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The challenges on taking out a UK mortgage as an expat

Written by Sam Jones on 20 January 2015.

We speak to people all the time who have left the UK to work abroad either for work or to be with family or friends.

In London today companies can relocate individuals anywhere around the world with law and financial firms having a global footprint particularly in places such as Hong Kong, Singapore and New York.

Many British citizens who move abroad have a property in the UK that they do not want to sell.

Maybe they want to come back one day, pass it on to their children eventually or keep hold of it as an investment opportunity.

Whatever the reason, this is the situation that thousands of individuals find themselves in every year and it can be tough.

Most people would expect a simple solution to converting their mortgage to buy to let when you’re abroad but it can be a minefield.

We know things can get a whole lot trickier still if you want to buy a UK property while you’re abroad.

Many people who have lived abroad for years sell up and then want to buy a new house in anticipation of coming back. Or they could want to buy an investment property in London with its booming house prices, strong pound and low interest rates.

The attractions of London make this an exciting idea for many expats who call the capital their home.

Problems

The majority of British mortgage lenders normally want a fixed British address with UK postcode and electoral roll but for many that is not possible.

It’s not just the address that can be a barrier because lenders also want to see a regular income paid in pounds to buy a UK home.

Tighter new mortgage rules introduced in April have increased the requirements on borrowers to supply lenders and fully support how much income they receive and how much expenditure they have.

These are not impossible hurdles but it means that they are specialist deals needing specific guidance. Some lenders will not deal in these areas so it is crucial to know where to look.

Some mortgage advisers can help you navigate this specialist niche as they have years of expertise and experience in dealing with expat mortgages.

Currency

Processing the mortgage can create its own problems when dealing internationally, but there are also other risks to consider as well. As we saw this month with the huge appreciation of the Swiss Franc against the Euro, currency markets can change and do quickly!

The Swiss National Bank removed its cap on appreciation against the Euro sending its currency rocketing 41% against the Eurozone tender.

This type of wild fluctuation in a 24 hour period is rare and sent some foreign exchange traders bankrupt, but volatility is not uncommon.

If you take wages in one currency but pay your mortgage with another then you are taking chances with currency fluctuations on your biggest monthly outlay.

This could be a sensible investment decision if you take appropriate advice and feel comfortable but it is not something mortgage brokers can offer advice upon.

Whether it is currency concerns or lender criteria there are risks and difficulties for expats accessing UK mortgages.

Don’t be put off seeking a UK expat mortgage because it is possible but do consider taking professional advice and be aware of what you are taking on.

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