An expat’s guide to buying property in the UK

No matter what is happening in the rest of the world, interest in the UK housing market remains strong with many people looking to buy a property as part of their portfolio of investments, or as a future home.

For expats, it is harder to obtain a UK mortgage but I have an excellent in-house mortgage department with the largest panel of lenders of any broker in the Middle East and we focus on assisting expats buy property in both the UK and the UAE.

This article is a guide to what you need to know when buying property in the UK and there will shortly be two companion pieces, one about buying in Dubai and another about the tax issues to bear in mind in respect of UK property ownership.

Plan ahead

It is a good idea to get a mortgage agreement early on as once a property is found the process can move very quickly. Some vendors won’t confirm an offer until you can demonstrate you are genuinely in a position to proceed and you don’t want to be put under pressure or beaten to a property as the other buyers have an agreement already in place.

How much can I borrow?

For any expat, the maximum loan to value for a UK mortgage is 75% of the purchase price or value, whichever is lower. Most lenders only want to consider mortgages of £100,000 or over and many also require a minimum purchase price of £150,000 so this reduces the options in certain parts of the country.

Update – May 2017 – there is a lender new to the market that has a minimum mortgage of just £30,000 on a minimum purchase price of £80,000. This is available to British nationals only.

Obtaining an Agreement in Principle

The first step is to clarify what you can afford to borrow and then establish which mortgage product is most suitable for you. The underwriting process is strict and we will provide expert guidance.

We then gather all the relevant documents such as proof of income, copies of bank statements and do a standard compliance check.  We then obtain an Agreement in Principle from a lender, which unusually takes three to five days and then you are in a position to find a property in the knowledge you can proceed quickly. This puts you in a better negotiating position.

The valuation

Once you have found a property and agreed on a purchase price, or if you just want to remortgage your existing property, all lenders will require a valuation to establish that the property is worth the purchase price or that there is sufficient equity to support a remortgage.

Note that this is a basic valuation for the benefit of the lender and whilst they may pick up on any major issues with the property it is still wise to pay for a proper survey for your own peace of mind.

The mortgage offer  

Once the valuation report as been received and the bank is happy to lend on the property then final approval is given on the mortgage. This will usually take five to 10 days if all requirements have been met.

The offer letter will contain all the terms and conditions pertaining to a mortgage and you should read it carefully. We will check it on your behalf and explain anything that may be unclear.


This is the term used to describe the legal process of transferring the legal title of a property, so essentially ownership, from one party to another. You should engage a solicitor early in the process and they will now receive documents from the mortgage lender.

The solicitor will carry out local authority searches, liaise with the vendor’s solicitor, handle the deposit and ensure all legal obligations are met before arranging the exchange of contracts. This is the vendor’s agreement to sell and the purchaser’s agreement to buy and is the point of no return. Completion of the purchase usually takes place a few weeks afterwards.

Fees and charges

In addition to the valuation fee mentioned earlier there are a number of others charges. The lender will have an arrangement fee usually between 0.5% and 1% of the loan amount and there are legal fees for the solicitor. This will vary and it can be worth shopping around but you can expect to pay between £1,200 to  £1,800.  UK Stamp Duty is also payable on purchase or change of title, or the Land and Buildings Transaction Tax in Scotland. For the purchase of a first property the standard rates may apply but for second and subsequent properties this will be charged at the higher rates introduced in April 2016.

As expert mortgage brokers we charge a fee for our professional services. This can vary but will start at 0.75% of the amount borrowed. Not only do we have a wide range of lenders, some of whom do not take direct applications, we often have access to special deals and get applications agreed that fall outside standard criteria due to our connections.

We will make the process easier by liaising with lenders, solicitors, agents and generally holding your hand throughout with sensible advice and good humour.

Other considerations

If the property is to be let you will need someone to manage it and most people will pay a letting agent who may also collect the rent. They will usually charge between 5% and 12% of the rental income depending on the service but are no longer permitted to charge additional fees on top of that. As a non-resident landlord the rental income can usually be paid before deduction of tax but you need to keep proper records of both income and costs.

The tax rules regarding UK rental income are changing and all tax considerations will be covered in an article in the next few weeks. Subscribe to this blog to be kept posted.

Whilst not all UK lenders insist that life cover be arranged it is sensible to have at least a basic policy in place and I can arrange suitable cover.

If you do not already have a UK or Sterling bank account, and the relevant lender does not provide this facility, I can assist in arranging an offshore bank account which will be required to make the mortgage payment and receive the rental income.

Finding a property for investment can be times consuming  so if you do not want to go to the trouble of doing this yourself, I deal with companies that source developments for investors, so please ask for an introduction.


If you would like advice on arranging a mortgage, simply want to find out about your options (for both the UK and the UAE), or have any queries about any aspect of personal financial planning, please contact me at

Update 12/06/17 – a useful guide to the various taxes related to UK property.  Need to know: Taxes on UK property

About FinancialUAE

A qualified and experienced Independent Financial Adviser based in Dubai, UAE. Professional and ethical. Freelance writer on personal financial issues & the On Your Side column in The National. Founder of Facebook group British Expats Dubai. Senior Partner at Holborn Assets LLC, Dubai, UAE.
This entry was posted in General financial information, Mortgages, Tax & info and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to An expat’s guide to buying property in the UK

  1. M. Chater says:

    A very useful and interesting article. I intend to purchase a property in the UK for investment. Can I book an appointment with you to discuss such matter?

  2. Pingback: A guide to buying property & getting a mortgage in Dubai | Financial Planning in the UAE

  3. Pingback: News: New UK mortgage options from just £30,000 | Financial Planning in the UAE

  4. Pingback: Need to know: Taxes on UK property | Financial Planning in the UAE

  5. Pingback: UK mortgages for UAE based expats | Financial Planning in the UAE

Leave a Reply