AVOIDING THE PROPERTY SCAMS ABROAD
If you’re considering investing in property abroad, it’s almost a given that, although many will share your excitement, someone you know – either a friend or a family member – will try to warn you off.
After all, let’s make no bones about it, there is always an element of risk and none of us has a crystal ball which allows us to invest in a financial or business venture with total confidence.
But, unless you’re drifting into the idea of a new home overseas with eyes wide shut (something we’d vehemently advise against) you probably know that already.
So, if you are toying with a holiday home in Turkey or you find a house for sale in Portugal which you think ticks all your boxes, what precautions can you take to mitigate the chances of being sucked into some sort of scam?
The methods which have been used in overseas property cons are many and varied; indeed there are too many to list here; indeed, there may even be new ones being developed as you read this.
However, the basic methods are often similar so we’ve listed a few dos and don’ts which we hope will help to keep you out of trouble.
- If you are buying from a developer or off-plan, do your research into their background first. Check to see if they are part of any regulatory and quality-assurance organisation, which may mean doing a bit more than just looking for the relevant logos on their website.
- Be suspicious if a vendor asks you to wire any payments to them rather than conducting business through a bank. It’s a preferred method used by scammers as the money can be sent to an address which is then deleted, making it much harder to trace.
- Be cautious if you respond to a property listing online with a concealed address. Scammers tend to use the free email servers and hide their names with random letters and numbers, making them harder to trace. If you see a property you like, see if you can contact the estate agent’s head office, speak to a real person and make an appointment to see them.
- Learn what you can about asking prices in the area you’re interested in buying in. For example, if you think you may have found the best place to live in Turkey, it’s useful to know what you ought to be paying for a three-bedroom villa with a pool. There are genuine bargains out there of course but, if you’ve seen something which appears to be thousands of pounds cheaper than you would expect, it’s probably best to be on your guard.
- Do bear in mind, if you’re asked to pay a substantial deposit for an off-plan villa or apartment which is under construction or not yet started, all you may be buying is a concept. Sadly, there are quite a few examples of developers going bust long before the building project is complete. Again, make sure you do your research and see what you can find on the internet in terms of referrals or recommendations.
- Never pay a deposit or sign any documents which commit you to the purchase of a property you haven’t seen first-hand. You may be given all sorts of reasons – the vendor isn’t available, the keys have been mislaid or whatever – but there’s also a chance that the property details have been “cloned” from the internet and the “agent” marketing it is bogus. If they’re applying pressure, urging you to sign something or part with money to speed up the process or beat off competition, alarm bells should be ringing.
- Don’t sign up with a lawyer who also represents the developers which built the property. Look for recommendations for good, local, bilingual solicitors who will act independently and in your interests.
- Never sign any documents which are presented to you in a foreign language which you don’t understand. Make sure you are confident about the content first.
- Don’t be pressured or brow-beaten into a rash decision or commitment to buy into property overseas. Some companies – many of them now bankrupt – have used high-pressure techniques or promised the earth, but only if you invest RIGHT NOW. It’s probably worth remembering that old saying: “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.”
Hopefully, if you’re thinking of buying a house in Portugal or looking at holiday homes in Turkey, Greece or Spain, we’ve given you a few pointers but, as ever, if there’s anything else you think we might be able to help with, why not have a browse through earlier blog posts or feel free to get in touch.
In the meantime, you may be able to find what you’re looking for on other pages of our website where you can read advice on how to obtain a Golden Visa in Portugal, a Golden Visa in Spain, how to qualify for citizenship in Turkey or to obtain a Golden Visa in Greece. Also, if you enjoyed this post and think others might find it useful, please feel free to pass it on.