Returning home, you sell your current house if you're lucky, and then ship,
fly, or drag everything you own down to your new digs. You've settled into
the perfect life of a
retiree in an
Days turn into weeks and weeks turn into months as you meet other
expatriates, swapping tales from previous lives as well as current
information. Family members and friends all come down to visit, clearly
envious of your new lifestyle, and for a while your new hosting role is
exciting. Could it get any better?
Then it happens
Your friends don't make the trip down this year. Your kids are busier than
ever with their own lives and families. Grandbabies are born, and you're
beginning to feel as if you're missing out on their lives. The bloom is
coming off the rose.
Your next-door neighbors start a home-based business creating havoc with
parking, and a nightclub opens a few doors down, where the noise can be
heard well into the night. Horror stories of friends' homes being robbed and
cars being broken into add up and intrude into the self-confidence you had
about living overseas. You contemplate leaving your "paradise."
Even condos can present unexpected problems. If neighbors don't pay monthly
maintenance fees, repairs can pile up and your investment can go down the
drain, causing costly legal fights and making relationships among neighbors
count on ethics
fooled. You won't find a regulatory governing body that
supervises real estate sales in most of these tropical Edens.
Often, anyone can become a real estate broker; Billy has even
been approached on a couple of occasions to join them. No
license is needed, no schooling, no bonding, and no continuing
education. All you need is enough money to print some business
cards, and voila! You're a broker.
Selling real estate is a
popular first job for expatriates.
Spectacular view from our rented apartment
Without real estate laws to protect you, it's 100% buyer beware.
You're buying what you see, not what's in those glossy
Try before you buy
Our advice has always been to rent first. After all, it can take months for
a town or neighborhood to reveal its true character. What seems like a
quaint difference in culture could become a sore point later down the line.
You might learn that a particular area is not right for you and that a place
a few miles away is preferable.
Go ahead and rent a place. Get to know and live alongside the local culture.
Travel around the area and learn the ins and outs of a city or town. Don't
get caught up in the sales hype encouraging you to buy now.
Neighborhoods can change in unpredictable ways
Living in many foreign countries isn't like living back home. You won't
always find zoning laws or city planning. So if you sink a large portion of
your wealth into a house and your surroundings become undesirable, you'll
find yourself stuck with a place that no longer works for you.
One couple we know purchased a run-down lakefront home. Putting in hours of
sweat equity and a good deal of cash, they made the place into a beautiful
show house. Then a high-density housing development was built near them,
stressing the utilities and bringing thousands of shady characters with it.
The couple sold out and moved back to the States.
Dealing with foreign laws and economies
Expatriate homeowners and their money can also become prime targets of the
local governments. Nations around the globe can be hurt by a sluggish
economy and are always looking for more revenue. They can raise taxes or
even alter immigration requirements for their own gain.
View from our hotel room
in fun-filled Mexico
If you have all your money invested into your home,
and the local housing market goes south, you may find that your options to return north of the
border have withered. A new life abroad is a bit like a fantasy, and
fantasies can go sour.
Sometimes people take this leap of moving abroad only to find that the
promise is often greater than the fulfillment.
It's up to you to make a
new lifestyle work, and both dreams and marriages can collapse under the
pressure of a move overseas, as one spouse gets homesick and misses family
Remember, it's a lot easier to buy a home than to sell, and for every buyer,
there's a seller who wants out. Ask yourself why the sellers want to give up
their paradise. You might learn something useful and save yourself a
boatload of money.