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.
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.