We recently published the Nomad Real Estate Yield Index, with emerging markets like Ghana, the UAE, and Georgia. Frontier markets have extremely affordable prices for both renting and buying.
Finding the right place to live is one of the realities of living and traveling overseas. So let’s take a minute to review some of the most important factors you should consider when looking for a property overseas.
Are you moving abroad and need to rent a property in another country for the first time? Or are you looking for the best real estate investment?
Without direction, starting an offshore property search can be overwhelming. That’s exactly where we aim to empower you.
The Nomad Capitalist team has helped clients buy real estate for lifestyle and investment purposes in over 25 countries. Apply here, and we can help you too.
Here are our six tips for finding the perfect apartment overseas.
1. Don’t Expect Things To Be The Same
Internet Culture is one of the most significant differences between frontier or emerging markets and more developed markets. If you’re coming from the US or Western Europe, you’re going to have to adjust your view on how everything revolves around the internet.
Obviously, people everywhere are online, but people don’t do everything online in the more emerging markets, and things are often done in what you may consider an “old-fashioned way.”
For example, if you’re in Paraguay and want an apartment, you should go to the neighborhoods you’re interested in and look at the signs. You may have someone help you, but not online.
Even in big countries like China, you’d be surprised by how many people still walk into a retail shop and pay for a plane ticket in cash.
So, understand how things work in the country of interest. Accept that some things will be drastically different, and you will have to adjust to that. That includes how you look for a property.
2. Go There
Don’t make the mistake of not following tip number one and looking online for a place abroad. You will more than likely find prices that are way over the actual market value.
Websites that market to foreigners often list real estate for double the regular market price, and rent is just as bad.
In Southeast Asia, for example, agents or sellers may take advantage of the language barrier to charge exorbitant prices without most foreigners even realizing it.
Many websites provide misinformation or rely on gathered data on what an apartment should cost, but these estimates are nowhere near reality.
So you just have to travel there.
To begin, we suggest you find somewhere to stay on a temporary basis while you scout things out. You can book a hotel or a place on Airbnb in advance, but in more developing markets, in most cases, you can usually save money by just walking into a hotel and booking on the spot.
Unlike in the US — where a last-minute booking is more expensive — paying on the spot is often cheaper in other countries because the built-in costs for credit cards or travel agency commissions can be side-stepped by paying cash. If you’re willing to take this route, you can find deals and pay 10-15% less instead of going through a booking website.
3. Spend Time in the Area
Once you are in your country or city of interest, make sure you spend enough time there to be sure of your decision. If you’re an expat or digital nomad and you’re not tied to one spot, spend a month trying the place out before committing to anything longer-term.
From a lifestyle point of view, it is advisable to try on any area you are considering. Commit to spending weekends in different locations of interest. Explore every corner of the city. Find the best options available and figure out what you like. The most popular expat community may not be the best fit for you.
You can also use this time to get an understanding of what’s normal in the real estate and housing culture in the country. In Thailand, for example, many apartments do not come with a kitchen simply because so many people eat the abundantly cheap street food. For 50-70 cent meals, who needs a kitchen?
You should also consider what you’re willing to compromise on. AC? Hot water? You’ll find a different price tag depending on the amenities you demand or choose to live without.
Going to the place and spending enough time there allows you the luxury of knowing what life is like and gives you a chance to decide how you want your life in that place to be.
4. Tap Into the Local Market
We’ve discussed this concept before as a way to avoid offshore scams, and it’s the same rule here. Often times the most Western-friendly websites or companies are also the biggest ripoffs. Quite frequently, they fail to offer the best services, too.
There are a number of real estate companies throughout Latin America that claim to be “the American company,” but they are so highly overpriced that it is not worth any benefit you may think you will get by working with them.
Instead, find someone in the local market who speaks the language and who can ensure you won’t get the “gringo price.”
Get out of your comfort zone. The best value for your money is found on the ground, in the local market, not in an Americanized commercial operation.
At Nomad Capitalist, we have a real estate team with a network around the world, using local resources to source the best property, often not listed on Western websites, in prime locations, and not just available to anyone.
5. Do Your Due Diligence
So the first thing you should be looking for when I’m buying a property is prices. Do your due diligence as you begin to find options worth looking at. Research the deposit rules and maintenance contracts and generally know what you’re getting into.
In Malaysia, for example, landlords often refuse to return the initial deposit of two months’ rent at the end of a contract. While we are not recommending the practice, many expats choose not to pay their last two months of rent. The eviction laws are inefficient and not widely enforced, so this is a practice that people have come to accept.
Every country has different laws and nuances, and each culture is different in terms of enforcement. Know how things work wherever you go.
For renting, on the deposit, figure out what’s normal and plan how you’ll get it back. Also, check the length of the contract. We would recommend getting the shortest-term lease you can. You should also verify who handles the maintenance. In many of these countries, you’re responsible for fixing anything wrong with the property.
For buying property, the safest and best option is with the help of a real estate team, who will take your budget, needs, wants, and desires and scout the best real estate markets for you, evaluating the best deals and negotiating the best prices.
6. Ask Yourself THIS . . .
Should I be renting, or are there better options?
If there is a benefit in buying — like a second residency — buying may be a better option, with some exceptions.
Look at the yields in your area of interest, and regardless of how long you plan on staying, if they are decent enough, there is very little reason to justify renting over buying.
The Nomad Real Estate Yield Index tracks the performance of real estate in 103 different countries, presentING the up-and-coming real estate markets worldwide where you can both make profitable investments and pay lower taxes.
Finally, the biggest red flag you need to be alert to his people trying to con you.
There’s a difference between real estate arrogance and someone who is going to con you. If someone is trying to make the process too complicated or is making things too painful, just walk away.
To be sure you’re not getting into something you’re going to regret, don’t buy it right away. Take your time. Don’t sign the contract before considering it carefully, no matter how great the deal sounds or how “can’t miss” the opportunity may be.
At Nomad Capitalist, we help clients purchase properties both for their own use as lifestyle properties and for investments worldwide.
We provide boutique consulting and help seven and eight-figure entrepreneurs and investors legally reduce their taxes, diversify, protect their assets, and secure second residences or citizenship through real estate investment. Apply here to become a client.