Buying property abroad: How to renovate your new home

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Published on 2024-05-20 at 14:00 by Asaël Häzaq
As an expat eager to settle in your new country, buying a home is a significant milestone. Before diving into decorating, it's crucial to plan your renovation project meticulously. Here's a comprehensive guide on what to consider when renovating a house abroad, along with practical advice and common pitfalls to avoid.

Understanding local urban planning laws

Navigating local regulations is key. Before undertaking any major renovation, ensure that your plans align with the local urban planning rules. Each city has its own urban development plan, which dictates the use of land, residential zones, commercial areas, and agricultural spaces. Depending on your renovation plans, you might need a building permit. For instance, installing a swimming pool, adding an extension, or constructing a garden shed may all require approval. Check for any additional administrative constraints to ensure your renovation is compliant.

Budgeting for renovations

Budgeting is a critical step. Start by assessing the scope of the renovations needed. Is the house a complete fixer-upper, or are you focusing on interior updates? Factor in any local taxes or fees for property owners. Include a contingency for unexpected costs, and don't forget the expenses incurred while waiting to move into your renovated home. Your budget should cover the duration of the project, material costs, the nature of the work, and the services of any hired contractors.

Conducting a technical assessment

Whether you plan to do some of the work yourself or hire professionals, a thorough technical assessment is essential. It's advisable to have this done by experts, especially since building standards may vary significantly from your home country. A technical evaluation will outline the necessary renovations, their interactions, and a prioritized order of tasks. This assessment will also provide a detailed list of works, technical and administrative constraints, and solutions to address them. Additionally, it will offer cost and time estimates, considering your budget, financing capabilities, and potential local financial aid.

Executing major structural work and finishing touches

The renovation begins with major structural work, which includes foundations, roofing, exterior doors and windows, earthworks, and sanitation systems. This phase is crucial for the stability of your home, so if you're unfamiliar with local building standards, consider hiring a local construction firm. Fixing a poorly painted wall is easier than correcting foundational issues.

The subsequent phases involve secondary structural work and finishing touches, such as insulation, plumbing, electrical systems, heating, and interior carpentry. These are vital for making your home comfortable and livable. Again, professional assistance is recommended if you're not experienced. If you do want to get hands-on, ensure you're adequately trained.

Common mistakes to avoid when renovating a home in a foreign country

Expats often embark on ambitious renovation projects inspired by the dream of creating their ideal home or influenced by the DIY success stories of others. However, several pitfalls can derail your project.

Rushing the process

One of the most common mistakes is rushing into a project without proper planning. The excitement of a new beginning in a foreign country can lead to hasty decisions, which often result in costly errors. Take your time to plan thoroughly.

Overlooking key factors

Neglecting the orientation and location of your house can lead to significant problems. For example, a poorly oriented house might receive less sunlight, requiring more artificial lighting and heating. These issues can be costly to rectify.

Going solo

Having a clear vision is great, but isolating yourself from advice can lead to poor decisions. Local experts can provide valuable insights about regional specifics and cost-saving tips. Their experience can help you visualize your project better and avoid common mistakes.

Being overly frugal

While saving money is important, skimping on materials can jeopardize your renovation. Adhering to environmental standards and using quality materials ensures the longevity and safety of your home. Avoid cheap, substandard materials that might compromise your house's structural integrity.

By following these guidelines and being mindful of potential pitfalls, you can successfully renovate your property abroad and create a comfortable, welcoming home in your new country.