The idea of moving abroad is an idyllic one for many, especially those who want to spend their time enjoying a relaxed way of life in the sunshine. But how do you start narrowing down where to go? The choice of destinations is ever widening, especially with modern transport and communications opening up countries you may not have considered 20 years ago.
Settle on your lifestyle requirements first
Before deciding that Bulgaria’s nice and cheap, and has some sunny beaches, you should assess why it is you’re about to make this huge life-changing decision.
Consider our questions below, and your answers will help you pinpoint a shortlist of destinations, and perhaps your preferred option. If that ends up being Bulgaria, then great. But the chances are it won’t! So, here goes.
Are you looking for a sunshine climate and seaside living?
Sun and sea will be high up on most people’s priorities. If that’s you, then rule out the likes of the Nordics, central Europe, Canada. But you’ve still got a huge list including Asia, South America, southern Europe, the Caribbean, Australia and, yes, Bulgaria.
There’s still a bit more narrowing down to do.
Would you prefer to be around a larger expat British community?
Many people do. It’s a comfort to know that you have people who have “been there, done it” as you’re going through any potential moving in pains. They can help you with local services, make it easier for you to integrate into the local community and help you with the local language.
If you’d like that camaraderie, then we can quickly scrub a lot more destinations off your list. Much of Asia will go. Granted, there are pockets of Brits there, just as there are in South and Central America and the Caribbean, but they’re spread pretty thin. Unfortunately, Bulgaria won’t have many either.
Instead, you’re likely to be looking at France, Spain and Portugal. Or, if you’re feeling super adventurous, Australia and New Zealand. Parts of inland New Zealand have cold winters, however.
How close to your own culture would you like living abroad to be?
France, Spain, Portugal and even Oz and New Zealand are still in the running! However, if you had still been eyeing up Malaysia or Ecuador (some Brits have made their home there), then perhaps they have finally fallen by the wayside.
What’s access to home like from there?
You’re moving away, so what do you care? Well, trust us when we say might find it reassuring knowing that the UK does not seem like a million miles away.
It’s a double-edged sword. You want to feel like you can pop back easily enough, perhaps to see your family or for holidays. Or you might still have property back in the UK and need to attend to any issues with tenants or repairs.
The flip side is that you’ll very likely want to be close enough for people to make it out to see you. They might be relatives, but also likely your friends. It’s a great holiday for them, and you’ll love showing them your new lifestyle (in the sun, by the coast, on a golf course, but possibly not, by now, in Bulgaria).
If distance matters to you, this is even more likely that you’ll end up settling on France, Spain and Portugal. So far they’ve ticked the climate, expat, distance and culture boxes.
Research your shortlisted country destinations
Now the fun part starts. With your shortlist of two or three countries, begin searching around on the internet to try and come up with a favourite. Look out for:
- Cost of property to buy (or rent)
- The general cost of living (food, energy etc.)
- Healthcare provision
- Expat forums (great source of information and advice)
- International property shows
- Learn about the country’s legal system in relation to property
- Local transport links (do you need a car to get to the golf course)
- Pensions – check how your pension provision might be affected
- Is there an affordable destination and budget for your hobbies, such as sailing, fishing, golf, hiking?
We've got a number of other articles with information on living abroad, so be sure to head there for more information.
Now you’ve selected your country, you should visit. Twice.
The chances are you’ve now settled on your ideal destination. For argument’s sake, let’s say you wanted all-year-sun, near the coast, with a decent number of Brits, good transport (local and flights to the UK) and access to golf and sailing. Yes, you’ve picked the South of Spain, and possibly the Malaga area.
You went there once on holiday, after all. And it was great. That’s all well and good, but you want to go back now. Once in the summer, and once in the “winter”, such as it is in Malaga, to check that you would indeed be happy to live there all year round. The pace of life and atmosphere can change a lot in some areas depending on the time of year.
You must look at your visit as if you were already a resident. Don’t look at it as a tourist would, lapping up the sun and the cheap beer because those will soon be taken for granted once you move in. You want to feel like you “belong” there.
Register with many estate agents, widen your search
Presuming everything has gone to plan, and you remain in love with your chosen destination for living abroad, it’s time to begin your property search. With a set budget in mind (remember to account for all moving fees, taxes and expenses) register with as many estate agents as possible, in person while you are on a visit, and online. The majority in Spain and France and even Portugal will likely understand enough English. Using a local estate agent who speaks English will help you with negotiations down the line if you don’t speak much of the local language.
Once again, seek the advice of anyone you already know in the area, or on expat forums, for reputable agents and, when it comes to it, local lawyers.
Pick a few properties in your area of choice, and perhaps one or two on the periphery, and head out on another visit to view them. If you have a favourite, ensure you find out all you can about local amenities (shops, transport, healthcare etc.), so you don’t get any nasty surprises.
Choice made, you’re moving abroad!
After much soul-searching, research and viewing trips, you’ve finally settled on buying property overseas. Your new life of adventure awaits and you have the confidence that you’ll love your new life for good, and not just for a holiday.
For more information about purchasing property abroad, and a number of other related topics head over to our blog.