Clear Guide

Buying overseas with a mortgage

A guide to Foreign Exchange

Do you want to buy a property abroad? You’re not alone. Around 35,000 Brits buy a second home overseas each year, whether it’s as a holiday home, rental investment or somewhere to retire or relocate to – or indeed a combination of all three.

The reality is, though, that many more people would love to take the plunge but don’t know where to start. After all, it can be intimidating transferring large sums of money into another currency and committing to a foreign mortgage, often in an unfamiliar language.

But with the right advice and expert guidance, getting a foreign mortgage is not as complicated or scary as you might think and currency exchange doesn’t have to be stressful or expensive. Here we’ll explain the different options for transferring your currency and using it effectively to buy the property you want.

And if you have any questions, or want to talk to an experienced and dedicated currency specialist, we’re only ever a phone call or email away on 0207 151 4832 and hello@clearcurrency.co.uk.

Does why you buy make a difference?

In a word, yes. It’s important to decide exactly what you want the property for and then make the best buying decision based on that information. Do you want a mortgage or are you a cash buyer? Do you know what your budget will get you or what extras you could get by stretching it a bit? It’s a big investment, so doing your due diligence and researching the markets properly is a crucial first step.

Buying a holiday home or investment

If you’re buying somewhere as a holiday home or investment (or most likely a mix of the two), you’ll have different expectations and requirements than if you were buying a retirement home. Adding a mortgage to your down payment can give your budget the flexibility to include properties you may have thought out of reach, but which can give you a far better yield on your investment.

For example, adding a £50,000 mortgage to your buying price could put you closer to that key attraction – the beach, golf course or city centre – and mean you can charge higher rental prices to a wider range of renters. This can also help cover the inevitable ongoing costs an overseas property brings with it, from general upkeep to employing a local property manager to look after it in your absence.

Buying a retirement or relocation home

If you’re retiring overseas permanently, it’s much more likely you won’t want a mortgage and so will be paying in cash. Depending on your personal circumstances, that may or may not mean you can buy your dream home – but if not, you still have options. Start with finding out if you can get a mortgage and if you can, work out the cost-to-reward implications to see if it’s worth it and if your pension or potential rental income, for example, would be enough to cover the repayments and make it worthwhile.

Know the risks…

Exchange rate changes

Currency fluctuations can be the one of the biggest factors to think about when buying abroad. Even a small change in the exchange rate can have a big impact on the value of the property you’re buying and make it, or your foreign currency mortgage payments, quickly unaffordable.

Hidden costs

As with everything in life, there are costs that may not be immediately obvious so it’s important to research thoroughly – have you considered everyone and everything, from the lawyer to the broker? And of course, you should check the tax you may be liable for – both in the UK and the country you’re buying in.

People and paperwork

Taking independent advice from the right people at the right stages will help you avoid nasty surprises later in the process, such as making sure your paperwork is all in order and having the necessary licences and permits for any business elements, and the right planning consents if you’re building a new property.

Balance your debt against your risk

Leveraging the mortgage on your UK home to buy overseas is a risky proposition. If, worst case scenario, something does go wrong with your new property abroad and it leaves you in debt, that debt could put your home at risk. We’d never recommend it but if it’s your only option, be sure to speak to an international mortgage specialist first.

…And how to mitigate them

Foreign exchange can be confusing and intimidating, but is absolutely integral to making sure you maximise your overseas investment – whether you’re buying to make money or live the good life. Clear Currency has spent years working with people to make the best decisions, from once in a lifetime retirement buys to setting up overseas investment portfolios.

Our currency specialists can help maximise your mortgage currency exchanges to reduce your risk and save you money so you have more to spend on the things that count.

The five steps to buying currency for a mortgage

Most of the time when you’re buying holiday currency you’ll just do a quick exchange at the bank or post office, but when the amount you’re exchanging increases significantly you need to take a more practical approach and plan for currency risk.

Fluctuations in exchange rates may make little difference when you’re buying a few hundred euros for holiday spending but when it’s a few hundred thousand euros, small changes can have a big impact – sometimes big enough to scupper the entire purchase.

  1. Sign up to Clear Currency

    Complete a quick online signup form telling us what your plans are and we’ll open an account for you and assign you a dedicated specialist from our expert team.
  2. Set your rate

    A member of the Clear team will walk you through the process, answer your questions and offer you the best rates for the currency you’re buying. You can do this over the phone or via your online Clear Currency account.
  3. Transfer your funds

    Once you’re happy with the exchange rate and quote, you transfer your funds to your Clear Currency account for us to convert into the currency you want.
  4. Access your new currency

    We send the converted currency to the overseas account you nominate, which usually arrives the same day – and then send you an email confirming everything.
  5. Complete your purchase

    With the money in your overseas account you can go ahead with buying your property abroad safe in the knowledge you’ve made the most of your funds.
Very helpful, efficient and took the time to explain the process to me very clearly. The transfer was stress free and completed within a few days, I will certainly be recommending your services to friends and colleagues.
Kathryn

Get the right help

It’s inevitable with something as complicated as buying a property abroad that you’re going to engage the services of different professionals, so it’s crucial to make sure they’re good at what they do. No matter who you use, always make sure they’re independent, correctly accredited, have a good reputation and know the market you’re buying in:

Property specialists

It’s unlikely you’ll find a property yourself without the help of a local estate agent, but even if you do they can still be invaluable. As well as knowing the local market and what’s available, they can give you up-to-date information on property prices, rental values and even physically show you around. They’ll help you with all things local for the duration of the process and as an added bonus, can likely refer reliable local services like builders if you need them.

Legal specialists

A lawyer is a necessary part of the buying process, so make sure they’re fluent in both English and the local language and have good knowledge and experience of property law in that country – and how it relates to non-residents. If you’re using a UK lawyer, make sure they’re registered with the UK Law Society and specialise in international transactions and conveyancing. If you want to use a lawyer local to the country where you’re buying, check the British Embassy website to find a verified list of English speaking professionals.

Overseas mortgage specialists

Choosing a mortgage in the UK is hard enough. Doing it in an unfamiliar market – and as often as not in a foreign language – only makes it harder and more likely you’ll hit roadblocks along the way. Recruiting a foreign mortgage specialist can help you in myriad ways, from opening an account with an English-friendly bank where you can hold your deposit, make your mortgage payments and use for the day-to-day stuff to pre-qualifying you for the mortgage so you know you can get one in the first place.

Currency specialists

That would be us, then. You should be able to engage a good currency specialist with zero obligations to help establish how to make the most of your budget and make sure you’re planning properly for currency risk. You may just want to do a one-off transfer to pay your deposit or you may want to make regular transfers to cover your ongoing costs – either way, we’ll make sure you’re always cost effective and advise you on when to make your transfer or transfers to take advantage of a constantly fluctuating currency market.

The fluctuating foreign exchange market

The foreign exchange market is in constant flux, which means the value of each currency is constantly changing in relation to all the others. And while those changes are often small on a day to day basis, they can also be big over a period of days or weeks and have a huge impact on what you get for your sterling, especially if you’re buying a lot. It’s called currency risk and you ignore it at your peril.

No one can predict how much currency values will go up or down, or when. Lots of things can affect it, from political upheaval (think Brexit or Trump’s election for two prime examples from recent years) to the wider impact of economic or even climate change.

Let’s give you a real world example to show you what we mean:

  1. You find a lovely villa in the south of Spain priced at €250,000 and make an offer that’s accepted. The exchange rate when your offer is accepted is €1.25 to £1, meaning your place in the sun works out at £200,000.
  2. You lay down a 10% deposit and exchange contracts, binding you to the sale. Your overseas lawyer gets the wheels turning and you’re set to complete in three months.
  3. Completion time rolls around and you’re ready to pay the remaining £180,000, but the exchange rate has dropped and it’s now €1.15 to £1. This means you now owe around £196,000 – £16,000 more than you expected.
  4. You haven’t budgeted for that £16,000 shortfall, which means it’s at best an expensive mistake and at worst a deal breaker – if you can’t find the extra funds you’ll lose not only your dream villa but also your deposit.

Now let’s show you another way:

  1. You find a lovely villa in the south of Spain priced at €250,000 and make an offer that’s accepted. The exchange rate when your offer is accepted is €1.25 to £1, meaning your place in the sun works out at £200,000.
  2. You lay down a 10% deposit and exchange contracts, binding you to the sale.
  3. You open a Clear Currency account and confirm your €1.25 to £1 rate, laying down 10% to secure it. This is called a forward contract.
  4. Your overseas lawyer gets the wheels turning and you’re set to complete in three months.
  5. Completion time rolls around and you’re ready to pay the remaining £180,000, but the exchange rate has dropped and it’s now €1.15 to £1. This means you now owe around £196,000 – £16,000 more than you expected.
  6. But you’ve fixed your rate at €1.25, meaning your villa still only costs you the remaining £180,000. You make the exchange, complete and live happily ever after basking in the Spanish sun!

What’s the difference between a bank, a broker and Clear Currency?

With a bank you get:

  • A poor, uncompetitive exchange rate
  • No guidance on when or how is best to exchange your currency
  • No customer service or follow up

With a broker you get:

  • Changing exchange rates that can be misleading and unclear
  • Guidance that’s often biased as it’s target driven and seldom whole of market
  • Poor or no customer service or follow up

With Clear Currency you get:

  • Transparency on exchange rates and the most competitive in the market
  • Guidance and support every step of the way backed by partnerships with industry bodies like the Alliance of International Property Owners
  • Expert advisers with huge banking experience to draw from

One to one customer service with phone support and a clear, easy to use dedicated platform.

Clear Currency is ready to make your overseas property dreams come true.

Every adventure begins with the first step. Make yours today by signing up for a free account. It only takes a minute or two and then we’ll get in touch to talk over exactly what you need and how we can help you keep more of your money when you transfer with us.

And if you’re not quite ready to open an account but just have some starter questions, you can call or email us on 0207 151 4832 and hello@clearcurrency.co.uk.

  • Currency exchange specialists
  • An end-to-end service so you know where you stand
  • Long-term planning that minimises your costs
  • Peace of mind from currency risk
  • Financial Conduct Authority regulated

get in touch

Currency exchange doesn’t have to be stressful or expensive. Our experienced and dedicated team is here to help you keep more of the money you transfer.

+44 (0) 207 151 4832

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