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5 Challenges of Buying Real Estate as a Foreigner

For those brave enough to jump into international real estate investment, there are big gains.  Not only can you get high ROI but also the opportunity to own property in a dream destination such as Cartagena, Colombia.

Alongside the excitement come significant challenges when purchasing real estate in a foreign market. However, do not let that deter you from your dreams of owning a piece of paradise; being informed and prepared is the best way to handle these challenges. On that note, here are the 5 biggest challenges of buying real estate as a foreigner and how to overcome them.

Overlooking the high rise buildings of Bocagrande and the bay of Cartagena on a sunny day

Challenge 1: Legal and Regulatory Complexity

Understanding and complying with the laws and regulations of a foreign market is one of the biggest challenges investors face. Each country has its own set of laws governing property ownership, taxation, residency requirements, and buying procedures. Therefore, consider working with a local team of realtors, lawyers, and financial advisors who can keep you in the loop.

Additionally, it is common for foreign investors to fall victim to financial scams, land trafficking, and government sanctions. This occurs when investors are uninformed or naive.  It is your responsibility as an investor to ensure your investment is protected and compliant with local laws. Your trusted team can help you make informed choices and comply with laws and regulations.

Challenge 2: Cultural and Language Barriers

The second challenge to overcome is cultural differences and language barriers. Even if you have basic language skills, cultural expectations vary from country to country and can lead to miscommunications in business dealings. To learn more about terms to use as a foreign investor in Cartagena, check out: Guide to Real Estate Jargon in Cartagena:  

Furthermore, business practices that you may consider as common sense may not apply in the same manner in another country, especially in the developing world. Keep an open mind when approaching foreign investment matters. This will provide you with the right attitude to navigate the buying process.

Be prepared for misunderstandings that may arise during negotiations, contract discussions, and interactions with local stakeholders. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and clarify any concerns you have in every step of the process.

If you feel "lost in translation",  seek a local intermediary that is accustomed to dealing with foreigners. You need someone on your side that can identify these miscommunications as they arise, and help bring common understanding to both parties. 

Challenge 3: Local Real Estate Market Knowledge & Due Diligence

The third challenge for foreign investors is not having an in-depth understanding of the real estate market in your chosen area. Doing your due diligence is essential for making informed investment decisions. 

Not understanding the local market dynamics can lead to costly mistakes and missed opportunities. Therefore, before you begin the buying process, research market trends in the area and follow local news stories; try to identify economic indicators and potential risks specific to the region that may affect your investment in the short and long term. 

A great resource is online communities in the area, such as expat Facebook groups and Reddit threads. Leverage the collective mind; connect with those who have gone through the same experience by searching relevant topics within the groups. Don’t be afraid to participate in the conversation by asking your own questions and reaching out to fellow foreign investors in the area. 

Challenge 4: Currency Fluctuations & Financial Considerations

The fourth challenge of buying real estate as a foreigner is currency fluctuations. These pose a significant risk to your bottom line and can impact the cost of purchasing property. In a worst-case scenario, exchange rate volatility can erode the value of investments and complicate financial planning. 

The best plan to combat this challenge of buying real estate as a foreigner is to have clear expectations in mind. 

Understand the purpose of your investment: Are you buying for personal use? Will you reside in the property full-time or a few months out of the year? Is it a rental property? Are you expecting a high appreciation value for a future resale? Will you carry a mortgage? Consider these and other questions as you set your foreign investment goals. 

With these goals in mind, you can create a strategy to protect yourself from the impact of currency fluctuation. Speak to a financial advisor to understand strategies to hedge your investment from currency fluctuations.

Challenge 5: Long-Distance Property Management

If you plan to invest in a property and live abroad, consider the challenge of managing it while you are away. Security, maintenance, tenant management (if applicable), and emergency repairs all require onsite management. As a foreign investor, you need to have a plan in place to take care of your asset while you are away. Thankfully, there are local property managers who can take care of any detail that may arise during your absence. In addition, consider leveraging technology, such as property management software and remote monitoring systems. Investing in this type of technology can help you remain in control of your property while you are away. 

In conclusion, as exciting as it is to buy foreign real estate in your dream destination, it comes with its own set of challenges. The best way to mitigate these potential problems is to be informed and plan for them. We shared with you some of the biggest problems foreign investors face in buying real estate and the potential solutions to manage them. 

One of the biggest takeaways from this information is that you need an expert team on your side to help you navigate this journey. Double Double is a one-stop shop to help you through the challenges of buying real estate as a foreigner. If you want to work with a team you can trust, contact us today.


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