is affordable and should not deter Brits from making their decision to move there. Expatica noted that data from the German consumer organisation Stiftung Warentest in 2017 showed “that buyers in Magdeburg and Cottbus could buy a 130 square meter family home for €200,000, but that for the same money they’d get a small two-room apartment in Cologne or Dusseldorf, and only a dorm in Munich.”

Based on data from the third quarter of 2017, a house in Munich could be as high as €5,839 (apartment), €4,233 (family home), whereas in Cologne and Hanover €2,671-€2,257 (apartment), €2,240-€2,007 (family home), respectively.

Buying a property: costs

After doing your research in various property portals such as immobilienscout24 or immobilo, take your time to decide which property is most suitable for you and your family. When buying a home in Germany, you will be expected to pay 10% of the purchase price to cover the property transfer tax (3.5–6.5%); notary’s fees (1.2–1.5%); registration fees (0.8–1.2%); and estate agent’s fees (1.5–3%, plus 19% VAT).

One of the very important decisions you will also have to make is to choose an expert firm in foreign exchange who will help you with making regular transfers and protecting your funds from currency volatility. Universal Partners FX is a great option for anyone buying property abroad, as they are experts in helping expats like yourself move their hard-earned money abroad. Get in touch with their dedicated currency specialists and find out how much they can save you on your international money transfers.