Friday, 4 September 2015

Things for expats to remember on their house hunt

Wherever you are in the world, there’s no getting away from the fact that house hunting – while often an exciting prospect at the start - can quickly start to feel like a chore.  Whether it’s endlessly browsing property websites, going to dozens of viewings or trying to keep your frustration contained when your realtor continues to show you the wrong places; we can all relate to these sorts of problems. Throw in an unfamiliar country and the whole thing can quickly become a tricky task to approach – it can be difficult to know where to start. 
As is always the case with a move abroad, there are plenty of challenges along the way. But finding somewhere you’re happy living is an experience that should be savoured – it’s an exciting time, and with a bit of forward thinking and organisation you’ll find that the difficulties are easier to overcome. You might even find that you start to enjoy the process! Here are a few pointers to help you make the hunt for a new home abroad:
Organisation is key
Time is of the essence for expats on the search for accommodation, this is especially true for those that might be slowly spending their decoration money on an extended hotel stay. So the best way to make the most of your time is to organise it well. Before even setting off, make use of all of the resources available to make sure that you’re able to hit the ground running. Whether it’s researching on the internet, contacting your future colleagues, or even connecting with other expats that have had similar experiences in the area you’re moving too, gathering intel on the city you’re going to and the local processes will go a long way towards helping you prepare. 
What do you want?
Sometimes we just don’t know what we want until we see it – but having a clear vision in your mind of a few things that you’re looking for is a good place to start. Have a look at yourself and your current home and lifestyle. If you’re more traditional you may be after a more classic house in the suburbs with the white picket fence and community feel, but if you’re a more eccentric personality you might feel more at home in the centre of the city so you’re in the middle of the mix. Think about what works now and what you want to get out of your life abroad – having these points in mind from the outset will help a lot.

Creative Commons - Laura D'Alessandro
Rent Vs Buy
How long will you be staying at this location? If you’re still unsure during your search perhaps it might be worth renting initially.  Another thing to consider is the property market of country that you’re moving to. In Germany for example you may be an expat relocating for a long period of time with a family, looking for a house to buy to ensure stability for your kids. But finding that could be trickier in a country where most of the properties are rentals; you’ll find that levels or ease of home ownership often vary from country to country. This is usually the result of a culmination of factors, such as the country’s culture, values and local legislation, which is why it’s also worth enquiring into what the landscape of the local property market looks like.
Want Vs. Need
When presented with all sorts of fascinating features you need to remember that your home still has to be practical. Although you may be in the country of your dreams and presented with the opportunity to live in a house that looks like it belongs in a magazine, it is wise to check the property against a list of things you need. It’s rare to find one property that meets all of your needs, so make sure that your list has a clear priority order, so that you’re able to quickly and easily calculate if you’re willing to sacrifice air conditioning for an apartment next to the office. Flexibility can go a long way in preventing you from having a long and arduous search.
If you’re relocating with the family you’ll also need to consider everyone’s needs and schedules when making your trade-offs. So although a property may be aesthetically pleasing it can quickly turn into an eyesore if it’s located in a neighbourhood where the schools are hard to reach and family friendly leisure activities are few and far between. The major things that help a family to settle in are their friends, neighbours as well as the guidance of others in the expat community. So consider this as you browse around – do you want to venture outside of the expat bubble, or stay within it?
Creative Commons - Arbyreed
You’re not only shopping around for a house, but you’re also on the market for a welcoming neighbourhood to help with a smooth transition, which arguably goes a long way in helping you to find that perfect property: wherever you’re headed! 

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