The enforced Covid-19 lockdown has generated a surge in enquiries for professionals looking to relocate abroad but continue working for the same employer.
They have enjoyed the freedom of working from home, have demonstrated to their bosses that their location is irrelevant to the continuing success of the business, and are now scanning the horizon to mix work and pleasure by selling up and buying abroad.
Simon Conn has developed many connections within the overseas property and finance industry, resulting in a worldwide network of leading specialists to assist with local issues such as legal, insurance and currency exchange.
“I have been getting enquiries each day from people looking for a mortgage to buy their dream home in sunnier climes” Conn explained.
“There is an increasing number of people planning to continue working for their existing UK employer, but basing themselves in their dream destination.”
In a recent survey, 66% of Brits living abroad in the EU are of working age (16-64 years old) and there are currently over five million Britons living overseas.
These numbers have risen since the EU referendum in 2016 which has galvanised people into action.
Conn believes this is because “property costs are often much lower, the standard of living is good, and the stress levels of the daily commute are banished forever.”
While countries like Spain, France and Germany are the top pics for British expats, there are Brits living all over the world.
What do the experts think?
Has lockdown accelerated plans to move abroad?
Peter Robinson, CEO of The Association of International Property Professionals (AIPP), said: “It is an undeniable fact that many of us have used periods of lockdown and enforced absences from office life to totally rethink how we live and how we want to live in the future.
“It is not hard to imagine working remotely from somewhere highly desirable in the Mediterranean area and just Zooming when needs-be.”
The government guidance for England was that if you can work from home, you should. As of August 1st, it is now up to companies to decide who needs to physically be in the workplace, but many are still choosing to work from home.
Similarly, Meyrick Green, Account Manager for Strategic Partnerships for Moneycorp, said his company altered its at-home working structure before lockdown.
“Our company adapted to working from home very quickly, in fact we were set-up with a home office before lockdown commenced,” he explained.
“Over the last few months colleagues of mine have been able to work from home whenever they are in the country.
“With borders beginning to reopen and travel resuming, some have been able to escape to warmer shores and have been allowed to continue working there, whilst getting out of the country.”
With the recent pandemic, people have begun to reassess their lives and have fast-forwarded plans to move abroad.
What do the agents say?
Alistair Lockhart, Director at French Entrée Property, explains a surge in searches from a slightly younger demographic looking for properties close to international airports with direct flights back to the UK.
“We don’t ask the age of our prospective buyers – as unless they are applying for a mortgage it isn’t relevant,”
Lockhart said. “However, it certainly feels like a lot of the enquiries are coming from a slightly younger demographic than the usual band of 30-40-year-old buyers with families.
“The appeal of being able to potentially work remotely from a country they have been dreaming about, whilst maintaining their UK salaries, must be hugely appealing,” he added.
Purchasing a property overseas can be daunting, especially when exchange rates are always changing.
Moneycorp’s Green explained: “The value of the pound against other currencies has decreased in recent years, and because of this we are seeing more enquiries from clients asking how they can make the most out of the exchange rate.
“When it comes to buying an overseas property, I would always advocate speaking to as many specialists as possible. Currency exchange is just one of many specialist services that you can take advantage of.”
Which countries are popular destinations right now?
As England prepares to leave the EU by the end of the year, professionals are quick to search the most affordable destinations.
Financial planning and taxes are just one aspect of this, but there are a number of European jurisdictions that may offer a cheaper standard of living compared to the UK.
Giovanni Lombardo, Consultant Solicitor at Lewis Nedas Law shared: “Since the start of lockdown, I have received a lot of enquiries from British people who wish to move or buy a holiday home in Italy, as property prices have slightly decreased as a result of the Italian property market being affected by the pandemic.”
“Something interesting to note about Italy is the flat tax, which allows individual new residents (who were not tax resident in Italy in the past 9 out of 10 years) to move their tax residence to Italy, and take advantage of this new tax scheme whereby the individual will make a flat tax payment of €100.000 per year, up to 15 years, on the income produced abroad, i.e. non Italian sourced income. Both Italian and non-Italian citizens can apply for this flat tax scheme. The flat tax does not apply to any income produced in Italy.”
Additionally, France is an ever-popular destination for expats as it offers easy travel routes from the UK. French Entrée’s Lockhart shared: “Our network of estate agents covers most of the popular areas of France, but I would definitely note a marked increase in property searches in Normandy and Brittany from UK buyers – more than normal. This could be due to the relative ease of getting back to the UK for commuting/family purposes.”
What should you consider?
Peter Esders, Legal Director and Solicitor for Judicare International Property, outlined the importance of getting professional advice before committing to relocating as it could have significant consequences on taxes.
“Depending on how things are structured, and the countries involved, you will probably pay a different rate of tax than you are used to,” Esders said.
“Certainly, your tax situation will become more complicated as you are likely to be earning in one country but living in another and will therefore have two tax systems to deal with.
“Because of this, some companies may insist that you become a self-employed contractor, but this then has a consequence as far as employment rights etc are concerned,” he added.
Additionally, taxes aren’t the only things that should be taken into consideration.
“One thing that does need to be considered is the question of healthcare, visas (if needed), right to work and so on, Green explained.
“For Europe this was always relatively easy, but with the transition period of Brexit looming, this might change – hence why we are seeing a surge in people wanting to do things now.”
Moving abroad is a life-changing experience and can seem daunting. Given the current situation, employers will no doubt want to be flexible when it comes to accommodating requests to work from a home overseas, but experts advocate some caution when making big decisions.
Likewise, financing a property overseas can be complex, especially when it comes to obtaining the international mortgage you need to make your dreams a reality.