Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Expats forced to play the property waiting-game

I guess that many are getting tired of watching the value of their house decline. It doesn’t seem to matter much where one is living these days, the property market globally is stuck and retreating. There are of course a few exceptions still. Some city centres and a few property hotspots on some coasts are still just about holding their own, but there’s no doubt that times are tough.

The news is of course full of the various facts and figures, almost all depressing, but there is another aspect that is less frequently talked about.

Having negative equity in your home is of course a serious problem and I’m not suggesting otherwise, but the general stagnation of the property markets globally also carries with it a more all-pervasive logistical problem.

That is that many potential expats can’t make their long planned moves overseas because they can’t sell their home to finance the move. I know of a number of expats who bravely made the move to rented accommodation overseas pending the anticipated sale of their old house sale and are now stuck as their old house ‘back home’ is essentially un-saleable in the current market. This is hitting their finances badly as a lot of money is being sunk into ongoing rent they had never planned for. Some have now rented their old properties out which is good insofar as it generates income but it doesn’t allow them to liquidate their asset and use the capital to buy the home of their dreams in their new country.

This logjam is also starting to hit business. Although this is not just an expat issue, I also know of some expats who desperately need to sell up and move home within their new country for business and professional reasons. Needless to say, they can’t and this means they sometimes can’t take up that new job, position or opportunity – or if they do they have to leave their family behind. One expat recently told me that where he lives (France) it isn’t even a question of price; there are just no property buyers around at all - at any price.

Like just about everyone else including many self-appointed ‘experts’, I don’t know what the outcome of all this will be. I’m a natural optimist and I take some consolation from the fact that many past recessions seem to sort themselves out after a year or two. In some countries the recession also seems to be at least a little less serious than in others so perhaps they will be the countries that will first start to show evidence of an upswing in everything, including property prices and dynamics.

We can but hope!

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