Like the 5.5 million Brits before you, you are seriously considering taking the plunge and moving abroad permanently. However, what are the main things to consider? Here at the FPS we talk to clients every day that are looking to move abroad permanently; from retirees to the younger generation and below are our top tips for those looking to up sticks.
1. Keep your options open in the UK
After settling down in your new home abroad, things might not meet your expectations. You may miss family and friends or find the culture just too different. Keeping a property in the UK, if possible, means that you have somewhere to go back to should things go wrong. And with the UK housing market stagnant but the rental section doing well, you can always rent out your home in the UK.
2. Take it slowly
A move abroad is a huge step and many expats prefer to get settled a bit more slowly. Once you have secured the property you want to move to, spend a few months there at a time with intermediary stops in the UK before taking the plunge completely. This allows you to get settled into the new culture more gradually, without the culture shock and means you can tie up any loose ends in the UK too.
This may not be so convenient if you are emigrating to further flung countries such as Canada or Australia but is practical with European destinations.
3. What climate do you want?
Aside from the economic factors driving many expats to leave the country, climate is also very important. Many of us want to leave behind the wind and rain for a sunnier destination which many countries can offer. However do check what the weather is like all year round in the location of your choice as in continental Europe, the winters tend to be chillier than here.
4. What countries to consider?
Be realistic when considering countries to move to. Canada, Australia etc may sound glamorous but what implications will it have on your family and friends? Flights are long and don't come cheap so visits from home are likely to be few and far between. And should you decide to move across the globe, it is harder to come back (not only the distance but the costs involved with removals and legal work in the above mentioned countries).
Staying within Europe means that in most cases you won't be more than a 4 hour flight from the UK and have greater access to bargain airlines. Plus, some of the best value and fastest developing countries can be found in Europe (Eastern) making it economically more viable.
Developing countries tend to offer the British expat more in the way of favourable taxes, lower living costs and genuine property price increases too. So with an increasingly uncertain future for Western Europe, you could be making a good investment aswell as lifestyle choice by going a bit further off the beaten track.
5. Do you want to be near Brits- or escape them?
There are two categories of expats, those that wants to immerse themselves into the local lifestyle, improve their language skills etc. The second category are those that are happy to a live a more expatriate lifestyle, clustering around other Brits.
You will need to decide which category you want to fit into and whether you will be prepared at learning a bit of the local lingo.
6. Your finances and tax implications
Many expats choose to leave the UK for economic reasons; the taxes are high, food prices rising and so are energy prices. This isn’t the case for other countries in the world but if you are considering moving to 'developed' markets such as Spain, France and Italy, you must consider how you will get by.
For pensioners, will your pension be enough to cover your living expenses in these countries? And if you are a young professional or family, will the jobs you get be enough to ensure you have a good standard of living? Remember, many parts of Western Europe are experiencing economic problems similar to the UK, although perhaps not as acute.
If you are considering moving to more up and coming destinations in Eastern Europe such as Slovakia, Romania or popular Bulgaria, living costs and taxes are considerably lower. This is ideal for those receiving a UK pension as your money will go a lot further but if you are not and considering employment, don't forget wage rates will be at the local level so don’t expect to be paid UK wages!
Many options open in Eastern Europe (and other countries) is to set up your own business. Take Bulgaria for example; with consistent high economic growth and a forward thinking, tax slashing government, it is the ideal environment for any entrepreneur. Running costs for businesses are low and with booming tourism and a growing Bulgarian middle class, there has never been a better time to set up your own company. And for skilled workers (in sectors such as IT, engineering etc) there are many employment opportunities.
Do check what the tax situation is abroad before you move (although most countries can't be worse than here!). Scandinavia is notoriously expensive whereas new countries have very minimal taxes. Inheritance tax for many ex-patters are an issue so here are some of the best countries: Egypt (none), Malta (5%), Ukraine (1%) and Dubai (none).
This is should be an important consideration, particularly if you will be retiring abroad. Whilst the NHS is far from perfect, it is 'free' whilst many other healthcare systems in the world are not so you need to research before going out.
In America for example, you need to take out health insurance and if you are over 65, the costs are high with many British pensioners deciding not to have insurance at all. Other countries are renowned for their high levels of healthcare, such as Malta, Cyprus and France but again, medical services must be paid for. However you can expect a high level of care.
Up and coming markets such as Bulgaria in Eastern Europe, offer good value private healthcare with many doctors speaking English and a high medical standard. A full medical in Bulgaria will set you back about 5 GBP.
8. When choosing your property, do you want a renovation project?
There is a wide range of property out there, but not all of it may be suitable for your needs. That quaint stone cottage with dirt floors may have seemed charming when you are out there on holiday in August but the reality is that renovating properties are still one of the quickest ways to divorce and bankruptcy!
If you do decide to take on a renovation, do check about building controls as they may be just as strict as the UK!
For some, new build properties on gated complexes might not be appealing but this is a good way to meet other Brits, have access to facilities which may include swimming pools, social clubs etc.
Moving abroad has been shown in recent surveys by Natwest to be a positive experience for over 90% of people interviewed, so if you do the right research then likely as not, it will be a rewarding experience for you too. With so many countries out there, better climates and more favourable tax regimes, moving abroad should be a consideration from university graduates to retirees.