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Questions to Ask When Buying a House in Mainland Europe

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If you’ve ever browsed the net and looked at property in Europe, you may have found yourself lost in a reverie of life in the sun. One of the attractions, of course, is affordability and the possibility of acquiring a dream home that you can afford. The temptation is to move fast because you reason, such a bargain is bound to sell, and it is at that point that you need to dial down your enthusiasm. There are probably thousands of properties out there that will suit your needs – over a million properties were sold in France in 2020 – so slow down and think through this step by step.  


There are so many variables at work here, and that dream location really does need thorough investigation before you commit yourself. So, you’ve decided on an area, and you’ve found a property in Europe you like, now it’s time to explore the practicalities of living there.  

Neighbors are always an unknown quantity but try to ensure that you are not buying property adjacent to problematic neighbors. Do they have noisy dogs? Do they run quad bikes or noisy motorcycles? Do they play their music too loud or fight into the early hours. A little discreet questioning should help you identify serious problems. 

What local amenities are there? How far are the local supermarkets, restaurants, and recreational facilities? If you have a health condition, a hospital nearby will be important. If you have children, the location of schools and childcare will be important. 

What are the transport links like? Is it an hour’s drive down a twisting mountain track before you reach a major road? How far is the nearest airport or railway station?

Will the property suit your lifestyle?

Cheap though it may be, a vast rambling property with acres of garden is not a good choice if you only intend to be there three months of the year. Similarly, if you are retiring to the property, is it one in which you can comfortably grow old, or will it become a burden? Is it big enough to accommodate family and friends? Will it be impossibly expensive to heat when the weather turns cold?

Is there an expat community?

You should certainly try to become involved with the local community, learn the language, adapt to the culture. Still, there are times when you may also need the support of an expat community to help you negotiate that which is unfamiliar to you. If you move to a major city such as Nice, Madrid, or Faro, you will find an extensive expat network to support you, whereas if you settle for a remote rural location, you are likely to be on your own. Big cities are, of course, expensive. Portugal has some of the cheapest city property in Europe, and of the three cities mentioned above, Faro is by far the cheapest.

What will your location be like out of season?

Places that are very hot in summer can often be very cold in winter, very wet, or very windy. You may well be moving to a location where weather conditions are much more extreme, so make sure that you know what you are letting yourself in for.

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