What you should know before buying a home overseas

I have a dream of someday paying off all of my debt and buying a home overseas. To keep that dream alive I do a lot of reading up on how you do that and what surprises to expect and so on. I have learned some interesting stuff, so when I am able to take that plunge I should be ready!

If you are interested in buying yourself a home overseas you should know that things are likely to be done in a bit of a different manner than what you are used to in your home country. As a result, you could purchase property overseas and find your self inheriting a mountain of debt since some countries tie debt to properties instead of individuals. That is just one of the things that could happen if you purchase property abroad without being well informed of what problems might arise.

Whether you are purchasing a second home, a retirement home or a new residence for an exciting relocation abroad you should know that you can encounter problems when purchasing a home abroad. There are many foreign property owners in most countries, many of which never encountered a single problem. However, there are also those that have horror stories about property that they have purchased. While you should not be discouraged from buying property overseas, you should simply go into the process well informed.

One of the best things that you can do to avoid problems when buying property in a foreign country is to locate a reputable local lawyer that has experience not only in local property laws but in helping other foreigners purchase property. Many of the people that experience problems when buying a home in a foreign country do so because they did not seek legal advice beforehand. It is important that you find a lawyer before you pay a deposit or sign a contract. When you are doing your search for a lawyer you should look for the association that regulates law professionals in that country, such as the ABA in the United States, to make sure that the lawyer you are interested in is a credentialed professional.

Some of the problems that you may experience when buying property in a foreign country include properties purchased that do not have a legal title, properties that have been built or enlarged without proper planning permission, properties that have missing infrastructure, builders that go bankrupt before completing your home but after you have given them your money, unpaid mortgages from the previous owner, outstanding utility bills from the previous owner, intermediaries that disappear with your money, being overcharged because you are a foreigner and properties that have been sold to more than one buyer.

A common problem is to find properties that were built with no planning permission or that were not built according to approved plans. In some cases you may discover a home that was built on land that was not zoned for building. This is what you need a lawyer for as they can research all of these items for you.

Oftentimes foreigners buy up inexpensive older properties with the intentions of renovating it to grandness. The problem with this is that renovation costs often get underestimated because the buyer did not have a surveyor come out and look at the property before buying it. For this reason, it is essential to have a surveyor do a complete survey of the property before you purchase.

A law that is in both Ireland and Portugal, and possibly some other countries, that foreigners may be unfamiliar with is the law of subrogation. This means that any property debt, which can be mortgages, taxes, and utility bills, remain with the property as opposed to the property owner. This means that you could unknowingly take out a mortgage to buy a home only to discover that is has an unpaid mortgage tied to it. And if you did not have a lawyer that would have looked into this before you purchased you would be stuck with a house with two mortgages.

Another common problem is for sellers to tell you they want a lower price on the sales contract and will take an under the table cash payment for the remainder so that you will save on fees. This is great for them as it means they have less capital gains taxes to pay and bad for you when you get ready to sell as you will have higher capital gains taxes to pay. And if you are selling you should never do this under the table method as many buyers will verbally agree to the under the table payment but never actually pay it and you have no legal recourse since it is not in the contract.

Buying off-plan is when you purchase an un-built property off of the builder’s plans for what the home will look like. In theory this is a good idea as you get a lower price, however the risk is that the builder can go bankrupt and never finish and then you are out your money with no home. If you want to buy off-plan you should look for a builder that provides a banker’s termination guarantee or insurance policy that protects your money in the event that the builder goes broke.

And those are some of the things that I have learned about buying property abroad. Let’s just hope that I can remember it all by the time I am ready to take this step!

10 things I wish you had never learned

1. I wish I had never learned that self-worth is determined by sex appeal.

2. I wish I had never learned that being emotional is a sign of weakness.

3. I wish I had never learned that it’s better to follow societal norms instead of doing what makes you happy.

4. I wish I had never learned that you can’t always count on who you think you can.

5. I wish I had never learned that parents know best.

6. I wish I had never learned that it’s rude to call people on their prejudices.

7. I wish I had never learned that your parents will love you no matter what.

8. I wish I had never learned that my singing is annoying.

9. I wish I had never learned that I look silly dancing.

10.  I wish I had never learned that being considered attractive is directly related to what size jeans you wear.

These are the things that I have been told/ learned over the past almost 30 years. Some may be truths (like the dancing) and some not. Regardless of that fact, they inhibited personal growth in some manner and some still do to this day.


Frugal ways to furnish your home

Furniture can be expensive. And if you are moving out on your own for the first time you have to buy everything which can get really expensive. Of course, you can choose to be a minimalist and not buy loads of furniture. Or you can just be broke and not buy a lot of furniture 🙂

At my first apartment I had a year lease and I never bought a couch. Couches are expensive and at the time I didn’t know about things like Craigslist. At my current place we do not have a dining room table. We don’t have a need for it so we don’t waste the money.

If you do need furniture though there is no need to spend a fortune on things. In fact, you can get by with frugally furnishing your entire place.

The cheapest and most frugal way to furnish your home is with freebies. You can ask around and see if anyone has any furniture they want to get rid of. You can look online on places like Freecycle and Craigslist for free items. You can also look to places like churches that are getting rid of items. And if you are so inclined, there is always the curb or “dumpster diving” for furnishings. And if it is that time of year when college kids are leaving dorms and putting perfectly good furniture out for the trash man, be sure to stop by and see if it is okay if you take what you want.

As a quick note though, just remember that you could be bringing critters into your home. For instance, the couch you get for free could have a family of cockroaches or fleas living it in. And if you are allergic to pet hair how can you be sure there were no pets on it? Just some practical food for thought here.

Your next step of frugal furnishing is going used but cheap. You can look for these items on Craigslist also. But do not forget to stop by the Goodwill Store or the Salvation Army. And where I live there is a chain of used items stores called “New Uses” that sometimes carries furniture.  You can also look in the classified section of the local newspaper or penny saver paper. And do not overlook yard sales and garage sales for cheap used furniture.

Then you come to cheap – new furniture.  Can you say Big Lots? They have some amazingly nice furniture on their website. I had my eye on some dressers at Target that were around $300 and when I looked at the Big Lots website I found something almost identical in look for under $100 each. Sure, the quality is not quite as good as the Target ones but I am okay with that and it meets my current needs. Another website I have looked for furniture on is Overstock.com. They are especially nice thanks to product reviews. It is awesome to read if someone bought something and it was nicer than expected or that it fell apart a week later.

And for my desks, I wait for a coupon for an office supply store like Staples and then go to their fold-up table section – not the expensive desks section – and get a nice fold up table and a nice chair. It comes out way cheaper, I end up with more space to work and when I get ready to move all I have to do is fold it up!

The important thing to remember about buying furniture is do not buy it if you do not need it. If you are single, do you really need a couch and a loveseat? Honestly? Do you really need a table and chairs or can you get by with tv trays?

My focus on debt reduction has made me the office leper

At my office I appear to be a bit of an anomaly. Why? Because I am in super debt reduction mode and make decisions based on that. And that is why I am unofficially the office leper.

Just last week the women in my department were having a discussion on salons because one girl came in with a new haircut. Note that there was nothing particularly special about it. As soon as she revealed that she paid $150 for the cut it was suddenly all the rage. I sat in horror thinking about how many credit card minimum payments I could make with $150 (about 4-6 depending on the cards). Then another one piped up that she pays the same amount for her haircuts and they never look as good as the haircut girl. My assistant chimes in about how she hated her last hair cut but that she only paid $55 dollars for it so what do you expect. None of them were impressed that I get my hair cut for free by my girlfriend. She doesn’t work in a salon, but she can cut in a straight line and do layers pretty darn well for someone with no training. And hello, it is free. They kind of gave me a pity look. In reality I pity them for wasting so much money on hair cuts – they all say that they get hair cuts every six weeks. That’s like $1300 or so a year in haircuts!

My co-workers never bring their lunches. We have a cafeteria in the building with prices starting at $5.25 for a “mini” salad and small drink. If you want to get a decent amount of food you have to spend around $7 in the cafeteria. When they are not dining in the cafeteria they are going out to a restaurant. They used to ask me to go until the day they saw me making iced tea from hot tea for free.

See, my office provides hot chocolate mix, tea bags and water and ice for free. They also have sugar and creamer. While they do have a really nice pod coffee machine, they do not provide coffee. If you want coffee you have to buy a BOX of pods from them. What a pain. I drink coffee but I refuse to do that. So, at lunch time I get two cups. In one I make some hot tea with the Lipton tea bags provided. And I put ice in the other. After the tea steeps I pour it over the ice and voila, iced tea for free. I love doing that because it gives me something other than water to drink, it saves me $$ from bringing tea from home, and best of all, I get to feel like I am getting one over on “the man” every time I do it. I think my co-workers were rather appalled, and maybe you are too, but it’s free, it saves me money and it works for me. And when all of my credit card debt is paid off in 2008 because of living like this I will have the last laugh. And that is what I think about when I get their looks that tell me that I am the office leper.