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In the UK we routinely use a lawyer when buying or selling a property so why would we not use one in a strange market abroad?

Always use a lawyer You’re no doubt familiar with the mantra ‘Make sure you use an independent lawyer’ yet it’s not one you should ignore. You will see it mentioned repeatedly in this guide. In the past too many buyers have come unstuck

because they used the lawyer recommended by the agent or developer who then failed to protect their interests. There are reputable agents and developers who naturally recommend lawyers they know and have worked with, but you should research and decide who you want to represent your interests. Buyers are perhaps more wary of confl icts of

interest nowadays and some countries where there were problems, such as Spain, have made steps to clean up their act in recent years. It is worth noting that the vast majority of

overseas property purchases are transacted problem-free and it’s only when something goes wrong that there’s a story of interest to the newspapers. So you need to put everything in place to ensure as much as possible that you are one of the majority who buy safely and go on to enjoy their overseas home. In the UK we routinely use a lawyer when buying

or selling a property - we don’t have a choice because the conveyancing process involves solicitors – so why would we not use one in a strange market abroad? There is even more reason to use one, as you

may not speak the language, be familiar with the property-buying process or actually know anything about the legal systems, for starters. Don’t fail to use one because you want to save money or because you can’t fi nd one – you are

making an expensive purchase and require the help of an expert. Typically, fees for an overseas lawyer are 1-1.5 per

cent of the purchase price, with a minimum fee, but it is without doubt money well spent if you avoid a costly mistake. So fi nd someone with no interests in the transaction

who will work exclusively for you. How? Find one by recommendation from another

buyer, although a good starting point is the AIPP, because we have law fi rms as members (see page 50). Another route is through the British consulates

overseas that usually maintain a list of lawyers working locally. Don’t confuse the role of notary for that of a

personal lawyer: in many European countries notaries are legal representatives of the state whose job is to oversee and rubber-stamp property transactions. They will draw up the deeds, but their impartial

position means it is not their responsibility to indicate whether the deeds are in favour of either the vendor or the buyer. In comparison, the role of a lawyer is the same as in

the UK in that they are acting in your interests so will do all necessary due diligence for you, ensuring your purchase contract achieves everything you expect and have agreed on. This will include searches on the property, the land

it stands on, planning permissions, and whether it carries any debts or encumbrances. They will act as facilitator between the different

parties involved in the transaction, and advise you on related issues such as inheritance law. Never sign a contract to purchase a property without having it checked by your lawyer.


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