How to choose a lawyer when buying property abroad

When you buy a property in your home country, finding a good lawyer is generally straightforward. However, when purchasing a property overseas, things are a bit different.

You are unlikely to have ever required the services of an overseas lawyer before, and in most scenarios, you would not know where to start your search. So, where do you start? Whichever country you intend to buy your property and whoever you choose, here are the fundamental requirements you need to look for when choosing a lawyer to help you with your overseas property purchase.

1. Do they know the law of that country?

You need to make sure they understand the law of that country. If you are buying a property in Spain, the lawyer needs to be an expert in Spanish Law.

2. Does the lawyer have an understanding of the law in your home country?

Many don’t realise that doing something in another country can impact what you do in your home country. The interaction between the laws of your home country and where the property is located can be complex. Without expert help, you could make expensive mistakes.

For example, if you are a UK citizen living in the UK who owns a property in Spain.

+ If you rent out your property in Spain, you will have to pay income tax in Spain, and you will also be required to declare that income on your tax returns in the UK.

+ When you pass away, the inheritance law of the country where the property is located becomes applicable and forms part of the overall estate in your home country.

+ When the property is sold, Capital Gains Tax in the country where the property is located becomes due and potentially in your home country.

3. Is the lawyer independent?

You need an independent lawyer to ensure that ONLY your interests are met, not the interests of the seller, agent or developer. It is common for agents and developers to recommend a lawyer. Technically the lawyer is independent, but there is still a conflict of interest as the lawyer could lose future recommendations or commissions if they advised you there was an issue with the property or refused to play down issues.

4. Are they fluent in your language?

Your lawyer needs to be able to explain complex legal issues in your language. If your lawyer does not fully understand the meanings and nuances of the words used in both languages, it could result in a costly misunderstanding for you.

5. Are they regulated by an official body, and are they members of any associations?

Your lawyer should be governed by a code of conduct set by the official body. A complaints process and cover if the lawyer is negligent, leading to issues with your property purchase.

6. Is the lawyer insured, and what is the level of cover?

In the United Kingdom, if the lawyer were negligent, it would be covered by Professional Indemnity Cover. The requirement for professional indemnity insurance and the level of cover differs in each country, so you must ensure the lawyer has sufficient insurance cover for your property purchase.

7. Does the lawyer have a good experience?

It is essential that your lawyer has significant practical experience in the relevant field of law and working with overseas clients from your country.

We hope you find this checklist helpful. If you have any questions, contact the Overseas Property Forum Team. Also, we can connect you with experienced and reputable lawyers to help with your overseas property purchase. Tell us about your overseas property plans?

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