Selling a UK property from abroad
Selling a UK property from abroad can be challenging. Anyone who has ever sold a property will know that it can be a slow, cumbersome, and often unpredictable process. The logistical challenges of trying to sell a property when living overseas may require even greater patience.
In this guide
- Can I sell my UK house from abroad?
- Choosing an estate agent when selling a UK property from abroad
- Choosing a solicitor when selling a UK property from abroad
- What’s the best way to sell my UK property from abroad?
- Do I have to come back to the UK to sell my house if I live overseas?
- How to avoid fraud when selling a UK property from abroad
- What tax do I have to pay when selling a UK property from abroad?
- Will I need to pay any tax in the country I live now?
- Are there any circumstances that would I don’t have to pay capital gains tax on my property?
Can I sell my UK house from abroad?
Yes. The good news is that selling a UK property from abroad is perfectly achievable.
If you select the right estate agent and conveyancing solicitor, you should be able to conduct the entire property sale process without having to return to the UK.
Choosing an estate agent when selling a UK property from abroad
When selling a UK property from abroad, it may be tempting to use a cheaper, online estate agent. If you won’t be meeting with the estate agent in person, why does it matter where they work from?
The truth is that high street estate agents usually have smaller teams. This means you’re likely to have one point of contact who will take responsibility for the sale of your property. Your one agent will conduct any viewings, handle any questions about the property and provide you with regular feedback. Online estate agents, by contrast, often cover a wider geographical area. They have also had a reputation for operating a more corporate ‘call centre’ environment. This may mean it’s difficult to speak to the same person each time you need to make contact.
It’s important that you choose an estate agent you feel you can trust. You need to feel confident that your estate agent is looking after your best interests. They will also play a large role in managing the sale through to completion once an offer has been accepted.
If you don’t already have an estate agent in mind, read online customer reviews and ask for recommendations. Friends and family are a great place to start.
Choosing a solicitor when selling a UK property from abroad
Choosing the right solicitor will also have a big impact on the speed and success of your house sale.
If you are selling a UK property from abroad, you’ll want to ensure that your solicitor is easily contactable. Some solicitors have thoroughly embraced the convenience and flexibility that technological advances offer, others are still very traditional with their processes. If you’re selling a UK home whilst living abroad, it will be important that your solicitor understands your personal situation and is happy to offer flexibility. It should be possible for your solicitor to manage the entire property sale process online. Using email for all formal communication will mean you won’t need to meet with your solicitor in person at all.
What’s the best way to sell my property from abroad?
If you’re an expat selling UK property, you have a few different options:
If you’re looking for a quick house sale, a genuine cash home buying company is by far the quickest and easiest option. The sale can be completed in just 7 days, if required. The whole process will be managed by the company, making it completely stress-free for you. A house sale to a cash home buying company is also guaranteed. This means there’s no danger of it falling through – something that sadly happens to around a third of property sales on the open market.
Property auctions offer the benefit of a definite time period, so you know your property won’t sit on the market for months on end. It is worth keeping in mind, however, that only around 70% of properties sell at auction. You’d need to think about what you’d do with your property if the auction didn’t result in a successful sale.
Open market sale via estate agent
If you’ve sold a property before, the chances are you sold it on the open market using an estate agent. Open market sales are the most common method of property sale. It is also, however, the method that takes the longest. An open market sale is unpredictable and requires a lot of input from the property owner.
Do I have to come back to the UK to sell my house if I live overseas?
No, advances in technology and modernised working practices mean that it should be possible to conduct most property sales without needing to return to the UK.
How to avoid fraud when selling a UK property from abroad
There has been an increase in the number of people falling prey to scams and fraud when selling a property. If you’re planning to sell a UK property from abroad, you’ll need to be extra vigilant.
Top tips to avoid fraud when selling a property:
Choose your conveyancing solicitor carefully
Choosing a reputable conveyancing solicitor will significantly reduce the likelihood of you falling victim to fraud when selling a UK property from abroad. Make sure they’re members of the Law Society and ask about any policies they have in place to protect clients from property/financial fraud.
Be vigilant with emails
Email hacking is often at the root of scams and fraud when buying or selling a property.
Make sure you check the email address on any communication purporting to come from your solicitor, and call them to question any communication you’re unsure of.
Each solicitor will have their own processes, so it’s important to make sure you’re familiar with how they work. This will help you to recognise any irregular or potentially fraudulent communication.
Ensure details held by Land Registry are correct
If you’re concerned about fraudulent activity, it’s important to ensure the information held on the Land Registry is accurate and up to date. If you spot anything that needs changing or updating, it’s important to contact the Land Registry as soon as possible.
Sign up for Land Registry property alerts
You can sign up for Land Registry alerts. These will let you know when searches and applications are made for your property. If someone tries to change the name the property is registered under, you will get an email alerting you. It won’t stop them doing so, but you will at least be able to address any problems straight away. This service is particularly recommended if the property is left vacant for any period of time.
Put a restriction on your property
If you’re concerned that your property may be vulnerable to fraudulent activity, you can put a restriction on the property title deeds. This will prevent any fraudulent sale and any mortgage being registered on the property unless a solicitor verifies that the application was made by you.
Confirm account details before making any online payments
As a seller, you’re unlikely to be transferring any large sums of money to your solicitor – those buying a property and transferring large deposits are likely to be more exposed – but it’s still worth being aware of vulnerabilities around money transfers.
When you do need to make any payments, it’s important to confirm account details with your solicitor over the phone. Use the phone number you have used throughout your interaction with your solicitor (which should be found on the company’s official letterhead or website). You should also ask to speak to someone you have spoken to before. Never reply to a suspicious email or call a number provided in a suspicious email.
Do a part payment and confirm receipt before sending large payments
If you need to make a substantial payment, it’s worth doing a small part payment first and confirming receipt with your solicitor before paying the rest. This will ensure the account details you have are correct and legitimate, and will avoid any substantial losses, which can be costly and difficult to recover.
Carefully research any property buying companies you’re considering
Property buying companies can provide a quick and convenient sale – a great solution if you’re selling a UK property from abroad. However, the industry is unregulated, so it’s important that you carefully research any company you’re considering.
You can check their company finances on Companies House. Any company genuinely buying houses should have an annual turnover of several million and at least £1 million cash in the bank.
Never pay a fee or get tied in to using a property buying company
If you’re considering selling your UK property to a house buying company, it’s important that you don’t pay any sort of upfront fee or sign any contracts that tie you in to using their services. Any genuine company will buy your property at a discount and sell at market value. This means they won’t be charging you any fees to buy your property. Any company that tries to charge you a fee or makes you sign a contract is not likely to be genuine. You can read more about protecting yourself from scams here.
If you think you’re the victim of property fraud, call the Property Fraud Line
If you think you’ve been the victim of property fraud, call the Land Registry Property Fraud Line on 0300 006 7030.
What tax do you need to pay when selling a UK property from abroad?
In the UK, you are required to pay Capital Gains Tax on any profit you make from selling a property that is not your main residence. If you’re no longer living in the UK but are selling a property here, you may be required to pay Non-Resident Capital Gains Tax (NRCGT). How the property has been used whilst you’ve been living abroad will have an impact on whether you need to pay tax on any profit made, and if so, how much.
It’s important that you complete a Capital Gains Tax return, even if you don’t believe any Capital Gains Tax is owed. The form must be completed and returned within 30 days of the completion of the house sale. Your conveyancing solicitor will be able to offer advice on whether any tax is due and how the tax return should be completed, but you can also use the government’s Non-Resident Capital Gains Tax calculator.
Will I need to pay any tax in the country I now live in?
The rules on any domestic tax payable will vary between countries, so it’s important to check your liability in the country where you currently live.
Are there any circumstances that would mean I don’t have to pay Capital Gains Tax on my property?
Capital Gains Tax is only payable if the property you are selling is not your main residence. If you are currently living abroad, it is likely that your UK property is not your main residence and therefore it can be assumed that there will be Capital Gains Tax to pay. When you’re traveling back and forth, it may not be so clear cut. If the following statements are true, you may find that you are exempt from paying Capital Gains Tax:
- You or your partner have lived in the property for a minimum of 90 days per year.
- The property has not been used exclusively as a business eg. the property has not been rented out in your absence.
- The property is not larger than 5,000 square metres.
We would always recommend that you seek independent financial advice for further guidance on any Capital Gains Tax that may be payable.
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Do I have to be in the UK to sell my house?
No, a competent property buying company or estate agent/solicitor partnership should be able to complete the sale of the property without the need for you to be in the country.
Do I have to pay Capital Gains Tax in the UK if I live abroad?
If the property that’s being sold is not your main residence (which it is unlikely to be if you’re living abroad), you will need to pay Capital Gains Tax on any profit made when the property is sold. This is true, even if you live abroad. You may also be required to pay additional tax in the country where you now reside, so it’s important that you do your research and get independent financial advice on your tax liabilities.
What’s the best way to sell my house quickly if I live abroad?
Selling to a cash home buying company will be the quickest way to sell your UK property.
Will it cost more to sell my house if I live overseas?
No, it should cost the same amount as selling a property whilst living in the UK. The only difference will come if you’re required to pay domestic tax on top of the Capital Gains Tax payable in the UK.