The best buy-to-let mortgage offers for expats
Charlotte Beugge rounds up the limited offerings available for Britons wanting to buy UK property while living abroad
A woman walks past an estate agent's window display on Brompton Road in Knightsbridge on May 19, 2014 in London, England
Plenty of properties to choose from, yet few mortgages available: that's the problem many expats face Photo: Rob Stothard/Getty Images
The UK housing market could be showing signs of cooling down – at least in the capital. For expats working abroad but wanting a base in the UK, this will be good news. But how easy is it to get a mortgage if you work overseas?
It can be hard for a lender to satisfy themselves of the suitability of expats to repay home loans – with the result that some lenders avoid this market totally.
Guy Stephenson, a spokesman for brokers Offshoreonline.org, said: "The requirement to understand a client's financial circumstances in detail means a lender will have to carry out a comprehensive interview, possibly lasting up to two hours. The only way to do this is over the phone which is not that convenient for many expats – for example, if you live in Japan you're nine hours ahead of the UK making calls at a reasonable time difficult."
He added that UK high-street lenders carry out credit searches and identity checks on would-be borrowers. But as many of these checks are automated, expats can easily fail if they aren't on the electoral roll, don't have a UK address or landline or do not use a UK credit card.
Lenders who operate in the expat market tend to look at cases individually and a broker can help to match borrowers to lenders. International Mortgage Plans has an exclusive deal with Ipswich Building Society offering a 3.69pc two-year tracker rate for property occupied by family members. It also has offers from Halifax, Natwest and HSBC – the latter only lends to HSBC Premier customers.
However this summer saw the entry of a new lender to the UK expat market, the Channel Islands-based Skipton International. Jim Coupe, its managing director said Skipton International has already attracted "significant interest from both expatriates and specialist offshore mortgage brokers. We are already anticipating that our targets for next year will be substantially exceeded".
And he added: "We are one of the few lenders in this market and as an offshore bank we are also specialists in dealing with people overseas: we understand expat issues. The feedback we are getting is that applicants appreciated that we have clear criteria so they don't need to waste time talking to us if it's not going to fit."
Its current deals include a discounted variable rate at 3.99pc and a five-year fixed rate at 5.49pc, which Mr Coupe said was proving popular. He added that clients are buying all across the UK. "People naturally buy in areas they know or where they have family or friends who can look after the property."